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´╗┐Title: Cartouche
Author: Peard, Frances
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 "Cartouche" ***

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Cartouche
By Frances Peard
Published by Bernhard Tauchnitz,  Leipzig.
This edition dated 1879.

Cartouche, by Frances Peard.

________________________________________________________________________

________________________________________________________________________
CARTOUCHE, BY FRANCES PEARD.

CHAPTER ONE.

LOVE ME, LOVE MY DOG.

"Cartouche!  Cartouche!"

The call came from a young Englishman, who, having just walked through
the streets of Florence on his way from the station, now found himself
before a small house which stood not far from the Cascine in an open
space, pleasantly planted with trees, and within view of the Arno.  The
house itself was white, if so cold a colour may be taken to represent
that mellow and golden effect which quickly enriches the plaster of
Italy; and it was gay with green shutters and striped awnings, for it
was yet early autumn, and the City of Flowers had not long cooled down
from the extreme heats which make it unbearable in summer.  There was
still a hot and languid glow lying on the violet-tinted hills which on
either side surround the plain; still the Lung' Arno was avoided, and
people kept close under the shadows of the narrow streets; or, if they
must needs cross the river, crossed it by the Ponte Vecchio, under the
shelter of its quaint old shops.

The door of the house at which the young man had arrived was open, but
his call having produced no effect, instead of entering he stood still
and repeated it.  "Cartouche!"

This time there was a dull thud on the ground to his right; a great
black poodle had jumped from an upper window, and recovering himself in
a moment, broke into the most extravagant demonstrations of welcome,
leaping upon the new-comer, barking and rushing about with every hair
flying out from his body.  The young man, who was fair and curly-haired,
and tall, though inclined to stoop, looked at the window and then at the
dog, and gave a whistle of surprise.

"Let me advise you not to try that too often, my friend," he said
seriously.  "It is just as well for you that the house is not a trifle
higher, as I presume you would not have taken the difference into your
calculations.  And a nice time your mistress must be having, if these
are the ways in which you indulge."

The dog's answer was a vigorous bound, which almost upset the young
man's balance; then rushing wildly round and round the open place under
the plane trees, his black hair streaming in the wind, he suddenly
pulled himself up and stood watching his friend, his head on one side,
his small eyes gleaming from a dishevelled tangle, and his long tongue
hanging out of his mouth.

"Yes," said the tall Englishman, still regarding him meditatively, "I
understand what all that means, old fellow.  You have a good supply of
animal spirits, and a difficulty in working off the steam under present
circumstances.  I don't know that I feel as sympathetic as you have a
right to expect, but, at any rate, I shall be able to do something for
you, and if you could contrive to make over a little of what is really
inconveniencing you, I have not the slightest objection to be troubled
with it.  Where is your mistress?"

As he spoke he turned towards the door and went in.  The house seemed to
have fallen by accident among all the great buildings of Florence: it
had no porter, no staircase with flats going on and on; it had been
built or altered by some Englishman, who had a fancy for a home that
should be like England, although the beautiful Italian skies were
overhead; and Jack Ibbetson, when he came out with his aunt, Miss
Cartwright, to look for a house, fell upon this place, and did not rest
until he got hold of it for her.  Inside the door there were flowers; a
few steps led into a passage which turned off at right angles, and then
Ibbetson opened the door of a small salon, and walked through it towards
the window, while his eye took in certain evidences that Cartouche had
been holding high revel there to the detriment of cushions and covers.

"So you still go on the rampage, old fellow?" he said to the dog, who
kept close to his heels in a state of suppressed excitement.  "If I were
you I would leave off this style of thing, I really would.  It is
nothing short of tyranny on your part.  Hallo! what's up now?"

For with a wild swoop Cartouche pounced into a corner, dragged out a
basket, rushed to the window, and in a moment more was careering round
and round the little garden in which the proprietor had indulged his
English tastes.  It was an odd little garden, with a wall round it, and
a poor pretence at English grass, but the wall had capers and pretty
hanging things growing out of it, and lizards darting up and down; and
the beauty of the garden lay in its great flowering shrubs, in the
magnolias, just beginning to show scarlet flames of seed among their
glossy leaves, in the bright green of an orange tree and the broad
ribbed foliage of Japanese medlars.  That some one was sitting there
became evident in another moment, when there were uttered a series of
appeals in a feminine voice--

"Cartouche, Cartouche!  Oh, Cartouche, how can you!  Come here, you
naughty, naughty dog!  I shall be obliged to beat you, you know I shall!
Come, now, like a good dog.  Cartouche, Cartouche, come here!"

The young Englishman, standing back at the window, smiled at the little
scene, at the pretty soft little lady who had got up anxiously and left
her work on the chair, at the dog's evident enjoyment, his pretence of
remorse and abandonment, the slow wag of his tail as he waited for his
mistress to approach, the swift rush with which he made his escape.  At
last, when he had drawn her to the limit of the garden, he suddenly
dropped the basket, raced back to her chair, and seizing a loose tassel
which she had been about to sew on to a cushion, pranced up to the young
man with an air of infinite triumph.  Miss Cartwright turned round and
saw her nephew emerging.

"Jack, is it you?" she cried.  And then she hurried towards him with
both her kind hands outstretched.  "My dear, dear boy, I can hardly
believe it; this is delightful, this is why I have had no letter!  Have
you just come?  Have you had nothing to eat?  Angela shall send up
something at once, and Winter shall go to Franconi's.  My dear, it is so
good to see you, and I was thinking of nothing but that naughty dog.
What is that you are taking out of his mouth?"

"I'm afraid it's a tassel," said Jack gravely.  "Shall I flog him?"

Miss Cartwright was one of those kind gentle people whose conscience and
soft-heartedness are always falling foul of each other.

"Perhaps it does not so much matter," she said hurriedly; "it is only
the same tassel which he has torn off so often before, that I daresay he
fancies he has a sort of right to it."

"I'm very much afraid he is giving you no end of trouble," said Jack
remorsefully.

"Oh, my dear, no!  He is wonderfully good, and so affectionate that
sometimes it quite brings the tears into my eyes.  But of course he is
young, and one can't expect him to understand everything at once, can
one?"

"That is the old story, Aunt Mary," said Jack, smiling kindly; "I have
got too much good out of the excuse myself to begrudge it to Cartouche."

But Miss Cartwright hardly heard his words; she was looking at him, her
face full of that sweet warm happiness which often brightens lives which
seem to us on-lookers grey and commonplace.  What do we know, after all?
The passionate thrills, the great tides of emotion, which we call
happiness, are often more nearly allied to pain; true bliss creeps out
from strange, unlooked-for crannies, from the unselfishness which has
seemed to set it aside.  Jack was struck and touched by the gladness in
her face, by the peace of the little garden, its vines and its roses.
He had a feeling as if it could not last, as if he himself were bringing
in the element of unrest.  He stopped his aunt when she was beginning to
question him.

"You have not heard how Cartouche got at me."

"No--did he know your step?  Oh, my dear," she said, pausing blankly.

"Well?"

"I have just remembered I had shut him into an upstairs room, and the
key is in my pocket."

"It's quite safe, you need not feel for it," said Jack gravely.  "The
fact is, he jumped out of the window."

"Oh, but I hope, I do hope you are mistaken," said Miss Cartwright in
great perturbation.  "I have always felt so safe when we have got him
upstairs; it really will be serious if this is no restraint.  Because,
even if the windows were closed"--she stopped and looked doubtfully at
Cartouche, who presented an aspect of complete indifference.

"He would go through them--not a doubt of it."

"My dear boy, don't say such dreadful things!  But then, what can we do?
Never mind, I dare say he will not be naughty again," she went on,
bringing her unlimited hopefulness to bear; "besides, it was owing to
your coming so unexpectedly, and you have explained nothing as yet.  I
shall just go and see Winter, and tell her to get everything ready for
you, and then I shall come back, and hear all that you have been doing."

Left to himself, Ibbetson sat down on a garden bench, and with his head
sunk between his shoulders, his long legs stretched stiffly out, and his
hands disposed of in his pockets, fell into a reverie, which, to judge
from his looks, was not of an altogether agreeable nature.  So absorbed
by it was he, that Cartouche, tired of a short-lived goodness, went off
to relieve his spirits by bullying the cat of the household, an animal
which, having been always distinguished for a singularly placid
disposition, was now rapidly acquiring the characteristics of a vixen,
goaded thereto by a good-humoured but unceasing persecution.  What with
barks and spittings, there was noise enough to disturb a less profound
meditation, but when Miss Cartwright at length came hurrying out, her
nephew kept the same attitude, and was unaware of her approach.
Thinking that he was asleep, she stood looking at him with a tender
wistfulness in her soft eyes; for now that his face was in repose she
noticed a tired and grave expression which she fancied should not have
been there.  It was not a handsome face, for there was a greater
squareness than is considered consistent with good looks, and the mouth
was large.  But his eyes were grey and honest, and all the features gave
you a pleasant impression of openness and health which in itself was a
strong attraction to less partial observers than his aunt.  Nor was the
partiality itself wonderful, when it was considered that she had acted
as mother to Jack since the time when his own mother had died, a time so
long ago that he was too small to know anything about it--or so they
decided.  When it happened, Miss Cartwright went to live with her
brother-in-law, and to bring up Jack.

She did this--the more loyally and creditably that she and her
brother-in-law never got on well together.  It was not that they
quarrelled, but that they had little in common.  Sir John Ibbetson was a
poor squire who farmed his own land, and never seemed to grow any the
richer for it; perhaps the truth was, that being haunted by the
impression that ill-luck dogged his footsteps, he could scarcely be
induced to take any but a gloomy view of whatever concerned him.  That
Jack's early life was not coloured by such grim presentiments was owing
to Miss Cartwright's persistent cheerfulness, which, while a perpetual
trial to Sir John, made the home atmosphere healthy for the boy.  Few
people could have retained their sweet temper and interest in minor
matters so thoroughly as she retained them, in spite of constant
rebuffs; nor could she ever be talked into taking despairing views of
Jack's juvenile naughtinesses, or into foreshadowing future disgrace
from his inability or unwillingness to master the intricacies of the
Latin grammar.  But perhaps her best service both to father and son was
in keeping well before the boy his father's actual affection, and thus
preventing Sir John's over-anxiety from alienating his son, which might
have been a not unnatural result.  As it was, the lad grew up
high-spirited and perhaps a little wilful, but generous in his impulses,
and with a sweet temper which it was difficult to ruffle.  He was
universally liked at Harrow and Oxford, and, like other men, got both
good and bad out of his popularity; but being too lazy for hard work,
only scrambled through what had to be done, and grievously disappointed
his father, although the latter had never professed to look forward to
better things.  It might have been owing to this disappointment that Sir
John took a step which caused the most lively amazement to Jack, Miss
Cartwright, his servants, and, in a lesser degree, to the whole circle
of his acquaintances.  He announced his engagement to a rich widow.

When the first astonishment had been got over, nobody had a word to say
against it except Jack.  He disliked it so vehemently as even to
surprise his aunt, who, with all her knowledge of him, was unaware how
tenderly he cherished the idea--for remembrance it could scarcely be
called--of his lost mother, or how much he resented a step of his
father's which seemed to prove her to be forgotten.  However, though the
sore remained, his nature was too sweet not to suffer it to be
mollified, although he entirely refused to benefit by the substantial
kindnesses which his stepmother--to her credit be it spoken--would
willingly have heaped upon him.  It seemed, indeed, as if the necessary
spur had at last touched his life.  He studied for the bar more closely
than he had ever done before, was constant in his attendance at the
courts, and in his letters to his aunt expressed such an eager desire
for her briefs, that if her disposition had not been absolutely
peaceful, she might have returned to England on purpose to seek for a
lawsuit.  As it was, she began to develop what seemed like a sanguinary
thirst for crime, reading the police reports in her English papers with
less horror at the wickedness there brought to light, than anxiety that
something should turn up for Jack.

Sir John's marriage had taken place nearly a year ago, and Miss
Cartwright, uprooted from what had been her home for a long series of
years, had, partly from old associations, partly to please Jack, and
partly because an old maiden friend was bent upon the scheme, determined
to make Florence her home for a time.  It was the last thing anyone
expected from her, but those are just the things which people do.  She
and Miss Preston had moved to Siena for the summer, and now had come
back to the pretty homelike little house on which they had fallen.  Miss
Preston was the part of the arrangement against which Jack protested in
vain.  She was tall, hook-nosed, commanding: she did not believe in him;
she set her face against weaknesses of all kinds, and considered it her
mission to protect Miss Cartwright.  When people's worth takes this sort
of disagreeable shape, it is astonishing how much more indignation it
raises amongst their neighbours than falls to the share of real sinners;
and perhaps this was the tie which kept these two--unlike as they were--
together.  Miss Cartwright, who looked up to her friend with all her
heart, was really filled with a vague and tender pity which Miss Preston
never knew.  It was she who was the actual protector--smoothing down,
explaining, thinking no evil, and making people ashamed of their own.

Then there was Cartouche.  Jack had picked him up as a puppy in the
South of France, and insisted upon his aunt taking charge of him.

"He will have plenty of room here to run about and get himself tamed
down a little," he explained, "whereas in London he would be miserable.
You need not trouble yourself about him, he is clever enough to take
care of himself and you into the bargain.  If you don't really like him
I can send him to my fathers, only it struck me he would be just what
you want here; what do you say about it?"

He put the question, but would perhaps have been surprised had a third
person pointed out how little doubt he felt about the answer.  Miss
Cartwright would have looked upon herself as a barbarian if she had
refused any gift offered her by Jack, and immediately set herself to
apply to Cartouche the same hopefulness which she had brought to bear
upon her nephew's education.  Miss Preston's wrath was great, but there
was another power in the house--Winter, Miss Cartwright's maid, and
Winter hated Miss Preston.  Opposition, therefore, carried Winter to the
side of Cartouche, and opposition forms as strong a bond as anything
else.

CHAPTER TWO.

AN AGREEMENT.

Jack's slumbers were far too sacred in the eyes of his aunt for her to
think of disturbing them; she was preparing to retreat carefully, when
he looked up and began to laugh.

"I was not asleep, I give you my word."

"Oh, well, my dear," she said, happy again now that the shade on his
face was gone, "I am sure it would not have been wonderful if you had
dozed off after your journey, though I really don't know where you have
dropped from; and I shall be quite glad to sit down and have a long
talk, for you know there is a great deal to be told."

"Well, yes, I suppose there is."

But he did not seem inclined to begin, though Miss Cartwright looked
wistfully at him.  She said presently, with rather a quavering voice,
"There is no bad news?"

Just enough of a pause followed her question to make her heart sink,
then he said quickly--

"Certainly not.  What has come to you, Aunt Mary?  You never used to
indulge in these sort of fancies.  If Cartouche makes you nervous I
shall take him away.  But I know what it is, Miss Preston has been
scolding you for all the wickedness of the world.  Even in Florence that
woman is as bad as three fogs and an east wind."

And he rattled on with more nonsense of the sort, but it was so evident
that he was making talk to avoid some subject closer to each of them,
that Miss Cartwright almost grew vexed.

"My dear," she said, "do leave poor Miss Preston alone."

"She won't leave you alone, that is what I complain of.  Come now,
hasn't she got some unhappy clergyman of whom she falls foul?"

"Well, she did say she thought the new chaplain had too much
self-possession for so young a man, and I said I did not think he was so
very self-possessed, because when he makes a mistake he always coughs,
which obliges one to notice it the more."

"Worse and worse," said Jack gravely; "she's making you as severe as she
is herself."

"My dear, you don't really think I was unkind?  I am sure I only thought
what I could say for the poor young man, she seemed so annoyed about it.
You don't really mean it, you are only laughing, and after all there is
so much to say."

He jumped up suddenly, and walked a few steps away from his chair.  The
pretty quiet little garden was full of light and colour and keenly-edged
shade; the beautiful glossy leaves stood up against the blue sky.  Over
the wall they could see other houses and other trees, and catch here and
there a little glimpse of the opposite hill with its occasional
cypresses.  The great bell of the Duomo was clanging, all the glory of
the day changing softly into another glory, deeper and more mysterious.
Was it of all this of which Jack was thinking?  Miss Cartwright followed
him and laid her hand gently on his arm.

"My dear boy!" she said imploringly.

He looked round at once and laughed at her pleading face.

"Well, it's all--right, if that's what you want to know."

"You--"

"I'm engaged, yes, hard and fast.  Why," he said, with a quick anxiety
in his voice, "what's the matter?  Sit down, sit down," he went on,
dragging over a chair, and putting her into it very tenderly, for the
delicate colour had quite faded out of her face.  But she smiled at him
the next moment.

"It is very silly of me, but I have been thinking so much about it; and
somehow I fancied from your manner that things were not going straight,
and I was foolishly anxious."

"You shouldn't care so much about me," said the young man with real
remorse; "nobody else in the world would trouble themselves as you do.
I should have told you directly, if it had entered my head that you were
taking it to heart like this.  Let me go and get you a glass of water or
sal-volatile or something, you are as shaky as possible."

But Miss Cartwright sat up cheerfully.

"It is nothing at all, Jack; I am quite well again, and your news is the
best thing for me, if I really wanted anything.  Is it all settled?"

"Yes," he said with a little restraint again, and pulling a magnolia
leaf as he spoke.  "Phillis is at Bologna with the Leytons, we all came
out together.  Yes, it is true; I expected it to astonish you."

"Don't tell me anything more for a minute or two," said his aunt gently,
putting up her hands; "it is one thing on another.  Phillis at Bologna?
I don't quite understand."

"But you like the news, don't you?" said Jack, turning suddenly on her.

"Like it! how could I fail?  Such a good girl, and all that money, and
your uncle wishing it so much.  Nothing could be so desirable, only, my
dear boy--"

"What?" sharply.

"Sometimes you get odd touches of perversity, and the very fact of a
thing being quite unexceptional sets you against it.  I remember it so
well when you were a boy.  It would have been a sad misfortune in this
case, though, of course, it is too momentous a matter for me to have
said much about it beforehand.  I suppose that is the reason you did not
know how anxious I felt, but I assure you I have scarcely thought of
anything else.  And Phillis is at Bologna!  When do they come on?"

"To-morrow--Saturday.  I don't exactly remember.  I suppose you know the
terms of the agreement?" said Jack, looking at her.

"My dear!"

"Well, it is an agreement," he said perversely; "what else would you
call it?  I, Peter Thornton, of Hetherton Grange, in the county of
Surrey, Esquire, do hereby declare you, John Francis Ibbetson,
barrister--how shall I put the London lodgings, second floor, to best
advantage?--to be the heir of all my estates and properties--excluding,
let us hope, his gout and his temper--on condition that you take as your
wife my step-niece, Mary Phillis Grey, to have and to hold with the
timber, freeholds, messuages, and other etceteras of the said estate.
If that is not an agreement, I don't know the meaning of the word."

Miss Cartwright, leaning forward, tried to look into her nephew's face.

"My dear," she said slowly, "of course you are in joke, but I don't
think I like to hear you talk in such a way.  I should be miserable if I
did not feel sure you were quite happy."

Jack turned round and took her soft hand very kindly in his own.

"Well, then, don't be miserable," he said lightly; "why, you know it
stands to reason that every one must be perfectly happy directly he or
she is engaged to be married.  What shall I do to prove my load of
bliss?"

But she shook her head.

"I sometimes fancy it would be better if money were not mixed up with
marriages at all.  I don't think it was so much thought about in old
days."

"It is a stronger necessity now."

"Your father would willingly increase your allowance."

"I don't choose to live on that woman's fortune.  Aunt Mary, I thought
you would be the first to congratulate me on the splendour of my
prospects!"

"My dear, and so I do," she said quickly, laying her hand on his
shoulder; "I do, with all my heart.  If I ask these questions it is only
that I care so very, very much, that I was afraid, Jack, whether you
might have rushed into this without quite thinking enough beforehand.
But I dare say that was only my foolish fancy.  Tell me one thing: if
you had not married Phillis would your uncle have left the estates to
her?"

"Not he," said the young man, flinging a stone into the bushes where
Cartouche was still annoying the cat.  "He told me in so many words,
that unless I married her she would be penniless, and the money would go
to some tenth cousin or so."

"I hope the poor girl did not know this," said Miss Cartwright uneasily.

"He is not the man to keep that sort of pressure to himself."

"Jack, you liked her before there was any talk of these estates?"

"Of course I did."

He spoke impatiently, as if the subject were already exhausted, whereas
Miss Cartwright, longing for fuller details, felt as if it were only
beginning.

"I wish I had known Phillis before," she said sighing, and at the sigh
the young fellow's heart reproached him again.

"She said the same," he said, turning towards her and speaking gravely;
"I fancy you'll get on with her--everybody doesn't, you know.  She's--
but there's no good in attempting to describe her, I was never good at
that sort of thing; the only thing I could say about you was that you
weren't tall or black."

Miss Cartwright brightened.  She had a warm corner ready in her kind
heart for the girl who was to be Jack's wife; no jealousy made the
prospect bitter, she was already planning, welcoming, sympathising.
Jack himself jumped up; he said he would go to the hotel where he was
putting up and come back to dinner.  It was a concession, for he would
encounter Miss Preston, but he had not the heart to disappoint his aunt
that first evening, and afterwards he acknowledged that it had not been
so bad.  The window was open, the moon was sailing through blue,
profound skies, her light fell like silver on the glossy leaves, and
there was a sort of happy hum in the air, distant talk and gay laughter.
Miss Preston fell asleep, Jack and his aunt sat near the window,
sometimes silent, sometimes chatting.  As for Cartouche, he pleased
himself in his own way, rushing every now and then into the garden in
pursuit of a foe who he was quite conscious did not exist, and returning
with the proud air of one who has discomfited his enemy.

As Ibbetson strolled home that night he was thinking of many things,
half against the grain, as it were, for he would willingly have put them
aside.  There were enough outer things to interest him if once he could
have got them uppermost, but we cannot do that always, try as we will.
The Arno was running along, bright with the moonshine, lights were
twinkling across the bridges, clambering up the hill opposite; black
shadows stood out strongly, and as you looked, all sorts of strange
memories seemed to rush towards you.  But they took no real hold on
Jack, who was only conscious of them in a vague, dreamy way.  The people
were strolling in all directions, enjoying the evening, as they do in
Italy, chatting, whispering, half-a-dozen, perhaps, linked together,
taking the whole breadth of the pathway, or coming mysteriously out of
the dark shadowy streets.  In front of the Ognissanti a little lamp
threw its dim radiance upon the beautiful blue and white Luca della
Robbia over the door; the grave and sweet figures in their perpetual
adoration seemed nearer and yet more delicate than by day.  Jack noted
this as he passed, but all the while it was not really Florence in which
he was living, but a more homely and pastoral country.  He was provoked
with himself; he had not wanted to go over the old ground; he had said
to himself a dozen times, that having taken a certain step, there was no
need for mentally retracing it.

Only something seemed always to be carrying him back.

Would he have had it different?  He said No, resolutely, when the
question took so keen a shape.  He had always felt a quiet liking for
Phillis Grey, and it moved him deeply when he heard Mr Thornton's rough
declaration that if he, Jack, did not marry her she would be left with
no more than a miserable pittance.  His uncle, after all, showed some
knowledge of the character of the man with whom he had to deal, for the
personal advantages did not really affect Jack half so much, although he
took pains to assure himself that they did.  He used to go over them to
himself with a half-comic, half-serious air of business, as if he were
quite convinced of their value--independence, position, idleness--the
worst of it was that, try as he would, he found each carrying a sort of
contradiction with it, which prevented him from enjoying it comfortably.
But poor Phillis, how could she bear the loss of everything?  Why
should he not marry her?  He liked no one better, or so well.  It was
the course which gave the least trouble to everyone.  It offered
palpable good, and there was no drawback on which he could exactly lay
his finger.  Jack Ibbetson's mind wandered away, up and down, this way
and that, but all the time it was tending slowly in one direction, so
that on the evening of the day when his uncle had made his announcement,
a walk round the shrubberies and a couple of cigars brought him to the
window where Phillis was sitting in her white dress, and when he had
asked her to come out, it was not difficult, especially on that quiet
tender evening, to ask her to marry him.  It was not difficult, it was
almost pleasant.  There was a tremulous happiness in the girl's answer,
and yet all the time Jack was conscious, and hating the consciousness,
of what he was saving her from.  If it had not been for that, he
thought--but there it was, and, after all, was it not one motive?

Before this happened it had been decided that Phillis should go abroad
with some friends, and Peter Thornton would have no change.  His wife
wanted the wedding to have been from Hetherton, but he scouted the idea
so fiercely that no one dared to repeat it.  Phillis should go, and Jack
could go too.  As for the marriage, he did not care where it took place,
so long as they did not lose any time about it, and then if they wanted
to honeymoon it in Italy they would be on the spot.  And having
announced his wishes, he took refuge in such a violent fit of the gout,
that contradiction became an actual impossibility, and the odd little
party started.  It seemed more unreal to Jack every day as they came
flying on.  He had been rather unkind about the journey.  Mrs Leyton
felt attractions in Paris.  Captain Leyton, who went about with a very
elaborate sketching apparatus which provided against rain, sun, and all
possible evils of flood or field, and contained a larger supply of
paints than could be used in a lifetime, was desirous to turn aside into
the country of the Italian lakes, but Jack was obstinately determined to
go directly to Florence, and somehow carried his day so far as to get
them all to Bologna.  There he graciously permitted them to rest; and
indeed Ward, the lady's maid, was in a state of rebellion, while Mrs
Leyton, who was good-natured but sometimes plaintive, went about
declaring that having come abroad as much for society as anything else,
it was a little hard to be whirled through the country at a rate which
prevented your seeing anyone but the horrid people to be met with in the
trains.

As for Phillis--but Phillis must wait.  Jack was very kind and polite to
her, and sometimes amused by her inexperience.  He would have been
surprised beyond measure if any objection to his plans had come from
her.

CHAPTER THREE.

CARTOUCHE KILLS A TURKEY.

Florence had gone back to summer the next day.  The heat was intense,
the streets were deserted, the very blue of the sky seemed to burn, all
the poor green things to have the life drawn out of them by the
scorching sun.  There was a little loggia at Miss Cartwright's Casa
Giulia, where Jack and his aunt could have managed to keep themselves
cool if Miss Preston would have permitted it, but she routed them out
more than once.  Heat or no heat she had no compassion for idleness, and
she came tramping up the stairs with bundles of book labels for the
Church library, with horrible knitted garments which she had dragged
from wintry receptacles, with all kinds of out-of-season duties which
were to rouse Miss Cartwright.  She was one of those people whose
presence is a perpetual rebuke; it is impossible to fulfil their
requirements, you feel yourself making feeble excuses, and going down,
down, down, lower and lower in your own opinion and in theirs.

"Why do you let her tyrannise over you?" said Jack indignantly.  It is
to be feared that he called her an old cat, but all the same he was
himself conscious of this uncomfortable sinking in her presence.

"She does not always do things in the pleasantest manner," said Miss
Cartwright gently, "but she is so conscientious and so useful that it is
impossible not to admire her.  There is a great deal of misery in
Florence, and I am sure I often feel how selfish and idle it must seem
to her when I sit in this pretty loggia out of the reach of it all,
while she is always toiling and planning.  Indeed, Jack, if you only
knew half she did, you would appreciate her better."

"Heaven forbid!" said the young man fervently.

Even Cartouche, who had made his way up to the loggia, was too sleepy to
do anything but snap at persevering flies; the others sat lazily
pretending to read or work; every now and then Miss Cartwright asked
questions about Phillis; it was all dreamy and quiet.  From where they
sat they could see other loggias--people at their windows, women coming
out on flat shady roofs to water their plants, odd little nests of
chimneys like honeycombs, pigeon-holes, mysterious gratings, a curious
kind of roof-life of which they made part and which had its interests.
In those sunny countries it takes little to make a picture; here the
business is elaborate, but there sun and sky do so much that you want
little more--a scarlet flower in a pot, a clambering vine, and the
effect is given.  Jack lay back idly wondering at the beauty of an old
house wall opposite on which the sun poured in golden splendour, and the
rich shadows of the eaves marked bold outlines against the sky, when
Miss Preston's voice behind made him start.

"If you are busy I am sorry to interrupt you, Mary," she began, with a
searching glance at Miss Cartwright, who was hastily settling her cap,
and trying to look as if she had not been asleep, "but it is necessary
that some one should take back the books to the library this afternoon."

"Oh, I think not," said Miss Cartwright nervously; "they may really wait
until to-morrow, the heat is too intolerable for anything not absolutely
necessary to be done."

"I consider this necessary.  The books were promised to Vieusseux for
to-day."

Miss Preston spoke in her uncompromising tone, the two culprits looked
at each other and fidgeted.  Some old nursery story began to run in
Jack's head of naughty children, severe fairies, impossible tasks, heaps
of shining silks which had to be sorted.  Miss Cartwright made another
feeble effort.

"I could not ask Winter to go out until it is cooler, but then she might
take them."

"I shall take them myself," said Miss Preston decidedly.  "I have no
desire to delegate duties.  I have only come to know whether you wish to
try the candles at Lanzi's?  In that case, I will call there."

When she had gone, Jack jumped up in a fume.

"The woman is unendurable," he said.  "She will be up here again in a
moment with some other horrible propositions.  I can't stand any more of
them.  Look here, Aunt Mary, I will take Cartouche back to the hotel,
and in an hour or so it will have cooled down enough to give him a run.
You need not think about dinner, I shall get it at Dony's, or somewhere,
and look in here again lateish in the evening.  If she is human she will
be asleep then, after all this hunting her fellow-creatures."

Ibbetson could not stay long at the hotel, where the air was heavy with
heat.  He made his way through the shady alleys of the Cascine; the
people were collecting, the carriages drawn up, gay ladies in all sorts
of bright and delicate colours, gentlemen wearing oddly-shaped hats and
conspicuous gloves; a gay brilliant scene enough, but not one which at
that moment had any attractions for Jack.  He had in his pocket a letter
from Phillis--the first.  It was written with some care and restraint,
as he noticed with a sigh which yet he could not have explained.  They
would leave Bologna for Florence on Saturday--this was Thursday.  The
heat was terrific, the arcades were a great comfort, the hotel was
excellent, the Etruscan remains were most interesting.  The little
letter told everything there was to say--mentioned Mrs Leyton's health,
Captain Leyton's sketches--yet Jack was dissatisfied with it, and vexed
at his own dissatisfaction.  The old vein of thought kept recurring; it
was not Tuscany in which he was walking, Tuscany with its golden lights,
its wealth of colour, its grapes clambering from tree to tree, but more
prosaic Surrey where carts were drawing their heavy harvest loads along
the roads, and Hetherton lay low amidst its masses of dark trees.  The
picture caused him a little thrill of revulsion, and then a sharper
thrill of self-reproach.

Jack knew nothing of the road along which he was plodding; indeed, it
was not always a road, he went here and there where it seemed shady and
out of the dust, along the tall canes by the side of the Arno, sometimes
through a vineyard, where the contadini were gathering the beautiful
fruit with their sickles.  At last he found himself climbing a hill,
where the road was white, steep, and stony, and to his left was one of
those walls which you may yet see built round the old villas, sloping
inwards, as if originally set up for defence.  Presently he came, of
course, to the little niche high up in the wall, where, behind a
grating, were rudely coloured figures of the Madonna and Child, and an
earthenware pot in which some scarlet lilies were flaming.  Somehow such
little tributes are more touching than the most elaborate decorations;
Ibbetson found himself wondering who had placed them there, as he went
toiling up his hill.  The next moment he reached the entrance of the
villa; iron gates standing open led into a rather untidy looking drive,
arched over by tall trees of paradise and paulownias; and the shade of
their broad leaves was so attractive a contrast to the dusty road, that
he stood and looked in for a few minutes.  There was an unreasonable
attraction to him about the place.  He smiled at himself when it struck
him, and whistling to Cartouche, who had plunged among the trees,
prepared to continue his tramp up the stony hill.

But Cartouche was not forthcoming.  On the contrary, certain sounds were
to be heard implying that he had met with a very congenial amusement
within--a rustling among bushes, short sharp yelps, terrified gobblings,
flutterings, then a girl's cry.  Jack whistled and called in vain,
finally ran along the drive and found himself in a broad space before
the villa, where two men armed with sticks were pursuing Cartouche,
three or four young turkeys were flying helplessly about, and a girl
stood holding another, apparently dead, in her hands.  The instant she
saw Ibbetson she stamped her foot, and cried out passionately in
Italian--

"Take away that wicked, villainous dog, do you hear!"

Jack was struck dumb, not at the command, but at the face which was
turned towards him.  He had never in his life seen so beautiful a
creature.  The large brown eyes flashed reproachfully through their
tears, the rounded and glowing cheek might have belonged to a Hebe, the
indignant curl of the short upper lip only showed more strongly the
beauty of its curves.  She stood facing him, one hand holding the dead
bird, the other pointing inexorably at Cartouche, who, aware of his
misdeeds, skilfully avoided a blow aimed by one of the gardeners, and
fled behind his master.  Then her face changed slightly, and she looked
down at the bird.

"You are not Italian," she said still vehemently, but in English so pure
as to excite the young man's wonder more keenly, "and perhaps you did
not know about it; but your dog should not come in and kill our turkeys.
See, it is quite dead," she added, holding it out; "and they were such
dear little things, my sister and I had just brought them in a basket
from the _podere_ to show my mother."

"I am very sorry, very sorry indeed," said Ibbetson with great
earnestness, "and very much ashamed that I did not keep a better look
out."

"If you were only passing by in the road, of course you could not help
it," said the girl, looking at him gravely; "but perhaps you will try to
prevent his doing it again.  I should be very much obliged if you would,
for I cannot bear to see things hurt."

"I will certainly flog him."

There was a pause, and she took another survey, but this time it was of
Cartouche, whom his master was holding.

"He does not seem a very fierce dog?" she said inquiringly.

"Quite the reverse," said Ibbetson smiling.  "He is little more than a
puppy, and this mischief is only play, but still it is necessary he
should be taught what he is not to do."

Jack was looking very determined; Cartouche had the air of a victim.
The girl glanced at the turkey which she still held, and again at the
dog.

"Perhaps," she said slowly, as if rather ashamed of herself, "you will
not beat him?  The turkey is dead, and I think he understands he is not
to do it again.  Indeed, Antonio shall carry the rest back to the farm.
You will not beat him?"

"You have a right to say what shall be done."

"Then I say that," she said, brightening and clapping her hands.  "Here
is my sister, I must tell her about it."

She ran to meet a younger girl who came down the steps of a terrace.
Ibbetson stood where she had left him, feeling a little awkward, it must
be confessed, and not knowing whether he was to go or stay, or into what
strange place he had fallen.  Were these people English or Italian?  The
girl's type of beauty was Italian, but the English she spoke bore no
trace of being acquired.  The villa was square, large, and apparently
out of repair; there was a tower which looked older than the rest of the
building, and a handsome high-arched entrance.  Plants were arranged in
pyramids round vases or statues; there were lemon trees in great tubs,
tiny oranges hanging between the leaves, tube roses scenting the air,
glossy acanthuses.  In the centre of the broad space in front of the
house, where Jack was standing, was a pond with a fountain in its midst,
which you might reach from the villa through a covered way matted over
with banksia roses, and having seats at intervals under the cool shade.
He had just time to notice all this when the two girls turned and joined
him.

"This is my sister," said his first acquaintance with a pretty little
gesture of introduction, "but we do not know your name, or anything
about you, except that you are English."

"My name is Ibbetson, John Ibbetson," said the young man laughing, and
yet reddening slightly.

"You are quite right in supposing that I am English, but will you pardon
me if I ask whether you can possibly be my country people?"

"I am," said the younger girl shyly, and her sister turned upon her a
reproachful look.

"And I, too," she said quickly.  "What makes you doubt it?  English
people often live abroad, as you must know.  We are called Masters, my
mother is in the house, and you will come in to see her, of course."

Jack muttered something about his dress and the dust, but the girl shook
her head imperatively.

"That does not matter in the least.  We live here alone and see nobody,
that is why I wish you to go in; I know it is not good for mamma to be
so solitary, and have no one but us.  Kitty and I often talk about it,
but what can we do?  There are only the gardeners, and old Andrea, the
cook, and the people at the farm, and she does not care about the farm.
We brought the turkeys back to-day just for a little amusement."

"And I was so unfortunate as to be the cause of putting an end to it."

"Yes," said the girl gravely, "but never mind.  Your coming to see her
will be better, perhaps.  This way, please."

Ibbetson followed, half amused and half piqued.  It was quite evident
that he was only looked upon as a new and possible means of
entertainment where other means were wanting, and yet the girl's manner
was so simple and frank that it was impossible to feel offended.  And
the brightness, the unconventionality of the scene charmed him.  The air
was full of wonderful gleaming lights, of sweet scents.  Every line of
the old villa seemed in harmony with the rich colouring about it; so
were the sisters in their cool white dresses.  It was all strange and
yet familiar, and he followed, wondering what new features would
presently disclose themselves, whether it was to end in a fairy tale or
plainest English prose.  Cartouche, fortunately still a little subdued
by the consciousness of misdoing, was tied into a thicket of scarlet
geraniums by the side of the entrance, then Kitty pushed the heavy door,
and passing through a small marble-paved hall, opened another door
leading into an immense salon, perhaps fifty feet long.  To English eyes
it looked but barely furnished, but it was cool and well shaded; two
large windows opened on a terrace, and there, on a white marble table,
under the shade of a magnificent paulownia tree, was spread the dinner
service.  It was like a feast in Boccaccio, Jack thought, after the
stuffy table-d'hotes and the stuffier dining-room at Hetherton--stands
of bright flowers, piles of rosy peaches, grapes full of lustrous
colour, plums, figs heaped on their dishes, and two or three green
melons lying in the midst of this gay confusion of colour.

"It is nearly seven o'clock, I see," said the elder girl, glancing
carelessly at it.  "Kitty, tell Pasquale to set another place; of course
you will dine with us," she added, turning to the young Englishman, "but
please to come to the breakfast-room, mamma is sure to be there."

As she spoke she opened a door which led into another and smaller salon,
and from this they went through another.  Both had inlaid floors and
marble tables; in one a couple of marble statues stood looking sadly and
reproachfully, so Jack fancied, at the girl who went quickly by without
so much as glancing towards them, her beautiful face eager, her cheeks
glowing.  There were no statues in the second room, only black negro
boys holding flower-stands; but the stands were empty, and evidently the
rooms were uninhabited, and even on this day a little dreary.  It was
different with the little room to which they led; there all the
available furniture had been gathered.  It was not very handsome, but a
pretty homelike air hung about everything.  A glass door opened on steps
which went down to a gay little flower-garden, and were shaded by a
weeping willow, while from some unseen source there came a pleasant
refreshing sound of bubbling water.  In a low chair near the window sat
a lady who had probably been asleep, from the bewildered air with which
she looked up, and Jack's companion evidently thought so too, for she
gave a little impatient pat upon her shoulder.

"Wake up, mamma, we have got something quite new for you to-day," she
began in the tone in which one would offer a toy to a spoiled child.
"Here is an English gentleman who is going to dine with us.  I dare say
you have just come from England, and know about things?" she continued,
addressing him.

Jack felt an irresistible inclination to laugh, and yet there was
something in the little scene which touched him.  He had been taken
possession of without much freedom of action being permitted him, and
now was expected to play off his tunes like a wound-up barrel organ.
But it was impossible not to see that the girl was free from any thought
of self, and as she made this last appeal the wistfulness in the
beautiful brown eyes went to his heart.  He was going to speak, but she
interrupted him.

"Wait a moment," she said quite gravely, "I had forgotten.  This is Mr
Ibbetson, mamma.  Mr Ibbetson--Mrs Masters."

Her mother put out her hand languidly.

"Beatrice is original in her introductions, but she knows that anyone
who can tell me about my own country is welcome at Villa Carlina," she
said.

They fell into chat quite easily, indeed everything about the house
seemed free from formality or stiffness, Ibbetson thought.  Mrs Masters
was a largely built, fair woman, slow in movement; generally her face
looked placid, but sometimes a startled expression crossed it which gave
a sudden sharpness to the lines on her forehead.  She dressed rather
untidily, and with an evident leaning towards bright colours; her voice
went on in a pleasant plaintive ripple, and there was no labour in the
conversation.  Bice took no part in it.  She had drawn a low chair to
the head of the steps, and sat leaning forward, her elbow on her knee,
her chin resting on her hand, all the delicate lines of her white dress
falling in graceful folds.  Jack thought, as he looked, that a sculptor
could not have found a more perfect attitude, or a more exquisitely
moulded head, thrown out as it was by the background of cool green
outside.  Who was she?  How came she by an English name, and yet the
highest type of Italian beauty?  The other girl came in, and he could
see that she was three or four years younger; she was so slender as to
be thin and almost angular, and bore not the least resemblance to either
Bice or her mother.

"Yes, it is pretty here," the mother was saying, "especially just now in
the vintage time.  But it becomes very monotonous; the days go by one
after the other, all alike, and all dull.  There are no neighbours, or
hardly any.  The Moronis come sometimes, young Giovanni brings his
guitar, and the girls sit out there on the steps and sing.  Yes, that is
pretty, too, but still one tires, and in the winter of course it is a
hundred times worse.  I do envy the people in Florence, who have
theatres and the Cascine always to fall back upon.  For myself it does
not matter; but you will understand that it is a trial to see these
children growing up with none of the advantages of other girls--I am
afraid very unlike others."

She looked at Ibbetson for sympathy, but what could he say?  It was in
this very unlikeness that it seemed to him the charm lay, and yet he was
sure this was not a woman to understand it.  Bice had clasped her hands
round her knee, and was staring out of the window frowning.

"Don't talk about Florence, mamma," she said impatiently.  "Everybody
knows what Florence is; Kitty and I would not live there for anything in
the world.  Is it any good for people to drive about in their best
clothes and look at one another?  But we are English, you know; please
tell us about England," she went on, addressing Ibbetson, "or stay--
there is the dinner bell, come to dinner; I will meet you on the
terrace, and bring your dog, for he must have something to eat, though
he did kill my poor little turkey."

To Jack that dinner was unlike all others; he half expected to awake
from a dream of delicious air, of sweet scents, and the gorgeous fruits
with which the table was piled.  The little party sat on two sides of
it; Beatrice, opposite, looked at him with grave questioning eyes; Kitty
was shy and did not say much; but Mrs Masters' talk rippled on without
more break than a little accompaniment of sighs.  Old Andrea, the fat
cook, brought up one of the dishes himself in order that he might see
the English signore.  He stood with his hands behind him, smiling and
gossiping in a full rich voice about the news of the little town from
which he fetched the letters every day.  Afterwards they went back to
the morning room.  Crimson cushions had been laid on the steps; Mrs
Masters buried herself in an arm-chair at the top, the others sat about
on the cushions.  The glow of the setting sun still lingered in the
clear sky; there were faint sounds of rustling leaves, of dropping
water, the cry of _grilli_, the soft patter of naked feet as the
gardeners ran about, watering.

"We should have no flowers otherwise," explained Kitty; "the lemon trees
alone require it every night.  They will go on until ten o'clock."

"I am looking out for fire-flies," said Jack.

"Oh, you are much too late; you will not see them after June.  They come
to light the corn to grow, and every night as the clock strikes twelve
they creep up the stems of the trees and go to sleep."

It was all possible, Jack felt, in this land of enchantment.  Presently,
without any prelude, the two girls began to sing a wild sweet stornello.
The voices were not very strong, but they were like one; they went on
rising, falling, answering back again, dying away at last into the other
sounds.  Cartouche came rushing along; Jack got up and shook himself.

"Must you go?  We often sit out here until very late," said Mrs
Masters, rousing herself from a nap.  "But you will come again?"

"Will you come to-morrow?  We are going on a fig-eating expedition with
the Moronis.  We shall start at about four," said Bice, "and go to their
farm."

"I will be here without fail," said the young man eagerly.  He went away
into the cool dusky shadows in a sort of bewilderment; there had been
something so unlooked-for and novel in this little episode, that it
impressed him more than a hundred more important things.  The questions
he had half forgotten came forward again.  Who were they?  What had
brought them there?

"_Buona notte, signore_."

It was old Andrea the cook, who was standing smoking a cigar at the
entrance gate, and probably on the look-out for a little gossip.

"A fine vintage this year.  The signore has without doubt seen our
vintage?  No?  Is it possible?  Then he will do so this September.  The
padrona's grapes will be brought to be weighed next week; the signorine
will take the signore to see them cut.  Eh, eh, the signorina Beatrice
can tell him everything.  See here, she has a head as good as my own,
though I say it.  It is wonderful, a young girl like that, whom I have
nursed on my knee many and many a time.  Sometimes, when I hear her
giving her orders, I stare, I cannot believe it.  But then she is one of
us, which explains it," added the old man with pride.

"Do you mean that she is not English?" asked Jack, interested in this
confirmation of the ideas which had been floating about in his head
since the first moment of seeing Bice.

Old Andrea shook his head vehemently.

"No, no, no," he said, "not the signorina.  Her father was a Capponi;
she is a Capponi, anyone can see that who looks in her eyes, if the
signore will excuse me for saying so.  She is a Capponi all over."

"But she told me she was English," said Jack, amused at the old man's
indignation.

"She has whims, though she is so clever," said Andrea testily.  "Most of
the clever ones have.  Her mother is English, if you will--what of that?
And possibly the _padrone_ did not treat her over well--who knows?  He
was a man who liked his own way, and perhaps did not much care how he
got it.  _Altro_!  The signore knows that men are not all made in the
same fashion, and the Capponi were used to being masters.  At any rate,
he is dead."

"And his wife?"

"Si, _signore_, as you see.  She married again, before the stone that
covers his grave up at San Miniato had time to lose its whiteness.  I go
there sometimes.  There are not many others that remember.  But as I was
saying, the signora married quickly, and this time it was to a
stranger--an Englishman--with two children."

"Two?"

"Two.  There is a young man in some country of strangers, very probably
it is England, and the signore has perhaps brought news of him?  No?
Ah, then he will see him on his return.  That will delight the
signorina, for she has given her heart to these newcomers.  But for all
that she cannot help being a Capponi, and no one can mistake her.  Such
a _padrona_ as she makes!  Such a head, such a head!  Only ask them at
the _podere_ what it is like.  The signore goes to Florence?"

"Yes," said Jack, who had been lighting his cigar.  "I suppose there is
no shorter road than down this hill?"

"If the signore can keep in his dog he can branch off through the
vineyards to the left.  I will show him the path in a moment, and it
will be much quicker."

Andrea, delighted at this chance of a gossip, talked on as they went
down the hill.  It was chiefly loyal, admiring homage to the signorina
which filled his mind, and Ibbetson was interested in the ideas he
gathered of a homely and simple life, unlike that of which he was
accustomed to think.  When he parted from Andrea, it seemed to him as if
he had known Bice for months instead of hours; a curious charm already
hovered about her, and the remembrance of the wistful looks which
sometimes crossed her face like a contradiction.  He left the old man
standing in the road, and turned off into the steep and stony track
which had been pointed out to him as his path.  No one was visible when
he got among the vines, but following Andrea's advice, he kept the
unwilling Cartouche close by his side, and walked quickly, for it was
growing late, though a bright moon made the blue sky clear.  The air was
light and fresh.  A few olive trees, twisted and gnarled, bordered the
path, their grey leaves catching the light like silver; then the Arno
came into sight flooded with radiance; presently the twinkling lights of
Florence gleamed out from dark masses of building, and cupola, and
tower, and one larger blot which marked the Duomo of Our Lady of
Flowers.  All over the plain these lights glittered, faintly bright,
here far apart, here tremulously disclosing themselves to the eye, as
shyly as the stars of heaven itself.  When Ibbetson reached the city
streets he felt as if he had left enchantment behind him.  The thoughts
which had troubled him the evening before, now did not once intrude.
Hetherton might never have been, and the charm of Italy was at work.

CHAPTER FOUR.

THE FARM ON THE HILL.

Most people are acquainted with the sensation of being caught in a
sudden and unexpected manner in some little eddy of society or
circumstance, and how they are swept away before they know where they
are.  But if it is odd and startling to ourselves, it is much more so to
those who are untouched by the currents; and when, at the appointed time
on the next day, Ibbetson went off to Villa Carlina, he left Miss
Cartwright a little perplexed at what he had told her, and at his
newly-awakened interest.

To himself the villa, when it came in sight, seemed full of pleasant and
friendly expectations.  He heard sounds before he saw where they came
from; then Cartouche boldly plunged under the banksia arches, and there
was a little cry of dismay, laughter, children's voices.  "This way,"
some one called out, and when he reached them he found a gay little
company sitting under the green shade, and was welcomed without
formality.

"Now we are all here, we will start directly," said Bice.  "Come, little
children!"

But the children were in a state of ecstatic delight over Cartouche's
amazement at the hundreds of gold fish which came crowding to the edge
of the pond.  He barked and snapped, snapped and barked in vain, and at
last, in a frantic attempt to reach them, tumbled headlong into the
pond, out of which he scrambled with his enthusiasm a little checked.

Mrs Masters was not going; the walk, she said, was quite beyond her
strength, and they left her strolling back to the house, where she gave
them the hope she might employ herself in writing some letters which had
long been waiting.  The others set off merrily.  There was Giovanni
Moroni, a youth of two or three-and-twenty, dark, bright-eyed, with
cropped hair, and a frank pleasant smile.  It was to his _podere_, high
up the hill, that they were bound.  There was also his sister, the
Contessa, and her husband, who was grey-headed and fierce.  The children
were theirs; they came from Genoa, and were wild with delight at the
country life and their escape from a dark old palace.  Kitty and
Cartouche speedily became their victims.  Bice was kind, but, this
afternoon at least, a little graver than the others, for many thoughts
were rushing through her head as they went clambering and laughing up
the hill.

That little outline which old Andrea had given to Jack told as much of
her story as there was, to all appearance, to tell.  But to her own
thinking a great deal remained unknown--problems, possibilities, were
sweeping through the air, and troubling her with a hundred perplexing
doubts and shadows, which it was left to her unaided to solve or to
disperse--to her, little more than a child, as she was!  Everything was
simple and a little dull to Mrs Masters.  She had gone through such
ill-usage and insult as would have seared most women's lives; and when
it was all over, feathered out again with no more result than a mild
assurance that from that time forward she had a right to whatever
comfortable compensation she could get out of existence.  Bice's
passionate little soul reached the same conviction through quite another
road, through all sorts of fiery impulses, horror at her father's
cruelty, contempt, devotion, flinging of herself into the breach,
heedless of anything she might have to suffer for her championship.  So
sad a warfare was it for a child to go through, that it was a wonder so
much that was good and noble had survived it.  She had always
constituted herself her mother's protector, and now that her father was
dead she had a sort of odd notion that it was she who had to make up to
her for the sufferings she had gone through.  She was ready to accept
Mr Masters, anything that could help them to forget the old life.  She
was glad that her mother bore another name, and insisted upon sharing it
herself against all law and right, and the equally persistent obstinacy
of old Andrea.  It was this which brought a sudden flame of anger into
her cheeks that very afternoon, as they climbed along a steep stony
track, on one side shaded by hawthorn bushes, on the other falling away
into fields, a valley, and a little stream.

"One might be in England," Ibbetson said, standing still to look round.

"Is it so like?" asked Bice eagerly.  "Kitty never told me that it was.
I shall come here often."

"You have a great fancy for England, and yet you might be content with
your own country," said Jack smiling.

"England is my country," she said, and it was then the red began to
deepen in her cheeks.

"But you are a Capponi?"

She stopped and faced him, her eyes flashing, her whole figure
quivering.

"Who told you so?" she cried angrily.  "It was that old Andrea, I am
certain.  I will not have it.  I am not Capponi any longer.  I am
English, and English only."

She kept away from him for some time after this outburst, though he
tried more than once to make his peace.  It was only after he had
pointedly called her by her mother's name that she relented and became
friendly again.

The _podere_ lay some way up the hill which they were climbing.  At last
they reached it; a picturesque building well baked by the sun, with a
low tower, tiled, a round arch or two, and deep eaves.  Outside stood
beautiful great oxen with wide-spreading horns, and two or three
children were watching and ran eagerly to fetch the contadino.  When he
had come out and had spoken a few words to his padrone, young Moroni,
the latter led the way to a door in the wall, within which was a kind of
rough garden, full of fig-trees laden with fruit.  One or two
brown-faced boys came running with tables and chairs.

"Ah! but this is truly idyllic, my Giovanni," said the young countess,
sinking into a chair.  "If I must confess the truth, I could not have
walked another ten steps."

She was not exactly pretty, but slender and fragile-looking, and she
generally contrived to do as much as she liked and no more.  Her fierce
husband adored and petted her, and she was very fond of him and of the
children, whom she expected him to keep in order or amuse as the case
might be.  Wherever she was she liked to form the centre, and now she
managed to draw them all round her, except Bice.  Bice strolled away
alone towards the other end of the garden, here and there picking a
rose, or one of the half-wild flowers which grew without care just as
they had been stuck in.  The girl was in a strange and dissatisfied mood
that day; it seemed as if different strings were vibrating together,
making odd discords and harmonies.  Some had been set in motion by
things which Ibbetson had said the day before, others had been touched
and jarred, she scarcely knew how or why: questions and perplexities
seemed to have awakened just at the moment when she had intended them to
be silent.  From that father from whose memory she shrank she had
inherited many characteristics: among them a strong will, and a desire
to thrust whatever was painful to her out of sight.  "Why should I be
obliged to remember now?" her heart cried out angrily, as she turned and
looked at the gay little group, already beckoning to her to return to
them.  "Give is Kitty's own brother, and she is not thinking about him,
and Oliver has not come yet, and things are not worse than they were
yesterday, when I was not half so unhappy.  And to-day I meant to enjoy
myself and to forget it all.  Why does it come back now?"

She was impatient at her own weakness and yet could not master it; tears
rushed into her eyes, she turned hastily away, and laid her arms upon a
low wall, heedless, for the moment, of anything but her own unhappiness.

"You must not desert us in this way," said some one behind.  "We are
waiting for you before we begin the great business of the day, which is
much more formidable than I thought."  And then his voice changed, and,
became very kind and grave.  "Is anything the matter?  Has anyone vexed
you, that you go away and leave us?"

For she had turned and looked him full in the face, careless that the
tears were running down her cheeks.  A desperate longing seized her to
tell him her troubles and to ask his help.  The poor child had so few
from whom she could seek it, that it seemed to her as if this kind voice
might give her aid in the labyrinth where she was losing herself.  The
longing was of course utterly foolish and unreasonable.  Jack was an
utter stranger, and the next moment her face burnt at the thought of
what her impulse had been.  He for his part could not understand the
piteous appeal in her eyes, or the change in which it died out.  She
said quickly--

"Vexed?  Oh, no!  I was unhappy because I was thinking of my brother
Clive."

"Is he ill?"

"No, not ill.  He is in some trouble in England.  I don't quite know
what it is myself," she went on, looking frankly at him, "and I dare say
that makes it worse.  But it is nothing new, and I cannot think why it
should come to me so strongly just now.  Do you ever feel as if things
seized you with a rush and without any reason?"

Jack thought of his walk by the Arno the night before.  This girl with
her changing moods, her frank appeals, interested him.  He felt a strong
desire to help her--a desire which was perhaps made more vigorous by the
consciousness of her wonderful beauty.  He answered the first part of
her speech.

"You must have so many friends that it seems ridiculous to suppose that
I can do anything about your brother.  But can I?"

A sudden gladness lit her eyes.

"Could you?" she said, eagerly answering his question by another.  "I
daresay you could.  You are very much mistaken if you suppose we have
many friends; I don't know that we have any at all."

It was said slowly and as if she were considering, and for that very
reason it almost startled Jack.  The words were strange, coming from
such lips.

"That is impossible," he said decidedly.  "But about your brother?"

"It is a long story, you see.  I couldn't tell you now."

"No, I understand, of course you couldn't.  Come back to the other's,"
he went on kindly.  "You can talk the matter over with your mother and
your sister,"--Bice shook her head with an amused smile--"and tell me
when you like.  Then we will see what can be done."

The swift changes in her face and manner were certainly interesting.
The cloud had passed; she was smiling, radiant, flashing out with odd
unexpected speeches, playing with Cartouche, helping Giovanni to pick up
the figs, helping everybody.  Two or three boys ran up the tree like
squirrels, and in a few minutes had brought great baskets full.  All the
Moroni party ate them Italian fashion, as a sandwich between raw ham and
bread; the contessa teased Bice.

"She knows there is nothing more delicious; it is only the Anglo-mania
which prevents her doing as we do.  I can forgive Kitty--but you, Bice!"

Ibbetson thought that young Moroni looked annoyed.  "Why should the
signorina have Anglo-mania?" he said hotly.  "At any rate the signore
has just said there are no such figs in England."

"Ah, why, why, why?" cried out the girl gaily.  "Do not let us ask
questions or find fault.  Do you know, Giovanni, that it is absolutely
delicious here in your old farm garden.  I did not think it had been
half so pleasant."

"Yet you have been here before," said the young man, flushing with
delight.

"Was it it like this?  Then I must have forgotten.  There is nothing so
nice at our _podere_."

"Have you a farm?"  Ibbetson asked Kitty.

"Yes," she said, with a little shy stiffness in her manner.  "It is in
another direction."

"And who manages it?"

"Bice is really padrona.  But the contadino, who is the tenant, manages
it; you know that is the custom here.  He pays us half of everything,
the live stock and the crops."

So long a speech was almost too great an effort for Kitty, and she
jumped up and took refuge with the children, who were sitting in a heap
munching figs, and occasionally trying to thrust one down Cartouche's
throat.  A boy in the tree over their heads tossed the cool green fruit
into their laps.

"Pippa has only eaten twelve," said little Gigi, planting his white
teeth in the rind.  "Only twelve!  That is because she is a girl, and so
little!"

Pippa plodded on sturdily, paying no attention to the insult.  The broad
leaves cast broken masses of shade upon the long grass, the clear
whiteness of the western sky was changing to amber.

"How well you speak our language!" said the little contessa graciously
to Ibbetson.  "Believe me, it is a compliment we all appreciate.  Now
when Bice's other English friend is here, the Signore--Trent--how do you
call him? we are obliged to fall back upon French.  Eh, Bice, it is so,
is it not?"

"Yes," said the girl shortly.

She was grave again, as Ibbetson remarked.  The changes in her manner
and in her face were so rapid that he found himself watching and
wondering.  He had never met with anyone who showed so openly whatever
passed across her mind.

"Is he coming again soon?  He is your relative, is he not?" persisted
the contessa.

"He is Kitty's cousin."

It was the first time she had spoken as if Kitty and she were not
absolutely one in their possessions, and her tone had an unwilling ring
about it.  Perhaps it piqued her friend's curiosity, for she threw back
her head, and said in a low amused voice--

"You are mysterious, _carina_.  Is the subject too sacred to be
discussed?"

The girl's eyes flashed, she sprang up angry and impatient.

"Are we going to stay here all our lives?" she cried with a sharpness
which cut poor Giovanni to the heart.  If he had heard what had just
passed he might have been better satisfied, but he had been looking
another way, choosing some of the best figs for the beautiful Eve who
had praised his little Paradise, and he heard nothing until there came
this sharp, scornful speech, which made a desert of it all.  Yet how
lovely she looked standing there, her head thrown up, the exquisite
outline of her profile clear against the golden sky!  And when she
turned, and saw the young fellow's frightened face, her own melted, and
a sudden smile dimpled her cheeks.

"Was I so rude, Giovanni?" she said gently, "I did not mean it, really.
It has all been charming, delightful, only now it is time to go.  Nina
knows it, but she is lazy.  I must be the one to tell you what is
prudent.  Come, Kitty, come, children, the reign of figs is over, but we
will carry back a basket-full for mamma.  She always says there are none
like those which grow up here on Giovanni's mountain."

All the way home she was softer and gentler than Ibbetson had yet seen
her.  Pippa was tired, and nothing would please her but that Bice should
carry her.  The little creature, with her curly black hair, fell asleep
in her arms, and the girl would not have her moved or awakened, walking
on firmly and strongly with her burden.  She led them down by another
path, in spite of the contessa's complaints that it was both longer and
steeper.

"It will not harm you," Bice said quietly, "and you will see something
worth seeing."

But it was not until they had turned a shoulder of the hill where, on a
sort of stony terrace, a few old olives stood grey and shadowy in the
midst of a flood of colour, that Ibbetson knew what she had brought him
to see.  For below, and stretched before him, spread that wonderful
plain of Valdamo which is beyond the power of pen or pencil; and now, as
it lay bathed in the radiance of the setting sun, he felt as if he had
never before known its beauty.  A haze, not of mist, but of colour,
seemed to rest upon it, so delicate and so varied that its intensity was
scarcely felt, and the villas and farms with which the plain is thickly
studded gleamed like jewels in the midst of this wonderful setting.  On
the opposite hill rose Bellosguardo with its cypresses, those trees
which throughout Italy give point and force to softer beauties; and
below, the domes and towers of Florence lay in the full glory of the
sunset lights.

Only one of the party did not look at its beauty; young Moroni was
looking at Bice instead.  She still had the child in her arms, and he
came to her side and said wistfully--

"Let me take Pippa the rest of the way, she is too heavy for you;" and
quite unexpectedly Bice gave her to him with a smile.  She would not,
however, walk by his side, as he had hoped; she would walk with nobody;
she lingered behind, gathering here and there a flower which had
survived the summer heats.  The contessa claimed the other gentleman,
Kitty had the children in charge and Cartouche, who was a little
overwhelmed by an unusual sense of virtue, Bice straggled after them,
singing to herself.  Ibbetson, who was listening for it, could now and
then hear a little break of song come flying down from behind in a
tantalising manner.  He began to hate the little contessa, who was not
half so interesting as this girl with her contradictions, her odd moods.
He waited his opportunity, but not until the villa was in sight could
he make an excuse for pausing to join Bice.  She was some distance in
the rear, and came towards him very slowly.  Then he saw that something
was wrong.

"What is the matter?" he asked quickly.

"Nothing.  Why did you wait?" she said with a touch of petulance of
which he took no notice.  He was looking at her hand, round which she
had wrapt a handkerchief.

"What have you done to your hand?"

"I have told you it is nothing," she said in the same tone.  "I have run
a thorn into it, that is all."

"A thorn would not give you so much pain."

"Well, it may be a little splinter; I think it is.  Go on, please, and
don't say anything about it."

"Not to your sister?"

"Oh, dear me, of course not!" she said with vexation.  "Anything of this
sort makes Kitty quite ill, don't you understand?  Please go to the
villa, I shall be there presently."

"But I am not going to the villa," said Jack quietly; "I am going to
look at your hand."

"I can take it out myself."

"_If_ you please--"

Bice was evidently unaccustomed to have her own will set aside; she
stared at him in amazement, and a bright flush which looked like
resistance rose to her cheek.  Perhaps, however, she thought resistance
undignified, or perhaps Jack's waiting attitude took too much for
granted; for after a momentary struggle she hastily unwrapped her hand
and silently stretched it out.  He could hardly repress the exclamation
which rose to his lips.  It was cruelly bruised and torn, and the
suffering must have been great.

"How could you have done it?" he said reproachfully.

"I was standing on a stone to gather a little flower which I saw in a
bush, and the stone slipped.  I fell on my hand, and I think something
caught in it and ran in."

She held her hand steadily for his inspection, but she had grown pale,
and to tell the truth, the prospect of his amateur surgery made him very
uncomfortable.  He turned in his mind the possibilities of finding a
doctor, but it was most improbable that one lived within a moderate
distance, and the splinter was momentarily increasing the irritation.
She would not hear of getting help from the house, and Jack hastily
determined to do the best he could for her, uttering a fervent mental
hope that she would not faint.

He need not have feared.  After the first sharp pain had made her
shrink, she let her hand lie quite passive, and although persistently
keeping her face turned away, from first to last uttered no sound.
Perhaps this self-restraint made him nervous, perhaps he was
inexperienced in the work, for he knew through every nerve in his own
body that he was giving her sharp and even unnecessary pain.  When the
splinter was drawn out, his own face was nearly as white as hers.  The
girl noticed this as he straightened himself.

"I am afraid you disliked it as much as Kitty," she said remorsefully.

"It was clumsy work," said Jack; "I know that I hurt you horribly."

"Never mind," said Bice.  "Chiara shall put some of her healing herbs,
and I think the pain is all over."

Was it so indeed?  Did nothing whisper to her of another pain, a deeper
smart, which this very moment was bringing?  What sweet and tremulous
pang seemed to smite her in the silence which fell for a moment?  A
moment--no more--and yet there are moments which go on for years.

Bice drew back her hand without another word of thanks.

The others, too, had had a little misadventure to detain them--the
contessa had torn her dress, and it required consultations, laments, and
pinnings; so that when they were finished, Jack and Bice were not far
behind.  They were all to dine at the villa, and went along straight
stiff walks bordered by cypresses towards the little flower-garden by
the breakfast-room.  As they reached it, Cartouche growled angrily at a
gentleman who was coming quickly down the steps.  Moroni, still carrying
the child, met him first, then came the contessa, who turned and
beckoned gaily to Bice.  The girl, when she saw him, half stopped.
Ibbetson noticed that she became pale, and that her lips quivered.

"Who is it?" he asked curiously.

"It is Oliver Trent," she said in an odd, frightened undertone.

CHAPTER FIVE.

THE ILEX WALK.

Ibbetson was not quite himself the next morning, Miss Cartwright thought
with a gentle uneasiness.  He did not always hear when he was addressed,
and he did not say much about the event which was filling her own mind--
the arrival of the travellers.  They were to come from Bologna by the
evening train, and Miss Cartwright would willingly have talked of
nothing else.  Miss Preston, whose delight it was to paint darkly the
characters of her friend's friends, had shaken her head with great
energy over all she had gathered of the villa, and Jack's conduct in
absenting himself there, but Miss Cartwright was altogether impervious
to the most direct innuendoes.  She was very glad he had made pleasant
friends, and seen a little of Italian villa life; she was very sorry for
the two fatherless young things, and when Phillis came, perhaps they
might all drive out together to Villa Carlina; worst of all, she was
quite sure Miss Preston would enjoy the change.  As for any danger to
Phillis's happiness, the idea never crossed her simple and loyal mind.

Nor, after all, was there much danger as yet Jack was struck,
interested, touched, but the feelings kept themselves where they
started, not having run on into any thrill of love.  Whether if he had
been free when he saw Beatrice matters might not have been different,
one cannot say.  Perhaps.  But he, too, was loyal.  To him his
engagement was a fact, and his word a bond; and bonds and facts do exert
an influence over an honourable man, let passion say what it will
against them.  That there was a certain peril cannot be denied, and it
lay in the fact that he did not love Phillis.  He felt a sort of
attraction, a pitying tenderness, a conviction that to marry her was the
best way of bringing a skein or two out of their tangle, but this was
not love.  And, meanwhile, the white villa set on the hillside, with its
flowers, its sweets, its Italian charm; the girl with her beauty, her
passionate nature, and yet her revolt against that very nature,
interested him.  Who was this man, this Oliver Trent, who had so
suddenly appeared among them?  A red-faced, hard-featured man, the
cousin, as, they said, of Kitty.  But it was not Kitty whom he had
watched when they sat on the steps the evening before.  It was not Kitty
who had seemed the most disturbed at his coming.  Jack said to himself
that it was all nothing to him, still he could not help feeling curious,
and of course common courtesy demanded that he should go that morning to
the villa in order to inquire for the injured hand.  After that morning
he would not be so completely his own master.

This, it will be seen, was the man's view of the matter, neither more
nor less.  His imagination had been touched, but his mind was clear
enough to see things as they were, uncoloured by any strange and
dream-like tints.  For the girl's, it was different.

Think at what a time of ferment he had suddenly touched her life.  She
had grown through a childhood, saddened by that dreariest sorrow which
can befall a child--want of faith in those it should love--to a
womanhood from which it seemed as if all the sweetest belongings of her
age--care, watchfulness, guiding, were withdrawn.  Its brightness was
darkened by memories, burdened by pledges.  No doubt her state of
feeling was exaggerated, but through what strivings, seekings after
light, yearnings for justice, had that poor bent shoot struggled
upwards.  The girl had an instinctive hatred of oppression, a longing to
protect, to deliver; the sort of spirit which has made heroines before
now, but also has often wrecked a woman's own peace.  For those who have
it sometimes give up what is not theirs to give, the happiness of
others--or their own hearts, when they have passed from their keeping.

They have, too, their moments of revulsion, such a moment as had come to
Bice.  She had believed that she had the strength to do anything which
could shield her mother or Kitty--whom she loved with all her heart--
from trouble, and the trouble was there like a threatening cloud.  Clive
Masters, Kitty's brother, had gone to England, and the lad, never very
wise, had fallen into some scrape such as the women out at the
Florentine villa did not understand and could but tremble over, when
Oliver Trent hinted darkly at its consequences.  How darkly, only Bice
knew.  It had been a revelation to him to note the eagerness, the
anxiety with which she listened when first he let drop the suggestion
that all was not going well with Clive; a revelation and--a temptation.
Nothing of his had touched her before beyond the surface; he had felt
with sharp bitterness that the girl in her beauty and her simplicity was
absolutely inaccessible.  But not now.  The tears would spring into her
beautiful eyes, a mute anguish of pleading would rise in her face when
he talked to her about Clive, the dangers of his position, the
probability of some dreadful discovery and disgrace.  And then he would
gently let fall hints of his own efforts, of how his was the only hand
which could restrain the lad, his the one influence staving off exposure
and ruin.  Very often he wondered at the readiness with which his
inventions were received, but what did Beatrice know of the world--such
a world as he described?  To her it was all vague, unreal, far off; for
her, alas, it was not difficult to believe in its wickedness!

But it was only by little and little, by subtile touches on the strings
of gratitude and hope, by a gradual coiling round her of a net made up
of threads so fine that they were scarcely palpable, that he dared hint
at his purpose.  If he had shown his hand too openly, and asked her to
be his wife as the price of his saving Clive, she might have yielded;
but all the generosity of her nature would have risen in revolt against
his meanness, she would have married and have hated him.  Oliver wanted
something better than that for himself, and felt sure of gaining it.  To
do so he would risk anything, and it seemed as if his purpose were on
the verge of accomplishment; Bice knew what he wanted, knew it in a
manner which let it seem the most natural thing in the world, and then
Oliver Trent made his great mistake.  He went back to England, believing
that reflection and solitude, and the judicious letters he would write,
would all work for him, believing that he had skilfully provided against
all emergencies.

But how could he provide against Cartouche frightening a turkey to
death?

If it is strange that two days' acquaintanceship with another man should
have been enough to shake his influence, and to awaken the revulsion
which has been hinted at, surely the strangeness is not improbable.
Oliver's influence had been a power from without, a bewildering mist
raised with which he had hidden or distorted one thing after another,
and skilfully enveloped Bice's perceptions, but there was nothing in her
nature which was in sympathy with his; nay, rather there was something
which drew back shuddering.  She might have been stirred to a blind leap
for those she loved, but to walk slowly along towards the gulf made it
seem a hundred times more terrible.  And when--though as it were only in
passing--she came face to face with a man out of whose eyes looked truth
and straightforward honesty, the contrast affected her, although she
hardly knew how.  Although she had believed Oliver, she had never really
trusted him, and Jack was a person whom you could not help trusting
absolutely.  Certain characteristics write their signs in a face with
unerring accuracy.  That night, in the shadowy fragrance of the garden,
Oliver Trent, jealously and uneasily watching the girl, did not know
that she too was watching him, noting, comparing, growing stiller and
sadder as she did so.  A wild longing to escape and to burst her bonds
had seized her; horror at what she had done, hope that Ibbetson might
find a way to help them; none of them knew what a tumult was driving
through her heart as she sat silent.

When the two girls went up to their room, Bice hurriedly pushed back the
outer persiennes, and knelt down with her arms on the ledge.  A sweet
cool air came up laden with the delicious sent of tuberoses, water
splashed dreamily in the distance, the grating croak of frogs and the
saw of the _grilli_ gave a little sharp invigoration to the softness of
the evening.  Presently one of the odd little owls which Italians call
_civette_ began to hoot and call, and Kitty answered it back.

"I wish Pasquale would get us a _civetta_," she said.  "Why don't you
tell him to do it, Bice?  Pasquale never minds what I say, and they are
the dearest, wisest little things in the world.  By the by, did you hear
Nina telling Oliver that Italians call a girl who jilts her lover a
_civetta_?  And then--"

Kitty hesitated.  Bice, still kneeling at the window, turned her head
towards her sister, with her cheek resting on her crossed arms--

"And then?" she repeated inquiringly.

"I don't quite like to tell you.  Sometimes Nina is horrid.  Well, she
gave a little nod towards you, as if Oliver should take care.  Wasn't it
a shame?"

No answer came.  Bice was looking out into the night again.  Kitty, who
was very affectionate, but not quick in her perceptions, went on with
her small ripple of talk.

"What business has Nina to know anything?  I can't think how she is
clever enough to find out, she has not seen much of Oliver.  And why
should she trouble herself about it?"

"Don't you know?" said Bice, in a proud and bitter voice, "she is afraid
of Giovanni."

"Of Giovanni?  Oh, nonsense!  Why--he is a boy, he is nobody but just--
Giovanni!  She can't be quite so silly.  Bice, I do think you must be
mistaken; besides, why should she be afraid?"

Kitty's merry laugh rang out childlike and confident.  Bice started to
her feet and turned round with a gesture that was almost fierce.

"You don't understand; you don't know anything about the world, you are
only a girl.  Why should she be afraid?--because we are poor, and Nina
is a contessa living in a palace, and so she has found out that there is
nothing in all the world so good as money; and as she is fond of
Giovanni, she wants him to have a great _dola_ with his wife.  That is
all, if you want to know."

"Then she is a silly," said Kitty, unmoved by this outburst.  "As if
Giovanni were good enough for you!--or as if money were everything!"

"Perhaps it is more than we think," said Bice, still bitterly;
"sometimes I feel almost sure it is."

"It would give us some new dresses, to be sure," Kitty said, with a
general readiness to assent to her sister's ideas, "and a piano.  I
should enjoy a piano."

"It would do more than that," Bice said abruptly.  And then her voice
softened, the beautiful eyes grew wistful; she put her hands on the
girl's shoulders, and looked into her face.  "Oh, Kitty," she said, "if
we only had a little money, you or I, we could save poor Clive
without--"

She stopped suddenly, and Kitty looked startled, for something in Bice's
manner thrilled through her.

"But," she said hesitatingly, "Oliver will do that.  He has promised,
hasn't he?"

"Yes," said Bice, very slowly.

Alas! but it was she who had to promise also.  "Then it's all right.
Oliver can do anything."

"Only if he is to do this, I must marry him."

She still spoke slowly, but her voice sounded strained and unnatural.
Kitty answered cheerfully--

"Yes, I know.  But you like him, don't you?  You made up your mind the
last time he was here, and there has been nothing to make you change.
And you always wanted to live in England.  I don't think Oliver would be
at all a bad sort of person to marry."

"I have never said I would marry him," interrupted her sister.

"No," said Kitty doubtfully, "not exactly.  Still you intended it."

"What has Clive done?" said Bice, looking at her with troubled eyes.
"We know very little about it all.  Oliver always says we cannot
understand, and that it is better for us that he should not attempt to
explain; but I think it would be better if he _did_ explain; for now it
is like some dreadful dark shadow of disgrace hanging over us, never off
one's mind day and night."  Kitty's eyes filled with tears.

"Is it so bad for you, dear?" she said sadly.  "I have not troubled
myself much about it since Oliver said he would arrange.  Surely he
knows best, and he is the only person to do anything."

"Why shouldn't Mr Ibbetson help us?" said Bice in a low voice.  Her
sister cried out in astonishment, but the girl persisted.  "There are
kind people in the world," she said, as her eyes brightened.  "If you or
I saw anyone in trouble we should do what we could; and he is a man, he
knows about England and this world into which poor Clive has tumbled--he
might advise us."

"Not better than Oliver!" exclaimed Kitty, amazed.  "Oh, I'm tired of
Oliver," cried Bice with petulant impatience.  Her heart was rising up
in revolt against its fate till it burned within her.  She was angry
with Clive, with Oliver, with Kitty, who could only praise him; most of
all with herself, the self which had grown all of a sudden discontented,
frightened, and indignant.  How was it that the change had come, if it
was a change and not rather an awakening?  How was it that life had in a
few hours blossomed into a hundred possibilities?  She had thought of
Oliver Trent before with a sort of dull satisfaction, as a means of
helping Clive and of averting sorrow from those she loved; and as he had
skilfully managed to make himself necessary to her, her feelings towards
him were passive.  But this calm was at an end.  All that evening she
had been comparing, watching, reflecting; a light seemed suddenly to
have been turned upon him; she saw things written in his features which
she had never discovered before--some, very likely, which were not there
at all.  "His eyes are close together, and there is a broad piece of
face beyond them--that is not good, I know," said the critic, "and his
face is red and hard."  And all the time, joined with this revolt, some
strong new hope seemed to have leapt into her heart, uncalled for and
inexplicable.  "There are kind people in the world," she had said to
Kitty, but what had brought her the sudden conviction?  Is it not
pathetic sometimes to see how little will win a heart, and yet how much
fails to touch it?  We take some trifling trouble, and, lo, an affection
is laid at our feet which years cannot change or parting cool.  And
then, again, we give our life blood, and the gift is scorned.  Jack had
felt attracted and touched, and had looked and spoken as he felt--
kindly, but it was no more than the commonest kindness, though to her it
seemed altogether special and delightful.

When Ibbetson reached Villa Carlina that morning, only Mrs Masters, in
her usual condition of good-natured drowsiness, was in the
breakfast-room, eating grapes from a great golden bunch which had just
been brought in with stalk and leaves attached; but before he had had
much time to ponder where he should find the others, Bice came, flushed
and smiling, and carrying a great bunch of flowers, jack felt himself
again wondering at her beauty.  She had a white dress--indeed, as yet,
he had seen her in no other colour--but over her head she had flung a
veil of black lace, Milanese fashion, and the bright flowers in her
hands--big scarlet lilies, blue larkspurs, and another blue flower with
green spikes--made a brilliant flash of colour against the cool white
folds.  Mrs Masters said plaintively--

"Where can you have been, Bice?  They have been looking for you
everywhere until Oliver is quite vexed; go and find them in the garden,
and say that you are come."

"There is no hurry," said the girl lightly; "they do not want me."

"But where have you been?"

"To gather flowers for the Virgin's niche; and they are so scarce at
this time of the year, that I had to go a long way."

"So it is you who keep the flowers supplied?" said Ibbetson, remembering
that on the day he first saw the villa he had wondered whose hand had
placed the pretty nosegay.

"Yes.  But we are English, and belong to the English Church," said
Beatrice quickly.  "You will see us in Florence to-morrow.  Only it
seemed so sad to leave that little shrine in the wall desolate after
flowers had been laid there for so many years; and the poor peasants who
come along that dusty road like to see something fresh and pretty when
they look up and pray; and so I am going there now," she said smiling;
"and you may come if you will, just to see how they get into the
grating."

"But there is Oliver," said Mrs Masters anxiously.  "He has Kitty,"
Bice answered.  "Or, if that does not content you, they are in the
garden, for I heard their voices, and it is there we are going."

Nevertheless Ibbetson fancied that she led him along paths which looked
mossy and unfrequented.  There was a gloom about these paths even on
this bright day; dark ilexes shut out the sun overhead, long leaves of
narcissus straggled about, weedy-looking and untidy, amid the
undergrowth; one or two mutilated statues kept desolate ward over the
silence and dimness.  The girl glanced round her and shivered.

"I wish I had not brought you here," she said uneasily; "there is
something in this walk which always oppresses me."

"If I had not seen it you would not have made me believe there was so
cheerless a spot so near the villa.  But then, if you had not told me
the contrary, I could not have thought there was any dark shadow near
you in your happy country life."

Foolish, kind Jack!  Ever since he had seen the tears in her eyes he had
felt that he should like to help her.

Bice stopped and looked earnestly at him.

"That is why I asked you to come with me," she said with a simple
straightforwardness which he had noticed in her before.  "I thought if I
could tell you about Clive you might advise us what to do.  I fancied I
understood, but it has all got into a tangle in my head.  May I really
tell you?"

If Ibbetson had been less interested than he was, it would have been
impossible to have remained untouched by the frank simplicity of her
appeal.

"You may depend upon me," he said gravely.

Then she told her little story in a quiet voice, trying to put it into
as few words as possible.  Clive was their brother, a lad of twenty-one.
About two years before, he had gone to London, having, by Oliver's
help, got into some great business house; "because we are poor, and it
was necessary he should do something to make money," she explained.  At
first things had seemed to go well; he was quick and pleased his
employers, so that lately he had been promoted, but since then all had
been unsatisfactory.  Oliver had been the kindest friend, and was the
first to give them a warning that the young fellow was not going on so
steadily.  They had written imploring letters, and Clive had answered
them with such a frank acknowledgment that he had been wrong, and such a
clearly-expressed determination to turn over a new leaf, that they had
been happier.  But, alas, six weeks ago Oliver Trent had come out from
England and had brought the worst news with him.  He persistently
refused to tell them in plain words what had happened, but he hinted at
conduct on the part of Clive which had come to his knowledge though not
as yet to his employers, conduct which--known--must bring terrible
disgrace and ruin.  The poor women were overwhelmed.  He was not Mrs
Masters' son, but he was Kitty's brother, and the others entirely
accepted him as their own.  What was to be done?  Bice's first impulse
had been to write and question Clive, but that Mr Trent had absolutely
forbidden.  Clive must not know that he was aware of his guilt, or it
would be impossible for him to help him.  Whatever was done must be done
through himself alone, and this at a great risk.  Bice could not
understand what plan Mr Trent had in his head; he did not confide it to
her: she imagined only that there was some man whose silence he meant to
buy; at any rate he had promised to help them provided everything was
left in his hands.  She flushed and looked down as she said these words,
and Ibbetson, whose suspicions had been awakened the night before,
guessed that there was another "provided" which had received a tacit
acquiescence.  But, good heavens, what was he to say!  He had not
bargained for a story like this, for being asked to assist in condoning
a felony--to which it all pointed.  Probably the unfortunate boy had
forged a signature, and Trent held the proofs, and meant to use them.
He remained altogether silent.

In the trouble of her own feelings the girl was not at first conscious
of his dismay.  She was walking along and looking down, but as he did
not speak she glanced at him and stopped with a little cry.

"Oh!" she exclaimed, "I shouldn't have told you, I have only set you
against him.  I should have believed Oliver when he said that no one
must know."

"You need not fear me," said the young man gravely.  "I mayn't be able
to help, but you may be sure I will never betray your trust.  And if I
can't help, perhaps I may at least advise."

She stood still and began nervously to pick off the leaves of a branch
of ilex and to roll them together.

"If there is any way by which we could save him from disgrace," she
began hurriedly, when Ibbetson interrupted her--

"But if I understand you rightly, that is just what Mr Trent has
promised to do?"

The girl became very pale.

"Yes," she said at last with an effort.  "You are right.  I don't know
why I appealed to you.  Forget it, and don't let us say any more."

Her voice was proud and hurt.  She looked straight before her, and was
moving forwards when Jack detained her.

"You must let me give you my advice," he said kindly.  "It will not be
the same as Mr Trent's, and I fear you mayn't like it so well, but if I
had a brother in the same position as your brother, I should not rest
until--"

"Until--?" she asked with eagerness.

"Until I had induced him to make a clean breast of it."

"You mean to us?"

"No: I mean to his employers."

The girl started as if she had been stung.  She stood still, her breast
heaved, the burning colour rushed into her face.

"But that is the very disgrace we are trying to avoid!" she cried with a
sharp ring in her voice.  "It is cruel to mock me with such words.  Why,
why that is the worst that could happen, and you speak of it as calmly
as if--"

"Mock you!" cried Jack, hurt in his turn.  "Have I ever said anything
which should make you think me such a brute?  At least hear me until I
have explained myself.  This affair, whatever it is, if it is covered up
and concealed in the manner in which you have hinted, will hang over
your heads with a never-ending dread.  Something may always bring it to
light, and your brother will be haunted by fear of it.  But if he takes
courage and speaks openly, his employers will be at once half won over,
I am sure of it; they will think of his youth, of his inexperience--even
business men have hearts, Miss Masters.  Believe me, it is the most
honourable way."

She listened very quietly, though her face was still flushed, and when
he had finished she remained silent.  Suddenly, at a little distance,
they heard voices, and Bice said hurriedly--

"This is your only advice?"

"I can think of nothing else."

"I must have time for considering it, and I don't want Oliver to guess
that we have been talking: if you will go straight along this path you
will come to a door in the wall by which you can get into the road.  Do
not be vexed with me for sending you away."

"One word--how is your hand?"

"Oh, almost well."

"And when shall I see you again?"

"When you like to come," said Bice smiling; "or, perhaps, to-morrow in
Florence.  We shall be there, as I said, for the service."

"Then will you come afterwards to luncheon at my aunt's--Casa Giulia?
She is longing to make your acquaintance, and I shall feel sure you have
forgiven me."

"Oh, I have forgiven you," said Bice, after a pause, "Well, we will
come--"

CHAPTER SIX.

CARTOUCHE INTERRUPTS.

When Ibbetson had left her, Bice hastened to that part of the wall where
was the niche to which she was carrying the flowers.  A little terrace
ran along by means of which she could reach and open the grating, and
take out the vase with its withered blossoms.  She carried it to a small
fountain close by, filled it with clear water, and put in her flaming
lilies.  Then she took it back to the niche, closed the grating, came
down from the terrace, and after a moment's consideration walked slowly
towards the place where she had heard the voices.

Kitty and Mr Trent were standing under a large acacia tree, and turned
quickly round to greet her.  Kitty poured out her questions--Where had
she been? what had she been doing? did she know they had been looking
for her?

"Mamma told me," said Bice carelessly; "surely you two might have amused
each other for an hour.  And it would not have required any superhuman
sagacity, Kitty, to guess that I had gone for the flowers."

"If you are cross, I shall go to the terrace and leave Oliver to his
fate," said Kitty, laughing and escaping.

The two who were left looked at each other as she ran off--he with open
admiration, she with a tremulous quiver of her lips not lost upon him.
Oliver Trent was a man of about five and thirty, tall and thin, with
dead, dusty-coloured hair; his features were not ill-looking, but, as
Bice had remarked, hard in their lines, and he spoke with a slow
sweetness curiously out of keeping with his face.  He now slowly
repeated--

"To my fate.  I wonder if Kitty quite understood what happy
prognostications lay in her words?  Yes, this is the fate I have been
looking forward to all these weary weeks; and I began to think, Bice,
that you delighted in cruelty, or else had learned the woman's art of
tantalising.  Come and sit here in the shade."

She followed him more readily than he, perhaps, expected, for he
half-suspected that she was bent upon avoiding a _tete-a-tete_; but in
actual truth she had scarcely heard his words, or at any rate had not
taken in their meaning.  Another thought possessed her.  As they sat
down she turned and looked steadily into his face.

"What is Clive's exact position?" she said sharply.

He hesitated.  She repeated the question.

"You had better not ask for particulars, for they can only give you
pain."

"I can bear pain."

"Yes," he said, glancing at her hand, "such pain as that; but there are
other and worse pangs, and from those, Bice, I shall always endeavour to
shield you.  Clive has been doing his utmost to ruin himself and make
you all miserable; I am trying to save him.  It is a hard task, and
unless you trust me and follow my directions, I tell you honestly that I
have no chance of success."

"You threaten us with shadows," said the girl moodily.

"Oh, Bice," he said--and his voice became yet softer and more slow--"you
are not yourself to-day.  What has changed you?  I have often found you
hasty, wilful, unreasonable, but never before ungenerous.  Is it I that
threaten?  Is it not rather I that at any cost am trying to keep the
danger a shadow?  Once let me remove my hand, and it will be real and
tangible enough--"

She could not endure such a reproach; it seemed horrible to her, and
also true.  She stretched out her hand to him with a quick gesture of
kindness.

"You have been our very good friend, I know, Oliver," she said, looking
at him gratefully, "and I ought to be content and not tease you.  Only
tell me, is it absolutely necessary there should be this secrecy?"

"Absolutely.  I am obliged to use the greatest caution."

"Out here, how would it be possible for us to interfere with any plans?"

He began to be vexed with her unusual importunity, but allowed no trace
of his vexation to appear in his face or voice.  On the contrary, he
said with a smile, "Excuse me; if there were no other way, I should feel
by no means certain what you and Kitty might not write to Clive.  No.
Complete ignorance is the safest state of things for you; for of one
thing I am sure, nature never intended either of you for a conspirator."

Bice turned and looked at him thoughtfully.  He felt uneasy, for her
eyes seemed to be asking whether it was for that he was intended.  He
said more abruptly than he had yet spoken--

"Do you not care any longer that Clive should be saved?"

"Do I not care!"

The sudden fire which leapt into her eyes answered him.  He had at last
touched the right string.

"You have considered it thoroughly?" he said, speaking deliberately
again.  "I particularly desire that you should do so.  If this act of
Clive's is brought home to him, it means dishonour and disgrace; I
cannot hide it from you.  Your mother is very fond of Clive, she will
never hold up her head again.  As for Kitty, you know best whether she
will care or not.  It may not be so bad for you, it is true, because you
bear another name."

Bice interrupted him in a low passionate voice.  "You shall not say
that!"

"You refuse to separate yourself from them?  Well, then, for you too the
shame and the disgrace.  And poor Clive, so young, so foolish, not
wicked, but led away.  He writes to you all, I know, as if nothing had
happened, but if you could see him as I do, you would long to save him!"

"You must save him."

The girl's voice was choked.  Oliver leant forward and looked at her.

"At all costs?"

"At all costs."

"And by all means, whether right or wrong?"

"Whether right or wrong."

He leant forward still further and forced her to look at him.

"I will," he said slowly.  "For you."

They were silent after that for a time.  He felt that he had won a
victory, but her moods were so changeful that he was afraid of
endangering it by trying to push his advantage further.  And yet he
wanted more.  More than ever since this other man, of whom he felt
insanely jealous, had appeared on the scene.  At this moment, when her
feelings were all stirred and thrilled, he knew that skilfully led she
would be capable of any self-sacrifice, that it would even have an
attraction for her.  Once get her to make a definite promise, and he
felt certain the generosity of her nature would keep her to it.  And
once his--he looked at her beautiful face, grew pale, and set his
teeth--he would make her love him: his work should not be left half
done.

Now, if ever, was his time.

He said presently, in a pained and gloomy tone--"I could almost envy
Clive."

"Why?" she said, looking round quickly.

"Clive, and Kitty, and your mother.  Do you ever think of anyone else?
Would you care if I--we--the rest of the world were swept away in a
common deluge?  Would it matter to you in the least, supposing you four
were safe?"

"You are very unjust, Oliver," she said in a low tone, and he saw tears
shining in her eyes.

"I think not," he said gently.  "So long as I can save Clive you are
quite willing for me to run any risk--and the risk is great, remember.
I am a chancery barrister, working upwards with quite my share of
difficulties.  Suppose my attempt fails--yes, it is always necessary to
look what one undertakes in the face."

"Clive would be ruined," she said as he paused.  Then, as he did not
speak, she looked at him again and saw him smiling.  "What do you mean?"
she said half angrily.

"What did I tell you?" he answered.  "It was not of Clive that I was
speaking at that moment but of myself.  I should be ruined as
effectually as Clive, but that, of course, is not worth mentioning."
She started from her seat as if she had been stung, but he laid his hand
on her arm and drew her down again beside him.  "Wait a moment, Bice,"
he said in a changed voice, "wait and listen; I have a right at least to
ask so much from you.  I am not saying this to you because I have any
dream of retracting my promise; it is given, and there is an end of
scruple.  It is dangerous, perhaps wrong; I shall have to use means that
I detest, and mix myself up with scoundrels who will be on the look-out
to catch me tripping--never mind.  I have promised.  Only understand
what it is you ask me to do, and understand also that I do it for you--
solely and entirely for you.  What is Clive to me?  Nothing.  Do you
suppose that one's cousins are so dear that one would risk reputation
and honour for them.  But what are you to me?  Everything.  Everything
in the whole world, and you know it, you know it.  Have you no word for
me?  Am I to sacrifice everything and to have nothing in return?  Bice,
Bice, can't you give anything for Clive?"

She was looking straight before her, the colour had faded out of her
face; his voice, dangerously low and sweet, sounded in her ears.  All
her life long she never forgot that moment.  Long afterwards, if she
shut her eyes, she could see the great leaves of the trees of Paradise
swaying backwards and forwards against the deep blue sky; a vine, golden
in the sunshine; a pumpkin with its odd parti-coloured gourds flinging
itself down a steep bank; a clump of lilac crocuses breaking through the
grass--her eyes wandered over them all while he waited for her answer.
She knew quite well what it must be; her poor little generous untaught
heart had felt all the time he was speaking that he had a right so to
speak, that it was not for her to hold back.  Never before had it seemed
to her so terrible--Oliver would have been bitterly disappointed had he
known--but not for that could she hesitate.  She hated herself because
the sacrifice seemed so unendurable.  Why did she not speak?  What years
were dragging slowly by while he waited, holding her hand in his--
waited, waited!

There was a rush, a swoop.  A great black dog came tearing through the
bushes, springing upon Bice.  Old Andrea followed, breathless and
panting.

"He is a demon, that dog of the English signore," he cried, "and he has
lost his master.  Signorina, for pity's sake take him where he is, or he
will knock the house down.  He has been in my kitchen and gobbled up a
heap of _amoretti_, and broken half the eggs, and upset the milk, and
before that he had frightened the padrona out of her senses.  _Che, che,
che_, we cannot have such doings!  Signorina, where is his master?"

"He is gone," said Bice, jumping up; "he has been gone a long time.
What shall we do, Andrea?  Can one of the men take him into Florence?"

"Would he go?--the signorina should rather ask that question.  Otherwise
the cart from the _podere_ is here, going in with a couple of pigs that
have been sold.  But the creature would not follow."

"Then we must tie him to the back."

"Gia, _gia_, that is it, the signorina has always got her ideas."  Old
Andrea, who had recovered his good humour, stood shaking his broad
shoulders and pointing at Cartouche, who kept close to Beatrice.  "And
he really is clever, too, he knows he has found a friend.  Come along,
come along, signorina mia."

"You will not go?" said Oliver, holding her back.  He was furious with
the dog, with the old cook, and with the knowledge that Ibbetson had
already been there that morning.  One other moment and the girl would
have been his, he had known it, and now--

It seemed to Bice as if a weight had fallen from her, she caught her
hand from his and stood breathing quickly.

"Yes, I must go," she said, almost angrily.  "Don't you see they cannot
manage him by themselves.  Come, Cartouche; come, Andrea."

She ran towards the house, the dog followed her, leaping and barking.
Oliver turned sharply away and went to the Virgin's niche.  He wanted to
see if she had really taken fresh flowers there.  Had Ibbetson helped
her; was she playing a double game?  He stood for some time thinking,
his head bent and a frown on his face; and while he was there, a cart
came jolting down the white and stony road.  Behind it, and dragged
unwillingly along, was poor Cartouche on his way to his home.  Bice was
walking by his side to console him for a little part of the road by
encouraging words.  She did not see Oliver Trent, nor hear his
exclamation of rage, but she looked like a creature who had escaped to
freedom, and had thrown off a burden.  He was half disposed to follow
her, but something seemed to warn him that the spell was broken, and
must be re-woven before he could succeed.

Perhaps people do not very often--except, indeed, in books--lay those
elaborate schemes, those widely-spread toils of villainy, which are
supposed to belong to a bad man's career.  It is probable that they open
out to them almost as unexpectedly as to us, time and opportunity
seeming to throw themselves on their side.  Certainly Trent, who was
growing more involved week by week, had laid no such plans when he took
his first step; nay, more, he was made very uneasy by a clear perception
of the dangers to which he was exposing himself as he went on.  He would
gladly have pulled himself up before, and looked forward almost
feverishly to laying down the net which he told himself he was forced to
weave, with the full intention of never again engaging in such rash
work.  He had no dislike of Clive to make it easier to do him a
mischief, though he salved his conscience in the curious short-sighted
way in which that work is often done, telling himself that the means he
was obliged to use would not really injure the young man, although they
might seem to cloud his prospects for a time:--nay, he sometimes almost
succeeded in assuring himself that they were likely to work for Clive's
advantage, giving him just the lesson he needed, and putting him through
a wholesome time of trial.  But as this view of himself as a kind of
abstract justice was one which no effort could keep always in the
position where he would have liked to find it, he was subject to fits of
impatience, wishing very heartily that he could reach his end and wash
his hands of all this miserable business, which both irritated and
annoyed him.  When he had reached the villa he had confidently looked
forward to being free in a week.  And already he was feeling as if his
acts were turning into scourges.  Yet he had no thought of giving up
Bice; the more he saw her, the more determined he grew to make her his
wife, and when he was in her company all compunctions for Clive and
fears for himself vanished in reckless resolution.

CHAPTER SEVEN.

A SUNDAY IN FLORENCE.

No one who has not seen Tuscany in its golden autumn can have any idea
of its deepest, its most enchanting beauty.  For, whatever men say,
autumn in these colder northern lands carries, in every gorgeous tint
and flaming leaf, a profound melancholy.  A shiver of coming winter
creeps over you in spite of yourself; it is a farewell, a dirge which
comes sighing through the crimson and yellow woods, where the leaves are
dropping to decay.  In Italy there is no such sadness.  Winter there is,
to be sure--wind and snow, and sharpness of frost; but through it all
the sun is laughing out, wonderful colours glow; spring, hope, youth,
are never lost, or even for a moment forgotten.  And therefore autumn
brings no dread, only its own rich fruition and the joy of fulfilled
toil.

As they drove down from the villa into Florence on the Sunday morning,
the beauty of the time seemed at its height.  The road, after descending
between the high walls over which here and there the roses thrust
themselves, branched off and ran gaily down to the Arno and to Florence
through bordering vineyards, where the purple and yellow grapes hung in
luminous clusters between the intense fresh green of their leaves as
they tossed themselves from one tall tree to another against a clear
brightness of sky.  All round lay the soft and delicate glory of the
mountains, and below them the town glowed white in the sunshine, even
the cool shadows on the towers and walls gleaming with a strange
translucent golden pink.  There are no words for such colours; they burn
and blend, everything is touched with an enchanter's wand; it is only
when you try to hold them fast, or come away to our cold greens and
greys, that you learn something of their power.

Oliver Trent had done his utmost to get Bice again by herself, but she
had as yet contrived to avoid him, and he was a good deal more
disquieted by her doing so than he ventured to show; for hers was not a
nature which it would be safe to stir into opposition, or to attempt to
intimidate, and he had studied her closely enough to be aware that she
would resent nothing so much as suspicion or distrust.  Every hour that
passed endangered his plans, and yet he could do nothing but wait.  He
was even obliged to see them drive off to Casa Giulia after service
without him, as he was to go to other friends, and to meet them
afterwards at Miss Cartwright's.  All that he could do was to whisper
into Bice's ear, as he put her into the carriage, "Remember," and then
he stood and watched them go with a black cloud on his face, which he no
longer troubled himself to mask.

Bice's spirits rose as they left him behind; at any rate, she was free
for a few hours.  The sun was shining, the bands were playing, all
Florence was alive with gaiety, and the girl's Italian blood leapt into
answering life.  Something else, too, there was, another spring of joy,
none the less real that it was hidden away from touch or sight--was she
not going where Jack would be? would she not at least see him, and hear
his kind voice?  He had not helped her as she had hoped, she
acknowledged to herself.  She could read in his face only strong
condemnation of Clive and contempt for his weakness, and condemnation
and contempt seemed to leave the burden just where it was before.  But
she forgot all that now.  She was content to ask herself no questions,
to take the joy of the moment.  She had seen him in the distance, at
church, with some ladies; and as she thought of him, such a sweet and
gentle expression stole into her face, that the people who looked at her
smiled with the ready sympathy of their country.

"She is a girl, and she is happy," said old Bertuccia, who on week-days
sits in the Borgo Ognissanti, near the church, selling her flowers and
vegetables.

A brown old man who was standing by chuckled.

"_Altro_!  But where is _he_?" he said, and they all laughed.

Miss Cartwright was at home alone, she had not been well enough to go to
church, and a hot, nervous flush was on her cheeks when she arose to
receive three strangers.  But Bice's face, its beauty, its happiness,
won her heart at once.  Jack, who, in spite of his condemnation, had
been greatly touched by the pathetic little story, had asked her to be
kind to the girl, and though this radiant beauty was different from her
expectations, it was charming in itself.  When Jack came in, after
taking the others to the hotel, he found them on the best of terms.
Even Miss Preston thawed at intervals, especially when Mrs Masters
showed a docile inclination to adopt her favourite prescription for a
chill.  Cartouche welcomed them with patronising dignity.  There was a
striped awning running out from the window, and under this they sat and
chatted.  It seemed to Bice like a little haven of rest and kindness,
for, perhaps unfortunately, Ibbetson took, particular care that she
should be looked after and amused.  Presently they went for luncheon
into the cool little dining-room.  Miss Cartwright asked her nephew a
question in a low voice, and Bice heard him say that they were all
coming by-and-by.  Who were they, she wondered; little knowing, poor
child, what the knowledge would cost her.  Then there were other
questions.  Miss Cartwright was interested about the old villa and their
solitary life; Miss Preston was alarming Mrs Masters by searching
demands for statistics of the farm expenses, of the vintage.

"Beatrice is my manager," said her mother apologetically.  "I was never
a woman of business, or able to understand accounts.  Fortunately she
has taken to that sort of thing from the time she was a child.  But we
shall soon be going to Rome, for we have let the villa for a few months,
and shall spend that time with a relation of the Capponis."

"You are going to Rome?" said Ibbetson to Bice, with interest.  "Then we
shall meet, for I too am to be there this winter."  He hesitated whether
he would or would not say "after my marriage," but he did not add the
words, and the girl looked up brightly.

"Oh, I am glad!" she said in a shy, quick voice.

How swiftly the moments flew!  Every now and then a thought of Oliver
and of Clive forced its way up into her mind, but she crushed it down
again before it had time to shape itself--for this one half-day she
would be free, she would be happy.  Kitty, who had seen her the night
before, looked with wonder at her smiles.

They were in the garden again when four more people arrived--Captain
Leyton, his wife, Phillis Grey, and Mr Trent.  When Bice saw Oliver, a
sudden sickness seemed to overpower her, but she was still bent upon
defying fate; and when he made his way to her side as if to claim her,
she turned away with something more like a movement of dislike than she
had ever yet shown to him.  That he saw it was evident, for he drew back
at once, but it was with a smile on his lips which a close observer
might have called triumphant.

"The world is so small," some one was proclaiming.  "Who would have
supposed that Mr Trent, whom we met at Bologna, and who lunched with us
to-day, would have been coming to this very house on quite another
account?  It is almost provoking, I think, the way everybody knows
everybody.  One can never make discoveries on one's own account."

Mrs Leyton, who said this, was a fair, bright-faced woman, with a wish
to be pathetic and a face which belied the attempt.  She was a very
popular person, for she had the power of adapting herself readily to
those in whose society she happened to find herself, and was never
unwilling to do a little kindness.

"I can't quite agree with you, Mrs Leyton," said Trent, in his
deliberate voice.  "It seems to me just the means by which one _can_
make discoveries."

"What does the fellow mean?" said Jack to himself.  "He looks as hard at
me as if he had raked out an escaped convict.  Why did Phillis not tell
me they had met him?"

When they first came into the room, Phillis sat down close to the door,
and Ibbetson only nodded to her, and went on talking to Bice.  Kitty was
nearest to her, and the two began to talk, shyly, and with many pauses.
Cartouche rushed up to Phillis and lay down at her feet.  Miss Preston
looked first at her, then at Bice, and shook her head.  Certainly the
contrast was great.  Bice's beautiful face was sparkling, her eyes were
bright and soft, her colour came and went; it was like watching the
changing lights of a spring day, there was so much youth and sweet
freshness in the face.  Phillis looked still and grave by comparison.
No one could have called her beautiful, many the reverse.  She was pale,
and her features were irregular, her mouth large, though her teeth were
charming, and her eyes clear brown, such as one sees sometimes in a
dog--as honest and as faithful.  Bice, looking at her once when she was
smiling at Kitty, was struck by the feeling of restfulness which her
face suggested; it smote her own poor little storm-tossed heart with a
sharp pang of envy.

"Who is that lady?  Is she one of your party?" she said quickly to Jack.

"Miss Grey?  Yes.  You will see her in Rome also," he said, rather
oddly, Bice thought.

"I am glad of that," said the girl with a sigh; "she looks as if she
could help one."

It was proposed presently that some of them should go to the American
Church, on the other side of the Arno, for the afternoon service.  Mrs
Masters was afraid of the walk, and would stay with Miss Cartwright, the
others set out.  The day was cooler, and the Lung' Arno was crowded with
gay people strolling down to the Cascine.  It was like plunging from the
present into the past, to cross the river and reach the dark dirty
little streets which lead to the Carmine Church.  Captain Leyton dragged
a well-worn Baedeker out of his pocket and turned in there, where
Masaccio's frescoes glow in soft sad colours in his chapel, and the old
beggars keep guard over the doors; the rest of the party were faithful
to their aim, and went on to the little whitewashed building close by.

He rejoined them when they came out, and they wound through more dark
crooked historic streets--streets where, as you pass, memories jostle
you, and the famous dead come to life again, streets which are gloomy
and yet brightened by flashes of gay colour; until they came to the
Pitti, and so on to the Old Bridge.  There, on either side, are the
goldsmiths' shops, which long years have kept unchanged, where, in
little dens scarcely big enough to hold their master, twisted coils of
yellow-looking pearls hang in long loops, and diamonds flash, and
forget-me-nots of blue turquoises are heaped up; while behind, the
quaint buildings bulge out in all sorts of strange shapes, with red
roofs stuck on, and rooms hanging over those great stone arches under
which Arno comes swooping down in all his winter strength and fulness.
And there, in the centre, is the opening through which Tito leapt to his
death, hounded on by the people behind him, the opening through which
you may see the sunset lights softly touching the Carrara mountains, and
turning the muddy river into a tawny sheet of gold.

To Bice it was full of strange new beauty; it seemed to her as if she
had never known before what it was like.  Ibbetson had been separated
from her when they came out from the church, and had walked for a little
while with Phillis, but he had come back to her again, and talked
quietly and kindly.  Phillis and Beatrice were not very much thrown
together, but the girl often looked at the other, whose face attracted
her powerfully.  She noticed, too, that when information was wanted, if
Phillis were asked she invariably had it to give, and she said something
of the sort to Jack.

"Is it so?" he said, with a little surprise in the question.  "I had no
notion Miss Grey had had time to read up much about the place."

Mr Trent kept out of Bice's way, it seemed as if nothing were to
interfere with her happiness, or as if, by sheer force of will, she were
able to ward off whatever threatened.  They were to drive back in the
cool evening, and when they reached Casa Giulia, there was tea, and more
sitting about in the pleasant drawing-room or under the glossy
magnolias.  Somehow or other, Ibbetson was generally near Bice.  He had
no intention of neglecting Phillis, but the last few days had thrown him
into another circle of interests from which she was shut out, and the
strong pity he felt for Bice demanded a good deal of attention for her--
or so he thought.  He was pretty sure, too, that Phillis would have
shrunk from any open appearance of claiming her on his part, she was too
shy to stand it.  "And, after all, she has got what she wants," he said
in his heart with a bitterness which was not like himself, but which
showed itself when he thought of Hetherton.

It was settled that they should all drive out to the villa on Tuesday
and see something of the vintage, which would be at its height in the
vineyards.  Then the carriage came round and the little party separated.
Florence was no longer white but golden, and there was a sort of golden
mist before Bice's eyes as they drove away into the Cascine woods.  Was
it over?  Had it been no more than a dream, and was she going back to a
reality which grew darker and darker every hour?  Her heart cried out in
passionate denial.  Clive should be saved by other means--for she was in
one of those moods when anything seems possible--and she would act in
defiance of Oliver.  She looked at him as she made the resolution, and
it is possible that he read the defiance in her eyes.  But for the
moment he did nothing more than address a few languid remarks to Mrs
Masters, who was getting drowsy.  They went climbing slowly up the stony
roads, through the vineyards.  The glow faded away, a fragrant stillness
seemed to rest; here and there an olive tree stretched out its grey and
solemn boughs.  Only once they passed a peasant; he had his dog with
him, and a gun, and was perhaps going home from watching the vines.  No
one had spoken for at least ten minutes, when Oliver Trent touched
Kitty.

"Are you dreaming, too?" he asked softly.  "Wake up, child, you are too
young to be tired and sleepy with the rest of us.  And I have not
inquired how you enjoyed your day, or how you liked my Bologna
acquaintances?  It is strange, is it not, that your new friend, Mr
Ibbetson, should have been travelling with them?  Leyton told me the
reason, he is engaged to Miss Grey, and they are to be married very
shortly."

CHAPTER EIGHT.

"BLUE BUBBLES OF GRAPES DOWN A VINEYARD ROW."

The cleverest men make mistakes, and Oliver Trent had made a second.  He
had not told Bice his news about Ibbetson cruelly, or in such a manner
as to force her to feel that either by start or word she had revealed to
another the secret of which she had not actually been conscious until
that moment.  He had only mentioned it in her hearing, when the dusk of
evening was there to hide any sign of emotion, treating it as a trivial
matter with which Kitty was at least as much concerned as she, and he
had talked on so as to give her time to recover her composure.  His
mistake lay in telling her at all.  A woman who has received a wound of
this kind may be brave enough to hide the wound, but she never forgets
the hand that has wounded her.  To the day of her death its touch
recalls something of the sharpness of the first pang.

No one saw much of Bice through the next day.  Trent let her alone,
having a perception that she would not brook interference, and that, at
whatever cost, he must be patient.  Mrs Masters, when he asked her,
said that she had taken Andrea's daughter, Chiara, and had gone up to
the _podere_ to speak about the vintage.

"You let her do too much of that sort of work," said Trent, frowning.

"How can I help it?" asked Mrs Masters, moving uneasily in her chair.
"She has been accustomed to it ever since she was a child.  I am quite
unfitted for it, and, as you know, it is impossible for me to keep an
agent.  This poverty is odious.  I suppose we shall save something this
winter by letting the villa, and living with the Capponis in Rome;
otherwise I have spent all the money you lent me, and have never even
dared tell Bice I had it from you."

"And how do you mean to help Clive?"

"I cannot, I cannot!" she said, beginning to cry helplessly.  "How is it
possible?  You will do something for the poor boy, Oliver?"

"Why?"

"Why?"

She looked at him in bewilderment.

"He is my cousin, certainly," he said with a touch of sarcasm in his
voice, "but, on the whole, I have a good many cousins, and have never
committed myself to the idea that I was bound to be general guardian and
protector to all the young idiots among them who run their heads against
stone walls.  I don't even profess to be a benevolent philanthropist.  I
have told you before that I will do what I can for Clive on one
condition--that Bice marries me.  You had better urge her not to keep me
too long in suspense.  Patience is not my chief virtue."

"I will, indeed--to-day."

"Not to-day," said Oliver, considering.  "To-morrow.  Say as much as you
like about Clive, but do not let her know I have desired you to speak to
her.  And stay, you had better own that you have borrowed money from
me."

"It will make her so angry," said Mrs Masters piteously.

"No matter, I wish her to know the fact.  You will want more, I suppose,
when Bice is my wife, and you will not find me ungenerous."

He left her crying, but her tears lay very near the surface, and he was
not even made uncomfortable by them.  It was curious how, in a scene of
this sort, all his softness of manner and voice seemed, without any
remarkable change, to become frozen or petrified, so as to give the
impression that it was in vain to attempt to affect him.  He had been
disappointed when he came back to find Bice a little further from him
than when he had left her, and he was determined to risk everything to
put matters on a secure footing.  Why should they not marry at once?

As for Bice, she was not angry, as he had hoped, or even hurt, her dream
having been too short and vague for any hopes to have actually shaped
themselves in her heart.  She was conscious that during the last few
days some sweet atmosphere had seemed to have surrounded her, and that
suddenly, after Trent's words to Kitty the evening before, a dull weight
had fallen which told her what it all meant.  Her heart ached with the
burden of this weight, but the poor child did not cry out against any
other for having brought it on her.  She was humble with all her pride.
Nobody's fault, only a man's kindness and a girl's mistake--a common
story enough; something which a day had brought and long years must
carry as bravely as they could, and without a word.  She thought of
Phillis without any bitterness of jealousy.  He had been hers all the
time, nothing to any one else--that was all.  She walked on and on, up
the steep hill, through the pleasant grassy paths between the vines.
Chiara toiled after, chattering, exclaiming, every now and then when she
stumbled or grew hot, saying, Florentine fashion, naughty things of the
Madonna or the saints.

It was the time which, of all the times of the year, Bice loved the
best.  As she turned into a larger vineyard, its exceeding beauty
flashed upon her in spite of her heavy-heartedness.  It was as well
kept, as daintily trim as a garden, only the vines swept freely from
tree to tree, climbing, curving, flinging their long tendrils, with all
the bounty of unchecked luxuriance.  The sun was shining on the gleaming
leaves, on the purple and yellow splendours of the fruit, on the women's
gay dresses as they stood under the trees and caught the branches which
the men cut off with their sickles.  Carts, painted in brightest
vermilion, stood in the cool shadows of higher trees, the beautiful
white oxen, with soft eyes and huge wide-stretching horns, waiting
patiently until their rich load was ready.  The _padrona_ was welcomed
volubly; the _contadino_ in charge brought a couple of great bunches for
her and for Chiara; the whole scene was so gay, so busy, and so bright,
that poor Bice, who had come with a sort of determination to seek what
might change her thoughts, turned away sick at heart.  It was not only
the fading of a shadowy dream; something there was more tangible, more
oppressive; her own fate seemed to be closing round her; with the
shattering of her visions had come the keener realisation of what hung
over her--of Clive, of Oliver.  All the pretty sights and sounds jarred.
She gave her orders, and called Chiara away from her chatter, and went
home, avoiding them all, or keeping Kitty close by her side whenever it
became absolutely necessary to meet Oliver.  That she must yield she did
not doubt.  All her castings about for deliverance from her doom seemed
childish and hopeless.  She must yield, but she clung to every hour
gained as an infinite boon.

To-morrow, perhaps.  Not at any rate to-day.

To-morrow, which must be so full of pain that a little more or less
would scarcely be noted, and yet to which her foolish heart was flinging
itself forward, dreading and longing for.  After they had come and gone,
after she had seen Jack once more, she thought she could do what had to
be done, but not till then.

Phillis was looking with great interest at the old villa when they drove
up to it early the next day.  Miss Cartwright was not strong enough to
venture on the drive, but Miss Preston was there laden with projects for
the moral improvement of the _contadini_, and bent upon collecting a
fund of valuable information as to the vintage of Tuscany and its
shortcomings.  Cartouche, with his head full of sweet recollections of
_amoretti_, plunged at once into the thicket of scarlet geraniums which
led down to Andrea's domain, and presently they heard the old cook's
voice raised in high indignation as he drove him out.  Captain Leyton
was very much delighted with his own prospects.  He was slung all over
with sketch-books and water-bottles, and carried a great white sunshade
with a pointed stick.

"Capital bits about the place, capital bits," he said cheerfully.  "Nice
tone of colour, plaster peeling off, fine arch, acanthus leaves against
the stone--plenty to do here, and no mistake."

As they went into the house the sisters met them in the hall; Bice
paler, and without the radiance of the day in Florence, but quiet and
smiling.  She gave one long and rather wistful look at Phillis, and
Phillis noticed and flushed slightly under it.

"Will you come to the little room?" she said.  "My mother is there, for
the steps outside the window are cooler than any other place at this
time of day."

She had scarcely spoken to Jack, and when she moved away he followed her
with a dissatisfied feeling.  As they passed through the silence of the
great rooms he could not help contrasting this day with the first on
which he had seen her, when he had been alone with her, and her frank
determination had made him smile.  Miss Preston, who was close to him
now, was a very unwelcome substitute.

"It is too distressing," she was saying in a sharp undertone.  "I have
always known that the Italians had no idea of what was fitting, but not
a carpet, not so much as a hearth-rug!"

"How would it answer to speculate in a few, and to bring them out for
the good of this benighted people?" asked Jack dreamily.

Meanwhile Mrs Leyton, who liked it all, was genuinely enthusiastic.

"What a room for a dance!  You _do_ dance here, don't you?"

"Oh, yes!  Sometimes Kitty and I dance together, or the Moronis come
over, and then we are more," said Bice simply.  "If you would like it,
by-and-by we can wheel in the piano, and I will play for you."  But
seeing an irrepressible smile in Mrs Leyton's face, she coloured and
said hotly, "You think us foolish--you don't do such things in England!"

It was Phillis who came to the rescue, eagerly and yet a little shyly.

"If we don't, it is not that you are foolish, only wiser than we are,
and lighter-hearted.  It takes a great deal to make us dance in
England--"

"Lights and music and a month's preparation, and then enough people to
prevent the risk of anyone being seen," added Jack.  "Your plan is much
the most sensible, Miss Masters.  But you see we have all been brought
up to think it a serious matter, and so for the moment you shocked our
prejudices."

But Bice was vexed.  It always vexed her that anything, however slight,
should mark her as un-English in her ways.  She walked gravely through
the other rooms holding her head with a little haughtiness.  It passed,
however, directly they had joined her mother and Oliver Trent in the
smaller room--she was watching Ibbetson and Phillis.

Phillis, as often seemed the case, happened to be a little apart from
the others.  She sat quietly, saying little herself, but evidently
interested in what was going on.  Twice Bice saw her, apparently
unperceived by the others, do a trifling kindness; once in disentangling
Miss Preston's veil which was in danger of being torn, and once in
placing outside the window a stray butterfly which was blundering up and
down against the glass.  But she seemed to have a little difficulty in
joining the gay-spirited chat which flowed with unbroken ease from Mrs
Leyton, and if Jack addressed her, she showed a greater hesitation.
Here was no secure and haughty rival to sting poor Bice by contempt; the
girl, who would have had the worst side of her nature roused by such
treatment, felt for Phillis a strange thrill of pitying sympathy.  Yet
pitying is hardly the right word.  There was something about her which
Bice envied, a kind of sweet dignity, of self-possession, in spite of
shyness.

Captain Leyton very soon began to fidget over his opportunities.

"And if he once sits down to a sketch there will be no moving him!" said
his wife with good-humoured impatience.

"Let somebody suggest a means of prevention, then," said Jack.  "You
shall have mine first--the vineyards."

"Perhaps that would be the best plan--"

"You will miss the long shadows," Bice said doubtfully.

"But we shall get them in this enchanting garden," exclaimed Mrs
Leyton.  "I know exactly how it will be with Arthur otherwise.  Cart
ropes won't drag him away when once he has begun a sketch."

She had her way, as she generally had, and the eight started, a merry
party to all appearance, though there were doubts and heart sinkings
pressing heavily on more than one of the eight.  Cartouche was left
behind, to his great disgust, but too many dogs were employed in the
vineyards for it to be safe to take him.

"It always seems strange to me that your vineyards should be so
undefended," Jack said, determined to speak to Bice.  "Have you such
perfect trust in the honesty of your fellow-creatures?"

"Touch a grape and you will see," answered the girl briefly.

"What shall I see?"

"A man with a gun.  And he will be quite ready to use it.  The very dogs
are trained to watch."

"You excite my curiosity.  I shall experimentalise to-day."

"To-day you will be safe, because you will be with the _padrona_.  But I
do not advise you to try elsewhere."  He noticed with vexation that her
manner was abrupt, and that she evidently tried to avoid him.  Had
anything offended her?  He determined to win her back to the easy
frankness which he had found so charming that he had no mind to part
with it.

"So that is why Cartouche was not allowed to come?" he said with a
smile.  "Do you know how he distinguished himself last night?  Somehow
or other he got on the roof and sat there.  Quite a crowd gathered round
the house before we had any idea what was the attraction, and Winter, my
aunt's maid, went into hysterics.  But I assure you his effect among the
chimneys was absolutely demoniacal."

She smiled, but she was looking straight before her.  Why did not some
one join them? she thought with a throb.  Why did he talk to her?  Why
was fate so cruel and yet so sweet that she could not get away from it?
Apparently her coldness only provoked Jack, who wanted nothing more than
her past friendliness, but thought himself ill-used at its withdrawal.
He said at last boldly--

"Something has vexed you.  What is it?  Has anything fresh turned up
about your brother?"

She coloured and caught at his second question, feeling that sooner than
let her secret betray itself she would talk with him, walk with him, and
endure any torture.

"Nothing new," with a faltering voice.  "We have not heard again from
Clive, any of us.  But it is impossible to forget; and oh, Mr Ibbetson,
I wanted to say that I have thought it over a great deal--I mean what
you were so kind as to suggest the other day.  But it is impossible; it
is of no use.  Nothing seems as if it could be of use."  She corrected
herself.  "I should not say that; Mr Trent will do his utmost."

"Anyone would do his utmost," said Jack, more warmly than he need have
spoken.  It was almost impossible for poor Bice to repel his eagerness
and kindness.  They were a little in advance of the others, the path
went twisting and clambering upwards.  Once, perhaps because she was not
thinking of the rough stones, she slipped, and he put out his hand and
caught hers.  It was not for more than a minute, but those behind saw
the movement.  Jack did not know it himself, but this shrinking, this
apparent coldness of the girl's was stirring him to a stronger interest.
All his life as yet he had had pretty much what he cared for--liking,
popularity, success; finally, a fortune and a wife were waiting for him.
The things had come too easily, so that a charm was wanting in them
all.  It piqued and roused him when he found a difficulty in the way.
If he had known what he was heaping up for Bice it would have shocked
him.  She did know, and had thought that she would avoid him; but he
would not be avoided, he was bent, as it seemed, upon monopolising her.
The poor child was bewildered, miserable, happy, all at once.  Trent,
who had fancied he had stopped it, was furious.

Along the slopes of those hills of Florence there are lovely delicate
colours and sweet pastoral pictures meeting you at every turn.  Looking
upwards you see Pan leaning against a tree, his goats browsing round
him, over his head a vine is flinging itself from bough to bough.  Grey
olives clothe the slopes; a sombre cypress rises like a sharp blot
against the blue; an ox-cart comes rumbling down the road; far away in
the plain the river shines till the mountains rise up beyond.  In the
vineyard to which they went that day you may look along a broad grass
walk for a quarter of a mile at least; on either side of it the vines
clamber from tree to tree, and at the end rises a distant line of
Apennines, glowing faintly purple in the sunshine; the grapes--white,
pink, yellow, purple, black--gleam with the most exquisite lights, the
very shade seems to be lit up by them, luminous colours flash out from
under fresh leaves, from wreaths of cool foliage.

Captain Leyton was in an ecstasy of despair.  The head _contadino_ came
up to Bice smiling and showing his white teeth.

"Are there any grapes in particular the signorina would like for her
friends?" he asked.  "The biggest of all this year is Il Bordone."

And then at a sign one of the men in the trees cut a branch or two with
his sickle.  Miss Preston began to demand particulars.

"The signora will see," said the _contadino_, rather perplexed.  "The
women carry the grapes to the tubs; there is one close by which is just
full."

He was right.  A girl had just brought the last load of long festooning
branches to a tall wooden tub.  She was cutting off the bunches with her
sickle, and letting them drop among the others already piled high, a
mass of beautiful colours.  Then a man, standing by and leaning on a
thick stick, began to thump and beat them down into a pulpy mass.  Miss
Preston was very much interested; Phillis turned away, she could not
bear to look at all the beauty beaten out of shape.  She strolled into a
little grassy side path from which, out of the way, she could see the
gay and busy scene.  Two men passed her presently carrying the tub,
suspended from a stick, to the ox-carts which stood, brilliant bits of
colour, in the shade.  Phillis was left quite to herself; every now and
then she caught a glimpse of one of the party crossing an alley, moving
here and there among the vines and the sweet changeful lights.  She saw
Jack and Bice together; he was bending down and speaking.  The beauty of
everything seemed to add to the pain in Phillis's heart.  If we want to
describe pain we are inclined to throw its gloom upon all the
surroundings, to paint the outward signs of sadness in greys and dim
cheerless tones.  But who knows whether to an aching heart the glow of
sunshine and the fairness of nature do not bring the keenest sting of
all?

Phillis's pain was full of perplexity.  She wanted to be sure what was
right, what was best for Jack, and for all.  Her nature was altogether
true, simple, and free from the snare of self-torment, so that she was
spared many doubts in her life; only at this time they seemed to gather
about her like a mist.  She knew little of the world.  Mrs Thornton was
her aunt, she had lived at Hetherton since she had been a child, and Mr
Thornton was fond of her in his rough way, and had made out this plan of
his with a good deal of satisfaction.

"Two disinterested young fools," he had said to himself, chuckling, "or
at any rate they think themselves so.  Play them off against one
another.  See if that don't bring them together."

As it did.

Only it gave Jack the unjust impression that Phillis was swayed by the
desire to keep her position, and left him quite unconscious that to her
the threat of disinheriting him had been used.  But, indeed, for her no
threat was needed.  Jack had been her hero from the time when she looked
shyly at the big, fair-haired boy from the school-room window.  It
amazed her when he asked her to marry him, but she took his words with
the simple trust which belonged to her character, and was quite content
to be happy.  Should she have done otherwise? she thought--looking back
with a vague uneasiness.  For, alas, she had begun to doubt, to wonder.
In the long days of travelling together, in the letters he had written,
something had forced itself upon her.  Perhaps he had hardly cared it
should be otherwise, hardly wished to profess more than the quiet liking
he unquestionably felt, had no misgivings that she herself would desire
more.  At any rate she had reached Florence in some perplexity of mind,
and by this time imagined that she had found the solution of her riddle.

It was curious how little Ibbetson knew of her true character.  He
believed her to be easily influenced by stronger wills, and, indeed, to
require some such support.  In reality her judgment was clear, and, once
formed, no pain would turn her from what she felt to be the right
course.  There, sitting between the vines, she set herself to consider
it.  If Ibbetson did not love her, whether he loved another or not, it
would be wrong for them to marry.  No dreams of his or her inheritance
must affect the question.  No visions of self-sacrifice would be safe
guides.  She went to work honestly, asking--how earnestly!--for the
"right judgment," and she would not shrink though the answer came heavy
with pain.

Phillis sat on, forgetting what was round her.  The peasant girls looked
with some wonder at the signorina who stayed there away from all her
party.  Presently Jack, who had missed her, came to search for her, a
little vexed with her and with himself.  But Phillis showed no
displeasure, she only rose with a smile and told him that she had been
resting, but that she would not be unsociable any longer.

CHAPTER NINE.

BICE WRITES.

Oliver Trent had been too much enraged by Ibbetson's monopolisation of
Bice to be as prudent as was his wont; indeed, he began to feel as if he
had been over cautious already, and that it would have been wiser to
have checked matters more decidedly.  She avoided him, but he was
determined to give his warning, and when Jack went to seek Phillis he
caught at the opportunity to say--

"New friends for old--is that your last motto, Bice?"

"What do you mean?" she said, faltering.

"I mean that I could envy you your powers of forgetfulness if I did not
unfortunately happen to be one of the sufferers.  Clive and I--have we
really altogether dropped out of your mind?"

"You take care to prevent such a possibility, even for a moment," she
said angrily.

"Oh, I will not offend you again, if that is your feeling.  I will leave
Florence to-morrow morning, and nothing shall remind you of my
existence.  As for Clive, I am afraid I cannot make so large a promise."

She was so changed and shaken, that for the first time in her life he
frightened her.  She felt as if she were powerless in a strong grasp.
Where could she turn?

"Why do you say this to me, Oliver?" she said slowly.  "What have I
done?  I have not forgotten your goodness about Clive, or--what you
said.  Why should I?  There is no one else to whom I can turn.  But
you--you should not oblige me to speak of it here, with all these people
as our guests."

She said the words very softly and gently, but she did not look at him
as she spoke.

"When will you speak, then?" he said moodily.  "To-night?"

"Not to-night, not to-night, please!  To-morrow."

"I am tired of to-morrows.  Why should it always be to-morrow?  No.
This evening in the garden."

She did not contradict him any further.  After all, it was hardly worth
while.

Ibbetson could not get any more conversation with Bice on their way back
to the villa, for Oliver quietly baffled his attempts, and Miss Preston
was pouring out to every one her own views as to possible improvements
in the vintage--the grapes should be trained differently, there should
be a revolving wheel in the tubs, someone should read to the
_contadine_.

"Still I own to one improvement, for I am pleased to have had ocular
demonstration that the barbarous fashion of treading out the grapes is
no longer in practice.  It gives one a certain hope."

"But that is another stage," exclaimed Kitty innocently; "don't you
know?  They put the grapes into huge shallow tubs and jump on them till
the juice is extracted.  All the boys and girls help.  After our share
has been weighed in the cellar we shall make it at home."

The little party were playing at cross-purposes all the way back.
Perhaps no one was content, not even Captain Leyton, who gazed moodily
at a blot of green, purple, and golden, which was all he had got out of
the vineyard.  Bice looked pale and depressed, and said nothing to
Oliver, who marched by her side all down the hill.  Mrs Leyton tried to
draw a little amusement out of the others by talking of them to Phillis,
but Phillis, too, was silent.

After luncheon they went different ways.  Bice took Miss Preston, who
was anxious, as she said, to make the round of the premises; Captain
Leyton became supremely happy over a promising sketch; the others
strolled or sat about, eating figs and peaches, Mr Trent keeping near
Jack, though with little pretence at cordiality.  Phillis, who wanted
time for herself, slipped away at last with Cartouche for a companion,
and wandered about in the quiet alleys, of which there were so many.
Suddenly she turned a corner and came upon Bice alone.

Something--stronger than circumstances--had all along attracted these
two to each other.  They were different, but each had a certain nobility
of soul which may have had something to do with the attraction.  Each
had grown up out of the world, and though Bice had had sharp experience
of evil, it was not the evil of petty spites and jealousies.  Then for
Phillis beauty alone had that intense charm and interest which it often
has for those who themselves lack its power, and she felt a strong pity
for the girl who had looked sad all the day, and now had evidently been
crying; a pity no less real because she believed that she herself must
take up the burden of pain if she were to relieve it.  She could not
pass by, or pretend not to see.

"I am afraid you are unhappy," she said gently.  "Mr Ibbetson said that
you were very anxious about your brother, but he told us no particulars.
Is he ill, or is he in trouble?  Can we help you in any way?  I should
be very glad if you would try not to look upon me as a stranger,
although I know it is difficult."

Bice, whose heart was in a tumult, who did not know what to think, who
believed she hated Oliver, Jack, Phillis, and herself most of all, was
touched in a moment, not so much perhaps by the words, as by the kind,
steadfast eyes which interpreted them.

"I don't think it is difficult," she said, and with a sudden impulse she
caught Phillis's hand and kissed her.  "Ever since I saw you I have felt
somehow as if you would do us good."

For the moment she had forgotten Jack.  Phillis, who read more in the
words than the girl meant, felt her heart swell.

"Perhaps I can," she said steadily.  "Things often come about in the
manner we least expect.  Who knows whether you and I, if we put our
heads together, may not find a way out of some of your troubles?  Can
you trust me with them?"

"Yes," said Bice after a moment's pause.  "Oliver forbade me to speak,
but I don't see that he knows best.  I don't know who to consult.  I
asked Mr Ibbetson, and he seemed to think it all very bad indeed."  She
went on hurriedly.  "There were some things I could not tell him--but
you!  Oh, I am very, very miserable.  Do you think it will be very
ungrateful of me if Mr Trent saves Clive and yet I do not marry him?"

"Is that what he wishes?"

"Yes.  He says he risks everything--that it is only for me."

"And you don't love him?"

"Oh, no, no, no!"

The girl shivered as she spoke.  There was a little pause, then Phillis
said--

"How long has he been asking you to do this?"

"I don't know," Bice said, letting her hands drop wearily.  "Ever since
he brought us the bad news of Clive, I suppose.  But it is in the last
few days that he has said the most, and every day it seems to grow worse
and worse.  To-night I must tell him."

Phillis took her hands in hers and looked into her face.

"You must tell him you will not marry him," she said quietly.

The girl's face flushed with sudden joy, then the colour faded quite
away.

"Ah! you don't know," she said, shaking her head.  "So much I do know.
Nothing that you can tell me can make wrong right.  But perhaps you will
let me hear more."

"Wrong?" repeated Bice, looking at her.  To her, poor child, it seemed
that she was only shrinking from a duty, from the stern call to
self-sacrifice.  That there could be any higher principle, that no aim,
whether we call it self-sacrifice, or self-surrender, or anything else,
can sanctify one step taken out of the right road, she did not realise.
All her life she had been brought up to think of right and wrong as
having somewhat hazy outlines.  As she told Clive's story over again,
perhaps she dwelt more on the fear of disgrace than on his sin.  But she
could not help noticing the look of pain which gathered in Phillis's
brown eyes.  She stopped and sighed.

"Now you are shocked," she said.  "So was Mr Ibbetson.  You think it is
hopeless."

"Wait a moment," said Phillis, "let me think."

They walked on silently beneath the trees; the grass near them was lilac
with autumnal crocuses, a great crimson rose swung itself down from a
pole.

"I wonder if I am right," Phillis said, hesitatingly.  "It seems to me
there might be some mistake.  Mr Trent may not know, and you have no
right to think hard things of your brother without proof.  Surely you
will ask him, ask him directly."

"But Oliver said--"

"Oh, never mind," said Phillis, with a touch of impatience.  "Tell him
that you can't follow his advice in that respect.  Suppose it is not so
bad as he imagines, I don't see how you can expect Mr Masters to
forgive your want of confidence.  No, be open and write.  Perhaps he can
clear himself.  At any rate do not marry without love.  If Mr Trent is
an honourable man, he will not attempt to take advantage of your
anxiety."

Phillis had not meant to say so much, but feeling strongly as to Mr
Trent's conduct, she could not abstain.  An instinctive aversion had
risen in her mind when she first saw him at Bologna, and this story of
Bice's awoke more doubts, not to use the harsher word suspicions, than
she liked to acknowledge even to herself.  At the best his conduct was
both ungenerous and unmanly.

Bice caught at her advice, which seemed to lift off some of her
perplexities.  She was very grave and quiet all the rest of the
afternoon, keeping away as much as she could from both Jack and Oliver,
and looking every now and then wistfully at Phillis.  If she had known
what Phillis, too, was thinking, what other resolutions had been made on
that day, when doubts and fears seemed to be flying about in the air!

They dined at the marble table on the terrace, and the picture, with the
piled-up fruits, the dancing shadows, was as pretty as when Jack first
saw it, though he had a dissatisfied feeling of change.  Cartouche sat
on a balustrade, and caught grapes when anyone threw them to him.
Captain Leyton was full of glee at having got one of the gardeners to
stand as a foreground for his sketch.  Trent looked uneasily at Bice;
she was quieter, and did not shrink from his glance as she had done in
the morning, and he was not sure that it was a good sign.

She did not shrink either when they had watched the others drive away;
on the contrary, she told Kitty she had something to say to Oliver, and
herself led the way to a seat under the banksia trellis close to the
pond, where yellow and white water lilies were still flowering.  He
watched her very closely.  Her mood puzzled him, and he wanted her to be
the first to speak.  She did speak at last, without looking at him.
"You had something to say?"

"No," he said quietly, "nothing.  You mistook my meaning, Bice.  I have
said my say, and that perhaps was more than was wise or prudent.  But I
do not regret it.  I said it, and already have taken steps to carry out
what I promised.  I have nothing either to add or to retract.  But
you!--have you not tried me enough?  Do you ever think of the hours of
torture you are inflicting?--such hours as to-day for instance, when I
have been driven mad with doubts and fears?  Is it not you who have
something to say?"

She was silent.  A month ago it would have been impossible for her to
have listened unmoved to such an appeal, but a month ago she had never
loved, and love--unreturned--hardens the heart strangely against another
lover.  His words seemed to her unreal and almost absurd.  He put out
his hand and took hers, and she caught it away angrily.

"Let me go, Oliver!" she exclaimed.

"Why do you turn from me, why do you hesitate?" he went on, in a voice
which shook with his efforts at control.  "You cannot doubt my love, for
I could hardly give you a greater proof than I am giving.  Danger, risk
of ruin, all would seem to me as absolutely nothing compared with one
word from you; and though all I do I do for your sake, you will not
speak that word, Bice.  Is this generous?"

"I don't wish you to run those risks."

"Do you forget what you said?  `At all risks.'  That was your request."

"Then I was wrong, and you were wrong," said the girl, more faintly.

"Perhaps.  But the alternative?"

"I have an alternative.  I shall write to Clive."  Oliver grew pale.

"You have, then, no more wish to save him?"

"He may not have done it, he may be able to explain, and it is shameful
of us to condemn him unheard."

"I warn you, Bice, that you will put it out of my power to save him."

"We must run the risk," she answered, in a low, resolute voice.

Oliver could scarcely restrain his passion.  He was certain that
Ibbetson was at the bottom of her determination, and it seemed as if all
his plots, his hopes, were to be baffled by this man.  He longed to
charge her with it, to taunt her with Jack's engagement, but he did not
dare, for Bice's was not a nature which could be safely goaded into
resentment, and he feared the flash of her eyes and what it might tell
him.  He controlled himself.

"Write, then," he said, "write at once.  Clive will not acknowledge that
anything is wrong."

"We shall see."

"And am I still to be your shuttlecock?" he said hoarsely.  "Have pity,
Bice, have pity!  Such love as mine deserves some return--"

She interrupted him.

"It deserves to find love, I know, and that is what I have not got to
give.  I am very sorry, Oliver, only I must be true with you, at all
costs."

"You are rather late in your resolves," he said, biting his lip until
the blood sprang.

"I have thought and hoped," she said, looking down, "that one day I
might feel differently, and be able to give you what you wanted, if only
out of gratitude to you for your kindness.  I thought, perhaps, it was
that you had taken me by surprise, that I was ignorant and
inexperienced, and that my feelings would change."

"You were right!" he cried vehemently.  "Think so still, Bice, my
darling, my own!  You do not know, how should you?  Marry me, and I will
teach you to love me.  I have no fear, no doubt."

"But now I know," she said, going on as if he had not spoken, "and it is
all different.  I can't marry you, even to save Clive.  I could not even
if I had promised.  Do not be sorry, Oliver, I am not worth it."

"It is easy to say `Do not.'  Do you suppose our feelings are so under
control that we can master them at pleasure?" he retorted with
bitterness.  "You let me hope, you hold the cup almost to my lips, and
then tell me not to be sorry when it is dashed away.  Who has been
teaching you to play fast and loose, Bice?  Who has shaken your faith in
your friends?  When will one of them do what I have done, what I am
ready to do?  Has your mother told you that she has borrowed money from
me to pay her debts, because she did not doubt--"

He stopped.  Bice had sprung up, pale, with flashing eyes.

"That is not true!" she cried.

"Is it not?  Ask her."

She looked at him as if she would pierce his soul.  Alas, it is not
always the most innocent souls which bear such looks without faltering!
Her own eyes fell.  "I will pay it," she said in a low voice.

"That is folly."

"I will pay it," she repeated, this time angrily.

"Do so," he said after a moment's pause.  And then he added, "but
remember this.  If your mother had had from me a hundred times as much
she would not have done me as much harm as you will do me if you throw
me over."

Was it true?  Had she indeed worked all this evil?  Would it not be
easier to yield as she had meant to do that morning?  He was so
persistent, he would not give her up.  She hesitated, and then, strong
and clear, Phillis's words came back--"Do not marry him if you do not
love him."  She looked him full in the face.  "Let me pass," she said,
"I can give you no other answer."  He had read something of the
struggle, and was bitterly disappointed, though his determined will gave
up nothing of his intention.

"If you write to Clive, it had better be without delay," he said.

"I'll write to-morrow morning."  And then she turned and put out her
hand.  "Thank you for letting me write, Oliver."

"I dare not advise you to build upon it, but you can try," he said.
"Yes, by all means try."

The next morning, as Bice was passing through the hall, she met Trent.

"If you have any letters for the early post," he said, "I will take
them, I am going into Florence."

"Oh, thank you very much.  I had meant to send little 'Tista."

"'Tista is wanted for the vintage, and is not an over-safe messenger.
Is this all?"

"All.  Thank you again.  That letter is a weight off my mind.  I am sure
he will answer it."

"I fancy not, but, as I said, one can but try.  Nothing more?  Rest in
the garden, Bice, and do not go again to the vineyards.  You look tired
and pale.  Such walks as yesterday do you no good."

"Rest!" she repeated impatiently.  "You talk as if one could turn all
the thoughts out of one's head whenever one liked.  That might be rest."

"I wish you would let me do your thinking for you."

He spoke tenderly, and she turned suddenly and looked at him.  He could
not understand her look, which was at once inquiring and reproachful,
and, indeed, at this time all her thoughts were in a tangle.  Doubts,
suspicions, generous impulses, womanly pride, womanly fears, seemed to
shake her very soul, and drive it on one side and the other.  Sometimes
she felt as if she had not a friend in the world, as if the only haven
open to her was one she loathed.  Even with Phillis it was all a strange
inexplicable problem.  Phillis had brought her sharpest pangs, yet
attracted her irresistibly.  Phillis, too, was unhappy, of that she was
certain; yet something about her, something which Bice felt without
being able to explain, gave her a sense of rest and confidence.  It was
as if she had an anchor which must keep her from the tossing of such
storms as were driving poor Bice here and there.  Vague thoughts came
floating about her, half prayers, half resolutions, feeble and
fluttering, yet real and therefore not in vain.

CHAPTER TEN.

SANS PARTIR ADIEU!

Miss Cartwright was really ill.  And of all who loved and cared for her,
there was not one who showed more affection than Cartouche.  They had
thought that he was only a puppy, that nothing in the world was so much
to him as a run by the Arno or a frolic in the Cascine woods, but now,
when his mistress was ill, he could not be coaxed to either the one or
the other.  He watched at her door, and, if he could get the chance,
crept into her room, and looked at her with questioning, loving eyes.
Once when the doctor came to her bed, to his alarm there rose up a black
form from the other side, growling angrily, and bent on resolute defence
of his mistress.  And another time they found that he had dragged
together a heap of her shoes and slippers, over which he was keeping
watch and ward.  Phillis was a great deal with her, Miss Cartwright
evidently liking the girl's companionship, and watching her as she sat
at the window with wistful interest.

"My dear," she said suddenly one day, "this stupid illness of mine
mustn't interfere with Jack's happiness.  Remember, the wedding was to
be at Florence, and, perhaps, if it had not been for me, it would all
have been settled by this time."

Phillis turned away her head as she answered--

"I don't think it can be so soon as you fancy."

"But why?"  Miss Cartwright persisted.  "On my account?  Come, my dear,
tell me exactly whether that has not been on your mind and Jack's."

"He has not spoken about it," said the girl with an effort.  "Indeed,
dear Miss Cartwright--"

"Call me Aunt Mary, my dear."

"It can't be yet."

Miss Cartwright said no more, she was hardly equal to any sustained
conversation, but she took an opportunity later in the day to tell Jack
that Phillis should go out for a walk.  "Take her to the Uffizi," she
said; "and, Jack--"

"Yes."

"Don't give me the sorrow of feeling that I am a hindrance.  Let me hear
that your marriage day is fixed."

As she spoke he noticed with a pang how much she was altered, and with a
sudden movement stooped down and kissed her.

"I would do anything in the world that could please you," he said.

She held him fast with her feeble hands.

"My dear, she is worth much more than _that_," she said eagerly.  "But I
don't think you yet know how much, and I am sometimes afraid she will
never let you know."

"What do you mean?" he said, startled.  But he could not get her to
explain.

She had put into words what he had avoided forming into a definite idea.
In his heart he knew that he ought to have spoken to Phillis about
their wedding day, but it was so much more to his inclination that
matters should go on as they had been going, that he had refused to
think about the future.  He had been out once or twice to the villa, and
though Oliver was on guard, and though Bice showed the same reserve, it
interested him to break through it, as he had once or twice succeeded in
doing, and he was beginning to take a dangerous pleasure in thwarting
Oliver.  However, he had spoken quite truly when he told his aunt that
he would do anything in the world to give her pleasure, and he had no
intention of avoiding the conversation with Phillis, only looking
forward to it somewhat ruefully, as leading matters to a point which he
would have preferred to regard for some while yet in the distance.

She was quite ready to go to the Uffizi when he suggested it, but asked
to go round by the Duomo and Giotto's tower.  The day was not very
bright, but there was a still grave beauty about it.  They went under
the frowning walls of the Strozzi into the old market with its narrow,
dirty, picturesque, unchanged alleys.  Even when great bundles of yellow
and scarlet tulips, fresh from the fields, and splendid in the glory of
their colours, lie tossed upon the ground, or when myriads of lilies of
the valley are gathered into fragrant sheaves, this old market of
Florence is not a place in which you can linger without some offence to
eye or ear.  And yet joy, too, were it only for these things, or for the
sweet Madonna with her lilies which Luca della Robbia set up with
faithful reverence for the buyers and sellers below.  But in autumn days
flowers do not deck Florence with the bounty of spring or summer.
Vegetables there are in plenty--cucumbers, and scarlet tomatoes, and
crisp white lettuces; and as for the fruits, they are heaped in great
piles; melons--striped, smooth, small, large--lie under cool green
leaves; rosy peaches, figs, purple and green, wild strawberries, grapes
of every shade of delicious colour, brighten the old stones; but a
certain grace has fled with the flowers, and Florence is not quite
herself.

And yet on that day it was difficult to think that anything was wanting,
so tender were the lights, so soft the shadows, into and out of which--
with here and there a rosy or a golden glow as a stronger gleam struck
the marbles--rose the Duomo and the Shepherd's bell-tower.  Phillis
lingered there a little, lingered looking at the gates of the
Baptistery, at Giotto's sculptures, at the little oratory of the Bigallo
on the other side.

"There is so much, and it is all so close together!" she said, drawing a
deep breath.

But, indeed, the wonder of Florence lies in her perpetual youth.  She is
old, and yet no touch of age seems to have passed over her.  All around
are the memories of past ages, but they are alive and present, and time
scarcely seems to separate you from them.  It would not surprise you to
see Giotto standing under his tower, to meet Dante turning towards his
house, Savonarola passing to the preaching, Romola--as real as any--
hurrying back to old Bardi.  Our past grows mouldy, whereas here it
keeps life, and colour, and reality.  Is it that we are always trying to
escape from it?

The Uffizi was rather empty.  There were plenty of copyists, most of
all, as usual, round the great Fra Angelico, with its praising angels,
in the passage, but otherwise strangers were few.  Jack, who had a craze
for Botticelli, would not let Phillis rest until he had taken her to the
Judith in the room next the Tribune.  She comes towards you more lightly
than Judith would have done after the deed, but the strong purpose, the
self-forgetfulness of the face, are wonderful; and as the yellow morning
light catches the grey blue of her dress, she looks far beyond you, and
beyond what you are ever likely to see.  Presently from her lips will
come the cry of deliverance, "Open, open now the gates!" and all
Bethulia will press round to see and hear.  Jack, who had learnt
Botticelli from Ruskin, was full of enthusiasm, and dragged Phillis off
to the Calumny, the Fortitude.  He made her sit down in a corner where
she could see the last-named well, and then a thought struck him.

"Your face isn't unlike Sandro's favourite type, Phillis," he said,
looking at her critically.

She coloured slightly as she smiled.

"Except for the far-away look, this Fortitude hardly seems to me to be
one of that type."

"You have that far-away look occasionally: you sometimes meet me with
it.  What are you thinking about?--our future?"

"Of the future, perhaps."

"Ours, then."

Phillis was silent.  The Fortitude seemed to gaze at her with
sympathetic eyes.  Jack went on gravely and a little awkwardly.

"It is time we settled something, don't you think so?"

"Yes," she said in a very low voice.

"My aunt is exceedingly anxious that we should not delay on account of
her illness, and I don't see that we need.  We are both resolved that
our wedding shall be as quiet and simple as possible, and really it will
be a relief to her mind rather than an anxiety.  Therefore, dear, only
one thing remains--to fix the day."

He did not look at Phillis as he spoke, and two people who glanced into
the room thought the pair were a brother and sister bent on enjoying
pictures which nobody in his senses could admire.  Phillis said after a
momentary pause--

"I am afraid that is not all."

"Trousseau, and that sort of thing?  But surely it can wait for
England?"

"Something of more consequence," and he noticed a tremor in her voice.
"Jack," she went on, "you and I have always been good friends.  I hope
that will go on; I don't think I could bear to believe that anything
could come between us in that.  But for the other matter, dear, it has
been a mistake, and I thank God that there is yet time to set it right.
We are good friends always, remember, but we can be nothing more.  I was
wrong to consent, and my uncle was wrong to press it, as I think now he
did; but he did it for the best, and, as I said, it can be set right."

"Phillis!"

She put up her hand.

"Hush!  Spare me any reproaches or entreaties, Jack.  If I have done
wrong, I will take all the blame, and do my best to set matters right I
hesitated for a time because I thought of Hetherton, but I feel almost
sure that if I write to my aunt and explain how this is entirely my own
doing, Mr Thornton's sense of justice will prevail, and that you will
not suffer.  But even should it be otherwise, we dare not make that the
first consideration, dare we?  I am certain that would be your
decision."

"About Hetherton, yes," said Ibbetson, rising and standing by her chair
with much agitation.  "But I don't understand you, Phillis!  Have you
changed or I?  What have I done to bring you to such a conclusion?  You
can't be thinking of all that your words imply.  Are you offended with
me?"

Her eyes, clear and steadfast, answered him, though her voice was
shaken.

"Not offended.  Offence could hardly dome between us.  But don't you
see, we should not be happy together, we could not marry."

"You could not be happy with me.  That is what I must understand you to
mean," he said with some bitterness.  "And I don't know what I have done
that you should change your opinion, if, indeed, you ever loved me."

If she ever loved him!  What but love, tender and true, could have
nerved her to the anguish of this moment, of all the moments that were
coming!  Not love him!  She sighed, she had not thought her task would
be so hard.

"We all make mistakes at times," she said, without answering his
reproach, which, indeed, pricked his own conscience as he uttered it.
"Let us be thankful, Jack, that this isn't irreparable."

"But why--why will you have it to be a mistake?" he asked doggedly.

"I leave that to you to answer," she said gravely, and he suddenly felt
in her a womanly dignity of which he had not before been conscious.  "I
don't myself think that any good is to be gained by entering into
explanations.  You know in your heart that what I say is best for us
both."

"I know nothing of the sort," he exclaimed; and indeed at this moment he
would not acknowledge to himself that it was best.  He had not wished to
hurry on their marriage, but that was a different matter from giving up
Phillis.  And he could not help feeling that it was possible she might
carry out her determination.  But yesterday he would have smiled at the
idea that he could not influence her in any direction he pleased.  He
had never understood her, and shyness had seemed to him such a marked
feature in her character, that he had looked upon her as one who would
be always willing to follow where others led, without attempting to
exercise an independent judgment.  In her words to-day, still more
perhaps in her manner, there was a quiet resolution which for ever upset
these preconceived ideas.  This was no shy unformed girl, but a woman
strong in her self-respect and self-control.  "Phillis," he said, and
there was greater warmth in his tone than he had ever shown her before,
"for pity's sake don't let a vague fancy separate us.  If you say
nothing definite, how can I defend myself?"

He half expected her to answer that she did not accuse him; but she did
not, although she seemed to ponder over his words.

"It is not a vague fancy," she said presently, and she spoke very
quietly and sadly; "it is a conviction, which you will by-and-by
acknowledge yourself."

"But--it is impossible--you don't really mean that it is all over
between us?  What reason can we give the Leytons--my uncle?"

"I will explain to both."

He walked away from her to the other side of the room, standing staring
at a picture of Signorelli's without seeing it.  She sat where he had
left her, feeling as if she could not move, as if her own hands had
wrecked her peace, as if for the moment she would give all she had to
undo what she had done.  And it was not over yet, though her strength
failed as he left her side.  He came back quickly.

"Have you really considered the bearings of the case?  Hetherton, for
instance?"

"I am very sorry for you," she said faintly.  "How sorry I cannot say.
But there is no one nearer.  I think Mr Thornton must retract his words
when he hears that this has been my doing."

"But what will be your own position?"  Jack said with a certain effort.

She looked at him in bewilderment for a minute; then, as his meaning
flashed on her, started to her feet.  The tears sprang into her eyes,
her voice trembled, but all her strength had come back.

"I have not deserved _that_," she said vehemently.  No, indeed.  In this
great crash of hope of happiness which she had brought about, Hetherton
might go without so much as a thought.  It was a hundred times more to
Ibbetson, who salved the soreness of his independence with the idea that
he was indifferent, but who could scarcely enter into the trouble, his
words had caused her.  Had he, then, thought so meanly of her as to
suppose that Hetherton had weighed?  Oh, well that she had spoken, at
whatever cost of pain!  She began to walk away quickly through the
rooms, and he, who had been startled out of another misconception,
followed, feeling himself awkwardly placed as he did so.  He kept close
behind, but did not join her until they were near the bottom of the
great staircase, and then she had recovered her composure, and made some
indifferent remark about asking for letters at the post-office opposite.
If you wish to change a conversation in Florence, there are plenty of
sights and sounds which will effect your purpose.  They chose a packet
of the little photographs which are spread out under the arcades, turned
as usual to look at the flower-like tower of the Palazzo Vecchio, and
stared in at the windows of the mosaic workers.  When they reached the
Old Bridge a soldier's funeral was crossing it, and the people crowding.
The regiment marched, the sun shone out for a moment on flashing steel
and on young grave faces; behind came a group of the black and hooded
Brothers of Mercy carrying lighted torches.  They were all walking
quickly, and the Old Bridge formed a strange mediaeval framework to the
procession.

Ibbetson and Phillis dreaded silence too much not to make valiant
efforts to avoid it all the way home by the Lung' Arno.  It seemed to
her that her forces were expended, and he was thinking uneasily of what
she had said.  His good things had dropped so readily upon him all his
life long, that although she did not know it, nothing stimulated him
like difficulty, and she had already gained a new value in his eyes, and
moved him to a greater appreciation.  But he was also annoyed and a
little ashamed.  Did she really mean that she was rejecting him?  When
they reached Casa Giulia he paused at the door.

"Phillis," he said in a low voice, "you said more than you meant just
now, didn't you?"

She might have answered that it had cost her too much to say what she
did to allow of her falling into such an error, and the pleading which
he put into his voice made this appeal a fresh anguish.  But she
steadied herself to answer quietly--

"I mean it all.  Indeed, it is best."

"If you will not consent to our marriage taking place as soon as was
intended, you don't at all events wish that everything should be at an
end between us?"

"Are things ever at an end in this world?" she said, with a sad little
smile.  "But I do wish that all should be at an end so far that you--
that we should be absolutely free."

"Am I to go away?" he asked petulantly.  It seemed as if in this
conversation their usual parts were reversed, and perhaps she read in it
a sign that her decision was right.  But now she hesitated.  For herself
she would rather he had gone, but there was Miss Cartwright, there was
Bice.  She said--

"I don't see how you can.  And as we are always to be friends, there is
no need."

He said no more.  He opened the door for her to go in, betook himself to
the garden, and was as cross for the rest of the day as it was in his
nature to be.

CHAPTER ELEVEN.

WHAT A WOMAN WILL DO.

In the villa Bice was suffering the dreariness of suspense, for Clive
did not answer her letter, into which she had poured a heart full of
longing.  At first she was positive, in spite of the delay, that it was
only a delay and no more.  Once she turned sharply upon Oliver.

"You are certain that you posted the letter?"

"I was particularly careful of it, because I knew it was of consequence
to you," he answered, looking full in her face.

"Then of course there is some good reason for our not hearing, and I
dare say something will come in a day or two."

But nothing did come.  The days went on, the girl's heart sank lower and
lower in spite of her resolute words.  If Clive bore that appeal in
silence, things must be bad indeed, and perhaps there was but one way
out of them.

Yet she did not yield.  Oliver tried all the persuasions he could think
of, and could not be sure that he had gained one step.  She avoided him
when she could, but if he forced her to listen to him, listened coldly,
and answered that she must hear from Clive.  He began to feel as if the
puppets he was playing with were turning to flesh and blood avengers in
his hands.  She was asking for proof, and if she sought for it much more
persistently, what might not start up in its place?  He was tormented by
jealousies, not only of Jack, who came up once or twice, and seemed
moody and out of spirits, but of young Moroni, who made no secret of his
devotion.  Bice was kinder to him than she had ever been before, and the
poor lad, not knowing that she used him as a defence against another,
had his head pretty well turned.  Oliver was man enough of the world to
read her motives, but if he had seen them written in large letters, he
would not have felt easy.  He hated the young fellow with his smiles,
his sudden pathetic melancholies, his sweet Italian, which he could not
understand.  It seemed to him that they had a hundred interests in
common, from each of which he was shut out.  Out on the terrace, late at
night, Giovanni would sit thrumming his guitar, the girls would sing.
Trent had no part to play in it all.  Another time he would find Bice
and Kitty sitting on the edge of the water tank, Moroni in a fig tree
below them, tossing the ripe fruit into their laps, old Andrea, half
hidden by leaves, munching away at a little distance.  Oliver, when he
came up, seemed to have no place or welcome, except perhaps from Kitty.
He would ask himself angrily, why he lingered? what fascination there
was for him in this proud, wilful girl?  Yet, as he asked the question,
he knew quite well that one glance of her beautiful eyes was enough to
bind him to her side.  He felt no remorse at the deception he was
practising, or the pain he inflicted; neither pain nor deception seemed
to him worth weighing for a moment against his determination to win her.
What he did feel was annoyance at having to leave again with his work
yet undone.  It was necessary that he should return to England, and all
his strong will as yet had failed to bind Bice, as he had never doubted
she would by this time have been bound.

What then?  Before he could return, would John Ibbetson have flung over
his love and turned to Beatrice?  Would young Moroni have touched the
girl's heart by his foolish youth, his sentimental songs?  Would his own
crooked dealings about Clive come to light when he was not present to
turn the truth into a lie?  Trent set his teeth savagely as he thought
of these chances which must all be dared, since go he must.

He did his best to provide against them.  He threw out hints, which he
knew would make their mark upon Bice's impulsive, generous little soul,
of Phillis Grey's desolate position in the world, and of her love for
the man she was to marry.  Moroni was an Italian, and when he was not
present he did not really fear him.  As for Clive, he had a long talk
with Bice, in which he avoided pressing his suit, and so managed to
reawaken some of her gratitude.  Never had he been nearer winning her
than he was that day.  He was kind, sympathetic, wise.  He advised her
strongly not again to press upon Clive, or even so much as allude to,
her knowledge of his difficulties.  If she did it, he asked her to send
the letter to him, that he might be aware of her writing and act upon
it.  But he implored her for the present to leave the matter absolutely
in his hands, since interference might make it very difficult for him to
act; while left alone, he had the strongest hopes of arranging
everything.  He led her to suppose that it was for this he was going
home; and he very skilfully managed alike to abstain from hinting at any
reward, and yet to leave upon her mind an impression that he really
considered her to have pledged herself.  He let it be fully understood
that he should return, if not before they moved to Rome in November, at
any rate so as to join them there.

And having taken these precautions, which, to his unquiet spirit, seemed
miserably inadequate, he very reluctantly departed.

Bice expected to find his going a great relief.  She was disappointed
because an immediate lightness of spirit was not the result.  What
else--when she knew he was going to do his utmost for Clive--should make
her listless and languid?  Why did all that was going on at the _podere_
seem utterly uninteresting and dry?  Giovanni, who used to look daggers
at the English signore, came over full of rejoicing that he was got rid
of, full of plans and ideas for pleasant festivities; but for all the
good that the young fellow got out of his deliverance, Oliver might have
stayed on, for Bice could not be roused to any excitement, and indeed
scarcely gave him a word in answer, though the simple and honest lad
deserved better treatment; and every now and then she hated herself when
she saw the pain which gathered in his eyes.

That was a time of which she could never bear to think in later days;
and yet, poor child, there was a struggle, a contest going on, of which
better people need not have been ashamed.  She felt hurt and shamefaced
in her own eyes, but she was loyal to the impulse which, had led her to
Phillis, to the kiss which had passed between them.  Jack's manner, or
an intuitive quickness, or newly-awakened perceptions of her own,
somehow made her aware that things were not quite right between them.
As for him, he was at that point which sometimes comes in a man's life,
when a very little thing might turn him either way.  He was dazzled and
attracted by the girl's rare beauty, piqued by Phillis's rejection, and
yet something made him seem nearer to Phillis than ever he had been
before.  It is possible that with a little effort Bice might have turned
the scale, but she never made it; rather more than once her grave, clear
eyes had looked at him with a sort of reproach.

Miss Cartwright was better, though far from strong.  She had grown so
fond of Phillis that they feared the effect upon her of hearing that the
engagement was off; but she listened in silence, scarcely alluding to it
after the first, but, if possible, more tender than ever both to Phillis
and to Jack.  It pained her so greatly when Miss Preston said some sharp
words about Jack's conduct, that her friend was startled into silence;
and as she clung to Phillis, and needed her kind and patient nursing, it
fell out that Phillis was at the house as much as ever, and, to all
outward seeming, things went on just as they had gone before.

If this caused a great strain upon the girl, no one was likely to notice
it.  Mrs Leyton had found pleasant friends in Florence, and though very
good-natured in all she said to Phillis on the matter of her engagement,
was equally taken up with fifty other things, and content to let all the
fifty and one go their own way so long as they did not clash with her
comfort.  Phillis herself had never been taught to consider her own
feelings as paramount, or she might have been tempted to fly.  As it
was, she looked forward to Rome with eagerness as a place of escape, and
then heard to her dismay that the doctor had pronounced Florence too
cold for Miss Cartwright to remain the winter, and that she was to
follow them to Rome as soon as she could bear the journey.  Surely Jack
at least would return to England!  But this he had evidently no
intention of doing.

Mr Thornton's letters took the line of disbelief.  He ignored the fact
that the engagement was broken, advising them to get over their small
misunderstandings as quickly as possible, if they wished their friends
to credit them with any grains of good sense.  There was a kind of rough
and ready philosophy about his letters under which Jack winced, while he
did his best to keep Phillis from reading them.  Jack was greatly
interested in Phillis at this time, although he was hurt and annoyed
with her.  The fact was, she was so kind and unassuming that it was
generally taken for granted that she would never fail at a pinch, and
Mr Thornton's indignation at the letters she had written to her aunt
was as great as if his quietest horse had kicked him over.  "_She_
object!  _She_ be the one to give herself airs!  Don't let me hear any
more of this nonsense, Harriet!  Write and tell her to hold her tongue
and be thankful."  And, indeed, although it was not acknowledged so
roughly even to himself, Ibbetson, too, could not quite get over his
wonder.  The young fellow was not conceited enough to believe that any
girl in the world would have him, but Phillis--to whom he had been
accustomed all his life--he was unprepared to hear her say that they
would not be happy together!  She had grown to have a more separate
existence since that assertion than she ever had in his eyes before.  He
was not sorry to be at liberty, but he was certainly annoyed that she
should also have desired to claim her own.

The Leytons were to go slowly to Rome, by Perugia and Assisi, but early
November arrived before they started, and two or three days before
setting off, Phillis surprised them by asking Miss Preston to drive with
her to Villa Carlina.  She wanted to wish them good-bye, she said, and
though some one suggested they would soon meet at Rome, she persisted.

"And may I not come, too?" said Jack, when he put them into the
carriage.

"Not to-day," Phillis said, smiling; "we are going for a gossip, and you
would be very much in the way.  But Cartouche is breaking his heart for
a hunt among the canes, and that is the best thing that you and he can
do this afternoon."

"A dog, indeed!" he said, turning away with some pretended indignation.

And then they began to make their way up towards the villa.  It was a
grey and windy day, and every now and then the wind blew a misty rain
full in their faces, and turned all the grey olive trees into a
shivering whiteness of underleaf.  The vineyards were stripped and bare.
A poor little kid, which had lost its mother, leapt on a bit of
desolate rock and bleated piteously.  Miss Preston blamed the climate of
Italy, as if England were unacquainted with rain or mist.  A great deal
of rain had fallen, so that the road between the white walls as they
climbed higher up was washed as if by a torrent, and a number of loose
stones had been brought down.  Before they quite reached the gate of the
villa, they came upon a little crowd, in the midst of which stood Bice,
pouring indignant reproaches upon the driver of an ox-cart and upon two
or three men and boys who stood by looking ashamed and downcast.  One of
the poor oxen had fallen, and instead of unfastening the cart and
relieving the creature of the yoke which pressed it to the ground, they
had set to work to belabour it about its head, using oaths and curses
plentifully at the same time.  Unluckily for them, the young padrona was
within hearing, and as it was well-known among the _contadini_ that
nothing made her so angry as ill-usage of the animals, there was great
dismay in their hearts.

"_Cara signorina_!" one of them began humbly, but she stopped him at
once with flashing eyes.

"I go to the _podere_ myself this very day, and see that you do no more
work there," she exclaimed vehemently.  "You can go back at once, for
little 'Tista shall take these poor beasts.  If you have no shame as men
for your cruelty, at least you shall find another farm for yourselves."

Phillis could almost have smiled at the abashed looks of the men before
the young indignant princess, whose sway no one seemed to dispute.  The
girl herself showed no discomposure at being found in this character.
She gave her orders to 'Tista, directed that time should be given to the
trembling creature to recover itself, and then, still pale with anger,
came towards the carriage.

"When they are cruel like that, I hate the Italians," she said, without
any other explanation, as she put out her hand.

"There should be a society formed," Miss Preston suggested eagerly.
"Let me put down your names, and I will see about it to-morrow.  A
society for the protection of animals--the idea is admirable."

"Oh, societies!  There may be one for anything I know," said the girl
wearily.  "There is no law behind it, that is the drawback.  Are you
come to spend the day?  That is kind of you."

But Phillis explained it was only an hour they had come to spend.  "And
when we have seen Mrs Masters, will you let Kitty show Miss Preston the
great cellars where you store your wine? she does not feel quite
satisfied about the vintage yet."

It was not difficult for Miss Grey to find some further excuse for
getting Bice alone.  She had not seen the upper storey of the house,
where there were great bare-looking bedrooms and sitting-rooms, a
studio, laundries, all sorts of places.  The girl's room had a wonderful
carved marble bas-relief over the fireplace, and a charming ceiling,
bright and fantastic, but otherwise all the furniture was old and the
greater part shabby.  Phillis glanced at it with little attention; there
was something she wanted to say, and she was not quick at turning a
conversation to a desired point.  It was Bice who unconsciously led to
it.  "When we are in Rome," she had said, and then she looked quickly at
Phillis--"But then you will be married?" she said in a low voice.

Phillis thought she was prepared, and yet at the words the colour rushed
up to the roots of her hair.

"That is at an end," she said very hurriedly.  "We are not going to
marry.  It was settled before anyone had thought enough about it, and
thinking has made us change our minds.  Forget that you ever heard that
it was to be."

How fast her heart beat!  How stiffly the syllables seemed to issue from
her mouth.  And yet she had meant to tell her quietly and calmly, to use
quite different words.  There was a silence in which the wind drove the
loose branch of some creeper against the window, and in which Bice
looked at Phillis.

She looked and smiled.  Strange to say, at this moment she was the most
composed of the two, and Phillis was deeply mortified that it should be
so.  But all that Bice said was--

"That is a pity.  But I don't suppose I shall be able to forget."

"It is not a pity if it saves either of us from unhappiness," said
Phillis, with much earnestness.

"Oh, I hope you will never be unhappy.  It is so very miserable," Bice
said, dropping her hands with a little gesture of despair.

Her change of expression seemed to put them again into their right
positions.  Phillis, who had been annoyed at her own agitation and at
the incredulous manner of the other girl, felt her pity, her sympathy
growing up again as warm as ever.  If Bice and Jack loved each other, as
was surely the case, then she would not shrink.  She smiled in her turn,
but looked steadily out of the window.

"There are many sorts of unhappiness," she said gently.  "Some come so
quietly that we have time to prepare and almost change their nature.
And others are like sharp and sudden storms which seem to sweep us away,
but are soon over, and then the skies are as smiling again as ever."

"They are all hateful, whether they are of one sort or another," said
Bice in the same tone.  "I never believed the books which said they were
anything else, and I think you have been reading those books."

"No," said Phillis firmly, "I don't believe they are all hateful.  And
it is something different from books which you and I shall have to teach
us that."

"What?"

"Never mind, you will tell me one of these days.  Now shall we go down,
and will you order the little carriage?"

As they went out, two or three bronzed men were standing outside the
door.  Andrea had come up his steps and was haranguing them, but when
they saw Beatrice they started forward and poured out a torrent of
words.  Phillis could not understand the rapid patois, but there were
tears in their eyes, and they were evidently imploring, entreating.
Bice listened coldly; once or twice she said something at which they
redoubled their protestations.  When finally she yielded, one of them,
the chief spokesman, stepped forward, caught her hand, and kissed it
fervently.  It was like a scene of another age, Phillis thought, the
young girl and the men watching her as if she had been a queen.

"I think perhaps they will behave better to the oxen for a little
while," Bice said, as they went away in delight.

"How much they care for you!"

"They care for the work, too; it is of great consequence in these bad
times.  But they are very faithful and affectionate, poor fellows!"

Miss Preston shook her head.  She told Phillis as she drove home that
Bice's weakness in forgiving the _contadini_ had convinced her that no
woman should enter on the prerogative of her rights before the age of
thirty years, when it might be considered that her judgment would be
matured, and Phillis, who was pale and rather silent, did not attempt to
contradict her.  Miss Preston having her own views about Jack's conduct
very strongly outlined, glanced at her.

"Nothing can be worse for those two young girls than the sort of
undisciplined life they lead, with a mother absolutely without energy or
character," she said decidedly.  "If I had remained here I might have
been of some service to them, if one ever _can_ be of service to wilful
girls.  But in these days it is almost hopeless."

"Bice is most lovable," said Phillis eagerly.  "I don't think it has
spoilt her one bit.  Besides, what can be more simple than their life?"

"Oh, simple, I dare say!"  Miss Preston said darkly.  "You have had very
little experience of the world, my dear."

"I suppose so," said Phillis smiling.  "When people say that, one never
knows what to answer.  When does the experience come, I wonder; and what
makes the world?  Is it anything very different from what one lives in
every day?"

Miss Preston found it difficult to define, and looked shocked.

"You will know better one day," she said, falling back on a generality.
But Phillis would not be baffled.

"Will it help one to understand, do you think, and not bring new
puzzles?" she asked, still smiling.  "It seems to me now, as if every
experience brought something strange instead of making the old clearer."

Miss Preston looked at her helplessly, and then put her head out of
window.

"I never saw such a climate!" she exclaimed angrily.  "Raining when we
started, and now quite fine.  I am sure I trust we may find more
consistent weather in Rome."

CHAPTER TWELVE.

"ONE AND ONE, WITH A SHADOWY THIRD."

If Florence has not forgotten her past, Rome has kept hers yet more
faithfully, or rather has had a mightier one to keep.  It is no longer
the life of a few centuries back in which you move, Guelf and Ghibelline
flaunting their battlements in your face; artist, sculptor, poet,
working their lives out for the beautiful and ungrateful city--but an
older age.  The stones of the Republic are before your eyes, the road of
triumph is under your feet.  There, in the Forum, the great twin
brethren watered their horses after the battle; hard by the martyrs were
given to the lions.  Look where you will, there is something which, as
you recognise it, brings a thrill to your heart, stirs an interest
deeper than Florence can excite, and binds you to Rome for ever.  No
other city in the world resembles her.  In Egypt you are taken back yet
further; in Athens, memories of scarcely smaller interest cluster round
the golden stones; but they have only their past, while Rome is alive,
acting, carrying on her history, many-sided; appealing to the present,
to the future--stern, grey, sunshiny, brilliant, all at once.

Something of this sort had been said by one of a little party of people
who were strolling about the Palatine Hill one December afternoon, and
Mrs Leyton opposed it altogether on behalf of Florence.

"As to age, it is merely a comparative matter," she announced.  "I don't
feel very aged myself, but I heard a chit at the table-d'hote yesterday
speak of somebody as `quite old, oh, about thirty.'  It all depends upon
the point from which you look at it.  And I do think it is a shame to
run down that beautiful Florence, about which you all pretended to be so
enthusiastic when you were there, because some of these old stones of
Rome have been set up for a few hundred years longer."

Jack Ibbetson, who had been reconnoitring, came back.

"Run--hide yourselves--be quick!" he said anxiously.  "Miss Preston is
coming this way with a victim."

"It is Phillis who must be hidden then.  I believe you and I have taught
her to avoid us, but I am getting vexed with Phillis for the patience
with which she listens to long archaeological discussions which don't
interest her in the least."

"But they do," protested Phillis, laughing.  "Nonsense, my dear.  It is
your amiability and not your intellect which is brought into play.  Now
I consider amiability on such occasions an absolute wrong to your
fellow-creatures--I do, indeed.  All isn't gold that glitters, and even
your virtues are not quite such unmixed blessings as I should like to
find them.  I hope you appreciate the sting of my remark."

"It is taken out by your charity in crediting virtues which don't exist.
But if only you would listen to poor Miss Preston, you would discover
that she has a great deal of really curious information to give you."

"I like my ignorance a great deal better, thank you.  There she goes.  I
see the last flutter of that steel-grey robe disappearing behind the
aloes.  Mr Ibbetson, you may come out and talk freely.  How does dear
Miss Cartwright get on in Rome?  Is it true that the Masters came
yesterday?"

"I believe so--yes," said Jack shortly.  He felt an odd sort of
shrinking from Bice's name when Phillis was present, and yet Phillis had
herself constantly led to the subject.  Mrs Leyton, who could not bear
displeasing people, and saw he was unwilling to speak, skilfully dropped
the topic.

"Then they will join us in some of this sight-seeing, which weighs like
lead on my conscience," she said lightly.  "Poor Harry makes a Moloch of
his sketching, and I am sure the things which have to be seen are quite
as serious for me.  When I have done them all, I shall begin to enjoy
Rome; but I give notice, good people, not till then."

Phillis laughed without contradicting her, or asserting a different
opinion.  Phillis herself, if there were any difference in her, had
grown more silent and more reserved in these last few weeks, going about
a good deal alone, though never unwilling to join the others in their
plans.  She and the Leytons were at a hotel; Miss Cartwright had taken
apartments in the Via della Croce for the sake of Cartouche, who could
not be expected to conform to hotel existence.  Jack Ibbetson spent a
great deal of his time with the Leytons.  Phillis did not know how to
escape from this life, which was full at once of sweetness and pain,
pain sometimes almost unendurable.  She rather sought other friends, and
there were a brother and sister at the hotel whom she liked and who
often joined them.  They had expected the Peningtons to meet them at the
Palatine, but they did not come, and by-and-by they all strolled down
towards the Coliseum.  A carriage overtook them, jolting over the Via
Sacra, and somebody called out and waved.  It was Bice.

"How pretty Miss Masters looked!" said Mrs Leyton, glancing a little
curiously at Jack.

"We shall find them at the Coliseum," said her husband, and he was
right.

If Bice was looking pretty, she was changed, changed even since they had
left Florence.  Her eyes were bright and large, but they had dark lines
under them; the round cheek had lost something of its sweet young curve;
a pathetic appeal every now and then touched you in her voice.  But she
had not lost her decision.  It was she who had brought Mrs Masters and
Kitty.  She was eager, interested, wanting to know everything, only
Phillis could answer half her questions.  Mrs Masters went back before
long and sat in the carriage, the others climbed hither and thither,
under the great arches, tier above tier.  It is like climbing centuries
and ages to mount those great steps, worn by many feet.  The sun beats
down upon them all, untempered now by the silken awning which used to
stretch across the vast expanse.  Where the Vestal Virgins sat, delicate
plants spring from between the stones, maiden hair waves softly in
remembrance.  And as you go up, and the great area discloses itself, its
greatness, its might, its majesty, its silence, will touch you, if you
let them, with an awful power.  Rome lies before you, clothed in purple
and regal shadows; the Campagna stretches away towards surrounding
hills; black cypresses point; all about you the solemn arches frame some
picture which belongs to the world's history; all about you the lights
float, golden, rose, flashing into dark corners, and marked out by keen
shadows.

Phillis stole away by herself, but she found that Bice soon followed
her, and as if she were seeking occasion for saying something.  And,
indeed, she was too impetuous long to keep back anything she had to say.
She caught Phillis's hand and dragged her to a great block of
travertine, where they were out of hearing of the others, and from which
they could see.  Santa Maria Maggiore glowing in the sunlight, and roofs
stretching away into blue distance.

"Sit there," she said imperatively.  "Oh, I have wanted to see you!  I
am very, very miserable."

"What has happened?"

People's sympathy is as different as people are themselves.  Phillis's
was very delicate and gentle--it seemed to ask for nothing, and yet to
give just what was wanted.  Tones and looks had more to do with it than
words.  Bice lifted her heavy wistful eyes to hers with satisfaction.

"Nothing has happened," she said, "and that is the worst part of it all,
don't you think?  If only one could set up one's trouble before one,
quite distinct and alive, there would be a chance of fighting it, of
coming to the end somehow."

She clenched her little hand as she spoke, and a fire came into her
eyes.

"Perhaps," said Phillis, smiling and looking at the beautiful face, "it
is better for most of us that our anxieties don't take quite such a
definite shape.  Suppose they should be too strong for us?"

"Then there would be an end that way."

Phillis changed her tone.

"I don't think we are wise in wishing troubles to be stronger than they
are," she said gravely.  "As it is, I fancy they are as much as we can
manage."

"I don't mind fighting; it is the waiting," said Bice with a little
perverseness.  "Why are women expected to be able to endure?  Is it
because they have the hardest work and the least credit always?"

"You can tell me something more as to what is making you unhappy," said
Phillis, evading the question.  "Has your brother himself written to
you?"

"Yes, he has."

"And are things going on no better?"

"You shall see for yourself," said the girl with a sudden resolve.  And
she produced a letter from her pocket.  "The first part is nothing," she
said, leaning on her hand and looking over Phillis's shoulder.  "There,
begin there."

"Trent has been awfully useful to me," the letter said.  "I don't know
how ever I should have got through without him.  It's not much use
trying to explain, particularly to anyone who doesn't know the sort of
life one has to live here; and I suppose a good lot of fellows buy their
experience much in the same way as I've bought it, but that doesn't
prevent one's seeing when one has made a fool of oneself.  I expected by
this time I should have been able to do something for old Kitty and you
all.  Better luck soon; I don't owe any money to a soul except Trent.
You'll be glad to hear he has got it all into his own hands, and, of
course, I feel pounds more comfortable.  By the way, he says he has done
it for you, and that I may tell you so."

"Well?" said Bice, taking back the letter.

Phillis was considering.  The letter was boyish and inexperienced, but
there was a tone about it which did not seem to her that of a young
fellow who had entered on a course of crime, and her distrust of Oliver
Trent had never abated.  Yet what could she say?  She had no real
grounds for her opinion.  She could not utter any word of warning which
should touch Clive in his security.  Yet with this conviction of hers
growing in her heart, it would be impossible for a woman of Phillis's
nature not to do something or other by-and-by.  She contented herself at
present by saying--

"Poor fellow!  No doubt he has been imprudent."  Bice started.  She had
been thinking of herself rather than Clive, and considering the weight
of those words which sounded to her almost like a threat.  What was it
that Oliver had done for her of which he desired her to be reminded?

"Imprudent, yes!  Weak and wicked too," she said impatiently.  "He does
not care or even remember that others have to suffer besides himself."

"Perhaps he does not know."

"Oh, that is impossible.  Oliver, at least, would have spoken plainly.
And has he not had my letter?"  Her voice quivered a little as she went
on.  "Phillis--I don't know--I think I could do something dreadful for
people if they wanted it, but then it is hard, isn't it, if they don't
take any notice?  Perhaps one shouldn't care about that, but I do.  If
Clive would only say straight out, `I have done something bad, but I
know you'll not give me up,' and then if he said `God bless you, Bice,'
afterwards, why--one could bear--bear anything."

"Bice," said Phillis, looking at her.

"What?"

"You haven't told me all."

"Not quite," she said reluctantly.  "I don't like telling, or even
thinking; but you know I am very miserable."

"Has Mr Trent got you to promise?"

"How could I help it?" she said, drooping her head.  "He did so much.
It was like a network all round.  Even mamma, poor mamma, she is so
poor, you know, and he was kind--but I had things, I did manage that."
She had mechanically raised her hand to her throat as she spoke, and
Phillis noticed that a slender gold chain which she generally wore was
gone, and that she had neither earrings nor any bit of jewellery about
her.  "I couldn't do anything for Clive, it was like a horrible
nightmare, and what would have become of him but for Oliver?  When this
last letter came, another came too from Oliver, telling me a great deal.
It did not seem worth while to make so much fuss about oneself, and
so--I wrote and promised."  The tone in which she said those last words
told much, and perhaps Phillis had herself had experience of that state
of mind.  She bent over and kissed her.

"Oh, my dear," she said brokenly, "but you shouldn't, you shouldn't have
done it!"

"It is done," said the girl, clasping her hands round her knees, and
looking out towards the old basilica with its domes.  But Phillis saw
there were tears in her eyes.

"Write and undo it," she urged.

"No; I wouldn't be so ungrateful for worlds.  And at any rate it seems
as if it would make him happy."  Phillis felt no satisfaction at this
prospect.  She was full of pity, yet almost angry with this young
creature who was throwing away her own happiness, and, alas! other
people's too.  Was this to be the end of what Phillis herself had
done?--was no good to come out of her own pain?  She hushed the cry of
her heart almost angrily.  "He did not love me, he did not love me," she
said to herself, "and this makes no difference.  Only I hoped he would
have been happy."

Perhaps Bice felt that she could bear no more, for she jumped up.

"I have not heard their voices for a long while," she said.  "They can't
have gone without us!  Or suppose we find the great iron door at the
bottom shut?"

"Oh, there's a bell.  We shall see some one."

Down on a lower tier they found Jack waiting.  He explained that Mrs
Leyton and Kitty had driven back with Mrs Masters, Captain Leyton was
sketching the Arch of Constantine.

"And I am to see you home, if you'll allow me.  Are you cold?  It's not
the most prudent thing in the world to sit about in the Coliseum, with
all that water below you."

"No, it was very foolish," said Phillis, looking with compunction at
Bice's pale face.  "Are you sure you are not chilled?  Let us set off at
once."

"But you yourself?" said Jack, in a low voice.

Something in his tone made her flush crimson, and then she hated herself
for having done so.  "As if I had not already suffered enough for such
foolish imaginings!" she thought reproachfully.

It was an odd sort of walk home for all of them, and would have been
more uncomfortable but that the things around gave ready subjects for
conversation.  After the Arch of Titus and the Forum there are dirty,
shelving, picturesque streets, noble fronts of old temples half buried
in the earth, curiosity shops full of ancient and begrimed lamps of all
graceful forms, of which, if you look long enough, you may one day light
upon the manufactory.  Grey oxen come stumbling along over the slippery
lava pavement; very likely a Capuchin monk, brown and dirty, vanishes
round a corner; the streets fall away for Adrian's forum and the great
pillar, and close up again until you come to the piazza of the Apostoli.
It was there the Capponis lived with whom the Masters were staying.
The palazzo was not so large or imposing as its neighbours; such as it
was it was too big for its owners' fortunes, and they let half of it to
some English, consoling themselves by preserving a separate entrance and
cordially despising their rich tenants.  Phillis thought it looked very
grey and gloomy as Bice stood for a moment in the entrance, and yet the
girl's loveliness struck them both.  Perhaps it was partly the
delightful charm of youth, and its contrast with the grim buildings;
perhaps it was that the talk with Phillis, or the walk home, had brought
a rosy flush into her cheeks, a bright light into her eyes.  For the
moment she was like the Hebe Jack had discovered on the hillside behind
Florence.

But, for all that, he would not have spoken of her to Phillis unless
Phillis had begun the subject, having an uneasy consciousness that here
lay the key to the mystery of his rejection.  The way in which this
rejection haunted him astonished himself.  He allowed that he had been
piqued, but there is little doubt that he fancied the pique would have
spent itself, and left him free; instead of which he could not shake off
the vexation and the annoyance.  As often as not he was angry with
Phillis, and, but that he was a gentleman, would have shown it.  As it
was, he often perplexed her, and such a _tete-a-tete_ as they were
having now she avoided simply from the pain it caused herself.  She was
one of those people who try to do what is right with a brave disregard
for the pain which may be a necessary part, but she did not go out of
her way to court it.  Only to-day she had a purpose, and it must be
carried out in the few narrow and crowded streets which lay between them
and the Condotti.

"If I were a man," she said thoughtfully, "I should like to do something
for that poor child."

"A man," repeated Jack.  "Is it man in the abstract, or any particular
man who is needed?"

"Well, he must be particular because he must be ready to take some
trouble, and when the trouble is taken he must have wits to use its
results, otherwise he might be as abstract as you please."

"Is it this wretched brother who has come to the fore again?"

"I have a theory that he is not so wretched as we take for granted.  I
dare say he has been foolish."

"Oh, that's an epidemic we have all gone through," said Ibbetson; and
Phillis felt suddenly hot, though nothing was further from his thoughts
than an allusion to their engagement.  She said hurriedly--

"The evidence of anything worse is very vague.  That Mr Trent never
enters into details, he gives mysterious hints, and impresses them all
with an idea of his own great efforts, but that is all."

"The tone in which you say `that Mr Trent' speaks volumes for your
opinion," said Jack laughing.  "But didn't you tell me she had written?"

"Yes.  Still--Mr Trent posted the letter."

Jack gave a low whistle.

"You are coming it rather strong in your suspicions, Phillis," he said
doubtfully.  "What motive could he have?  It would take a big one."

"He wishes to marry her," said Phillis, looking straight before her.

"But she does not like him?"

Jack put the question with evident eagerness.  They had just turned into
that open space which the Fountain of Trevi seems to fill with the glad
rush of its waters.  Clear streams leap from twenty different points;
there is a confusion, a harmony, a most invigorating freshness in the
silvery flashes.  Phillis stood still for a moment, looking at them with
her hand on a low wall which the spray had wetted.  It seemed to her as
if his question meant something quite different, as if he would have
said, "Does she not like me a little?"--as if her hand must open the
door between two hearts.  Alas! but was there not a third which she
herself was shutting out?  She did not hesitate, but she was conscious
of a feeling that it was hard on her that this, too, should be left for
her to do.  And what of Bice's last confidence?  As she turned and
looked at Jack, did he guess what faithfulness, what kindness were
shining in those clear brown eyes?

"I am sure she does not like him," she said.  "But I fear--"

"What?"

"I fear that he is using unfair means to bind her to him."

"But what can be done?" he asked as they walked on again.  "Suppose, for
instance, that I became the particular man to whom you alluded, what
should you do if you were in my place?  We have arrived at a complete
labyrinth of suppositions, but still--supposing?"

"I should go to England, and trace the matter out."

"Very direct and decided, Phillis," said Jack with a smile.  Christian
names had, of course, been used between them all their lives, and it
would have been impossible to break off the custom; but still, as if by
common consent, they did not use them more often than was necessary, and
it seemed to Phillis as if he need not have brought hers in now, still
less lingered slightly upon it.  "Well--it's hard to send me out of
Rome, but if the fellow is what you take him to be, there would be a
certain pleasure in baffling him, and one could but try."

"Yes, I think so," she said quietly.  There was no need for her to thank
him for what must be a grateful task, and she did not attempt it.  Nor
would she ask him questions as to his going.  Perhaps Ibbetson expected
something of one sort or the other, but the bells of Sant' Andrea began
to clash in their brick belfry overhead, and the Peningtons came rushing
out of a side street from which they had caught a glimpse of Phillis.
Miss Penington was small, plump and bright-eyed; her brother a clergyman
of thirty, short-sighted, energetic, and quick in all his movements,
with a sweet kind smile.  As they all walked together through the Piazza
di Spagna by the pretty jewellers' shops towards the Alemagna, Phillis
would have been very much astonished had any one told her that Jack,
whose natural disposition was certainly peaceable, felt a far stronger
aversion to Mr Penington than to Oliver Trent, against whom he was
going to open a campaign.

CHAPTER THIRTEEN.

IN THE VATICAN.

As Phillis passed out from the table-d'hote at the Alemagna that
evening, the porter put a note into her hand.

"Get me what information you can," it said, "_address, name of firm, and
anything you think useful.  And, for pity's sake don't let my aunt and
Cartouche be completely flattened by that woman in my absence_."

The next morning a note went to the Via della Croce.

"_The information is simply wonderful.  The firm is_ `Thornton and Hay.'
_I do think it is the oddest coincidence_!"

For "Thornton," the senior of the two great ironmasters, was Peter
Thornton of Hetherton Court, of whom mention has been made; and, under
the circumstances, Phillis's astonishment was not to be wondered at.
Quite a fire of notes passed between the two streets that morning.  The
next was to this effect:

"_Very queer, indeed.  If I were you I would say nothing of this to his
sister.  Where are you going to-day_?"

An answer came back.

"_To the Vatican with the Peningtons.  I send you an order in case you
like to bring the Masters_--"

Mr Penington was an excellent cicerone.  His information was
trustworthy, and he had that pleasant way of imparting it which never
gives you the impression of mounting a pedestal and declaiming.  Phillis
thought her afternoon delightful, and it seemed as if he thought the
same, for he claimed her interest eagerly.  They were in the hall of the
Muses standing before the beautiful and stern Thalia, who sits with a
garland of ivy leaves on her head, looking out disdainfully at the
world's follies, when Mr Penington touched Phillis.

"The most lovely girl imaginable has just come in," he said; "you must
really get a good view of her."

It was Bice, of course.  She was walking listlessly before her
companions, and scarcely troubling herself to glance at the statues; but
she brightened at seeing Phillis, and seemed relieved to join her.
Phillis would have liked to tell her what errand was taking Jack to
England, but she could not venture to do so, and indeed Mr Penington,
who had no intention of allowing his companion's interest to wander,
managed to claim her whole attention.  No one noticed the indignant
glances which Jack threw at him.  Phillis would have been the last to
conceive that he could be annoyed at another engrossing her, and perhaps
he himself would have scarcely allowed that Bice's beautiful face could
have less attraction for him than Phillis's brown eyes.  As it was, he
was thoroughly angry at what he liked to think of as Phillis's
fickleness, and by way of retaliation devoted himself with all his might
to Bice.  It seems sometimes as if the world was made up of
cross-purposes, when we see the mistakes, the unintentional wounds that
are inflicted.  People observe things which never existed, and shut
their eyes to what lies plain before them, and long afterwards, perhaps,
look back with a sigh at their own work.  What should we do, all of us,
if we were left with nothing better than to make the best we could of
our tangles!

Poor Bice!  All sorts of fancies went rushing through her heart that
afternoon, as Jack strolled along by her side as he had done in the
first days of their acquaintance--passionate longings and regrets,
wonder and impatience.  How had Phillis and he been separated, how had
Oliver and she come together?  Why did Jack talk kindly, and ask
questions as if he cared?  For the girl was not deceived, only troubled,
and there was a bitter revolt in her heart against her fate, sometimes a
yearning for Jack's sympathy, sometimes a fierce suspicion that all this
time he might have read her secret and despised her.  She was not in a
mood to look at the white statues, it made her shiver to see them by her
side, cold and changeless, and she would not pretend an interest she did
not feel.  When they came to a great brazier, full of grey or glowing
embers, she stretched out her little hands to the warmth, while Ibbetson
glanced at her with unmistakable admiration in his eyes.

"When first I knew you, I could not picture you in anything but a white
dress," he said in a leisurely tone.

"Don't talk of it," and she shuddered.  "If ever one wants warmth and
colour it is in a sculpture gallery.  I wouldn't come here in white on
the hottest day of the year."  She was looking before her as she spoke
with that fixed mechanical gaze with which people look at something they
do not really see.  Suddenly she started and caught Jack's arm.  "Oh,
look, look!" she cried in a terrified undertone.

He could feel her fingers trembling on his arm, and instinctively laid
his own hand upon them with a strong firm clasp.  The touch brought her
to herself, for she withdrew her hand instantly, colouring crimson as
she did so, but not removing her eyes from the object which had alarmed
her.  Ibbetson turned hastily to look where they were fixed.

"What was it?  What frightened you?" he asked gently, looking at her
again, for nothing that he could see accounted for her evident terror.

She drew a deep breath.

"Who is that man standing with his back towards us on the right?" she
said in a quick low voice.  "There, do you see?"

"I see, but it's no one I know.  Whom do you take him for?"

"Are you sure you don't know him?  I begin to think now that I was
mistaken," she said with such evident relief that Ibbetson smiled.

"I hope you are not generally so shocked at seeing an acquaintance
unexpectedly?  Would you like to come a little closer and make sure of
the matter?"

"Yes--I think so," she said with some hesitation.  "But not too near."

"Oh, we'll beware of the ghost," said Jack confidently and kindly.  He
was still feeling the clinging touch of those little fingers on his arm,
and there was a warm impulse of kindness towards her stirring in his
heart, as well as a little curiosity as to what likeness had so moved
her.  She stood still before they had gone many yards.

"No, no, it is not," she said hurriedly, "I see quite well now.  It was
very foolish of me."

"Better look in his face and get the idea quite out of your head,"
persisted Ibbetson.  "Otherwise those sorts of notions are apt to prove
uncomfortable."

She did not resist.  They passed the gentleman and saw his full face,
but beyond saying that she did not know how she could have been so
mistaken, she did not attempt to explain her terror, and no resemblance
to Mr Trent struck Jack so as to give him the clue.

Still, real or fancied, the alarm had evidently shaken the girl.  She
said she would go back to Mrs Masters, who had placed her camp-stool
near a brazier, and remained calmly indifferent to the art treasures
about her, so long as she could keep warm and avoid fatigue.

"Don't let me detain you from the others," Bice said, when they had
reached her mother.

"The others don't want me," answered Jack in a voice which had some
irritation in it.  "That fellow Penington is at it, speechifying away
like mad."

"Oh, do you mean he isn't nice?" asked Bice so innocently that the young
man laughed in spite of himself.

"I don't know that there's much harm in him," he allowed, "but I dislike
to have guide-book information crammed down my throat second-hand.
Never mind them.  Do you know that I am going away?"

"No."

Though she hated herself, she felt the colour leaving her face.  And she
could not ask when or where.

"But I am.  I am off to London."

"Do you come back here?"

"Well, I hope so, certainly.  The only thing likely to stand in the way
is a lawsuit in which they sought my services, and I don't mind
confiding to you that the odds are rather against that supposition."

More than one person had certain fancies of theirs confirmed that
afternoon.  One went and came like the dull tick of a great clock in
Phillis Grey's brain as she sat in her bedroom late at night.  "He--
loves--her,--he--loves--her," was what it said with persistent effort.
She had sent him away, and though no one suspected it of her, her heart
was sometimes nearly breaking.

CHAPTER FOURTEEN.

FOG.

The change from Italy to London in the month of December, of all months
in the year, is somewhat gloomy.  It struck Ibbetson the more that he
was greeted the morning after his arrival by a dense yellow fog, which
came down chimneys and into people's throats in the persistent manner
with which we are all familiar, but which is dolefully depressing to
foreigners.  Jack had somewhat of the feeling of a foreigner himself as
the gas was turned on to enable him to eat his breakfast in his
lodgings--not having as yet effected the counterbalance of comfort
versus climate, which a well-brought up and constitutional Englishman
derives from his Club and his _Times_.  That would come later in the
day.  Meanwhile, the fog was the reverse of cheerful, his lodging looked
grimy, and his thoughts went flying back to the blue skies of Italy, and
to people he had left there.

What was Phillis doing, for instance, and why should he care to know?
the young fellow thought, pushing his fingers through his crisp curly
hair.  Probably at that moment making plans for some excursions with
those confounded Peningtons.  What detestable bores people were who
dragged others about in that ridiculous way, here, there, and
everywhere, and how extraordinary it was that others should be found to
submit!  Here was he himself come on a wild goose errand, if ever there
were such a thing in the world, to look after a youngster, who from all
accounts had rapidly developed into a scoundrel, and without the
smallest idea what he was to do when he had got hold of him.  Good
heavens, what an idiot he had been!  The only point on which he could
fall back with satisfaction was that if he could do anything it would be
a possible release for Bice, of whom he thought with great interest and
compassion.  Only on her account, he assured himself, had he undertaken
the quixotic enterprise on the threshold of which he had arrived.
Distinctly, only on her account.

He put himself into a hansom on the strength of this conviction, and
drove to Clive's lodgings out in the Kensington direction.  As he
expected, the lad had gone to the City, but he heard the hour at which
he was likely to return, and left a card with an explanatory line,
saying that he would look in that evening.  Then he went to his chambers
and began gathering up those odds and ends of life which so soon seem to
detach themselves from us if for a moment we lay them down, and yet have
a latent power of reproach when we meet them.  There had been a little
property of the first Lady Ibbetson's which her husband had made over to
her son, on the occasion of his own second marriage, so that Jack had
enough to live upon without troubling his head as to his profession.
And then the idea of his marriage and the visions of Hetherton had
somehow taken away the spur to work.  This was at an end.  In the foggy
dinginess of his chambers he began to try to pull together some floating
strands of ambition which had never had much more substance in them than
a cobweb-like texture, and which now eluded his grasp.  His nature was
pre-eminently social.  He could not group his dreams round a central and
solitary self.  He wanted someone else to stimulate him with sympathy or
fellow-interest.  And, as he stood listlessly turning over a bundle of
papers--why did the roar of London suddenly change to the rush of water,
the splash of silver streams?  Whose were those brown and steadfast eyes
which he saw again looking into his--?

An exclamation escaped his lips.  Then he turned up the gas, and sat
down doggedly with the papers on his knees, and two or three big books
by his side.  His work might not be worth much, but he felt as if it
served as a barricade against thoughts which were worthless.

He did not go out to Kensington again until half past six or
thereabouts, and as he rattled along through the muddy streets, he was
the more convinced that his errand was not an agreeable one, and that it
would require delicate handling.  A good deal must depend upon his first
impression of Clive.  If this were favourable, well and good; and yet
Jack was vaguely conscious that he had no great insight into character,
and was apt to see no more than people were disposed to show him.

"Mr Masters?"  Yes, Mr Masters was at home, and a slipshod girl
conducted him into a small room on the ground floor, smelling strongly
of smoke, and brightly lit.  A tall young man, who was sitting over the
fire, came forward with a little shy awkwardness, which at once recalled
Kitty to Ibbetson, and muttered something about being sorry he should
have had the trouble of calling twice.  Jack had an easy kindliness of
manner which generally put people at their ease, but this young fellow
was as undoubtedly awkward as he was thin and dark, and though evidently
interested in hearing news of his family, it did not seem as if it would
be within the bounds of possibility to get him to talk freely.  Jack,
himself, conscious that he was receiving very little that was definite
in the way of those first impressions from which he had hoped so much,
could hardly help smiling at his own discomfiture.  Except the smoke,
there was nothing in the room or about Clive himself to assist him in
discoveries, and yet he had not come all the way from Rome for nothing.

"There's another link between us," he said pleasantly.  "One of your
heads, Mr Thornton, is an uncle of mine."

"We don't see much of him down at the office."

"No, perhaps not.  But I suspect he looks sharply into things.  Don't
you feel him in the background?"

"I haven't much to do with the heads," said the young fellow, looking
uncomfortable.

"Something pinches there," said Ibbetson inwardly, with his suspicions
confirmed.  Aloud he said, laughing, "I'm not in Mr Thornton's best
books at this present moment, but I might be able to give you an
introduction--where do you go at Christmas?"

"Nowhere.  I stay here."

"Gloomy work, isn't it?" said Jack, compassionately.

"It doesn't matter.  I'd rather stop on here," said Clive, kicking a
piece of coal.

"Is your cousin in London--I mean Mr Trent?"

"Oliver Trent?" glancing up in surprise.  "Do you know him?  Oh, you met
him at the villa, I suppose.  Yes, he is.  At least I believe so.  He
and old--he and Mr Thornton are very thick."

"He!"

"Didn't you know it?"

"Not I.  But perhaps that's not to be wondered at.  Still--"

There was a pause while Ibbetson was musing on this information.  He was
conscious that it aroused a vague uneasiness in his mind, and yet, what
should make him uneasy?  Phillis's suspicions had not really touched
him, and the half dislike which he at one time felt towards Trent had
been as fleeting as other emotions of the same date.  But there always
remains the possibility that emotions may be revived.

Clive volunteered the next remark.

"I never knew such a fellow as Oliver for knowing people.  You can't
mention anybody but he can tell you all about them.  And he seems to
find out anything he pleases."

It was the nearest approach to confidence that he had shown, and Jack
followed it up with a plunge.

"I tell you what it is, Masters," he said, looking hard at the fire so
that Clive might not feel himself stared at, "your cousin has said
something to your mother and sisters which has made them very uneasy
about you.  If he'd said more, it mightn't have been so bad for them,
but they know so little that they are fretting their lives out," pursued
Ibbetson with a bold disregard for the truth which should certainly have
been limited here by the third person singular.  "I dare say you think
I've no business to come poking my fingers into what doesn't concern me,
indeed to tell you the truth I'm of the same opinion myself.  But I'm
here because a friend of theirs for whom I've a regard is under the
impression they've got an exaggerated idea of what is amiss, and thinks
you might put things straighter.  There! and I hope I've not made a
bungle of it," he continued mentally, feeling as if the pause which
followed lasted five minutes at the very least.

"I don't see what Oliver can have said," said the young fellow a little
sullenly.  "I've followed his advice pretty closely."

"Well," Jack said slowly, "I suppose you'd hardly be disposed to take an
outside opinion?"

"Yours, you mean?"

His manner was not very pleasant, but Jack acknowledged that it was
scarcely to be expected it should be different, and so far he had been
unable to trace any symptom of fear as of one who held a guilty secret.
He began to have a stronger conviction of his innocence himself.

"Yes, I meant mine.  One moment--I mean, of course, only on their
account."

"Oliver is all the world with them," said Clive uneasily, "at least if
one may trust half the messages he brings back."

"Why on earth don't you write direct instead of trusting to messages?"

"Direct?  Why of course I do," said Clive staring blankly.

"Well, openly then.  Telling them of any--difficulties you may be in."

"I can't see the good of worrying them about all the particulars when
one has made a fool of oneself, but they know the outcome of it."

Clive said this frankly and without hesitation.  Jack became more and
more doubtful how he was to go on.  Even if you believe a fellow-man,
you may be offering him the worst insult in your power by telling him
so.

"They fancy they don't know, at any rate," he said rather lamely.

"Not know!  Why, haven't they had Oliver out there?  There was nothing
to prevent their getting it all out of him.  In fact, he told me he had
explained everything."

"He certainly left them with the impression that there were
circumstances you didn't wish made known."  The young man started to his
feet and flushed angrily red.

"I?"

"Yes."

"There is nothing whatever.  Nothing to conceal from them," he added in
a lower tone.

"Then a false impression has undoubtedly been given, and I advise you to
set it right.  By the way, when Miss Capponi wrote to ask the question,
why didn't you explain?"

"Bice has never asked anything of the sort?" said Clive angrily, and yet
uneasily.

"Are you certain?  Just reflect.  Last October it was."

"I tell you she has never done anything of the sort.  Why on earth
should she?"

Jack got up and put his hand on his shoulder.

"I dare say it sounds queer to you, but I give you my word, I'm not
asking from idle curiosity.  Your sister _did_ write to you last
October.  Look here, can you make up your mind to tell me your actual
trouble?  You owe money, I dare say.  Much?"

"Much to me," Clive said reluctantly.  "I don't know what you'd call it.
Fifty pounds."

"And to whom?"

"Oh, it's all in Trent's hands now.  That's one blessing."

"Is that all the difficulty?" said Ibbetson.  And this time he faced
round and looked full at the other.  Clive looked at him too, though
distrustfully.

"No," he said slowly.  "But what there is besides, matters to no one."

"No trouble with the firm?"

Jack's eyes were on him still, and he saw that he hesitated.  But he
said "No" again.  Then he broke out more eagerly.

"I can't explain it to you, for Oliver wouldn't like it, and I'm under
tremendous obligations to him, there's nothing wrong, only I've met with
very bad luck."

"Nothing wrong?"

"No.  That I'll swear."

"Well," said Ibbetson, "perhaps I can't expect you to say more to me.
But at any rate your mother and sisters deserve all your confidence.
Write to them fully."

"Oliver said it only bothered them, and that he would explain."

"He has made a mistake or two in the matter, it seems to me," said
Ibbetson with so much concentrated anger in the tone that Clive looked
at him in surprise.  But he recovered himself quickly and put out his
hand, "You'll write, that's understood.  I'm going down to Hetherton,
and will see you again when I come back."

The interview had only been partly satisfactory.  He felt sure that
Clive had neither forged a cheque nor committed any other crime, and
therefore Trent's black insinuations deserved all that Phillis had
thought of them.  At the same time there was a depression about the
young fellow which seemed to show that he was under some darker cloud
than a debt of fifty pounds to a cousin.  The more he thought of it, the
more this conviction grew on him.  Perhaps at Hetherton a light would be
thrown upon it.

Before he had any chance of getting a hansom, he had to walk for some
distance, and a thick wetting rain was falling.  Lights were flashing
and rolling through the fog, the noise of wheels, the cry of newsmen,
were the only distinct sounds which reached him out of that mighty roar
which London sends forth day and night.  Damp and prosaic enough it all
was; a beggar stretched forth a bony hand, the repulsiveness of face and
figure unclothed by the picturesqueness which in the South might have
softened its hideousness.  Yet, as Jack splashed along, something within
him seemed to leap into life as if in answer to a trumpet call.  After
all, it was his own country.  He was young, strong, work had in it more
of a joy than a burden.  He felt as if he had been living of late in a
fool's paradise of dreams, where he was of no good to himself or to
anyone else, except, perhaps, to kind Miss Cartwright.  He had rather
prided himself upon an absence of ambition.  But a consciousness of
strength and a desire to use it seemed to awaken that evening, and,
although he did not own it, probably a wish that others--at any rate one
other--should see that he, too, could _do_, awoke at the same time.
Hetherton had gone from him, but he felt as if other Hethertons lay
beckoning to him from a blue distance, and though he smiled at his own
airy castles, they had the power of enabling him to face the prospect of
the actual place with perfect cheerfulness.  He refused the first hansom
that offered itself, feeling as if the walk home among all those other
workers who were passing, coming and going, was a sort of pledge of
brotherhood with them--given to himself.  And he resolved to run down to
Hetherton to see what he could find out about Trent and Clive.

CHAPTER FIFTEEN.

JACK EXPRESSES AN OPINION.

It was afternoon the next day before he left London, and past dark when
he reached the Hetherton station.  But the day had been fairly fine, and
there was nothing in the evening to prevent his walking the two or three
miles which lay between the station and the house, while his portmanteau
was to come after him in the carrier's cart.  He lingered a little,
especially when he had crossed the sandy common and got down among the
sturdy Scotch firs, so that, what with listening to the rustling of the
wind in their tops, and the brawling of the swollen river, as he passed
in at the lodge he heard the little clock striking seven, the dinner
hour at the Court.

Jack was a favourite with all the servants, and the old butler bustled
out from the dining-room directly he heard who had arrived, and sent a
young footman off with orders about the room.

"You'll like to wash your hands, Mr John, and I'll let master know
you're come."

"Anyone dining here, Jones?"

"Only one gentleman, sir."

There was no time for more.  Jack went up the broad stairs, two or three
at a time, and coming down more leisurely, walked into the dining-room
and found himself face to face with Mr and Mrs Thornton and--Oliver
Trent.

Jack would have been more discomposed had he not heard of this
acquaintanceship from Clive, but as it was, the meeting annoyed him, and
he did not trouble himself to conceal the feeling.  Oliver was prepared,
and wore a passive countenance.  Mr Thornton, who liked Jack as well
as, and his own will very much better than, he liked anybody, was
divided between welcome and displeasure.

"Upon my word, Jack, upon my word, you take us by surprise.  Come for
Christmas, eh?  Well, fortunately a visitor more or less does not make
much difference to Mrs Thornton, and your room is no doubt ready.  But
a carriage should have met you if you had acquainted us.  How did you
come?"

"I walked from the station, and my things were put into old Brook's
cart."

He knew that Mr Thornton hated old Brook's cart, and there was partly a
mischievous desire to tease him, and partly a wish to show Oliver Trent
that he held very lightly the grandeur and riches of the Court.

Mrs Thornton interposed.  She was always interposing with kindly
attempts to smooth down her husband, and an utter want of tact which
made the smoothing produce the contrary effect.

"How did you leave Phillis?" she said.

"_Why_ did you leave her? would be more to the purpose," snorted Mr
Thornton, under his breath.

"She was very well," said Jack, quietly helping himself to cucumber.
"And as to why I came, it was on a little matter of business, and partly
to look after a protege or cousin of yours, Mr Trent, unless I'm
mistaken--Clive Masters."

Oliver Trent's face could not turn pale, but it changed to an
indescribable shade of colour which answered the same purpose, and gave
Ibbetson a moment of delight.

"Masters?" repeated Mr Thornton.  "Isn't that the clerk you were
speaking of?"

"I presume it is," said Trent, recovering himself with an effort,
"although I am at a loss to conceive how my interest for him and Mr
Ibbetson's should run in an identical line?"

"And I am afraid I cannot enlighten you," said Jack.  "Perhaps they
don't.  At any rate I can only answer for my own."

There was a little silence.  Oliver Trent had no desire to force
explanations, and Mr Thornton looked at the young fellow with a feeling
which was partly pride and partly exasperation.  He could never think
that he impressed Jack as he would have liked to impress him, but the
oddest part was that in his heart he envied his imperturbability, and
the ease of manner to which he had never attained.  Not that he was not
a gentleman by birth.  He was a new man in Surrey, but the Thorntons
were a good old family, and he had a right to good manners and good
breeding; perhaps it was that very fact which made him sore over the
consciousness that he had neither.  Money had been his aim in life, and
he had an exaggerated respect for its value, but his pleasure in it was
a good deal marred by his having sufficient acuteness to perceive when
others held it in small account, and he could neither forgive them, nor
in his heart of hearts help respecting them for their indifference.  He
got more dislike than was really his due.  To Jack, both as man and boy,
he had indeed been very kind, and yet Jack sometimes almost detested
him.  At this moment as he looked across the table, sparkling with
silver and valuable glass, he wondered how Phillis had ever endured her
life, and yet more how she had lived it and still preserved that
simplicity and quiet self-possession to which his eyes had lately seemed
to open.  Mr Thornton, with his bald head, insignificant features, and
pompous manner, looked to him more vulgar than ever.  Evidently Oliver
Trent was a favourite.  Ibbetson said no more about Clive, but set
himself with something like amusement to watch Trent's skilful treatment
of his host.  He deferred to him on all subjects, but not in any manner
which should give the suspicion of open flattery, rather expressing at
first a difference of opinion, and gradually allowing himself to be as
it were convinced by Mr Thornton's arguments.  He showed, also, a
delicate appreciation of wealth.  Neither dinner nor wines were lost
upon him, but his praise was discriminating, and implied reserve.  Jack
felt as if he were the spectator of some admirably played game of skill,
the more so that Oliver took no pains to ingratiate himself with him,
rather treating his comparative youth as something to be looked upon
with condescension which was not without contempt.

The evening passed heavily.  Mrs Thornton wished to pet Jack, and was
always irritating her husband, so that at last she got up with a sigh
and went off to bed.  Mr Thornton himself crossed his legs, leaned his
head back against the crimson satin chair and fell asleep; Jack laid
down the _Times_ which he had been studying deeply, and walked towards
Oliver Trent.

"As we have met here," he said, "will you give me five minutes'
conversation in the next room?"

"Conversation?  Oh, certainly."

A heavy portiere separated the rooms; that which they now entered, less
gorgeous in itself, and less glaringly lit, was one in which Phillis
often sat; her piano was in a corner, and a sudden remembrance struck
Jack of the evening when she had been at the window, and had gone out to
him at his request.  A dark flush rose to his forehead at the
recollection; how changed were his thoughts of her since then, and yet
by the strange irony of fate, or more truly by his own folly, then she
was his, and now they were separated--for ever?  Oliver Trent, watchful
and composed, threw himself into a great chair; Ibbetson stood with his
back to the fire.  Moved by these thoughts, he was less at his ease than
he had been throughout the evening, but it was he who had asked for the
conversation, and he who had first to speak.

"I saw young Masters last night," he began.

"So I gathered.  Did you find your interview worth the trouble it had
cost you?"

"You mean a journey from Rome?  I think so."

"Indeed!  Your mission then may be considered fortunate."

Trent's soft voice was touched with scorn, perhaps a little more
strongly than he would have permitted had it been under perfect control,
but Jack took no notice.  He repeated, "I think so.  I believe I shall
now be able to remove some misunderstandings which have been causing his
family considerable anxiety and pain.  You will allow me to add that it
strikes me as a pity that you ever suffered the misunderstandings to
exist."

"I certainly shall not allow you to add anything which implies that you
have the right to interfere with what relates to the private concerns of
my own family," said Trent hotly.

"I am afraid the veto, if it rested in your hands, would be applied too
late," said Jack with a cool scorn which stung the older man.  "My
advice has been already given."  And then he made a step forward on the
rug, and a sudden fire flashed into his eyes which few persons had ever
seen there.  "You are in my uncle's house as his guest, and that, Mr
Trent, prevents me from speaking as plainly as I might otherwise do.
But it does not hinder my thinking, and I leave you to imagine what is
my opinion of a man who has suffered three helpless women, in a foreign
land, to endure all the anguish of believing that their son and brother
had sunk into a villain when a word from him would have lifted the load
from their hearts.  Suffered, did I say?  Rather himself raised the
suspicion in their hearts, and nursed it there."

The contempt in the young man's tone was unmistakable.  When Trent
answered, it was as if he struggled to use the same weapons and could
not bring them to bear.

"May I enquire from whom you have gathered these remarkable facts?"

"From those who were interested," replied Jack after a momentary pause.
He did not wish to bring in Bice's name, but Oliver understood whom he
meant, and became almost livid.  He started up.

"And it is you who venture to bring such scandalous accusations--you,
whose conduct in Florence was so unworthy the name of gentleman that if
Mr Thornton, with his high and honourable character, was acquainted
with it, he would not, I believe, tolerate you in his house!  I
repudiate your charge.  It is false.  If my cousins mistook my warnings,
it is not my fault.  The word you have used never passed my lips--"

Jack interrupted him.

"It could not.  But you implied it."

"Implied!"

"Yes.  To women who were terrified at shadows--and no wonder.  What did
they know about possibilities or proofs?"

"Until you enlightened them," said Oliver with a sneer.  "Pray, Mr
Ibbetson, do you habitually indulge in romances of this description?"

Jack treated this speech with lofty indifference.

"I have said my say, and there's an end of it I suppose," he said,
turning to the fire, and pushing a log with his foot.  He went on
speaking with his back turned to Trent.  "I intended to let you know my
opinion, and have done so; as for the others who are mixed up in the
matter, they can form their own as they please."

"I have something of my own for you to listen to, though," Trent
answered, recovering his coolness.  "Your opinions are of too small
importance for me to treat this impertinence as it perhaps deserves.
Probably it arises from pique, and I may afford to pity it.  But if we
come to opinions I can give you my own hot and strong.  I should like to
hear what any honourable man would say of a gentleman who, engaged to
one lady, not only flung away her affections, but deliberately insulted
her by trying to gain those of another who was already pledged.  Eh, Mr
Ibbetson?  Is this cock-and-bull story your last hope?"

There was enough truth in this speech for it to sting, and Jack felt an
instinctive conviction that it was spoken for an auditor, and that if he
looked round he should see Mr Thornton standing in the doorway.  There
he actually was, and the anger and perplexity in his red face were so
ludicrously strong, that Jack's anger was choked in an inclination to
laugh.

"What is that you say, Trent?  Be good enough to repeat it," he said,
coming forward and waving back the chair which Jack pushed forward.

"It is a private matter between your nephew and myself," said Trent, as
if reluctantly.

"Private?  Nonsense.  You alluded to an affair in which I am as much
interested as anyone.  I knew there was something of which I had not
been informed.  Both of you were aware I was within hearing, so now I
insist upon hearing properly.  Well, sir?"

The last interrogation was addressed loudly to Jack, who was leaning
against the chimney-piece in an easy attitude which seemed like a
personal affront to his uncle.  He shrugged his shoulders slightly.

"Mr Trent was speaking, sir, not I."

"Do you suppose I require to be told _that_?  Mr Trent was speaking,
and he was saying things which you should be ashamed of anyone having
the power of saying," said Mr Thornton, angrily.

"Excuse me.  Not of any one.  The force of an accusation altogether
depends upon who makes it," said Jack, with a haughty look at the other.

"If you will allow me, Mr Thornton," said Trent rising, "I will wish
you good-night.  Your nephew would naturally prefer to offer his
explanations alone with you.  I exceedingly regret my own rashness of
speech."

"Stop, sir!" said Mr Thornton, bringing down his closed fist on his
knees with a thump.  "I manage matters in my own house in my own way.
Let me hear what you have to say, and let me hear what he has to say,
and then I shall know something of where we all are."

"You must make allowances for my feeling sore," said Oliver, still
apologetically, "as the other lady to whom I alluded is my promised
wife."

"Now is that the truth or a lie?" reflected Ibbetson.  "If it's the
truth I had better have left the matter alone."

"Do you mean that he tried to make her jilt you, while he himself jilted
Phillis Grey?" demanded Mr Thornton strongly.  All Jack's indifference
was shaken.  He stepped forward, drawing himself up to his full height,
and his face was resolute and stern.

"I see no use in dragging Miss Grey's name into this discussion," he
said, with a determination which impressed his uncle in spite of
himself; "but since you and Mr Trent have done so, you will be good
enough to understand that the facts have not been correctly represented.
At the time of which he speaks, he was certainly not engaged to Miss
Capponi, and as for my acting towards Miss Grey as you suppose, though I
am perhaps a fool, I am not such an utter fool as that would prove me.
That is sufficient for to-night, I think.  Good-night, Uncle Peter," and
he marched out of the room, with his head rather high, and without a
glance at Oliver.

No one stopped him; his uncle would have liked to have done so, but was
not sure that in his present mood he would have attended to his wishes.
Mr Thornton looked after the young fellow with an anger that was partly
envy.  Trent got up.

"I regret this very much," he said in his soft tone.  "He made an
uncalled-for attack upon me, and I lost my temper and retaliated,
without knowing that you were present."

"Didn't you see me?" said Mr Thornton simply.  "Well, what you said
explained a good deal.  I never believed Phillis would have set all my
wishes aside."  Then, as Trent remained silent, he went on--"However,
they both of them know the alternative.  When I have made up my mind I
don't change."

"No, you have an enviable force of determination.  I believe it to be
the secret of your success."

"No doubt, no doubt," said Mr Thornton, rising also, and shaking
himself as if he would have thus got rid of a lingering compunction.
"I'm a plain man, and I keep to my word.  None of your shilly-shallying
for me, and that Master Jack will learn, in spite of his confounded
airs.  Good-night, Trent."

CHAPTER SIXTEEN.

"THE HAND OF DOUGLAS IS HIS OWN."

Jack took care to come down late to breakfast the next morning, having
no inclination to partake of it with Oliver Trent, and feeling sure that
Trent would respect the punctuality which reigned at Hetherton.  He had
cold fare in consequence himself, though the old butler did what he
could, and when it was finished, he received a message to the effect
that Mr Thornton was waiting for him in the small room where he
sometimes transacted business.  He was a little sorry to find Mrs
Thornton also there, for, although her aim was always to make peace, the
result where her husband was concerned was almost invariably of an
opposite nature, all her married years having failed to teach her the
management of his temper.  She was fonder of Jack than of Phillis, and
defended him wildly, in a manner which was most exasperating to an
irritable man.  Jack saw at a glance as he entered that some passage at
arms had already taken place, for she was sitting upright, injured and
tearful, while his uncle with a very red face poked the fire furiously.

"Very sorry to disturb you so early," he said, brandishing the poker,
and looking hard at a timepiece, "we poor working men are obliged to
descend to such insignificant details of life as punctuality.  Of course
with you it is different."

"I don't know about that," said Jack, good-humouredly, "I'm afraid
you're trying to chaff me.  But you ought to allow I'm not often so
late."

"That is what I told your uncle," broke in Mrs Thornton with eagerness.
"I am sure there are so many young men who come here who are so much
worse--"

"Much fiddlesticks!" growled her husband.  "What are those young idiots
to me?  However, you never can do anything that's not perfect, so, of
course I give in.  I suppose I am to be told this morning that all this
Italian business is just as it should be."

"We are both sorry that you should be disappointed," Jack said quietly,
"but--"

"Disappointed!  The disappointment will be on your side you will find!"

"Excuse me, I had not finished my sentence.  I was going to say that
grateful as I am for your kindness, this is a matter in which I could
not allow anyone to dictate to me."

"Oh, very well, sir, very well.  You must go your own way.  I shall not
attempt to interfere.  Only you will quite understand that neither you
nor Phillis have anything more to look for from my hands."

Mrs Thornton broke in appealingly.  "My dear Peter!  Now do not be so
hasty.  You know how sorry you often are when it is too late."

"Will you hold your tongue?" said her husband, glaring at her.

"You don't really mean it," she went on disregarding, "you know you
don't.  Jack has been about the place ever since we came here twelve
years ago, and he was a nice little boy in a short jacket--"

"_Will_ you be quiet?"

"No, I won't.  If nobody else is here to speak, I shall tell you what I
think of it.  There is nobody so near you as Jack.  As to all this
business, you know very well that it is no one's fault but Phillis's,
she said so herself in her letters, and I do say it is a shame that the
poor boy should suffer--"

Mr Thornton was in a red heat of passion.  Jack said abruptly.

"No, that is not the case.  Whatever blame there is--and I suppose there
always is blame, first or last, in a broken engagement--rests entirely
with me.  It will be very unjust, Uncle Peter, if you visit my sins on
poor Phillis.  I tell you honestly that I liked the thought of Hetherton
at first, I dare say I should like it still; but it was a mistake of
yours, I think, though no doubt you meant it kindly, to mix up the two
things together, and it makes it uncommonly hard upon one of the two,
don't you see?  Set it right with Phillis, and I shall take my
disinheriting without grumbling."

Phillis was Mr Thornton's favourite as Jack was his wife's, and this
speech of Jack's smoothed him down a little.  But he shook his head
obstinately.

"Whatever I may be, I'm not a weather-cock.  I made up my mind
deliberately, and I'm not going to change it for any boy or girl
fancies.  Marry Phillis, and you and she and your heirs after you shall
have Hetherton, and plenty to keep it on.  Don't marry her, and I shall
find another successor.  That's all.  You can't have it more plainly."

"Oh, it's plain enough," said Jack with some bitterness, walking over to
the window.  What he thought was that it placed a wider gulf than ever
between them.  For he could not think that she cared about Hetherton,
and he knew he did--to a certain degree; and how could he come near her
again with this condition hanging over them?  "Well," he said, turning
back to the fire, "then there's no more to be said, except that I still
hope you will alter your determination.  I wanted a word with you about
young Masters."

"What of him?"

"Is he doing well?"

"Just the reverse.  We should have sent him off by this time if it had
not been for my very good friend Mr Trent," said Mr Thornton, pressing
up his under lip and looking defiantly at his nephew.

"What are his sins?"

"Perhaps you don't think so much of them in your set.  We business men
have an antiquated idea that it is dishonourable to give a promissory
note when you have no means of meeting it when due."

"I am sure Jack would never be dishonourable," murmured Mrs Thornton.

"Ah--" said Jack musingly.  "Then the money was not forthcoming?"

"Certainly not."

"And you heard of it?"

"I was informed by Mr Trent, who being interested in the young scamp--"

"His cousin," put in Jack.

"His cousin!"  Mr Thornton looked astonished for a moment.  "Well,
then, his cousin--very generously paid the money and got the note into
his own hands.  He acted throughout in the manner I should have expected
from him, came to me at once, asked my advice, and begged me, if I felt
it a possibility, to give the lad another chance.  After consideration I
consented.  Pray have you anything to say against all this?"

"Not to-day," Ibbetson answered quietly.

"Not to-day!" repeated his uncle.  "Perhaps you intend setting yourself
up as the young man's champion against his best friend.  And I tell you
what, Jack.  You seemed to me to be trying to pick a quarrel with Mr
Trent last night.  Don't let me see anything of the sort again.  You
will be good enough to behave to him as my friend."

"Not as mine, at all events," said Jack, smiling as he reflected that
his uncle treated him with as much authority as if, instead of
disinheriting, he had just invested him with all his worldly goods.

"And why not?" demanded Mr Thornton.

"That I cannot explain at present.  Never mind, Uncle Peter, we shan't
clash.  I'm going up to town by the next train, and shall be out of the
way."

Mr Thornton's face fell.  In spite of all that had passed, he was very
much disappointed.  He thought Jack, who seldom gave in to him and never
lost his temper, and who was therefore a very pleasant companion, would
have spent Christmas with them.  Under present circumstances he could
not condescend to ask him to stay, but he would have liked his wife to
do so in private, instead of exclaiming--

"There, Peter, I told you so!  Now you have driven him away.  Your uncle
didn't mean it, my dear boy, though I don't think you are right about
that nice Mr Trent."

"I haven't said anything, have I?"

"Well, I suppose it means something when you decline to meet him as a
friend."

"`The hand of Douglas is his own,'" quoted Jack.  "I am very sorry, but
I can't do otherwise.  And I must be off at once, if I am to catch the
train."

"You can have the carriage," said Mr Thornton gruffly.

"No, thank you, the morning is so fine, I prefer to walk."

"Stop a moment.  Then you are not going out again to Rome?"

"Not unless I am obliged to do so.  I shall spend Christmas with my
father, and then come up for real hard work.  Good-bye; good-bye, Aunt
Harriet."

"Hard work!" repeated Mr Thornton with scorn, as the door closed.  And
yet he was feeling a reluctant admiration for the straightforwardness
with which the young fellow had behaved.  If he had been left alone he
would probably have relented, but his wife, with the best intentions in
the world, immediately rubbed him up the wrong way.

"Of course you don't mean it, Peter," she said anxiously.

Perhaps nothing irritates a man so much as being told that he does not
mean what he has just proclaimed with some emphasis as his intention.
He faced round--

"Don't I?  I mean every word of it.  I gave them both fair notice."

"Then I do think it is a shame.  And there will be nobody we care for to
come after us.  I don't believe you will be able to think of anyone at
all."

Mr Thornton was immediately possessed with a desire to prove his
prescience.

"Pooh!" he said, "you don't know what you're talking about.  I'm not by
any means sure that it's not a good thing for the property that this has
happened.  Jack treats it all too lightly, as if money were got together
in a week.  I should prefer some one who would take my name, and go on
carefully building up as I have done.  Such a man as Trent, for
instance.  Highly principled, and thoroughly trustworthy, I don't know
such another.  If it hadn't been for him I should never have known the
rights of this business."

Mr Thornton banged the door to emphasise his last sentence, and then
frowned, hearing Jack whistling as he ran down the steps.  With the
frown on his face he went in pursuit of Mr Trent.

"Look here, Trent," he began, "that young clerk's business was plain
enough, I suppose?"

"Quite so," said Trent steadily.  "Your nephew has been talking of him?
He seems to have taken an unaccountable prejudice against me, but I am
sure I wish his efforts could prove the poor boy blameless.  I have done
my best in that direction, and failed.  From his being a connection of
my own, and from an especial cause of interest, I am peculiarly desirous
for it.  Nothing else could have led me to appeal to your kindness as I
have done, and I assure you I cannot be sufficiently grateful."

"Never mind that," said Mr Thornton with a wave of the hand.

"Excuse me, it is impossible to forget it.  I can take credit for
nothing but entire frankness in the matter.  Dismissal would have been
ruin, and with most men dismissal must have resulted; but I could not
have allowed you to remain in the dark, and your kindness in the matter
may be the saving of the unhappy boy."

"What can Jack know about him?" asked Mr Thornton.

"Probably some distorted account of the matter has reached him," Trent
replied calmly.  "Unfortunately, as I said, your nephew is prejudiced
against me.  Does his opinion affect you?  Because, if so, you must
allow me to insist upon Masters's dismissal."

"Affect me?  Certainly not," said Mr Thornton, swelling.  "I am not
likely to be influenced in my opinions by Master Jack.  Besides, he
seemed to take his part."

"You may be sure that I am keeping an eye upon him," said Trent, not
noticing these words.  "If I see anything at all unsatisfactory, your
interests will at all times be paramount to every other consideration.
Have you seen the paper?  I was wishing particularly to hear your
opinion on last night's news."

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN.

PURSUIT.

Jack had an hour in which to think over his plan of operations as he
went flying up to London in the express.  The day was bright and frosty,
the sky lightly flecked with clouds, the trees beautiful with the lights
on their trunks, with the delicate web-work of their branches clear
against the blue, with ivy hanging here and there brave and green.
Every little pool of water showed a deep steely blue.  Red berries
brightened the hedges, and at the stations there were bundles of glossy
holly and mistletoe, tied up for the London markets, hampers thrust into
the train, a general air of approaching good cheer.  It was next to
impossible not to feel some exhilaration, actual or reflected.

And yet his own position was not very enviable just now.  He had lost
Phillis, he had lost Hetherton, and he had an awkward affair on his
hands for which, except in the moments when his easy-going nature was
roused to an active dislike of Trent--and these moments quickly
exhausted themselves--he felt a strong distaste.  He meant to carry it
through, because Phillis had set her heart upon it, but he had nothing
of the detective in him, and at no time found any satisfaction in
proving a fellow-creature a sinner.  So that, although the remembrance
of Bice's wistful eyes stirred him, and he was aware that it would be
cowardly to leave friendless Clive under the shadow which had been
thrown over him, he yet would have been glad to have kept Oliver Trent's
share in the matter in the background.  It was partly laziness, partly a
general good-will.  As he was swept along by the train, past field and
copse, and commons, he tried to think of some possible means by which
justice and mercy might both be satisfied, but, as is generally the
case, found it hard to keep the balance true.  Perhaps he would not have
minded so greatly if he had not found Trent domiciled at Hetherton.  He
knew nothing, it is true, of that last idea of Mr Thornton's, but he
saw that he was on a very friendly footing there, and hated the notion
of being the one to push him out.  The consequence of all these
misgivings was that when he reached Waterloo Station he had not made up
his mind as to any more definite course of action than that he would go
out to Kensington again in the evening, and get Clive to speak more
freely.

When he found himself there, after some hours of work in his chambers,
he was told that Mr Masters had not come in.  He went for a stretch
along Kensington High Street as far as Holland House, where the trees
stood up dark against the grey dusk, and then came back to receive the
same answer.  The girl, with a dirty apron thrown over her arm, was too
much taken up with staring at the visitor, to be communicative.

"Can you tell me at all whether Mr Masters is likely to be in soon?"
asked Ibbetson.

"No, sir, I couldn't."

"Is he generally back by this time?"

"Sometimes he is, and sometimes he isn't.  Mostly he is," she added with
the jerk of an after-thought.

"I'll go in and wait, I think.  No, I won't," he said finally, feeling a
strong dislike to anything which looked like invading Clive's secrets,
whatever they might be.  After a little deliberation he left his card
with a few pencilled words on it to say that he would call at the city
office next day, in order to appoint a meeting, and went back to his
lodgings.

He found himself thinking a good deal that night of Hetherton and Oliver
Trent.  His presence there was unlikely to bode any good to Jack's
interests, and yet that very conviction made him dislike to be the one
to expose him, if exposure should be needed.  But calmer reflection made
him believe this to be impossible.  There might be some error, or
possibly an exaggerated putting forward of his own services, such as
should impress Bice, but of anything worse, Jack in the kindness of his
heart, which always reasserted itself, after he had been stirred to
anger, was disposed to acquit him.  Yet it was difficult to reconcile
the small bits of information which as yet were all he had succeeded in
picking up with each other, and he fell asleep with the determination to
induce Clive to speak more clearly, now that chance had disclosed to him
this business of the promissory note.

The following morning he was at the office in good time.  Of course he
was well-known there, and there had been days when Mr Thornton dreamed
of his taking to this city life--a dream which never got any nearer to
its fulfilment, but which always could be remembered as a grievance.
Old Davis, the senior clerk, was fetched in a moment.  Ibbetson was
beginning to explain his errand, when Davis interrupted him.

"Walk this way, if you please, sir," he said, "and we shall have the
place to ourselves."

"What a den it is, to be sure!" said Jack, looking round the dreary
little room, with its drearier fittings.  "Davis, do you mean to tell me
you don't sometimes feel disposed to hang yourself?"

"Bless my soul, sir, why?"

"Why, for want of anything more lively to do.  And this is what that
unfortunate Masters has to grind at!" continued Jack in an audible
soliloquy.  Davis caught at the name.

"The fact is, Mr Ibbetson," he said, looking grave, "we're in great
perplexity about Mr Masters."

"What's happened?"

"He hasn't turned up to-day at all."

"Ill, I suppose," said Jack.

"Well, sir, not at his lodgings.  I sent a boy off and I find he has not
been there since leaving this at the usual hour yesterday.  Then he was
in good health, to all appearance.  I can't help fearing there's
something wrong."

"Good Heavens, Davis, what can be wrong?" said Ibbetson hastily.

"The young man has not been himself for some time, and perhaps that
makes me nervous," said the old man with a deliberation which tried his
companion's patience.  "Besides, if you know him, Mr John, you are
aware that there has been an unpleasantness about a money matter.  It
always is love or money with those young fellows.  He got into debt,
borrowed from one of those rascally money-lenders, giving him a
promissory note, and when the time came had nothing to meet it.  I
believe it was a small sum, and it's not such an uncommon story, but a
bad one to get to the ears of the principals, and somehow or other, I'm
sure I don't know how, that is what happened here."

"Ah, I see," said Ibbetson.

"The consequence is that they have looked coldly on him ever since, and
you'll understand, Mr John, that others who would not be shocked on
their own account will follow the heads, if only to curry favour.  I've
been quite surprised, I declare, to see how many know it.  And I can't
help feeling sorry for the poor lad, wrong as he has been, for he seems
to take it to heart terribly."

"Does he say anything for himself?"

"Well, he has a cock-and-a-bull sort of story," said old Davis, putting
his head on one side.  "He was sent down to Birmingham on business the
week the note became due, and he says he gave the money to a man he
trusted to pay it up for him, and that the man has made off or
something, for he can find no trace of him.  Very unlikely, I am afraid.
Mr Trent did all he could in the matter, paid the money, and made it a
personal favour to Mr Thornton to keep Mr Masters on, but I feared how
it would be when I saw how much had leaked out.  I'm sorry, too, for I
liked him."

Jack walked to the dingy window and looked out.

"Have you no sort of idea where he has gone, if he has gone, as I see
you believe?"

"Yes," said the clerk confidently.  "I think he has gone to Liverpool."

"Why?"

"They all go there, that's one reason.  And then I know he has been
asking questions in and out about Liverpool of one of the others.  I
feel pretty sure he has America in his head."

"Now, Davis, you can do me a favour," said Jack, coming back suddenly.
"We're close on Christmas.  Make some excuse about his absence to-day--
put it on me if you like--and, give me a chance of getting hold of him.
I shall go down to Liverpool at once.  And, mind you, it's my opinion he
will turn out not to blame in that money business."

"But, Mr John, how can I!"

"Nonsense, man, you haven't been here five-and-twenty years for nothing.
I'll telegraph back, and be responsible to my uncle," added Jack with a
half laugh.  "Hey, boy, call a cab."

He left Davis standing bewildered, drove to his lodgings, crammed what
he wanted into a portmanteau, and dashed off to the station, luckily
catching a fast train.  On his way he had plenty of time for reflection
on the increasing oddity of his position.  There seemed so little to
connect him with Clive, that it was absolutely comical to realise that
Clive had brought him to England, excited him to various warlike
passages entirely opposed to his usual temperament, and was now drawing
him off on what was likely to prove a fool's errand.  "I hope Phillis at
least will appreciate my efforts," thought Jack, with a laugh.  It was
she, not Bice, who presented herself to his mind as the motive power for
his present energy, her influence always keeping its full strength when
they were apart, while Bice's faded, seeming to depend upon presence,
and probably the fascination of her beauty.  And yet Jack's kind heart
was enlisted by this time on behalf of the young fellow, who, he could
not but believe, was in some strange way a victim.

While he was in London, there had seemed a chance of finding Clive at
Liverpool, but when in the darkness and bitter cold of a December
evening he stood on the Liverpool platform, the chance seemed to run
down at once until it looked like an impossibility.  The police were his
only hope, and he drove at once to a police station in order to put them
on the track, experiencing the usual relief in finding how ordinary--
however doubtful--a matter he seemed to be engaged upon.  A
superintendent put a few questions, gave a few instructions, and then
delivered his opinion.  Always supposing that the young man had come
there at all--in which case America was tolerably certain to be his
aim--it was of course quite possible that he had got off that day, but
not likely.  In the first place he was a stranger and would not know how
to set to work, and would be shy of asking advice--a good thing, too,
put in the superintendent.  It would be necessary for him to dispose of,
or change his clothes, as money for others would probably be wanting.
Also he would have to ship himself.  At some seasons this might be a
difficulty: but Christmas was not a bad time for him to have chosen, as
men did not like sailing just then, and therefore hands were scarce.
There was a chance, and not a slight one, that he might go on board that
very night, and if he meant to hide, there might be difficulties in
getting him away.  That the superintendent could not pronounce upon.
But his own opinion inclined to the more hopeful view that he would not
sail till the next day.  Ibbetson was not sorry to be advised to leave
the inquiries absolutely in their hands for that evening, only promising
to be ready at an early hour the next morning in case he was called upon
to accompany them.

The call came when he was sound asleep, and a message was joined to it
to the effect that he was begged to lose no time.  Accordingly he was
quickly downstairs, and found a policeman waiting at the door of the
hotel.

In the damp chill of the early morning--very damp and very chill it
was--it was almost a matter of course that things should look yet more
hopeless than they had looked the night before.  Night appeals to the
imagination and works her wonders easily, while morning is coldly
prosaic and depressing.  A little rain had fallen, lights were still
flashing about, shining on wet stones, on which bales and barrels lay
heaped; and of the great forest of masts in the river, only those near
at hand were beginning to loom out of the mist.  Jack's conductor
walking briskly along, and quite unaffected by atmospheric influences,
told him that they had found that one vessel was to sail that day, and
that the gentleman was not on board.

"And that's all?" said Jack, disappointed.

"That's all, sir, at present.  She has been closely watched, and if he
joins her it will be soon, and you can't miss him."

"Keep out of sight," said Ibbetson, "and if he does turn up, settle with
the captain and come to the hotel."

They had reached the wharf where the vessel lay, and Ibbetson sat down
on a barrel.  His watch did not last long.  A young light figure came
running, carrying a bundle, and leaping over a coil of rope which lay in
the way, and Jack, more from precaution than any actual conviction that
this was Clive, stopped him.  It was the young fellow's start which
first assured him, but recognition did not at once dawn in Clive's eyes.
When it did, he turned pale.

"You here!" he stammered.

"And just in time," was Jack's cheerful answer.  "I never did anything
half so neatly in my life before.  My dear fellow, don't be looking
round to see how you can give me the slip.  The most inveterate of bores
never stuck to you as closely as I shall stick."

"Mr Ibbetson," said Clive imploringly, "let me go.  It's my best
chance, it is indeed--don't be so hard on me as to take it away.
Somehow or other everything has got into a mess here, and over there,"
and as he spoke he pointed towards that shadowy world out of which the
masts were beginning to stretch themselves, "I may do better."

"You will do better here," said Jack.

"No, you don't know."

"Yes.  I do know--quite enough.  Come along," he added, drawing him
away, and anxious that the policeman should not become visible.  "If
there is a mess, the more reason you should be here to set things
right;" and seeing Clive was still reluctant, he added more gravely,
"Look here, Masters.  If, when we've gone into the matter and tried to
put it straight, it seems as if America would be your best chance after
all, I give you my word I'll help you to go there in a straightforward
fashion, better than this.  Now we'll get back your clothes.  Are they
sold?"

"Most of them."

"Let's hunt them up again, then.  You lead on, for I know nothing of the
place."

"But how on earth did you come here?" asked Clive, beginning to find
time for astonishment.

"Well, I heard from old Davis--I must telegraph to him, by the bye--and
came down last night, made a few inquiries, and hearing the Queen of the
Ocean was to sail, kept an eye upon her."

It sounded so simple in Jack's cheery voice, that Clive, who had fancied
he had arranged so as to baffle all pursuit, listened with a blank
conviction of powerlessness.

"My coming away didn't matter much," he muttered.

"Except to yourself," said Ibbetson quietly.  "Hallo, is this the
street?"

Clive was silent through all the transactions which followed, but when,
restored to his own garments, he and Ibbetson had nearly reached the
hotel, he said suddenly,--

"I don't know how much or how little you know, but you may as well hear
the right facts."

"Not till we've breakfasted," said Jack with decision.  "This early
rising has a wonderful effect upon the appetite.  Breakfast first,
afterwards your story if you like, and then we'll go up by the 11:30
train."

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN.

CLIVE.

Clive's shyness and depression made it no easy matter to get at the
facts, even when he had begun to tell them.  He was cast down by this
failure of what he had set his heart upon, slow to believe that he was
trusted, and on his side suspicious of the other man's intentions, until
Jack grew angry.  It is difficult for those who all their life long have
been accustomed to have unhesitating credit given to their word, to
understand the doubts, the fears of those less fortunate in trust,
though perhaps not less deserving of it.  And yet as Clive sat in the
coffee room, with his elbows on the table, his misery was so apparent
that Jack resolved to do his best to pull him through.  He worked his
questions patiently backwards and forwards.

"All that's clear enough," he said, leaning back and clasping his hands
round his knee.  "You owed a little money, and that means of escape--
though destruction would be the better word--always _is_ placed
conveniently near at hand.  Don't tell me any more about that part of
the business.  The other half is the most important.  You had scraped
together the money, principal and interest?"

"Every penny," said Clive looking up quickly.  "How could you manage
that?"

"I'm sure I hardly know," he said with a half laugh.  Then he added,
with more confidence than he had yet shown--"You wouldn't understand my
shifts.  I sold some things, and the rest I got out of myself somehow.
I wonder now I didn't break down."

"I expect you did," muttered Ibbetson, glancing at the hollow cheeks,
and reflecting that this foolish attempt at escape was probably the
outcome of broken-down nerves resulting from a life of semi-starvation.
And Trent had looked on pitilessly!  Clive went on with his story in a
dull voice, making no attempt to appeal to his hearer's sympathies:

"I was sent down to Birmingham a day or two before it became due, and I
left the money with a man I knew--Smith.  I didn't hear anything, but I
never doubted its being all right till I got back and found that he had
bolted and that the money had never been paid.  From that day to this I
haven't heard a word of him.  I dare say you don't believe me."

"But I do," said Ibbetson impatiently.  "My dear fellow, for pity's
sake, pluck up a little spirit!  Why shouldn't I believe you?"

"Nobody does, that's all."

"Well, we'll make them.  Now, why don't you trace this man?"

"I can't."

"How have you tried?"

"I went to his lodgings of course, and made no end of a row.  There they
said that he went out one day--the day after I left, it must have been--
with a bag, and has never come back.  I've been there again and again
and never got anything new.  Then, you see, I can't afford detectives
and all that sort of thing--"

"They'll soon get hold of him," said Ibbetson, looking at his watch.

"No, they won't, for Oliver Trent was awfully good, and undertook to set
them to work."

"And paid the money for you besides?"

"The fifty pounds?  Yes.  I owe it to him, and if you'd let me go, I'd
have paid it back one of these days."

"Then I can't see why you shouldn't have stopped on and worked steadily.
I don't suppose he'd have pressed you."

"I would, if I'd only thought he believed me.  But he didn't, not a bit
more than the rest of them.  It takes all the spirit out of a fellow.
And now, they'll taunt me about this--I tell you, Mr Ibbetson, it's no
use.  I can't face it all again."

"Nonsense," said Jack sharply.  "Don't let your troubles drive you into
being a coward.  It seems to me, though I don't pretend to preach, that
there are one or two things you might have remembered, Masters, which
would have tided you over.  Not face it?  Face it, and clear it up."

"That's very fine to say," groaned Clive.

"Well, we'll see.  It's time now to be off.  And remember as to this
affair, if you keep your own counsel, nobody but Davis need know
anything about it.  It's a pity you haven't made more of a friend of old
Davis."

When they reached London, Ibbetson took his companion to his own
lodgings.  He had intended to have gone down to his father's for
Christmas, but that was out of the question if he was to follow up
Clive's affairs, and indeed the hurrying events of the last few days
made him glad of some hours of leisure.  Two letters were waiting for
him--one, a kind, warm, rather shy letter from his stepmother, which he
tossed more impatiently aside than it deserved; the other from Miss
Cartwright.  This he read eagerly.  Excepting herself, they were all
well, she said; the weather mild, Rome not yet full.  She was a good
deal confined to the house, but sometimes was able to take a drive on
the Pincio, and when this was the case nothing would tempt Cartouche
away from accompanying her, though she was sure he found it very dull to
be shut into a carriage, and certainly presented a comical appearance,
for the people stared at him with great astonishment.  For Cartouche's
sake, she almost wished they had not gone to Rome.  Phillis was much
with her.  She was well, and found the Peningtons comfortable
acquaintances, keen on seeing what they could, and apparently delighted
to have Phillis with them.  Of course that made it more pleasant for
her.  There was a good deal more of the same sort in the letter, gentle
loving little remarks falling here and there, and leaving no sting.

No sting?  Jack extracted something very like one from the innocent
words.  Was this man going to make love to Phillis?  He read the letter
over and over again, each time with increasing dissatisfaction.  Yet
what was it to him?  Were they not separated?  Did he even love her?  He
was not sure.  He only hated Mr Penington, and indulged in some
expression of his feelings.

Altogether it was an odd sort of Christmas Day which followed.  He had a
strange unreasonable impression as if he were shut out of the homes
which were his by right; thoroughly unreasonable when it came to be
sifted, since it was very certain that there was not one at which he
would not have been welcome.  Perhaps he nursed this notion, to account
for the cloud which seemed to have grown up since he read his Roman
letter with all Miss Cartwright's kind messages, but the impression of
banishment and disgrace ever after haunted his remembrance of the day.

In the afternoon he took Clive to the lodgings of the man who had
absconded, asking some questions by the way; the lad seldom opening his
heart sufficiently to speak without being questioned.  Yet every now and
then Jack caught a glimpse which showed him he was not ungrateful.

"Was Smith a steady fellow?" he asked.  "Did he seem in want of money?"

"Oh, he wanted money, of course.  Most of my friends do," said Clive
with a laugh.  "But he was steady enough.  The last man in the world I
should have expected to serve me so.  This is the street."

"Well, keep well out of sight," directed Jack.  "We'll see if I can't
make an impression on the landlady."

He found her voluble over her wrongs--"To have gone off quite unexpected
without by your leave or with your leave, and not a word of notice, nor
to have heard nothing from that day to this, and the rent owing, and--"

"It seems strange to me that he did not take his things," hazarded Jack.

The woman gave him a quick glance.

"Things!  There was little enough he had.  He took his carpet bag, and
in that there was everything he had of value, that you may be sure of,
and me such a loser and quite unsuspecting; and as for the bits he left
behind, well, sir, if you wish for an inventory, there's a bootjack and
a clothes-brush, and--"

"Never mind the things," said Ibbetson pleasantly.  "I quite understand,
as you say, that they're not likely to be worth much.  It's Mr Smith
himself that I'm anxious to find.  Don't you think he mentioned where he
was going, and that it may have slipped your memory?"

"Oh, my memory is good enough I'm not of that age to be growing
forgetful," said the woman with a toss of her head.  But she was
evidently mollified.

"That's exactly what I should have thought, only I couldn't make it out;
for I am sure when I go away for a day or two I always tell my landlady,
and Mr Smith would probably have valued you sufficiently to do the
same, so that I should have expected him to say something."

"Well, sir, he _did_ mention a name."

"I was certain he would.  But I dare say you naturally thought, when he
didn't make his appearance the next day or afterwards, that it was only
intended to put you on a wrong scent?"

"Well, I don't deny it.  And you see, sir, they came bothering me so
with questions, one young gentleman in particular, I'm sure fit to tear
the place down; and there's so many unpleasant things as happens on the
papers, and my sister Mrs Walker, says she, `Mary Jane, don't you go
mixing yourself up with you don't know what,' and another gentleman as
come, he as good as said the same."

"Yes, I can quite understand," said Ibbetson quietly.  But he was really
a good deal startled.  "This other gentleman, I think I know him, tall,
with a reddish face, and a soft voice?"

"Yes, sir," said the woman, staring.

"Then you mentioned the name to him?"

"Well, I did.  And he advised me, very serious like, not to let it out,
particularly not to the young gentleman.  There were unpleasantnesses
about, and I might get into a good deal of trouble--that's what he said,
in his very words."

Jack was reflecting how much Trent had paid by way of impressing his
advice.  He took out a sovereign, and saw that she saw it.

"There's no chance of that any longer, I give you my word," he said.
"I'm afraid the name of the place won't go far towards finding him, but
I should like to have it."

She hesitated.  Ibbetson kicked a stone under his feet.

"You're sure I shan't get into trouble?"

"Certain."

"You don't look like one to deceive.  Well, it was Worthing, as he spoke
of."

"Any street?"

"No, only somewhere near a church.  But that gentleman couldn't find him
there."

"Thank you.  That doesn't at all signify.  I'm very much obliged to you,
and I hope, after taking up your time, you'll allow me to offer you this
very small remuneration."

Jack said it with his finest manner, and the woman was delighted--more
even with the manner than the sovereign.  Then he rejoined Clive, who
was waiting for him.

CHAPTER NINETEEN.

ENDING IN THREE NOTES.

Worthing has by this time pushed itself forward towards the van, but a
very short time ago it was a sleepy little place, made up of rows of
small houses, or villas planted in gardens, neater, trimmer, and more
flowery than you could easily find elsewhere.  The turf was fine
delicate stuff from the neighbouring downs, in which an intruding daisy
or dandelion scarcely dared to show its head; it required a long and
patient search to find a morsel of groundsel for a bird; the tiniest
gardens were full of trim surprises--you went up mounds and round
corners, and came upon little ponds in which lived two gold fish, or
found a miniature Alpine settlement in a corner which was almost a
labyrinth.  It was then chiefly inhabited by middle-aged maiden ladies,
kind good people, who were a good deal under bondage to their servants,
and their servants' meals, and every now and then were startled by some
terrible discovery of finding a trusted butler or gardener tipsy, as
they often were.  A good deal of not unkindly gossip was talked, and
wafts of a stronger kind floating down from London, with some great
family which would come for quiet and retirement, caused little shocks
to thrill through the community.  The houses were all neatly painted and
shuttered, the red brick pavement daintily clean, but even in winter
there was a curious languor in the air, so that Ibbetson walking from
the station felt an immediate discouragement as to the result of his
errand.

George Smith.  Why do people not ticket themselves more clearly in the
midst of the thronging crowds of life? he was thinking, with a little
unreasonable vexation.  How many George Smiths might there not be even
in this little feminine place?  He went down to the post-office,
stepping on the brick pavement with the rueful conviction that he should
not have done so without first scraping his boots; and inclined to
apologise for the prints he left behind him.  The very post-office
struck him with awe: the letters were in neat little bundles, an old
lady in a pink cap looked sternly at him through her spectacles;
Ibbetson had a ridiculous feeling that he would be a marked man for the
rest of the day.

Smiths.  The list very soon became lengthy.  Marine Parade, Ambrose
Place, Church Street, Broadwater, Seaview Cottage, Belle Vue House,
Esplanade--the old lady would have nothing to do with Christian names,
or whether men or women dwelt in these homes.  "There may be a gentleman
among them," was all she would say, with a cautious regard to her duty
of keeping up an imaginary balance in the society of Worthing.  Old
ladies generally at once succumbed to Jack, but this one proved an
exception.  As he went out she asked him to be kind enough to shut the
door behind him.

At the end of three hours Jack was no nearer his object than when he
arrived, and was conscious that he was already regarded in Worthing with
the deepest suspicion.  He had found it so unpleasant to knock vaguely
at doors and inquire what persons of the name of Smith lived within,
that he had once or twice put the question to boys or trades-people whom
he had seen outside, and the consequence was that rumours began to float
about the town, which, having always been as ready to catch rumours as a
cobweb is to catch flies, laid hold with great avidity of the idea that
a gang of burglars was calling at its innocent houses, with designs upon
the plate.  Jack could not understand why he should be stared at by
little knots of people, even when he tried quite a new quarter, but the
consciousness of lively comment which we cannot hear is always
embarrassing, and if it half amused it half nettled him, so that he was
not sorry to turn into the hotel for luncheon.  He took the waiter into
his confidence, but that personage was not suggestive.  That there were
a good many Smiths about in the world, could hardly be said to throw a
helpful light; Ibbetson was disinclined to appeal to the police, and the
solitary specimen he saw looked as if he had been chosen for size rather
than wits.  He pulled himself together, resisted a growing inclination
to take a nap, and set off once more on his search.

Near a church had sounded promising, but it was not very easy, he found,
to get far away from one of the two.  Once or twice he fancied he had
hold of a clue, and followed it up perseveringly till it came to
nothing, as was invariably the case.  And at last he found himself very
near the close of a short winter's afternoon, with no name left on his
list except one at Broadwater.  Jack was not one of those people who
have an unlimited store of energy, and he looked with some disgust at
the road which lay stretching away before him, flat, muddy, and
uninteresting.  That chalky country wants the rich colouring of summer
to put a little beauty into its life.  Then, when the wind ripples
across the great corn-fields, and the larks are singing all above, and
the clouds throw swift velvety shadows upon the softly swelling downs,
and the pink dog roses clamber over the hedges, it is a pleasant
pastoral country along which you may wander for hours, and strike upon
picturesque old windmills, and quaint little village churches nestling
under the downs--but in grey winter, not much charm is left.  Ibbetson
went doggedly along, neither looking left or right.  He began to think
of Rome, which, indeed, was never far from his thoughts.  Absence from
Phillis had shown him more and more how much nearer she had been to him
always than he had fancied, but surely a hundred times more now that she
was lost.  His own folly seemed absolutely inexplicable.  As a gloom
began to creep over the distance, he pictured her perhaps standing on
the Pincio watching the wonders of the sunset, the golden glow, the
grave and glorious purple of the domes, lying softly rounded against the
sky; the pale stretch of distance which, sweeping onward towards the
sea, before it reaches it seems to gain something of its immensity; the
pines of Monte Mario, the shadows of the darkening streets.  Was she
perhaps leaning against the balustrade, over the violet-beds below?  And
if so, who was with her?  Phillis was not a person to gaze carelessly at
such a scene; and to gaze at it with another who is conscious of its
power, is sometimes the beginning of a life-long sympathy.  Afterwards
we look back at what has so much impressed us, and our friend is there
too, has become a part of it for ever.  Jack thought out this point
moodily.  If it had been Mr Penington instead of Oliver Trent whose
misdealings he had been trying to bring to light, it is possible he
would have walked more briskly towards the low church tower which he saw
before him.  As it was, he was haunted by the doubt, should he not go
back to Rome?  It would be easy enough.  Nothing kept him from it except
that new energy which seemed to impel him towards work.  He was not
really ambitious.  What had stirred him was a strong feeling that his
idle life was unworthy of himself and her--nay, perhaps more of himself
than of her.  For when a man who believes that he is a responsible being
is once roused to face his idleness, it is apt to become a nightmare
under which he can no longer remain quiet Ibbetson longed to go, but he
knew very well that he must stay.

There is a pretty village green at Broadwater, and old trees cluster
round the church.  Coming out of the churchyard was the sexton, and to
him Jack addressed the question which he had learned to vary, although
only for his own satisfaction.  The old man looked at him doubtfully.

"There's a many Smiths about," he said, striking at once on the waiter's
truism.  "I'm a Smith myself.  Might it be something to his advantage,
or the other way, that was a bringing you?"

"For his advantage, I hope," Ibbetson said smiling.  "But you are not
the man.  George Smith, about five-and-twenty, sallow, with black hair."

"Ah!  Comes from London?"

Jack looked at him eagerly.  "Is he here after all?" he said quickly.
"Come, that's good news at last."

"What makes you so keen about it?" asked the old man curiously.  "Well,
it don't matter to me.  Them that he's with won't be very ready for you
to see him or to thank me for telling you where to find him, but Elias
Brooks shouldn't have tried to make mischief between me and the vicar,
this very day, too.  I said I'd be even with him, and I will.  There,
sir, that's the cottage, hard by.  George Smith is lodging there, has
been there for weeks, ill, and if they tell you to the contrary, you
needn't believe them.  I said I'd be even with him.  Thank you, sir.
Don't you listen to nothing they tell you."

Jack walked through a little garden to Elias Brooks' door, and knocked
twice.  He could see the old sexton hobbling away, unwilling perhaps to
be pointed out as guide, but still furtively watching.  At the second
knock the door was partially opened, and a stout bullet-headed man
appeared.

"I wish to speak to Mr George Smith," said Ibbetson, placing himself so
near the door that it could not be closed.

"No one of that name here," said the man in a surly tone.

"Yes, he is here," Jack said quietly.  "Perhaps he is called by another
name, but Mr Trent has seen him."

"Are you come from him?"

"No.  But I know that Mr Smith is in your house, and I mean to see him.
I suppose you would prefer my doing it quietly to calling in the
police?"

Nothing could have been more cool or determined than his manner, and
Elias was evidently uncomfortable.

"I don't know who your Mr Trent may be," he growled, "nor Smith
neither.  There's an invalid gentleman here by the name of James, and he
don't want no visitors."

"Which is it to be?  Will you admit me, or shall I send for the police?"
asked Jack, unheeding.

"I tell you he's ill."

"Well, choose for yourself."

With an oath the man flung open the door and called to his wife--

"Here's a gentleman forcing his way in to see Mr James.  Take him up,
take him up.  I ain't a going to have a row here to please the doctor,
nor nobody.  I dare say it'll kill him, but that ain't my affair."

Jack, glancing at the pale cowed woman, did not put the question he
intended, as he followed her up the stairs.  At the top she struck a
light.  "The poor gentleman has been sadly ill," she said tremulously.
"And is still in bed?"

"Oh yes, sir."

She went to the side of the bed as she spoke, and pulled back a curtain.
Ibbetson almost started at the gaunt, death-stricken face which met his
view.  He said quietly: "I must apologise for disturbing you, Mr Smith,
and I am very sorry to see you so ill."

"Better now, thank you."

"I have come from London on purpose to ask you a question, and have had
no end of difficulty in finding you out.  I come from Clive Masters."

"Poor old Clive!  He didn't think when we parted it would be so long
before I saw him again.  I just came down to these lodgings to get a
breath of fresh air from Saturday to Monday, and here I've been ever
since.  I did rather wonder that Clive had never sent or written."

"He did not know where you were."

Smith shook his head feebly.

"Oh yes, he knew.  I had one visitor from him, his cousin, Mr Trent.
He came after the fifty pounds which had been left in my hands.  You
see, for a long time I was quite unconscious, so of course it gave
Masters a good deal of anxiety.  But it was no fault of mine."

He stopped, gasping for breath.

"Did Mr Trent get the fifty pounds?" asked Jack.  "Of course.  Didn't
Masters tell you?"  Smith said in some surprise.  The woman had crept
downstairs again, they could hear her husband's grumbling tones and her
faint replies.  Jack stood looking with some perplexity at the wasted
frame, wondering how much he ought to tell.  He decided to tell him all.

"He did not so much as know it himself," he said quietly.  "From some
motive or other, Mr Trent has advanced him the money but has never told
him that it was his own, and received from you."

Smith stared at him.  He passed his thin hand across his forehead,
lifting the lank hair.  "I don't understand," he said.  Jack left his
words to reach his comprehension without repeating them.  "That can't be
so," Smith said presently, "because Clive knew he had only to apply to
me."

"He had no address."

"He could get it."

"No.  That is just what he could not do.  Mr Smith," said Jack
abruptly, "from all I can hear there has been no fault whatever on your
side, and you could have done nothing.  Mr Trent has chosen to keep
your whereabouts concealed, and to get things into his own hands.  But
the upshot is that Clive has been miserable, has tried to make a bolt
for America, and that I came down here to-day on the strength of a clue
which we drew out of your London landlady yesterday."

"But the money is gone!" said Smith in a hoarse voice.  "He must have
done it only to give Clive a lesson--don't you think so?"

"Perhaps," Ibbetson said laconically.

"And he won't deny that I gave it?"

"I think not.  At any rate I shall know, and so will Clive, and--no, I
don't think he will deny."

Smith sank back with a sigh of relief.  Jack was standing gazing
thoughtfully into the dark corners of the room, lit only by a single
candle.  "Do they look after you well, here?" he asked.

"Yes, fairly enough.  I've nothing to complain of.  Though I've thought
it odd that no one should come to see me."

"Perhaps Clive will get a day soon.  And you might change to a
pleasanter situation.  I shall say good-bye now, and I shall take good
news to Clive."

"Did he suppose I'd gone off?"  Smith asked with a touch of amusement,
as the other shook hands.  Downstairs the man took no notice as Ibbetson
passed through the little passage, but as the wife opened the door Jack
said with emphasis,--

"Let your husband understand that other friends of Mr Smith will be
here to see him very shortly.  And remember that if he is well looked
after, you will not be the worse for it.  All will depend upon that
point."

It was dark and very cold when he got outside, and he went swinging
along to the station at a great pace.  On his way up in the train he
wrote three notes which he posted as soon as he reached London.  One was
to Davis:--

"_Set Mr Masters right at the office with anyone whom it concerns.  It
is a fact that he gave the money to another man to pay in, and this
other was seized with illness.  I have seen him to-day.  See that Mr
Masters is thoroughly cleared_."

He hesitated longer over his second note.  Finally he wrote:--

"_My dear Uncle,--Until I see you, I must ask you to take for granted
the fact that young Masters has not been guilty of the conduct
attributed to him.  I have taken the trouble to go thoroughly into the
matter, and can prove it beyond a doubt.  I am writing by this post to
Mr Trent.  If he should have left Hetherton, will you kindly forward
the letter_."

Over his third he did not hesitate at all:--

"_Mr Ibbetson presents his compliments to Mr Trent, and having this
day had an interview with Mr George Smith and learnt from him that the
fifty pounds entrusted to his care by Mr Masters was paid by him to Mr
Trent as Mr Masters's representative, Mr Ibbetson requests an
explanation of this fact as well as of certain statements which have
been circulated by Mr Trent to Mr Masters's prejudice_."

He wrote this rapidly, but he looked at it with dissatisfaction,
reflecting that it was almost impossible to give vent to your
indignation in the third person.  And then he began to think of Mr
Penington.

CHAPTER TWENTY.

WHO WILL LIVE AT THE VICARAGE?

Perhaps few evil-doers are marked down as such with so little personal
eagerness and satisfaction as was Oliver Trent by Jack or Clive, who,
indeed, necessarily took only a passive part.  There was nothing in
Jack's nature congenial to the task, and his only wish being to set
Clive on his legs again, as soon as there was a good prospect of this
labour being accomplished, he cared nothing at all for bringing down
punishment on Trent.

Clive's own feeling, when he heard the news, was rather shocked and
bewildered than in any way revengeful.  His cousin having been a sort of
good genius in his eyes, the one successful man of the family, the
friend who had placed him where he was, and to whom he believed himself
indebted for all that had been done either to shield him or to push him
on, the revelation which Ibbetson brought was beyond his comprehension.
All the new hopes which had been excited in his mind really turned round
a central desire that Trent should recognise that he had spoken the
truth and not disgraced his family.  And now that Trent himself should
be the one on whom disgrace and shame should fall!  It was more than his
mind could grasp.

Neither, think as he would, was he helped by seeing any imaginable
motive for his conduct.  If he could have found it he might possibly
have acquiesced in what had happened, as something for which Trent--the
adviser--had reasons, and believed that he would also soon have had
reasons for clearing it up.  Clive's faith was shaken, but it was not
yet absolutely gone, from the very difficulties of understanding why on
earth Trent should have acted as he had apparently acted.  Jack had
muttered something about having him in his power, but that seemed
ludicrous while Clive could trace no advantages to result.  Jack
himself, indeed, was not half so clear about it as Phillis, whose
womanly intuition had leapt to a conclusion not far from the truth; and
when he found out something of the young fellow's perplexities as to his
cousin, he respected the feeling and abstained from much comment.  He
supposed that it would be necessary to see Trent, perhaps in Clive's
presence, and that then certain home truths would require expression,
but for so long as they could be postponed, he was not at all unwilling
to postpone them.  Meanwhile there was a real satisfaction in seeing how
Clive brightened under this lifting off of his troubles.  He held
himself straighter, and altogether had a more open and hopeful
appearance.  Ibbetson felt no anxiety in leaving him, and went down to
his father's for a few days.  There a letter followed him from Mr
Thornton, very concise and formal, taking no notice of his remarks about
Clive, but alluding to his own regret at losing his good friend Mr
Trent, who, he grieved to say, had received letters the morning before
which induced him at once to start for Rome.

Jack crumpled the letter in his hand and shoved it into his pocket.

"Bad news?" asked his father.  "Here's bad news for me at any rate.
What do you think, Arabella?  Carter finds that horse he wrote about as
likely to suit me to a T, has just been picked up.  It's uncommonly
annoying.  Do you think your uncle has anything that would do for me,
Jack?"

"I don't know," said Jack, "I haven't seen his stables lately."

"You seem to me making a mull of matters with your uncle," said his
father, pouring out his coffee from a peculiar machine of his own.  "I
have never interfered, for I think his manners are insufferable, but if
you don't object to them you might have done better, I should say."

"Well, I don't know," said Jack brightly.  "I dare say I should think so
if I were you; but being myself, I don't exactly see what I could have
done."

"Couldn't you marry that girl?"

Jack flushed.

"She didn't care to marry me," he said stiffly.  "Whew!" said his
father, lifting his eyebrows.  "Not enough money, I suppose?"

"I doubt that influencing her," said Jack, in the same tone.

"Well, you'd better look out, for I hear there's a man of the name of
Trent a good deal at Hetherton, and your uncle swears by him.  It's
quite certain we never get any luck in our family."

This was a statement which, with Lady Ibbetson sitting by, who might
have been supposed by outsiders to have brought her husband a good deal
of the sort of luck to which he alluded, could only be received in
silence.  Jack finished his breakfast and took himself off to the
smoking-room.  Trent seemed to haunt him, and he had an uneasy feeling
of not knowing how much or how little to say.  Then he remembered Bice,
and began to wonder whether this sudden departure of Trent's was an
energetic effort on his part to forestall disclosures, or at any rate to
soften their force.  If what he had said was true, and the two were
engaged, he might be able to enlist her feelings in his favour.  Jack
had desired Clive to write, but was not very sure that he had yet done
so.  Now he promptly made up his mind to write himself to Phillis.

The letter was not easy to him.  When he had written before, they were
engaged to be man and wife, and he remembered, with a pang, the feeling
of dissatisfaction with which he had laid down her little missive from
Bologna.  It had seemed to him as if nothing in it went below the
surface, unconscious as he chose to be that it was he who had kept her
there, he who had chilled and disappointed her.  Well, he was punished
now, he thought gloomily, and the shy brown eyes seemed to be looking at
him with sad pity.  He had lost Phillis, and he had lost Hetherton.  He
knew his uncle, with all his foibles, was a just man, and fond of
Phillis, so that he had little doubt that after his solemn assurance
that he alone was to blame, he would provide liberally for Phillis,
though not to the extent of making her his heiress.  The estate might
perhaps be reserved for Oliver Trent, if Jack kept silence.  Jack was
not sufficiently superior to mortal weaknesses to find that reflection
pleasant.  But it would have been easier to endure, or, at any rate, so
he thought at this moment, if he could have shifted the cause of its
doing on any shoulders but his own.  He made a wry face as he
acknowledged his own absolute folly.  He would thankfully now have
thrown away his old prospects of Hetherton for the hope of winning
Phillis, but it was far from soothing to remember that he had flung both
to the winds.  First he had listened too easily, then repented too
hastily, then had found out too late what he might have known from the
very first.  It seemed to him as if he could never reproach another man
with folly.  And he had a distracting consciousness as he wrote--
stopping every now and then, jumping up to poke the fire or do something
which might by some good chance assist his expressions--that although it
was Phillis, and nobody but Phillis, who had sent him on his errand, she
would believe nothing but that Bice's deliverance had been the actual
spur.  It made it, as has been said, difficult for him to write.  He did
not like to paint Trent's conduct in too black colours, lest it might
seem it was his object to effect a break between him and Bice.  Yet it
was quite clear to him that the break ought to be effected, if only it
could be done by other hands than his, and he grew vexed that he had not
assured himself that Clive would speak out and to the purpose.  His
sentences read coldly, because he wished to treat all that part, which
was his only excuse for writing, in a business-like manner.  Phillis,
thinking to shield him, and feeling sure it would be broken, had not
told him of the actual tie existing between Bice and Oliver Trent, and
he guarded his words about them both with an evident restraint.  It was
a great relief to him when at last his letter was finished and placed in
the letter-bag, and then he half smiled to find that his thoughts had
wandered to a calculation of the number of days that must pass before he
would receive an answer.

His stepmother met him in the hall.  She had an uneasy manner which Jack
hated and called mincing, but a good heart underneath, to which he
persistently blinded himself.  When a kindly-natured person does get
hold of a prejudice, you may be sure he will take a firmer grasp than
one less amiable.  Perhaps there is a secret satisfaction in finding
himself able to dislike someone heartily, or perhaps it is so unlike
himself that he is instinctively convinced that excellent reasons must
exist to justify him.  Jack had never been able to forgive Lady Ibbetson
for marrying his father, although he knew quite well that she made his
home as happy as he would allow her to make it, which was a reservation
not likely to be removed.  And this sense of his own injustice did not
render him more friendly towards her.  With the best intentions in the
world, all she did seemed to rub him the wrong way.  Naturally, she had
changed the old furniture at Elmsleigh, but unfortunately the change was
not justified by the results; for taste, being an artistic feeling, is
as subject to failure as other points in which our ideal is beyond our
powers of execution, and is by no means that simple intuition which
people like to imagine it.  Conservative Jack had been much disgusted by
the shifting and embellishment of chairs and tables he found on his
arrival had taken place, and which she, poor misguided woman, had
pointed out to him with pleasure as improvements.  He had the grace to
keep his opinions to himself, but for almost the first time in his life
it seemed as if his father's spirit of opposition had been roused in
him, and Lady Ibbetson sighed, after one wistful glance in his face.
She was almost timidly desirous to please him, and never showed at her
best in his presence, finding a not unnatural difficulty in
understanding him.  Now she spoke with evident effort:

"Your father tells me you are going back to town to-morrow.  Is that
really a necessity?  It is so long since you have been here, and this
has been such a very short visit.  I had hoped you would have stayed
over Tuesday, and that we might have had some people to meet you on that
day."

"Thank you," said Jack shortly, "I can't afford any longer time."
Mentally he was thinking, "Where on earth does the woman get her gowns?"

"You are working very hard, then?" she ventured to say.

"Well, it's necessary."

She hesitated, looked round, and said in a low voice--

"I hope you will not think what I am saying interfering,--perhaps I
might not have spoken, but that your father alluded to--to it at
breakfast.  It is your engagement I mean."

Jack drew himself up, and she went on hurriedly--"Pray do not think I am
asking questions from curiosity.  But sometimes pecuniary difficulties
cause a great deal of unhappiness and--and I thought I would venture to
say that if this were the case--"

"It is not, indeed."

"Ah!"  She looked at him with wistful disappointment.  "Then I must not
say any more.  It has always seemed to me a most grievous thing, that
money should unnecessarily play such an important part in these matters,
and I should have been very sorry if it had been allowed to do so with
you."

Jack was touched--it was impossible not to feel that she was speaking
from her heart--though he was no less stiffly determined to accept
nothing at her hands.  Nevertheless, she brightened at his tone, for he
spoke warmly:

"I am exceedingly obliged to you.  Money has not made any difficulty
here.  And as to my working harder than I have done, it is more from
shame for past idleness than from ambition for the future, I am afraid."

"Jack," said his father, coming in at the door with a little girl
clinging to each hand, "will you ride over to Whitcote this morning?"

"Whitcote?  Yes," said Jack, wondering; for Sir John seldom made these
early expeditions.

"Hastings wants me to look at the schools.  There's a new Vicar coming
in, and things have to be put straight.  Time, too."

"Jack," said little May, possessing herself of his hand, "tell us about
Cartouche.  Does he _always_ jump out of the window when you go back?"

"And does he beg?  Carlo begs," this from Effie.  "Poor Cartouche!" said
Jack, "I'm afraid he is wanting in all accomplishments."

"Accomplishments means music and drawing," said May, with a stare.
"Dogs don't do their scales."

"Don't tease, children," said Lady Ibbetson.  It was one of the things
in which she and her step-son were at cross-purposes, for he was fond of
children, and she always nervously afraid that they annoyed him.  She
carried them away now unwillingly, looking back and calling to Jack that
he had promised to come into the school-room.

It was not until they were close on Whitcote that he asked his father
who the new Vicar was.

"He's called Penington, I hear," said Sir John, pulling up his cob to
look at a field of springing wheat.  "Don't know the name, but Hastings
speaks uncommonly well of him."

"I met a man of that name in Rome.  He had a sister with him."

"That's he.  Hastings said he had gone abroad for two or three months'
rest before beginning work again.  And I dare say he would have a
sister.  I hear he's a likely man to many.  There's the Vicarage: you
can see the chimneys; it's been uncommonly improved and made into really
a nice place.  Hallo, here comes Miss Ward.  You recollect the Miss
Wards, cousins of Mrs Hastings, and living in that little cottage half
a mile on?"

A kindly, intelligent faced woman greeted them.  "Sir John, you are the
very person I wished to see.  _Do_ you know of a horse?"

"Another horse, Miss Ward?"

"Another!  I should think so.  That last great thing wouldn't go at all.
How d'ye do, Mr Ibbetson?  I didn't see it was you.  But really, Sir
John, we are in a pretty condition; reduced to the butcher's mare to
take, us to the station, and when we want to cut a dash among our
neighbours, to the most extraordinary affair from Hedsworth.  Do be
neighbourly and look in at our stables.  You'll find three waiting to be
looked at, and they've all something against them.  One has curby hocks,
I know--whatever that may mean."

"It means a strong objection."

"Well, the other alternatives are age and nobility of appearance, and
youth and snobbishness.  I am inclined to youth; the habit of requiring
to be shot is very serious."

"I'll give my opinion at any rate," said Sir John laughing, "and so
shall Jack.  By the way, he has just come from Rome, and seems to have
met your Mr Penington there--"

"Has he, really?  Mr Penington is our other subject just now; he and
the horses form a sort of conversational see-saw.  Very charming, is he
not, Mr Ibbetson?  But you need not tell me if he is not, for we all
agree in placing him on a pinnacle of merit, in order that we may have
the excitement of gradually deposing him.  Otherwise, I might whisper to
you that we are already--just a little--hurt."

"Why?"

"Well, we considered--and justly, I think--that coming here unmarried,
we had a right to the excitement of choosing him a wife.  But in a
letter from his sister to Mrs Hastings, who is, you know, her old
friend, she seems to hint that he is taking it on his own shoulders."

"Oh, ho!  Any names mentioned?  Perhaps Jack may know her, too."

"No, no, not so bad as that.  Still it is bad, I own.  You'll look at
those horses then, won't you?"

"To be sure.  How was it you weren't at the Grange on Friday?"

"I was making up my accounts.  I always think that is only a decent
tribute to the departing year.  Remember me to Lady Ibbetson, and do try
to consider that horse a treasure."

Sir John, who liked the Wards, went on talking of the way women were
taken in about horses, Jack meanwhile riding along without hearing many
of his father's words.  So it had come to this, for he could not doubt
that Phillis was the one to whom Miss Penington alluded.  There was the
pretty Vicarage to his left, standing picturesquely among trees, a
pleasant homelike place, such as he could well imagine she would love.
He thought of her, brought there by that man, going in and out of the
gate on her kindly errands, waiting, perhaps, in the porch to welcome
him--Well, what could he say?  He had had his chance and had thrown it
away.  Since he had loved her, he had understood very clearly what she
had found wanting in his love before.  Now it seemed to him as if it had
been an insult.  He felt no hope.  He had had his chance and had thrown
it away.

CHAPTER TWENTY ONE.

A RETURN.

Jack kept his intention, and went up to London the next day.  He had
made up his mind absolutely that he would not go back to Rome, having a
new sort of feeling born within him, that after all that had happened he
had no right to haunt Phillis with the persistency he had shown of late.
It no longer seemed to him fair.  He thought that the most manly course
would be to leave her alone at any rate until this winter were past.
Then, if she were still unwon, he might be able to speak to her of a
love which she might at last recognise as steadfast.  How could she be
expected as yet to trust him?  But he got into a habit about this time
of brooding on the picture he had seen as he rode through Whitcote with
his father--the pretty homely Vicarage, the creepers growing up to the
chimneys, the green turf, the rooks' nests in the old trees.  And
always--that was the worst--there stood a woman's figure at the door, a
woman whose eyes were fastened on the gate, as if she were waiting
happily for some one.

Still, a good deal of credit was due to him for the way in which he
fought against these not very cheerful thoughts, so as to escape from
the morbid dejection which might have made his life, and that of others,
miserable.  Work is an excellent refuge, as everybody says: probably
because it is an axiom which is seldom taken on trust, and therefore
comes freshly to each person in the form of an individual discovery.
Jack worked hard, and liked it.  Clive was another refuge; he needed a
great deal of cheering and keeping up, his own struggle not having had
the effect of putting life into him.  He was shy and sensitive, and many
people would have thought uninteresting, but Ibbetson wanted a personal
interest about him just at this time, and had a feeling as if here were
a slender link with Phillis.  He sometimes laughed at his own efforts to
prop up Clive, and yet he did it vigorously.  The props were of many
kinds--getting him to take school work in an East-end district on
Sundays, he began to think would turn out one of the most effectual.

A disappointment which Jack felt very keenly at this time, was the
receiving no answer to his letter to Phillis.  He had made sure she
would write, and, though he even told himself that he was prepared for
what she might tell him, there was a horrible blank in the silence,
which seemed almost worse.  He invented reasons for her silence with
really remarkable ingenuity, but the one which seemed most probable was,
that she did not wish to enter on the subject of her own prospects with
him.  When Clive came to see him or he went to see Clive, the
conversation revolved curiously round one or two centres.

"Well, how are you getting on?"  Jack would ask with great cheerfulness.

"Oh, I don't know."  This with much depression.  "Nonsense.  What are
you out of heart about?  Davis sticks by you, I'm sure."

"Yes, he's a very good old chap.  But what's a fellow to do when the
heads are against him?"

"Why do you think they are?"

"Well, Thornton was up yesterday, and I could see by the way he looked
at me."

"What rubbish, Clive!  You go steadily on, and never mind looks."

"Don't you think it matters?" more hopefully.

"Not a brass farthing.  Have you heard from your people at Rome?"

"Yes, I got a letter from Kitty last night."

"Well?"

"Oh, nothing particular.  Oliver's there.  I say, there _must_ be
something he could explain if one saw him.  He couldn't have the brass!"

"Does Miss Masters mention anyone else?"

"No, I don't think she does."

"Not--the Leytons?"

"Didn't notice it.  Are you going down to Worthing again?"

"Yes, I am.  To-morrow perhaps," said with gloom on Ibbetson's part.

The visit to Worthing, when it did take place, had one or two results.
For Jack found Smith so unmistakably worse that he went to the point of
getting him to sign a declaration in the presence of one or two
witnesses, as to that matter of the fifty pounds.  And this being done,
he had a conversation with the man Elias Brooks, also in the presence of
a witness, so that he felt himself in a better position to meet Oliver
Trent should it ever be necessary.  But as yet he had made no sign.

One day Ibbetson had another visitor in his chambers, Mrs Thornton.
How she had got there was the first wonder in his mind; for she was a
very helpless person, seldom going to the point of originating even an
idea.

"My dear, and your chimney been smoking!  How can you live here!" was
her greeting.

"It's not a bad chimney when the wind isn't from the north," said Jack,
wheeling forward a chair, and flinging the end of his cigar into the
fire.  "But you ought to have told me you were coming.  It's _very_ good
of you, Aunt Harriet."

"I told no one," said Mrs Thornton, with a placid air of triumph at her
own achievements, "not even your uncle Peter.  But, my dear Jack, I am
quite miserable about you."

"How can I help it?"  Jack replied gravely.  He knew what she meant, and
would not pretend not to understand her.

"Oh, I do so wish you would go straight out and marry Phillis, before
this dreadful man gets hold of her!  Really, it is too provoking."

There was a pause.

"What have you heard?  Has Phillis written?" asked Jack in his quietest
tone.

"Not Phillis.  And that is vexing your uncle, too.  He says everything
is concealed from him.  Mr Trent wrote and told him."

Jack muttered something not complimentary to Mr Trent.  Then he said
aloud:

"You need not believe everything _he_ says.  However, I can't say, I
know nothing.  Phillis will not conceal anything from you, you may be
sure."

"But why don't you do something quickly?  I really can't tell you all my
fears.  Your uncle seems so put out and so dissatisfied, I really doubt
whether it would not be too late if you two were to marry even now.  He
doesn't seem to know his own mind.  Perhaps he might come round if you
went and did it," she added, as if it were a matter to be settled easily
by some such proceeding as walking across the street.

"You forget--there's the other man," said Jack, finding it impossible
not to smile.  "Listen, Aunt Harriet, if it's any consolation to you,
I'm quite aware I've been a fool.  But I give you my word that Hetherton
is a very secondary consideration."

"Well, I shall tell your uncle," she said, looking doubtfully at him.

"That I have been a fool?  But then you must go on about Hetherton."

"Oh, I couldn't."

"Then leave it alone; it's the safest way, take my word for it.  I know
it's all your kindness for me, but there are so many old proverbs
haunting me about making one's bed, and sowing and reaping, that I feel
sure they amount to a general verdict that I must be left to my fate.
Thank you all the same for trying to ward it off."

Each of these rumours which reached Jack--although he sometimes told
himself that they were too indefinite to be heeded--did actually give
him a sharp pang, and seemed to leave his heart heavier than before.  He
refused invitations, and did his best to absorb himself in his
profession, setting to work with a dogged determination to push on,
rather than any exhilaration of hope.  Still there was a certain
satisfaction in his labour, and at least a more manly purpose in his
life.  And so January dragged its short days out of the darkness,
sometimes barely succeeding in the effort, and February followed, and to
Ibbetson every day was long in its monotony, and yet, looking back, they
might all have passed like lightning.

At least that was what it seemed to him one gloomy afternoon when he
stood with a telegram in his hand which had just been given to him, and
which he had opened carelessly, without any foreboding of the thrill of
pain in store.  It was from Rome.  Miss Cartwright was very ill--would
he come at once.  The words startled him the more that he felt with keen
self-reproach how other interests had pushed her out of his thoughts.
There are tender and strong affections so close and so unfailing that
they are like the air we breathe, and become almost as much a matter of
course.  And now Jack remembered with a pang that of late he had written
but briefly to his aunt, and that except from a general longing to hear
news from Rome he had not noticed that her own letters had become few
and short.  He pulled out her last from his pocket; the feeble writing
smote him to the heart, and he impatiently gave his orders, sent off a
hurried note to Clive, and found himself at the station at least twenty
minutes before the time for starting.

He travelled as fast as he could, and happily there were no unusual or
vexatious delays.  But at its best the journey is one which, when a
pressing anxiety goads on the traveller, seems as if it would never end.
It drags you along past Chambery, and pretty Aix lying under its hills,
lingers hopelessly at Modane, and then goes clambering slowly up to the
land of snows, before it will take you into the land of sunshine.
Afterwards you sweep down to Turin and the vast Lombardy plains, and
going towards Florence, creep again into a belt of mountains
honey-combed with tunnels, where the gorges in February are just awaking
to the first promises of spring, and by-and-by see the twinkling lights
of cheery Pistoija, and then the brighter ones of Florence.  Jack,
leaning out, thought of other evenings, when those lights had shone in
the beautiful Val d'Arno.  He stopped there now for a few hours' rest,
and the place seemed laden with memories which yet were younger than it
was easy to believe.  It was a warm night; even already the air was
touched with sweet flowery scents, and all the carnival people were
flashing about, making the place merry with their laughter.

His journey began again early the next morning, and in the afternoon he
reached Rome.  Who does not know that approach?  As the train passed
through the golden brown campagna the sun was setting; no words can
describe the rich glow which tinged the mountains: too rich for lilac,
too delicate and warm for purple, it seemed the very embodiment of
colour, and where on the highest points the snow of winter yet rested,
it was on fire with rosy lights; while Tiber, rolling sluggishly through
the Sabine meadows, gave back the soft reflections as faithfully and
placidly as though he were only a quiet country stream, untouched by
history, and untainted by blood.

Ibbetson was not long in driving from the station to the house in the
Via della Croce.  At the station he caught sight of a familiar face,
though he had a little difficulty in recalling that it belonged to young
Giovanni Moroni.  He would not linger to speak to him, though he had
always liked the young fellow, for the nearer he drew to the end of his
journey the more acute became his anxieties, and the more annoying every
small delay.  He rattled quickly down the hill by the Costanzi, and
along the streets which lead to the Spanish Place, and then into his own
particular street.  Nothing was to be gained by looking at the outside
of the house, and some hidden fear kept him from questioning the old
porter, who lived in a little glass room and mended shoes.  Miss
Cartwright's rooms were high; a dark dirty staircase went up, up.  He
lingered for a moment at the window half way, which looked upon
picturesque and irregular backs of houses; women were peeping out,
creepers hanging, there were the usual converging lines of a network of
wires, up and down which swing the brass pitchers, that fill themselves
where the fresh water pours out from the lion's head below; at one small
square window a little owl was sitting, blinking solemnly at the world.
It all seemed just as he had left it, and gave him a momentary
unreasonable relief.  But at the top of the stairs stood some one
watching and waiting.  It was Phillis, and she put out her hands with a
cry of thankfulness.

"You are come!" she said.  "We heard wheels, but scarcely thought it
possible you could be here so soon."

"How is she?  Not worse?"

"She is very ill--very.  I am afraid it would be false comfort if I told
you there was any improvement, but the pain has gone off, and her one
wish was to see you again.  This waiting has been terrible.  It was
pleurisy.  We wrote to tell you, but she grew suddenly worse."

"And you have been with her?"

"How could I leave her?"

Her lips quivered.  She was shaken and upset with the nursing, perhaps,
too, with the feeling that he was coming, and with other things which
had risen up.  They stood face to face with each other, these two, for a
minute, utterly silent, before Phillis said hurriedly--

"I must tell her that you are here.  Will you come into the little
anteroom and wait until she is ready?"

In the anteroom were two or three doors; one led into the salon, another
into Miss Cartwright's bedroom.  At this second a black object was
crouched, which at sound of Jack's voice reared itself up, and came
eagerly towards him.

"Yes," said Phillis, answering the young man's look with a sad little
smile, "Cartouche is the most faithful of watchers, poor fellow!  At
first he lay under her bed, but that worried her, and she asked that he
might be sent out.  And since then, strange as it seems, he has never
attempted to go into the room, but has taken up his position here."

She signed to Jack to stay where he was, and passed through the
curtained door.  He stood with his eyes fixed upon it, feeling that
pause of solemn expectation with which we wait when we know that we are
to enter on an awful Presence, awful both for its strangeness and its
nearness.  All sounds intensify themselves in such a waiting: it seemed
to him that a hundred things were going on; he heard the distant cry of
the water-sellers, the roll of wheels, the laughter of the crowd, a fly
buzzing at the window.  Cartouche gave a low whine, and went back to his
station, sitting against the door with bent attentive head.  No one
came.  At last a woman bustled into the room, and lit a small brass lamp
with four wicks branching out on different sides and slender chains
hanging.  Then she, too, paused and listened.

"The poor Signora!" she said to Jack, clasping her hands.  "It is near
the end.  And we all loved her.  Eh, and look at the dog!  It is
strange."

Just at that moment Phillis opened the door and signed to Jack.

"Her weakness is so great," she said in a whisper, "that the very joy of
your coming is almost more than she can bear.  But she will not wait."

No.  He understood why she would put nothing off when he saw the white
changed face, lit up as it was with happiness as he knelt down and
kissed her.  "My boy!" was all she said at first, but lay holding his
hand and smiling now and then.  Miss Preston, who had been standing at
the window, went softly out, crying.  Phillis only paused to tell Jack
that one of them would be in the anteroom, before she followed her.
Those two were left behind--two, and the shadowy Presence.

"You're not in pain, Aunt Mary?" said Jack brokenly.  "Not now.  It has
quite gone now.  God has been so good all through, and He has brought
you back."

"I came at once, but I wish I could have heard before."

"Yes, my dear, I know, I know.  I hope it was not selfish to want you,
but you always were my boy.  And, Jack--"

"Yes, Aunt Mary?"

Speech was very difficult, but she struggled with it, and he put his ear
down near her face--

"--You have never known her--Phillis.  And I was foolish and urged it.
Now I see that I was wrong--we can't tell what is best, can we?--only I
think--I pray you two may have whatever is best for you both.  I think
you will.  God knows--and I have prayed--"

The words died away, but she made a sign to him not to call anyone, and
lay in peaceful waiting, every now and then touching his face or hair
with a feeble yet caressing hand.  In that waiting the room darkened,
the little lamp glimmered in the shadows, a strange hush seemed to have
fallen.  Presently Winter came in, looked at her, went out and brought
the others.  She smiled at them, and whispered something which they made
out with difficulty.  It was "Cartouche."  Phillis brought him, a little
anxious lest he might show any wild demonstrations of delight.  She need
not have feared.  He came eagerly in, put his paws upon the bed, and
licked his mistress's hand.  Then he dropped down, looked wistfully at
the faces round, as if he wanted reassurance from them, and finding
none, he turned quickly, ran to the door, pushed it open, and settled
himself in his old position of intent watchfulness.

Afterwards they none of them knew how these long hours had passed, but
at the time there was the usual mixture of the awful and the
commonplace.  Our thoughts cannot remain long on heights; they wander
down, concerning themselves with the oddest things, and causing us sharp
pangs of self-reproach, for what, after all, is no more than a law of
our being.  Once there came a ring of the bell, and Winter went out and
brought in a little note for Phillis.  When she had read it, standing at
the table by the lamp, she laid it down and came back to the bedside.
Jack had to go to the table presently to get something that was wanted,
and his eye was caught by the clear bold signature--"Arthur Penington."
He hated himself for having seen it, but there it was.

The doctor came and went, Cartouche walking growling behind him to the
top of the stains.  The streets grew more silent; the occasional cry of
the masquers, the carnival laughter, died away; and still they all
watched, and still the feeble breathing was audible in the quiet of the
room, with now and then a word.  It was not until a pale gleam of light
had grown into the sky above the hills of Tivoli, touching the broad
flank of Soracte, and showing Michael the Archangel guarding the great
city from his castle, that the last word faltered on her lips, and the
hand which had moved feebly towards Jack lay still and cold in his warm
clasp.

CHAPTER TWENTY TWO.

ONCE MORE, NO.

Tired as he was with his quick journey and with the hurrying emotions of
the past night, Jack was too restless to stay in the house.  He called
Cartouche, and the dog, after a little hesitation, went with him, though
without any of his usual excitement.  He kept close at Ibbetson's heels,
from which nothing drew him, and walked along with his tail depressed,
and his whole appearance spiritless.  Jack's own heart was very heavy.
The kind, gentle woman had been like a mother to him, and a hundred
remembrances of her unselfishness came thronging.  He was vexed with
himself for having left her, for having neglected to write as often as
she liked--for many things of which he knew very well she had kept no
record, nor so much as blamed him in her heart.  Those tender
cancellings are the sharpest reproaches of all, when Death has laid his
finger on the page.

Then, as he walked on, his mind wandered off to the speculations from
which who can be free, when one who has been near to them passes away
from their reach?  Could she still see him?  What was the actual
separation between them?  What infinite mysteries had already been made
known to her?  Jack had no fixed aim, but he thought he would go on to
the English cemetery and choose the place where she was so soon to lie.
He did not know the exact way, and found himself by San Gregorio: the
bell was tolling, and he went up the broad steps.  There is a little
chapel connected with it, one of a group of three, in which he
remembered having long ago seen a quire of angels painted by Guido,
which had haunted him.  He found the sacristan, and went with him across
a little untidy picturesque garden, sweet with violets, and gay with
great irises, purple and white.  The chapel is very bare and like a
barn, but at one end is the beautiful fresco; the white wings seem to
clash, the blissful faces glow down upon you--over what might be the
battlements of heaven--with a purity and grace which are rare in Guido.
Jack paid the sacristan to let him stay there by himself for a little
while; he was glad he had come, thankful to have had this quiet and
peaceful hour with the praising angels above and the sweet scent of
spring violets stealing through the door.  Then, as he came out and
stood on the steps of San Gregorio, the full glory of the sun was
shining on that stately and beautiful view which stretches before the
church.  Feathery clouds dappled the blue of the sky, tender and yet
deep: golden and ruddy lights fell on the convent which crowns the ridge
of the Palatine, the convent whose nuns pray patiently on the spot where
emperors held their revels; up against the buildings two palms stood
proudly; the great arches of Nero and Severus were black with shadows;
here and there an almond blossomed, rosy red, and all the light cloud of
trees below was touched with the mysterious and indescribable promise of
the spring.

Jack walked slowly back, and Cartouche followed sadly behind him.  There
was something in the dog's mute sympathy very grateful to the man,
piteous though it was to see the wistful questioning of his eyes.  They
went home through little back streets, to avoid the crowded
thoroughfares where all Rome was making her carnival holiday.  It does
not penetrate much into those crooked and picturesque byeways, and,
indeed the day was as yet too early for great attempts at gaiety.  All
about the Forum was quite undisturbed, the beautiful pillars stood in
quiet beauty, while the sun played in golden lights upon their stone,
and the Capitol looked down upon them from its prouder height.

When he reached the Via della Croce he found, as he might have expected
without allowing it to cause him a sharp disappointment, that Phillis
had left it, and had gone back to the hotel.  It was not possible for
him to follow her until quite late in the day.  Miss Preston, who, it
might have been imagined, would have liked to have kept matters in her
own hands, was so subdued and full of grief, as to be quite helpless and
unable even to offer a suggestion.  She had been rather disposed to
blame Miss Cartwright for not throwing off her invalid habits when first
she came to Rome, and now reproached herself bitterly.  Indeed it seemed
as if the sweetness of that death had touched and softened all; Winter
went quietly about on tip-toe, with oddly gentle movements.  As for
Cartouche, who could tell what was passing in his mind?  How much did he
know?  This much they all noticed, that having watched patiently for so
many hours in the anteroom, he would not now go near it.  He buried
himself in a corner of the kitchen, and only came out or took food when
Jack went there and coaxed him.

Necessarily, every arrangement fell on Ibbetson, and it was necessary
they should be made with a promptitude which at such a time seems almost
inhuman.  They occupied him all the day, so that, as has been said, it
was quite late before he was able to follow Phillis to the hotel.

She was alone when he was shown up, sitting, in the dusk, near the wood
fire.  He had longed all day for this moment, and came in quickly, with
a sudden delight at finding her there by herself.  Something in her
manner checked him instantly.  It was nothing upon which he could seize,
and it was perfectly gentle, but he felt that, in some way or other, it
recalled to him the change in their position, which in his eagerness he
had seemed to forget.  And it vexed him the more because the night
before certain vague thoughts had almost taken the form of hope.  She
was sitting with her back to the fading light; he could not see the
expression of her eyes, nor much more than a pale face, the outline of a
slender figure, the hands clasped on her lap.  Every now and then as she
gave him the details of his aunt's illness, or repeated some tender
message, her voice faltered, but she carefully avoided the least
allusion to her own feelings, and he was certain that she intended him
to feel that the barrier between them remained unmoved.  A chill
restraint crept over them both.  Once, when his words took a somewhat
warmer and more personal form as he thanked her for all she had done,
she interrupted him, although still quite gently:

"Do you know," she said, "that I have been very glad to have had this
talk with you without the others being here?  There are many things one
can't talk of before friends, however kind they are.  But they may come
back at any moment now, and I have a great many things to say.  So don't
let us waste our time."  Jack muttered something about the others.  She
did not seem to hear him, but went on hurriedly:

"You ought to know how things are going on with the Masters.  I'm afraid
it is not very satisfactory.  Has anyone told you that Mr Trent is
still here?"

"Still?  Well, certainly I did think that circumstances would have
ousted him by this time."

She gave him a quick, inquiring glance.

"I thought your letter would have been strong enough to do it.  But--
please excuse me--did you speak plainly enough?  I couldn't help having
a feeling that you were making the best of his conduct, and--and it
almost seems a pity," said Phillis, provoked at her own lame ending.
She had thought she knew exactly what to say.

"Didn't I speak out?"

"Well, it is certain that man can twist everything to suit his purpose,
even his own misdeeds."

"Yes," assented Jack quietly.  "He has a wonderful strength of
plausibility."

"And he has managed to persuade Bice--I don't know what he hasn't
persuaded them all--that it was a mistake about the fifty pounds, and
that though now he no longer doubts that Clive paid it, the man never
repaid it to him.  Somehow or other he has made her believe that he has
acted straightforwardly, and has suffered for it.  And, myself, I can't
help fearing that there are some other complications, and that he has
that foolish Mrs Masters in his power.  But now that you are here,
things will be put straight, I hope."

"Yes.  I suppose there will have to be a blow up," said Jack, not very
cheerfully.

There was a curious thrill--was it pity or reluctance?--in her voice
when she went on rapidly:

"I blame myself for something.  I ought to have told you before you went
away that Bice was engaged to Mr Trent.  I believe I thought something
would be sure to happen to put an end to it."

"I heard it from Trent himself.  And it still goes on?"

"Yes.  The marriage is to be at Easter--or was."  If there had been a
clearer light in the room, Jack might have read something in Phillis's
face, some hidden pain, some struggle with herself which might have
disarmed him.  As it was, he was hurt by her persistent belief in his
caring for Bice.  He said in a hard and strained voice, which she
interpreted as pain from her own point of view--

"Here is a budget of news, indeed!  It seems one should be a villain if
one desires to succeed successfully."

Phillis only thought of the pain in his voice.  She leant forward and
said with eagerness--

"But of course you will not allow her to be sacrificed?"

"I?  Why not?  I suppose she knows what she is about--most women do," he
said with gloom.  But the next moment he turned towards her.  "Really, I
can't tell what she wishes, but I'll tell you what I'll do.  She shall
hear the precise facts as fairly as I can put them, without
exaggeration.  After that she must judge for herself.  A woman ought to
have some sort of notion what the man is like whom she intends to marry,
unless, indeed, she cares for him so much that she is content to be
blind.  In that case--"

He stopped.  Phillis repeated quickly:

"In that case--"

"Hadn't she better remain undeceived?"

She sighed.  It seemed to her that he made her task very difficult.

"Well, at any rate, let her judge fairly," she said.  "Yes, that's due
to her."  He leant his arms on the table, and began pulling some
cyclamen out of a great bunch.  "_Viole pazze_," he went on; "Rome seems
to have as many flowers as Florence.  By the way, do you remember
hearing me speak of a young Moroni who used to be a good deal at the
villa?  He came in my train yesterday from Florence."

"Did he?" said Phillis absently.  The constraint between them seemed to
increase; they might have been strangers.  Her effort had been greater
than she knew, and she felt more sad and weary than before Jack came in,
while something told her that the hardest part was to come.  Jack
himself went on playing with the poor cyclamen, no less uncomfortable
than she.  He wanted to say something about Hetherton, and did not know
how to begin.  Phillis relieved him of the difficulty.  "Tell me
something about Aunt Harriet, please," she said.  "It is an age since
she wrote.  Of course you saw her while you were in England?"

"Yes.  I went to Hetherton at once, and to my amazement found that
fellow Trent spending his Christmas there.  Did you know he was so thick
with them?"

"I?  No.  They hardly write to me," said she, with a forlorn sense of
loneliness.  "But they were well, weren't they?"

"My uncle was horribly cut up by--by your determination, Phillis."

"I was afraid he might be sorry."

She knew that what she dreaded was coming, and her heart beat wildly;
but she said the words quite calmly, and as if they related to someone
else.  Jack crushed a flower in his hand, and leant forward.

"_She_ was sorry, too," he said in a low voice.  "Can't you think
differently?  I know I was the one to blame, but can't you let me--"

She interrupted him with a hasty gesture.

"That subject is at an end between us; pray do not return to it."

But that it was so unlike her, he could have sworn he detected a slight
accent of scorn in her voice.

"Well, Phillis," he said, getting up, "I daren't do it, if you forbid
me.  I don't suppose I've gone the way to work to make you believe what
I want to say.  Perhaps I'd better have held my tongue, as I intended.
It was the seeing you with her, I suppose, and thinking that perhaps--
however, if it is as you say, and the subject must be at an end, will
you give me a kiss, Phillis, before we part?"

She covered her face with her hands, and drew back quickly and without a
word to soften the gesture.

"Not?" said Jack, in the same slow tone.  "Well, don't fear.  Whatever I
am, I won't be a bore.  I understand fully all that you mean--all.  It
was you, remember, who promised we should always be friends--There,
don't be afraid, I am going.  Good-bye.  God bless you, Phillis."

But long after he had gone she kept her face covered--perhaps because
she was trying to shut out even the remembrance of what had past,
perhaps because she feared her own impulses.  For as the door shut, she
had felt as if her very senses went out in a wild cry to him to come
back.  _Not_?  If he had but known how hard that moment was, how it was
against herself that she shrank with the movement which had wounded him,
how she had fought with the longing that his request called up!  If she
had kissed him she could have fought no longer, she must have flung down
her arms.  Why not?  Why not?  For the first time this persistent
question seemed to have gained strength, and she set herself to answer
it reasonably.  Why not?

She went back to the early days of their engagement.  Its romance had
come to her very quietly, and untroubled by fears or doubts.  Jack had
always been her hero from the time when he had embodied one by one all
that her storybooks offered in that line.  She used to listen
triumphantly to the school exploits which he poured into her fascinated
ears.  She could have no greater delight than to go with him to feed the
rabbits, or the wild-fowl on the lake.  He filled a far more important
part in her life than she did in his, and so, though the gladness was
great, she felt neither surprise nor misgivings when he asked her to
marry him.  Her inexperience was even greater than her youthfulness; she
loved him, and it was both natural and sweet that he should love her.

But when, little by little, she understood that his feeling was of a
very different nature from hers, an uneasy shame that she should have
been so lightly won added a sting to her sorrow.

Jack had not been mistaken in fancying that there was a touch of scorn
in her voice when he made that last appeal.  The scorn, however, was
directed rather against herself than him.  She knew so well why he had
made it.  She had been expecting it all the time.  She had always had a
presentiment that Miss Cartwright, who loved her very dearly, would say
something to her nephew which would bear this sort of fruit, and his
speaking only assured her that her dread was well founded.  If Jack had
but known it, he had chosen the worst possible moment for his appeal.
Did he think that she was going to make another mistake?  And Mr
Thornton too--as he had almost admitted--had probably spoken very
strongly, and had no doubt weighted his words with threats about the
future of Hetherton.  Phillis started up and walked to the window,
locking her hands together as she walked, but there was not the
slightest hesitation hidden behind the movement.  Though she loved Jack
so well that she thought it would almost break her heart to see him shut
out from Hetherton, she would never suffer herself to become its price.

For Jack did not love her, of that she felt sure.  He pitied her,
perhaps; liked her, possibly; reproached himself, she did not doubt; but
these were only shadows with which she would never again content
herself.

Somebody else loved her, or so she had begun to fear, and it was curious
that her clear judgment failed as she thought of Mr Penington.  For she
was wondering whether she should ever marry him.  He was very good, and
kind, and clever, and--

"In the dark, my poor Phillis?" said a cheerful voice.  "And all alone?
I am afraid it was very inhuman of us to leave you.  Come, confess,
haven't you been thinking so?  At any rate, somebody else was almost
rude to me about it.  I felt quite horrid."

"I've not been alone," said Phillis, thinking as she spoke that her own
voice sounded curiously odd and unsteady.  "Mr Ibbetson only went away
a few minutes ago.  I almost wonder you did not meet him."

"I thought I caught sight of a coat like his.  I will say for him that
his coats are well cut.  However, his companionship can hardly have been
cheerful."

"We had a good deal to talk about," said Phillis, gravely.

"Of course, my poor dear.  But I think it is very hard so much has
fallen on you.  And do tell me, for I am dying to know--"

"What?"

"Did he ask a great many questions about the Masters?  Has he seen any
of them yet?"

"No."

"No?  Are you sure?  Well, I suppose he could hardly hurry there at
once, but I'm much mistaken if he waits long, and then what will be the
next act in the play?  Will poor Mr Trent receive his dismissal?  Now,
Phillis, it's too dark to see you, but I know exactly how you're
looking.  I can't help it; I shall always say that Mr Ibbetson has
behaved abominably.  There was no one to call him out, for Harry could
never have been brought to comprehend that was part of his duty.  But I
must speak."

"Don't blame him to-day, at any rate," said Phillis in a low voice that
was full of pain.

"Is he so much cut up?  Well, poor fellow, I really am sorry for him,
though I pity Cartouche more.  And you, too, my dear.  You have had a
terrible time of it while we have all been going on in a most shamefully
selfish way.  Not Mr Penington.  I must do him the justice to say that
I don't think you've been out of his thoughts for a minute.  And how
nice he is!  Oh, dear, there's the table-d'hote bell!  You'll not go
down, of course?  No, I told Giuseppe so as I passed.  But you won't
mind Mr Penington coming up afterwards?  He wanted to so very much that
I hadn't the heart to refuse him.  Besides, he is very understanding and
won't tease you; you needn't even try to talk, for he has a whole heap
of Etruscan tomby things from Corneto, and wants Harry to take us all
there.  I shan't go.  I know exactly what it's like, one of those horrid
dirty little places where one can only eat the middles of things."

She lit the candles and went away, leaving Phillis just where she had
found her, so that the girl's thoughts, which this conversation had
hardly broken in upon, rapidly shaped themselves again in the same form.
She would have told herself that Miss Cartwright made the centre, and
perhaps she did, but round that centre, with its tender and gentle
recollections, how many other fancies grouped themselves.

And somehow or other that evening the question, which she had not yet
answered to her own satisfaction, became more persistent.  Mr
Penington, whom she had not seen for a day or two, was radiant with the
delight of being near her again, and his pleasure sent a sort of
answering glow into her own heart.  It was impossible for her to remain
untouched by the kind thoughtfulness with which he contrived to shield
and leave her in peace, or by the swiftness with which he seemed to
anticipate her wishes.  Gradually he drew her out of her silence into an
interest in the curious things he had got together, and to promise to go
to the Etruscan Museum, in the Vatican to see the collection of cottage
tombs, the curious little vessels like miniature hats which were dug out
of an ancient burying place in the Campagna.

"You shall go when you like," he said eagerly.

Mrs Leyton, who was very warmly on Mr Penington's side, looked at her
husband and smiled.  She had noticed something different in Phillis's
manner that night, a more passive acquiescence, perhaps, from which she
augured well.  Really liking her, she would have been glad that the
Roman winter should end in this satisfactory fashion, and was prepared
even to go through the catacombs, if Mr Penington proposed it, though
she hated anything underground.  Mr Penington had learnt exactly the
things which Phillis liked.

"I have come round to your thinking about Titian's picture in the
Borghese," he said to her in a low voice, when the others were talking;
"I think it is the best thing in all the gallery."

"In all Rome, I think," said Phillis brightening.  "I care for it so
much that it quite hints me to hear people abuse it."

"Are you talking of the Sacred and Profane Love?" asked Mrs Leyton,
chiming in.  "Mr Ibbetson could not make out which was which, don't you
remember?  I can't say it spoke very well for his artistic feeling."

Somehow or other this little speech had a different effect from what was
intended: it hurt Phillis, and though Mr Penington did not know much
about Jack's position with her, he was watching her and saw that she was
vexed.  He said quietly--

"That is not a very uncommon mistake at first sight, indeed, you may
find it immortalised in print.  But at every fresh visit the marvellous
beauty comes out.  Very likely the name is altogether imaginary.  Vanity
and Modesty would do as well for it as for Da Vinci's picture in the
Sciarra.  You must come and see that one day, soon, Miss Grey; I can get
an order."

"You can get everything, I believe," said Phillis with a smile.

He said quickly, so that only she could hear--

"I like you to say so--I shall take it as an omen;" and he then turned
away, and talked for the rest of the evening to Mrs Leyton.  Phillis
leaned back in a kind of dream, thinking that friendship was pleasant
and soothing, and wishing that others would be content with it.  But
they would not.  And if--if only she could make up her mind to marry
him, not only could she save him--this was what she thought--from the
pangs of disappointment, but her own unrest might perhaps be hushed
into--contentment.

And yet she would not marry Jack without an equal love.  Certainly
Phillis could lay no claim to be what is called a consistent character.

CHAPTER TWENTY THREE.

BROUGHT TO BAY.

And so Miss Cartwright was laid in that peaceful cemetery at Rome where
the sweet violets clamber over the graves, and the cypresses grow tall
against the blue sky, throwing shadows alike on the Christian
resting-place, and on the tomb of the old republican, who had himself
enclosed in a pyramid of marble.  They were obliged to shut Cartouche
into a room from which there was no possible exit, or the dog would have
forced his way after them; and indeed, after they came back, Jack could
hardly endure the questioning look of his eyes.  As for Miss Preston,
she could not pet him enough.  She asked Jack with tears in her eyes
whether he would let her take him back to Florence, where she meant to
return at once, not caring to remain in Rome; but Jack would not part
with the dog.  For a week or two longer he intended to stay on in the
house in the Via della Croce, for there were certain arrangements to
make which made it necessary for him to be in Rome; then he thought he
would go back to his work in London, and if the prospect looked a little
forlorn, he told himself that he must get used to it, and put his
shoulder to the wheel.  All his aunt's property had come to him, but
this winter had also brought him a contempt of idleness, and it did not
in any way modify his plans for his future life.  He had seen Mrs
Leyton, and something, which she purposely let drop, had confirmed his
impression that Phillis was lost to him.  He could not quite give up
hope, but told himself that time only could answer his doubts, and
meanwhile thought with some reluctance of the task which must be
undertaken before Phillis would feel satisfied that Bice knew how Oliver
Trent had really acted.

Two days after the funeral, three people were standing in a room in the
Palazzo Capponi, the windows of which looked into a square courtyard,
round which ran a covered way, and which for its centre had a slender
fountain, with camellias growing round it.  The room itself was
certainly ugly.  The proportions were fine, and some good pictures hung
on the walls, but the panels, doors, and ceiling were painted heavily
and in bad taste, while the furniture was hideously covered with yellow
satin.  In the furthest window, an old Italian servant with a brown and
wrinkled face sat knitting, and turning her back to the three, who were
Bice, Trent, and young Moroni.  It was to this last that Bice was
talking eagerly in his own language, paying no attention to Trent's
looks of annoyance.  At this moment the servant brought in a card.

"It is Mr Ibbetson," said Bice, after a moment's pause.  "Yes; of
course we are at home to him."

If her colour rose a little, Trent did not see it.  He had expected this
meeting, but no preparation could subdue the feeling of dismay which
seized him.  He said sharply,--

"I hope you will not be anything of the sort.  You ought not to admit
him."

"Do you suppose I will allow you to dictate to me?" she said, looking at
Trent with flashing eyes.

"Your mother is not here," he said, biting his lips.

"There is Brigitta--"

The servant had retired into the anteroom; Bice was moving towards him,
when Trent placed himself before her.

"Listen to reason," he said beseechingly.  "I tell you I can't promise
to keep my temper with this man."

"And what do I care!" she retorted.  "Are you afraid of him?  I don't
suppose he comes to see you, and so if you like you can go away.
Certainly I shall receive him."

The girl had changed in some way or other.  Her beauty was, if possible,
more remarkable than ever, so large were her eyes, and so curved the
lines of her mouth, but instead of the frank and open manner which had
been as simple as that of a child, there was noticeable a touch of hard
recklessness, of defiance which was almost like despair.  Young Moroni,
standing by, had also changed.  He had grown older, and now looked from
one to the other, understanding nothing of the words, but aware that
something was amiss, and ready at a sign from Bice to fling himself upon
the other man.  He, poor fellow, was feeling as if all his old hopes had
come to an end.  Trent was very pale, but had recovered his coolness.
He said scornfully,--

"No, I am not quite such a fool.  I imagine the meeting will be less
agreeable for him than for me, on the whole.  But these knight-errants
of yours, my dear Bice, should learn to conduct themselves less
offensively when they meddle with what does not concern them.  Pray, is
this other also to take part in the coming interview?"

"He will not be the wiser," said the girl indifferently.  Her anger
seemed to have died out, and she said a few careless words to Moroni,
who brightened, nodded, and took a newspaper with him into a recess
where he was half hidden by a heavy yellow curtain.  Then she walked to
the door and threw it open.  "Ask the English gentleman to come in," she
said to the servant who was waiting, and came back to the middle of the
room, flinging a triumphant and haughty glance at Trent.

As for him in these moments he had rapidly reviewed his position.  Ever
since he had heard of Ibbetson's sudden arrival in Rome, he had known
that this meeting must in all probability take place, and had prepared
for it, thinking carefully over his chances, so that it did not take him
by surprise, although he had had a faint hope of inducing Bice to refuse
to see him.  He had played a bold game, calculating that interest and
the hope of regaining his uncle's favour would keep Ibbetson in England,
and managing to persuade Bice that he was misjudged from having really
befriended Clive.  What was she to think!  Clive's own letters almost
took his part; she had already promised, and was sick at heart, while
her strong will failed in spite of its bold front.  Trent had worked
warily with her, and had all but won.  But at this moment, though this
flashed through his mind, and though he was well aware how perilous was
his position and how much depended on his own coolness and audacity, he
felt despairingly that he was not cool.  He loved this girl so
passionately that it irritated him almost beyond endurance to feel that
the man he looked upon as his rival was eagerly welcomed by her in the
face of his expressed wish.  No dread of possible consequences fell upon
him so painfully as this fact.

As for Bice her heart was beating fast, she did not know what she felt.
When Jack came in she was standing alone in the middle of the room with
all its heavy adornments.  Somehow they only seemed to add to her
beauty, which struck him as freshly as ever.  He greeted her kindly, and
exchanged a stiff bow with Trent.

"We have been so shocked and grieved," she said with eagerness.  "I
shall always feel as if she were the kindest person I have ever known."

"Thank you," Jack replied gravely.  "I, for one, have good reason to say
so."

"Did she suffer very much?"

"At first.  By the time I saw her it was more weakness than pain."

"And you were in time?  We have heard very few particulars."

"Yes.  I arrived the afternoon before."

He was sitting next Bice on a sofa.  Trent had flung himself on a chair,
and taken up a book, but he was keenly on the watch.  Bice, whose
contemptuous mood had passed, looked at him nervously.

"I thought that when you left Rome you intended to come back again?  Why
did you stay all that time in England?" she asked in a hesitating voice.

"I did intend to return when I left, but circumstances are sometimes too
strong for intentions," said Jack, feeling a comical conviction that he
was growing sententious.  Pope's line flashed through his mind: "And
mark the point where sense and dulness meet."

"I hope the sense is equal to the dulness," he thought.

"And you saw Clive?"

She glanced at Oliver again as she put the question, but this time her
looks were defiant.  She thought that Ibbetson had gathered a false
impression of what Trent had done; at the same time she took a certain
pleasure in introducing a subject which would perhaps irritate Trent.
He at once accepted the challenge, laying down the book and saying in
his soft tones:

"You need hardly put that question, Bice; Mr Ibbetson not only saw
Clive, but, as you know, made discoveries so new and startling, that if
they had not had the misfortune to place me in a very unenviable light,
I should really have been disposed to congratulate him upon their
extraordinary ingenuity."

"You would be giving me more credit than I deserve," Jack replied
calmly.  "My discoveries were so far from ingenious that I might have
wondered at their results if I had not remembered an old saying."

"Pray allow us to benefit."

"You may go by different roads, and yet reach the same end."

Jack was getting irate at what he considered insolence, though he was
ready to spare him if Bice made any sign.

"Most oracular.  May I ask whether the application is intended for my
use?" said Trent without any change of countenance.  But Ibbetson
noticed that his hand which was resting on the arm of the chair, grasped
it closely.  He bent forward and answered,--

"Certainly I have no wish to be your fellow-traveller."

Bice, who had been glancing doubtfully from one to the other,
interposed.

"You are not quite fair on Mr Trent.  Has it ever been explained to
you?  Oh, then, it is no wonder.  He was deceived as well as poor Clive
by that wicked man."

"Was he?"

"Yes, indeed.  What a friend for Clive to choose!  Do you think he will
be more careful now?  Because, if not, I am sure he will be ruined."

"He has had a lesson, of course."

"And it was all through you that the man was found out.  Imagine his
telling you that he had repaid the money!  I suppose he is too ill to be
punished?"

"He is dead," Ibbetson answered briefly.

"Dead!" she looked questioningly at him; something which he could not
shut out of his manner, gave her suspicions.  She said with her old
imperativeness, "Why do you speak in such little sentences?  Are you
hiding something, or are you offended?  Don't you know that we can
never, never, thank you enough?"

"You don't include me in your `we,' I hope," said Trent with a sharp
change of voice.

"Certainly personal relations need not be discussed between us," replied
Jack haughtily.  "May I ask how the history of the money continues after
reaching this point?"

"If it were not for this lady, I might decline to answer your
questions," said Trent in the same tone.  "She being present, and
considering herself under obligations to you, I will inform you that it
does not continue at all.  It ends with Mr Smith."

"Who is dead?"

"Who is dead."

Surely there was some triumph in his voice.

"And therefore beyond the possibility of being called as a witness."

"That may be your way of looking at the case.  From my view I should say
that he was beyond the possibility of being called to account for
dishonesty."

"Take care, Mr Trent," returned Jack gravely.  Oliver glanced swiftly
at him, something in his face giving him a thrill of uneasiness.  Then
he looked at Bice; her eyes were fixed eagerly, inquiringly upon him,
the breath came quickly through her parted lips as she leaned forward.
The sight of these two, sitting side by side, maddened him.

"May I be permitted to ask to what your warning relates?" he said with
an attempt at scorn.

"Certainly.  Do you wish me to enter into particulars now, or would you
prefer them to be given in private?"  Before Trent said "Now," he
rapidly reviewed his chances.  If he could have had a hope that Ibbetson
would not tell all to Bice, he would have chosen a private interview,
but he felt certain that sooner or later she would be informed, and,
therefore, determined to meet the charge boldly.  Besides, he could see
she would not be put off.  And after all, was not his word as good any
day as that wretched Smith's.  He said, "Now," briefly.

"Then, to put it in the fewest possible words, I may tell you that,
although Smith is dead, I have in my possession such strong and clear
evidence of his having paid you the money, that there would not be the
smallest difficulty in proving it in a court of law."

"Perhaps a receipt," sneered Trent.

"No.  But a deposition, taken when he knew himself dying, and signed in
the presence of the clergyman and another witness."

"Your court of law would require a little stronger evidence than this
document, however interesting, Mr Ibbetson."

He still spoke without flinching.

"Oh, they would have it.  The chain is very complete.  There would be
the evidence of the London landlady that she had furnished you with
Smith's address and refused it to others by your advice.  That of Clive
that you denied all knowledge of it.  And lastly that of the Broadwater
lodging-house keeper that you saw Smith there on such a day.  What took
you there?"

"What's that to you?" asked Trent firmly.  But he was livid.  Then
suddenly changing his tone he turned imploringly to Bice, whose eyes
were still fixed upon him, though she had drawn her hands tightly
against her chest, and was shrinking backwards.  "Bice!  You at least
will not believe this ridiculous slander.  You and I both know that
Clive would not listen to advice.  I was very uneasy about him--for your
sake, remember--could I have done him any harm?  Perhaps I had better
have treated him more openly, better for myself certainly it would have
been, but I thought he would grow desperate, and lose all self-respect
if I let him know that I knew his story to be false.  It was for that
reason that I never told him I had traced Smith.  For Smith utterly
denied it to me then.  I believe now that he was lying, as, according to
Mr Ibbetson, he has lied about me, but at the time I took his word for
his statement.  And then I lent Clive the money, calling it lending, but
never intending to take it from him, only feeling that the effort of
repaying it would make more impression than words.  You understand this,
Bice?"

She did not answer his appeal.  A mute horror seemed to have seized her.
Ibbetson looked at him with more pity than she did, and bent his eyes
on the ground as he went on.

"Finally, there is the man Elias Brooks."

"What of him?" said Trent hoarsely.

"It is never safe to buy silence, because speech will always be ready
for a higher bidder.  Indeed, I doubt if you knew what most required
hushing up.  He was interested in your interview with Smith, and is
prepared to repeat the greater part of it."

"Confound you and him together," said Trent, springing up.  "Are these
your tools?  And you believe him?"

"Yes I do; because the corroboration is exact."

"I shall expect satisfaction for these insults, Mr Ibbetson."  Oliver's
voice was choked.

"Not really, I think," Jack said coolly.

"Stop!" interrupted Bice.  She stood up, trembling so much that she had
to rest her hand on the sofa.  Trent's eyes fell before hers which
seemed to blaze with the fire of her indignation.  She tried to speak,
but the words would not come.  "Go away, go!" she said at last with a
shudder.

He made a step towards her.

"Bice, my darling, hear me!"

"You could treat Clive like that!"

"Let me explain--"

"Not a word," she interrupted.  She spoke in a strained high voice, but
words had come back to her.  "You have deceived me from first to last.
I have never loved you, but I thought you were good to Clive.  Every day
of my life I will thank God that He has saved me from becoming your
wife.  Do you hear?  Now go."

The scorn, the sweeping indignation of her voice startled them all.
Brigitta looked round; Moroni, whom Jack had not seen until that moment,
came hurriedly forward, and stood looking from one to another.  Trent
caught her hand.

"Take care!" he said in a sharp whisper; then, as she shook him off with
such a vehement movement as that with which she would have flung some
reptile from her, he went on desperately, "Are you mad?  I have borne a
great deal, but I cannot bear everything.  Have you forgotten that there
are other ties between us besides those which you are so ready to cast
off?  Perhaps you wish your mother to be ruined.  How is she to pay her
debts?"

She had drawn herself to her full height, her face was very pale, her
eyes seemed as if he must wither up before them.  Then she laughed.

"That is well, that is very, very well; I think it is the only thing
that was wanted," she said, letting her words drop one by one.  "Mr
Ibbetson, Giovanni, will you come and hear Mr Trent's last appeal, and
my answer."

Jack, who had turned away from a scene that pained him, and had been
standing at the window, looking out at the court with its fountain, its
camellias, and the rain splashing on its great paving stones, came back
unwillingly.  Moroni, hearing his name, though he understood nothing
more, hastened forward and stood at Bice's side, with a ready purpose in
his eyes to do anything she could ask.

"Not now," said Trent, drawing back.

"Yes, now," she asserted.  "Do you suppose I will ever look at your face
again?  Listen, then, both of you.  We owe him money, and he threatens
me with it--_He_!  He supposes that even a prison would not be
preferable to being his wife!"

As all the passion of her Italian nature leapt forth, the scorn in her
voice might have swept him away before it, but that his own rage was
ungovernable.  He said with a sneer:--

"Oh, I imagine you have taken care to arrange for something better than
a prison.  Pray, is this a preconcerted scene, and is Mr Ibbetson to
pay your debts and marry you?"

Jack made a step forward, then he stopped himself by a strong effort.
Trent had fallen beneath his punishment, he would not even speak to him;
he turned to Bice and said with great gentleness:--

"I am very sorry you should have been exposed to this man's gross
insults, although they cannot touch you.  Will you go to your room and
leave him to me?"

"Signorina, what is it? what has he done?" asked Moroni, seizing her
hands.

But the girl was speechless.  Her eyes dilated, she was deadly pale, and
looked like one who had received a heavy blow.  Ibbetson, who was very
much grieved, said a few words in Italian to Moroni.

"But it is impossible!  Does he dare to reproach you--you! because your
mother owes him some money!  It should have been a great honour to him
to have been so happy as to do her a little service.  Signorina,
_carina_," cried the young fellow, with passionate entreaty in his
voice, "I am rich, all that I have is yours!"  His face was glowing, he
pressed her hands to his lips; in the eagerness of his devotion he
seemed to have forgotten that any others were in the room.  "Only suffer
me to act for you, I beseech of you!"

Trent came forward once more, and though his voice shook it had regained
its old softness:--

"Bice!"

She turned away her head.

"I spoke hastily.  Say one word."

She remained silent, and Ibbetson turned sharply round.

"You had better go," he said, in a low voice.  "Why?" asked Trent,
eyeing him sullenly,--

"I should think you could answer the question for yourself; perhaps
before you find yourself kicked out."

"Well, that spectacle is hardly pleasant for you or for me," said
Oliver, pointing to Moroni, who stood close to Bice as if he were her
champion; "and so I leave you with greater satisfaction than might have
been the case.  But you have not heard the last of me, Mr Ibbetson."

He walked out of the room slowly, and except, perhaps, for the pallor of
his face, no one would have guessed that he was a disgraced and
disappointed man.  There was a moment's silence between them all when he
had lifted the curtain and passed out, nothing breaking it except the
patter of the rain on the stones of the courtyard, the click-click of
old Brigitta's needles, and the distant clang of some church bell.
Moroni clenched his hands, and muttered something under his breath.
Jack stood looking after Trent, uncertain what to do himself, whether to
go or stay.  He was roused from his thoughts by Bice's voice:--

"Is he gone?"

"Yes; he is gone," said Jack, coming back, and speaking gravely.  "I'm
afraid this has been a very trying interview for you.  Perhaps I ought
to have managed that you should have been spared.  And yet--"

"No, no," she said faintly.  "You have nothing to reproach yourself
with.  It was better that it should have been like this; it was
necessary.  And you must not think that it is the sort of grief you
would perhaps expect--is it very wicked to feel as I do, as if a burden
were lifted off my life?  Because I do feel it already in spite of his
threats."

"I am sure I don't wonder," said Ibbetson kindly, "I only wonder--"

"That I ever promised to many him?  Phillis would never have done so, I
know, but then--I am not so brave as Phillis.  And I always believed he
was very good to Clive, and then he persuaded me that what he had done
had been misrepresented, and I thought it was from something I had said;
and so--"

"Signorina, do not shut me out any longer, talk in our own language,"
said young Moroni impatiently.

The girl smiled; a sad little smile it was.  "Poor Giovanni, whether you
hear little or much, you believe always that I am right, don't you?"

"_Altro_, I know it, signorina!"

She looked wistfully at him for a moment.  Then she put out a hand to
him and to Jack, with a simple confiding impulse which touched them
both.  "Good-bye, dear friends," she said softly in Italian, "try always
to think as kindly."

As the heavy curtain fell behind her, Moroni turned impetuously to
Ibbetson.

"Now, signore," he said, "I must hear more."

"Wait a moment," said Jack.  "Is it because you love her?"

"Do I not?  And I mean to win her.  He is dismissed, is he not?  Let me
hear it all, I beseech you, I burn with impatience.  I will walk back
with you, and then I shall hasten to her mother.  What is this about the
money?  Shall I not call out that Trent?"

CHAPTER TWENTY FOUR.

WHICH WILL SUCCEED?

Moroni did not call out Trent but took some other measures which were
vigorous and a good deal more sensible.  But it was a proof of curious
and dogged perseverance in the man, that, although baffled, Trent did
not give up all hope.  He had played a desperate game, in which he told
himself--and truly enough, as far as it went--that he had been led on
from risk to risk, and so far as his wrong-doing had been a mistake, he
bitterly regretted it.  Bitterly, for his love for Bice was an absorbing
passion, and he would not yet suffer himself to own that she was lost
for ever.

His hope lay in Mrs Masters.  First and last he had lent her a good
deal of money, looking to it as another means of gaining a power over
the girl.  For he measured Bice's strength and weakness accurately,
knowing that she would resist obstinately and, after all, give way in a
moment if she could spare a tear to those she loved.  Impulse, as yet,
was almost paramount with her; what Trent was ignorant of, or forgot to
take into account, was the effect produced upon her by the steady
influence of such a life as that of Phillis, in which a higher law
ruled.

Trent lost no time.  He knew that Mrs Masters had been teased by Kitty
into taking her to the Capitol, and he at once followed them there.
Everything looked grey and dreary, and unlike Rome; the pepper trees and
mimosas by the Capitol steps hung dank, the poor wolf had slunk sullenly
into his den, even the majestic and unmoved serenity of Marcus Aurelius,
as the rain beat down upon him, dangerously approached the ridiculous.
An old woman held out her hand, "_Un soldo, per pieta, signore, un
soldo_."  Trent flung her a dozen soldi, having a feeling that he could
not afford to lose the blessing of a beggar.

Mrs Masters and Kitty had gone to the side where the bronze wolf is
preserved, and he was long in finding them.  Mrs Masters--always
provided with a camp-stool--was in her usual condition of repose,
letting her daughter look about as she liked, so that nothing could have
been more desirable for Trent.  Any other woman might have noticed the
unusual dull pallor of his face, as he leaned against a pedestal by her
side, but observation was growing more and more an unknown exercise to
her, and she made no more than her ordinary remarks about heat or cold
and the like, when he joined her.  He did not trouble himself to answer
them, but said abruptly:--

"Have you any idea how much money I have let you have?"

"Not much," she said placidly.  It had seemed to her part of the
arrangement to which belonged Bice's engagement, and she expected Trent
to look upon it in the same light.

"Well, you had better understand.  It is over two hundred pounds."

For a moment she was a little startled, "I don't really think it can be
so much," she said.  "But, to be sure, I have a very poor head for
business."

"And do you know," he went on without regarding, "that Bice has been
listening to that young--fool, Ibbetson, and has been talked into
throwing me over?"

He spoke in a low savage voice, which had in it so much concentrated
bitterness that it frightened her.  She looked up at him with a vaguely
terrified expression.

"What do you mean?" she said.  "She is going to marry you, isn't she?"

"No," he said in the same tone.  "Can't you understand plain English?  I
tell you he has been getting hold of her with his cock-and-bull stories
about Clive, and this is the end of it."

He had no dislike to Mrs Masters, and yet at that moment it gave him a
fierce satisfaction to see that she was trembling.  It seemed like an
assurance that Bice was still in his power.  And, indeed, one time of
her life had taught her so thoroughly the language of threats that she
had no difficulty in realising that he meant something by asking her
about the money.  She said imploringly:--

"But it is not my fault, Oliver.  You must know that I have always taken
your part with Bice, and that I cannot help it if she has one of these
headstrong fits upon her."

"Perhaps not.  But I don't mean to put up with them quietly.  Choose for
yourself.  Can you repay me the money?"

"Oh, of course I cannot, you know I cannot!  And you promised me that
when you were married you would not ask for repayment."

"Well?  And I abide by that promise.  But do you think me fool enough to
lose everything?  Keep your side of the compact and I keep mine."

She looked at him helplessly.  Her mind was not quick at resources, and
Trent's will always seemed to oppose a blank high wall when she wished
to escape.  Kitty came up with some remark.  When she had left them
again, her mother said slowly:--

"I can't force Bice."

"You can work upon her.  If you succeed, I give you my word, the money
shall be absolutely yours."  He was leaning forward and speaking
earnestly, and a dull hope came into her face.

"Perhaps I can.  And you will be kind?"

"I will be very kind--to success."

Then he walked away after Kitty, who was his warm admirer and supporter,
and took pains to make himself more than usually pleasant to her, before
he confided what had past.  Painted in his own colours it looked very
different from the actual fact, and Kitty, flattered and pleased,
scarcely needed persuasion.  When he went back to Mrs Masters, he felt
convinced that he had a chance of at least getting himself heard by
Bice, who was only to be reached by those she loved, and once heard, his
indomitable perseverance assured him that he could explain everything.

Somebody else was plotting and planning that day.  Moroni, all the
chivalry of whose nature had risen up in answer to what Ibbetson had
told him, though that was not much, was dashing about here and there,
looking pale and determined, and unlike the days of the guitar.  Jack
was very good-natured, and sincerely anxious that he should succeed, his
liking and esteem for the young fellow having grown rapidly that day.
But even Jack grew a little weary of giving advice, when, for the third
time, Moroni came rushing up his stairs.

"My dear friend," cried the young fellow, wringing his hands, "what
should I do without you?  I ask you twenty thousand pardons, I am an
impertinent, an intruder, but--will you only answer me one question, and
I go?"

Ibbetson, who had had to answer some dozens already, nodded
good-humouredly.

"Do you really think I should delay pressing my suit?  If she were
altogether Italian I should know what to do, but she is partly English;
she loves England, it is not impossible that I might shock her.  You,
too, are English.  Advise me."

He was trembling with eagerness, and thrusting his hands into his hair.
Ibbetson leaned back in his chair, clasped his hands behind his head,
and said:--

"I wouldn't be too abrupt.  She will want a little breathing time after
this affair.  See Mrs Masters if you like, and for the rest go quietly
to work."

Moroni listened as eagerly as if he had not already had the advice again
and again, nodded once or twice and jumped up.

"Enough!  I shall go at once and see if her mother is returned.
_Addio_, best of friends."  But at the door he came back: "You would
really wait?"

"My dear fellow, I'm no prophet.  I only say what I should do if I were
in your shoes."

"I shall do it.  Ah, a thought strikes me!  That is your dog, is it not?
And she likes him, I have heard her speak of him--will you lend him to
me?  It would be so good to give her pleasure."

Jack gave a laughing leave, but Cartouche refused all enticements.  When
the eager young fellow, with his hope and enthusiasm, had at last rushed
out, Cartouche walked across the room and rested his black head on his
master's knee; looking in his face with the odd questioning that touched
them all.  "You and I are left pretty much to each other, old fellow,
eh?" said Jack, pulling the shaggy locks; "and we miss her, too, don't
we?  Well, we'll hold together, and stick to each other, and, perhaps,
the sooner we get away from here the better it may be for us both."
Then he began to imagine that future which turned a dreary side towards
him at that time; Phillis in the vicarage at Whitcote, himself obliged
every now and then to be at Elmsleigh to meet her, to meet the man whose
wife she was.  More than once in their last interview Phillis had hurt
him as she had never done before; her shrinking reluctance to grant him
that one request of his, had given him his sharpest pang, and his
thoughts had gone back to it again and again.  He was impatient with
himself for his own folly, and stood up and shook himself, as if by that
means he could get rid of it.  Miss Preston and Winter had both gone,
the porter's wife kept his rooms, and his food was sent from a
_trattoria_.  Hardly ever had he been oppressed with such a sense of
loneliness in the world, and somehow he was sure that Cartouche shared
the oppression.  The sooner he could get back to London the better, and
he made a rapid calculation, and decided that in five days he might
leave Rome.  If, before then, he came across Phillis, well and good; but
he told himself dejectedly that he must not try to see her alone, where
another repulse would only pain them both.  Friends they might be in
time, but it is not a relationship which succeeds very easily to that of
lovers, in spite of the fine words talked about it, or even the finer
thoughts thought.

Moroni, meanwhile, went like a whirlwind to the Palazzo Capponi, and
stormed Mrs Masters in the very yellow room where he had already been
that day.  Other people might have found it difficult to introduce the
subject, but his simplicity and his eagerness saw no difficulties.  He
kissed her hand, and held it in his own while he said:--

"Dear signora, I have the greatest favour to ask.  By what I hope may be
a fortunate incident, I was in this room to-day, and saw the signorina
act like a heroine.  The Signor Trent is of your family, I believe, so I
say nothing, I abstain to speak of him, if I did however, I do not; as I
say, I abstain.  But I gathered that--he being of your family--you had
done him the great honour to permit him to be your banker.  I am right,
am I not?"

Poor Mrs Masters, who was unaccustomed to have her monetary
transactions looked upon in this light, stared helplessly at him.  She
was feeling the pressure of Trent's heavy hand, and dreading her
interview with Bice, which might, she knew, turn out a failure.  And if
so, where would she be?  But Moroni was afraid he had offended her.

"You think I have no right," he said, with a gesture of despair.  "Ah,
forgive me, but remember, are we not of your oldest friends?  Who will
you permit to be of some little use, when inconveniences occur, but us?
If I cannot speak of that man, it is impossible for me to express myself
as I would, but I entreat you to leave it in my hands, to let me settle
everything with him.  Oh, I will be patient because he is your
countryman.  And the money shall come from you, you may trust me."

Was this the favour he was asking?  She could scarcely believe that she
heard rightly, and that her perplexities could meet with such a gentle
end.  No scruples were likely to weigh with her.  She sank into an
arm-chair with a sigh of relief.

"Would you really do me this kindness, Giovanni?  Oliver Trent has
behaved cruelly, for I did not know I had to repay the two hundred; but
he is angry with Bice and vents it upon me.  It is very hard on me.  But
have you the money?"

"Listen, dear signora.  I came here hoping to gain your consent to
address myself to the signorina Beatrice.  My father loves me, he is
rich, he consents.  I find her tied to this man.  Imagine, if you can,
my despair.  But now I shall hope again, with your permission, I shall
have every hope."

"Oh, you have my permission," said Mrs Masters, slowly.  "But if she
will not--"

"Do you think she will not?  Do not say so, I implore you!"

"She is incomprehensible," said her mother, with a sigh.  "And then,
perhaps, I shall have all this scene with the money over again--"

Moroni stared at her, grew pale and drew himself up with a grand air
they had never seen in him.

"Signora, I am one of the Moroni," he said proudly, "and I have asked
two favours at your hands."

She looked at him in wonder.  Was this Bice's boy-admirer, at whom they
had sometimes laughed?  It touched and shamed her.

"You are very good, my Giovanni; very good," she said.  "I hope poor
Bice will have the blessing of so good a husband, if she really has made
up her mind not to marry Oliver.  Poor Bice!  Perhaps she has thought
too much of me and of others--and as for this you wish to do, I cannot
thank you enough--"

"Say no more," said the young man, radiant, and seizing her hand again
in his fervour.  "You have granted me permission, now I shall go to work
very carefully.  But you will never let her know of the favour you have
given me, she would think it too presumptuous.  Within an hour the money
shall be here.  How kind you have been to me, dear signora!"

The secret was one which Mrs Masters determined to keep.

When she went into Bice's room, she found her pacing up and down,
flushed and feverish.

"So you have seen that man," the girl began vehemently; "Mamma, for
pity's sake say nothing about him.  Kitty has gone away crying because I
will not listen.  I shall go mad, I believe--I cannot even tell you what
he has done.  Ask Mr Ibbetson.  Only I will not marry him, whatever you
owe him; are human beings to be sold like that in these days?  Let us go
back, I will work, I will--"

"My dear, you are so impetuous! do not wish you to marry him."

Bice paused in her rapid movements.

"And the money?"  She asked the question breathlessly.

"The money will be paid to-day."

The change in her face seemed to light the very room.  She flung her
arms round her mother's neck, tears were running down her face.  "It is
for joy," she sobbed.  "Do you mean that we are free, that he can do
nothing more?"  But after this she made none of the inquiries which her
mother dreaded; sitting quietly, and looking out of the window, and
every now and then drawing a long breath, as if a burden were lifted
from her.

That evening a great bouquet came for the Signorina Capponi.

The next morning, as Moroni was again going to choose the best flowers
he could find for his lady, Trent passed by him on his way to the
station.  He looked like what he was; a man who had aimed for an object
and had lost it.  Of Moroni he took no notice; it was Ibbetson to whom
he attributed his defeat.  But Moroni in the joy of his heart, bought a
magnificent peacock made entirely of flowers, at which the Roman world
had been staring for an hour or two, and gave orders for its being sent
to Palazzo Capponi.  And Jack, when he was called upon for advice that
day, thought Giovanni's views as to proceeding slowly were a good deal
modified.  At any rate, he saw Bice.

CHAPTER TWENTY FIVE.

FATHER TIBER.

The carnival had ended and Lent begun with days of heavy and unusual
rain.  People who were bent upon sight-seeing were obliged to fall back
upon the galleries and studios, and these were so dark that the general
gloom seemed to have also affected them.  One day, five or six people
were wandering through Vertunni's beautiful rooms.  There are hangings
of strange colours, damasks, tapestries, draperies over the doors,
priceless bits of glass or bronze, out of the midst of which rich and
soft surroundings the pictures glow.  Sometimes it is Italy--the gloom
of the Pontine marshes, the light of Paestum.  Sometimes you lose
yourself in a sea-mist were a boat floats between sky and earth;
sometimes meet with Egypt's dusky radiance, or the sweep of the sand on
the desert...

Mrs Leyton was in her element, she went on from room to room, dragging
her husband and the Peningtons after her.  She wished Phillis to marry
Mr Penington, but it would have annoyed her very much if she had
absorbed him, which was quite another thing.  And Phillis preferred to
linger behind with Bice, who wandered restlessly from picture to
picture.  She touched one of the broad and deeply carved black frames
with a slender finger, and went on with what she had been saying:--

"Did you ever know what it was to have a ton-weight lifted off you?  But
you needn't answer.  To get my sort of ton you must pull it on yourself,
and you couldn't do that.  You would never have more than a pound at
most.  Only now the feeling is so delightful that it is almost worth all
the past unhappiness to have got it.  Everything seems different, even
you!"

Phillis was looking at her curiously.  Was not some hope added to this
feeling of relief?  The girl, who had told Phillis all her story, went
on:--

"But do you know that I have been afraid to ask questions.  How has it
all been managed?  Who can have set us free?  Poor mamma never could
raise the money, that I know, and therefore somebody has done it, and I
dare not make her tell me.  What do you think?"

What could Phillis say?  No doubt rested in her own mind as to who it
was had paid the debt, and set the girl free from the last links of that
miserable bondage.

Jack had told her something of the scene which had taken place at the
Palazzo Capponi, and had found it impossible to restrain a certain
satisfaction and triumph over its conclusion.  Phillis held her own
opinion that it was he to whom the finishing touch was due, but it was
not an opinion which she would have suggested to Bice for worlds.  She
turned her back to look at some Indian hanging of wonderful texture,
hoping that she might not be asked that question again.  But Bice
intended to have an answer.

"Why don't you speak?" she said quickly.  "What are you thinking about?
Not?"

She paused as if expecting some continuation of this "not."  Phillis,
however, took no notice.  If Bice guessed she could not help it, but she
would not suggest the name which seemed to her ridiculously palpable.
There was a little pause in which they could hear Mrs Leyton's laugh in
the next room.  When Bice began to speak again it was in a slow strained
voice.

"Did you really suppose it was Mr Ibbetson?" she demanded, "and did you
really think that I should take it from him?  I tell you I know as well
as if he stood before us, and swore it, that he would not have dared to
offer me such an insult, and sooner than accept it I would--I would
almost marry Oliver Trent."

Phillis was astonished.  Perhaps she had not credited the girl with so
much delicacy of feeling, perhaps she thought that of all men, Jack was
the one from whom Bice would have been the most ready to accept an
obligation.

"I beg your pardon," she said with great meekness.  "It really was Mr
Ibbetson of whom I had thought, because he had already shown great
interest--"

She stopped.  Bice finished the sentence very calmly.

"In Clive, yes.  He was very good to Clive.  Very good indeed."

Phillis was staring at her.  "Clive!  He didn't know Clive when he went
to England.  Don't you know that he went on purpose to see him?  Has he
never so much as told you?  He went to see him, but he went on your
account."

While she spoke the girl's face had flushed a soft and delicate colour,
but she still kept her eyes fixed upon Phillis.  And when Phillis had
ended she said:--"No, I don't know it, and I don't believe it.  If Mr
Ibbetson went on our account, it was because you asked him.  Did you not
ask him?"

"I told him," Phillis said, a little bewildered at this view of the
matter which had never before presented itself to her.  Bice looked at
her wistfully and smiled.

"Yes, you told him.  Are you blind, Phillis?  Don't you see that the one
thing which Mr Ibbetson cares about is to do something to please you?"

It was Phillis's turn to colour, and she would have attempted some
disclaimer, but that the rest of the party came back to the room, and
Mrs Leyton made a prompt attack upon them.

"You are disgracefully idle, you two!  Come, acknowledge that I am the
most consistent sight-seer of our party.  However much I protest
beforehand, when I am dragged to anything I _do_ it."

"I did not imagine that you were ever dragged anywhere, Mrs Leyton,"
said Mr Penington, smiling.  "I should have called you a very cheerful
conductor.  However, I agree with you that it would be a pity for Miss
Grey to miss those Egyptian pictures.  Won't you come and see them?" he
said, addressing her.

"Not now, thank you," said Phillis hurriedly.  He looked disappointed,
and she was sorry; but Bice's words were in her ears, she could scarcely
think of anything else.  Vague doubts had haunted her since her last
interview with Jack; she had been really ashamed to own their presence
to herself, but now to have them put into words by another brought a
delicious thrill of happiness.

"Well, good people," said Mrs Leyton, "if this is finished, will you be
kind enough to inform me what we are to do with ourselves?  It is so
early in the day that hours upon hours remain on my conscience.  Make a
suggestion, everybody, please, and then we can choose."

"I must go home," said Bice.  "Suppose you come with me?"

"Suppose we go and look at the Tiber?" suggested Mr Penington.  "Do you
know that there are serious fears of an inundation?  At any rate I can
assure you that it is worth seeing.  The old stream swings along with a
force absolutely amazing, and if you are not afraid of the rain, it
would not take long to get as far as the Ripetta.  There you would get a
first-rate view."

He addressed Mrs Leyton, but he looked at Phillis.  Captain Leyton, who
was peering into a picture, turned round briskly.

"That's the thing to do, of course.  Why didn't we think of it?  Come
along."

"Well, perhaps it is nice," said his wife doubtfully.  "But we must call
at the hotel and get waterproofs."

"Nothing easier."

"And I won't be led into any danger, mind."

Bice still persisted that she must go back, indeed she was sufficiently
Italian to think with horror of walking in the rain.  At the foot of the
stairs young Moroni was waiting, rather to everybody's astonishment; but
he only said simply that he had heard the Signorina Capponi was here,
and had come to see if he could be of any use.

"What does he expect to do?"  Bice whispered to Phillis.  But she was
smiling.

The four ladies drove to the Alemagna, while the gentlemen walked, and
then Bice went home alone, and the others fitted themselves out for
their little expedition.  Just as they came down, ready to start, Jack
Ibbetson, with Cartouche at his heels, turned into the entrance passage.

"The Tiber is rising," he said eagerly.  "West tells me the sight out by
the Ponte Molle is very striking.  It struck me some of you might like
to go there."

"Well, yes," said Captain Leyton, pulling his whiskers.  "We _were_
going to the Ripetta, but I don't know--suppose we make a bolder push.
What do you say, Miss Penington?"

"I think it would be much nicer," she said with great emphasis.

"Then we'll do it."

"You'll come?" said Jack, turning quickly to Phillis.

It seemed to her afterwards as if she had been swept away by some
impetuous force in his voice or manner.  Was it the vibration of those
words which she still heard, "Are you so blind?  Don't you see that the
one thing he cares for is to please you?"  Was it true--at last?

But the arrangement did not at all please Mrs Leyton.  She said in an
injured tone:--

"I think you are excessively disagreeable.  You know I can't walk all
that way."

"We can drive some distance."

"Oh, I daresay!  I should have miles to tramp.  And I had made up my
mind to go to the Ripetta.  Mr Penington, do you intend to desert me,
also?"  What could he say?  He said "No," with a good deal of
disappointment in the word.  For the last few days it had seemed
impossible to get any special sight or hearing of Phillis, and he had
made this opportunity with the hope of speaking some words on which it
seemed to him that the happiness of his life depended.  It was hard to
lose it.  But Mrs Leyton had no intention of letting him go with them.

"No, I thought not," she said cheerfully.  "And I'm not sure that it
isn't a good plan to separate.  One can see things better.  We'll meet
by and by, and tell our experiences, if there is anything left of you,
after this mad proceeding.  But I predict we shall have the best of it."

"That's all right, then," said Captain Leyton cheerfully.  "Penington
will take you, wife, and we four will start at once.  Are you ready,
good people?--thick boots, wraps, umbrellas?"

They would not consent so much as to be driven to the Porta del Popolo,
and, indeed, the rain was no longer falling with the persistent force of
the last few days.  The sky was still heavy with leaden-looking clouds,
but they were thinner, and in some places so far rent asunder that a
glimmering brightness showed behind them.  Coming along the Babuino was
a picturesque file of donkeys of various ages, led by bronzed men in
long blue cloaks; a contadina, also in a blue dress, and a little child,
walked by their side.  Presently they met other processions; goats,
ox-carts piled high with household goods; the poor oxen came stumbling
and sliding along over the slippery stones, the people looked dejected,
they were straggling in from the campagna, escaping from the threatened
inundation.  Jack spoke to one woman and asked a question.  "_Mariaccia,
che tempo_!" she exclaimed, holding up her hands.  "Already much has
been swept away.  If it goes on, we shall be ruined."  The Via Flaminia
was full of these fugitives, but they could not tell them much.

And as yet they saw nothing of the river.

Ordinarily, indeed, they must have reached the Ponte Molle itself before
they would catch a glimpse of the yellow waters, and the tears sprang
into Phillis's eyes as she remembered how about a month before she had
driven out there with Miss Cartwright, and had stopped on the bridge to
look at the loveliness of the view.  Then, under a blue sky, even Tiber
himself had caught all sorts of fair and delicate reflections; that
indescribable golden brown which takes the place of green in a Roman
landscape, lay on the banks and on the stretching campagna; a little
watch-tower rose on a low hill above the river, and all along the line
of distance ran a line of mountains flushed with tender lights of rosy
lilac, and crowned with snow.  It was very unlike that day.  For now the
mountains were blotted out by the darkness of grey mist, and if for a
moment this was lifted up, it was only a shadowy gloom which grew out of
the greyness; and before they reached the bridge, they could see the
angry and tawny waters rolling towards them, at the very top of the
confining banks--nay, here and there they had already forced a gap and
spread themselves in a turbid sheet over the short grass.  People were
standing on the bridge, pointing; but not many, the greater number had
something to do, some danger to avert.  For those who looked, the sight
could hardly be forgotten.  A fierce purpose seemed to possess the dark
mass of rushing water which rolled with incredible swiftness beneath the
bridge, and every now and then there swirled past a scarcely
distinguishable heap of something which the old river had already seized
upon for his prey--branches of trees, bundles of maize, a struggling
sheep, the spoil of some little farm, the torn ribs of a boat.
Something in the vagueness of these objects, in the suddenness with
which they were swept into and out of sight, in the triumphant might of
the swollen river, had a horrible fascination for the lookers-on.  What
might not meet their eye next?  They bent over the parapet and looked
down; Cartouche sprang upon it and whined uneasily.

"Some houses must have been washed away, fry the last thing was a
chair," said Miss Penington.

"I can't stand this," said Jack, straightening himself.  "Whatever came
down, we couldn't possibly do any good here.  I shall go further down
the river.  There are one or two places where if anything living were
swept, it might be caught and held.  At any rate it won't look quite so
desperate as it does from the bridge.  Leyton, you will see them home."

"No, no," said Phillis with great eagerness.  "That is quite impossible.
Do you suppose that we should let you go alone?  Of course we will all
go.  I shall be giddy if I look at this much longer."

And though she was generally the most considerate of companions, she did
not once ask Miss Penington her wishes in the matter.  Captain Leyton
looked doubtful.

"I don't know what sort of a path there may be," he said.

"But I do," said Jack with a happy smile.  "If you'll really come, I can
take you quite safely; the rain has stopped.  Will you and Miss
Penington go in front and I'll direct you."

"I should have thought the shortest plan would have been for you to go
in front yourself," said Captain Leyton; but he fell into Jack's
arrangement, being the most good-natured of men.

"You have thick shoes, I hope?" said Jack to Phillis, as they followed.

"Look!"  And she held up a pretty foot well protected.  Phillis's
spirits were rising every moment, in spite of the wild scene all about
them.  The path was very wet and rough; once or twice he put out his
hand to help her.  Perhaps the little action brought back to her mind
another rough road when he had helped, not her, but Bice, for she said
suddenly, "I want to ask you a question; but you needn't answer it
unless you like."

"That is very considerate," said he smiling.

"Do you know the end of Mrs Masters's debts?"

"Yes, I do.  That is, I know they've been paid.  Do you expect this to
be the end?"

"Oh, well, for the present.  But who paid them?"  He hesitated.  "I
don't believe it's a secret," he said presently, "but of course it's not
a thing to be talked about."  Then he suddenly turned and looked down
into her face.  "Did you really suppose it was I?"

"Why not?" she persisted.  "Why not you as well as another?"

"I think I shall avail myself of your means of escape, and refuse to
answer the question," said Jack with gravity.  "I can't afford to lose
my one opportunity of being considered a _preux chevalier_."

"But, Jack!"

"But, Phillis!"

"Was it really not you?"

He did not answer her for a moment.  Their path led them so close to the
sweeping current of the river, already brimming over and tearing at the
canes which bordered it, that he was seized with a fear that he had been
mistaken in the strength of the banks, and had, perhaps, brought his
companions into danger.  But a short recollection assured him that they
were safe.  He pointed out an oozy bog to Phillis that she might avoid
it, and then said:--

"I don't think that Miss Capponi shares your misconception."

"No, she does not," said Phillis frankly.  "But she doesn't know where
the money came from."

"Does she not?"  Jack lifted his eyebrows with a little incredulity.
"Then I really think I ought to give you a hint to be used for her
special benefit.  But it seems to me that the blindness of the world is
one of its chief wonders.  Why, Phillis, can't you see that young Moroni
would think all he had well thrown away if he could get her?"

"Young Moroni!  I fancied that was quite a hopeless devotion."

"Not so hopeless now, I imagine.  He had hard work to bring his father
to his way of thinking, then he came here and found Trent to the fore;
but now--"

"When did he make you this confidant?" asked Phillis quickly.

"On the day of the great blow up: I acted as interpreter, and then had
to hear all his hopes and fears.  And I wish him full success."

Jack had leapt across a little running stream, and held out his hand to
Phillis, looking into her eyes as he did so.  What did he read there?
What new happiness trembled in their brown depths, what deep and tender
faithfulness did he discover?  Was this the moment at last for which he
had longed and hoped?

"Ibbetson!  Ibbetson, for Heaven's sake, what's that?"

The cry came from Captain Leyton, who was running back and pointing
eagerly towards the river.  "Where?" shouted Jack, eager in his turn.

"There!  Caught by that great tree."

There is a point where the higher part of the bank juts out a little
towards the river.  Ordinarily this does not reach or interfere with the
course of the water, only breaking into the line of pebbly reaches and
of almost a thicket of bushes between them.  But now the rage and
fulness of the river swept high above bushes and reaches, and rushed
along the inner bank which yet formed a barricade to its force, so that
this little outpost was exposed to the full fury of the stream.  Already
it had been so battered and weakened, that more than half had been
washed away, but still it formed a little natural breakwater, and, as
the current apparently set in its direction, it followed that some of
those things, which Tiber had relentlessly wrenched from the land, now
and then caught on its point and lingered for perhaps a minute or two
before they were again whirled away to their doom.  But now a larger
object had been driven against it, and was making a more obstinate
resistance.  A great uprooted tree, tossed wildly along by the turbulent
stream, had probably been swept against this barrier with such force as
to become partially embedded in it.  For the moment it remained there,
and its long network of boughs, broken and battered as they were,
stretched themselves out across the waters with what looked like
despairing efforts against its destroyer.  They could not last.  The
tawny river leapt and foamed, seizing branch and twig, and tearing them
off with a violence which was rapidly undermining the little promontory
itself, and would soon sweep it and all that clung to it away.
Meanwhile the branches caught at other spoil, wisps of poor drowned hay
wrapped themselves round them, a contadino's hat with the gay ribbons
all dank and draggled was tossed on to a splintered bough; and Captain
Leyton and his companion, watching the strange medley and the signs of
ruined homestead which the flood was sweeping down, had seen another
object which struck them with horror, and made them cry out to Jack.

For caught in its narrow end by the branches into which it had been
jammed, with the other end swung violently from side to side by the
yellow surging waves which claimed their prey, was a wooden cradle; and
although they could not be sure--owing to the tossing unrest of the
waters--whether it was or was not empty, it seemed to them, every now
and then, as though they caught sight of a little dark head, a darker
shadow under the shadow of the cover.  Jack was on the alert in a
moment.

"We must get hold of it somehow."

"If we can," said Captain Leyton doubtfully.  "But think of the force of
that current!"

Jack nodded, but by this time was already standing without coat or boots
on the spot where the little promontory curved out from the bank.

They all knew something of the danger.  At his quietest Tiber is no
ordinary river, very rarely do you see a boat upon his surface, and the
ferries have ropes stretched across, by which to bear up against the
slow but mighty force of the old river.

And now he had done all this mischief higher up, and was within an ace
of flooding Rome.  What could live in those sweeping and turbulent
eddies?

"For Heaven's sake don't be so mad, Ibbetson!" said Captain Leyton,
laying a hand on his arm.  "It's hopeless to attempt to save the poor
little beggar--utterly hopeless!  If anything could be done, I wouldn't
say a word, but this is only throwing away life.  Don't, my dear fellow,
don't!"

Miss Penington broke into terrified appeals.  Phillis, pale as death,
was standing by Jack's side, looking into his face, but not attempting
to dissuade him.  Perhaps he did not hear Captain Leyton; he was looking
coolly and thoughtfully at the river as if to take in all the chances.
A wave dashed up over their feet.  Then he suddenly stooped down and
kissed Phillis, held her, and gazed into her eyes for a moment.  "God
bless you, Phillis," he said.  Afterwards he did not look back.

For a few steps he walked along the top of the bank, sinking each
instant into its yielding surface, until, as the water swept over it
more and more, he let himself down by its inner side, and half swimming,
half clinging, gained a little ground, though slowly.  This was the
easiest part of all, but one danger at least was as great here as
elsewhere.  Every instant added to the insecurity of the bank.  Every
moment it seemed almost a miracle that it should be left.  So terrific,
indeed, was the force of the current that it swept Ibbetson backwards
and forwards against it like a battering ram, and these very blows were
an additional peril.  Still he was able to battle on, those on the bank
watching with agonising anxiety; Cartouche running backwards and
forwards, whining uneasily, looking in their faces, looking at the
water.

"He has reached the tree," Captain Leyton said in a breathless whisper.

It was the second stage.  With it began the worst dangers of all, those
of the undercurrents which naturally the bank had checked.  He was
obliged now to trust altogether to swimming, using the boughs as a
support.  Without them he must inevitably have been swept away, but
their help was of the most frail and treacherous nature--tossed by the
waters, swayed to and fro, twisted off and whirled into the centre of
the flood, at any moment liable to be altogether detached from the bank,
or with it to share a common destruction.  Jack did not know it, but his
face was bleeding from the twigs which whipped continually against it.
Still the cradle was there, so near that it almost seemed to those on
shore that he could have reached it, ignorant as they were of the
terrible forces against which he was battling, or worst of all, of the
feeling each moment that he must be sucked under in a resistless eddy.

Were they moments or hours that passed?  Phillis, on the shore, fell
down on her knees and held up her hands, but never for an instant did
her eyes let go that spot in the yellow waters where he was fighting for
life.  Presently Captain Leyton drew a long breath, and spoke again.

"He has got the cradle.  He is pushing it back."

Then there was silence, that strained, intense silence, which is almost
awful in its weight.  Inch by inch, as it were, and only inch by inch,
he came towards them, bruised, bleeding, hampered with the cradle.  Once
or twice it seemed as if he had disappeared.  And, at last, just as he
reached the point where the bank--by this time yet feebler--began, they
heard--with an agony which to Phillis in her helpnessness was like that
of death--his cry for help.

That moment Captain Leyton was in the water.  How he got there he never
knew, but before him there was another friend at least as faithful.
Cartouche, at his master's cry, had plunged in, and, swimming bravely,
had seized the cradle and turned back to land.  With a tremendous
struggle he managed to bring it to the spot where Phillis was standing,
disregarding the water which washed up round her, and when she had
lifted it out, the brave dog turned round and fought his way again to
his master.

Help was indeed needed, for Jack's failure did not altogether arise from
exhaustion, but from, if possible, a more serious cause.  His foot had
become entangled in some of the small submerged branches, and not having
sufficient strength to extricate himself, he could only manage to keep
himself afloat by clutching at a bough.  But the support was too slender
to avail him long, against the dreadful power of the undercurrents, even
if the tree itself were not--as would surely be the case in a few
minutes--swept down the stream.  Captain Leyton, although he had bravely
plunged in, was too inexperienced a swimmer to give any help, indeed his
own situation was full of danger before he had so much as reached the
tree, and only by clutching at some projection in the bank with the
despair of a drowning man could he keep his head above water.

But Cartouche?  Through the tossing waters the dog, with a faithfulness
which never faltered, struggled slowly back to his master.  Beaten by
the waves, with safety close behind within his reach, he needed no call
to keep him resolute to his purpose.  To Jack, with the river hissing in
his ears, with the angry dash of foam blinding his eyes, the sight of
that black and curly head coming steadily towards him seemed to give
hope and power once more.  As the dog reached him he bent his head down,
and Cartouche by a great effort licked his face.  Then Jack called all
his failing strength together; the tree itself swayed violently, he felt
that he was free.  Free, but could he reach the shore?  The horror of
that frightful imprisonment was so strong, that he dared not trust to
the help of the branches, and the struggle was almost superhuman.
Cartouche swam close to him, swam round him, more than once when he
thought he must give up, the gaze of those faithful eyes, the touch of
the dog's body, brought back the hope which had all but deserted him--
and now, he had just cleared the roots of the tree, was just venturing
in towards the bank, when, caught in some tremendous eddy, the tree
swung completely round, and with its bare branches tossing wildly
upwards, the old river whirled away its prey in triumph.

A few moments sooner and Jack must have been drawn into the whirlpool.
He had just escaped it, was just able to reach Captain Leyton, to give
him help, to let the river, more merciful at the last, fling him where
even a woman's hands could succour.  The two men were saved; when Jack
opened his eyes, the woman he loved was bending over him, her eyes
looked into his with an unutterable gladness.  God had given him back,
and with his life had given him Phillis.

But Cartouche?

He had been a little behind his master; a bough had struck him down as
it swept round, a fierce current drew him under, a moment did it all.
The faithfulness which never once had failed him, had not failed him
now; Jack was safe, but Cartouche had died in the saving.

CHAPTER TWENTY SIX.

ONLY A DOG.

Only a dog.  Other people said this afterwards, but not one of those who
stood by the river, looking sadly where he had been carried away.  Only
a dog, indeed, and yet without his aid three of their number might never
have been given back to those who loved them.  Down Phillis's face the
tears were raining.

"Is it hopeless?" she said.

"Quite hopeless," Jack replied in a dull and shaken voice.  "I would
give--well it's no use talking about what I would give--"

And then they turned away.  It was indeed necessary that the two men, in
their chilled and dripping state, should get home as quickly as
possible.  And what of the little waif whose rescue had cost them so
much?  Phillis stooped down, and lifted her from the cradle which had
been an ark, and in which she was sleeping as soundly as on her mother's
breast.

"I will carry her," said the girl with a sob.

As they walked--silent and moved with many feelings--along the bank
which would lead them back to the road, the sinking sun, which had been
hidden for many days, broke out from behind a drifting mass of clouds,
and flooded the whole scene with a sudden golden glory.  The angry and
turbid waters were transfigured by its radiance; here and there where
they had spread themselves in desolating tracts, all the brilliance of
the heavens seemed to be given back; and Rome herself, unmoved by the
violence of the flood, lay in dark imperial purples against the western
sky.  They all looked silently and hurried on.

When they reached the road, other people had collected who stared in
amazement at the strange figures, at the rescued baby.  More than one
had seen the cradle carried down under the bridge, but had never thought
of possible deliverance.  Now there were willing feet enough to start
off after the cradle, to run in the opposite direction in order to get
tidings of what little farm had been swept away.  And fortunately one or
two carriages had driven out from Rome, the owners of which almost
contested the honour of taking the little party back.  It was a strange
drive.  Joy and sorrow at times are almost inextricably interwoven.
Phillis, with the baby's dark and curly head pressed tightly against
her, sat and looked at Jack, who was, indeed, given back to her from the
dead, and all over the broken clouds golden lights were radiating, and
flashing down upon a watery world.  The little pools in the road
reflected some of the brightness, the roofs were shining, the rain drops
gleamed on the trees, it was like enchantment, so suddenly had all this
opal light grown out of the gloom.  And yet, not so far away, a mother
was running wildly by the river, crying out for her lost baby; and, far
down, men, with long poles trying to snatch some of his spoil from
Tiber, touched a black and floating object, and let it go with a
push--"only a dog," was what they said, "and dead."

Two nights afterwards some of those who had been dining at the
table-d'hote went out into the Piazza di Spagna.  There was an eclipse,
or something which gave them the excuse for coming into the solemn and
wonderful darkness, lit by tremulous stars, and musical with the
constant cool splash of the fountain.  Carriages were flying backwards
and forwards, people lounging about, but they did not interfere much
with the beauty or the quiet.  The group of friends broke into little
knots, two stood a little way up the Spanish steps, and leaned against
the parapet One of them, a man, was saying:--

"Do not be afraid.  These disappointments may sadden, but they do not
wreck our lives.  You have given me memories to cherish for ever,
although this is a good-bye we are saying; yes, good-bye, and God bless
you, my dear.  Susan and I are going off to-morrow; there is south Italy
to see, it would never do for us, you know, to go home and to have
nothing to report of Vesuvius and Pompeii."

She was crying softly, she felt the kind pressure of his hand, she did
not know that he had moved away because another figure was running up
the steps.  "Phillis!" said Jack in a low voice.

And then she turned and laid her head upon his shoulder.

"Oh, it is hard, hard!" she said.  "Jack, must there always be pain with
one's deepest happiness!"

He did not quite understand, but perhaps he guessed enough, and he was
very gentle with her.  For indeed it seemed as if the joy of their life
had come to them through death and sorrow of heart.  Is it not so often?
Will it not be so to the very end?

Presently he began to talk about the baby; the mother had been found the
very day of the flood, and had walked and run all the way into Rome,
almost mad with the bliss of the tidings.  And Jack had been out to the
spot where the little farm had stood, and had seen all the desolation
and ruin, and was going to make his thank-offering and Phillis's, take
the form of a new building.  Over the door there would be carved the
figure of a dog, with a date.

Before this was done there were two weddings in Rome.  Bice and young
Count Moroni were married first, and two or three days after, Phillis
Grey and John Ibbetson.  It was one of those bright Easter days when
Rome breaks into delicious harmonies of spring; when the banksia roses
fling themselves over the walls like foam, and delicate plants spring
out of the mighty brickwork, and the sky is one unbroken depth of blue,
and the sun shines on the fountain of Trevi, on the falling waters which
came rushing out, on the pigeons which fly backwards and forwards, and
perch themselves on Neptune's head.  The wedding was very quiet.
Scarcely half a dozen people were in the Church, and in an hour or two
Jack and Phillis were to start for Florence on their way to Venice.  But
before this Phillis had a wish which naturally was to be gratified.
They must drive to the Ponte Molle and see the spot where Cartouche had
died for his master.

On their way Jack put into her hands a letter from his uncle, written
with some triumph, but little cordiality.

"Oliver Trent!" repeated Phillis, as she came to a sentence with his
name.

"Oliver Thornton, perhaps, one of these days," said Jack, folding the
letter and putting it back in his pocket.  "Who knows?  I'm sure I
don't.  But if so, I hope Hetherton will disagree with him."

Phillis, who rather disliked the name of Hetherton, said quickly:--

"We will not begrudge it to him."

"Yes, I shall," persisted Jack, "because I object to successful
villainy, and to being disappointed of my moral."  But seeing that
Phillis looked at him wistfully, he drew her closer to him.  "My
darling, do you suppose Hetherton seems anything to me now?"

They had not much time to spare, and walked quickly from the bridge
along the river side.  So changed was it from that other day, that it
might, so Phillis thought, have been another stream.  Instead of wild
anger there was only a stately sweep in the slowly moving water, and
though some marks of past turbulence might be here and there visible on
the banks, they were not many, and under the warm sun all the green
bordering was springing into glad life once more.

But, though where it had been was now dry land, the little bank was
gone.  Phillis grew pale and clung to Jack when she saw this, she could
not speak except by that mute gesture, and he answered it mutely, too.
For there where Cartouche had died and he had been given back to life
and her, he kissed his wife, and held her in his arms.

Do people forget as quickly as we commonly believe?  Outward marks and
signs of remembrance die away, it is true, others fill the vacant
places, and we look into smiling faces and say "he or she is forgotten--
it is the way of the world."  But, after all, what do we know?  Do not
our own memories often startle us?  At all sorts of strange times, with
a silent foot-fall inaudible to any but ourselves, they come warm, and
strong, and living.  We do not forget so easily, nor perhaps shall we be
forgotten so soon as we all think.  God gave good gifts to this husband
and wife, and the crown of happy love, but both of them remembered and
kept their memories sacred in their hearts.  And a peasant woman in a
southern country has taught her children to love animals and be good to
them, for one of them, she says, was once saved by a dog.  The children
listen, thrilled by the familiar story.  "_Eccolo_!" cries a girl,
pointing, and they all turn and look up where, over the door, is the
carved figure of a dog, with a date.

------------------------------------------------------------------------

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Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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