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Title: One Man's View
Author: Merrick, Leonard, 1864-1939
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.

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ONE MAN'S VIEW

by

LEONARD MERRICK

With an Introduction by Granville Barker



Hodder & Stoughton
London--New York--Toronto

1922



INTRODUCTION


This story can be said to date, though quite in the sense that a
story legitimately may. It is historic, though that is not to say
old-fashioned. If one searches by internal evidence for the time of
its writing, 1889 might be a safe guess. It was about then that many
Londoners (besides the American girls in the story) were given their
first glimpse of Niagara at the Panorama near Victoria Street. The
building is a motor garage now; it lies beneath the cliffs of Queen
Anne's Mansions; aeroplanes may discover its queer round roof. And it
was in an ageing past too--for architectural ages veritably flash by in
New York--that Broadway could be said to spread into the "brightness
of Union Square." To-day there is but a chaos of dingy decay owning
to that name. Soon it will be smart skyscrapers, no doubt; when the
tide of business has covered it, as now the tide of fashion leaves
it derelict. Duluth, too, with its "storekeepers spitting on wooden
sidewalks"! Duluth foresees a Lake Front that will rival Chicago.

But in such honest "dating," and in the inferences we may draw from it,
lie perhaps some of the peculiar merits of Mr. Merrick's method--his
straight telling of a tale. And digging to the heart of the book, the
One Man's View of his faithless wife--more importantly too, the wife's
view of herself--is, in a sense, an "historic" view. Not, of course, in
its human essentials. Those must be true or false of this man and this
woman whenever, however they lived and suffered. Such sufferings are
dateless. And whether they are truly or falsely told, let the reader
judge. No preface-writer need pre-judge for him. For in such things,
the teller of the tale, from the heart of his subject, speaks straight
to the heart and conscience of his audience, and will succeed or fail
by no measurable virtue of style or wit, but by the truth that is in
him, by how much of it they are open to receive.

Look besides with ever so slightly an historical eye at the
circumstances in which the lives of these two were set to grow, and
to flourish or perish, as it was easier or harder to tend them. See
the girl with her simple passion for the theatre--so apt a channel
for her happy ambition as it appears--and that baulked, her very life
baulked. To-day, this war-day, and most surely for the immediate
enfranchised to-morrow breaking so close, the same girl will turn her
back light-heartedly on the glamour of that little tinselled world to
many another prospect of self-fulfilment.

And the lawyer, lost in his law. If a Solicitor-Generalship is his
aim, he will be worldly-wise enough, one hopes, to come home not too
tired to make at least a passably attractive figure at his wife's
well-chosen dinner-parties. Or is that phase of English government now
also to pass? No; for probably a country will always be governed from
its dinner-tables, while its well-being is finally determined by their
quality! Mamie to-day, though, would be doing more than give dinners.
It is a question if the Mamie of to-morrow will have time to.

And the literary flâneur--the half-hearted seducer of passionless
ladies--is he out of date? Mr. Merrick implies the quite wholesome
truth that he always was. Through books and bookish dreams--beautiful,
wise dreams--lies the passage to life of many boys and girls. But the
healthiest instincts in them are seeking still a real world in which
it will be both sane and fine to live. Their dreams are mostly a hard
test of it when it is found; and, oh, the pity if the finding it quite
breaks their dream!

In sum, then, it was Mamie's tragedy to seek her realities during a
phase of art and letters which, in their utter unreality, seemed to
deny the very existence of any real world at all. Neither true art nor
true letters then; they were so turning from reality with fear.

Are they still denying it to-day? If so this story does not date at
all, and Mamie's tragedy is a tragedy of our time. For tragedy it is,
even though in _One Man's View_ she finds at last reposeful salvation
of a sort. But our hope is better. And half our pleasure in the story
and in its historical truth is the thought that, true author as he
is, were he writing it to-day, and of to-day, Mr. Merrick would have
written it just so much differently.

Granville Barker.



CHAPTER I


The idea was so foreign to his temperament that Heriot was reluctant
to believe that he had entertained it even during a few seconds. He
continued his way past the big pink house and the girl on the balcony,
surprised at the interest roused in him by this chance discovery of
her address. Of what consequence was it where she was staying? He had
noticed her on the terrace, by the band-stand one morning, and admired
her. In other words, he had unconsciously attributed to the possessor
of a delicious complexion, and a pair of grey eyes, darkly fringed,
vague characteristics to which she was probably a stranger. He had seen
her the next day also, and the next--even hoped to see her; speculated
quite idly what her social position might be, and how she came beside
the impossible woman who accompanied her. All that was nothing; his
purpose in coming to Eastbourne was to be trivial. But why the sense of
gratification with which he had learnt where she lived?

As to the idea which had crossed his brain, that was preposterous!
Of course, since the pink house was a boarding establishment, he
might, if he would, make her acquaintance by the simple expedient
of removing there, but he did not know how he could have meditated
such a step. It was the sort of semi-disreputable folly that a man a
decade or so younger might commit and describe as a "lark." No doubt
many men a decade or so younger would commit it. He could conceive
that a freshly-painted balcony, displaying a pretty girl for an hour
or two every afternoon, might serve to extend the clientèle of a
boarding-house enormously, and wondered that more attention had not
been paid to such a form of advertisement. For himself, however---- His
hair was already thinning at the temples; solicitors were deferential
to him, and his clerk was taking a villa in Brixton; for himself, it
would not do!

Eastbourne was depressing, he reflected, as he strolled towards the
dumpy Wish Tower. He was almost sorry that he hadn't gone to Sandhills
and quartered himself on his brother for a week or two instead. Francis
was always pleased to meet him of recent years, and no longer remarked
early in the conversation that he was "overdrawn at Cox's." On the
whole, Francis was not a bad fellow, and Sandhills and pheasants would
have been livelier.

He stifled a yawn, and observed with relief that it was near the
dinner-hour. In the evening he turned over the papers in the
smoking-room. He perceived, as he often did perceive in the vacations,
that he was lonely. Vacations were a mistake: early in one's career
one could not afford them, and by the time one was able to afford
them, the taste for holidays was gone. This hotel was dreary, too. The
visitors were dull, and the cooking was indifferent. What could be more
tedious than the meal from which he had just risen?--the feeble soup,
the flaccid fish, the uninterrupted view of the stout lady with the
aquiline nose, and a red shawl across her shoulders. Now he was lolling
on a morocco couch, fingering the _The Field_; two or three other men
lay about, napping, or looking at the _The Graphic_. There was a great
deal of tobacco-smoke, and a little whisky; he might as well have
stopped in town and gone to the Club. He wondered what they did in
Belle Vue Mansion after dinner. Perhaps there was music, and the girl
sang? he could fancy that she sang well. Or they might have impromptu
dances? Personally he did not care for dancing, but even to see others
enjoying themselves would be comparatively gay. After all, why should
he not remove to Belle Vue Mansion if he wished? He had attached a
significance to the step that it did not possess, making it appear
absurd by the very absurdity of the consideration that he accorded it.
He remembered the time when he would not have hesitated--those were
the days when Francis was always "overdrawn at Cox's." Well, he had
worked hard since then, and anything that Francis might have lent him
had been repaid, and he had gradually acquired soberer views of life.
Perhaps he might be said to have gone to an extreme, indeed, and taken
the pledge! He sometimes felt old, and he was still in the thirties.
Francis was the younger of the two of late, although he had a boy in
the Brigade; but elder sons often kept young very long--it was easy for
them, like the way of righteousness to a bishop.... A waiter cast an
inquiring glance round the room, and, crossing to the sofa, handed him
a card. Heriot read the name with astonishment; he had not seen the man
for sixteen years, and even their irregular correspondence had died a
natural death.

"My dear fellow!" he exclaimed in the hall. "Come inside."

In the past, of which he had just been thinking, he and Dick Cheriton
had been staunch friends, none the less staunch because Cheriton was
some years his senior. Dick had a studio in Howland Street then, and
was going to set the Academy on fire. In the meanwhile he wore a yellow
necktie, and married madly, and smoked a clay pipe; he could not
guarantee that he would be an R.A., but at least he was resolved that
he would be a bohemian. He had some of the qualifications for artistic
success, but little talent. When he discovered the fact beyond the
possibility of mistake, he accepted a relative's offer of a commercial
berth in the United States, and had his hair cut. The valedictory
supper in the studio, at which he had renounced ambition, and solemnly
burned all his canvases that the dealers would not buy, had been a very
affecting spectacle.

"My dear fellow!" cried Heriot. "Come inside. This is a tremendous
pleasure. When did you arrive?"

"Came over in the _Germanic_, ten days ago. It _is_ you, then; I saw
'George Heriot' in the Visitors' List, and strolled round on the
chance. I scarcely hoped---- How are you, old man? I'm mighty glad to
see you--fact!"

"You've been here ten days?"

"Not here, no; I've only been in Eastbourne a few hours."

"You should have looked me up in town."

"I tried. Your chambers were shut."

"The hall-porter at the Club----"

"What club? You forget what an exile I am!"

"Have a drink? Well, upon my word, this is very jolly! Sit down; try
one of these."

"Would you have recognised me?" asked Cheriton, stretching his legs,
and lighting the cigar.

"You've changed," admitted Heriot; "it's a long time. I've changed too."

They regarded each other with a gaze of friendly criticism. Heriot
noted with some surprise that the other's appearance savoured little
of the American man of business, or of the man of business outside
America. His hair, though less disordered than it had been in the
Howland Street period, was still rather longer than is customary in the
City. It was now grey, and became him admirably. He wore a black velvet
jacket, and showed a glimpse of a deep crimson tie. He no longer looked
a bohemian, but he had acquired the air of a celebrity.

"Have you come home for good, Cheriton?"

Cheriton shook his head.

"I guess America has got me for life," he answered; "I'm only making a
trip. And you? You're still at the Bar, eh?"

"Oh, yes," said Heriot drily; "I'm still at the Bar." It is not
agreeable, when you have succeeded in a profession, to be asked if you
are in it still. "I've travelled along the lines on which you left
me--it doesn't make an exciting narrative. Chambers, court, and bed. A
laundress or two has died in the interval. The thing pays better than
it used to do, naturally; that's all."

"You're doing well?"

"I should have called it 'doing well' once; but we are all Olivers in
our hearts. To-day----"

"Mistake!" said the elder man. "You wanted the Bar--you've got the Bar;
you ought to be satisfied. Now _I_----"

"Yes?" said Heriot, as he paused. "How's the world used you, Cheriton?
By the way, you never answered my last letter, I think."

"It was _you_ who didn't answer _me_."

"I fancy not. You were going to Chicago, and I wrote----"

"I wrote after I arrived in Chicago."

"Well, it must be five years ago; we won't argue. What did you do in
Chicago, Cheriton?"

"No good, sir. I went there with a patent horse-collar. Capital
invention--not my own, I never invented anything!--but it didn't catch
on. They seemed to take no interest in horse-collars; no money in it,
not a cent! After the horse-collar I started in the dry-goods trade;
but I was burned out. From Chicago I went to Duluth; I've an hotel
there to-day."

"An hotel?"

"That's so. It isn't a distinguished career, running a little hotel,
but it's fairly easy. Compared with hustling with horse-collars it's
luxurious. Duluth is not ideal, but what would you have! I make my way,
and that's all I ask now. If I had my life over again----" He sighed.
"If we could have our lives over again, eh, Heriot?"

"Humph!" said Heriot doubtfully; he was wondering if he could make any
better use of his own--if he would be any livelier the next time he was
eight-and-thirty. "I suppose we all blunder, of course."

"_You_ are a young man yet; it's different for you; and you're in the
profession of your choice: it's entirely different. We don't look at
the thing from the same standpoint, Heriot."

"You don't mean that you regret giving up Art?"

"Sir," said Cheriton mournfully, "it was the error I shall always
regret. I wouldn't say as much to anybody else; I keep it here"--he
tapped his velvet jacket--"but I had a gift, and I neglected it; I
had power, and--and I run an hotel. When I reflect, man, there are
hours--well, it's no use crying over spilt milk; but to think of the
position I should have made, and to contrast it with what I am, is
bitter!" He swept back his wavy hair impatiently, and in the momentary
pose looked more like a celebrity still.

Heriot could see that the cherished delusion gave him a melancholy
pleasure, and was at a loss how to reply. "It was uphill work," he said
at last. "Who can tell? Luck----"

"I was a lad, an impetuous lad; and I was handicapped--I married." The
man with a failure to explain is always grateful to have married. "But
I had the stuff in me, I had the temperament. 'Had' it? I have it now!
I may keep an hotel, but I shall never be an hotel-keeper. God gave
me my soul, sir; circumstances gave me an hotel. I mayn't paint any
more, but an artist by nature I shall always be. I don't say it in any
bragging spirit, Heriot; I should be happier if I didn't feel it. The
commonplace man may be contented in the commonplace calling: he fills
the rôle he was meant for. It's the poor devil like myself, who knows
what he _might_ have been, who suffers."

Heriot didn't pursue the subject; he puffed his cigar meditatively.
After the effervescence subsides, such meetings must always have a
little sadness; he looked at the wrinkles that had gathered on his
friend's face, and realised the crow's-feet on his own.

"You lost your wife, you wrote me?" he remarked, breaking a rather
lengthy silence.

"In New York, yes--pneumonia. _You_ never married, eh?"

"No. Do you stay over here long?"

"A month or two; I can't manage more. But I shall leave my girl in
London. I've brought her with me, and she'll remain."

"Of course," said Heriot, "you have a child--of course you have! I
remember a little thing tumbling about in Howland Street. She must be a
woman, Cheriton?"

"Mamie is twenty-one. I want to see if I can do anything for her before
I go back. She loathes Duluth; and she has talent. She'll live with my
sister. I don't think you ever saw my sister, did you? She's a widow,
and stagnates in Wandsworth--Mamie will be company for her."

"Your daughter paints?"

"No, not paints; she wants to be an actress. I wasn't very keen on it;
but she's got the material in her, and I concluded I'd no right to say
'no.' Still, she's not very strong--takes after her mother, I'm afraid,
a little; I'd rather she'd had a gift for something else."

"Was it necessary for her to have a gift at all?" asked Heriot, a shade
sarcastically. "Couldn't she stop at home?"

"Well," said Cheriton, "she tried it, but it's a hard thing for a girl
like Mamie to content herself with the life in Duluth. There isn't
much art in that, Heriot; there isn't much anything. There's the lake,
and Superior Street, and the storekeepers lounging in the doorways
and spitting on the wooden sidewalks. And there's a theatre of a
sort--which made her worse. For a girl panting to be famous, Duluth is
a hell. She's been breaking her heart in it ever since she was sixteen;
and after all, it's in the blood. It would have been odd if my daughter
_hadn't_ had the artistic temperament, I suppose!"

"I suppose it would," said Heriot. "Well, why doesn't she go on the
stage in America? I shouldn't think she'd find it easy here."

"She wouldn't find it easy there. There's no stock company in Duluth;
only the travelling companies come sometimes for a few nights. There's
no bigger opportunity for her on the other side than on this. Besides,
she wants the English stage. I wonder if you know anybody who could
give her any introductions?"

"I? Not a soul!"

"I'm sorry to hear you say that," said Cheriton blankly; "I was
counting on you some."

Heriot looked at him.

"You counted on _me_? For Heaven's sake, why?"

"Well, I don't know many people over here to-day, you see; the fellows
I used to knock against have died, gone to the Colonies--fizzled out.
You were solid; and you were a swell, with connections and all that. I
understand the stage has become very fashionable in London--I thought
you might meet actor-managers at dinners and things. That was the idea;
I daresay it was very stupid, but I had it. I mentioned your name to
Mamie as soon as it was settled we should come. However, we'll fix the
matter somehow."

"I'm sorry to prove a disappointment," said Heriot. "Tell your daughter
so for me. I'd do what you want with pleasure, if I were able. You know
that, I'm sure?"

"Oh, I know that," said Cheriton; "it can't be helped. Yes, I'll
tell her. She _will_ be disappointed, of course; she understands how
difficult the thing is without influence, and I've talked about you a
lot."

"Do you think you were wise to--to----"

"Oh, it was a mistake as it turns out!"

"I don't mean that only. I mean, do you think you were wise to
encourage her hopes in such a direction at all? Frankly, if _I_ had a
daughter---- Forgive me for speaking plainly."

"My dear fellow! your daughter and mine!--their paths would be as wide
apart as the poles. And you don't know Mamie!"

"At all events I know that the stage is more overcrowded every year.
Most girls are stage-struck at some time or other; and there are
hundreds of actresses who can't earn bread-and-cheese. A man I know
has his type-writing done by a woman who used to be on the stage. She
played the best parts in the country, I believe, and, I daresay, nursed
the expectation of becoming a Bernhardt. She gets a pound a week in his
office, he tells me, and was thankful to obtain the post."

"Mamie is bound to come to the front. She's got it--she's an artist
born. I tell you, I should be brutal to stand in the way of her career;
the girl is pining, really pining, for distinction! When you've talked
to her you'll change your views."

"Perhaps," said Heriot, as the shortest way of ending the discussion;
"very likely I'm wrong." The budding genius bored him. "Mind you
explain to the young lady that my inability, and not my will, refuses,
at any rate."

"That's all right," declared Cheriton, getting up. "I told her I was
coming round to see if it was you." He laughed. "I bet she's picturing
me coming back with a bushel of letters of introduction from you by
now! Well, I must be going; it's getting late."

"You brought her down to Eastbourne to-day?"

"Oh, I've been dangling about town a little by myself; Mamie and
my sister have been here a week. Good-night, old chap; shall I see
you to-morrow? You might give us a look in if you will--say in the
afternoon. Belle Vue Mansion; don't forget!"

"Where?" exclaimed Heriot, startled into interest.

"Belle Vue Mansion," repeated Cheriton, gripping his hand. "You can't
miss it: a big pink house on the Esplanade."



CHAPTER II


Heriot betook himself there on the following day with a curious
eagerness. If the girl he had noticed should prove to be Cheriton's
daughter, how odd it would be! He at once hoped for the coincidence,
and found the possibility a shade pathetic. It emphasised his years to
think that the ill-kept child of the dirty studio might have become
the girl he had admired. His progress during the interval appeared
momentarily insignificant to him; he felt that while a brat became a
woman he ought to have done much more. He was discouraged to reflect
that he had not taken silk; for he had always intended to take silk,
and had small misgivings that he would have cause to repent it. His
practice had indicated for some time that he would not suffer by the
step, and yet he had delayed his application. His motto had been, "Slow
and sure," but it seemed to him suddenly that he had been too slow; his
income as a Junior should not have contented him so long.

He pulled the bell, and was preceded up the stairs by a maid-servant,
who opened a door, and announced him to the one occupant of the room.
Heriot saw that she was the girl of the balcony and the terrace, and
that she moved towards him smiling.

"I am Mamie Cheriton," she said. "My father is expecting you."

Her intonation was faintly American, but her voice was full and sweet.
He took her hand with pleasure, and a touch of excitement that did not
concord with his countenance, which was formal and impassive.

"I am glad to make your acquaintance, Miss Cheriton."

"Won't you sit down?" she said. "He will be here in a minute."

Heriot took a seat, and decided that her eyes were even lovelier than
he had known.

"When I saw you last, you were a child," he remarked inaccurately.

"Yes; it must have astonished you meeting my father again after so many
years. It was funny, your being here, wasn't it?... But perhaps you
often come to Eastbourne?"

"No," said Heriot, "no, I don't often come. How does it strike you,
Miss Cheriton? I suppose you can hardly remember England, can you?"

"Well, I shan't be sorry to be settled in London; it was London I was
anxious to go to, not the sea-shore.... Do you say 'sea-shore' in
Europe, or is it wrong? When I said 'sea-shore' this morning, I noticed
that a woman stared at me."

"One generally says 'seaside' over here; I don't know that it's
important."

"Well, the 'seaside' then. The seaside was my aunt's wish.
Well---- Well, I'm saying 'well' too often, I guess?--that's American,
too! I've got to be quite English--that's my first step. But at least I
don't talk like Americans in your comic papers, do I?"

"You talk very delightfully, I think," he said, taken aback.

"I hope you mean it. My voice is most important, you know. It would be
very cruel if I were handicapped by having anything the matter with my
voice. I shall have difficulties enough without!"

"I'm afraid," he said, "that I'm unfortunate. I wish I could have done
something to further the ambitions your father mentioned."

She smiled again, rather wistfully this time.

"They seem very absurd to you, I daresay?"

He murmured deprecation: "Why?"

"The stage-struck girl is always absurd."

Recognising his own phrase, he perceived that he had been too
faithfully reported, and was embarrassed.

"I spoke hastily. In the abstract the stage-struck girl may be absurd,
but so is a premature opinion."

"Thank you," she said. "But why 'stage-struck,' anyhow? it's a term I
hate. I suppose you wanted to be a barrister, Mr. Heriot?"

"I did," he confessed, "certainly. There are a great many, but I
thought there was room for one more."

"But you weren't described as 'bar-struck'?"

"I don't think I ever heard the expression."

"It would be a very foolish one?"

"It would sound so to me."

"Why 'stage-struck' then? Is it any more ridiculous to aspire to one
profession than another? You don't say a person is 'paint-struck,' or
'ink-struck,' or anything else '-struck'; why the sneer when one is
drawn towards the theatre? But perhaps _no_ form of art appears to you
necessary?"

"I think I should prefer to call it 'desirable,' since you ask the
question," he said. "And 'art' is a word used to weight a great many
trivialities too! Everybody who writes a novel is an artist in his own
estimation, and personally, I find existence quite possible without
novels."

"Did you ever read _Mademoiselle de Maupin_?" asked Miss Cheriton.

"Have _you_?" he said quickly.

"Oh yes; books are very cheap in America. 'I would rather grow roses
than potatoes,' is one of the lines in the preface. _You_ would rather
grow potatoes than roses, eh?"

"You are an enthusiast," said Heriot; "I see!" He pitied her for being
Dick Cheriton's daughter. She was inevitable: the pseudo-artist's
discontent with realities--the inherited tendencies, fanned by
thinly-veiled approval! He understood.

Cheriton came in after a few minutes, followed by the aunt, to whom
Heriot was presented. He found her primitive, and far less educated
than her brother. She was very happy to see dear Dick again, and she
was sorry that she must lose him again so soon. Dear Mamie, though,
would be a consolation. A third-rate suburban villa was stamped upon
her; he could imagine her making hideous antimacassars for forbidding
armchairs, and that a visit to an Eastbourne boarding-house was the
event of her life. She wore jet earrings, and stirred her tea with vast
energy. With the circulation of the tea, strangers drifted into the
room, and the conversation was continued in undertones.

"Have you been talking to Mamie about her intentions?" Cheriton
inquired.

"We've been chatting, yes. What steps do you mean to take, Miss
Cheriton? What shall you do?"

"I propose to go to the dramatic agents," she said, "and ask them to
hear me recite."

"Dramatic agents must be kept fairly busy, I should say. What if they
don't consent?"

"I shall recite to them."

"You are firm!" he laughed.

"I am eager, Mr Heriot. I have longed till I am sick with longing.
London has been my aim since I was a little girl. I have dreamt of
it!--I've gone to sleep hoping that I might; I couldn't recall one of
its streets, but in dreams I've reached it over and over again. The way
was generally across Lincoln Park, in Chicago; and all of a sudden I
was among theatres and lights, and it was London!"

"And you were an actress. And the audience showered bouquets!"

"I always woke up before I was an actress. But now I'm here really, I
mean to try to wake London up."

"I hope you will," he said. Her faith in herself was a little
infectious, since she was beautiful. If she had been plain, he would
have considered her conceited.

"Have I gushed?" she said, colouring.

He was not sure but what she had.

"She's like her father," said Cheriton gaily; "get her on the subject
of art, and her tongue runs away with her. We're all children, we
artists--up in the skies, or down in the dumps. No medium with us! She
must recite to _you_ one of these days, Heriot; I want you to hear her."

"Will you, Miss Cheriton?"

"If you like," she said.

"Dear Mamie must recite to _me_," murmured Mrs. Baines; "I'm quite
looking forward to it. What sort of pieces do you say, dear? Nice
pieces?"

"She knows the parts of Juliet, and Rosalind, and Pauline by heart,"
said Cheriton, ignoring his sister. "I think you'll say her Balcony
Scene is almost as fine a rendering as you've ever heard. There's a
delicacy, a spiritual----"

"Has she been trained?" asked Heriot; "I understood she was quite a
novice."

"I've coached her myself," replied Cheriton complacently. "I don't
pretend to be an elocutionist, of course; but I've been able to give
her some hints. All the arts are related, you know, my boy--it's only
a difference in the form of expression. They're playing _Romeo and
Juliet_ at the theatre here to-night, and we're going; she never loses
an opportunity for study. It's been said that you can learn as much by
watching bad acting as good. Will you come with us?" he added, lowering
his voice. "You'll see how she warms up at the sight of the footlights."

"I don't mind," said Heriot, "if I shan't be in the way. Suppose we all
dine together at the hotel, and go on from there? What do you say?" He
turned to the ladies, and the widow faltered:

"Lor, I'm sure it's very kind of you to invite me, Mr. Heriot. That
_would_ be gay, wouldn't it!"

She smoothed her flat hair tremulously, and left the decision to her
brother and her niece.

Heriot took his leave with the understanding that he was to expect
them, and sauntered along the Parade more cheerfully than was his wont.
The girl had not failed to impress him, though he disapproved of her
tendencies; nor did these appear quite so preposterous to him now,
albeit he thought them regrettable. He did not know whether he believed
in her or not yet, but he was conscious that he wished to do so. His
paramount reflection was that she would have been a wholly charming
girl if she had had ordinary advantages--a finishing governess, and a
London season, and a touch of conventionality. He disliked to use the
word "conventionality," for it sounded priggish; but "conventionality"
was what he meant.

At dinner, however, and more especially after it, he forgot his
objections. In the theatre he watched Miss Cheriton more attentively
than the stage. She herself sat with her eyes riveted on it, and he
could see that she was the prey to strong excitement. He wondered
whether this was created by the performance, which seemed to him
indifferent, or by the thoughts that it awoke, and he resolved to ask
her. When the curtain fell, and they went out, he wasn't sorry that
Cheriton derided his suggestion of a cab and declared that the walk
back would be agreeable. He kept by the girl's side, and the others
followed.

She did not speak, and after a minute he said:

"Will it jar upon you if I say, 'Let us talk'?"

She turned to him with a slight start.

"Of course not! How can you think me so ridiculous?"

"Yet it did!" said Heriot; "I could see."

"I know exactly how I appear," she said constrainedly. "I look an
affected idiot. If you knew how I hate to appear affected! I give
you my word I don't put it on; I can't help it. The theatre gives me
hot and cold shivers, and turns me inside out. That isn't prettily
expressed, but it describes what I mean as nearly as possible. Am I
'enthusing' again?"

"I never said you 'enthused' before. You're not my idea of--of 'the
gushing girl' at all."

"I'm glad to hear it. I was very ashamed when you had gone this
afternoon." She hesitated painfully. "I wish I could explain myself,
but I can't--without a pen. I can write what I feel much better than I
can say it. I began to write a play once, and the girl said just what
I felt. It was a bad play, but a big relief. I've sometimes thought
that if I walked about with a pen in my hand, I should be a good
conversationalist."

"Try to tell me what you feel without one," said Heriot.

"You encourage me to bore you. Mr. Heriot, I yearn, I crave, to do
something clever. It isn't only vanity: half the craving is born of
the desire to live among clever people. Ever since I can remember
I've ached to know artists, and actors, and people who write, and do
things. I've been cooped among storekeepers without an idea in their
heads; I've never seen a man or woman of talent in my life, excepting
my father; I've never heard anybody speak who knew what art or ambition
meant. You may laugh, but if I had it, I would give five hundred
dollars to go home with some of those actresses to-night, and sit mum
in a corner and listen to them."

"Don't you think it very likely you might be disappointed?" he asked.

"I don't. I don't expect they would talk blank-verse at supper, but
they would talk of their work, of their hopes. An artist must be an
artist always--on the stage, or off it; in his studio, or in his club.
My father is an instance: he could not be a philistine if he tried. He
once said something I've always remembered; he said: 'God gave me my
soul, child; circumstances gave me an hotel.' I thought it happily put."

Heriot perceived that Cheriton had thought so too, as the "impromptu"
had been repeated.

"What a different world we should have lived in by now if he had kept
in his profession!" she exclaimed. "I quiver when I realise what I've
missed. People that I only know through their books, or the newspapers,
would have been familiar friends. I should have seen Swinburne smoking
cigars in our parlour; and Sarah Bernhardt would have dropped in to tea
and chatted about the rehearsal she had just left, and showed me the
patterns of the new costumes she was ordering. Isn't it wonderful?"

In sympathy for her he said:

"It's possible your father might have remained in England without
becoming intimate with celebrities."

She looked doubtful. "Even if he hadn't--and one likes to believe
in one's own father--the atmosphere would have been right. They
mightn't have been Swinburnes and Bernhardts that were at home in our
place--they might have been people the world hasn't heard of yet. But
they would have talked of the time when the world was _going_ to hear
of them. One can respect an obscure genius as much as a famous one."

They had reached the door of Belle Vue Mansion; and when he was
begged to go in for half an hour, Heriot did not demur. They had the
drawing-room to themselves now, and Cheriton descanted with relish
on the qualifications for a successful actress. He had no knowledge
of the subject, but possessed great fluency, and he spoke of "broad
effects," and "communicable emotion," and "what he might call a matter
of perspective" with an authority which came near to disguising the
fact that there was little or no meaning in what he said. The girl sat
pale and attentive, and Mrs. Baines listened vaguely, as she might have
done to a discourse in Chinese. Relatives who came back from America
and invited her to stay with them in a house where she cost two guineas
a week, must be treated with deference; but the stage and the circus
were of equal significance to her mind, and she would have simpered
just as placidly if her niece had been anxious to jump through a hoop.
Her chief emotion was pride at being in a room with a barrister who,
she had learnt, was the brother of a baronet; and she watched him
furtively, with the anticipation of describing the event in Lavender
Street, Wandsworth, where the magnate was a gentleman who travelled in
a brougham, and haberdashery.

"Would it be inconsiderate to ask you to recite to-night, Miss
Cheriton?" inquired Heriot. "Don't, if you are too tired."

She rose at once, as if compelling herself to subdue reluctance, and
moved towards the bay of the window slowly. For a second or two after
she stood there she did not speak, only her lips trembled. Then she
began Portia's speech on Mercy. In recitation her voice had the slight
tremolo that is natural to many beginners who feel deeply; but its
quality was delicious, and her obvious earnestness was not without
effect. Conscious that her gestures were stiff, she had chosen a
speech that demanded little action, and it was not until she came to
"Therefore, Jew, though justice be thy plea," that her hands, which
she had clasped lightly in front of her, fell apart. With the change
of position she seemed to acquire a dignity and confidence that made
the climax triumphant, and though Heriot could see that she had much to
learn, his compliments were sincere.

When he bade her good-night, she looked at him appealingly.

"Tell me the truth," she said under her breath; "I've only had my
father's opinion. Tell me the truth!"

"I honestly believe you're clever," he answered. "I'm sure of it." He
felt his words to be very cold compared with the sympathy that was
stirring in him.

The proprietress, who had entered, hovered about with an eye on the
gas, and he repeated his adieux hurriedly. The interest that he already
took in the question of Miss Cheriton's success surprised him. The
day had had a charm that was new, and he found that he was eagerly
anticipating the morrow.



CHAPTER III


On the pavements of the Strand the snow had turned to slush; and from
the river a fog was blowing up, which got into the girl's throat, and
made her cough. She mounted a flight of gloomy stairs, and pulled a
bell. Already her bearing had lost something that had distinguished it
in the summer: something of courage. She rang the bell deprecatingly,
as if ashamed.

The anteroom into which she passed had become painfully familiar to
her, like the faces of many of the occupants. They all wore the same
expression--an air of repressed eagerness, of diffidence striving to
look assured. The walls were covered with theatrical photographs,
and in a corner a pimply youth sat writing at a table. What he wrote
nobody knew or cared. The crowd had but one thought--the door that
communicated with the agent's private office, to which they prayed,
though they were no longer sanguine, that they would gain admission.
It was four o'clock, and at five the office would close. There were
so many of them that it was impossible for Mr. Passmore to interview
everybody. Which of them would be lucky to-day?

Mamie also looked towards the door, and from the door back to
her companions in distress. A little fair woman in a light fawn
costume--terribly unsuitable to the season, but her least shabby--met
her eyes and spoke.

"Have you got an appointment?" she asked in a low voice.

"No."

"Oh, then you won't see him," said the little woman more cheerfully. "I
thought, as you'd come in so late, that you had an appointment. _I've_
been here since twelve."

The door opened, and Mr. Passmore appeared on the threshold. He did not
say "good-afternoon" to his clients; he cast an indifferent gaze round
the room, and signed to a cadaverous man who sat sucking the handle of
his umbrella.

"Here! _You!_" he said, retiring again. The cadaverous man rose
hurriedly, among envious glances, and twenty-five heads that had been
lifted in expectation drooped dejectedly. The men whose watches were
not pawned looked to see the time.

"What's your line?" said the little woman, addressing Mamie once more.

"I beg your pardon? Oh, I'm trying for my first engagement; I haven't
acted yet at all."

The other showed surprise and some contempt.

"A novice, are you! Good Lord, it's no good your coming to the agents,
my dear; they can't find shops for _us_."

"I paid Mr. Passmore the usual fee," said Mamie; "he promised he'd do
what he could."

The little woman smiled, and turned her shoulder to her, declining
further discussion. Another girl rang the bell, but withdrew with a
sigh as she perceived the futility of waiting. The cadaverous man came
out, with "an engagement" writ large upon his features. He stowed a
type-written part into the pocket of his overcoat, and nodded good-bye
to an acquaintance, whose cast of countenance proclaimed him a low
comedian.

"Got anything, dear boy?" inquired the latter in a husky whisper.

"They want me for the _White Slaves_ Company--the Father. Offered four.
Of course I refused point-blank. 'No,' I said, 'six.' 'Oh,' he said,
'impossible!' I wouldn't budge; what do _you_ think! Why, I had eight
with Kavanagh, and she's as good as booked me for her next tour. '_I_
don't mind,' I said; 'I'll go to the Harcourts!' They've been trying to
get me back, and he knows it. 'Don't do that,' he said; 'say five, my
boy!' 'Six!' I said, 'and I only take it then to fill in.' 'Well, they
want you,' he said; 'you're the only man for the part, and I suppose
you've got to have your own terms; but they wouldn't pay it to anybody
else.'" His salary was to be three-pounds-ten, and he could have shed
tears of relief to get it.

"Damn fine, old chap!" said the low comedian, who didn't believe him.
"Is the comedy part open, do you know? I might----"

"Don't think so; fancy they're complete." His manner was already
condescending. "Olive oil!"

"Now, I can't see you people to-day!" exclaimed Mr. Passmore, putting
up his hands impatiently. "No good, Miss Forbes," as a girl made a dart
towards him with a nervous smile that was meant to be ingratiating;
"got nothing for you, it's no use.... What do _you_ want, my dear?"

Another lady, who found it embarrassing to explain her anxiety in
public, faltered "that she had just looked in to hear if Mr. Passmore
could kindly----"

"Nothing doing! perhaps later on. I'll let you know."

"You _will_ bear me in mind, _won't_ you, Mr. Passmore?" she pleaded.

"What?" he said. "Oh, yes, yes; I'll drop you a postcard--I won't
forget you. Good-day." He did not even recollect her name.

"Can I speak to you, Mr. Passmore?" said Mamie, rising.

"You?" he said questioningly. "Oh, I can't do anything for you yet!
Everything's made up--things are very quiet just now.... Here, Miss
Beaumont, I want a word with you."

"Give me a minute," persisted Mamie. "I want an engagement; I don't
care how small the part is. I'll be a servant, I'll be anything, I want
a beginning! I recited to you, if you remember, and----"

"Did you?" he said. "Oh, yes, yes, I remember--very nice. You wanted to
play Juliet!" He laughed.

"I'll be _anything!_" she said again. "I'll give you double the
commission if----"

"Have you got enough voice for chorus?" he asked testily. "How are your
limbs?"

"I want to be an actress," she said, flushing. "I mean to work!"

"Come on, Miss Beaumont!" he cried. And Miss Beaumont swept past her
into the sanctum.

The girl who six months ago had looked forward to playing Juliet made
her way down the dingy staircase drearily. This was but one of many
dramatic agents with whom she had gone through the form of registering
her name. Mr. Passmore's booking-fee had been five shillings; the
booking-fee of most of the others had been five shillings; one had
charged a guinea. All had been affable when she paid her first visit,
and forgotten who she was when she paid her second; all had been
reminded who she was, and failed to recognise her when she called
again. She called on one or another of them every day, and contrived to
gain such an interview as she had just had about once a week. She had
taken in the theatrical papers and replied to shoals of advertisements,
but as she had to state that she was a novice, nobody ever took any
notice of her applications. She had haunted the stage-doors when
she read that a new piece was to be produced, begging in vain to be
allowed to see the manager. She had, in fine, done everything that was
possible; and she was as far from securing an engagement as on the day
that she arrived in England. And she had talent, and she was beautiful,
and was prepared to begin upon the lowest rung of the ladder.

The stage is generally supposed to be the easiest of all callings to
enter. The girl who is unhappy at home, the boy who has been plucked
for the army, the woman whose husband has failed on the Stock Exchange,
all speak of "going on the stage" as calmly as if it were only
necessary to take a stroll to get there. As a matter of fact, unless an
extraordinary piece of luck befalls her, it is almost as difficult for
a girl without influence, or a good deal of money, to become an actress
as it is for her to marry a duke. She may be in earnest, but there are
thousands who are in earnest; she may be pretty, but there are hundreds
of pretty actresses struggling and unrecognised; she may be a genius,
but she has no opportunity to display her gift until the engagement is
obtained. And this is the tremendous obstacle. She can prove nothing;
she can only say, "I feel I should succeed." If she is allowed to
recite--and it is very rarely that she is--a recital is little or no
test of her qualifications for the stage. She may recite cleverly, and
as an actress be very indifferent. She has to beg to be taken on trust,
while a myriad women, eager for the vacant part, can cry, "I can refer
you to so-and-so; I have experience!" Though other artistic professions
may be as hard to rise in, there is probably none other in which it is
quite so difficult to make the first steps. If a girl is able to write,
she can sit alone in her bedroom, and demonstrate her capability; if
she can paint, her canvases speak for her; if she pants to be a prima
donna, she can open her mouth and people hear her sing. The would-be
actress, alone among artists, can do nothing to show her fitness
for the desired vocation until her self-estimate has been blindly
accepted--and she may easily fail to do herself justice then, cast, as
she will be, for minor parts entirely foreign to her bent.

To succeed on the stage requires indomitable energy, callousness to
rebuffs, tact, luck, talent, and facilities for living six or nine
months out of the year without earning a shilling. To get on to the
stage requires valuable introductions or considerable means. If a woman
has neither, the chances are in favour of her seeking an opening vainly
all her life. And as to a young man so situated who seeks it, he is
endeavouring to pass through a brick wall.

Mamie descended the dingy staircase, and at the foot she saw the girl
who had been addressed as "Miss Forbes." She was standing on the
doorstep, gathering up her skirts. It had begun to snow again, and
she contemplated the dark, damp street shrinkingly. An impulse seized
Mamie to speak as she passed. From such trifles great things sometimes
followed, she remembered. She was at the age when the possibility of
the happy accident recurs to the mind constantly--a will-o'-the-wisp
that lightens the gloom. The reflection takes marvellous forms, and at
twenty-one the famous actor--of the aspirant's imagination--who goes
about the world crying, "A genius! you must come to me!" may be met in
any omnibus. The famous actor of the aspirant's imagination is like the
editor as conceived by the general public: he spends his life in quest
of obscure ability.

"If we're going the same way, I can offer you a share of my umbrella,"
she said.

"Oh, thanks!" said the girl in a slightly surprised voice; "I'm going
to Charing Cross."

"And _I'm_ going to Victoria, so our road is the same," said Mamie.

A feeling of passionate pleasure suffused her as she moved away by
the girl's side through the yellow fog. The roar of the Strand had
momentarily the music of her dreams while she yearned in Duluth; the
greatness of the city--the London of theatres, art, and books--throbbed
in her veins. She was walking with an actress!

"Isn't it beastly?" said the girl. "I suppose you've got to train it?"

"Yes; I'm living at Wandsworth. Have _you_ far to go?"

"Notting Hill. I take the bus. Passmore hadn't got anything for you,
had he?"

Mamie shook her head. "We were both unlucky; but perhaps it doesn't
matter so much to you?"

"Doesn't it!... Have you been on his books long, Miss----?"

"Miss Cheriton--Mamie Cheriton."

"That's a good name; it sounds like a character in a play--as if she'd
have a love-scene under the apple blossom! Where were you last?"

"At Mr. Faulkner's; but he didn't know of any vacancy either."

"I don't mean that," said Miss Forbes; "I mean, how long have you been
out?"

"Oh," answered Mamie, "I left home at one o'clock; that's the worst of
living such a long way off!"

The other stared.

"Don't you understand?" she exclaimed. "I mean, what company were you
in last, and when did it finish?"

"Oh, I see," stammered Mamie. "I'm sorry to say I've everything in
front of me! I've never had a part yet at all. I'm that awful thing--a
novice."

"Crumbs!" said Miss Forbes.

"I guess you actresses look down on novices rather?"

"Well, the profession is full enough already, goodness knows! Still, I
suppose we've all got a right to begin. I don't mind a novice who goes
to the agents in the snow; it shows she means business anyhow. It's the
amateurs who go to the managers in hansoms that I hate. But it's an
awful struggle, my dear, take my word for it; you'd better stop at home
if you can afford to. And Passmore will never be any use to you. Look
at _me!_ I've been going to him for four months; and I played Prince
Arthur on tour with Sullivan when I was nine."

"I _am_ looking at you," said Mamie, smiling, "and envying you till I'm
ill. You say Passmore is no use: let me into a secret. What _can_ I do
to get an engagement?"

"Blest if _I_ know, if you haven't got any friends to pull the strings!
I'd like to know the secret myself. Well," she broke off, "perhaps we
shall meet again. I must say 'good evening' here; there's my bus."

"Don't go yet!" begged Mamie. "Won't you come and have some tea first?"

Miss Forbes hesitated eloquently.

"I shall get tea when I reach home," she murmured, "and I'm rather
late."

"Oh, let me invite an actress to tea! Do, please! It will be the next
best thing to getting a part."

"You're very kind. I don't mind, I'm sure. There's a place close by
where they give you a pot for two for fourpence. You're American,
aren't you?"

"I've lived in America; I'm English really."

They were soon seated at a table. Mamie ordered a pot of tea, and
muffins.

"It's nice and warm in here," she said.

"Isn't it! I noticed you in the office. My name is Mabel Forbes; but I
daresay you heard Passmore speak to me?"

"Yes; he didn't speak very nicely, did he?"

"They never do; they're all alike. They know we can't do without them,
and they treat us like dirt. I tell you, it's awful; you don't know
what you're letting yourself in for, my dear."

"To succeed I'd bear anything, all the snubs and drudgery imaginable. I
do know; I know it's not to be avoided. I've read the biographies of so
many great actresses. I should think of the future--the reward. I'd set
my teeth and _live_ for that time; and I'd work for it morning, noon,
and night."

"It would do me good to live with you, if we were on tour together,"
said Miss Forbes cheerfully; "you'd keep my pecker up, I think. I
loathe sharing diggings with another girl, as a rule--one always
quarrels with her, and, with the same bedroom, one has nowhere to go
and cry. After they've been in the profession a few years they don't
talk like you. Not that there's really much in it," she added with a
sigh. "To set your teeth and work morning, noon, and night sounds very
fine, but what does it amount to? It means you'd get two-ten a week,
and study leading business on the quiet till you thought you were as
good as Ellen Terry. But if nobody made you an offer, what then?"

"You mean it's possible to be really clever, and yet not to come to the
front?" asked Mamie earnestly.

"How can you come to the front if no one gives you the opportunity?
You may be liked where you are--in what you're doing--but you can't
play lead in London unless a London manager offers you an engagement to
play lead, can you? You can't make him! Do you suppose the only clever
actresses alive are those who're known? Besides, if leading business is
what you are thinking of, I don't believe you've the physique for it;
you don't look strong enough. I should have thought light comedy was
more your line."

"It isn't. If I'm meant for anything, it's for drama, and--and tragedy.
But I'd begin in the smallest way and be grateful. The ideas I had when
I came to London have been knocked out of me--and they were moderate
enough, too! I'd begin by saying that the 'dinner was ready.' Surely it
can't be so difficult to get an opening like that, if one knows how to
set about it?"

"Well, look here, my dear. I played Prince Arthur with Sullivan when I
was nine, as I tell you, and I've been in the profession ever since.
But I've been out of an engagement for four months now; all I could
save out of my last screw has gone in bus fares and stamps--and my
people haven't got any more money than they know how to spend. If an
engagement to announce the dinner had been offered _me_ to-day, I'd
have taken it and I'd be going back to Notting Hill happy."

"I'm awfully sorry," said Mamie sympathetically. "Shall we have another
muffin?"

"No, I don't want any more, thanks. But you've no idea what a business
it is! I've got talent and experience, and I'm not bad-looking, and yet
you see how I've got to struggle. One is always too late everywhere. I
was at the Queen's this morning. There are always any number of small
parts in the Queen's things, you know, and I thought there might be a
chance for _The Pride of the Troop_. They'd got everybody except the
extra ladies. By the way, you might try to get on at the Queen's as an
extra, if you like. With your appearance you'd have a very good chance,
I should say."

Mamie felt her heart stirring feverishly. "Do you mean it?" she asked.
"What are 'extras'--you don't mean 'supers'?"

"Oh, they're better than supers--different class, you know. Of
course they've nothing to say, except in chorus. They come on in the
race-course scene and the ball-room and look nice. They wear swagger
frocks--the management finds their dresses--and are supposed to murmur,
and laugh, and act in dumb-show in the background. _You_ know! They're
frightful fools--a girl who _could_ act a bit would stand out among
extra ladies like a Bernhardt at the Ladbroke Hall."

"If they'd take me," said Mamie, clasping her hands; "if they'd only
take me! Do you really think they will?"

"It couldn't hurt to try. Ask for Mr. Casey and tell him you want to
'walk on.' There, I've given you a hint, after all!" she exclaimed, as
she got up; "one can't think of everything right off. It might prove
a start for you; who knows? If Casey sees you're intelligent, he may
give you a line or two to speak. You go up to one of the principals,
and say, 'Lord Tomnoddy, where's that bracelet you promised to send me
when I saw you at Kempton Park?' Then the low-comedy merchant--it's
generally the low-comedy merchant you speak to--says something that
gets a laugh, and bustles up the stage, and you run after him angrily.
But don't be sanguine, even of getting on as an extra! There's always a
crowd of women besieging the Queen's at every production--you won't be
the only pretty one. Well, I must be going, my dear. I wish you luck."

"And luck to _you!_" said Mamie, squeezing her hand gratefully; "and
many, many thanks. I look forward to telling you the result. I suppose
we're sure to see each other at Mr. Passmore's?"

"Oh, we're bound to run against each other somewhere before long,"
returned Miss Forbes cordially. "Yes, I shall be curious to hear what
you do; I've enjoyed our chat very much. Take care of yourself!"

She hurried towards her bus, waving au revoir, and Mamie crossed the
road. London widened between the girls--and their paths in it never met
again.



CHAPTER IV


As she reached the opposite pavement Heriot exclaimed: "Miss Cheriton!
Are you going to cut me?"

"You?" she cried with surprise. "It was--it was the fog's fault; I
didn't see. What a stranger you are! it's a fortnight since you came
out to us. A 'fortnight,' you observe--I'm 'quite English, you know,'
now."

"You're in good spirits," he said. "What have you been doing?"

"I've been rising in my career," she answered gaily; "I have had tea
in a cakeshop with an actress. I have just shaken hands with her; she
has just given me a piece of advice. I am, in imagination, already a
personage."

"Who is she?" asked Heriot. "Where does she come from?... Let me see
you to Victoria; I suppose that's where you are going?"

He stopped a hansom, and scrutinised her sadly as they took their
seats. "Have you been out in this weather long?" he said. "You poor
child, how wet you must be! Well, you know an actress. Aren't you going
to tell me all about it?"

She was as voluble as he wished; he had become in the last few months
her confidant and consoler. Lavender Street, Wandsworth, or those
residents who commanded a view of No. 20, had learnt to know his
figure well. Awhile ago he had marvelled at the rôle he was filling;
latterly he had ceased to marvel. He realised the explanation--and as
he listened to her tale her words smote him. It hurt him to think of
the girl beside him cringing to a theatrical agent, forming a chance
acquaintance in the streets, and contemplating so ignoble a position as
the one of which she spoke. He looked at her yearningly.

"You are not pleased," she said.

"Is there a great deal to be pleased at? Is this sort of thing worthy
of you?"

"It is the first step. Oh, be nice about it, do! If you understood ...
can I be Juliet at once! If I'm to succeed----"

"I have sympathised with you," he said; "I've entered into your
feelings; I do understand. But you don't know what you're meditating.
Admitting it's inevitable--admitting, if you're to be an actress, that
you must begin, since you've no influence, where you're content to
begin--can you bear it? These women you'll be thrown amongst----"

"Some, at least," she said, "will be like myself, surely? I am not the
only girl who has to begin. And ... Whatever they are, it can't be
helped! Remember, I'm in earnest! I talked at first wildly; I see how
childish I was. What should I be if I faltered because the path isn't
strewn with roses? An actress must be satisfied to work."

"It isn't decreed that you need be an actress," answered Heriot. "After
all, there is no necessity to fight for your bread-and-butter. If you
were compelled----"

"There are more compelling forces than poverty. Can't you recognise
ambition?"

"Haven't I?" he said. "Have I been wood?"

"Ah," she smiled, "forgive me. I didn't mean that. But be nice still.
Am I to reject a career because I'm not starving? I'm starving with my
soul. I'm like a poor mute battling for voice. I want--I want to give
expression to what I feel within me." She beat her hands in her lap.
"I'm willing to struggle--eager to! You've always known it. Why do
you disappoint me now? I have to begin even lower than I understood,
that's all. And what is it? I shall be surrounded by artists then. By
degrees I shall rise. 'You are in the right way, but remember what I
say, Study, study, study! Study well, and God bless you!' Do you know
who said that?--Mrs. Siddons to Macready. It was at Newcastle, and it
was about her performance the same night that he wrote: 'The violence
of her emotion seemed beyond her power longer to endure, and the words,
faintly articulated, "Was he alive?" sent an electric thrill through
the audience.' Think what that means; three words! I can't do it, I've
tried--oh, how I've tried! For months after I read that book, I used to
say them dozens of times every day, with every intonation I could think
of. But there was no effect, no thrill even to myself. 'Study, study,
study! Keep your mind on your art, do not remit your study, and you are
certain to succeed!' I _will_ keep my mind on it, I'll obey her advice,
I _will_ succeed. Heaven couldn't be so cruel as to let me fail after
putting such longings into me."

Heriot sighed. The impulse to tell her that he loved her, to keep her
to himself, was mastering him. Never before had her hold on him been
displayed so vividly, nor had the temptation to throw prudence to the
winds been quite so strong.

"If you had a happier home," he said, "there would be other influences.
Don't think me impertinent, but it can't be very lively for you in that
house."

"It isn't a whirl of gaiety, and Aunt Lydia is not ideal. But--but I
was just the same in Duluth."

"Duluth!" he echoed; "it was dreary in Duluth, too."

"At all events I had my father there."

"What does he write?" asked Heriot. "Have you had a letter since I saw
you?"

"He gives no news. The news is to come from _me_."

"I think there's a little," he said; "I can tell it by your tone."

"It's cheerful to be with some one who _can_ tell things by one's tone.
Well, he thinks, if I can't make a beginning, that I may as well go
back."

"I see," he said. "I won't ask you if you mean to."

She laughed a shade defiantly. "Duluth has many charms--I've been
remembering them since his letter. There is my father, and there's
strawberry-shortcake. My father will be disappointed in me if I have
to go; the strawberry-shortcake--well, there's a tiny shop there where
they sell it hot. I've never seen it hot anywhere else--and they turn
on the cream with a tap, out of a thing that looks like a miniature
cistern."

"You're not going back," he said. "You're going on the stage as a
supernumerary instead?"

In the flare of the station lamps her eyes flashed at him; he could see
the passionate trembling of her mouth. The cab stopped, and they got
out, and threaded their way among the crowd to the barriers. There was
a train in ten minutes, Heriot learnt.

"Shall we go to the waiting-room?"

"No," said Miss Cheriton.

"Forgive me what I said just now. I am sorry."

"What does it matter?"

"It was brutal."

"Rather, perhaps. It was unexpected. You have failed me when I wanted
you most."

He took two first-class tickets--he wished to be alone with her, and he
knew that she travelled "second."

"I'm coming with you," he said.

"But you can't have dined? Our suppers are not extensive."

"Let us get in!" he answered.

They had the compartment to themselves when the door banged, and he
regarded her silently, with nerves that had escaped control.

"I have warned you," she said. "It will be something out of a tin for
certain, with vinegar over it."

"Mamie!"

There was rebuke in her expression.

"Mamie," he repeated, "I love you. Why I dislike your going on the
stage is because I want you myself. I was 'brutal' because I'm fond of
you. Will you marry me?"

She lay back against the darkness of the cushions, pale and startled.

"Are you serious?" she said. "You--want to marry me? do you mean it?"

"I mean it. I don't seem able to tell you how much I mean it. Can you
like me well enough to be my wife?"

"I do like you," she stammered; "but I hadn't an idea.... I never
thought you thought----Oh, I'm sorry!"

"Why? Why can't you say 'yes'?"

"To marry you?"

"I'll be very gentle to you," he said shakily. "I--for God's sake,
don't judge my love for you by the way I put it! I haven't had much
practice in love-making; it's a pity, perhaps. There's a word that
says it all--I 'worship' you. My darling, what have you to look
forward to? You've seen, you've tried, you know what an uphill life
it will be. It's not as if I begged you to waive your hopes while
you had encouragement to hope--you've made the attempt, and you know
the difficulties now. Come to me instead. You shall live where you
like--you can choose your own quarter. You can have everything you care
for--books, pictures, theatres too. Oh, my sweet, come to me, and I'll
fulfil every wish! Will you, Mamie?"

"I can't," she said tremulously, "it wouldn't be fair." Her eyes shone
at him, and she leant forward with parted lips. "I like you, I like you
very much, but I don't--I'm not---- I've never been in love with anyone."

"I'll be grateful for small mercies," said Heriot, with an unhappy
laugh.

"And I _could_ not do what you ask. If I fail, I fail; but I must
persevere. I can't accept failure voluntarily--I can't stretch out my
arms to it. I should despise myself if I gave in to-day. Even you----"

"You know better than that!" he said.

"Well, yes," she owned, "perhaps I'm wrong there; to you it would seem
a sensible step. But I believe in myself. All my life I've had the
thought, and I should be miserable, I should hate myself! I should be
like my father--I should be always thinking of the 'might have been.'
You'd be good to me, but you'd know you had been a fool. I'm not a bit
the sort of woman you should marry, and you'd repent it."

Heriot took her hand and held it tightly.

"I love you," he said. "Consider your own happiness only. I love you."

"I am quite selfish--I know it wouldn't content me; I'm not pretending
to any nobility. But I'm sorry; I may say that? I didn't dream you
liked me in this way. I'm not hard, I'm not a horror, and I can see--I
can see that I'm a lot to you."

"I'm glad of that," he said simply. "Yes, you're 'a lot to me,' Mamie.
If you know it, and you can't care for me enough, there's no more for
me to say. Don't worry yourself. It's not unusual for a man to be fond
of a woman who doesn't want to marry him."



CHAPTER V


She betook herself to the Queen's next morning less buoyantly than
she had anticipated. Her meeting with Heriot had depressed her. She
retained much of the nature of a child, and laughed or cried very
easily. She had met Heriot laughing, and he had been serious and sad.
With some petulance she felt that it was very unfortunate for her that
he had fallen in love with her, and chosen that particular day to tell
her so.

She entered the stage-door with no presentiment of conquest, and
inquired of the man in the little recess if Mr. Casey was in the
theatre. Stage-door keepers are probably the surliest class in
existence. They have much to try them, and they spend their official
lives in a violent draught; but if there is a stage-door keeper sweet
and sunny in his home, he provides an interesting study for the
dramatic authors.

The man took her measure in an instant, saving in one particular--she
was prepared to give him a shilling and he did not guess it.

"Mr. Casey's on the stage," he said; "he won't be disturbed now."

"If I waited, do you think I might see him?"

"I couldn't tell you, I'm sure."

He resumed his perusal of a newspaper, and Mamie looked at him through
the aperture helplessly. There was the usual knot of loafers about
the step--a scene-hand or two in their shirt-sleeves; a girl in her
pathetic best dress, also hoping for miracles; a member of the company,
who had slipped out from rehearsal to smoke a cigarette.

Cerberus was shown where his estimate had been at fault. He said "Miss"
now: "If you write your business on one of these forms, Miss, I'll send
it in to Mr. Casey."

He gave her a stump of pencil, and a printed slip, specially designed
to scare intruders. She wrote her name, and Mr. Casey's name, and could
find no scope for euphemisms regarding the nature of the interview she
sought. She added, "To obtain engagement as extra lady," and returned
the paper with embarrassment; she was sufficiently unsophisticated in
such matters to assume that her object had not been divined.

"'Ere, Bill!" One of the scene-hands turned. "Take it in to Mr. Casey
for this lady."

The man addressed as Bill departed through a second door with a grunt
and a bang, and she waited expectantly. The girl in her best frock
sneered; she could not afford to dispense shillings, herself, and
already her feet ached. The door swung back constantly. At intervals
of a few seconds a stream of nondescripts issued from the unknown
interior, and Mamie stood watching for the features of her messenger.
It was nearly a quarter of an hour before he reappeared.

"Mr. Casey can't see you," he announced.

The stage-door keeper heard the intelligence with absolute
indifference; but the girl on the step looked gratified.

"What shall I do?" asked Mamie.

"I can't do no more than send in for you, Miss. It ain't much good your
waiting--the call won't be over till three o'clock."

"Could I see him then?"

"He'll come out. If you like to take your chance----"

"I'll come back at three o'clock," she said. It was then eleven.

She turned into the Strand--the Strand that has broken more hearts than
Fleet Street. Here a young actor passed her, who was also pacing the
inhospitable pavements until the hour in which he hoped to see patience
and importunity bear fruit. He wore a fashionable overcoat, and swung
his cane with a gloved hand. Presently he would seek a public-house
and lunch on a scone, and a glass of "mild-and-bitter." If he had
"bitter," he would be a halfpenny short in his homeward fare to Bow.
There a musical comedy actress went by, who had "married a swell."
His family had been deeply wounded, and showed their mortification by
allowing her to support him. She had had three children; and when he
was drunk, which was frequently, he said, "God forbid that they should
ever become damned mummers like their mother!" A manager had just told
her that "she had lost her figure, and wouldn't look the part!" and she
was walking back to Islington, where the brokers were in the house. A
popular comedian, who had been compelled to listen to three separate
tales of distress between Charing Cross and Bedford Street, and had
already lent unfortunate acquaintances thirty shillings, paused, and
hailed a hansom from motives of economy. It was the typical crowd
of the Strand, a crowd of the footlights. The men whose positions
had been won were little noticeable, but the gait and costume of
the majority--affected Youth, and disheartened Age--indicated their
profession to the least experienced eyes. Because she grew very tired,
and not that she had any expectation of hearing good news, Mamie went
into Mr. Passmore's office, and sat down.

And she did not hear any. After an hour she went away, and rested next
in the anteroom of another of the agents, who repeated that "things
were very quiet," and that "he wouldn't forget her." Seven or eight
other girls were waiting their turn to be told the same thing. At a
quarter to three she went back to the Queen's.

"Is he coming out now?" she said. "Am I too soon?"

"Eh?" said the stage-door keeper.

"You told me he'd be out about three. I was asking for Mr. Casey this
morning."

"Oh, were you?" he said. "There's been a good many asking for him since
then." He gradually recalled her. "Mr. Casey's gone," he added; "they
finished early. He won't be here till to-night."

There was a week in which she went to the stage-door of the Queen's
Theatre every day, at all hours, and at last she learnt casually
that as many extra ladies as were required for the production had
been engaged. There were months during which she persisted in her
applications at other stage-doors and hope flickered within her still.
But when September came, and a year had passed since her arrival, the
expiring spark had faded into lassitude. She tried no longer. Only
sometimes, out of the sickness of her soul, the impulse to write was
born, and she picked up a pen.

Then it was definitely decided that she should return to America.
It was characteristic of her that she had no sooner dried her eyes
after the decision than she was restless to return at once; Duluth
was no drearier than Wandsworth. Externally it was even picturesque,
with the blue water and the sunshine, and the streets of white houses
rising in tiers like a theatre; in Duluth the residents "looked down
on one another" literally. The life was appalling, but when all was
said, was it more limited than Aunt Lydia? And if, in lieu of acting,
she dared aspire to dramatic authorship--the thought stirred her
occasionally--she could work as well in Minnesota as in Middlesex.
Cheriton had remitted the amount of her passage, and suggested that she
should sail in a week or two. She had not received the draft two hours
when she went up to town and booked a berth in the next steamer.

When it was done, she posted a note to Heriot, acquainting him with her
intention. His visits had not been discontinued, but he came at much
longer intervals latterly, and she could not go without bidding him
good-bye.

She sat in the Lavender Street parlour the next evening, wondering if
he would come. Almost she hoped that he would not. She had written,
and therefore done her duty. To see him would, in the circumstances,
humiliate her cruelly, she felt. She remembered how she had talked to
him twelve months before--recalled her confidence, her pictures of a
future that she was never to know, and her eyes smarted afresh. She had
even failed to obtain a hearing. "What a fool, what an idiot I look!"
she thought passionately.

Tea was over, but the maid-of-all-work had not removed the things; and
when Heriot entered, the large loaf and the numerous knives, which are
held indispensable to afternoon tea in Lavender Street, were still on
the big round table. The aspect of the room did not strike him any
more. He was familiar with it, like the view of the kitchen when the
front door had been opened, and the glimpse of clothes-line in the yard
beyond.

"May I come in?" he said. "Did you expect me?"

"Lor, it's Mr. Heriot!" said Mrs. Baines. "Fancy!"

She told the servant to take away the teapot, and to bring in another
knife. He wondered vaguely what he was supposed to do with it.

"I thought it likely you'd be here," said Mamie; "won't you sit down?"

"I only had your letter this morning. So you are going away?"

"I am going away. I bow, more or less gracefully, to the inevitable."

"To bow gracefully to the inevitable is strong evidence of the
histrionic gift," he said.

"I came, I saw, I was conquered; please don't talk about it.... It was
only settled yesterday. I sail on Saturday, you know."

"Yes, you wrote me," murmured Heriot. "It's very sudden."

"I'm crazy to do something, if only to confess myself beaten."

"May I offer you a cup o' tea, Mr. Heriot?" asked Mrs. Baines.

She always "offered" cups of tea, and was indebted to neighbours for
their "hospitality."

He thanked her.

"You will miss your niece?" he said, declining a place at the table, to
which she had moved a chair.

"Yes, I'm sure!" she answered. "I say now it's a pity she didn't go
with her father last October. Going in a vessel by herself, oh, dear! I
say I wouldn't have got accustomed to having her with me if she'd gone
with her father. Though that's neither here nor there!"

"Yes, I think you may believe you'll be missed, Miss Cheriton," he said.

"I say it's very odd she couldn't be an actress as she wanted,"
continued Mrs. Baines. "Seems so unfortunate with all the trouble that
she took. But lor, my dear, we can't see what lies ahead of us, and
perhaps it's all for the best! I say perhaps it's all for the best, Mr.
Heriot, eh? Dear Mamie may be meant to do something different--writing,
or such like; it's not for us to say."

"Have you been writing again?" asked Heriot, turning to the girl.

"A little," she said bitterly. "My vanity dies hard--and Aunt Lydia has
encouraged me."

Heriot looked a reproach; her tone hurt him, though he understood of
what it was the outcome.

"I should be glad if you had encouragement," he replied; "I think you
need it now."

But it hurt him, also, to discuss her pain in the presence of the
intolerable third. He knew that if he remained to supper there would be
a preparatory quarter of an hour in which he was alone with her; and it
was for this quarter of an hour that he hungered, conscious that during
the opening of the lobster-tin two destinies would be determined.

"That's right, Mr. Heriot," said Mrs. Baines placidly. "I'm glad
to hear you say so. That's what I've been telling her. I say she
mustn't be disheartened. Why, it's surprising, I'm sure, how much
seems to be thought of people who write stories and things nowadays;
they seem to make quite a fuss of them, don't they? And I'm certain
dear Mamie could write if she put her mind to it. I was reading in
the paper, _Tit-Bits_, only last week, that there was a book called
_Robert Ellis_, or some such name, that made the author quite talked
about. Now, I read the piece out to you, dear, didn't I? A book about
religion, it was, by a lady; and I'm sure dear Mamie knows as much
about religion as anyone."

"My aunt means _Robert Elsmere_," said Mamie, in a laboured voice. "You
may have heard it mentioned?"

"You mustn't expect Mr. Heriot to know much about it," said Mrs.
Baines; "Mr. Heriot is so busy a gentleman that very likely he doesn't
hear of these things. But I assure you, Mr. Heriot, the story seems to
have been read a great deal; and what I say is, if dear Mamie can't be
an actress, why shouldn't she write books, if she wants to do something
of the sort? I wonder my brother didn't teach her to paint, with her
notions and that--but, not having learnt, I say she ought to write
books. That's the thing for her--a nice pen and ink, and her own home."

"I agree with you, Mrs. Baines. If she wants to write, she can do that
in her own home."

"Not to compare it with such a profession as yours, Mr. Heriot," she
said, "which, of course, is sensible and grave. But girls can't be
barristers, and----"

"Will you open the window for me?" exclaimed Mamie; "it's frightfully
warm, don't you think so?"

She stood there with her head thrown back, and closed eyes, her foot
tapping the floor restlessly.

"Are you wishing you hadn't come?" she asked under her breath.

"Why?"

"One must suffer to be polite here."

"Aren't you a little unjust?" said Heriot deprecatingly.

"You have it for an hour," she muttered; "_I_ have had it for twelve
months. Have you ever wanted to shriek? _I_ wanted to shriek just now,
violently!"

"I know you did," he said. "Well, it's nearly over.... Are you glad?"

"Yes, and no--I can't say. If----"

"Won't you go on?"

"If I dared hope to do anything else.... But I'm not going to talk like
that any more! I'm ridiculous enough already."

"To whom are you ridiculous?"

"To my own perception--you!"

"Not to me," he said.

"'Pathetic'? Yes, to you I'm 'pathetic.' You pity me as you might pity
a lunatic who imagined she was the Queen of England."

"I think you know," said Heriot diffidently, "that neither the Queen
nor a lunatic inspires in me quite the feeling that I have for you."

She changed her position, and spoke at random.

"This street is awfully stupid, isn't it?" she said. "Look at that man
going up the steps!"

"Yes, he is very stupid, I daresay. What of it?"

"He is a clerk," she said; "and wheels his babies out on Sunday."

"Mamie!"

"Come and talk to Aunt Lydia again. How rude we are!"

"I want to talk to _you_," he demurred. "Aren't you going to ask me to
stay to supper?"

The suggestion came from the widow almost at the same moment.

"I think we had better have the lamp," she went on. "The days are
drawing in fast, Mr. Heriot, aren't they? We shall soon have winter
again. Do you like the long evenings, or the long afternoons best? Just
about now I always say that I can't bear to think of having to begin
lighting up at five or six o'clock--it seems so unnatural; and then,
next summer, somehow I feel quite lost, not being able to let down
the blinds and light the lamp for tea. Mamie, dear, shut the window,
and let down the blinds before I light the lamp--somebody might see
in!" She suggested the danger in the same tone in which she might have
apprehended a burglary.

Under a glass shade a laggard clock ticked drearily towards the crisis,
and Heriot provoked its history by the eagerness with which he looked
to see the time. It had been a wedding-present from "poor dear Edward's
brother," and only one clockmaker had really understood it. The man had
died, and since then----

He listened, praying for the kitchen to engulf her.

When she withdrew at last, with an apology for leaving him, he rose,
and went to the girl's side.

"Do you know why I came this afternoon?" he said.

She did know--had known it in the moment that he opened the window for
her:

"To say 'good-bye,'" she murmured.

"I came to beg you not to go! Dearest, what do you relinquish by
marrying me now? Not the stage--your hope of the stage is over; not
your ambition in itself--you can be ambitious as my wife. You lose
nothing, and you give--a heaven. Mamie, won't you stay?"

She leant on the mantelpiece without speaking. In the pause, Mrs.
Baines' voice reached them distinctly, as she said, "Put the brawn on a
smaller dish."

"You are forgetting. There was ... a reason besides the stage."

"It is you who've forgotten. I told you I would be content.... It
wouldn't be repugnant to you?"

"To refuse while I thought I had a future, and to say 'yes,' now
that----How can you ask me? It would be an insult to your love."

"I do ask you," he urged; "I implore."

"You implore me to be contemptible. You would have a disappointed woman
for your wife. You deserve something better than that."

"Oh, my God," said Heriot, in a low voice, "if I could only tell you
how I ache to take you in my arms--as softly as if you were a child!
If I could tell you what it is to me to know that you are passing out
of my life and that in two days' time I shall never see you again!...
Mamie?"

The heavy shuffle of the servant was heard in the passage.

"Mamie?" he repeated desperately. "It will be worse over there."

Her eyes were big with perplexity and doubt.

"Mamie?"

"Are you sure you--sure----"

"I love you; I want you. Only trust me!... Mamie?"

"If you're quite sure you wish it," she faltered,--"yes!"



CHAPTER VI


When Heriot informed his brother of his approaching marriage, Sir
Francis said, "I never offer advice to a man on matters of this sort";
and proceeded to advise. He considered the union undesirable, and used
the word.

Heriot replied, "On the contrary, I desire it extremely."

"You're of course the best judge of your own affairs. I'll only say
that it is hardly the attachment I should have expected you to form. It
appears to me--if I may employ the term--romantic."

"I should say," said Heriot, in his most impassive manner, "that that
is what it might be called. Admitting the element of romance, what of
it?"

"We are not boys, George," said Sir Francis. He added, "And the lady
is twenty-two! The father is an hotel-keeper in the United States, you
tell me, and the aunt lives in Wandsworth. Socially, Wandsworth is
farther than the United States, but geographically it is close. This
Mrs. Payne--or Baynes--is not a connection you will be proud of, I take
it?"

"I shall be very proud of my wife," said Heriot, with some stiffness.
"There are more pedigrees than happy marriages."

The Baronet looked at his watch. "As I have said, it's not a matter
that I would venture to advise you upon. Of course I congratulate you.
We shall see Miss Cheriton at Sandhills, I hope? and--er--Catherine
will be delighted to make her acquaintance. I have to meet Phil at
the Club. He's got some absurd idea of exchanging--wants to go out to
India, and see active service. And I got him into the Guards! Boys are
damned ungrateful.... When do you marry?"

"Very shortly--during the vacation. There'll be no fuss."

Sir Francis told his wife that it was very "lamentable," and Lady
Heriot preferred to describe it as "disgusting." But in spite of
adjectives the ceremony took place.

The honeymoon was brief, and when the bride and bridegroom came back to
town, they stayed in an hotel in Victoria Street while they sought a
flat. Ultimately they decided upon one in South Kensington, and it was
the man's delight to render this as exquisite as taste and money made
possible. The furniture for his study had simply to be transferred from
his bachelor quarters, but the other rooms gave scope for a hundred
consultations and caprices; and like a lad he enjoyed the moments in
which he and Mamie bent their heads together over patterns and designs.

She would have been more than human, and less than lovable, if in those
early weeks her disappointment had not been lost sight of; more than a
girl if the atmosphere of devotion in which she moved had not persuaded
her primarily that she was content. Only after the instatement was
effected and the long days while her husband was away were no longer
occupied by upholsterers' plans, did the earliest returning stir of
recollection come; only as she wandered from the drawing-room to the
dining-room and could find no further touches to make, did she first
sigh.

A gift of Heriot's--he had chosen it without her knowledge, and it had
been delivered as a surprise--was a writing-table; a writing-table
that was not meant merely to be a costly ornament. And one morning she
sat down to it and began another attempt at a play. The occupation
served to interest her, and now the days were not so empty. In the
evening, as often as he was able, Heriot took her out to a theatre,
or a concert, or to houses from which invitations came. The evenings
were enchantingly new to her; less so, perhaps, when they dined at
the solemn houses than when a hansom deposited them at the doors of a
restaurant, and her husband's pocket contained the tickets for a couple
of stalls. She was conscious that she owed him more than she could ever
repay; and though she had casually informed him that she had begun a
drama, she did not discuss the subject with him at any length. To dwell
upon those eternal ambitions of hers was to remind him that she had
said she would be dissatisfied, and he deserved something different
from that; he deserved to forget it, to be told that she had not an
ungratified wish! She felt ungrateful to realise that such a statement
would be an exaggeration.

In the November following the wedding it was seen that "Her Majesty had
been pleased, on the recommendation of the Lord Chancellor, to approve
the name of George Langdale Heriot to the rank of Queen's Counsel," and
Heriot soon found reason to congratulate himself on his step. A man
may earn a large income as a Junior, and find himself in receipt of a
very poor one as a Leader. There is an instance cited in the Inns of
Court of a stuff-gownsman, making eight thousand a year, whose income
fell, when he took silk, to three hundred. But Heriot's practice did
not decline. Few men at the Bar could handle a jury better, or showed
greater address in their dealings with the Bench. He knew instinctively
the moment when that small concession was advisable, when the attitude
of uncompromising rigour would be fatal to his case. He had his tricks
in court: the least affected of men out of it, in court he had his
tricks. Counsel acquire them inevitably, and one of Heriot's had been a
favourite device of Ballantyne's: in cross-examination he looked at the
witness scarcely at all, but kept his face turned to the jury-box. Why
this should be persuasive is a mystery that no barrister can explain,
but its effectiveness is undeniable. Nevertheless, he was essentially
"sound." As he had been known as "a safe man" while a Junior, so, now
that he had taken silk, he was believed in as a Leader. The figures
on the briefs swelled enormously; his services were more and more in
demand. Then by-and-by there came a criminal case that was discussed
day by day throughout the length and breadth of the kingdom--in
drawing-rooms and back parlours, in clubs and suburban trains, and
Heriot was for the Defence. The Kensington study had held him until
dawn during weeks, for he had to break down medical evidence. And on
the last day he spoke for five hours, while the reporters' pens flew,
and the prisoner swayed in the dock; and the verdict returned was "Not
Guilty."

When he unrobed and left the court, George Heriot walked into the
street the man of the hour; and he drove home to Mamie, who kissed him
as she might have kissed her father.

He adored his wife, and his wife felt affection for him. But the claims
of his profession left her to her own resources; and she had no child.



CHAPTER VII


When they had been married three years she knew many hours of boredom.
She could not disguise from herself that she found the life she led
more and more unsatisfying--that luxury and a devoted husband, who was
in court during the day, and often in his study half the night, were
not all that she had craved for; that her environment was philistine,
depressing, dull!

And she lectured herself and said the fault was her own, and that it
was a very much better environment than her abilities entitled her
to. She recited all the moral precepts that a third person might have
uttered; and the dissatisfaction remained.

To write plays ceases to be an attractive occupation when they are
never produced. She had written several plays by this time, and
submitted them, more or less judiciously, to several West End theatres.
There had even been an instance of a manager returning a manuscript in
response to her fourth application for it. But she was no nearer to
success, or to an artistic circle.

A career at the Bar is not all causes célèbres, and the details of
Heriot's briefs were rarely enthralling to her mind, even when he
discussed them with her; and when he came into the drawing-room he did
not want to discuss his briefs. He wanted to talk trifles, just as
he preferred to see a musical comedy or a farce when they went out.
Nor did he press her for particulars of her own pursuits during his
absence. She never sighed over him, and as she appeared to be cheerful,
he thought she was contented. That such allusions to her literary work
as she made were careless, he took to mean that she had gradually
acquired staider views. Once he perceived that it was perhaps quieter
for her than for most women, for she had no intimate acquaintances;
but then she had never been used to any! There were her books, and
her music, and her shopping--no, he did not think she could be bored.
Besides, her manner at dinner was always direct evidence to the
contrary!

She was now twenty-five years old, and the Kensington flat, and
abundant means had lost their novelty. She was never moved by a
clever novel without detesting her own obscurity; never looked at the
window of the Stereoscopic Company without a passion of envy for the
successful artists; never accompanied Heriot to the solemn houses
without yearning for a passport to Upper Bohemia instead. She was
twenty-five years old, and marriage, without having fulfilled the
demands of her temperament, had developed her sensibilities. It was at
this period that she met Lucas Field.

If her existence had been a story, nothing could have surprised her
less than such a meeting. It would have been at this juncture precisely
that she looked for the arrival of an artist, and Lucas Field would
probably have been a brilliant young man who wore his hair long and
wrote decadent verse. The trite in fiction is often very astonishing
in one's own life, however, and, as a matter of fact, she found their
introduction an event, and foresaw nothing at all.

Lucas Field was naturally well known to her by reputation--so well
known that when the hostess brought "Mr. Field" across to her, Mamie
never dreamed of identifying him with the dramatist. She had long since
ceased to expect to meet anybody congenial at these parties, and the
fish had been reached before she discovered who it really was who had
taken her down.

Field was finding it a trifle dreary himself. He had not been bred
in the vicinity of the footlights---his father had been a physician,
and his mother the daughter of a Lincolnshire parson--but he had
drifted into dramatic literature when he came down from Oxford, and
the atmosphere of the artistic world had become essential to him by
now. Portman Square, though he admitted its desirability, and would
have been mortified if it had been denied to him, invariably oppressed
him a shade when he entered it. He was at the present time foretasting
hell in the fruitless endeavour to devise a scenario for his next
play, and he had looked at Mamie with a little interest as he was
conducted across the drawing-room. A beautiful woman has always an air
of suggestion; she is a beginning, a "heroine" without a plot. Regarded
from the easel she is all-sufficing--contemplated from the desk, she is
illusive. After you have admired the tendrils of hair at the nape of
her neck, you realise with despondence that she takes you no farther
than if she had been plain.

Field had realised that she left him in the lurch before his soup plate
had been removed. Presently he inquired if she was fond of the theatre.

"Please don't say 'yes' from politeness," he added.

"Why should I?"

She had gathered the reason in the next moment, and her eyes lit
with eagerness. He had a momentary terror that she was going to be
commonplace.

"I couldn't dream that it was you--here!" she said apologetically.

"Isn't a poor playwright respectable?" he asked.

There was an instant in which she felt that on her answer depended the
justification of her soul. She said afterwards that she could have
"fallen round an epigram's neck."

"I should think the poor playwright must be very dull," she replied.

This was adequate, however, and better than his own response, which was
of necessity conventional.

"I have seen your new comedy," she continued.

"I hope it pleased you?"

"I admired it immensely--like every one else. It is a great success,
isn't it?"

"The theatre is very full every night," he said deprecatingly.

"Then it _is_ a success!"

"Does that follow?"

"You are not satisfied with it--it falls short of what you meant? I
shouldn't have supposed that; it seemed to me entirely clear!"

"That I had a theory? Really? Perhaps I have not failed so badly as I
thought." He did not think he had failed at all, but this sort of thing
was his innocent weakness.

"Miss Millington is almost perfect as 'Daisy,' isn't she?"

"'Almost'? Where do you find her weak?"

She blushed.

"She struck me--of course I am no authority--as not quite fulfilling
your idea in the first act--when she accepted the Captain. I thought
perhaps she was too responsible there--too grown up."

"There isn't a woman in London who could play 'Daisy,'" said Field
savagely. "In other words, you think she wrecked the piece?"

"Oh no, indeed!"

"If 'Daisy' isn't a child when she marries, the play has no meaning, no
sense. That is why the character was so difficult to cast--in the first
act she must be a school-girl, and in the others an emotional woman."

"Perhaps I said too much."

"You are a critic, Mrs. Heriot."

"Oh, merely----"

"Merely?"

"Merely very interested in the stage."

"To be interested in the stage is very ordinary; to be a judge of it
is rather rare. No, you didn't say too much: Miss Millington _doesn't_
fulfil my idea when she accepts 'Captain Arminger.' And to be frank,
_I_ haven't fulfilled Miss Millington's idea of a consistent part."

"I can understand," said Mamie, "that the great drawback to writing
for the stage is that one depends so largely on one's interpreters. A
novelist succeeds or fails by himself, but a dramatist----"

"A dramatist is the most miserable of created beings," said Field, "if
he happens to be an artist."

"I can hardly credit that. I can't credit anybody being miserable who
is an artist." (He laughed. It was not polite, but he couldn't help
it.) "Though I can understand his having moods of the most frightful
depression!" she added.

"Oh, you can understand that?"

"Quite. Would he be an artist if he didn't have them!"

"May I ask if you write yourself?"

"N--no," she murmured.

"Does that mean 'yes'?"

"It means 'only for my own amusement.'"

"The writer who only writes for his own amusement is mythical, I'm
afraid," said Field. "One often hears of him, but he doesn't bear
investigation. You don't write plays?"

"No--I try to!"

He regarded her a little cynically.

"I thought ladies generally wrote novels?"

"I wish to be original, you see."

"Do you send them anywhere?"

"Oh, yes; I _send_ them; I suppose I always shall!"

"You're really in earnest then? You're not discouraged?"

"I'm earnest, and discouraged, too.... Is it impertinent to ask if
_you_ had experiences like mine when you were younger?"

"I wrote plays for ten years before I ever passed through a
stage-door--one must expect to work for years before one is
produced.... Of course, one may work all one's life, and not be
produced then!"

"It depends how clever one is, or whether one is clever at all?"

"It depends on a good many things. It depends sometimes on advice."

If she had been less lovely, he would not have said this, and he knew
it; if she had not been Mrs. Heriot, he would not have said it either.
The average woman who "wants a literary man's advice" is the bane of
his existence, and Field was, not only without sympathy for the tyro as
a rule--he was inclined to disparage the majority of his colleagues. He
was clever, and was aware of it; he occupied a prominent position. He
had arrived at the point when he could dare to be psychological. "It
depends sometimes on advice," he said. And the wife of George Heriot,
Q.C., murmured: "Unfortunately, I have nobody to advise me!"

Even as it was, he regretted it when he took his leave; and the
manuscript that he had offered to read lay in his study for three
weeks before he opened it. He picked it up one night, remembering that
the writer had been very beautiful. The reading inspired him with a
desire to see her again. That the play was full of faults goes without
saying, but it was unconventional, and there was character in it. He
recollected that she had interested him while they talked after dinner
on a couch by the piano; and, as her work was promising, he wrote,
volunteering to point out in an interview, if she liked, those errors
in technique which it would take too long to explain by letter. It
cannot be made too clear that if she had sent him a work of genius and
had been plain Miss Smith in a home-made blouse, he would have done
nothing of the sort. He called upon her with no idea that his hints
would make a dramatist of her, nor did he care in the slightest degree
whether they did, or did not. She was a singularly lovely woman, and as
her drama had not been stupid--stupidity would have repelled him--he
thought a tête-à-tête with her would be agreeable.

To Mamie, however, the afternoon when he sat sipping tea in her
drawing-room, like an ordinary mortal, was the day of her life. She
told him that she had once hoped to be an actress, and believed that
the avowal would advance her in his esteem. He answered that he should
not be astonished if she had the histrionic gift; and was secretly
disenchanted a shade by what he felt to be banal. Then they discussed
his own work, and he found her appreciation remarkably intelligent. To
talk about himself to a woman, who listened with exquisite eyes fixed
upon his face, was very gratifying to him. Field had rarely spent a
pleasanter hour. It is not intimated that he was a vain puppy--he
was not a puppy at all. He had half unconsciously felt the want of a
sympathetic confidant for a long while, though, and albeit he did not
instantaneously realise that Mrs. Heriot supplied the void, he walked
back to his chambers with exhilaration.

He realised it by degrees. He had never married. He had avoided
matrimony till he was thirty because he could not afford it; and during
the last decade he had escaped it because he had not met a woman whom
he desired sufficiently to pay such a price. When he had seen Mamie
several times--and in the circumstances it was not difficult to invent
reasons for seeing her--he wondered whether he would have proposed to
her if she had been single.

Heriot was very pleased to have him dine with them; and he was not
ignorant that during the next few months Field often dropped in about
five o'clock. Mamie concealed nothing--knowingly--and the subject of
her writing was revived now. She told George that Mr. Field thought she
had ability. She repeated his criticisms; frankly admired his talent;
confessed that she was proud to have him on her visiting list--and fell
in love with him without either analysing her feelings, or perceiving
her risk.

And while Mrs. Heriot fell in love with him, Lucas Field was not
blind. He saw a great deal more than she saw herself--he saw, not only
the influence he exercised over her, but that she had moped before
he appeared. He did not misread her; he was conscious that she would
never take a lover from caprice--that she was the last woman in the
world to sin lightly, or under the rose. He saw that, if he yielded to
the temptation that had begun to assail him, he must be prepared to
ask her to live with him openly. But he asked himself whether it was
impossible that he could prevail on her to do that, had he the mind to
do so--whether she was so impregnable as she believed.

He was by this time fascinated by her. His happiest afternoons were
spent in South Kensington, advancing his theories, and talking of his
latest scenes; nor was it a lie when he averred that she assisted him.
To be an artist it is not necessary to be able to produce, and if
her own attempts had been infinitely more futile than they were, she
might still have expressed opinions that were of service to another.
Many of her views were impracticable, naturally. Psychological as his
tendencies were, he was a dramatist, and he could not snap his fingers
at the laws imposed by the footlights, though he might affect to
deride them in his confidences. The only dramatist alive was Ibsen, he
said; yet he did not model himself on Ibsen, albeit he was delighted
when she exclaimed, "How Ibsenish that is!" Many of her views were
impracticable, because she was ignorant about the stage; but many were
intensely stimulating. The more he was with her, the less he doubted
her worthiness of sinning for his sake. He was so different from the
ordinary dramatic author! On the ordinary dramatic author, with no
ideas beyond "curtains" and "fees," she would have been thrown away.
He did not wish to be associated with a scandal--it would certainly be
unpleasant--but she dominated him, there was no disguising the fact.
And he would be very good to her; he would marry her. She was adorable!

His meditations had not progressed so far without the girl's eyes being
opened to her weakness; and now she hated herself more bitterly than
she had hated the tedium of her life. She knew that she loved him. She
was wretched when he was not with her, and ashamed when he was there.
She wandered about the flat in her solitude, frightened as she realised
what an awful thing had come to her. But she was drunk--intoxicated by
the force of the guilty love, and by the thought that such a man as
Lucas Field could be in love with _her_. She revered him for not having
told her of the feelings that she inspired. Her courage was sustained
by the belief that he did not divine her own--that she would succeed in
stamping them out without his dreaming of the danger she had run. Yet
she was "drunk"; and one afternoon the climax was reached--he implored
her to go away with him.



CHAPTER VIII


If a woman sins, and the chronicler of her sin desires to excuse the
woman, her throes and her struggles, her pangs and her prayers always
occupy at least three chapters. If one does not seek to excuse her, the
fact of her fall may as well be stated in the fewest possible words.
Mamie did struggle--she struggled for a long time--but in the end she
was just as guilty as if she hadn't shed a tear. Field's pertinacity
and passion wore her resistance out at last. Theirs was to be the ideal
union, and of course he cited famous cases where the man and woman
designed for each other by Heaven had met only after one of them had
blundered. He did not explain why Heaven had permitted the blunders,
after being at the pains to design kindred souls for each other's
ecstasy; but there are things that even the youngest curate cannot
explain. He insisted that she would never regret her step; he declared
that, with himself for her husband, she would become celebrated. Art,
love, joy, all might be hers at a word. And she spoke it.

When Heriot came in one evening, Mamie was not there, and he wondered
what had become of her, for at this hour she was always at home. But he
had not a suspicion of evil--he was as far from being prepared for the
blow that was in store as if Field had never crossed their path. He had
let himself in with his latch-key, and after a quarter of an hour it
occurred to him that she might be already in the dining-room. When he
entered it, he noted with surprise that the table was laid only for one.

"Where is Mrs. Heriot?" he said to the servant who appeared in response
to his ring.

"Mrs. Heriot has gone out of town, sir."

"Out of town!" he exclaimed. "What do you mean?"

"Mrs. Heriot left a note for you, sir, to explain. There it is, sir."

Heriot took it from the mantelpiece quickly; but still he had no
suspicion--not an inkling of the truth. He tore the envelope open and
read, while the maid waited respectfully by the door.

"Your mistress has been called away," he said when he had finished;
"illness! She will be gone some time."

His back was to her; he could command his voice, but his face was
beyond his control. He felt that if he moved he would reel, perhaps
fall. He stood motionless, with the letter open in his hand.

"Shall I serve dinner, sir?"

"Yes, serve dinner, Odell; I'm quite ready."

When the door closed, it was his opportunity to gain the chair; he
walked towards it slowly, like a blind man. The letter that he held
had left but one hope possible--the last hope of despair--to keep the
matter for awhile from the servants' knowledge. As yet he was not
suffering acutely; indeed, in these early moments, the effect of the
shock was more physical than mental. There was a trembling through his
body, and his head felt queerly light--empty, not his own.

The maid came back, and he forced himself to dine. The first spoonfuls
of the soup he took were but heat, entirely tasteless, to his mouth,
and at the pit of his stomach a sensation of sickness rose and writhed
like something living. When she retired once more, his head fell
forward on his arms; it was a relief to rest it so. He did not know how
he could support the long strain of her vigilance.

By degrees his stupor began to pass, as he stared at the vacant
place where his wife should have sat; the dazed brain rallied to
comprehension. His wife was not there because she was with her
lover! Oh, God! with her "lover"--Mamie had given herself to another
man! _Mamie!_ Mamie had gone to another man. His face was grey and
distorted now, and the glass that he was lifting snapped at the stem.
She had gone. She was no longer his wife. She was guilty, shameless,
defiled--Mamie!

He rose, an older, a less vigorous, figure.

"I shall be busy to-night," he muttered; "don't let me be disturbed."

He went to his study, and dropped upon the seat before his desk. Her
photograph confronted him, and he took it down and held it shakenly.
How young she looked! was there ever a face more pure? And Heaven knew
that he had loved her as dearly only an hour ago as on the day that
they were married! Not a whim of hers had been refused; not a request
could he recollect that he had failed to obey. Yet now she was with a
lover! She smiled in the likeness; the eyes that met his own were clear
and tender; truth was stamped upon her features. He recalled incidents
of the past three years, incidents that had been rich in the intimacy
of their life. Surely in those hours she had loved him? That had not
been gratitude--a sense of duty merely?--had she not loved him then? He
remembered their wedding-day. How pale she had been, how innocent--a
child. Yet now she was with a lover! A sob convulsed him, and he nodded
slowly at the likeness through his tears. Presently he put it back;
he was angered at his weakness. He had deserved something better at
her hands! Pride forbade that he should mourn for her. He had married
wildly, yes, he should have listened to advice; Francis had warned him.
Perhaps while he wept, they were laughing at him together, she and
Field! How did he know that it was Field--had she mentioned his name
in the letter? He knew that it was Field instinctively; he marvelled
that he had not foreseen the danger, and averted it. How stupid had the
petitioners in divorce suits often appeared to him in his time!--he
had wondered that men could be so purblind--and he himself had been as
dense as any!... But she would not laugh. Ah, guilty as she was, she
would not laugh--she was not so vile as that! The clock in the room
struck one. He heard it half unconsciously--then started, and threw
out his arms with a hoarse cry. He sprang to his feet, fired with the
tortures of the damned. The sweat burst out on him, and the veins in
his forehead swelled like cords. He was a temperate man, at once by
taste and by necessity, but now he walked to where the brandy was kept
and drank a wineglassful in gulps. "Mamie!" he groaned again; "Mamie!"
The brandy did not blot the picture from his brain; and he refilled the
glass.... Nothing would efface the picture.

He knew that it was hopeless to attempt to sleep, yet he went to the
bedroom. The ivory brushes were gone from the toilet-table--she had
been able to think of brushes! In the wardrobe the frocks were fewer,
and the linen was less; the jewellery that he had given to her had
been left behind. All was orderly. There were no traces of a hurried
departure; the room had its usual aspect. He looked at the pillows.
Against the one that had been hers lay the bag of silk and lace that
contained her night-dress. Had she forgotten it; or was it that she had
been incapable of transferring that? He picked it up, and dropped it
out of sight in one of the drawers.

He did not go to bed; he spent the night in an armchair, re-reading
the letter, and thinking. When the servant knocked at the door, he
went to his dressing-room, and shaved. He had a bath, and breakfasted,
and strolled to the station. Outwardly he had recovered from the blow,
and his clerk who gave him his list of appointments remarked nothing
abnormal about him. In court, Heriot remembered that Mamie and he were
to have dined in Holland Park that evening, and during the luncheon
adjournment he sent a telegram of excuse. If any one had known what had
happened to him, he would have been thought devoid of feeling.

He had scarcely re-entered the flat when Mrs. Baines called. His first
impulse was to decline to see her; but he told the maid to show her in.

A glance assured him that she was ignorant of what had occurred.

"Dear Mamie is away, the servant tells me," she said, simpering. "I
hadn't seen her for such a long time that I thought I'd look in to-day.
Not that I should have been so late, but I missed my train! I meant to
come in and have a cup of tea with her at five o'clock. Well, I _am_
unfortunate! And how have you been keeping, Mr. Heriot?"

"I'm glad to see you. I hope you are well, Mrs. Baines."

"Where has dear Mamie gone?" she asked. "Pleasuring?"

"She is on the Continent, I believe. May I tell them to bring you some
tea now?"

"On the Continent alone?" exclaimed Mrs. Baines. "Fancy!"

"No, she is not alone," said Heriot. "You must prepare yourself for a
shock, Mrs. Baines. Your niece has left me."

She looked at him puzzled. His tone was so composed that it seemed to
destroy the significance of his words.

"Left you? How do you mean?"

"She has gone with her lover."

"Oh, my Gawd!" said Mrs. Baines.... "Whatever are you saying, Mr.
Heriot? Don't!"

"Your niece is living with another man. She left me yesterday," he
continued quietly. "I am sorry to have to tell you such news."

He was sorrier as he observed the effect of it, but he could not soften
the shock for her by any outward participation in her grief. Since he
must speak at all, he must speak as he did.

"Oh, to hear of such a thing!" she gasped. "Oh, to think
that--well---- Oh, Mr. Heriot, I can't ... it can't be true. Isn't
it some mistake? Dear Mamie would never be so wicked, I'm sure she
wouldn't! It's some awful mistake, you may depend."

"There's no mistake, Mrs. Baines. My authority is your niece herself.
She left a letter to tell me she was going, and why."

The widow moaned feebly.

"With another man?"

He bowed.

"Oh, Heaven will punish her, Mr. Heriot! Oh, what will her father
say--how could she do it! And you--how gentle and kind to her you were
_I_ could see."

"I did my best to make her happy," he said; "evidently I didn't
succeed. Is it necessary for us to talk about it much? Believe me, you
have my sympathy, but talking won't improve matters."

"Oh, but I can't look at it so--so calmly, Mr. Heriot! The disgrace!
and so sudden. And it isn't for _me_ to have _your_ sympathy, I'm sure.
I say it isn't for _you_ to sympathise with _me_. My heart bleeds for
you, Mr. Heriot."

"You're very good," he answered; "but I don't know that a faithless
wife is much to grieve for after all."

"Ah, but you don't mean that! you were too fond of her to mean it.
She'll live to repent it, you may be certain--the Lord will bring it
home to her. Oh, how could she do it! You don't--you don't intend to
have a divorce?"

"Naturally I intend it. What else do you propose?"

"Oh, I don't know," she quavered, rocking herself to and fro, and
smearing the tears down her cheeks with a forefinger in a black silk
glove; "but the disgrace! And all Lavender Street to read about it! Ah,
you won't divorce her, Mr. Heriot? It would be so dreadful!"

"Don't you want to see the man marry her?"

"How 'marry her'?" she asked vaguely. "Oh, I understand! Yes, I suppose
he _could_ marry her then, couldn't he? I'm not a lawyer like you--I
didn't look so far ahead. But I don't want a divorce."

"Ah, well, _I_ want it," he said; "for my own sake."

"Then you don't love her any more, Mr. Heriot?"

He laughed drearily.

"Your niece has ended her life with me of her own accord. I've nothing
more to do with her."

"Those are cruel words," said Mrs. Baines; "those are cruel words about
a girl who was your lawful wife--the flesh of your bone in the sight
of Gawd and man. You're harder than I thought, Mr. Heriot; you don't
take it quite as I'd have supposed you'd take it.... So quiet and stern
like! I think if you'd loved her tenderly, you'd have talked more
heart-broken, though it's not for me to judge."

Heriot rose.

"I can't discuss my sentiments with you, Mrs. Baines. Think, if you
like, that I didn't care for her at all. At least my duty to her is
over; and I have a duty to myself to-day."

"To cast her off?" The semi-educated classes use the phrases of
novelettes habitually. Whether this is the reason the novelettes trade
in the phrases, or whether the semi-educated acquire the phrases from
the novelettes, is not clear.

"To----" He paused. He could not trust himself to speak at that moment.

"To cast her off?" repeated Mrs. Baines. "Oh, I don't make excuses for
her--I don't pity her. Though she is my brother's child, I say she
is deserving of whatever befalls her. I remember well that when Dick
married I warned him against it; I said, 'She isn't the wife for you!'
It's the mother's blood coming out in her, though my brother's child.
But ... What was I going to say? I'm that upset that---- Oh yes! I make
no excuses for her, but I would have liked to see more sorrow on your
part, Mr. Heriot; I could have pitied you more if you'd have taken it
more to heart. You may think me too bold, but it was ever my way to
say what was in my mind. I don't think I'll stop any longer. The way
you may take it is between you and your Gawd, but----" She put out her
hand. "I don't think I'll stop."

"Good-evening," he said stonily. "I'm sorry you can't stay and dine."

She recollected on the stairs that she had not inquired who the man
was; but she was too much disgusted by Heriot's manner to go back.



CHAPTER IX


When a naturally pure woman, who is not sustained by any emancipated
views, consents to live with a man in defiance of social prejudices,
she probably obtains as clear an insight as the world affords into
the enormous difference that exists between the ideal and the actual.
Matrimony does not illumine the difference so vividly, because
matrimony, with all its disillusions, leaves her an unembarrassed
conscience. With her lover such a woman experiences all the prose of
wedlock, and a sting to boot. A man cannot be at concert-pitch all day
long with his mistress any more easily than with his wife. She has
to submit to bills and other practical matters just as much with a
smirched reputation as she had with a spotless one. The romance does
not wear any better because the Marriage Service is omitted. A lover
is no less liable to be commonplace than a husband when the laundress
knocks the buttons off his shirts.

Yes, Mamie was infatuated by Field; she had not sinned with a cool head
simply to procure a guide up Parnassus. But she had hoped to pick a
few laurels there all the same. She found herself in a little flat in
the rue Tronchet. They had few visitors, and those who did come were
men who talked a language that she did not understand, but who looked
things that she understood only too well.

The remorse and humiliation that she felt was not leavened by any
consciousness of advancing in her art. Field rather pooh-poohed her
art, as the months went by after the decree _nisi_ was pronounced. He
still discussed his work with her--perhaps less as if she had been a
sybil, but still with interest in her ideas. Her own work, however,
bored him now. He had no intention of being cold, but the subject
seemed puerile to his mind. If she did write a play that was produced
one day, or if she didn't, what earthly consequence was it? She would
never write a great one; and these panting aspirations which begot such
mediocre results savoured to him of a storm in a teacup--of a furnace
lit to boil the kettle.

He was rather sorry that he had run away with her, but he did not
regret it particularly. Of course he would marry her as soon as he
could--he owed her that; and, since he was not such a blackguard as to
contemplate deserting her by-and-by, he might just as well marry her
as not. The whole affair had been a folly certainly. He was not rich,
and he was extravagant; he would have done better to remain as he was.
Still many men envied him. He trusted fervently she would not have
children, though! It didn't seem likely; but if she ever did, the error
would be doubled. He did not want a son who had cause to be ashamed of
his mother when he grew up.

It was curious that she did not refer more often to his legalising
their union. Her position pained her, he could see, and made her very
frequently a dull companion. That was the worst of these things! One
paid for the step dearly enough to expect lively society in return,
and yet, if one complained of mournfulness, one would be a brute. He
would write a drama some time or other to show that it was really the
man who was deserving of sympathy in such an alliance. It would be very
original, as he would treat it. The lover should explain his situation
to another woman whom he had learnt to love since, and--well, he didn't
see how it should end:--with the dilemma repeated? And it didn't
matter, after all, for nobody would have the courage to produce it!

He made these reflections in his study. In the salon--furnished in
accordance with the tastes of the lady who had sub-let the flat to them
for six months--Mamie stood staring down at the street. It was four
o'clock, and, saving for half an hour at luncheon, she had not seen
him since ten. For distraction she could make her choice among some
Tauchnitz novels, her music, and a walk. Excepting that the room was
tawdry and ill-ventilated, and that she had lost her reputation, it was
not unlike her life in South Kensington.

In her pocket was a letter from her father--the most difficult
letter that it had ever fallen to Dick Cheriton's lot to compose.
Theoretically he thought social prejudices absurd--as became an artist
to whom God had given his soul--and he had often insisted on their
ineptitude. In the case of his own daughter, however, he would have
preferred to see them treated with respect. There was a likeness to
Lucas Field here. Field also dwelt on the hill-top, but he wanted his
son, if he ever had one, to boast a stainless mother. Cheriton had not
indited curses, like the fathers in melodrama, and the people who have
"found religion"; only parents in melodrama, and some "Christians" who
go to church twice every Sunday, are infamous enough to curse their
children; he had told her that if she found herself forsaken, she was
to cable for her passage-money back to Duluth. But that he was ashamed
and broken by what she had done, he had not attempted to conceal;
and as she stood there, gazing down on the rue Tronchet, Mamie was
recalling the confession to which this was an answer. Phrases that she
had used came back to her:--"I have done my best, but my love was too
strong for me"; "Wicked as it may be to say it, I know that, even in
my guilt, I shall always be happy. I met the right man too late, but I
am so young--I could not suffer all my life without him. Forgive me if
you can." Had she--it was a horrible thought--had she been mistaken?
Had she blundered more terribly than when she married? For, unless her
prophecies of joy to the brim were fulfilled--unless her measure of
thanksgiving overflowed--the blunder _was_ more terrible, infinitely
more terrible: she was a gambler who had staked her soul, in her
conviction of success.

The question was one that she had asked herself many times before,
without daring to hear the answer; but that the answer was in her
heart, though she shrank from acknowledging it, might be seen in her
expression, in her every pose; it might be seen now, as she drooped
by the window. She sighed, and sat down, and shivered. Yes, she knew
it--she had thrown away the substance for the shadow; she could deceive
herself no longer. Lucas Field was not so poetical a personality as
she had imagined; guilt had no glamour; her devotion had been a flash
in the pan--a madness that had burned itself out. She had no right
to blame her lover for that; only, the prospect of marriage with him
filled her with no elation; it inspired misgiving rather. If she had
made a blunder, would it improve matters to perpetuate it? He was
considerate to her, he spared her all the ignominy that was possible;
but instinctively she was aware that, if they parted, he would never
miss her as her husband had done. In _his_ life she would never make a
hole! She guessed the depth of Heriot's love better now that she had
obtained a smaller one as plummet. Between the manner of the man who
was not particularly sorry to have run away with her, and his whose
pride she had been, the difference was tremendous to a woman whose
position was calculated to develop her natural sensitiveness to the
point of a disease.

Should she marry Lucas or not? Hitherto she had merely avoided the
query; now she trembled before it. Expedience said, "Yes"; something
within her said, "No." The decree would be made absolute in two months'
time. What was to become of her if they separated? To Duluth she could
never go, to be pointed at and despised! She sighed again.

"Bored, dear?" asked Field, in the doorway.

"I was thinking."

"That was obvious. Not of your--er--work?"

"No, not of my--'er--work.'"

He pulled his moustache with some embarrassment.

"I didn't mean anything derogatory to it."

"Oh, I know," she said wearily; "don't--it doesn't matter. You can't
think much less of it than I am beginning to do myself. You can't take
much less interest in it."

"You are unjust," said Field.

"I am moped. Take me out. Take me out of myself if you can, but take me
out of doors at any rate! I am yearning to be in a crowd."

"We might go to a theatre to-night," he said; "would you like to?"

"It doesn't amuse me very much; I don't understand what they say. Still
it would be something. But I want to go out now, for a walk. I don't
like walking here alone; can't you come with me?"

"I'm afraid I can't. You forget I promised an interview to that paper
this afternoon. I expect the fellow here any moment."

"You promised it?" she exclaimed, with surprise. "Why, I thought
you said that the paper was a 'rag' and that you wouldn't dream of
consenting?"

"After all, one must be courteous; I changed my mind. There's some talk
of translating _A Clever Man's Son_ into French. An interview just now
would be good policy."

"You are going to be adapted? _A Clever Man's Son_?"

"Translated," he said. "I may adapt. I _am_--translated."

She smiled, but perceived almost at the same instant that she had not
been intended to do so and that he had said it seriously.

"I make a very good interview," he continued, lighting a cigarette;
"I daresay you've noticed it. I never count an epigram or two wasted,
though they do go into another chap's copy. That's where many men make
a mistake; or very likely they can't invent the epigrams. Anyhow, they
don't! The average interview is as dull as the average play. People
think it's the journalists' fault, but it isn't. It's the fault of the
deadly dull dogs who've got nothing to tell them. I ought to have gone
a good deal further than I have: I've the two essential qualities for
success--I'm an artist and a showman."

"Don't!" she murmured; "Don't!"

He laughed gaily.

"I'm perfectly frank; I admit the necessities of life--I've told you so
before. My mind never works so rapidly as it does in prospect of a good
advertisement. There the fellow is, I expect!" he added, as the bell
rang. "The study is quite in disorder for him, and there are a bunch
of Parma violets and a flask of maraschino on the desk. I'm going to
remark that maraschino and the scent of violets are indispensable to me
when I work. He won't believe it, unless he is very young, but he'll be
immeasurably obliged; that sort of thing looks well in an interview.
Violets and maraschino are a graceful combination, I think."

She did not reply; she sat pale and chagrined. He was renowned enough,
and more than talented enough to dispense with these stage-tricks in
the library. She knew it, and _he_ knew it, but he could not help them.
Awhile ago they had caused her the cruellest pain; now she was more
contemptuous than anything else, although she was still galled that
he should display his foibles so candidly. "I am quite frank," he had
said. She found such "frankness" a milestone on the road that she had
travelled.

"My dear child," said Field, "among the illusions of a man's youth
is the belief that, if he goes through life doing his humble best in
an unobtrusive way, the Press will say what a jolly fine fellow he
is, and hold him up as a pattern to all the braggarts and poseurs who
are blowing their own trumpets, and scraping on their own fiddles.
Among the things he learns as he grows older is the fact that, if
he does his best in an unobtrusive way, the Press will say nothing
about him at all. The fiddle and the trumpet are essential; but it is
possible to play them with a certain amount of refinement. It is even
possible--though a clever man cannot dispense with the fiddle and the
trumpet--for the fiddle and the trumpet to be played so dexterously
that he may dispense with cleverness. I do not go to such lengths
myself----"

"You have no need to do so," she said coldly.

"I have no need to do so--thank you. But I can quite conceive that,
say, violets and maraschino, worked for all they were worth, might
alone make a man famous. A mouse liberated a lion, and things smaller
than a mouse have created one before now. The violet in the hedgerow
'bloomed unseen,'--or 'died unknown,' was it? it did something modest
and unsuccessful, I know. The violet assiduously paragraphed and
paraded might lead to fortune."

"I would rather be obscure and do honest, conscientious work," answered
Mamie, "than write rubbish, and finesse myself into popularity."

"It is much easier," he said tranquilly. "To be obscure is the one
thing that _is_ easy still. You don't mind my saying that I hate
the adjectives you used, though, do you? The words 'honest' and
'conscientious,' applied to literature, dearest, make me shudder. I am
always afraid that 'wholesome' is coming in the next sentence."

"Are you going to say so to your interviewer?"

"The remark isn't brilliant. It was sincere, and to be sincere and
brilliant at the same time is a little difficult.... I've been both,
though, in the scene I've just done; you must read it, or rather I'll
read it to you. You'll be pleased with it. As soon as the piece is
finished I must write to Erskine. It will suit the Pall Mall down to
the ground, and I should like it done there, only----"

"Only what?"

Field hesitated.

"I meant it for Erskine from the start. He saw the scenario, and the
part fits him like a glove."

"But what were you going to say?"

"Well, I fancy he has some idea that a piece of mine just now---- You
understand, with the case so fresh in people's minds!... Erskine's a
fool. What on earth does the public care? Of course he'll do it when he
reads the part he's got! Only I know he's doubting whether my name'd be
a judicious card to play yet awhile."

There was a pause, in which her heart contracted painfully.

"I see," she rejoined, in a low voice.

He fidgeted before the mirror, and glanced at his watch.

"That fellow must be getting impatient."

"You had better go in to him," she said.

"Well, we'll go to the Vaudeville, or somewhere to-night, Mamie--that's
arranged?"

"Yes, to the Vaudeville, or somewhere," she assented, with another sigh.

She went back to the window, and stared at the rue Tronchet with wet
eyes.



CHAPTER X


Some weeks afterwards Field went to England. He did not take Mamie with
him, for he intended to remain only a few days, nor had she been at all
desirous of accompanying him. She had begun, indeed, to see that she
did not know what she did desire. Her life in Paris oppressed her; the
notion of Duluth was horrible; and the thought of living with Lucas in
London, where she might meet an acquaintance of Heriot's at any turn,
was repugnant in an almost equal degree.

Field was unexpectedly detained in London. The business that had been
responsible for his journey constantly evaded completion, and after
he had been gone about a month a letter came, in which he mentioned
incidentally that he had a touch of influenza. After this letter a
fortnight went by without her hearing from him; and, rendered anxious
at last, she wrote to inquire if his silence was attributable to his
indisposition--if the latter was of a serious nature.

Her mind did not instantaneously grasp the significance of the telegram
that she tore open a few hours later. It ran:

"My nephew dangerously ill. If you desire to see him, better
come.--Porteous."

She stood gazing at it. Who had telegraphed? Who---- Then she understood
that it was Lucas who was meant. Lucas was "dangerously ill"! She must
go to him. She must go at once! She was so staggered by the suddenness
of the intelligence that she was momentarily incapable of recollecting
when the trains left, or how she should act in order to ascertain. All
she realised was that this was Paris, and Lucas lay "dangerously ill"
in London, and that she had to reach him. Her head swam, and the little
French that she knew seemed to desert her; the undertaking looked
enormous--beset with difficulties that were almost insuperable.

The stupidity of the _bonne_, for whom she pealed the bell, served to
sharpen her faculties a trifle, but she made her preparations as in a
dream. When she found herself in the train, it appeared to her unreal
that she could be there. The interval had left no salient impressions
on her brain, nothing but a confused sense of delay. It was only now
that she felt able to reflect.

The telegram was crumpled in her pocket, and she took it out and
re-read it agitatedly. How did this relative come to be at the hotel?
Lucas had scarcely spoken of his relations. "If you desire to see him"!
The import of those words was frightful--he could not be expected to
recover. Her stupefaction rolled away, and was succeeded by a fever of
suspense. The restriction of the compartment was maddening, and she
looked at her watch a dozen times, only to find that not ten minutes
had passed since she consulted it last.

It seemed to her that she had been travelling for at least two days,
when she stood outside a bedroom in a little hotel off Bond Street and
tapped at the door with her heart in her throat.

The door was opened by a woman whose dress proclaimed her to be an
institution nurse. Field slept, and Mamie sank into a chair, and waited
for his wakening.

"How is he?" she asked in a low tone.

The nurse shook her head.

"He's not doing as well as we could wish, ma'am."

"Is Mr. Porteous here?"

"_Mrs._ Porteous. She'll be coming presently. She lives close by."

So it was a woman who had telegraphed! Somehow she had assumed
unquestioningly that it was a man. "If you desire to see him----"
Ah, yes, she might have known it! An aunt, who would be frigid and
contemptuous, of course. Well, she deserved that, she would have no
right to complain; nor was it to be expected that Lucas's family should
show her much consideration, though she could not perceive that she had
done them any injury.

Two hours passed before she had an interview with the lady. Mamie was
in the room that she had engaged in the meanwhile. She had bathed her
face, and was making ready to return to the sick-room, when she was
told that Mrs. Porteous was inquiring for her.

"Won't you come in?" she asked. "Our voices won't disturb him here."

Mrs. Porteous entered gingerly. She was a massive woman, of middle age,
fashionably dressed. Her expression suggested no grief, only a vague
fear of contamination. She had telegraphed to Paris because she felt
that it was her duty to do so; but she had not telegraphed until it was
almost certain that the patient would not rally sufficiently to make a
will.

"You are--er--Mrs. Heriot?" she said, regarding her curiously. "The
doctor thought that Mr. Field's condition ought to be made known to
you; so I wired."

"Thank you; it was very kind."

"The doctor advised it," said Mrs. Porteous again, significantly.

"Is he--is there no hope?"

"We fear not; my nephew is sinking fast--it's as well you should
understand it. If you think it necessary to remain---- I see you have
taken a room? As--as 'Mrs. Field,' I presume?"

"I should have been 'Mrs. Field,' if Lucas----"

His aunt shivered.

"There are things we need not discuss. Of course I'm aware that you are
living under my nephew's name. I was about to say that if you think it
necessary to remain till the end, I have no opposition to offer; but
the end is very near now. My telegram must have prepared you? I should
not have wired unless----"

"I understood," answered Mamie, "yes. I am glad that your nephew had a
relative near him, though your name was quite strange to me. He never
mentioned it."

"Really! Lucas called to see us at once. Our house is in the
neighbourhood."

"He wrote me," said Mamie, "that he had a touch of influenza. It seems
extraordinary that influenza should prove so serious? He was strong, he
was in good health----"

The other's air implied that she did not find it necessary to discuss
this either.

"People die of influenza, or the results of it, every year," she said.
"The doctor will give you any information you may desire, no doubt. You
must excuse me--I may be wanted."

While Field lingered she never left his side, after Mamie's arrival.
Men committed preposterous actions on their death-beds, and though he
was not expected to recover consciousness, there was the possibility
that he might do so. If an opportunity occurred, his mistress would
doubtless produce a solicitor and a provision for herself with the
rapidity of a conjuring trick. As it was, Mrs. Porteous had small
misgivings but what he would die intestate. There might not be much,
but at any rate, what he had should not swell the coffers of guilty
wives!

Events proved that her summons had not been precipitate, however. Field
spoke at the last a few coherent words, and took Mamie's hand. But that
was all. Then he never spoke any more. Even as she stood gazing at the
unfamiliar face on the pillow, the swiftness of the catastrophe made
it difficult for the girl to realise that all was over. The calamity
had fallen on her like a thunderbolt--it seemed strange, inexplicable,
untrue. The last time but one that he had talked to her he had been
full of vigour, packing a portmanteau, humming a tune, alluding to
fees, some details of the theatre, the prospect of a smooth crossing.
And now he was dead. There had been little or no transition; he was
well--he was dead! The curtain had tumbled in the middle of the
play--and it would never go up any more.

It was not till after the funeral that she was capable of meditating on
the change that Lucas Field's death had wrought in her life. She did
not ask herself whether he had left her anything, or not. The idea that
he might have done so never occurred to her, nor would she have felt
that she could accept his bequest if he had made one. She perceived
that she had nobody to turn to but her father, and to him she cabled.

Cheriton replied by two questions: What was Field's will? And would she
like to return to Duluth? To the second she made a definite answer.
"Impossible; pray don't ask me." And then there was an interval of
correspondence.

While Mrs. Porteous rejoiced to find that her confidence was justified
and that her nephew had died intestate, Mamie was contemplating the
choice of swallowing her repugnance to going back to America, or of
living with Mrs. Baines. Cheriton had written to them both, and that
one course or the other should be adopted he was insistent. Mamie need
not live in Lavender Street; Mrs. Baines might make her home in another
neighbourhood, where they would be strangers. But that the girl should
remain alone in England was out of the question. Which line of conduct
did she prefer?

She could not decide immediately. Both proposals distressed her. On the
whole, perhaps, the lesser evil was to resign herself to her Aunt Lydia
if, as her father declared, her aunt was willing to receive her. Mrs.
Baines, at any rate, was but one, while in Duluth half the population
would be acquainted with her story.

But _was_ her Aunt Lydia willing?--was she expected to write to her and
inquire? She was not entitled to possess dignity, of course; but it was
not easy to eat dust because the right to self-respect was forfeited.

She had removed to a lodging in Bernard Street, Bloomsbury, and in the
fusty sitting-room she sat all day, lonely and miserable, reviewing
the blunder of her life. She neither wrote nor read--her writing was
an idea she hated now; she merely thought--wishing she could recall
the past, wondering how she could bear the future. One afternoon when
she sat there, pale and heavy-eyed, the maid-of-all-work announced a
visitor, and Mrs. Baines came in.

Mamie rose nervously, and the other advanced. She had rehearsed an
interview which should be a compromise between the instructions that
had been given her by her brother, and the attitude of righteous rebuke
that she felt to be a permissible luxury, but the forlornness of the
figure before her drove her opening sentence from her head. All she
could utter was the girl's name; and then there was a pause in which
they looked at each other.

"It is kind of you to come," Mamie murmured.

"I hope you're well?" said Mrs. Baines.

"Not very. I----Won't you sit down?"

"I never thought I should see you like this, Mamie!" said the widow
half involuntarily, shaking her head.

The girl made no answer in words. She caught her breath, and stood
passive. If the lash fell she would suffer silently.

"We always see sin punished, though." She believed we always did; she
retained such startling optimism. "It's not for me to reproach you."

"Thank you. I'm not too happy, Aunt Lydia."

"I daresay, my dear. I haven't come to make it worse for you."

She scrutinised her again. She would have been horrified to hear
the suggestion, but her niece's presence was not without a guilty
fascination, a pleasurable excitement, to her as she remembered that
here was one who had broken the Seventh Commandment. She was sitting
opposite a girl who had lived in Paris with a lover; and she was
sitting opposite her in circumstances which redounded to her own credit!

"I have heard from your father," she went on; "I suppose you know?"

"Yes," said Mamie; "he has written me."

"And do you wish to make your home with me again? I'm quite ready to
take you if you like."

"I could never live in Lavender Street any more, Aunt Lydia. You must
understand that--that it would be awful to me."

"Your father hinted at my moving. It will be a great trouble, but I
shan't shirk my duty, dear Mamie. If it will make your burden any
easier to bear, we will live together somewhere else. I say, if I can
make your burden any easier for you, I will live somewhere else."

"I am not ungrateful. I.... Yes, if you will have me, I should like to
come to you."

Mrs. Baines sighed, and smoothed her skirt tremulously.

"To Balham?" she inquired.

"You are moving to Balham?"

"I was thinking about it. I was over there the other day to get some
stuff for a bodice. It's nice and healthy, and the shopping is cheap."

"It's all the same to me where we go," said Mamie, "so long as the
people don't know me."

"I hear you were living with--with _him_ in Paris? Operas, and
drives, and all manner of things to soothe your conscience he gave
you, no doubt?" said Mrs. Baines, in an awestruck invitation to
communicativeness. "After that terrible life in Paris, Balham will seem
quiet to you, I daresay; but perhaps you won't mind that?'

"No place can be too quiet for me. The quieter it is, the better I
shall like it."

"That's as it should be! Though, I suppose, with _him_ you were out
among gaieties every night?" She waited for a few particulars again. As
none were forthcoming: "Then I'll try to let the house, and we'll go
over together and look at some in Balham as soon as you like, my dear,"
she continued. "Your father will see that I'm not put to any expense.
In the meantime you'll stay where you are, eh? You know--you know I saw
Mr. Heriot after you'd gone, don't you?"

"No," stammered the girl, lifting eager eyes. "You went to him?"

"The very next day, my dear, so it seemed! I thought I'd drop in and
have a cup of tea with you, not having seen you for so long; and
through missing a train, and having such a time to wait at the station,
I was an hour and more late when I got to Kensington. He was at home.
Of course I had no idea there was anything wrong; I shall never forget
it--never! You might have knocked me down with a feather when I heard
you'd gone."

"What," muttered Mamie, "what did he say?"

"It was like this. I said to him, 'Dear Mamie's away, the servant tells
me?' For naturally I thought you were visiting friends; 'as likely
as not, she's with his family,' I thought to myself. 'Oh, yes,' he
said, 'you must prepare yourself for a shock, Mrs. Baines--my wife has
left me.' 'Left you?' I said. 'Yes,' said he, so cool that it turned
me a mask of blood to hear him, 'she's gone away with a lover.' 'Mr.
Heriot!' I exclaimed--'_Mister_ Heriot!' 'She left a note,' he said,
'so it's quite true. Do you think we need talk about it much? I don't
know that a worthless woman is any loss,' he said."

"He said that?"

"Those were his very words, my dear. And that cool! I stared at him.
I'd no mind to make excuses for you, Gawd knows; but, for all that,
one's own flesh and blood wasn't going to be talked about like niggers
in _my_ hearing. When I got my wits together, I said, 'It seems to
me I'd be sorrier for you, Mr. Heriot, if you took it different.'
'Oh,' said he in his superior way, 'would you? We needn't discuss
my feelings, madam. Perhaps you'll stay and dine?' I was so angry
that I couldn't be civil to him. 'I thank you,' I said, 'I will not
stay and dine. And I take the opportunity, Mr. Heriot, of telling
you you're a brute!' With that I came away; but there was much more
in between that I've forgotten. About the divorce it was. He said he
had 'a duty to himself,' and that the man could marry you when you
were divorced; which I suppose he _would_ have done if he had lived?
though whether your sin would have been any less, my dear, if an
archbishop had performed the ceremony is a question that I couldn't
undertake to decide. You must begin your life afresh, now that it's all
'absolute'--which I learn is the proper term--and you'll never be in a
newspaper any more. Pray to Heaven for aid, and take heart of grace!
And if it will relieve you to speak sometimes of those sinful months
with--with the other one in Paris, why, you shall talk about them to
me, my dear, and I won't reproach you."

Mamie was no longer listening. An emotion that she did not seek to
define was roused in her as she wondered if Heriot could indeed have
taken the blow so stoically as her aunt declared. She scarcely knew
whether she wished to put faith in his demeanour or not, but the
subject was one that filled her thoughts long after Mrs. Baines's
departure. It was one to which she constantly recurred.

With less delay than might have been anticipated, the widow found
a house in Balham to fulfil her requirements, and the removal was
effected several months before No. 20, Lavender Street was sub-let.

The houses of this class differ from one another but slightly.
Excepting that the one in Balham was numbered "44," and that the street
was called "Rosalie Road," Mamie could have found it easy to believe
that she was re-installed in Wandsworth. It seemed to her sometimes
as if the van that had removed the furniture had also brought the
ground-floor parlour, with the miniature bay window overlooking the
shrubs and the plot of mould. The back yard with the clothes prop, and
the neighbours' yards with the continuous clatter, they too might have
been transferred from Lavender Street; and so abiding was the clatter
that even if she felt sleepy at nine o'clock, it was useless to go to
bed before eleven. In view of this unintermittent necessity for back
yards, she wondered how the inmates of more expensive houses for which
back yards were not provided managed to support the deficiency. The
women that she viewed, from the bedroom, among the clothes lines, or
across the plot of mould, as they went forth with string bags, might
have been the Lavender Street tenants. And were they not the Lavender
Street children, these who on week-days swung, unkempt, on the little
creaking gates along the road, and on Sundays walked abroad in colours
so grotesquely unsuited to them?

Such houses are, for the most part, happily, the crown of lives too
limited to realise their limitations--too unsuccessful to be aware
that they have failed. To Rosalie Road, Balham, with her Aunt Lydia
for companion, the divorced woman at the age of twenty-six retired
to remember that she had once hoped to be an artist, and had had the
opportunity of being happy.

To-day she hoped for nothing. There was no scope for hope. If she could
have awakened to find herself famous, her existence would have been
coloured a little--though she knew that fame could not satisfy her now
as it would once have done--but the ability to labour for distinction
was gone. She was apathetic, she had no interest in anything. When six
months had passed, she regarded death as the only event to which she
could still look forward; when she had been here a year, a glimmer of
relief entered into her depression--the doctor who had attended her,
and sounded her lungs, told her that she "must take care of herself."

Sometimes a neighbour looked in, and spoke of dilapidations and
the indifference of the landlord; of the reductions at a High Road
linendraper's, and the whooping-cough. Sometimes a curate called to
sell tickets for a concert more elementary than his sermons. In the
afternoon she walked to Tooting Bec and stared at the bushes; in the
evening she betook herself to the "circulating library," where _Lady
Audley's Secret_ and _The Wide, Wide World_ were displayed and the
proprietor said he hadn't heard of Meredith--"perhaps she had made a
mistake in the name?" God help her! She was guilty and she had left
a husband desolate; but the music that she had dreamed of was the
opera on Wagner nights; the books that she had expected were copies
containing signatures that were the envy of the autograph-collector;
the circle that had been her aim was the world of literature and art.
She lived at Balham; she saw the curate, and she heard about the
dilapidations in the neighbour's roof. One year merged into another;
and if she lived for forty more, the neighbour and the curate would be
her All.



CHAPTER XI


When five years had passed after the divorce, the Liberal Party
came into power again, and George Heriot, Q.C., M.P., was appointed
Solicitor-General. His work and ambitions had not sufficed to mend
the gap in his life; but it had been in work and ambition that he
endeavoured to find assuagement of the wound. Perhaps eagerness
had never been so keen in him after his wife went as while he was
contesting the borough that he represented now; perhaps he had never
realised the inadequacy of success so fully as he did to-day when one
of the richest prizes of his profession was obtained. Conscious that
the anticipated flavour was lacking, the steps to which he might look
forward still lost much of their allurement. Were he promoted to the
post of Attorney-General, and raised to the Bench, he foresaw that it
would elate him no more than it elated him now, as Sir George Heriot,
and a very wealthy man, to recall the period when, as a struggling
Junior, he had sat up half the night to earn a guinea.

The five years had left their mark upon him; the hours of misery which
no one suspected had left their mark upon him. The lines about his eyes
and mouth had deepened; his hair was greyer, his figure less erect. Men
who, in their turn, sat up half the night to earn a guinea, envied him,
cited his career as an example of brilliant luck--the success of others
is always "luck"--and, though they assumed that a fellow was "generally
cut up a bit when his wife went wrong," found it difficult to conceive
that Sir George had permitted domestic trouble to alloy his triumphs
to any great extent. Nobody imagined that there were still nights when
he suffered scarcely less acutely than on the one when he returned to
discover that Mamie had gone; nobody guessed that there were evenings
when his loneliness was almost unbearable to the dry, self-contained
man--that moments came when he took from a drawer the likeness that
had once stood on his desk and yearned over it in despair. That was
his secret; pride forbade that he should share it with another. He
contemned himself that he did suffer still. A worthless woman should
not be mourned. Out of his life should be out of his memory; such
weakness shamed him!

In August, a week or so after the vacation began, he went to stay at
Sandhills. His object in going to Sandhills was not wholly to see
his brother, and still less was it to see his sister-in-law. He was
solitary, he was wretched, and he was only forty-seven years of age. He
had been questioning for some time whether the wisest thing he could
do would not be to marry again; he sought no resumption of rapture,
but he wanted a home. An estimable wife, perhaps a son, would supply
new interests; and the vague question that had entered his mind had
latterly been emphasised by his introduction to Miss Pierways, who, he
was aware, was now the guest of Lady Heriot.

Miss Pierways was the daughter of a lady who had been the Hon. Mrs.
Pierways, and whose straitened circumstances had debarred her from the
suite in Hampton Court that she might otherwise have had at the period
of her husband's death. The widow and the girl had retired to obscure
lodgings; the only break in the monotony of the latter's existence
being an occasional visit to some connections, or friends, at whose
places it was hoped she might form a desirable alliance. The most
stringent economies had to be practised in order to procure passable
frocks for these visits, but the opportunities had led to no result,
though she had beauty. And then an extraordinary event occurred. When
the girl was twenty-eight, the widow who, for once, had reluctantly
accepted an invitation to accompany her, received an offer of marriage
herself, and became the wife of an American who was known to be several
times over a millionaire.

For one door that had been ajar to the daughter of the Hon. Mrs.
Pierways, with nothing but her birth and her appearance to recommend
her, a hundred doors flew open to the step-daughter of Henry Van Buren;
and it was shortly after the startling metamorphosis in the fortunes of
the pair that Heriot had first met them.

The dowry that Agnes Pierways might bring to her husband weighed
with him very little, for he was in a position to disregard such
considerations. But Miss Pierways' personality appeared to him
suggestive of all the qualifications that he sought in the lady whom
he should marry. Without her manner being impulsive or girlish, she
was sufficiently young to be attractive. She was handsome, and in a
slightly statuesque fashion that bore promise of the serenity which he
told himself was now his aim. Certainly if he did re-marry--and he was
contemplating the step very seriously--it would be difficult to secure
a partner to fulfil his requirements more admirably than Miss Pierways.
Whether he fulfilled hers, he could ascertain when he had fully made up
his mind. It was with the intention of making up his mind, in proximity
to the lady, that he had gone to Sandhills; and one evening, when he
was alone in the smoking-room with his brother, the latter blundered
curiously enough on to the bull's-eye of his meditations.

"I wonder," said Sir Francis, "that you've never thought of
re-marrying, George?"

"My experience of matrimony was not fortunate," answered Heriot,
smoking slowly, but with inward perturbation.

"Your experience of matrimony was a colossal folly. All things
considered, the consequences might easily have been a good deal worse."

"I don't follow you."

"Between ourselves, the end never seemed to me so regrettable as you
think it."

"My wife left me."

"And you divorced her! And you have no children."

"If I had had children," said Heriot musingly, "it is a fact that the
consequences would have been worse."

"But in any case," said the Baronet, "it was a huge mistake. Really one
may be frank, in the circumstances! You married madly. The probability
is that if your wife had been--if you were living together still, you
would be a miserable man to-day. It was a very lamentable affair, of
course, when it happened, but regarding it coolly--in looking back on
it--don't you fancy that perhaps things are just as well as they are?"

"I was very fond of my wife," replied Heriot, engrossed by his cigar.

"To an extent," said Sir Francis indulgently, "no doubt you had an
affection for her. But, my dear fellow, what companionship had you? Was
she a companion?"

"I don't know."

"Was she interested in your career? Could she understand your ways of
thought? Was she used to your world? One doesn't ask a great deal of
women, but had you any single thing in common?"

"I don't know," said Heriot again.

Sir Francis shrugged his shoulders.

"Take my word for it that, with such a girl as you married, your
divorce wasn't an unmixed evil. It wasn't the release one would have
chosen, but at least it was better for you than being tied to her for
life. Damn it, George! what's the use of blinking the matter now? She
was absolutely unsuited to you in every way; you must admit it!"

"I suppose she was. At the same time I was happy with her."

"How long would the infatuation have lasted?"

"It lasted more than three years."

"Would it have lasted another five?"

"Speaking honestly, I believe it would."

"Though you had nothing in common?"

"I don't explain," said Heriot. "I tell you, I was happy with her,
that's all. Viewing it dispassionately, I suppose she _was_ unsuited to
me--I don't know that we did have anything in common; I don't see any
justification for the fool's paradise I lived in. But for all that, if
I married again, I should never care for the woman as--as I cared for
_her_. In fact, I should merely marry to----" He was about to say "to
try to forget her"--"to make a home for myself," he said, instead.

"Have you considered such a step?" asked Sir Francis.

"Sometimes, yes."

"The best thing you could do--a very proper thing for you to do....
Anybody in particular?"

"It's rather premature----"

"You're not in chambers, old fellow!"

"What do you think of Miss Pierways?" inquired Heriot after a scarcely
perceptible pause.

"A very excellent choice! I should congratulate you heartily. We had
not noticed the---- And Catherine is very acute in these matters----"

"There has been nothing to notice; probably she would refuse me
point-blank. But in the event of my determining to marry again, I've
wondered whether Miss Pierways wouldn't be the lady I proposed to."

"I don't think you could do better."

"Really? You don't think I'm too old for her?"

"On my honour! 'Too old for her'? Not a bit, a very sensible marriage!
I'm not surprised that you should be attracted by her."

"'Attracted by her,'" said Heriot, "suggests rather more than the
actual facts. I appreciate her qualities, but I can't say I'm sensible
of any attachment. I'm sorry that I'm not. I appreciate her so fully
that I am anxious to be drawn towards her a little more. I'm somewhat
past the age for ardent devotion, but I couldn't take a wife as I
might buy a horse. Of course, I've not been very much in her society.
Er--down here, I daresay, when I come to know her better---- Have you
met Van Buren?"

"In town, before he sailed. He is in New York, you know. I like them
all. We were very pleased to have the mother and the girl come to
us.... Well, make your hay while the sun shines!"

"It isn't shining," said Heriot; "I'm just looking east, waiting for
it to rise. But I'm glad to have talked to you; as soon as the first
ray comes I think I'll take your advice. I _ought_ to marry, Francis; I
know you're right."



CHAPTER XII


The more he reflected, the more he was convinced of it; in marriage
lay his chance of contentment. And during the ensuing fortnight his
approval of Miss Pierways deepened. The house would not fill until the
following month, and the smallness of the party there at present was
favourable to the development of acquaintance.

Excepting that she was a trifle cold, there was really no scope for
adverse criticism upon Miss Pierways. She was unusually well read,
took an intelligent interest in matters on which women of her age were
rarely informed, and was accomplished to the extent that she played
the piano after dinner with brilliant execution and admirable hands
and wrists. Her coldness, theoretically, was no drawback to him, and
Heriot was a little puzzled by his own attitude. Her air was neither
so formal as to intimate that his advances would be unwelcome, nor so
self-conscious as to repel him by the warmth of its encouragement; yet,
in spite of his admiration, the idea of proposing to her dismayed him
when he forced himself to approach the brink.

His vacillation was especially irritating since he had learned that
the ladies were at the point of joining Van Buren in New York. The
opportunity of which he was failing to take advantage would speedily
be past, and he dreaded that if he suffered it to escape him, he would
recall the matter with regret. He perceived as well, however, that if
he were precipitate, he might regret that too, and he was sorry that
they were not remaining in Europe longer.

One evening, when their departure was being discussed, the mother
expressed surprise that he had never visited America, though she had
had no curiosity about it, herself, until she married an American; and
in answer Heriot declared that he had frequently thought of "running
across during the long vacation."

"If you ever do," she said, "I hope you will choose a year when we are
there."

"To tell you the truth, I was thinking of it this year."

"We may see you in New York, Sir George?" said Miss Pierways. "Really?
How strange that will seem! I've been eager to go to New York all my
life; but now that I'm going, I'm rather afraid. The idea of a great
city where I haven't any friends----"

"But you will have many friends, Agnes."

"By-and-by," answered Miss Pierways. "Yes, I suppose so. But it's very
fatiguing _making_ friends, don't you think so? And I tremble at the
voyage."

"How delightful it would be," remarked Mrs. Van Buren, "if we were
going by the same steamer, Sir George!"

Heriot laughed.

"It would be very delightful to me to make the voyage in your company.
But I might bore you frightfully; a week at sea must be a severe test.
I should be afraid of being found out."

"We are promised other passengers," observed Miss Pierways, looking
down with a faint smile. Her archness was a shade stiff, but her neck
was one of her chief attractions.

"Why don't you go, George?" said Lady Heriot cheerfully. "You'd much
better go by Mrs. Van Buren's boat than any other; and you've been
talking of making a trip to America 'next year' ever since I've known
you!"

This amiable fiction was succeeded by fresh protestations from Mrs.
Van Buren that no arrangement could be more charming, and Heriot,
half against his will, half with pleasure, found himself agreeing to
telegraph in the morning to inquire if he could obtain a berth.

He hardly knew whether he was sorry or glad when he had done so. That
the step would result in an engagement might be predicted with a
tolerable degree of certainty, and he would have preferred to arrive at
an understanding with himself under conditions which savoured less of
coercion.

Since a state-room proved to be vacant, however, he could do no less
now than engage it; and everybody appeared so much pleased, and Miss
Pierways was so very gracious, that the misgivings that disturbed him
looked momentarily more unreasonable than ever.

The night before he sailed, in their customary chat over whisky and
cigars, Sir Francis said to him:

"'Ask, and it shall be given unto you'!"

"I'm inclined to think you're right," said his brother. "I suppose it
will end in it.... She's a trifle like a well-bred machine--doesn't
it strike you so?--warranted never to get out of order!" The other's
look was significant, and Heriot added, "Very desirable in a wife, of
course! Only somehow----"

"'Only somehow' you're eccentric, George--you always were!"

"It's not my reputation," said Heriot drily; "I believe that I'm
considered particularly practical."

"Reputations," retorted the Baronet, attempting an epigram, as he
sometimes did in the course of his second whisky-and-potash, and
failing signally in the endeavour, "are like tombstones--generally
false." He realised the reality of tombstones, and became
controversial. "_I've_ known you from a boy, and I say you were always
eccentric. It was nothing but your eccentricity that you had to thank
before. Here's a nice girl, a girl who will certainly have a good
settlement, a girl who's undeniably handsome, ready to say 'yes' at the
asking, and you grumble--I'm hanged if you don't grumble!--because you
see she is to be depended on. What the devil do you want?"

"I want to be fond of her," answered Heriot. "I admit all you've said
of her; I want to like her more."

"So you ought to; but what does it matter if you don't? All women are
alike to the men who've married them after a year or two. She'll make
an admirable mother, and that's the main thing, I suppose?"

Was it?

Heriot recalled the criticism during his first day on board. Neither
of the ladies was visible until Queenstown was reached, and he paced
the deck, pursuing his reflections by the aid of tobacco. She would
"make an admirable mother, and that was the main thing"! Of the second
half of the opinion he was not so sure. To marry a woman simply because
one believed she would shine in a maternal capacity was somewhat too
altruistic, he thought. However, he was fully aware that Miss Pierways
had other recommendations.

She appeared with her mother at the head of the companion-way while he
was wishing that he hadn't come, and he found their chairs for them,
and arranged their rugs, and subsequently gave their letters to the
steward to be posted.

After leaving Queenstown, Mrs. Van Buren's sufferings increased, and
the girl, who, saving for a brief interval, was well and cheerful, was
practically in his charge. It was Heriot who accompanied her from the
saloon after breakfast, and strolled up and down with her till she was
tired. When the chair and the rug--the salient features of a voyage are
the woman, the chair, and the rug--were satisfactorily arranged, it was
he who sat beside her, talking. Flying visits she made below, while her
mother kept her cabin; but for the most part she was on deck--or in the
saloon, or in the reading-room--and for the most part Heriot was the
person to whom she looked for conversation. If he had been a decade or
two younger, he would probably have proposed to her long before they
sighted Sandy Hook, and it surprised him that he did not succumb to the
situation as it was. A woman is nowhere so dangerous, and nowhere is a
man so susceptible, as at sea. The interminable days demand flirtation,
if one is not to perish of boredom. Moonlight and water are notoriously
potent, even when viewed for only half an hour; and at sea, the man and
the girl look at the moonlight on the water together regularly every
evening. And it is very becoming to the girl. Miss Pierways' face was
always a disappointment to Heriot at breakfast. The remembrance of
its factitious softness the previous night made its hardness in the
sunshine look harder. He wondered if it was the remembrance of its
hardness at breakfast that kept him from proposing to her when they
loitered in the moonlight. He was certainly doing his best to fall in
love with her, and everything conspired to assist him; but the days
went on, and the momentous question remained unuttered.

"We shall soon be there," she said one evening as they strolled about
the deck after dinner. "I'm beginning to be keen. Have you noticed how
everybody is saying, 'New York' now? At first no one alluded to it--we
mightn't have been due for a year--and since yesterday nobody's talking
of anything else!"

"Nearly everyone I've spoken to seems to have made the trip half a
dozen times," said Heriot. "I feel dreadfully untravelled in the
smoking-room. When are you going to Niagara? Niagara is one of the
things I'm determined not to miss."

"I was talking to some girls who have lived in New York all their
lives--when they weren't in Europe--and they haven't been there yet.
They told me they had been to the panorama in Westminster!"

"I have met a Londoner who had never been to the Temple."

"No? How perfectly appalling!" she exclaimed, none the less fervently
because she hadn't been to it herself. "Oh yes, I know I shall adore
Niagara! I want to see a great deal of America while I'm there."

"I wish _I_ had time to see more; I should like to go to California."

"I wouldn't see California for any consideration upon earth!" she
declared. "California, to me, is Bret Harte--I should be so afraid of
being disillusioned. When we went to Ireland once, do you know, Sir
George, it was a most painful shock to me! My ideas of Ireland were
founded on Dion Boucicault's plays--I expected to see all the peasants
in fascinating costumes, with their hair down their backs, just as one
sees them on the stage. The reality was terrible. I shudder when I
recall the disappointment."

"I sympathise."

"Of course you're laughing at me! I shall have my revenge, if you don't
like New York. But, I don't know--I may feel guilty. You mustn't blame
us if you don't like New York, Sir George. Fortunately you won't have
time to be very bored, though; will you?"

"'Fortunately'?"

"Fortunately if it doesn't amuse you, I mean. When does the--how do you
say it? When does your holiday end?"

"I must be back in London on the twenty-fourth of next month; I'm
almost American myself. I shall have such a fleeting glimpse of the
country, that I must really think of writing a book about it."

"You have something better to do than write vapid books. To me your
profession seems the most fascinating one there is. If I were a man,
I'd rather be called to the Bar than anything. You'd be astonished
if you knew how many biographies of eminent lawyers I've read--they
enthralled me as a child. I don't know any career that suggests such
power to me as the Bar. Don't smile: sometimes, when we're talking and
I remember the tremendous influence you wield, I tremble."

She lifted her eyes to him, deprecating her enthusiasm, which was too
palpably a pose, and again Heriot was conscious that the opportunity
was with him, if he could but grasp it. They had paused by the
taffrail, and he stood looking at her, trying to speak the words that
would translate their relations to a definite footing. He no longer had
any doubt as to her answer; he could foresee her reply--at least the
manner of her reply--with disturbing clearness. He knew that she would
hesitate an instant, and droop her head, and ultimately murmur correct
phrases that would exhilarate him not at all. In imagination he already
heard her tones, as she promised to be his wife. He supposed, as they
were screened from observation, that he might take her hand. How
passionless, how mechanical and flat it would all be! He replied with a
commonplace, and after a few moments they continued their stroll. When
he turned in, however, he reproached himself more forcibly than he had
done yet, and his vacillation was by no means at an end. He was at war,
not with his judgment, but with his instinct, and it was the perception
of this fact that always increased his perturbation.

They landed the following day, and, after being introduced to Mr. Van
Buren in the custom-house, Heriot drove to an hotel. The hotel he
found excellent; New York he found wonderful, but a city different
from what he had expected. He had vaguely pictured New York as a Paris
where everybody talked English. This was before the introduction of
the automobile had changed the face of Paris, and the face of the
Parisian--before it incidentally reduced the number of half-fed horses
barbarously used in that city, which is the negro's paradise, and
the "horse's hell"--and the Boulevard was even more unlike Broadway
then than now. Broadway, broad in name only till it spread into the
brightness of Union Square, suggested London more than Paris--London in
an unprecedented burst of energy. The tireless vigour of the throng,
the ubiquitous rush of the Elevated Railway confused him. Though he
paid homage to the cuisine of America, which proved as much as much
superior to that of England as the worst transatlantic train was to
our best of that period, he told himself that he was disappointed. The
truth was that, not wishing to take the Van Burens' invitations too
literally, and having no other acquaintances here, he was dull.

American hospitality, however, is the most charming in the world,
and he spent several very agreeable hours inside the big brownstone
house. Nothing could have exceeded the geniality of Van Buren's manner,
nor was this due solely to the position of his visitor and a hope
of their becoming connected. The average American business man will
show more kindness to a stranger, who intrudes into his office, than
most Englishmen display to one who comes to them with a letter of
introduction from a friend, and Van Buren's welcome was as sincere as
it was attractive.

Heriot stayed in New York a week, and then fulfilled his desire to
visit Niagara. On his return he called in Fifth Avenue again. He was
already beginning to refer to his homeward voyage, and he was still
undetermined whether he would propose to Miss Pierways or not. The days
slipped by without his arriving at a conclusion; and then one morning
he told himself he had gone too far to retreat now--that the step,
which was doubtless the most judicious he could take, should be made
without delay.

He called at the house the same afternoon--for on the next day but
one the _Etruria_ sailed--and he found the ladies at home. He sat
down, wondering if he would be left alone with Miss Pierways and take
his departure engaged to her. But for half an hour there seemed no
likelihood of a tête-à-tête. Presently there were more callers and they
were shown into another room. Mrs. Van Buren begged him to excuse her.
He rose to leave, but was pressed to remain.

"I want to talk to you when they've gone," she said; "I haven't half
exhausted my list of messages to London."

Heriot resumed his seat, and Miss Pierways smiled.

"Poor mamma wishes she were going herself, if she told the truth! Now
that we're here, it is I who like New York, not she."

"We're creatures of custom," he said; "your mother has lived in London
too long to accustom herself to America very easily... Of course you'll
be over next season?"

"Oh yes. Shall you ever come to America again, Sir George?"

"I--I hardly know," he answered. "I certainly hope to."

"Oh, then, you will! You're your own master."

"Is anybody his own master?"

"To the extent of travelling to America, many people, I should think!"

He remembered with sudden gratification that he had never said a word
to her that might not have been spoken before a crowd of listeners.
What was there to prevent him withholding the proposal if he liked!

"I've no doubt I shall come," he said abstractedly.

She looked slightly downcast. It was not the reply that she had hoped
to hear.

"I shall always owe a debt of gratitude to you and to Mr. and Mrs. Van
Buren for making my visit so pleasant to me," he found himself saying
next. "My trip has been a delightful experience."

She murmured a conventional response, but chagrin began to creep about
her heart.

Heriot diverged into allusions which advanced the position not at all.
They spoke of New York, of England, of the voyage--she perfunctorily,
and he with ever-increasing relief. And now he felt that he had been on
the verge of the precipice for the last time. He had escaped--and by
the intensity of his gratitude he realised how ill-judged had been his
action in playing around it.

When Mrs. Van Buren reappeared, followed by her husband, her daughter's
face told her that the climax had not been reached; and bold in
thanksgiving, Heriot excused himself when he was asked to dine with
them that evening. Had he been offered the alternative of the next
evening, he could not without rudeness have found a pretext for
refusing; but on the morrow, as luck would have it, the Van Burens were
dining out.

The footman opened the big door, and Heriot descended the steps with a
sensation that was foreign to him, and not wholly agreeable. He knew
that he did not want to marry Miss Pierways, and that he had behaved
like a fool in trying to acquire the desire, but he was a little
ashamed of himself. His conduct had not been irreproachable; and he was
conscious that when the steamer sailed and the chapter was closed for
good and all, he would be glad to have done with it. He had blundered
badly. Nevertheless he would have blundered worse, and been a still
greater fool, if the affair had terminated in an engagement. Of course
his brother would say distasteful things when they met, and Lady Heriot
would convey her extreme disapproval of him without saying anything.
That he must put up with! Of two evils, he had at any rate chosen the
lesser.

He repeated the assurance with still more conviction on Saturday
morning during the quarter of an hour in which the cab rattled him to
the boat. The experience had been a lesson to him, and he was resolved
that henceforward he would dismiss the idea of marriage from his mind.
He saw his portmanteau deposited in his cabin, and he returned to the
deck as the steamer began to move. The decks were in the confusion
that obtains at first. Passengers still hung at the taffrail, taking a
farewell gaze at friends on the landing-stage. The chairs were huddled
in a heap, and stewards bustled among stacks of luggage, importuned at
every second step with instructions and inquiries.

The deep pulsations sounded more regular; the long line of sheds
receded; and the figures of the friends were as little dark toys,
waving specks of white. Even the most constant among the departing
began to turn away now. The hastening stewards were importuned more
frequently than before. Everybody was in a hurry, and all the women in
the crowd that flocked below seemed to be uttering the words "baggage"
and "state-room" at the same time.

A few men were temporarily in possession of the deck, striding to and
fro behind pipes or cigars. The regulation as to "No smoking abaft
this" was not in force yet, or was, at least, disobeyed at present.
Heriot sauntered along the length of deck until it began to fill
again. The pile of chairs received attention--they were set out in a
row under the awning. The deck took a dryness and a whiteness, and a
few passengers sat down, and questioned inwardly if they would find
one another companionable. He bent his steps to the smoking-room. But
it was empty and uninviting thus early, and he forsook it after a few
minutes. As the door slammed behind him, he came face to face with the
woman who had been his wife.



CHAPTER XIII


She approached--their gaze met--he had bowed, and passed her. Perhaps
it had lasted a second, the mental convulsion in which he looked in
her eyes; he did not know. He found a seat and sank into it, staring
at the sky and sea, acutely conscious of nothing but her nearness. He
could not tell whether it was despair or rejoicing that beat in him; he
knew nothing but that the world had swayed, that life was in an instant
palpitating and vivid--that he had seen her!

Then he knew that, in the intensity of emotion that shook him body and
brain, there was a thrill of joy, inexplicable but insistent. But when
he rose at last, he dreaded that he might see her again.

He did not see her till the evening--when he drew back at the door of
the saloon as she came out. His features were imperturbable now and
betrayed nothing, though her own, before her head drooped, were piteous
in appeal.

He noted that she looked pale and ill, and that she wore a black dress
with crape on it. He wondered whether she had lost her father, or her
aunt. Next morning he understood that it was her father, for he saw
her sitting beside Mrs. Baines. So Dick Cheriton was dead. He had once
been fond of Dick Cheriton.... The stranger in the black frock had once
slept in his arms, and borne his name.... The sadness of a lifetime
weighed on his soul.

He perceived that she shunned him by every means in her power. But they
were bound to meet; and then across her face would flash the same look
that he had seen at the foot of the companion-way; its supplication
and abasement wrung him. Horrible as the continual meetings grew, in
the reading-room, on deck, or below, their lines crossed a dozen times
between breakfast and eleven o'clock at night. It became as torturous
to Heriot as to her. He felt as if he had struck her, as he saw her
whiten and shrink as he passed her by. Soon he hated himself for being
here to cause her this intolerable pain.

It was on the evening of the third day that her endurance broke down
and she made her petition. With a pang he recognised the voice of her
messenger before he turned.

"Mrs. Baines!"

"You're surprised I should address you, Mr. Heriot," she said. "I
shouldn't have, but _she_ wants me to beg you to speak to her, if it's
only for five minutes. She implores you humbly to let her speak to you.
She made me ask you; I couldn't say 'no.'"

His pulses throbbed madly, and momentarily he couldn't reply.

"What purpose would it serve?" he said in tones he struggled to make
firm.

"She can't bear it, Mr. Heriot--_Sir_ Heriot, I should say; I was
forgetting, I'm sure I beg your pardon! She 'implores you humbly to let
her speak to you'; I was to use those words. Won't you consent? She is
ill, she's dying."

"Dying?" whispered Heriot by a physical effort.

She nodded slowly. "The doctor has told her. She won't be here long,
poor girl. But whether she's to be pitied for it or not, it's hard to
say; I don't think she'll be sorry to go.... My brother is gone, Sir
Heriot."

His answer was inarticulate.

"We got there just at the end. If we had been too late, she----She has
been ailing a long while, but we didn't know it was so serious. When
she saw you, it was awful for her. I---- Oh, what am I to tell her?
She's waiting now!"

"Where?" said Heriot, hoarsely.

"Will you come with me?"

"Show me," he said; "show me where she is."

He still heard the knell of it--"Dying!" He heard it as the lonely
figure in the darkness rose:

"Thank you, I am grateful."

The familiar voice knocked at his heart.

"Mrs. Baines has told me you are ill. I am grieved to learn how ill you
are."

"It doesn't matter. It was good of you to come; I thought you would.
I--I have prayed to speak to you again!"

"It wasn't much to ask," he said; "I--am human."

He could see that she trembled painfully. He indicated the chair that
she had left, and drew one closer for himself. Then for a minute there
was silence.

"Do you hate me?" she said.

He shook his head. "Should I have come to tell you so?"

"But you can never forgive me?"

"Why distress yourself? If for a moment I hesitated to come, it was
because I _knew_ it would be distressing for you. Perhaps a refusal
would have been kinder after all."

"No, no; I was sure you wouldn't refuse. She doubted; but _I_ was sure.
I said you'd come when you heard about me."

"Is it so serious? What is it? Tell me; I know nothing."

"It's my lungs: they were never very strong, you remember. The doctor
told me in Duluth: 'Perhaps a year,' if I am 'very careful.' I'm _not_
very careful--it'll soon be all over. Don't look like that! Why should
you care? _I_ don't care--I don't want to live a bit. Only----Do you
think, if--if there's anything afterwards, that a woman who's gone
wrong like me will be punished?"

"For God's sake," he said, "don't talk so!"

"But _do_ you? It makes one think of these things when one knows one
has only a very little time to live. _You_ can't forgive me--you said
so."

"I do," he said; "I forgive you freely. If I could undo your
wretchedness by giving my life for you, I'd give it. You don't know how
I loved you--what it meant to me to find you gone! Ah, Mamie, how could
you do it?"

The tears stood in her eyes, as she lifted her white face to him.

"I'm ashamed!" she moaned. "What can I say?"

"Why?" said Heriot, at the end of a tense pause. "Why? Did you care for
him so much? If he had lived and married you, would you be happy?"

"Happy!" she echoed, with something between a laugh and a sob.

"Tell me. I hoped you'd be happy. That's true. I never wanted you to
suffer for what you'd done. I suffered enough for both."

"I don't think I should have married him. I don't know; I don't think
so. I knew I'd made a mistake before--oh, in the first month! If _you_
haven't hated me, I have hated myself."

"And since? You've been with _her_?"

"Ever since. My poor father wanted me to go home. I wish I had! You
know I've lost him--she told you that? He wanted me to go home, but I
couldn't--where everybody knew! You understand? And then she moved to
Balham, and we never left it till two months ago, when the cable came.
We were in time to see him die. My poor father!"

He touched her hand, and her fingers closed on it.

"You oughtn't to be up here at night," he said huskily, looking at her
with blinded eyes. "Didn't the man tell you that the night air was bad?
And that flimsy wrap--it's no use so! Draw it across your mouth."

"What's the difference?--there, then! Shall you--will you speak to me
again after this evening, or is this the last talk we shall have? I
had so much to say to you, but I don't seem able to find it now you're
here.... If you believe that I ask your pardon on my knees, I suppose,
after all, that that's everything. If ever a man deserved a good
wife it was you; I realise it more clearly than I did while we were
together--though I think I knew it then.... You never married again?"

"No," he answered; "no, I haven't married."

"But you will, perhaps? Why haven't you?"

"I'm too old, and--I cared too much for _you_."

The tears were running down her face now; she loosed his hand to wipe
them away.

"Don't say I've ruined your life," she pleaded; "don't say that! My
own--yes; my own--it served me right! but I've tried so hard to believe
that _you_ had got over it. When I read of your election, and then that
you were made Solicitor-General, I was glad, ever so glad. I thought,
'He's successful; he has his career.' I've always wanted to believe
that your work was enough--that you had forgotten. It wasn't so?"

"No, it wasn't so. I did my best to forget you, but I couldn't."

"Aunt Lydia said you weren't cut up at all when she saw you. You
deceived her very well. 'A worthless woman,' you called me; I 'wasn't
any loss'! It was quite true; but I knew you couldn't feel like
that--not so soon. 'Worthless'! I've heard it every day since she told
me.... I meant to do my duty when I married you, George; if I could
have foreseen----" She broke off, coughing. "If I could have foreseen
what the end would be, I'd have killed myself rather than become your
wife. I was always grateful to you; you were always good to me--and I
only brought you shame."

"Not 'only,'" he said; "you gave me happiness first, Mamie--the
greatest happiness I've known. I loved you, and you came to me. You
never understood how much I did love you--I think that was the trouble."

"'There's a word that says it all: I worship you'! do you remember
saying that? You said it in the train when you first proposed to me. I
refused you then--why did I ever give way!... How different everything
would be now! You 'worshipped' me, and I----"

Her voice trailed off, and once more only the pounding of the engine
broke the stillness on the deck. The ocean swelled darkly under a
starless sky, and he sat beside her staring into space. In the steerage
someone played "Robin Adair" on a fiddle. A drizzle began to fall, to
blow in upon them. Heriot became conscious of it with a start.

"You must go below," he said; "it's raining."

She rose obediently, shivering a little, and drawing the white scarf
more closely about her neck.

"Good-night," she said, standing there with wide eyes.

He put out his hand, and her clasp ran through his blood again.

"Good-night," he repeated gently. "Sleep well."

Was it real? Was he awake? He looked after her as she turned
away--looked long after she had disappeared. The fiddle in the steerage
was still scraping "Robin Adair"; the black stretch of deck was
desolate. A violent impulse seized him to overtake her, to snatch her
back, to hold her in his arms for once, with words and caresses of
consolation. "Dying"! He wondered if Davos, Algiers, the Cape, anything
and everything procurable by money, could prolong her life. Then he
remembered that she did not wish to live. But that was horrible! She
should consult a specialist in town, and follow his advice; he would
make her promise it. With the gradual defervescence of his mood, he
wondered if she was properly provided for, and he resolved to question
Mrs. Baines on the point. He would elicit the information the following
day, and something could be arranged, if necessary--if not with Mamie's
knowledge, then without it.

The morning was bright, and Mamie was in her chair when he came up
from the saloon after breakfast. As he approached, she watched him
expectantly, and it was impossible to pass without a greeting. It was
impossible, when the greeting had been exchanged, not to remain with
her for a few minutes.

"How are you feeling?" he asked; "any better?"

"I never feel very bad; I'm just the same to-day as yesterday, thank
you." The "thank you" was something more than a formula, and he felt
it. It hurt him to hear the gratitude in her tone, natural as it might
be.

"I want you to go to a good physician when you arrive," he said, "say,
to Drummond; and to do just as he tells you. You _must_ do that; it is
a duty you owe to yourself."

She shrugged her shoulders. "What for? That I may last two years,
perhaps, instead of one? It is kind of you to care, but I'm quite
satisfied as things are. Don't bother about me."

"You will have to go!" he insisted. "Before we land I shall speak to
your aunt about it."

He had paused by her seat with the intention of resuming his saunter
as soon as civility permitted, but her presence was subversive of the
intention. He sat down beside her as he had done the previous evening.
But now it was inevitable that they should speak of other subjects than
infidelity and death. The sky was blue, and the white deck glistened in
the sunshine. The sea before them tumbled cheerfully, and to right and
left were groups of passengers laughing, flirting, doing fancy-work, or
reading novels.

"You haven't told me how it was you came to the States?" she said
presently; "were you in New York all the time?"

Heriot did not answer, and she waited with surprise.

"I'll tell you, if you wish," he said hastily. "I came out half meaning
to marry."

"Oh!" she said, as if he had struck her.

"I thought I might be happier married. The lady and her mother were
going to New York, and I travelled with them. I--I was mistaken in
myself."

They were not looking at each other any longer, and her voice trembled
a little as she replied:

"You weren't fond enough of her?"

"No," he said. "I shall never marry again; I told you so last night."

After a long pause, she said:

"Was she pretty?... Prettier than _I_ used to be?"

"She was handsome, I think. Not like you at all. Why talk about it?...
I'm glad I came, though, or I shouldn't have seen you. I shall always
be glad to have seen you again. Remember that, after we part. For me,
at least, it will never be so bitter since we've met and I've heard you
say you're sorry."

"God bless you," she murmured almost inaudibly.

He left her after half an hour, but drifted towards her again in the
afternoon. Insensibly they lost by degrees much of their constraint in
talking together. She told him of her father's illness, of her own life
in Balham; Heriot gave her some details of his appointment, explaining
that it was the duty of an Attorney-General and Solicitor-General to
reply to questions of law in the House, to advise the Government,
and conduct its cases, and the rest of it. By Wednesday night it was
difficult to him to realise that their first interview had occurred
only forty-eight hours ago. It had become his habit on deck to turn his
steps towards her, to sip tea by her side in the saloon, to saunter
with her after dinner in the starlight. Even at last he felt no
embarrassment as he moved towards her; even at last she came to smile
up at him as he drew near. Moments there could not fail to be when such
a state of things seemed marvellous and unnatural--when conversation
ceased, and they paused oppressed and tongue-tied by a consciousness
of the anomaly of their relations. Nevertheless such moments were but
hitches in an intercourse which grew daily more indispensable to them
both.

How indispensable it had become to herself the woman perceived as the
end of the voyage approached; and now she would have asked no better
than for them to sail on until she died. When she undressed at night,
she sighed, "Another day over"; when she woke in the morning, eagerness
quickened her pulses. On Saturday they would arrive; and when Friday
dawned, the reunion held less of strangeness than the reflection that
she and Heriot would separate again directly. To think that, as a
matter of course, they would say good-bye to each other, and resume
their opposite sides of an impassable gulf, looked more unnatural to
her than the renewed familiarity.

Their pauses were longer than usual on Friday evening. Both were
remembering that it was the last. Heriot had ascertained that Cheriton
had been able to leave her but little; and the notion of providing her
with the means to winter in some favourable climate was hot in his mind.

"It is understood," he said abruptly, "that you go to Drummond and do
exactly as he orders? You'll not be so mad as to refuse at the last
moment?"

"All right!" she answered apathetically, "I'll go. Shall I--will you
care to hear what he says?"

"Your aunt has promised to write to me. By the way, there's something
I want to say to-night. If what he advises is expensive, you must let
me make it possible for you. I claim that as my right. I intended
arranging it with Mrs. Baines, but she tells me you--you'd be bound to
know where the money came from. He'll probably tell you to live abroad."

"Thank you," she said after a slight start, "I could not take your
money. It is very good of you, but I would rather you didn't speak of
it. If you talked forever, I wouldn't consent."

"Mamie----"

"The very offer turns me cold. Please don't!"

"You're cruel," he said. "You're refusing to let me prolong your life.
Have I deserved that from you?"

"Oh!" she cried, in a tortured voice, "for God's sake, don't press me!
Leave me something--I won't say 'self-respect,' but a vestige, a grain
of proper pride. Think what my feelings would be, living on money from
you--it wouldn't prolong my life, George; it would kill me sooner.
You've been generous and merciful to me; be merciful to me still and
talk of something else."

"You are asking me to stand by and see you die. _I_ have feelings, too,
Mamie. I can't do it!"

"I'm dying," she said; "if it happens a little sooner, or a little
later, does it matter very much? If you want to be very kind to me,
to--to brighten the time that remains as much as you can, tell me that
if I send to you when--when it's a question of days, you'll come to the
place and see me again. I'd bless you for that! I've been afraid to ask
you till now; but it would mean more to me than anything else you could
do. Would you, if I sent?"

"Why," said Heriot labouredly, after another pause, "why would it mean
so much?"

They were leaning over the taffrail; and suddenly her head was bent,
and she broke into convulsive sobs that tore his breast.

"Mamie!" he exclaimed. "Mamie, tell me!" He glanced round and laid a
trembling touch on her hands. "Tell me, dear!" he repeated hoarsely.
"Do you love me, then?"

Her figure was shaken by the shuddering sobs. His touch tightened to a
clasp; he drew the hands down from the distorted face, drew the shaken
figure closer, till his own met it--till her bosom was heaving against
his heart.

"Do you love me, Mamie?"

"Yes!" she gasped. And then for an instant only their eyes spoke, and
in the intensity of their eyes each gave to the other body and soul.

"Yes, I love you," she panted; "it's my punishment, I suppose, to
love you too late. I shall never see you after to-morrow, till I am
dying--if then--but I love you. Remember it! It's no good to you, you
won't care, but remember it, because it's my punishment. You can say,
'When it was too late, she knew! She died detesting herself, shrinking
at her own body, her own loathsome body that she gave to another man!'
Oh!"--she beat her hands hysterically against his chest--"I hate him,
I hate him! God forgive me, he's in his grave, but I hate him when I
think what's been. And it wasn't his fault; it was mine, mine--my own
degraded, beastly self. Curse me, throw me from you! I'm not fit to be
standing here; I'm lower than the lowest woman in the streets!"

The violence of her emotion maddened him. He knew that _he_ loved
_her;_ the truth was stripped of the disguise in which he had sought
for years to wrap it--he knew that he had never ceased to love her; and
a temptation to make her his wife again, to cherish and possess her
so long as life should linger in her veins, flooded his reason. Their
gaze grew wider, deeper still; he could feel her quivering from head
to foot. Another moment, and he would have offered his honour to her
keeping afresh. Some men left the smoking-room; there was the sharp
interruption of laughter--the slam of the door. They both regained some
semblance of self-possession as they moved apart.

"I must go down," she said. And he did not beg her to remain.

It was their real farewell, for on the morrow they could merely
exchange a few words amid the bustle of arrival. Liverpool was reached
early in the morning, and when he saw her, she wore a hat and veil and
was already prepared to go ashore. In the glare of the sunshine the
veil could not conceal that her eyes were red with weeping, however,
and he divined that she had passed a sleepless night. To Mrs. Baines
he privately repeated his injunctions with regard to the physician,
for he was determined to have his way; and the widow assured him that
she would write to Morson Drummond for an appointment without loss of
time. The delays and shouts came to an end while he was speaking to
her; and the gangway was lowered, and Mamie moved forward to her side.
He saw them again in the custom-house, but for a minute only, and from
a distance. Evidently they got through without trouble, for when he
looked across again, they had gone.

As he saw that they had gone, a sensation of blankness fell upon
Heriot's mood, where he stood waiting among the scattered luggage. His
life felt newly empty and the day all at once seemed cold and dark.



CHAPTER XIV


The truth was stripped of the disguise in which he had sought to wrap
it; he knew that he had never ceased to love her. As he had known it
while she sobbed beside him on the boat, so he knew it when the Bar
claimed him again and he wrestled with temptation amid his work. He
might re-marry her! He could not drive this irruptive idea from his
mind. It lurked there, impelled attention, dozed, woke, and throbbed
in his consciousness persistently. Were he but weak enough to make the
choice, the woman that he loved might belong to him once more.

Were he but weak enough! There were minutes in which he was very near
to it, minutes in which the dishonour, if dishonour it were, looked as
nothing to him compared with the joy of having her for his wife again.
Yet were he but "weak" enough? Would it indeed be weakness--would it
not rather be strength, the courage of his convictions? The longing
illumined his vision, and he asked himself on what his doubt and
hesitation was based. She had sinned; but he had pardoned her sin,
not merely in words, but in his heart. And she was very dear to him;
and she had repented. Then why should it be impossible? What after
all had they done to her, what change in the beloved identity had
they wrought, those months that were past? He was aware that it was
the physical side that repelled him--there had been another man. Yet
if she had been a widow when he met her first, there would have been
another man, and it would have mattered nothing. Did this especial sin
make of a woman somebody else? Did it give her another face, another
form, another brain? Did unfaithfulness transform her personality?
The only difference was the knowledge of what had happened--the woman
herself was the same! But he would not vindicate his right to love
her--he loved her, that was enough. In its simplicity, the question was
whether he would do better to condone her guilt and know happiness, or
to preserve his dignity and suffer. He could not blink the question;
it confronted him nakedly when a week had worn by. Without her he was
lonely and wretched; with her, while she lived, he was confident that
his joy would be supreme. The step that he considered was, if any one
pleased, revolting; but if it led to his contentment, perhaps to be
"revolting" might be the height of wisdom. He must sacrifice his pride,
or his peace! And at last, quite deliberately, without misgiving or a
backward glance, Heriot determined to gain peace.

A few days after the arrival, Mrs. Baines had written to inform him
that the physician was out of town, but now a line came to say that an
appointment had been made for "Monday" and that she would communicate
Dr. Drummond's pronouncement immediately they reached home after the
interview. It was on Monday morning that Heriot received the note, and
he resolved to go to Mamie the same evening.

The thought of the amazement that his appearance would cause her
excited him wildly as he drove to Victoria. He could foresee the wonder
in her eyes as he entered, the incredulity on her features as she heard
what he was there to say; and the profoundest satisfaction pervaded him
that he had resolved to say it. The comments that his world would make
had no longer any place in his meditations; a fico for the world that
would debar him from delight and censure what it could not understand!
He had suffered long enough; his only regret was for the years which
had been lost before he grasped the vivid truth that, innocent or
guilty, the woman who conferred happiness was the woman to be desired.

A criticism of his brother's recurred to him: "You hadn't a single
taste in common!" He had not disputed it at the time; he was not
certain that he could deny it now. But there was no need to consider
whether their views were kindred or opposed, whether she was defiled
or stainless, when she was the woman whose magic could transfigure his
existence. He was conscious that this marriage to be approved by his
judgment, and condemned by Society, would be a sweeter and holier union
than their first, to which she had brought purity, and indifference.
As the cab sped down Victoria Street, his excitement increased, and in
imagination he already clasped her and felt the warmth of her cheek
against his face.

The hansom slackened, jerked to a standstill; and he leapt out and
hurried to the booking-office. A train was at the point of starting.
The sentiment of the bygone was quick in him as he found that he must
pass through a yellow barrier on to the same platform to which he used
to hasten when he went to see her in Lavender Street, Wandsworth.
He had never trodden it since. A thousand associations, sad but
delicious, were revived as he took his seat, and the guard, whose
countenance seemed familiar, sauntered with a green flag and a lantern
past the window. Victoria slipped back. It had been in one of these
compartments--perhaps in this one--that he had first asked her to be
his wife. How wet her cape had been when he touched it! A porter sang
out, "Grosvenor Road," and at the sound of it Heriot marvelled at
having forgotten that they were about to stop there. Yes, "Grosvenor
Road," and then--what next? He could not remember. But memory knocked
with a louder pang as each of the places on the line was reached. When
"Wandsworth Common" was cried, he glanced at the dimly-lighted station
while in fancy he threaded his way to the shabby villa that had been
her home. He thought that he could find it blindfold.

After this the line was quite strange to him; and now the impatience of
his mood had no admixture and he trembled with eagerness to gain his
destination.

"Balham!" was bawled two minutes later; and among a stream of clerks
and nondescripts, he descended a flight of steps and emerged into a
narrow street. No cab was visible, and, having obtained directions, he
set forth for Rosalie Road afoot.

A glimpse he had of cheap commerce, of the flare of gas-jets on
oranges, and eggs, and fifth-rate millinery; and then the shops and
the masses were left behind, and he was in obscurity. The sound of
footsteps occurred but seldom here, and he wandered in a maze of little
houses for nearly half an hour before a welcome postman earned a
shilling.

Rosalie Road began in darkness, and ended in a brickfield. He
identified Number 44 by the aid of a vesta, and pulled the bell.
Impatience was mastering him when he discerned, through the panes, a
figure advancing along the passage.

His voice was strange in his ears, as he inquired if Mamie was in.

"Yessir; she's in the drorin'-room. 'Oo shall I say?"

"Sir George Heriot. Is Mrs. Baines at home?"

His title rendered the little maid incapable of an immediate response.

"Missis is out of a herrand, sir," she stammered; "she won't be long."

"When she comes in, tell her that I'm talking privately to her niece.
'Privately'; don't forget!"

She turned the handle, and Heriot followed her into the room. Vaguely
he heard her announce him; he saw the room as in a mist. Momentarily
all that was clear was Mamie's face, white and wondering in the
lamplight. She stood where she had been standing at his entrance,
looking at him; he had the impression of many seconds passing while she
only looked; many seconds seemed to go by before her colour fluttered
back and she said, "You?"

"Yes, it's I. Won't you say you're glad to see me?"

"Aunt Lydia has written to you," she said, still gazing at him as if
she doubted his reality. "Her letter has gone."

"I've come to hear what Dr. Drummond says."

She motioned him to a chair, and drooped weakly on to the shiny couch.

"I am not going to die," she muttered. "Your sympathy has been thrown
away--I'm a fraud."

In the breathless pause he felt deafened by the thudding of his heart.

"He has given you hope?"

"He said, 'Bosh!' I told him what the doctor told me in Duluth. He
said, 'Bosh!' One lung isn't quite sound, that's all; I may live to be
eighty."

"O dear God!" said Heriot slowly, "I thank You!"

She gave a short laugh, harsh and bitter.

"I always posed. My last pose was as a dying woman!"

"Mamie," he said firmly--he went across to her and sat down by her
side--"Mamie, I love you. I want you to come back to me, my darling. My
life's no good without you, and I want you for my wife again. Will you
come?"

He heard her catch her breath; she could not speak. He took her hands,
and drew her to him. Their lips clung together, and presently he felt
tears on his cheek.

Then she released herself with a gesture of negation.

"You are mad!" she said. "And _I_ should be madder to accept the
sacrifice!"

For this he was prepared.

"I am very sane," he answered. "Dearest, when you understand, you will
see that it is the only reparation you can make me. Listen!"





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