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Title: Brothers - The True History of a Fight Against Odds
Author: Vachell, Horace Annesley
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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                                BROTHERS

                          THE TRUE HISTORY OF
                          A FIGHT AGAINST ODDS


                                   BY

                        HORACE ANNESLEY VACHELL



                                 LONDON
                     JOHN MURRAY, ALBEMARLE STREET
                                  1905



                      FIRST EDITION . . _May_ 1904
                       Reprinted . . _June_ 1904
                      Reprinted . . _August_ 1904
                     Reprinted . . _November_ 1904
                     Reprinted . . _December_ 1904
                     Reprinted . . _The same month_
                      Reprinted . . _January_ 1905



                        _Copyright in the United
                          States of America by
                        Horace Annesley Vachell_



                          TO ALL MEN AND WOMEN
                           WHO HAVE STRIVEN:
                             TO THE STRONG
                     WHO HAVE ATTAINED THEIR GOAL,
                              TO THE WEAK
               WHO HAVE MADE THE RUNNING FOR THE STRONG,
                       AND IN PARTICULAR TO THOSE
              WHO HAVE CONFRONTED ILL-FORTUNE, ILL-HEALTH,
                           AND DISAPPOINTMENT
                      WITH FORTITUDE AND SERENITY,
                            I DEDICATE THIS
                                  BOOK



                          _BY THE SAME AUTHOR_

                          A DRAMA IN SUNSHINE
                              JOHN CHARITY
                         THE PROCESSION OF LIFE
                  LIFE AND SPORT ON THE PACIFIC SLOPE
                           THE SHADOWY THIRD
                        THE PINCH OF PROSPERITY



                            *PREFATORY NOTE*


It is likely that the brothers in this book will be recognised by some
readers who may indict the good taste of revealing a secret guarded
jealously during many years.  To these let it be said that the brother
who attained to the highest honours and dignities of his profession
earnestly desired that the truth concerning certain incidents in his
earlier career should be told in a biography.  A desire he was
constrained reluctantly to forego.  The story of the Samphires satisfies
adequately enough the exigencies of a peculiar case.  The many are not
concerned; the few will discern truth through the thin veil of fiction.



                               *CONTENTS*

CHAPTER

Prologue

      I. Bubble and Squeak
     II. Billy’s *v.* Bashan’s
    III. Which contains a Fortune
     IV. Miss Hazelby is Shocked
      V. Valete
     VI. At Burlington House
    VII. The Hunt Ball
   VIII. Barbizon
     IX. At King’s Charteris
      X. After Three Years
     XI. In Love’s Pleasaunce
    XII. Betty in Stepney
   XIII. Bagshot on the Rampage
    XIV. A Moral Exigency
     XV. Aphrodite Smiles and Frowns
    XVI. Westchester Cathedral
   XVII. Surrender!
  XVIII. Ariadne in Naxos
    XIX. A Sanatorium in Sutherland
     XX. Betty sees a Sprig of Rue
    XXI. Recuperation
   XXII. On Ben Caryll
  XXIII. Hymeneal
   XXIV. A Red Tie
    XXV. Mark Hears a Bleating
   XXVI. Readjustment
  XXVII. In Grub Street
 XXVIII. A Sunday in Cadogan Place
   XXIX. The Procession of Life
    XXX. A Note of Interrogation
   XXXI. Betty sees Danger Signals
  XXXII. Betty makes Good Resolutions
 XXXIII. Illumination
  XXXIV. Charing Cross
   XXXV. Chrysostom Returns to Chelsea
  XXXVI. Fenella
 XXXVII. Poppy and Mandragora
XXXVIII. Gonzales
  XXXIX. At the Miraflores
     XL. "Come!"
    XLI. The Power Behind the Throne



                               *BROTHERS*



                               *PROLOGUE*


Mark Samphire clutched tightly his mother’s hand, as the big room began
to fill with people.  Some he knew, and these he feared: because they
might speak to him, and then he would stammer, and choke, and make a
piteous spectacle of himself.  He wished that he were his brother,
Archibald, standing on the other side of his mother, Archie, the
pink-skinned and golden-haired, a tremendous fellow clad in a new sailor
suit, and tolerably self-possessed, but pinker than usual, because a
lady in lavender silk had hugged him and called him "a darling."  Nobody
called Mark a darling except his mother, and that only when they were
alone.  The fat butler kept shouting out more names.  Mrs. Corrance and
Jim arrived.  Mark hoped they would sit near him.  Jim was his own age—a
ripe seven—and a sworn friend.  Lord Randolph talked to Admiral
Kirtling, the funny man who made everybody laugh.  Ah!  Jim had pushed
his way through the crowd.  In a minute the two boys were whispering
together, nineteen to the dozen, for Mark seldom stammered when he
talked to Jim.

An older person than Mark would have seen on the faces of the assembled
company an air of expectation.  Big folding-doors, now shut, divided the
drawing-room from the library.  Upon these the eyes of the women
lingered, for behind them stood mystery and—so it was reported—beauty!
Meantime they chattered, talking for the most part about the house,
newly built, and well named The Whim. Miss Selina Lamb, one of the Lambs
from Cranberry-Orcas, who had so many relations that she was never out
of half-mourning, gave information to the Dean of Westchester.

"I assure you, Mr. Dean, that it is a fact.  The dear Admiral got into a
fly at Westchester—he carried nothing but a white umbrella, and told the
man, Thomas Pinnick, who has driven me a score of times, to take him to
’some salubrious locality.’  Thomas, quite properly, drove him here
across the downs.  The west wind was blowing strongly, and the dear man
thought he was in the chops—it is chops, isn’t it?—yes, in the chops of
the Channel. He gave Thomas Pinnick a sovereign, and bought this hill
within the week.  Now he has built this remarkable house."

The Dean smiled, admitting that the house might be described as
remarkable.  Bedrooms covered the ground floor; above these the
sitting-rooms commanded a fine view of the pastoral county of Slowshire;
at the top of the house were the kitchen and servants’ offices!

"I understand," said Mr. Dean, "that food descends like manna from
above, and that the common odours of leek and cabbage ascend, and are
smelled of none, save perhaps the skylarks."

"You always put things so poetically," murmured Miss Lamb.  "Yes, you
are right.  The still-room is just above the library."

"Where it should be, my dear Miss Lamb.  I hope the Admiral’s
housekeeper wears list slippers."

Miss Lamb, sensible that the Dean was making a joke which she could not
quite understand, smiled, showing large even teeth, and asked if Mr.
Dean had ever met the young lady in whose honour they had gathered
together.  Mr. Dean had not met the young lady, but he had known,
intimately, her mother.  Miss Lamb blushed.

"She was charming," murmured the Dean absently, "the most fascinating
creature."

The spinster sniffed her surprise, reflecting that her companion was a
radical.  A true blue, the bishop, for instance, would not have
mentioned the mother at all.  She felt it her duty to bleat a feeble
protest.

"She behaved so shockingly, Mr. Dean."

"True, true, but she was very young, Miss Lamb. Poor, pretty creature!
And now—dead!"

Miss Lamb closed her thin lips, and her large, too prominent, china-blue
eyes settled upon a portrait just opposite: the portrait of Colonel
Kirtling, the Admiral’s elder brother, the father of the mystery behind
the folding-doors, and the husband of the pretty creature who had
behaved so shockingly. The picture, painted by Richmond, was not unlike
the famous portrait of Lord Byron.  Colonel Fred Kirtling had been one
of the handsomest men in the Guards.  Richmond reproduced his curling
auburn hair, his short upper lip, his finely modelled nose, his round
chin with a distracting (the adjective was Lady Blessington’s) dimple in
it, and his "wicked" (Lady B. again) eyes.

"Did you know Colonel Kirtling, Mr. Dean?"

"Yes.  A sad scamp, Miss Lamb, a scamp when he married—at sixty!"

He began to speak of the Kirtling family.  Admiral Kirtling was the
fourth son of the sixteenth Lord Kirtling, of Kirtling, in the county of
Cumberland, who married a Penberthy from Cornwall, an heiress with a
large fortune settled upon herself and her children.  The seventeenth
lord inherited whatever his sire had been unable to sell: Kirtling
heavily mortgaged and stripped of its huge leaden roof (gambled away at
hazard) and the wild moors which encompass it.  This nobleman lived and
died in chronic resentment against the poverty his father had inflicted
upon him.  His brother succeeded, and was the father of a son whom we
shall meet by and by.  Fred, the third brother, who had a royal duke for
a godfather, married Louise de Courcy, a beauty with French blood in her
veins.  It is certain that she married Fred for love and against the
wishes of her parents; and it is equally certain that she left him—just
four years afterwards—because she loved somebody else much better.  This
somebody, who happened to be a peer and a famous soldier, offered Fred
such satisfaction as one gentleman, even in those latter days, might
tender an injured husband. Fred, however, wrote in reply that he was
under an obligation to his lordship for taking off his hands the most
ungrateful hussy in the kingdom.  Fred’s word, be it added, was little
better than his bond (the children of Israel knew that to be worthless);
and it is significant that Mrs. Kirtling’s family, both French and
Irish, abused Fred to all-comers: asserting that he had deceived dozens
of women in his time, and none more cruelly than his charming wife.
Death shut the mouths of the gossips by carrying off both Fred and
Louise within six months of the latter’s elopement.

By this time the Admiral, a bachelor of some eccentricity, had just
settled into his new house at King’s Charteris, near Westchester, and
was known to be averse to leaving it.  Yet he had to answer the
question: "Who will take care of Fred’s baby?"  Lady Randolph, a
kinswoman, was called into council.

"Children are the devil," said the Admiral gloomily. "Think of my
nymphs."  (He had some beautiful china).

"This one may prove the prettiest of them all," said Lady Randolph.

"Yes, yes; father and mother the handsomest couple, even if forty years
were between ’em.  Well, well, I lean on you, dear lady."

Lady Randolph did not fail him.  She fetched the child from town, gave
the nurse, an impudent town minx, twenty-four hours’ notice, and
installed in her place a respectable girl, Esther Gear, out of her own
village of Birr Wood.

So much, and little more, was known to the company assembled in the
Admiral’s drawing-room.

Presently the big folding-doors were flung open, and Lady Randolph
passed through, leading by the hand little Elizabeth Kirtling.  A buzz
of admiration greeted Betty.  She wore a delicate India muslin frock,
encircled by a rose-coloured sash.  Rose-coloured shoes embellished her
tiny feet, and a knot of the same coloured riband glowed in her dark
curls, which framed an oval face.  The Admiral had told Esther Gear that
he would tolerate no black, which came, he said, into people’s lives
soon enough. Round her neck was a string of coral beads which matched
the tints of her cheeks.  Her great hazel eyes shone demurely beneath
their thick black lashes, and when she smiled her lips parted, revealing
a fairy’s set of teeth between two dimples. The Admiral met his niece on
the threshold of the room, took her hand, and patted it softly.  Then he
led her forward.  The finely proportioned saloon, filled with rare and
beautiful things, the silver light of an October afternoon, the many
faces—young and old alike touched and interested—served as a setting for
the grizzled veteran, with his whimsical weather-beaten face seamed by a
thousand lines, and the diminutive creature at his side. Mrs. Samphire
let two tears trickle unheeded down her thin cheeks, but her pretty
mouth was smiling. Mark felt that his mother’s grasp had tightened.
Perhaps she foresaw, poor lady, that the time appointed for her to leave
her sons was near at hand. Mark stared hard at the little girl as if
indeed—as was true—he had never seen her like.

Now it seems that the Admiral had told his niece, with a twinkle in his
kind eyes, that the drawing-room was her room: the state apartment of
the only lady of his house.  And so, when Betty looked up and saw many
strange faces about her she recalled an adjective too often in her
father’s mouth, and said clearly and loudly: "Uncle, what are all dese
dam peoples doing in my room?"

When the laughter died down, the Admiral said with his queer chuckle:
"Egad! this is a maid of surprises"; but he was careful to explain to
his niece that his friends were her friends, to be honoured and loved by
her.  The child’s mouth puckered, and her great eyes were troubled.

"I can’t love all dese peoples," she protested, on the edge of tears.
The Admiral laughed.

"You must pick and choose, Betty.  ’Tis the privilege of your sex.  Come
now, who pleases you best?"

She understood perfectly: examining the company with dignified
curiosity.  Finally, her eyes rested upon the three boys at Mrs.
Samphire’s side.

"I like dem boys," she said clearly.

The three boys were confused but charmed.

"She likes the boys, the coquette!" exclaimed the Admiral.  "And which
of the three, missie, do you like best?"

The boys blushed because the company stared at them.  Archie, the
handsome one, stood nearest to little Betty, and seeing her hesitation
held out his hands; Jim Corrance smiled invitingly; Mark, the stammerer,
attempted no lure, dismally conscious that he could not compete against
the others, but his forget-me-not blue eyes, the only fine feature he
possessed, suffused a soft radiance.

"I love him!" cried Betty, running forward.  She passed Archie and Jim,
flinging her arms round Mark’s neck, who bashfully returned her eager
kisses.

"Um!" said the Admiral, half smiling, half frowning, "as I remarked just
now, here is a Maid of Surprises."



                              *CHAPTER I*

                          *BUBBLE AND SQUEAK*


This is the history of a fighter, a fighter against odds, whose weapons
were forged at Harrow-on-the-Hill. Afterwards, in Mark Samphire’s eyes,
all school buildings, even the humblest, had a certain sanctity, because
they are strewn with precious dust, the _pulverem Olympicum_, so pungent
to the nostrils of a combatant.  To him, for instance, the ancient
Fourth Form Room at Harrow was no battered mausoleum of dead names, but
a glorious Campus Martius, where Byron, Peel, and other immortal youths
wrestled with their future, even as Jacob wrestled with the angel.

Mark and his friend Jim Corrance became Harrovians when they were
fourteen, taking their places in the First Shell, the highest form but
one open to new boys.  Archibald Samphire, their senior by eighteen
months, had just reached the Upper Remove, two forms ahead of the First
Shell.

The three boys travelled together from King’s Charteris to London; but
at Euston Mark and Jim were bundled by Archie into a first-class
carriage, with instructions to sit still and not "swagger."  Archie
joined some swells on the platform.  One of these Olympians lighted a
cigar, which he smoked for a couple of minutes, throwing it away with
the observation that really he must tell the dear old governor to buy
better weeds.

"How do you feel, Mark?" whispered Jim.

"If I l-looked as small as I f-f-feel," said Mark, "you wouldn’t be able
to s-s-see me."

An hour later they stood in the schoolyard.  Here "bill" was called;
here yard-cricket, beloved by many generations of boys, was played;
here, peering out of his cell, might be seen the rosy, clean-shaven face
of old Sam, _Custos_, as the Doctor called him; that sly old Sam who
sold all things pertaining to Harrow games at a preposterous profit; who
prepared the rods, who was present when those rods fell hurtling upon
the bare flesh—Sam of the fair, round belly, Sam of the ripe,
ruby-coloured nose, who has led bishops, statesmen, field-marshals,
peers and baronets, members of Parliament, members of the Bar, members
of the Stock Exchange—to the BLOCK!  Can it be possible that Sam has
passed away?  Surely not.  Is he not part and parcel of the Yard?  And
when the Yard lies silent and deserted, when the moonbeams alone play
upon it, when the school clock tolls midnight, does not the ghost of old
Sam fare forth on his familiar rounds, keeping watch and ward in the
ancient precincts?

From the Yard Archibald escorted Mark and Jim to Billy’s, their
boarding-house, where the boys found themselves joint tenants of a
two-room, a piece of good fortune (for there were several three-rooms
and one four-room) which they owed partly to Archie, as he was careful
to inform them, and partly to the high places they had taken in the
school.  Long and narrow, with a door at one end and a window at the
other, this room contained two battered fold-up bedsteads, two
washhand-stands, two bureaux, a shabby carpet, a table, a fireplace, and
three Windsor chairs.  Here the boys were expected to work, to sleep,
and to eat breakfast and tea.  No room, according to Mark, has since
given him the pleasure and pride which he derived from this.  And Jim
Corrance, after he had made his enormous fortune, liked to speak of the
first sporting-prints which he bought and of the moth-eaten head of a
red deer, a nine-pointer, found in an attic at Pitt Hall, the home of
the Samphires.

This first summer half was as pleasant as any Mark spent at Harrow.  He
learned to swim in "Ducker," the school bathing-place, a puddle in those
days, but since greatly enlarged and improved; he was taught to play
cricket with a straight bat; he lay upon the green slopes of the Sixth
Form Ground and ate ices; he spent his _exeat_ at Randolph House in
Belgrave Square, and witnessed at "Lord’s" the defeat of the Eton eleven
from the top of Lord Randolph’s coach, returning to Harrow with a
sovereign in his pocket, pride in his heart, and heaven knows what
mixture of pie and pudding and champagne in his small stomach!

At Billy’s the colour, tone, and texture of the "house" were
exceptionally good.  Billy treated his boys as gentlemen.  Some dominies
play the spy, thereby turning boys into enemies instead of friends;
Billy always coughed discreetly when making his rounds.  And if he had
reason to suspect a boy of conduct unbecoming an Harrovian, he would
send for him and speak to him quietly, or perhaps, if the offender was a
good fellow, ask him to breakfast or dinner, heaping food upon his plate
and coals of fire upon his head.  His favourite warning may be quoted:
"I have had my eye on you for some time."  But Mark knew, even then,
that Billy’s eyes were none of the best, and that often they pretended
not to see much that a wise man overlooks.

The first year passed quickly.  Mark and Jim found themselves in the
Lower Remove at the beginning of the winter half, where they achieved
the distinction of a "double," jumping over the Upper Remove into the
Third Fifth, known as "Paradise," a place so pleasant that some boys
refused to leave it.  One could say to aunts and uncles, "Oh, I’m in the
Fifth," and few were unkind enough to ask, "Which Fifth?"  Here they
found Archie and a friend of his, Lubber West, who in these latter days
doubtless would have been superannuated, and not without cause.  Archie
and the Lubber practised what they called the "co-operative system of
work."  They would come to Mark’s room and sit upon the sofa with a
large gallipot of strawberry-ice between them. Then Mark and Jim were
instructed to "mug up" forty lines of Euripides.  This took time, and
meanwhile the ice was consumed and anything else in the form of light
refreshment which might be offered. When Mark was ready to construe,
Archie and the Lubber produced a couple of battered books, and listened
attentively enough to what Mark had to say, noting in light pencil marks
unfamiliar verbs and nouns.  In this way, as Archie observed, much
valuable time was saved, and the lesson honourably learned.  Archie had
a number of "cribs," but, as elder brother, he denounced their use by
Mark as immoral.  "Samphire major has given us a very ’Smart’[#]
translation," was one of Billy’s bon mots, not original with him by any
means, but accepted by his pupils as proof of wit and gentlemanlike
satire.


[#] Horace was translated by Smart.


During this half, Archibald was working hard at cricket, under the
kindly eyes of those famous coaches, the late Lord Bessborough and Mr.
Robert Grimston. He had more than a chance of playing for the school;
and accordingly he pointed out to Mark that it was the minor’s duty to
help his major with Greek and Latin.  "If I do get my straw,"[#] he
said, "you will reap your reward."  This unconscious humorist was now a
glorious specimen of Anglo-Saxon youth.  He had crisp yellow hair,
curling tightly over a round, well-proportioned head, the clear, ruddy
skin which from the days of David has always commanded admiration, and a
tenor voice of peculiarly fine quality. Mark was his humble and adoring
slave.  Now, it chanced that in a shop half-way down Harrow Hill two
young women possessed of bright complexions and waspish waists served
hot chocolate and buttered toast to boys coming up from the playing
fields, and in particular to certain boys of Billy’s.  Behind the shop
was a back room, into which two or three big fellows were admitted.  In
a certain set it became the thing to drop into Brown’s at half-past four
and have a lark with the girls.  The girls were able to take care of
themselves; the boys lost their heads.  Because Archie’s head was a
pretty one, the girls were not particularly anxious that he should find
it.  During the Christmas term he and a boy from another house were in
and out of Brown’s half a dozen times a day, and the school wondered
what would happen.


[#] The black-and-white straw hat only worn by members of the school
eleven.


"I l-l-loathe those girls," said Mark; "one b-b-bubbles and one
squeaks."

Billy’s seized the phrase.  Within a week the girls were known as Bubble
and Squeak.  One of the fags pinned a card to Archie’s door:—

"Which do you like best: chocolate and buttered toast or Bubble and
Squeak?"

"What can we do?" said Mark to Jim.

"Is it Bubble or Squeak?" Jim asked.

"I d-d-don’t know or care; they’re vulgar b-b-beasts.  Old Archie has a
lock of hair.  They’ve given away tons of it: enough to stuff a sofa."

"They can get more from the same old place," said Jim.

"Oh, it’s their own," said Mark.  "I hate marmalade-coloured hair—don’t
you?"

It was after this brief dialogue that Jim noticed a falling off of
Mark’s interest in his work.  For the first time a copy of Iambics
deserved some of the remarks which the form-master made upon them.
During the next fortnight this negligence, coupled with his stutter and
a temporary deafness, sent Mark to the bottom of his class.  Jim asked
for an explanation.

"It’s old Archie.  He’s playing the devil with himself."

"Let him," said Jim, who was no altruist.  "What’s the good of worrying?
We can’t do anything."

"Perhaps we c-c-can," said Mark.  "We _must_," he added.

"You have a scheme?"

Mark nodded.  "I d-d-don’t know w-what you’ll say to it."

"I can’t say anything till I hear it."

"S-suppose I give Billy a hint?"

The scheme was so alien to a boy’s conception of the word "honour," such
a violation of an unwritten code—in fine, such a desperate remedy—that
Jim gasped.

"D-don’t look like that!" said Mark sharply. "C-can’t you see that I
loathe it—as—you do.  If m-mother were alive I’d write to her.  But if I
told father, he would come bellowing down, and behave like a bull in a
china shop.  There would be a jolly r-r-row then."

"Mark," said Jim, "Archie is big enough to look after himself."

"It’s worse than you think," Mark said.  "He’s meeting this g-g-girl
after lock-up.  He gets out of the pantry window.  I daresay he’s
squared one of the Tobies" (Toby was the generic name for footmen). "And
it’s frightfully r-r-risky.  If he’s nailed, he’ll be sacked."

"What a silly old ass!" said Jim.

"He runs these frightful risks—for what?  To kiss a girl who bubbles at
the mouth!"

"It’s the one who squeaks," Jim amended.  "And she’s an artful dodger.
She thinks he’ll marry her. All right, I’ll go with you to Billy after
prayers to-night."

"I’ll go alone."

"You won’t."

"I will."

"No."

"Yes; yes; yes."

Jim’s obstinacy prevailed.  After prayers, the boys waited in the
passage.  Jim had been swished by the Doctor in the Fourth Form Room,
and his sensations before execution reproduced themselves.  Mark seemed
cool and collected.

"Sit down," said Billy.  "Open your books."

Mark laid his Thucydides upon the table.

"Bless my soul!" ejaculated Billy.  He had pushed up his spectacles
while he was speaking. Now, he polished a pair of pince-nez and popped
them on his nose.  Nervousness is contagious.

"We have c-c-come here to t-t-tell you, s-sir, s-s-something which you
ought to know."

The house-master blinked, and glanced at both doors.  One communicated
with the passage, the other opened into the drawing-room, where his wife
was playing one of Strauss’s waltzes: _Wein, Weib und Gesang_.  Whenever
Jim heard this waltz he could conjure up a vision of that square, cosy,
book-lined room, the big desk littered with papers, and behind it the
burly figure of Billy, his eyes blinking interrogation.  He let Mark
take his own time.

"Something wrong in the house?" said Billy.

"Yes, sir."

Billy seized a quill pen, and began to bite it.

"Isn’t this a serious step for you boys to take?" he asked suddenly.

"Yes, sir."

His gravity became portentous.  Perhaps he feared an abominable
revelation.

"You both understand," he coughed nervously, "that I may be compelled to
act on what you choose to tell me; and if what you have to say
implicates—er—others, if others may—er—have to—er—suffer, perhaps
severely," he nodded so emphatically that his pince-nez fell off, "it
may be well for you to—er—in fact—to," he blew his nose violently, "to
bid me—Good night."

"Not yet," said Mark firmly.

Billy’s hesitation vanished.

"Go on," he said curtly.  "Speak plainly, and conceal nothing."

Mark told his story.  He made no mention of the pantry window, nor of
the meetings after lock-up. For the rest, he spoke with a conciseness
and practical common sense which filled Jim with admiration.  As he was
concluding, Billy began to smile.

"You are both good fellows, and I’m obliged to you.  You must dine with
me.  I shall pull a string or two, and our—er—marionettes, mark that
word; it is pat; our marionettes shall dance elsewhere."

"Not Archie?" gasped Mark.

"No.  We can’t spare Archibald.  I undertake to handle him.  Silly
fellow, very silly fellow!  His father and mother put a better head on
your shoulders, my boy"; he tapped Mark’s cheek.  "And now open old
Thicksides.  Eh, what? you know your lesson? Then let’s hear it."  Jim
got rather red.  "I shan’t put you on, Corrance, but Samphire minor and
I will construe for your benefit.  Fire away, Samphire minor."

The boys went back to their room to find Archie at full length on the
sofa.  His greeting justified Billy’s sagacity in keeping Mark to
construe Thucydides.  "What a time you fellows have been!  I suppose
Billy gave you half a dozen readings.  Well, let’s have ’em, late though
it is.  I must get my remove this half."

So no suspicion was excited.

Within the week Bubble and Squeak mysteriously disappeared, and Samphire
major had an interview with his house-master.  What passed was not
revealed at the time, but, later, Archie gave Mark some details, which
are set down with the premiss that a minor canon of Westchester
Cathedral is speaking, not a Fifth Form boy at Harrow.

"Do you remember those girls at Brown’s?" he said.  "Well, I fell in
love with one of them. What?  You knew it?  Oh!  Oh, indeed!  The whole
school knew it?  Ah, well, Billy knew it too. Sent for me, and behaved
like a gentleman.  Made me blubber like a baby.  I give you my word I
never felt quite so cheap.  It wasn’t what he said, but what he left
unsaid.  And I promised him that I would have nothing more to do with
Squeak.  He told me a thing or two about her which opened my eyes; she
was a baggage, but pretty, very pretty: an alluring little spider.  I
felt at the time I would go through fire and water to her——"

"Not to mention a pantry window," said Mark, grinning.

"You don’t mean to say that you knew that too? Well, well, it might have
proved an ugly scrape."

For a year after this incident, the sun shone serenely in the Samphire
firmament.  The brothers moved up out of Paradise, into the Second
Fifth, Paradise Lost, and thence into the First Fifth, Paradise
Regained, singing pæans of praise and thanksgiving.  This was at the
beginning of Mark’s third summer half, the half when Archie made a great
score at Lord’s, carrying out his bat for eighty-seven runs in the first
innings; the half, also, when Mark received his "cap,"[#] the night
before the match wherein Billy’s became cock house at cricket!


[#] The "cap" is the house cricket-cap, given to members of the house
eleven.



                              *CHAPTER II*

                      *BILLY’S *_*v.*_* BASHAN’S*


During this summer half Mark and Jim built some castles, in which, as
you will see, they were not called upon to live.  If Fate made men dwell
in the mansions of their dreams how many of us would find ourselves
queerly housed?  Mark’s castles were military fortresses.  He had the
pipeclay in his marrow, whereas Jim saw the Queen’s red through his
friend’s spectacles.  The boys studied the lives of famous captains,
from Miltiades to Wellington, and at tea and breakfast would fight the
world’s great battles with such well-seasoned troops as chipped plates
and saucers, a battered salt-cellar and pepper-pot, a glass milk-jug,
and a Britannia metal teapot, which would not pour properly. India, and
in particular the Indian frontier, was their battlefield: the scene of a
strife such as the world has not yet witnessed; a struggle between the
Slav and the Anglo-Saxon for the supremacy of the world. Mark boldly
reached for a marshal’s _bâton_; Jim modestly contented himself with the
full pay of a general, the Victoria Cross, and a snug little crib in a
good hunting country.

Sometimes Archie deigned to listen to them, but he was not encouraging
in his comments.

"You, a soldier!" he would exclaim, looking at Mark’s narrow chest and
skinny arms; "why you’d die of fatigue in your first campaign.  I advise
you to be a schoolmaster."

"You have f-f-forgotten" (most boys would have said "you don’t know"),
"you have forgotten," Mark replied, "that Alexander was a small man; and
Nelson, and Napoleon, and Wellington."

"Pooh, they were hard as nails."

That same evening Mark said: "I’m g-going to the Gym" (gymnasium) "every
day, till I get hard as nails."

"Not in the summer?" Jim exclaimed.

"Yes; I’ll have the place to myself—so much the better."

He worked indefatigably, and Jim was asked to feel his biceps about four
times a day.

About the middle of June Jim made a discovery. High up, on one of the
inside panels of his bedstead, he found the name of a gallant fellow who
had fought gloriously in the Indian Mutiny.

"I’d like to sleep in his bed," said Mark.

"What a rum chap you are!" Jim exclaimed.

"If I sleep in his bed I may d-dream of him," Mark replied.

They changed beds with mutual satisfaction; for Jim’s had a trick of
collapsing in the middle of the night.

Later on Jim made another discovery: subjective this time.  Mark was
overdoing himself: working mind and muscle too hard.  Never was spirit
more willing, nor flesh more weak.  One day, a sultry day in the middle
of July, he fainted in school.  That night Billy detained Jim after
prayers.

"_Entre nous_, I am uneasy about Samphire minor," he said.  "And as two
heads are better than one I’ve sent for you, his friend and—er—mine.
What do you suggest?"

At that moment Jim would have gone to the rack for Billy.  As Jim
suggested nothing, Billy continued: "The case presents difficulties, but
difficulties give an edge to life—don’t they?"

"Sometimes," said Jim cautiously; for Billy had a trick of leading
fellows on to make fools of themselves.

"Samphire minor goes too fast at his fences."

Billy knew that any allusion to the hunting-field was not wasted on Jim.

"And the fences," continued Billy thoughtfully, "are rather big for
Samphire minor."

"And he won’t ride cunning," added Jim.

"Just so.  Thank you, my dear fellow; you follow me, I see.  Now
Samphire major, big though he is, takes advantage of the—er—gaps."

"Rather," said Jim.

"Humph!"  Billy stroked his ample chin.  Jim was reflecting that his
tutor was too heavy for a first-flight man, but that in his day he must
have been a thruster.

"In fine, not to put too fine a point on it, _we_ must interfere."

"Yes," said Jim, swelling visibly.

"We must head him off, throw him out, teach him that valuable lesson,
how to _reculer pour mieux sauter_."

If Billy had a weakness (a _faible_, he would have said), it was in the
use of French, which he spoke perfectly.

"Ye-es," said Jim, not so confidently.

"Now, how would you set about it?"

"I, sir?  If you please, sir, I don’t see my way, but I’ll follow your
lead blindly, sir!"

Billy smiled, and polished his pince-nez.

"We shall move slow.  The blind leading the blind.  Both of you expect
to be in the Sixth next September?  Yes.  Suppose—I only say
suppose—suppose you were left—where you are?"

"Oh, sir!"

"Come, come, I thought Paradise Regained was the jolliest form in the
school."

"It is," said Jim, "but——"

"You are rather young and small for the Sixth. Why, God bless me! only
the other day you were fags.  Now, if I gave you my word that there
would be no real loss of time, that you would fare farther and better by
taking it easy, what would you say?"

"I say—all right, sir."

"Good boy!  Wise boy!  Leave the rest to me! I shall see that Samphire
major goes up, which is fitting.  The height will give him—er—poise, not
_avoirdupois_, of which he has enough already. Samphire minor will not
complain if you keep him company.  Good night.  _À propos_—will you and
Samphire minor dine with us next Tuesday?  A glass of champagne will do
neither of you any harm."

Next term Mark became less angular, and some colour came into his thin
cheeks.  Both Jim and he played football hard in the hope of obtaining a
"fez."[#]  Harrow, like Eton and Winchester, has a game of football
peculiarly its own, differing from "socker" in that it is lawful to give
what is called "yards."  A boy, for instance, dribbling the ball, may
turn and kick it to one of his own side.  If this manoeuvre be executed
neatly, the other boy catches it and yells: "Yards!"  Then the opposite
side retires three yards from the spot where the ball was caught, and
the catcher is given a free kick, which at a critical point of the game
may prove of value. In Billy’s brute force rather than finesse informed
the play, a fact which had not escaped Mark’s notice.


[#] Worn by members of the house football eleven.


"We lose lots of goals," said Mark to Jim, "because we try to rush ’em,
instead of giving ’yards’ and taking it coolly.  Let’s you and I
practise ’yards’ till we have it p-pat.  Our best players f-foozle
awfully."

Accordingly they bought a football and kicked it secretly and
assiduously, Mark insisting that "yards" should not be given by them in
the ordinary house games till they were masters of a wet, slippery ball.
Then one afternoon, when Billy came down to see how his house was
getting on, both boys gave "yards," in the forefront of the battle.  As
they panted up the hill after the game, Archibald, in the school
flannels, asked if they were much the worse for wear.  In giving "yards"
where the advantage was greatest, they had been knocked down several
times.

"You fellows played up," said the great man. "If you go on like that, I
may give you a chance next Saturday."

"Thanks awfully," said Mark.

Saturday came, and with it the first of the series of house-matches.
When the list went up on the old landing at the head of the rickety
stairs, and when Mark’s and Jim’s names were seen, a howl of
remonstrance was heard.

"They’ll be getting babies to play next," said many whose names were not
on the list.

Archibald sent for Mark and spoke a sharp word: "They accuse me of
favouring, the silly fools, as if my brother wasn’t the last fellow in
the house I’d think of favouring."

"I know that, Archie."

"You see," Archibald explained, "this match with Bashan’s doesn’t count.
We must give ’em a licking, and afterwards it will be just as easy to
let you drop out, as it was to stick you in."

The school, however, were of opinion that this match might prove a
surprise for Billy’s.  Bashan’s was not a first-class team, but there
were big fellows in it who had the reputation of playing a savage game.
Bashan’s, it was said, would sell their souls and bodies to lower
Billy’s pride, and Billy’s would sell theirs as cheerfully rather than
Bashan’s should triumph.  Billy’s included two members of the school
eleven, Archie and the Lubber; Bashan’s had one, but he was reckoned the
finest player of his generation.

The game began.  Half the school was present, including Billy, who was
known to miss many things in life, but his house-match—never!  Behind
the crowd of boys the austere figure of the Doctor sat erect on his
brown horse.

Archie kicked off.  The wind carried the ball to Bashan’s top side.
There a lean, long-legged, long-winded Bashanite stopped it, kicked it,
and swooped after it like a lurcher after a rabbit!  By virtue of his
speed he shot by Billy’s top-side men before they had got into their
stride; in another second he had kicked the ball again—and again.  It
rose slowly, sailed over the head of the back—who was not quite back—and
just fell between and through the goal-posts.

Bashan’s bellowed itself into a frenzy.  Billy’s smiled coldly and
critically.  Archie had a vacuous expression, as of an ox stricken by a
pole-axe.  Mark’s eyes were shining.

"We are going to have a f-fight," he said.

Within ten minutes Bashan’s had kicked a second goal almost as "flukey"
as the first.  Stupor spread like a London fog.  Billy’s was
demoralised.  At times bad luck paralyses mind and muscles.  On such
occasions the man of finer clay than his fellows seeks and finds
opportunity.  Mark, for instance, rose to and above this emergency.  He,
the smallest player on the ground, the one, physically speaking, least
well equipped for the task, thrust himself into the breach between
promise and performance.  In the brief interval, after the second goal
had been kicked, he went up to Archie and the Lubber, who were standing
apart, inert and speechless.

"I s-say," stammered Mark, "you must change your tactics."

The Lubber raised his heavy head.

"Shut up, Mark!" said Archibald.

"I won’t," said Mark.  "These Bashanites haven’t a chance if _you_
d-d-do the right thing."

Archie scowled; but the Lubber, who had reason to respect Mark’s
abilities as a scholar, growled: "Well, what is the right thing?"

"The Bashanites are like a lot of helots, drunk with success.  If we go
canny, they’ll play themselves out.  Then we can trample on ’em.  Don’t
attack a victorious enemy!  Defence is our game. Pull our fellows
together!  Tell ’em to keep c-cool and quiet for ten minutes; close in
the top sides; keep the whole eleven in front of our g-goal; forbid
individual effort till you give the word!"

"By Jove! he’s right," said the Lubber.  Archie kicked off for the
second time; and the Bashanites fell on the ball, kicked it hard, and
charged furiously. Met by a solid phalanx, hurled back, bruised and
broken—they charged again and again, panting and bellowing; but Billy’s
held together.  Doubtless Billy himself fathomed the plan of campaign,
for when the fry of his house began to complain, when cries of "_Follow
up!  Follow up!_" were heard above the yells of the Bashanites, when
shrill voices screamed, "Now’s your chance!" or, in disconsolate wail,
"Why don’t you run, you idiot!" or, in still more poignant accents,
"Good Lord! what is the matter with the fools?"—then, above these
heart-breaking cries, boomed a big bass voice:

"Steady, Billy’s!  Well played!  Steady!  Steady there!"

Within ten minutes of half-time it was plain that the enemy was
exhausted.  Wild eyes, heaving chests, pallid faces confronted a team
full of running and brimful of hope.  At the next pause Archie moved
along the line.  _Orders to charge_.  And didn’t Billy’s charge?  Didn’t
every boy’s heart thrill to that whispered word?  Charge?  Aye, with a
yell which must have echoed in the Fourth Form Room, nearly a mile away.
Charge?  Yes—with the fury of the Light Brigade at Balaclava!  And the
Bashanites bowed down before that charge like the worshippers of Baal
beneath the sword of the Prophet!  It was Homeric, worthy, so Billy
said, of the finest traditions of the house.

One goal to two—and half-time.

While Billy’s sucked the lemons which the fry hurled at them, Jim found
time to observe to Mark: "I say, so far _we_ haven’t scored."

"N-n-not yet," said Mark.

Bashan’s kicked off after ends had been changed. They had got their
second wind, and also sound advice from their captain, a man of guile,
who has since been seen and heard at Baba Wali, at Abu Klea, and at
Suakin.  The Bashanites herded together, bent on retaining the advantage
of their one goal, not daring to risk it in pursuit of another. Once,
twice, thrice, Billy’s swept up the field, to be driven back and back
when within a dozen paces of the Bashanite citadel.  And then, at the
fourth essay, Jim’s chance came.  He had the ball between his legs.
"Kick it, kick it!" screamed Billy’s.  "_Yards_," whispered Mark.  Jim
turned mechanically, kicking the ball into Archie’s outstretched hands
as the leading Bashanite rolled him head over heels in the mud.

A silence fell on players and onlookers.  Archie took his time, eyeing
anxiously the distance between himself and the goal-posts.  Jim shut his
eyes, which in point of fact were nearly closed already.  A roar of
applause from Billy’s, a despairing groan from Bashan’s, proclaimed the
accuracy of the kick.

Two goals all, and twenty minutes to play!

The Lubber sauntered up, sucking a lemon, and stolid as usual.

"Well," said he to Mark, "what’ll happen now?"

"Why they’ll play up like m-mad, of course. They’ve everything to gain,
and precious little to lose.  We ought to go back to our defensive
tactics. Let ’em p-pump ’emselves out, and then smash ’em."

"Good kid," said the old Lubber; "if your body was half as big as your
brain, you’d be a corker."

He was seen talking to Archie; and Archie was nodding his handsome head,
as if in accord.  Before the ball was kicked off, word was passed round
to play on the defensive.  These tactics may seem elementary to the
modern player, but five-and-twenty years ago football on both sides of
the Atlantic was go-as-you-please—a succession of wild and
unpremeditated rushes, with much brilliant individual work, but lacking
in strategy and organisation.

Within a few minutes of resuming play, the Lubber stupidly interposed
his ankle between a boot and the ball, forgetting that his skull was the
most invulnerable part of his person, with the result that Billy’s lost
his services and weight when they were most needed. Archie, too, was
slightly disabled and more than slightly dismayed.  Bashan’s pressed
their advantage with vigour.

"It’s all right," Mark panted.

Archie had the ball and was away, his side streaming after him.  Down
the field he sped, faster and faster.  The biggest Bashanite met him
shoulder to shoulder in full career.  The Bashanite reeled over
backwards; Archie hardly swerved.  On and on strode that glorious figure
in the violet-and-black stripes.  Only one more Bashanite stood between
him and the goal; but he, crafty as Ulysses, was quick to perceive what
must be done.  The ball rolled between him and the all-conquering
Archie. He rushed forward.  Archie crashed into him.  The Bashanite
fell, but the ball sailed towards a group of battered gladiators, who,
having abandoned pursuit, were awaiting just such a piece of good
fortune as now befell them.

"Get back!" yelled the fry.

Billy’s got back in the nick of time, mad with disappointment.  The
Bashanites retreated, cursing.  In a minute "Time" would be called.  At
this moment Mark darted out of a scrimmage dribbling the ball.

A second later he turned his back upon three big fellows who were within
ten feet of him, knowing that they would meet with irresistible force on
the spot where he was standing, and knowing—who better?—-his own
feebleness of bone and sinew.  He turned and gave "yards."

Jim looked down.

When Jim looked up a pile of figures lay upon the wet, mud-stained
grass, and the ball was in the hands of a sure and safe player.  And
then, as a roar of applause ascended from the throats of everybody on
the ground, the word "Time" fell like a thunderbolt.

The match was over.  Bashan’s had tied Billy’s.

But the eyes of the crowd rested on the pile in front of Bashan’s goal.
Three figures rose silently; the fourth lay face down in the mire.
Archie touched his brother lightly.

"You’re all right, old chap, aren’t you?"

Mark did not answer.  His arm was turned outward at a curious angle.

"Back," said Archie, as the two elevens surged forward.  "Back!"

He faced them, terror-stricken, and Jim Corrance had never admired him
so much nor liked him so well, because his strong voice trembled and his
keen blue eyes were wet.

"Mark," he cried, kneeling down, "don’t you hear me?  Don’t you hear
me?"  His voice broke. "My God!" he exclaimed, "he’s dead!"


The face upturned to the chill November skies was of death’s colour; the
eyes stared glassily; the livid lips were parted in a grim smile
heart-breaking to see.  The two elevens formed a ring around the
brothers and Billy, who had his fingers on Mark’s pulse.  Beyond this
inner circle was the outer circle of spectators.  One boy began to
sneeze, and the silence had become so impressive that his sneeze seemed
a personal affront, an unseemly violation. Archibald was crying as men
cry—silently, with convulsive movements of the limbs.

Just then the school surgeon hurried up.  Fortunately he was on the
ground, but had retired with the Lubber to a distant bench, busy in
bandaging that giant’s ankle.  Kneeling down, he laid his ear to the
small blue-and-white striped chest.

"I can’t feel any pulse," Billy growled.

The doctor’s head was as that of a graven image.

"Why don’t you do something?" Archibald demanded, giving expression to
the unspoken entreaty of three hundred boys.

The surgeon paid no attention; he was listening for that murmur of life
which would justify his doing anything.

"He is coming to," he muttered.

"He is coming to" passed from lip to lip.  The school sighed with
relief.  The clouds above let fall a few drops of rain.

"A hurdle," commanded the surgeon, "and some coats!"

Billy was the first to pull off his overcoat.  The surgeon touched
Mark’s body in a dozen places. Mark gasped and gurgled; then he tried to
sit up—and succeeded.

"Back’s all right," said the surgeon.  "Keep quiet, my boy!  You’re a
little the worse for wear. There, there, shut your eyes and believe that
we shall hurt you as little as possible.  Your arm is broken."

The news spread while the hurdle was being brought.  Mark closed his
eyes and lay back.  The captain of Bashan’s stepped forward.

"May _I_ help to carry the hurdle?" he said.

The biggest swells were proud to carry that hurdle! The school formed
itself into two long lines; and when Mark passed through—pale, but
smiling—some chord was struck, which thrilled into sound.

"_Three cheers for Samphire minor!_"

The brave shout rolled over the playing-fields and up Harrow Hill, past
the Music Schools which recorded it; past the Chapel, where its subtle
vibrations were enshrined; past the Yard, which gave back the glad
acclaim of valour; past the Vaughan Library, startling, perhaps, some
bookworm too intent upon what has been to care greatly for what is and
may be; down the familiar street, where countless generations of ardent
boys had hastened to work or play; on and on till it reached
Billy’s—Billy’s with its hoary traditions of innumerable battles fought
and won, Billy’s shabby and battered, scarred within and without,
Billy’s—dear old Billy’s—where it became merged but not lost, in the
whole of which every valiant word or deed or thought is an imperishable
part!



                             *CHAPTER III*

                       *WHICH CONTAINS A FORTUNE*


At lock-up Billy announced that Mark’s injuries, albeit severe, were not
such as to cause his friends serious anxiety.  And so, when Archie came
to Jim’s room with a face as long as the catalogue of ships in the
_Iliad_, and when the two boys present got up and left hurriedly at his
impatient nod of dismissal, you may believe that Jim’s heart began to
thump and his eyes to pop out of his head with interrogation.

"I dropped in to tell you, you could get your ’fez,’" said Archie.

"Oh, thanks awfully.  And—and Mark?"

"I bought one for him and sent it in.  He got it after his arm was set."

Jim’s heart warmed to the big fellow.  "I’m glad you thought of that."

"His advice saved the match, and—and—and—" his voice had a curious
quaver in it—"and it’s no good.  Mark can never play footer again."

He sat down and laid his curly head upon a Greek lexicon.

"You see," Archie continued heavily, "I thought Mark would step into my
shoes."

"Good Lord!" said Jim, seeing Mark’s foot. "He’d lose himself in ’em."

"The Lubber says he’d have made a great player, a great captain."

"So he will—yet.  Footer’s not the only game."

"That’s true.  There’s cricket."  Archie’s face brightened.  "I must
push him on at that.  The governor might get a ’pro’ to bowl to him
during the Easter holidays.  He shall, by Jove!  Yes, you’re right.  I
was a fool not to think of that.  And when he leaves there will have
been three Samphires of Pitt Hall in the school eleven.  I’ll go now.
I’ve got to tackle a nasty bit of Æschylus.  You played up like fun
to-day.  I told the Doctor you came from our part of Slowshire.  He said
something in Greek which I couldn’t make head or tail of; but I grinned,
because I made certain it was complimentary.  I say—don’t be in too much
of a hurry to get into the Sixth.  A fellow can’t work and play too.
And I didn’t come to Harrow to be killed by Greek tragedians.
By-the-by, if you could go down and give the old Lubber a ’con,’ he’d be
grateful.  He’d come up, as usual, only he doesn’t want to climb these
stairs.  Good night.  We’re to see Mark to-morrow, if he has a decent
sleep."

After Archie had left the room, Jim rose to go downstairs to the Lubber,
and in rising his eye caught a picture of Mark’s mother, which hung to
the right of the head of the nine-pointer.  On the other side was a
picture of the Squire, a capital portrait of that fine specimen of the
country gentleman.  From time immemorial the owners of Pitt Hall had
sought wives in Slowshire; but Mark’s father went a-wooing in London and
married a delicate creature of sensibility, refinement, and culture, the
daughter of an eloquent and impecunious member of Parliament, a friend
of Cobden and Bright, with some of Sheridan’s wild blood in his veins,
tempered, however, by a tincture of John Wesley’s.  This lady bore her
husband three sons: George, cut to the old Samphire pattern (whose
fortunes do not concern us), Archibald, and Mark, the stammerer.  Then
she died, and in due time the Squire of Pitt Hall married again,
selecting Miss Selina Lamb, of Cranberry-Orcas, of whom mention has been
made.

Jim stared at both portraits, seeing dimly the gulf between husband and
wife, realising that Mark was his mother’s child, even as Archie was as
truly the son of his burly father.  Mrs. Samphire’s pathetic eyes seemed
to pierce his heart, so poignant was the reflection that the mother’s
fine qualities of head and heart had been reproduced faithfully, and
with them her infirmity of body.  Then he blundered out into the dimly
lit passage and stumbled against Nixon minimus going to supper, although
he was as full of tea and potted meat, and hot buttered toast, and
strawberry jam as a Fourth Form boy could be.

"I say," whined Nixon minimus, "I wish you’d look and see whom you’re
shovin’ into."

"I am looking," said Jim.  "Unless I’m vastly mistaken, I heard you say
to me this afternoon: ’Why don’t you run, you silly fool?’  I’m going to
answer that question now.  I didn’t run because I was playing to orders.
Later, when I was lying flat on my back, with the wind squeezed out of
me, you specially urged me to get up and play up.  Yes, you didn’t mean
it, of course, but I happen to want to kick somebody, and I’m going to
kick you, you spoiled infant, you!  Take that, and that!"

Jim went on his way relieved in mind and uplifted. The Lubber welcomed
him warmly, looking very funny, with his swollen foot in a footbath and
a huge piece of sticking-plaster across his nose.  On his lap lay a
battered volume of Livy and a crib.

"I can give you a rare good pie," he said; "if you’re hungry, stick your
nose into that cupboard!"

Jim declined this hospitable offer, and picked up the Livy.

"These cribs aren’t much help," growled the Lubber.  "It’s the verbs and
idioms that flummux me.  Eh?  What?  Oh, done it before!  Bless you—a
dozen times; but my memory is rotten.  As Billy said in pupil-room last
week, ’You’ll forget your own name some day.  West, and sign it North.’
Rather bad form making puns on a fellow’s name. By gad!  I’m glad you
came.  No, hang the ’con’! I’ll chance it.  I want to have a yarn with
you about the Kid.  Awful—wasn’t it?  And Archie says he won’t be
allowed to play footer again.  Old Archie has taken it hard.  Not a bad
chap, Archie, but a bit stodgy—like me.  It’s on my mind that I’ve had a
hand in the overdoin’ of the Kid.  He’s a corker is the Kid.  I must be
blind as a bat, not to have found that out before.  But he must go slow,
or he’ll break down.  Now it wouldn’t surprise me if the Kid made a
mark.  What?  A joke?  Not I.  Never made one in my life—except by
accident.  I mean he’ll turn over some big things some day."

"He seems to have turned over some big things to-day.  The three
Bashanites weren’t small."

The Lubber laughed.

"To relieve your mind," Jim continued, "I don’t mind telling you that
Billy has his eye on the Kid. He won’t break down in his training."

The Lubber accepted this assurance with the faith of a child; then he
looked at the cupboard.

"I think," said he, "that if you don’t mind hauling out that pie, I’ll
have a go at it.  Somehow, I couldn’t tackle my tea.  You’ll have some
too, eh? That’s right.  I never feel quite myself when my tummy’s
empty."

Next day, after dinner, Archie saw Mark.  He was in bed, and above the
bed hung his "fez," placed there by the matron.  Archibald tiptoed into
the room, feeling rather uncomfortable.  Mark, he feared, would be
miserable.  To his surprise, he was greeted with a grin.

"You don’t care——"

"I’ve thought it out—with Billy.  He was here before dinner.  I slept
like a t-top last night, and when Billy came in I read his face.  He was
awfully d-decent.  It’s a pity he has only a daughter, although,
perhaps, that makes him extra nice to the sons of other people.  He said
that I was strong enough to know the truth.  And the truth is that
footer isn’t my game.  Well—I knew it.  But I wanted to get my ’fez,’
and—and there it hangs, and there is this.  Billy must have had it
engraved the f-first thing this morning."

He put his hand under his pillow, and pulled out a small hunting-flask.
Upon it was inscribed his name, and beneath, in small script, the line
from Horace:

"_Palmam qui meruit ferat._"

"He gave me this," said Mark, "and with it a jolly good jaw.  He m-made
me see that w-w-weakness is part of my kit, and the w-weak make the
running for the strong; and it’s no use messin’ about and trying to do
what others can do much better. And he s-said that a fellow who rebelled
and sulked was a silly ass—and—by Jove!—he’s r-right!"

Mark recovered quickly, and was treated as an honoured guest by his kind
hostess, who played and sang to him every day.  Boys, particularly
English boys, are not taught to express their gratitude in happy
phrases, but perhaps it is none the less on that account.  If the lady
who played Strauss’s waltzes to Mark Samphire should chance to read
these lines, let her believe that the memory of her kindness has ripened
with the passing years.

After the Christmas holidays Mark and Jim found themselves in the Sixth,
privileged to "fag," and accepted by Billy’s as Olympians.  It was a
pleasant half, and at the end of it Archibald won the school mile.  Mark
trained him.  Most of the boys who trained, trained too hard; and here
again Mark’s weakness developed his brother’s strength: they took their
"runs" slowly, but regularly.  During these spring afternoons more than
fresh air was imbibed.  Mark had capacity for absorbing information
about places and people.  To him an ordinary cottage was a volume of
romance; a man asleep by the roadside quickened speculation; a
travelling van held inexhaustible material.  One day they came upon an
encampment of gipsies.  Mark insisted upon stopping to speak to an
onyx-eyed urchin, who asked for coppers, and while they were talking a
handsome girl of sixteen lounged forward, addressing Mark as "my pretty
gentleman."

"Go along with you," said Mark.  "I’m as ugly as they make ’em."

"You are not," the girl replied, staring impudently into his eyes.
"Them eyes of your’n are bits of heaven’s own blue; and the women will
look into them and love you."

Mark turned scarlet.

"And you," the hussy turned to Archie.  "Ah, you’re a real beauty, but
your brother’s eyes are handsomer than your’n."

"How do you know he’s my brother?" said Archie.

"We Romanies know many things.  Give me half a crown, and I’ll tell you
both a true fortune."

"Shall we take a bob’s worth?" said Archie. "Sixpence each?"

"I’ll read your hand for a bob," said the girl, "and his," she nodded at
Mark, "for nothing."

Archie produced a shilling.  The girl took his hand between her long,
slender fingers, and gazed at the lines on it.

"Well," said a harsh voice, "what do you see?"

An old hag, possibly the girl’s grandmother, had approached silently.

"Hullo," said Archie, "I suppose you’re the queen of the gipsies.
Mother Shipton herself," he added _sotto voce_.

"I’m a Stanley," said the old woman, not without dignity.  "You’re one
as looks for queens on thrones. The greatest queens, my pretty sir,
don’t sit on thrones.  Go on—tell his fortune!  A child could read that
hand and face."

"I see a long life and a full one," droned the girl. "You will get what
you want, because you will want it so badly."

"A true fortune," mumbled the old woman.

"Your turn, Mark," said Archie.  "Hold out your paw!"

Reluctantly, Mark obeyed.  The girl took his hand as she had taken
Archie’s, very delicately, and smoothed the palm with a touch that was
not unlike a caress.  A puzzled smile curled her red lips.  The old
woman peered over her shoulder.  Again the girl stroked the boy’s palm,
and he winced.

"Shrinks from a woman’s touch," said the old woman.

"You tell it, mother," said the girl.

The old woman bent down.

"A happy hand," she muttered, "a happy hand, the hand of the free giver,
the blessed hand, the kind hand, and the strong hand.  Ah, but what is
this? Sorrow, suffering, disappointment!  And love," her harsh voice
softened: "you will love deeply and be loved in return.  You are the
child of love——"

"I see more," said the girl softly, taking Mark’s hand again.  "This is
the hand of a fighter, mother."

"Ay, so ’tis, so ’tis."

"A fighter and a conqueror."

Before Mark could draw his hand away, she had bent down and kissed it.
Then she laughed and tossed her pretty head.

"He’d like a kiss on the mouth," she said, eyeing Archie saucily, "but
he won’t get one from me."



                              *CHAPTER IV*

                       *MISS HAZELBY IS SHOCKED*


Betty Kirtling, when a child, had been heard to say: "I like girls, but
I love boys."  Perhaps, beneath the smiles of the prim little English
misses who came to play with her, she perceived jealousies and meanness,
whereas the boys displayed hearts full of love, with no room for
anything else where she was concerned.  The second Mrs. Samphire
maintained Betty to be a spoiled beauty before she was out of pinafores;
but Lady Randolph, a finer judge of character, held the contrary
opinion.  The Admiral, it is true, set his niece upon a pedestal: an
action of which the nurse, Esther Gear, took fair advantage.  "Lor bless
me, Miss Betty!  what would your uncle say?  You know he thinks you one
of the angels," was a phrase often in her mouth, and one not to be
disregarded by a child who valued the good opinion of others.  "My
dear," Lady Randolph would add, "you must never disappoint your uncle.
If he knew you had told a fib, it would make him very unhappy."  When
the time came to choose a governess, she selected a lady of strong
character, whose seeming severity was tempered by a sense of humour and
justice.  Betty hated her at first, and then learned to love her.
Almost irredeemably ugly, with a square masculine head surmounting a
tall, lean, awkward figure, Miriam Hazelby made the large impression of
one hard to please, but for whose affection and esteem it were worth
striving.  Her manner, however, was repellent. The austerity of feature
and deportment chilled a stranger to the marrow; her harsh voice,
emphatic in denouncing humbug and vanity and luxury, only softened when
she was speaking of suffering; then a quick ear might catch minor
harmonies, captivating because elusive.

During the Easter holidays following the term when the Samphires met the
gipsies, Mark was set upon procuring some eggs of the stonechat, which
nests in certain sheltered spots upon the Westchester downs.  Mark had
told Betty—now a girl of fourteen—of his proposed expedition, and she
expressed an ardent wish to accompany him.  Miriam Hazelby, however,
permitted nothing to interfere with lessons. Betty said sorrowfully:

"I don’t suppose Lanky" (her name for Miss Hazelby) "would let me go
alone with you; she thinks you a young man, and I’m told twice a week
that I’m a young lady.  But what a splendid time we would have had!"

Next day, Mark tramped off alone, taking the lane which leads to the
downs, and as he was passing the chalk-pit to the right of the village,
Betty sprang into the road with a gay laugh.  She carried a basket and
wore an old pink linen frock.

"Betty," said Mark, "you’ve run away."

"Yes.  Isn’t it fun?  Shan’t I catch it from Lanky when I get back.
I’ve lunch in this basket.  Two big bits of Buszard’s cake, some
tartlets, sixpennorth of chocolate, four apples, and four bottles of
ginger-pop.  Catch hold!"

The girl was in wild spirits.  It happened to be a day of late April
when the sun, pouring its rays into the moist fresh earth, brings forth
spring, the Aphrodite of woods and fields, with the foam of milk-white
blossoms about her, and a cestus of tender green. As they passed out of
the lane on to the soft turf of the downs, the landscape widened till it
became panoramic.  Behind lay King’s Charteris encompassed by hanging
woods now bursting into leaf; beyond were rolling downs, wide breezy
pastures, sloping southerly and westerly to the sea, which gleamed, a
thread of silver, through an opalescent haze.

"Isn’t it heavenly?" Betty cried.

"It is r-r-rather jolly!"

"R-r-r-ra—ther jolly," she mimicked him to the life, rounding her
shoulders and slouching forward in an attitude which Mark recognised,
not without dismay, as his own; "ra—ther jolly, awfully jolly, beastly
jolly.  How Lanky would love to hear you."

"S-s-shut up, Betty!"

"What!  You address a young lady in that manner!  I must beg you"—she
had caught the accent and intonation of the excellent Miriam—"to speak
English.  Young people, nowadays, are unintelligible.  My father, in
whose presence I never ventured to take a liberty with the English
language, would not have believed it possible that a gentleman could use
such expressions...."

Mark tried to pull her hair, but she ran like Atalanta, Mark following
encumbered with the basket. Soon the business of the day began: the
finding of the stonechats’ nests.  Presently they sat down in the shade.

"Let us have a ’beyondy’ talk," said Betty.

"A what....?"

"Oh, when talk is about things we can’t see, I call it ’beyondy.’  I
say—tell me, what—what are your besetting sins!"  Then she laughed.
"We’ll play ’swops.’  I’ll tell you my sins one by one, if you’ll tell
me yours.  Only you must begin.  It will be splendid fun, and, as Lanky
says—improving. She says one ought to know oneself.  I suppose you—a
grand Sixth Form boy—know yourself in all your moods and tenses.  Give
us a lead.  It would be so nice to find that you are wickeder than I."

"I am," said Mark.

"No humbug—and ’bar chaff,’ as dear Lanky would not say."

"I’m v-very ambitious, Betty."

She was lying full length on the grass.  Now she sat up, opening her
eyes very wide.

"Are you really?  Ambitious—eh?  That’s very interesting.  I’m not
ambitious, not a bit.  I’m greedy."  As she spoke she set her pretty
teeth in an apple. "I’m greedy, and I’m fond of lying in bed.  Lanky
says these are awful sins.  Oh, dear, I’ve given you two sins to one.
Never mind.  Lanky says a woman ought to give more than she gets.  I
say, eat fair with the chocolate.  You big boys pretend to despise
sweets, but I notice they go jolly quick when you’re about.  Yes;
greediness and sloth.  It’s horrid, but it’s true.  You see, I’m bound
to be wicked."

"Why?"

"Mother was wicked.  I know it.  I heard Lady Randolph say—oh, years
ago—that she hoped what was bad in the Kirtlings would kill what was
worse in the De Courcys.  I’m not sure what she meant, and I dared not
ask her, because she thought I was looking at some photographs, but it
wasn’t complimentary—was it?"

"No," said Mark, getting rather red.

"You are blushing," said Betty.  "I do believe that you know something.
What is it?"

She turned a coaxing face to his, being one of those distracting
feminine creatures who have a thousand caresses distinctively their own.
Her touch was different to the touch of other girls—more delicate, more
subtle—an appeal to the finer, not the grosser side.

"What do you know?" she murmured.

"I c-can’t tell you," Mark began bravely, and then ended with a
feeble—"m-m-much."

"Boys never can tell much," said Betty disdainfully.  "Go on."

"Your m-m-mother ran away."

"Is that all?  Why I know more than you.  Yes; she ran away.  I can’t
think why she did, because father was so handsome.  I often look at his
miniature; and he must have been the most fascinating man that ever
lived.  Uncle calls him sometimes that ’rascal Fred.’  Now what does he
mean by that?"

"Betty," said Mark desperately, "this talk is too b-b-beyondy for me."

She paid no attention whatsoever.

"I spoke to Lanky about it," she continued gravely.  "She was nicer than
I had ever seen her. ’Betty,’ she said, ’remember that it is not for you
to judge your parents.  They may not have had your advantages.’  Well,
that made me think a bit, and then I hoped their sins would not be
visited on me."

"W-w-what did she say to that, Betty?"

"She nodded that long head of hers in a terrible way.  ’We all suffer,’
she growled, ’for the evil that others do.’  Do _you_ think I must
suffer for what they did?"

"No, no," cried Mark.  "Why, Betty, to me you are the princess who
l-l-lives for ever and ever, fair and happy."

She smiled.

"I love you when you talk like that," she murmured.  "And——  Good
gracious me!" She dashed some tears from her eyes and sprang to her
feet. "Look here, we have that long strip of gorse to do before lunch.
Come on!  I’ll hop you down the hill.  One—two-three—OFF!"

Away she went, laughing gaily, leaving care in the shade, and Mark after
her—a boy once more, but with an ache at his heart none the less.

At luncheon Betty speculated upon the nature of the punishment which
awaited her, assuring Mark that she did not care a hang, revelling the
more joyously in the present, because a cloud lay black upon the future.

Presently they discovered that the sun was declining into the soft haze
of the western horizon.

"We must run," cried Betty.

They ran and rested, and then ran again till they came to the sharp
incline from the downs into the valley which holds the village.  And
here bad luck tempted them to link hands and race down a slippery,
grassy slope.  Perhaps Mark went too fast.  Betty fell with a dismal
thump, and a poignant note of anguish fluttered up from a crumpled heap
of linen.

"Are you hurt, Betty?"

"I have twisted my ankle," she groaned, her face puckering with pain.

Mark took off her boot and stocking.  The ankle was already swollen and
inflamed.  What a catastrophe!  But Betty assured him she could limp
home leaning on his arm.  They started very slowly and in silence.  A
brook bubbled in front of them, and at Mark’s advice Betty thrust her
foot into the cool water.

"What a horrid ending," sighed Betty, on the verge of tears.  "This is
the punishment.  Lanky will do nothing now."

"I should think not," said Mark indignantly. Presently he began to dry
her foot with his handkerchief. It lay soft and white in his hand.  She
was sitting higher up on the bank, so that she looked down upon him.

"I like you better than Archie," she said slowly.

"W-w-why?" he stammered.

"You are so much more—sensible."

"Sensible?"

"Yes.  Archie," she blushed faintly, "and that stupid old Jim Corrance
say they’re in love with me! Isn’t it absurd?"

Mark grew scarlet.  He would have liked to say what Archie and Jim had
said, but a lump in his throat made him speechless.

"I feel that you are a real friend," pursued Betty. "Now we must be
getting home."

They set out slowly: Betty leaning on Mark’s left arm and limping along
in silence.  Presently Mark became aware that she was leaning more
heavily.  Then he looked down upon a white, agonised face.  They had
just reached the small hill whereon The Whim is set.  Mark wondered
whether he could carry her to the summit of it. A feather-weight, this
dainty creature, but Mark was no colossus like Archie.  Still, exercise
in the gymnasium and elsewhere had hardened his muscles. He bent down,
picked her up, and breasted the hill. Her arms were round his neck; his
arms held her body.  But how heavy she grew with every step upward!  How
Mark’s back and loins and legs ached!  How his heart beat!  But he
reached the front door and set her down.  And in the twilight she held
up her face and kissed him.

"Now," she commanded, "run home before they open the door."

"Leave you?  Not I."

He was proof against persuasion, and simulated anger.  The Admiral must
hear their misadventure from his lips.

"You obstinate wretch!" said Betty.

When the Admiral did hear the story, some three minutes later, he roared
with laughter, although he grew grave enough towards the end, and sent
his butler, hot-foot, for the village doctor.  Nor was Mark permitted to
leave The Whim till that gentleman had pronounced the injury a trifling
affair, which time and cold compresses would set right.  At parting the
Admiral admonished Mark solemnly.

"We must have no larks of this sort, my boy. What!  _My_ niece
gallivanting about the downs with a lively young man!  Miss Hazelby is
inexpressibly shocked.  A rod has been pickling the whole day, you may
swear.  And she says that you boys make love to the child.  Do you?"

"I’d l-l-like to," said Mark abjectedly, "but I haven’t—yet."

The Admiral paced the room slowly, as if it were a quarter-deck.  His
grey beard lay upon his broad chest; his red weather-beaten countenance
was heavy with thought.

"Look ye here," said he at length.  "This is serious, and I take it
seriously.  I am tempted to call you a—jackanapes.  As it is, I prefer
to say—nothing, except this: you ought to be birched."

"I f-feel as if you were b-b-birching me."

His face relaxed.

"My boy, I’m sorry for you.  You may not believe it, but when I was
seventeen and in the Mediterranean squadron"—the Admiral’s voice became
reminiscent—"I had the doose of an affair.  I suffered like any Romeo,
and my Juliet was only eight-and—er—twenty! Well, sir, I fought and
conquered, and so must you, by God!"

"I have f-f-fought, sir; and I am c-c-conquered."

"You’re glib with your tongue.  I daresay Betty thinks you a tremendous
fellow."

"She thinks us—very s-s-silly."

"Us?  Miriam Hazelby was right.  The little baggage!  A De Courcy from
tip to toe already. Well, my boy, shake hands!  You’ve made a clean
breast of it, and I respect you for that.  And you’re in your salad
days, too.  So—no more!  If you choose to sigh for the moon I can’t
prevent you.  Good night."

Mark went home, humble as Uriah Heap.  None the less, he made a
tolerable dinner, and felt happy and hopeful after it.  And that night
he dreamed he was illustrious—a great soldier, a ruler amongst men. But,
high though he climbed, aye, even to the Milky Way itself, where honours
gleamed innumerable, he could not attain to the object of his dreams—the
lovely Moon!



                              *CHAPTER V*

                                *VALETE*


It was now definitely decided that Archibald Samphire must go into the
Church, and in due time hold the snug family living.  The Squire,
however, was of the opinion that Her Majesty’s scarlet would mightily
become his handsome second son, whereas the black of a Clerk in Orders
would do well enough for Mark.  Archie, to his father’s surprise, chose
the sable instead of the gules.  Amongst the Samphires it was a
tradition that the second son always became a parson.  Archie had a
respect amounting to veneration for tradition.

"Suit yourselves," said the Squire of Pitt Hall to his sons.  "I should
have liked to have seen Archie on a charger."

"But what a leg for a gaiter," said Mark, hinting at episcopal honours.

Archibald was now a very big fellow indeed, so big that when he went in
to bat at Lord’s, as captain of the Harrow eleven, a small Eton boy, not
far from Lord Randolph’s coach, called out shrilly: "I say, Samphire,
how’s your wife and family?"  This was the famous year when Eton was
beaten by five wickets, having suffered defeat during four previous
summers.  And the only thing that marred Archie’s triumph was the fact
that Mark, despite the services of a professional during the Easter
holidays, had not a place in his eleven.  On the eve of the great match
one vacancy remained to be filled.  It became certain that either Mark
or Jim Corrance would fill it.  Jim has confessed since with shame that
he was miserably jealous of Mark, that for a dreadful three weeks this
feeling strained their friendship. And he knew that Mark was the better
cricketer; more, that he had made his friend a better cricketer, that
Jim’s understanding of and skill in the game were due to Mark’s precept
and practice.  Mark would whip a cricket-ball out of his pocket,
whenever five minutes could be spared, crying, "Come on, old chap, you
muffed an easy one yesterday—_catch_!"  And the ball would whizz at
Jim’s toes.  But during the last trial match Mark fainted from the heat,
and Jim took his place in the slips.  That night Archie sent for Jim.

"You can get your ’straw,’" he growled.

"But Mark——"

"Won’t take it."

"Won’t—take—it?"

"He’s right.  He hasn’t the strength.  He might faint at Lord’s.  We
can’t run any risks."

Jim went back to his room—confounded.  Mark met him and gripped his
hands.

"You’ve g-got it," he cried.  "I _am_ glad.  Isn’t it glorious?"

"_Glorious?_"

Jim sat down and blubbered, like a Fourth Form boy.


However, it seemed certain then that another year would place Mark in
the eleven, and also amongst the monitors, but this happy end to his
Harrow career was not to be.  Archibald, Jim, and he left Billy’s at the
end of the Easter half.  In those days it was hardly possible for a boy
to pass into Sandhurst direct from a public school.  Billy said that
Mark could do it—at the expense of his health; for extra subjects, like
geometrical drawing, English literature, history, and so forth, would
have had to be learned in addition to the regular school work, which in
the Upper Sixth was as stiff as it could be.

"I’m very sorry to lose you," said Billy, when the brothers bade him
good-bye.  "Samphire major’s future I am not concerned about.  But I do
worry about you, Samphire minor, because you attempt too much, you—er—so
to speak—strain at the camel and swallow the gnat.  Well, well," he
fumbled with his glasses, "I should like to give you the benefit of my
experience, but," he pursed up his lips, "I am not sanguine enough to
hope that you will profit by it.  Some excellent people think I take my
duties too lightly.  Perhaps I do, per—haps I do.  A big house like this
represents a force against which one individual is expected to pit his
strength.  But I realised long ago that what energy I could spare must
of necessity prove—er—intermittent, the undisciplined, amorphous
resistance would be constant. You—er—take me?  Yes.  So I governed
myself accordingly.  The great force which I was invited to control
sways hither and thither, veering now to the right, and now—er—to the
wrong.  The swing of the pendulum, in fine.  When it swings to the right
I push it, so it swings a little farther; and when it swings the other
way I pull behind, and perhaps it does not swing quite so far; but I
don’t try to stop the swing, because I know that such a feat is beyond
my powers.  I trust you are following me, Samphire minor.  You, I fear,
will recklessly expose yourself—and be rolled over, as happened in our
house-match against Bashan’s.  There—I have warned you."

He signed to Archibald to remain behind.  For a moment there was
silence.  Billy leaned back in his chair polishing the lenses of his
pince-nez with a fine cambric handkerchief.

"If Mark had your body," he began absently, then, faintly smiling, he
added: "Ah, what possibilities lie in that ’if,’ which it were vain,
quite vain to consider. Well, I hope that nothing will come between you
and him, that your brotherly love, which has been a pleasant thing to
witness, will continue to grow in strength.  Mark has an extravagant
affection for you—the greater because he does not wear it on his sleeve.
Your success here has sweetened the bitterness of his many
disappointments.  You will get more from him than you give."

Archibald felt his cheek beginning to burn.

"Don’t distress yourself on that account," said Billy kindly; "only take
what he gives, _generously_, and so you will best help him to play his
part in life."

After this interview followed the farewell supper in the common-room,
with its toasts and speeches. Archie made certain that he would break
down in his speech.  And before the fags!  He could see and hear the
heartless little beasts snickering!  As captain of the eleven and of the
Philathletic Club, he was expected to speak about games; as a monitor,
it was no less a duty to mention work.  Finally he wrote out his speech
and submitted it to Mark.

"Just what they’ll expect," Mark observed.  "You j-j-jolly well crack
’em up, and then let ’em down a peg or two.  You tell ’em what they know
already—that Billy’s is the best house in the school; and then you hope
that it will remain so after you have left. No doubt without your moral
and physical support, Billy’s is likely to go to p-p-pot."

"You make me out an ass."

"Most Englishmen either grunt or bray when they get on to their legs to
m-m-make a speech."

"And what are you going to say?"

"Nothing.  Mum’s the word for a stammerer.  I shall bid ’em good-bye,
that’s all."

Thanks to Mark’s criticism, Archie saw and seized an opportunity.  He
told the house he was convinced that its present prosperous condition
was entirely due to his personal exertions, that he trembled for its
future after he had left, that, if possible, he promised to run down
from time to time for the purpose of giving advice to the Doctor, which
he was sure would be appreciated—and so forth.  Billy’s roared with
laughter, although the sneering voice of Nixon minimus was heard: "I
say, he’s trying to be funny!"  When Archie sat down, the head of the
house proposed Mark’s health.  The old common-room rocked with cheers.
None doubted his popularity, but this deafening roar of applause lent it
extraordinary significance, because such tributes were reserved for
famous athletes, and for them alone.

"Thank you," he began; "thank you very much. I suppose you have believed
all the p-pleasant things that the head of the house has just told you
about me..."  Here a dozen voices interrupted, "Yes, we do"; "He didn’t
lay it on thick enough"; "You’re a beast to leave us," and the like.
Mark continued, and in his voice there was a curious minor inflection
which held attention and silence in thrall: "I am glad you believe them,
although he has laid it on too thick.  You see we can’t get away from
f-f-facts, can we?  And the fact is I’ve been a f-f-failure."  He
paused.  "I wanted to play in a cockhouse m-match at footer; I w-wanted
to w-win a school race; and I w-w-wanted—by Jove! how b-badly I w-wanted
that—I wanted my ’straw.’"

"It was offered him," said Archie.

"It was offered me," repeated Mark.  "And if I’d taken it, it might have
p-proved the straw which breaks the camel’s back.  Jim Corrance got it,
and we know what back he broke—eh?  The b-b-back of the Eton bowling."
(A terrible din followed, during which Billy appeared, holding up a
protesting hand: "My dear fellows, unless you are more careful you will
destroy this ramshackle house!")

Meantime Mark had sat down, but every boy in Billy’s respected his
silence.  He did not wish them good-bye, because he couldn’t.



                              *CHAPTER VI*

                         *AT BURLINGTON HOUSE*


You may divide the world into those who pipe and those who dance.  The
pipers, for the most part, envy the dancers; but many a dancer has
confessed that the piper, after all, has the best of it.

Mark and Jim Corrance, at this period of their lives, were dancers to
lively measures.  They lived at home for a year, emancipated youths,
enjoying the pleasures of Arcadia.  Three times a week they rode across
the grey, green downs, "that melt and fade into the distant sky," into
Westchester, where a scholar of repute undertook their preparation for
Sandhurst.  Other days they worked at home, not too hard, and played
much tennis—a new game then—and practised arts which please country
maidens, amongst whom Betty Kirtling was not.  For the Admiral, having
no stomach for immature Romeos, sent his niece abroad (in the company of
Miss Hazelby) to Dresden and Lausanne, whence letters came describing
queer foreign folk with sprightliness and humour, and always ending
"your most affectionate—Betty."

As the months passed, Jim became aware how strenuously Mark’s heart was
set on a soldier’s career.  One night, for instance, the young fellows
were dining with the Randolphs at Birr Wood, when a famous general was
present.  Mark confessed himself aflame to meet the hero; and the hero,
when he met Mark, became interested in him.  Who shall say there is not
some subtle quality, undetected by the common herd, which reveals itself
to genius, because it is part, and not the least part, of genius?  And
you will notice that if a great man be speaking in general company, his
eyes will wander here and there in search of the kindred soul, and when
that is found, they wander no more.  On this occasion a chance remark
led the talk to India.  Lord Randolph regretted that so brilliant a
soldier as Hodson should have slain the Taimur princes with his own
hand. The hero, who had known Hodson intimately, said that the princes
had been given no assurance that their lives would be spared, and that
their escape would have proved an immeasurable calamity.  As he went on
to speak of Nicholson and the siege of Delhi, the buzz of prattle round
the big table ceased.

"He suffered excruciating pain" (the general was alluding to Nicholson),
"but not a complaint, not a sigh, leaked from his lips.  During nine
awful days of agony, his heroic mind fixed itself upon the needs of his
country, to the very last he gave us sound and clear advice.  When he
died, the grim frontier chiefs, who had witnessed unmoved the most
frightful atrocities, stood by his dead body with the tears streaming
down their cheeks...."

"What a man!" exclaimed Mark.

"Ay," said the general.  He stared at Mark, and continued, giving
details of what followed the fall of Delhi: then unpublished history.
The speaker had marched with the column despatched to the relief of
Cawnpore.  "We could only spare," said he, "seven hundred and fifty
British and one thousand nine hundred native soldiers, and—let me
see—how many field-guns?"  He paused with his eyes still on Mark.

"Sixteen field-guns," said Mark.

"Yes, you are right.  Sixteen field-guns."  Then as he realised from
whom he had received this piece of information, he broke into an
exclamation: "God bless me!  How did _you_ know that?"

"I’ve read the d-despatches," said Mark, blushing.

After dinner the general came up to Mark and asked him if he were going
to be a soldier.  On Mark’s eager affirmative, he said deliberately:
"When you are gazetted, my boy, come to see me.  I’d like to make your
better acquaintance."

For a week Mark could talk of nothing save the Indian Mutiny.

"You’re too keen," said Jim.  "Suppose we don’t pass?"

"Not p-p-pass?  That’s a dead certainty."

"If we did not pass——"

"We could enlist, Jim.  I say, you’re not going into the Service
because, b-b-because I am?"

"You lit the match," Jim admitted.  "A fellow must do something.
Soldiering’s as good as anything else."

"Ten times as good as anything else," Mark exclaimed.

Jim nodded, sensible that Mark cast a glamour over the future.  As a
child Jim could never listen to tales of smuggling, of hidden treasure,
of Captain Kidd and the Spanish Main, without feeling a titillation of
the marrow.  And now that he was eighteen, with fluff on his lip, Mark
could provoke this agreeable sensation whenever he pleased.  That he
could fire Jim was not surprising, for Jim was tinder to many sparks,
but he could fire Archibald also.

"I back you to win big stakes," he would say. "W-w-what did the gipsy
predict?  You will g-get what you want, because you want it so badly.
You’ve a leg for a g-g-gaiter.  And your voice, your v-voice is amazing.
I’d sooner hear you sing r-rot than listen to Lord Randolph talking
s-sense.  You must have the best of singing lessons.  Why—you’ll charm
the b-birds off the trees."

Archie did take lessons; and began to warble at many houses ballads such
as "’Twas in Trafalgar’s Bay," "Sally in our Alley," and "I saw from the
Beach when the Morning was Shining."  He grew bigger and stronger and
handsomer every day, and Mark’s pride in and affection for this splendid
elder brother became something of a thorn in the side of his friend Jim.
Mark had an ingenuous habit of putting wise words into the mouth of this
Olympian. "Old Archie," he would observe, with a beaming face, "thinks
so-and-so...."  Jim was sorely tempted to retort: "If old Archie thinks
that, why the deuce doesn’t he say it?"  It was plain to Jim that
Archie’s brains were of a quality inferior to Mark’s, but Mark would not
allow this, and always waxed warm if anyone dared to speak slightingly
of the colossus.  Archie, for his part, returned his minor’s affection,
and not only sought for, but accepted graciously that minor’s advice.


A year later Mark and Jim went up to London for the competitive
examination, lodging at a family hotel in Down Street, an old-fashioned
inn where the name of Samphire was known and respected.  The Squire
offered to accompany them, but Mark begged him to stay at Pitt Hall.
Mark and Jim unpacked their traps, and then looked out of the window
over the great world of London.

"Too much smoke for me," said Jim, seeing nothing but dun-coloured roofs
and chimney-pots innumerable.

"But think of the f-f-fires," said Mark, "and of the faces round the
fires.  I am sure I should learn to like London, if it were not so
beastly dirty.  Why, there are smuts on my cuffs already."

They had a luncheon such as boys love: chops fizzing and sputtering from
the gridiron, a couple of tankards of stout, a tart with Devonshire
cream, and some Stilton cheese.

"Are you nervous?" said Mark.

Jim admitted a qualm or two.

"We ought to come out amongst the first twenty."

"If I am dead lag, I shall be jolly thankful," said Jim.

After lunch they took a turn down Piccadilly. Mark talked: "I say, what
a glorious b-buzzing, like a swarm o’ bees in June, and we’re in the
hive—eh?"

Presently they entered the Burlington Arcade, exchanging greetings with
old school-fellows; some of them forlorn of countenance; others bubbling
over with self-assurance.  The Medical Board had to be passed that
afternoon.  Disjointed phrases flitted in and out of Mark’s ear.  "Not
got a chance, I tell you, but it pleases my people to see me make an ass
of myself—Fancy a rank outsider like that wanting to go into the
Service—Yes; seventy-nine, not out—and first-class cricket—Who are those
fellows with dirty collars?—If you try to crib and get nailed, you’re
done—Hullo, Samphire minor! you’re going to pass in first, I know—I say,
I saw your aunt the other day—What dead?—And a jolly good thing, too—One
of the biggest duffers in the school, I tell you—With windgalls and an
awful splint—Played for the ’Varsity—And, as luck ’d have it, he hit her
favourite cat——"

Outside the Arcade, they shook themselves free of the chatterers.

"I am in a beastly funk," said Jim, as they went up the stairs of
Burlington House.

"Funk of what?" Mark answered impatiently.

"I don’t know," Jim muttered vaguely.

They entered a long, ill-lighted room, and waited their turn.  Boy after
boy came out grinning, and buttoning up coat and waistcoat.

"Rather a farce this medical exam," whispered Mark; and then, as he
spoke, his voice broke into a stammer: "I s-s-say—w-w-who’s this?"

A fellow they had known at Harrow was coming through the great double
doors.  His face was white as a sheet and his lips blue.  He was
hurrying by, when Mark called him by name.

"They won’t have me," he gasped.  "I—I thought I was all right," he
added piteously, "but I ain’t."

"What’s wrong?" said Mark.

"Heart.  I asked ’em to tell me.  They were rather decent, but I’m done.
If you don’t mind, I’ll hook it now.  No, don’t come with me.  I’m not
as bad as that.  Only it will, it may—grow worse."

He shambled away with the step of an old man. Mark’s face was working
with sympathy.

"How b-b-beastly!" he said.  "And it m-m-might be one of us."

They passed through the doors into a larger room beyond.  Here a score
or more boys in all stages of dressing and undressing were dotting the
floor.  Near the window a big, burly man was testing the sight of a
slender, round-shouldered youth.  "How many fingers do I hold up?" Jim
heard him say; and the unhappy youth replied: "Three!"  The big man
laughed grimly.  "Wrong.  Come a little nearer, and try again."

Jim was confoundedly pale.

"Pinch your cheeks," Mark whispered.

They were told to strip, and did so, but waited for some time, while the
wind from an open window blew cold on their bare backs.

"Let’s slip on our coats," Jim suggested.

"The others don’t do it," said Mark, glancing at a row of shivering
boys, "and we won’t."

After what seemed an interminable interval, Jim’s name was called.  The
doctor into whose hands he fell made short work of him.  He clapped a
stethoscope to his chest and back, looked at his legs, asked a few
questions, and smiled pleasantly.  "If you can see and hear, you’re all
right," said he.  "_Next!_"  Jim went back to where his clothes lay in a
heap on the chair.  He knew that his sight and hearing were excellent;
but why in the name of all that was hateful did not Mark come back?
Half-way down the room Jim could see him, standing in front of a small,
ferret-faced man, who was talking quickly.  Now, Jim had not been asked
to run round a table or to perform any other strange exercises, but Mark
was treated less kindly.  Jim saw him jump on and off a bench; then he
began to run, and Jim caught the quick command: "Faster, sir, faster!"
And then the stethoscope was laid upon his heaving chest.  Jim watched
the doctor’s impassible face.  Suddenly the doctor looked up and
beckoned to the man who had examined Jim. The second doctor put his ear
to the stethoscope.

"Catch him!" yelled Jim.

A hush fell upon the big room as Jim sprang forward, half clothed and
choking with excitement. He had seen Mark quiver and reel, but the tall,
thin doctor had seen it too.  When Jim reached them, Mark was on his
back on the big table.  The ferret-faced man was smiling disagreeably,
and tapping the palm of his hand with the end of his stethoscope.

"Absolutely unfit," Jim heard him say.  "Not a surgeon in London would
pass him."

"Not pass him?" Jim said furiously.  "He’s only fainted; he’s done that
before, that’s nothing."

"Isn’t it?" said the little man drily.  Then he added malevolently:
"When I am ready to receive instruction from you, young sir, I will let
you know."

When they got back to the hotel and were alone, Mark flung himself into
an armchair.  Presently he said quietly: "Let’s get seats for the play";
so they walked as far as Mitchell’s in Bond Street, and bought two
stalls for the _Colleen Bawn_, in which Dion Boucicault was acting.
Then they strolled on to Regent’s Park.  Not a word was said about what
passed in Burlington House till they were crossing Portland Place, where
a cousin of Mark’s had a house.

"I shan’t go back to Pitt Hall till your exam is over," Mark said.  "I’d
sooner stop up here with you."

"I don’t care a hang about the exam now," Jim blurted out.

"I know you don’t," Mark replied.  "All the same, you must do your level
best."

This calmness surprised Jim.  But after the play, as they were strolling
home through the crowded, gas-lit streets, Mark whispered fiercely: "I’d
like to get drunk to-night."

"Let’s do it," said Jim.

"Good old chap!  Do you think I’d let you do it?"  He glanced at a
handsome roysterer, who was reeling by on the arm of a girl as
reckless-looking as her companion.  "I can guess how _they_ feel, poor
devils!"

"We’ll have a nightcap, anyhow," said Jim.

So they turned into one of the Piccadilly bars, full of men and women,
and ablaze with light reflected from a thousand glasses and mirrors.
Mark had never set foot in a London bar at midnight.  The roar of the
voices, interpenetrated by the shrill laughter of the women, the
clinking of glasses, the swish of silk petticoats, the white glare, the
overpowering odours of the liquors and perfumes, the atmosphere hot on
one’s cheek—these smote him. Yet the sensation of violence was not
unpleasant. He was sensible that he might yell if he liked, and that no
one would heed him.  They edged up to the bar, squeezing through the mob
till they were opposite a young woman whose plain black dress and
immaculate apron were crowned by a mop of chestnut hair.

"Why it’s—it’s Squeak," Jim said to Mark.

She recognised them at once.

"Hullo, Mr. Samphire minor—why ain’t you in bed?"

They demanded whiskies and sodas.

"You can tell that ’andsome brother of yours that I’m here," said
Squeak, as she pushed the drinks across the bar.

"I’ll mention it to him," said Mark.

"I want to see him, to thank him.  He got me this job.  Don’t worry!  I
mean that if I’d not got the chuck from Brown’s I shouldn’t be ’ere, but
there.  I’ve not seen ’im.  He’s one of the kind that loves and runs
away."

She laughed shrilly, staring with angry eyes at the young men.  Her
complexion had lost its freshness and delicacy; her eyes were no longer
clear and bright.  Mark’s impassive face exasperated her.

"Tell ’im to send back all the ’air I gave ’im," she continued
viciously.

"You have not quite so much left," said Mark.

"Don’t look at me like that, you kid, you!  I know you’re thinking," she
spoke very low, bending across the bar, "that I’m not any younger, or
prettier, or better be’aved.  Well—I ain’t.  And that’s why I want to
thank your brother."

"I shall not forget to tell him to come to see you. It will be safe
enough—now."

They dropped back into the crowd.  By this time Mark was able to take
note of his surroundings. Squeak, so to speak, had given him bearings.
The faces, in relation to hers, had a certain resemblance, as if those
present belonged to the same family. Next to Jim stood an obese
Israelite, puffy of face, with thick, red lips shining through an oily,
black beard.  Jim felt a mad impulse to kick him on the shins.  Beside
him was a tall, thin youth of the type known in the seventies as the
la-di-da young man.  His pallid, clean-shaven face, his light-blue eyes,
his closely cropped flaxen hair, his delicate features were all in
striking contrast to the Jew’s gross, corpulent person.  The hands of
each were as different as could be: the Jew’s short and thick, and none
too clean, with a couple of big yellow diamonds blazing on them; the
youth’s long and thin, very white and bony, with polished nails.  And
yet the pair were as twins, for the same evil spirit leered out of their
eyes.

"Come on," said Mark.

Outside the air was delightfully fresh and cool, but the crowd seemed to
have thickened.  A tremendous human tide ebbed and flowed between the
tall, dark houses.  Jim’s eye caught a white feather in the hat of a
girl, which tossed like foam upon troubled waters.  Suddenly the
fascination of the scene gripped him.  This was London—_London_, the
city of millions; and he stood on the pavement of its most famous
thoroughfare, of it and in it, whether he loved it, feared it, or hated
it.  And at the moment, so overpowering was the sense of something new
and strange and terrible that he could not determine whether his feeling
for the capital of the world was one of attraction or repulsion.

Mark and he moved slowly on, till they came to the wall which
encompasses Devonshire House. At the corner stood a huge policeman,
grimly impassive, one of London’s hundred thousand warders, and an
epitome of all.

"When is closing time?" said Mark to the constable.

"Quarter-past twelve, sir."

Mark looked at his watch.

"Five minutes more.  I’m going back."

"Where?"

"To that girl—Squeak."

"What on earth for?"

"I spoke brutally.  I shall beg her p-pardon. Don’t come with me!"

"You’re as mad as a hatter."

Jim went on to Down Street, ascended the stairs, and began to undress,
thinking of two things which obliterated all others—the slender figure
of Mark when it reeled back into the arms of the tall, thin surgeon, and
the white feather wavering hither and thither above the turbulent crowd.

Half an hour passed, and Mark did not return. Jim grew apprehensive.  If
Mark had fainted—if he had fallen into coarse, gross hands such as those
of the Jew.  Then he thought of the colossus at the corner of Devonshire
House, and took comfort in him—the Argus-eyed, the omnipresent and
omnipotent.

"Not in bed yet?" said Mark.

"By Jove, here you are!  I saw you trampled under foot."

"I’m glad I went back.  The girl’s a good sort—silly, vain, terribly
ignorant, but not without heart. I promised to see her again.  It
wouldn’t be a b-bad bit of work to get her out of that—hell."

"You’re a rum ’un," said Jim, for since they had parted Mark’s face had
resumed its natural expression—that look of joyousness which redeemed
the harsh features and sallow skin.

"A rum ’un—why?"

"Well, I supposed, you know, that you’d be thinking just now of—of
yourself."

"I’m rather s-sick of that subject."

He flung off his clothes and turned out the gas. Jim slipped into bed in
the adjoining room.  He couldn’t sleep for an hour or two, wondering
whether Mark would break down when he found himself alone, listening
with ears attuned to catch the lightest sigh.  To his astonishment, Mark
breathed quietly and regularly.  He must be—asleep!  Jim waited for
another ten minutes; then he slipped out of bed. The moon was throwing a
soft radiance upon Mark’s figure.  He lay flat on his back, with his
arms straight at his side.  _He was smiling_!  But his fists were
clenched, and the jaw below the parted lips stood out firm, square, and
aggressive....

Jim watched him lying thus for several minutes; then he stole back to
bed—no longer a boy, but a man.  By many, doubtless, the step between
boyhood and manhood is taken at random, and forgotten as soon as taken;
or it escapes observation altogether. But Jim was shown, as in a vision,
the past and the future: the green playing-fields, the happy lanes of
childhood, and beyond—the hurly-burly, the high winds and whirling
dust-clouds, the inexorable struggle for and of Life!



                             *CHAPTER VII*

                            *THE HUNT BALL*


At Harrow, Mark had been told by the drawing-master that he had great
talent as a draughtsman, and possibly something more.  The vague
"something more" kindled possibilities which smouldered, and burst into
flame when the doctors at Burlington House pronounced him unfit to serve
his sovereign.  The Squire suggested the Bar, a bank, or a junior
partnership in a brewery.  Mark shook his head.  Briefs—supposing they
came to him—bullion, beer, left fancy cold.  But to paint a great
picture, to interpret by means of colour a message vital to the world,
this indeed would be worth while!

Mrs. Samphire bleated dismay and displeasure; but much to the Squire’s
surprise, Lady Randolph sustained Mark’s choice of art as an avenue to
success.

"Fame’s temple," she said, "lies in the heart of a maze to which
converge a thousand paths—most of ’em blind alleys.  Mark may try one
path after another, but in the end—in the end, mind you—he will choose
the right one."

After a few months’ work in South Kensington, Mark went to Paris, where
he became a pupil of the famous Saphir at the École des Beaux Arts.
Saphir looked at his studies and shook his head.  He was of opinion that
Mark had better join Julian’s for a year; the standard at the Beaux Arts
was very high.  Mark showed his disappointment.

"Oh, monsieur, I am so anxious to be under you."

"Have you no better reason than that?" said the great man.

"Our n-n-names are alike," stammered Mark.

"_Tiens_!  Any reason is better than none.  _Samphire et Saphir_."

"And the l-l-less," said Mark, "includes the g-g-greater."

Saphir laughed at the compliment, and told Mark he might join his
_atelier_.  "Only you must work—work—work.  That is my first word to
you—work!"

Mark worked furiously.  Many well-informed persons believe that an art
student’s life in Paris (particularly that part of Paris which lies on
the left bank of the Seine) is a sort of carnival—a procession up and
down the Boul’ Mich’, varied by frequent excursions to the Moulin Rouge
and other places of entertainment in Montmartre.  Of the unremitting
labour, of the grinding poverty, of the self-denial cheerfully
confronted by the greater number, an adequate idea perhaps may be
gleaned from Zola’s _L’OEuvre_, which sets forth, photographically and
pathologically, French art life as it is.  _L’OEuvre_, however, deals
with the struggle for supremacy between the academic and the "_plein
air_" schools. When Mark entered the Beaux Arts, this struggle, although
not at an end, had become equalised, the balance of power and popularity
lying rather with the _plein air_ party, of which Saphir was the bright
particular star.  Saphir introduced Mark to Pynsent, then considered one
of the rising men.  Born in the East of America, related on his mother’s
side to two of the Brook Farm celebrities, Pynsent had renounced a
promising career as a lawyer in the hope of making his fortune out West.
In California he lost what money he possessed trying to develop a
"salted mine."  Then he "taught school" for bread and butter—a foothill
school on the slopes of the Santa Lucia mountains, where the pupils were
the children of squatters, and "Pikers," and greasers.  Here he found
his true vocation.  For a couple of years he denied himself the
commonest comforts, living on beans for the most part, saving his
pitiful salary. Then he worked his passage round the Horn in a
sailing-ship, and began at thirty years of age to draw from plaster
casts!  Since, he had taken most of the prizes open to foreigners at the
École des Beaux Arts!

Pynsent found Mark a lodging and studio in the Rue de l’Ancienne
Comédie, not far from the famous Café Procope, the café of Voltaire and
Verlaine. With Pynsent as guide, he learned to know Paris—the Paris of
the Valois and Bourbon, the Paris of the Terror, of the Empire, and of
the Republic.  Pynsent had a prodigious memory, and an absorbing passion
for colour.  He was always hopeful, generous, proud, inordinately
ambitious, and willing to sacrifice everything to his art.  He exercised
an enormous influence upon Mark, making plain to him the virtue which
underlies so much that is vile and vicious on the surface.

"Men fail here," said he, "not so much from incapacity as ignorance.  I
could not interpret Paris to you or to myself had I not served my
apprenticeship in California.  Because my energies were misdirected
there, I have learned to direct them here.  Great Cæsar’s ghost!  What
mistakes I have made!  But you can bet your life that the fellow who
makes no mistakes is either a parasite or a jelly-fish. Tell me what a
man’s mistakes are, and I’ll tell you what he is."

"Am I making a mistake?" said Mark.

He had worked—furiously, as has been said—for two years.  Pynsent smoked
his cigarette for a full minute before he replied: "I don’t know yet.  I
shall know soon."

"When you do know, tell me," said Mark.

Meanwhile Archibald Samphire was occupying a corner of that famous
quadrangle of Trinity College where Byron, Newton, Macaulay—and how many
more?—have kept their terms.  Archie was considered by impartial judges
to be a distinguished young man. A "double blue," he represented his
University at cricket and as a runner; he was certain to take a good
degree; he could sing charmingly; he was handsome as Narcissus.  At the
end of the second year’s work in Paris, Mark and Archie and Jim Corrance
made a tour of France, with the intention of visiting the Gothic
cathedrals; but, as a rule, after the dust and glare of the French
roads, both Archie and Jim Corrance would seek and find some cool café.
Mark, however, would hurry off to the nearest church, and return raving
of foliations and triforia and clerestories—empty words to Philistines,
but to him documents of surpassing interest.  Archibald was going to
take Orders, not swerving by a hand’s breadth from his goal; but Jim,
after a year at Sandhurst, had resigned his commission.

"I’m no soldier," he told Mark.  "I went up for my exam because you
fired me.  I want to make money—a big pile."  Mark said nothing, but he
thought of Betty Kirtling, now eighteen, and still abroad.  Jim had
mentioned (with a flushed cheek) that Betty was coming out at the
Westchester Hunt Ball, always held in New Year’s week, and Mark had said
that he would assist at that and other festivities.

When Christmas came Mark crossed the Channel. He brought Pynsent with
him as a guest.  Mark was now twenty-two, but he looked older.  You must
imagine a long, thin, sallow face, illumined by two splendid blue eyes
and a wide mouth filled with white even teeth.  The hair was dark brown,
and the eyebrows were arched, like the eyebrows of the poet Shelley.
His nose was too long—so Pynsent said—and the chin was too prominent,
the eyes set too far apart, the brow too wide.  For the rest the figure
was tall and slight, with finely shaped extremities. Curiously enough,
although ninety-nine out of a hundred persons would have pronounced Mark
an ugly man; yet, dressed in petticoats, judiciously painted and
bewigged, he made a captivating woman.  At a dance in one of the
studios, he impersonated an American heiress with so much spirit and
appreciation of the attention he received, that before the night was out
he had promised to become the wife of an impoverished French count: a
prank provoking a challenge, which Mark accepted and which doubtless
would have ended in a duel, had not Pynsent explained to the victim of
the joke that if Mark was killed, the slayer of so popular a person
would have to fight his friends, man by man, till not one Englishman or
American was left alive in Saphir’s studio.  "It is the woman in Mark’s
face," said Pynsent, "which gives it charm and quality; but the man,
strong and ardent, looks out of his eyes."

Mark did not meet Betty till the night of the Hunt Ball.  He was
standing beside Archie and Pynsent, as she entered the room.

"Great Scott—here’s Beatrice Cenci!" said Pynsent.

The artist was thinking of the fascinating portrait which hangs in the
Barberini Palace, not of the wooden counterfeit presentment so familiar
to buyers of cheap chromo-lithographs.

"It’s our Betty," said Archie.

"As if it could be anybody else," Mark added.

Betty advanced, tall and slim and pale: her great hazel eyes sparkling
with pleasure and excitement. Beside her, beaming with pride, walked the
grey-headed, grey-bearded Admiral; behind came two nice-looking youths,
fingering their highly glazed Programmes and gazing at the milk-white
neck and shoulders in front of them.  The big room was full of people:
men in the "pink" of four hunts, officers in scarlet, officers in dark
green and silver, dignitaries of the Church, bland and superior; lesser
luminaries, such as canons and archdeacons; masters from the college,
supercilious gentlemen for the most part, and the sisters and wives and
cousins of these. A roving eye might detect the difference between those
of the county and those of the town, dividing the latter again into
those of the barracks, the close, and the college; and a stranger might
have whiled away the evening, even if he did not dance, by noting the
subtler distinction between the wife of a rural dean and the mistress of
a country vicarage, or between Lady Randolph, the wife of the
Lord-Lieutenant, and Lady Bellowes, whose husband was a baronet of
recent creation.

The first dance had just come to an end, so the floor was comparatively
clear for the passage of Betty and her squires.  Archibald went forward,
smiling, to greet her, followed by Mark and Jim Corrance.

"I’ve saved three dances apiece for you," said Betty.

One of the young men behind, Lord Kirtling’s eldest son, protested
loudly: "Oh, I say—and I’m a cousin."

"A cousin!" cried Betty gaily.  "Why, these are my best and oldest
friends.  We’ve sucked the same acidulated drop."

Mark introduced Pynsent.  Then Lord Randolph came up; and Betty was
escorted in triumph to the corner sacred to the magnates, where her card
was almost torn in pieces by the young men.

"Never saw such a pair," said Pynsent to Mark, indicating Archie and
Betty.

Archibald, in the scarlet coat with white facings of the Quest Hunt, was
standing beside Betty, who wore a pearly brocade embroidered with true
lovers’ knots.

"Dear old Archie looks splendid," said Mark.

A set of lancers was being formed.  Mrs. Samphire, discovering that Mark
had no partner, begged him to sit down beside her.  The years which had
passed since she married the Squire had turned her from a thin, prim,
slightly acidulous spinster into a plump, smirking matron, whose skin
seemed too tight for her face, even as her bodice seemed too tight for
her figure.  A voluble talker, she was never known to listen to any
person save her superior in position or rank.  Lady Randolph’s lightest
words she cherished and generally repeated them afterwards—as her own.

"I’ve hardly had time to say anything to you," she bleated.  "How well
Archibald looks to-night! It distresses me dreadfully to think that he
will never wear pink again.  Betty is very handsome.  What do you say?
A beauty?  No, no.  I can’t agree with you.  And I always admire
blondes.  All the Lambs are blondes."

"No black sheep in your family?" said Mark. Lady Randolph, who was near,
smiled.

"Black sheep?  Never!  Dear me!  Who is that? Oh, Harry Kirtling.  What
a nice-looking young fellow!  One guesses why he is here.  Our dear
Admiral is anxious to see a coronet on his niece’s head.  Don’t move,
Mark!  Ah! there is Lady Valence and her blind husband.  Do tell me—I am
so short-sighted—who is that very common young man with them?  What?
Oh, oh, indeed!  The Duke of Brecon!  I must say a word to dear Lady
Valence."

She bustled across the room.  Mark turned to Lady Randolph.

"Have you any m-m-mint s-sauce?  There is s-something about all the
Lambs which——"

"Does not bring out our great qualities," said Lady Randolph.  "See!
She has put the Duke to rout, and he is going to take refuge with me."

Mark glanced up, noting that the Duke’s feet were flat and turned out at
an absurd angle, giving him a shuffling and awkward gait.

"He is a better fellow than he looks," whispered Lady Randolph.

"Will you do me a favour, Lady Randolph?"  The Duke’s voice was very
pleasant.  "Perhaps you can guess the nature of it?"

"An introduction to Miss Kirtling, of course."

"Of course," he repeated, laughing.

The lancers was just over, and across the room Mark could see Betty and
Pynsent deep in conversation.  Pynsent, he had heard women say, was a
fascinating man, the more so because heretofore he had been proof
against the assaults of the fair. Hullo!  Lady Randolph was crossing the
floor with her Duke—confound him!  And now Betty was smiling at him.
Yes, he had secured a dance; somebody else’s probably.  What an
insufferable silly grin he had!  Jim Corrance interrupted his thoughts.

"I say, Mark—isn’t Betty a wonder?"

Jim began to rave about her.  The Duke and Lady Randolph passed on;
Betty leant back in her chair, while Pynsent talked.  It seemed to Mark
that Pynsent was making the effort of his life.

"I’m glad you brought Pynsent from Paris," Jim was saying.  "It will do
him good.  Like all Americans who live in Paris, he is ignorant of the
best side of English life.  Eventually he must settle in London.  And
he’ll paint the portraits of all the swells.  He tells me that already
he’s in love with——"

"Betty!" exclaimed Mark.

"With my mother," said Jim, grinning.

Mark was dancing the next valse, and had to seek his partner, who—it is
to be feared—did not find him as agreeable as usual.  Moreover, she too
prattled of Betty, of the great match she ought to make, and so forth.
Fortunately a polka gave an opportunity of letting off steam.  After
that, and a cooling glass of cup, Mark felt more hopeful and in better
humour.  Indeed, by the time his dance with Betty was due, he was
himself, and beginning to enjoy the ball.

"Your friend, Mr. Pynsent, is perfectly delightful," began Betty.

"I thought you found him so."

Betty smiled demurely.

"He talked in the most interesting way about——"

"Himself," said Mark.

"No."

"About you?"

"Wrong again!  He talked, nearly all the time, about a dear friend of
mine whom I had not seen for years."

"I suppose you have dear friends in every town in Europe," said Mark.

The shameless coquette nodded.  How her eyes sparkled.

"And who is this dear friend Pynsent knows?"

"Mr. Pynsent was talking about—_you_," said Betty.

"Betty, dear, forgive me!  I am an ass, a silly, jealous ass.  And
seeing you to-night I—I——"

A kind pair of eyes warned him to say no more. For a moment there was
silence.  Then—they fell to talking of the old days, capping stories,
and laughing at ancient jokes.  When Mark left her in the hands of her
next partner, he was more in love than ever, and knew that Betty knew
it, and that the knowledge was not displeasing to her.  And she had made
plain, without words, that this meeting of friends had stirred her to
the core, quickening all those generous emotions of childhood which
older people are constrained sorrowfully to stifle and destroy. While
Mark was sitting beside her he realised how little she had changed from
the girl who had played truant on the Westchester Downs, and yet between
them lay a blackthorn fence of convention and tradition.

Meantime he danced gaily every dance, and at the end of the ball got
into a dogcart to drive home with Pynsent, feeling, perhaps, more alive
than he had ever felt before.  Pynsent offered him a cigar, and lighted
one himself.

"This Hunt Ball has been a new experience," Pynsent said, as the cart
rolled up the High Street. "And it means work.  Lady Randolph has
commissioned a portrait.  I go on to Birr Wood after leaving you."

"If you satisfy her, Pynsent, she can help you enormously.  She knows
all the right people."

He heard Pynsent’s pleasant chuckle.

"’The right people.’  I always scoffed at that phrase.  But I found out
what it means to-night. Well, I hope to satisfy Lady Randolph.  What I
see I can paint.  I wonder if Miss Kirtling would sit. Would you ask
her?"

"Can you see her?"

"The finer lines are blurred.  I might fail on that account.  It would
be no small thing to set on canvas the ’unexpectedness’ of her face.
She’s going to surprise all of you before she’s many years older."

"She will marry a swell and become like everybody else," said Mark
nervously.

"A marriage of convenience!  That would indeed be surprising.  No, no;
she is likely to marry the wrong man, but not from any ignoble motive;
she is capable of a great passion, which, mind you, is more physical
than mental, nine times out of ten. I’d like to make a study of her for
a head of Juliet, but I should want her to be thinking of Romeo, who, I
take it, has not yet made her acquaintance."

Mark shuffled uneasily, and began to drive a willing horse too fast.

"My brother, Archie, will sit as Romeo."

"Ah!  When they were standing together to-night, somehow I thought of
Verona at once."

"Pynsent," said Mark desperately, "I may as well tell you that I—I
l-l-love Betty Kirtling.  I loved her when she was a b-baby.  I loved
her when she was a g-girl.  And it all came back to-night.  There never
has been anyone else."

"Um," said Pynsent.

"Tell me frankly what’s in your m-mind."

"I’m trying to fit you into it—as Romeo."

"I’m an imbecile, of course, but I f-feel like Romeo.  There—it’s out."

"So is your cigar.  Take a pull on yourself, man, and on that horse,
too!  You’re not an imbecile. Alps lie between you and Miss Kirtling,
but the Alps have been scaled before and will be again."

"If I could paint a great picture——"

Pynsent was silent.

Mark continued keenly: "And I feel in all my bones that I shall get
there, as you put it—with both feet.  I say—you’re not very
encouraging."

"You must try for this next Salon."

No more was said.  But when Mark found himself alone in the room at Pitt
Hall which he always used, he lit the candles on each side of the
old-fashioned mirror.  Then he examined himself, frowning.

"Romeo!" he exclaimed disgustedly.  "Good heavens!"



                             *CHAPTER VIII*

                               *BARBIZON*


After the Hunt Ball Betty Kirtling was whisked away on a round of
visits.  Jim Corrance accepted a clerkship in a big firm on the Stock
Exchange. Archibald was reading hard for his degree.  Mark returned to
Paris and work.

Acting under Saphir’s advice, he went to Barbizon with the intention of
painting a picture for the Salon. In those days every man who went to
Barbizon painted one picture at least in accordance with certain
well-defined Barbizonian rules.  At the top of the canvas was a narrow
strip of sky put on boldly with big brushes and a palette-knife.
Invariably, the sky was of a tender, pinky-grey complexion, hazy, but
atmospheric, hall-marked, so to speak, by Bastien Lepage.  Below this
strip of opalescent mist, in solid contrast, were painted the roofs of
the village. These, too, were handled capitally even by the beginners.
The foreground represented a field full of waving grasses, grasses from
which the sun had sucked the chlorophyl, leaving them pale and
attenuated.  In this field grew one tree, looking much the worse for
wear.  Under the tree sat or stood a woman, a peasant wearing the
_coiffe_ of the commune and heavy sabots.  This woman always had a
complexion of the colour and texture of alligator-skin, and her back was
bowed by excessive labour.  A pretty maid waiting for her lover would
have been deemed rank blasphemy against the traditions of the place
where the "Angelus" of Millet had been conceived and painted.

Mark worked hard at just such a picture during half of January and the
whole of February.  A dozen friends were painting similar masterpieces
in a fine frenzy of open-air excitement.  Saphir himself was at Gretz,
but he came over to Barbizon, breakfasted _chez_ Siron, and examined his
pupils’ canvases with kindly, twinkling eyes.  Then he went back to
Gretz.

"He says we are all monkeys," observed a big Canadian.

"So we are," cried Mark.  "We’re trying to copy what one man has done
s-s-superlatively well."

Later, he took the Canadian aside.  Saphir had talked alone to him; and
Mark had overheard his own name.

"What did he say to you about—m-m-me?"

"Oh, nothing."

"I w-want the facts."

"Well, he did ask me if you had private means, and I told him your
father made you a good allowance."

"Go on!"

"And—and he said that was fortunate.  Of course he meant that—er—it
takes time to arrive—eh?"

"Quite so.  A lifetime if you happen to choose the wrong r-road."

About the beginning of March Pynsent arrived from England.

"I’ve caught on," he told Mark.  "I shall certainly take a studio
somewhere in Kensington.  Lady Randolph has found me a score of patrons.
What are you doing?"

Mark produced his big canvas.  Pynsent stared at it, pursing up his
lower lip and frowning.  Mark’s hopes oozed from every pore.  The
picture exhibited pitiful signs of excessive labour.  Pynsent obtained
his best effects with bits of pure colour laid on with amazing
precision.  Mark’s colour looked like putty.

"Are they all as ugly as that?" said Pynsent, indicating the model.

"I got the ugliest in the v-v-village.  There’s a lot in her face."

"A lot of dirt."

"I don’t allow her to wash it.  Can you read her 1-life’s history?"

"I’m hanged if I can."

"You see n-nothing in her eyes?"

"Nor in her mouth.  She’s lost all her teeth."

"Knocked out by a b-brutal husband," said Mark, grinning, but ill at
ease beneath Pynsent’s chaff.

"What are those stains on the apron—red paint?"

"Sheep’s blood.  I rubbed it on myself."

Pynsent roared; he was not a Barbizonian.

"Great Scott!  You fellows take yourselves seriously."

"Honestly," said Mark.  "What d’ye think of it?"

"It’s good—in streaks," said Pynsent solemnly. Then his eyes flashed.
"Look here, Mark, they won’t hang that.  But I’ve told Lady Randolph and
Miss Kirtling that you will have a ’machine’ in the Salon.  Now, have
you the pluck to scrape this and paint it out—_to-night_?"

"Yes," said Mark.

Next day Pynsent led the way into the forest of Fontainebleau, Mark
following like a faithful spaniel. They walked for miles.  Finally,
Pynsent discovered a bank of cool-looking sand in the heart of a pine
wood; upon the sand were wonderful shadows and reflections.

"_Voila notre affaire!_" exclaimed Pynsent.

"But the m-model——"

"I have wired to Paris.  These Barbizon peasants make me tired."

That evening the model arrived—a girl.  Within twelve hours Mark was at
work.  Pynsent posed the girl upon the bank.  She sat with her elbows on
her knees and her face between her hands, staring helplessly and
hopelessly out of an unknown world.

"We’ll call it ’_Perdue_,’" said Pynsent.  "The subject is trite, but
the treatment will redeem that.  I spotted that girl last year in the
Rue du Chat qui Peche.  Aren’t her eyes immense?"

Mark protested in vain.  Pynsent ordered him to begin work.  In eight
days the picture was painted. Pynsent had not laid a brush upon it, but
Mark was miserably conscious that his friend’s genius informed almost
every stroke.  For hours Pynsent stood at his side, exhorting and
encouraging.

"It’s really good," said Pynsent, after he had forbidden his pupil to
add another touch.

"But it’s not m-m-mine, Pynsent."

"What?"

"I couldn’t have p-painted it without you."

"Pooh!"

At Siron’s Mark’s friends predicted success, a place on the line,
honourable mention, a prize, possibly.  Saphir saw it and whistled.

"You painted that—you?"

They were standing in the dining-room, panelled with studies, some of
them signed by famous men. Mark’s friends were all present, and in the
background Madame Siron smiled genially, murmuring that monsieur
certainly must add a tiny sketch to her little collection.  Mark glanced
from face to face. The general expression was not to be misinterpreted.
In the eyes of those present he had "arrived."

"_Tiens!_" said Saphir; "it is not signed.  You must sign it, _mon
garçon_."

A bystander produced a brush and palette.

"It grows upon one," said Saphir, shading his eyes.  "He has lots to
learn in technique, but the feeling which cannot be imparted is there.
_Saperlipopette_!  It brings tears to the eyes.  And look you," he
addressed Pynsent and Mark in broken English, "I am not easily moved—I!
When I lose a friend of ze blood—how do you call it?—a relation, yes, ze
tears do not come—no!  And when I hear Wagner—_zoum, soum, zoum_—ze
tears do not come, no!  But when I hear Rossini, Bellini—rivers, _mes
amis_, rivers!"  With a large gesture he indicated a tropical downpour;
then he continued: "It is ze melodie.  Is it not so, _mes enfants_?"

He appealed to the circle around him.  Mark listened, stupefied, to a
clamour of congratulation.

"Sign it—sign it!" they cried.

Mark took the brush with a queer smile upon his wide mouth.  The others
fell back to give him room.

"_Dieu de Dieu!_" ejaculated Saphir.

Mark had copied cleverly Pynsent’s bold signature; below it in small
script was: "_per_ M. S."

Pynsent bit his lip, frowning.  The others stared at Mark, who met the
startled interrogation of their raised brows with a nervous laugh.

"The f-f-feeling you speak of," he turned to Saphir, "is his," he
indicated Pynsent.  "I cannot s-send it to the Salon as my work, but I
shall k-keep it and v-value it as long as I live."

Saphir held out his hand.

"My friend," he said in his own tongue, "if you were not an Angliche, I
should ask to have the honour of embracing you."

"He’s a quixotic fool," Pynsent growled; "I never touched the canvas."

The others vanished, put to flight by an intuition that something was
about to happen.  Mark addressed Saphir.

"When you were here last you s-said to a friend of mine that it was
fortunate for me, that I had private means.  You are my master; you have
seen everything I have done.  This, you understand, does not c-c-count.
Pynsent knows my work, too, every line of it.  I ask you both: Am I
w-w-wasting my time?"

Neither answered.

"No mediocre success will content me," continued Mark.  "I ask you
again: Am I w-w-wasting my time?"

"Yes," said Saphir gruffly.  He put on his hat and went out.

"He’s not infallible," Pynsent muttered angrily.

"Then you advise me to g-go on?  No; you are too honest to do that.  I
shall not go on, Pynsent; but I don’t regret the last three years.  They
would have been wasted indeed if they had b-b-blinded me to the truth
concerning my powers."

"What will you do, Mark?"

"I don’t know—yet," said Mark.


Mark returned to England, where he learned of Betty’s conquests.  The
Duke of Brecon, so Lady Randolph told him, had to marry a million,
otherwise he might have offered Miss Kirtling the strawberry leaves.
Harry Kirtling, the cousin, very handsome, and a passionate protester,
wooed in vain, much to the Admiral’s dismay, a dismay tempered by
Betty’s assurance that she did not wish to leave her uncle for many a
long year.  A prosperous rector proposed in a letter which began: "My
dear Miss Kirtling,—After much earnest thought and fervent prayer, I
write to entreat you to become my wife...."  This gentleman was a
widower on the ripe side of forty.  Pynsent, too, confessed that had he
not been bond to Art, he might have become Betty’s slave.

Mark saw her on the day when she was presented at Court, on the day when
she held a small court herself at Randolph House, after she had kissed
her sovereign’s hand.  Like the young man in the parable, Mark went away
from Belgrave Square very sorrowful, because Betty seemed so rich and he
was so poor.

About this time he met the future Bishop-Suffragan of Poplar, David
Ross, then head of the Camford Mission.  A man of extraordinary personal
magnetism, Ross had begun by challenging public attention as the
champion middle-weight boxer of his year.  He possessed a small forest
in Sutherland and abundant private means; but, to the amazement of his
friends, he took Orders and accepted a curacy in the East End.  His
lodge in Sutherland was turned into a sanatorium, whither were sent at
his expense clergymen who had broken down in health.  David Ross had the
highlander’s prophetic faculty and intuition.  Where others crawled, he
leaped to conclusions respecting his fellow-creatures.  When he met
Mark, for instance, he divined his mental condition: the suffering
denied expression, the disappointment, the humiliation.  But he divined
far more—something of which Mark himself was unconscious: a religious
mind, religious in the sense in which Bishop Butler interpreted the
word—submissive to the will of God.  This quality in combination with a
passionate energy and determination to win his way arrested Ross’s
attention and captivated his interest.  He asked Mark to become a guest
at the Mission.

Here the almost invincible odds against which a dozen men were
struggling whetted to keen edge Mark’s vitality and love of fighting.
Listening to David Ross, it seemed incredible that he should have pinned
his ambition to the painting of a picture.  At the end of a couple of
months’ hard work in the slums he said abruptly to Ross: "If I can
overcome my confounded stammer, I shall take Orders."

Ross held his glance.

"Do nothing rashly," he said gravely.

Time, however, strengthened Mark’s resolution. He set to work to
overcome his stammer.  When he told his family of his intention to take
Orders, each member in turn protested.

"You—a parson?" The Squire was scarlet with surprise.

"There is only one living," bleated Mrs. Samphire.

"Oh, I shan’t compete with old Archie," said Mark, smiling.

Lady Randolph, however, said to Betty: "He is the right man to
lead—_lead_, mind you—forlorn hopes."

"And be killed," Betty answered vehemently.

"I don’t think he will be killed, my dear."

For many months after this he worked with Ross, seeing but little of his
family and friends.


In the following February the Admiral died after a short sharp attack of
pneumonia.  Mark attended his funeral, and exchanged a few words with
Betty, to whom was left everything the kind, eccentric old man
possessed.  Betty broke down when she saw Mark’s sympathetic face.  She
had nursed her uncle faithfully; she had loved him very dearly; she
realised that she was alone in a world which held pain as well as
pleasure.  Mark tried to comfort her.

"You have so many friends, Betty."

"Friends?"  She smiled through her tears. "Friends are like
policemen—always round the corner when most wanted.  I might want you,
and you—you—would be somewhere in Whitechapel."

Mark opened his mouth, and shut it again resolutely.

During that week he saw her twice.  It was settled that The Whim should
be let till she came of age; Betty living, meanwhile, with her guardian
and trustee, Lady Randolph.  Miriam Hazelby helped Betty to pack up the
Admiral’s china, and, when Mark called, played watchdog.  She liked Mark
and respected him; but she respected also the late Admiral’s wishes.
Mark noted that Miss Hazelby’s affection and sympathy for Betty did not
obscure her powers of observation.

"Betty," she said to Mark, "has a mind which till now has been a
sundial: recording only the bright hours.  I confess that I am anxious
about her. When I left her I told the Admiral that she carried too much
sail and not enough ballast.  As a seaman he approved my trite little
metaphor."

Mark began to praise Betty.

"Oh," said Miss Hazelby drily, "she has been fortunate in knowing good
people to whose standard she tries to attain.  It has been easy for her
to avoid evil in King’s Charteris, but in Belgrave Square——"

The excellent lady sniffed.

"Lady Randolph will keep an eye on her," said Mark.

"She’ll need both eyes," retorted Miss Hazelby.



                              *CHAPTER IX*

                         *AT KING’S CHARTERIS*


Two years later, in April, Mark Samphire preached his first sermon at
King’s Charteris. He had wrestled with his stammer as Christian did with
Apollyon, and he told Archie that he had reason to believe it was
mastered when the brothers met at Pitt Hall upon the Saturday preceding
Mark’s appearance in the village pulpit.

"I passed some severe tests, before they admitted me to deacons’
orders," he said.

Archie stared curiously at an unfamiliar Mark. "You don’t look very
fit."

"I’ve been like a bird in the hand of a fowler, a fluttering tomtit
trying to escape.  Ross rescued me.  You must get to know Ross: he’s a
splendid fellow.  I’ve talked to him a lot about you."

Archibald nodded, well pleased to find Mark’s eyes lingered upon his
handsome face and imposing figure with the same pride and affection as
of yore, out he was conscious also of a mental change in his brother,
divined rather than apprehended.  Mark spoke with enthusiasm of work in
congested districts, he gave lamentable details, he indicated colossal
difficulties.

"And this sort of thing satisfies you?" said Archie heavily.  "Although,
as I take it, the results are visible.  I like to see results.  I keep a
diary—of results.  You were telling me just now of the difficulties of
dealing with a shifting population: the people, for instance, round the
London Docks.  I couldn’t undertake that sort of work."

"You want to count your sheaves," said Mark.

"I am ambitious," Archie admitted.  "Aren’t you?"

"Oh, yes.  If I told you that I felt it in me to become a preacher, you
would l-laugh perhaps."

"You’ve always had plenty to say, Mark."

"And if, one day, I could stand in the pulpit of such a fane as
Westchester, if——"

"Why not?" said Archie.

"I try not to think of that.  But those spires and pinnacles—I see them
as in a vision."

"What will be your text to-morrow?"

"That verse from Isaiah: ’_A man shall be as an hiding place from the
wind, and a covert from the tempest._’  I shall not t-touch upon the
prophetical interpretation.  I want to show that any man, the humblest
and weakest, may prove a shelter to others."

Archie caught his enthusiasm.

"It is in you, Mark."

"In me, yes; but suppose it won’t come out."

"Do you know that Betty Kirtling is here?"

"Here?"  He turned to hide his flushed cheeks.

"She is with Mrs. Corrance.  We are asked to lunch there to-morrow.  I
accepted for you.  Betty ran down from town yesterday on purpose to hear
your first sermon."

"Oh!"

"It’s a great compliment; for she has become a much-sought-after person.
I see her name continually in the papers.  Lady Randolph tells me that
you refuse all invitations to Randolph House.  Is that wise?"

"Wise?"  Mark laughed, and thrust out a lean leg.  "Is this a leg for a
gaiter?"

"That joke is worn threadbare," said Archie, with a slight frown.  "I
can’t see why your work should cut you off from old friends who have
your welfare at heart.  Lord Randolph got me my present curacy. He would
do as much and more for you."

"I shall certainly stick to Ross."

Next morning Mark rose early after an uneasy and almost sleepless night.
He had been obsessed by a spirit of Betty.  Whenever he closed his eyes
she came to him.  "She is the creature of my dreams," he told himself
impatiently.  None the less she dominated his waking hours, she stood
behind that ever-increasing hope of becoming a great preacher. He had
consumed gallons of midnight oil in the composition of sermons declaimed
in unfrequented spots of Victoria Park.  Now, the thought of preaching
to the woman he loved filled him with bitter-sweet excitement.  He
dressed and went out into the park.  Presently he came to an elm out of
which flew some jackdaws chattering volubly.  Their harsh notes brought
back a morning when Archie and he, small schoolboys, had scaled this
very tree in search of jackdaws’ eggs.  Yes; there was the hole, high
up, out of which Archibald by his superior height and strength had
secured the spoil.

Mark sat down, despite the protests of the jackdaws, and faced his
thoughts.  The talk with Archie of the night before came back to him.
He had heard Archie preach.  Archie’s matter, perhaps, to the critical
mind left something to be desired; but his manner was admirable and his
voice clear, persuasive, melodious, an instrument of incomparable power
and delicacy.  Did Mark envy his brother?  Did he grudge him a success
already achieved?  Did he grudge him—a subtler point—the greater success
which undoubtedly he would achieve?  To these questions he answered
sincerely—"No."

Leaving Archibald, his thoughts flew straight and swift to Betty.  She
had come to King’s Charteris to hear him preach?  Why?  His heart
flamed; for Archie had preached his first sermon in the village church.
Had Betty travelled from town to hear Samphire major?  No.

When he returned to Pitt Hall, he had made a sort of compromise with his
pride, his conscience, and his God.  Time was when he abhorred
compromise, but David Ross had said that a life without compromise must
prove entirely selfish or so selfless in its aims as to be abnormal.
Mark admitted the possibility of breakdown.  And if silence were
imposed, he must shoulder the burden.  Speech, on the other hand, if it
were truly his, included speech with Betty.  He felt assured that she
expected him to speak, that she had travelled to King’s Charteris to
hear him speak.  He could not have said why this conviction thrilled
every nerve in his body; it simply was so.


During the first part of the service, Mark found time to study the faces
of the congregation.  Betty, sitting beside Mrs. Corrance, looked pale
and anxious.  Mark remembered that she had not entered the church since
the Admiral’s funeral.  Having keen sight, he detected traces of tears,
which moved him profoundly.  Behind her, with his broad back against one
of the pillars, sat the Squire, rigidly upright. He had come prepared to
hear his boy—"the best boy in the world, sir"—preach a fine sermon.
During the rector’s long and somewhat dry discourses, the Squire always
assumed an attitude of profound attention, his fine head inclined upon
his massive chest, his eyes and lips meditatively closed.  If suspicious
sounds had not escaped through his nose, none would have dared to accuse
him of napping. But everybody, from the rector to the latest breeched
urchin, knew that the dear man slept like a humming-top from
introduction to peroration.  He would not sleep to-day.  Expectation,
tempered by anxiety, informed his expression, the expression assumed by
him at Lord’s, when his sons were walking to the wicket.  Literally
interpreted, it said: "A Samphire may fail, but it is not likely to
happen."  Mark glanced from his father to Mrs. Samphire. Her prominent
eyes, set too far apart, like a sheep’s, were slightly congested; her
puffy cheeks were flushed.  It struck Mark that she would accept failure
on his part with Christian resignation.  She resented the fact that Mark
was the favourite son of the Squire, who may have seen the quality in
his youngest born which distinguished the mother, and which Mark alone
inherited.  Mrs. Samphire was inordinately jealous of the first wife.

Mark’s thoughts wandered with his eyes.  Just below the pulpit he saw
Wadge, the head keeper, a thin, hard-bitten, sharp-featured man, whose
brown face was framed in bushy red whiskers.  Many a day’s sport had
Mark enjoyed with Wadge.  He recalled a frosty morning when Jim
Corrance, indiscreetly thrusting his hand into a burrow, had been nailed
by a ferret.  Behind Wadge was Bulpett, the butcher, a burly man, one of
the churchwardens, and reputed to be worth a snug ten thousand pounds.
What a lot of rats there used to be in his old slaughter-house before it
was pulled down!  Once Bulpett had caught Archie and Mark peeping
through a chink in the slaughter-house at a calf he was about to kill.
What silly idiots they felt when Bulpett politely invited them to come
inside.  And then Bulpett had laughed and said that he would send a nice
piece of veal to Pitt Hall.

The rector gave out the psalms of the day.  Archie’s splendid voice
filled the church.  And who was this singing so shrilly and so
abominably flat?  Why dear old Ellen, to be sure—his first nurse—who
must have walked all the way from Cranberry-Orcas.  Ellen lived in a
cottage near Cranberry brook, wherein Archie and he used to catch trout
by the willow at the foot of her cabbage patch.  She had been maid to
the first Mrs. Samphire; and when Miss Selina Lamb came to Pitt Hall,
Ellen married a porter, who had waited for her fifteen years.  Mark knew
the porter well.  He was not an agreeable person, being rheumatic and
asthmatic—and crusty in consequence—but at the time of the marriage the
Samphire boys agreed that Ellen was wise in preferring him to the Ewe,
their nickname for the stepmother.

How his thoughts were wandering!

With an effort he led them from the nave into the chancel.  In this
church a famous poet and scholar had ministered for more than a quarter
of a century.  The ancients from the workhouse, who sat in the front
seats of the aisle, wearing white smock frocks, had been ruddy-faced
youths when the poet first came to King’s Charteris.  And in the village
the influence of this saint remained a vital force, although he had been
dead nearly twenty years. This thought moved Mark to pray that he might
be given the gift of tongues, which is not the faculty of speaking many
languages, but the infinitely greater power of making our
fellow-creatures feel what we feel—of touching them to issues finer than
those which ordinarily engross them, of so setting forth what is strong
and tender and true that other things, no matter what they may be,
shrink and shrivel into the trivial and insignificant.

The psalms came to an end.  Standing at the great brass lectern, Mark
read the lessons without stutter or pause in a voice slightly harsh, yet
susceptible of modulation.  Later, in the same harsh, penetrating tone
he gave out his text.  The scrapings of feet, the rustle of skirts, the
occasional cough were silenced. Mark began his sermon by asking his
hearers to consider man’s relation to others: a theme informed by him
with phrases and illustrations drawn from personal observation of
village life.  Betty Kirtling felt as if she were peering into a magic
mirror, wherein she saw herself illumined by a strange light, and this
shining image was no phantom of the imagination, but her true
substantial self, the woman as God intended her to be, with finite aims
and appetites subordinate and subservient to the majestic design and
purpose of the Infinite.

To her right were the village boys, a mob of sluggish-minded urchins,
the raw material out of which is fashioned the Slowshire yokel.  But
each boy—so Betty noted—was gazing at Mark with intelligence and
affection.  He held them in thrall.  The hard lines about Mrs.
Samphire’s eyes and mouth softened.  The Squire was staring into the
face of the preacher—seeing, hearing, feeling the mother of his son.

And then, when the great thing for which Mark had laboured as patiently
as Demosthenes, seemed within his grasp, when he had proved to the
meanest understanding that he had something to say which the world would
hear gladly, his infirmity seized him.  In the middle of a phrase he
began to stutter.  His face grew convulsed, his thin hand went to his
throat, as if seeking to tear from it the abominable lump.  But no
articulate word followed. Only a stutter falling with sibilant hiss upon
the dismayed congregation.

At that moment a nervous, hysterical girl tittered. The woman seated
next to her glared indiscreet rebuke.  The wretched creature burst into
discordant laughter.  Betty heard the girl’s laughter and saw Mark’s
twisted face.  His eyes met hers in a glance which she could not
interpret, as the girl who had laughed was led weeping from the church.
The great oak door clanged behind her, and in the silence which followed
Mark attempted to continue his sermon, but the last desperate effort to
conquer a physical disability cannot be described.  Betty covered her
face.  Old Ellen burst into piteous sobs. Mark turned towards the altar,
the congregation rising.  Then, with a firm step, he descended the steps
of the pulpit.


The brothers came out of the vestry together, passed in silence through
the churchyard, where Easter flowers were shining in the shadows cast by
the lindens, crossed the village street, and strolled up the lane which
led to Westchester Downs.  In the street a small crowd had collected,
including Wadge and Bulpett.  Further down, by the lychgate, stood the
Samphire landau.  Mark saw a burly figure, and a face, redder even than
usual.  When the Squire perceived that his sons were crossing the street
he got into the carriage.

"It’s hard on him," said Mark.  "The dear old man was so certain I
should score."

The crowd made way; all the men touched their hats; upon every face was
inscribed sympathy and affection.  Bulpett advanced, holding out his
huge hand.  "Gawd bless ee, sir, we be tarr’ble sorry we be; but try
again, Master Mark, try again!"

"Thank you, Bulpett," said Mark, without stammering. He glanced at the
circle of kindly faces. "By Jove! it’s good to have such friends."

The brothers walked on till they reached a bank flaming with primroses,
and sloping to the old chalk-pit, where as boys they used to find
fossils.

"You _will_ try again?" said Archie nervously.

"Again and again," Mark answered.  "All the same, I have the feeling
that I shall never be a preacher."

The words burst vehemently from his lips.  He was very pale, but calm.
Archibald seemed quite overcome.  Mark then said slowly: "I am not fit
to preach."

"What?"

"I—I felt this morning a desire for material success which appalled me.
I had touched you—all of you—to something fine, but—I cannot talk about
it, even to you."

He paused with his eyes upon a distant cloud.

"That wretched girl!" groaned Archibald.

Mark’s quietness seemed to exasperate the elder brother.

"I can’t follow you," he said irritably.  "Why shouldn’t one want the
good things of this world: power, position, honour?"

"Don’t I want ’em?  Great heavens! don’t I hunger for ’em?  But if they
are not to be mine, what then?"

"You kiss the rod?  In your place I should be furious, beside myself
with resentment."

"Good old Archie," said Mark, taking his brother’s hand and pressing it.

He stood up, reminding Archie that Mrs. Corrance had asked them to lunch
with her.

"Betty cried like a baby," said Archie irrelevantly.

Mrs. Corrance received them in the small hall of her house, welcoming
Mark with a mute sympathy more eloquent than words.  Mark broke the
silence as Betty came forward.

"I made a sad mess of it," he said, smiling genially.

But as he was washing his hands in Jim’s room upstairs, his face
hardened.  He went to the window which overlooked Mrs. Corrance’s
rose-garden.  At the end of a _pergola_, glorious in June with the
blossoms of an immense Crimson Rambler, he could see a small arbour
wherein Mrs. Corrance was in the habit of sitting whenever the day
proved fine.  This arbour was the prettiest thing in the garden, and the
one which brought most vividly to mind his childhood.  Here, many and
many a time, Mrs. Corrance had read to and played with Jim and the
Samphire boys.  He could just remember how dreary and neglected this
garden had been when the arbour was built.  Out of a chaos of weeds and
stones and broken crockery (for the outgoing tenant had used this
backyard as a dumping-ground for rubbish) Mrs. Corrance had created a
lovely little world, a tiny domain peculiarly her own, fragrant with
memories sweet as the thyme and lavender of its herbaceous borders. As a
boy, Mark often wondered why time and care were lavished upon a piece of
ground so insignificant. Now he knew.  Mrs. Corrance had had the joy of
fashioning beauty out of ugliness.

At luncheon he told some anecdotes of life in Stepney.  Archibald’s
gloomy face and Betty’s tell-tale eyelids kept his tongue wagging, but
his thoughts were in the pulpit of King’s Charteris Church or in Mrs.
Corrance’s rose-garden.  The one seemed to have affinity with the other.
Would his life remain a wilderness of weeds and broken crockery?

After luncheon he found himself alone with Betty in the arbour.  He had
dreaded this moment; so had she; and yet each was sensible of a harmony
no more to be interpreted than the murmur of the wind in tall grasses.

"What are your plans?" she asked.

Indirectly he answered by speaking of life at the Camford Mission.  She
listened, computing the distance between Randolph House and Bethnal
Green.

"You talk as if work—such work, too,—were all that is left."

He was silent.  Her face, delicately flushed, brimming over with a
tender and imaginative pity, implored him to speak.

"Work lies between me and what is left," he answered slowly, watching
the pulse beat in the blue veins of her white neck.

"You may be famous yet," she whispered.  "This morning when you began
I—I almost forgot that it was you.  And when I looked round, everybody,
even the village boys, were spellbound."

"But when I f-f-failed," said Mark hurriedly, "you, you felt what I
f-f-felt, that, that——"  He put his hand to his throat, unable to finish
the phrase because of the detestable lump rising and swelling in his
throat.

"You thought _that_ because I cried."

He nodded, seeing again her despairing gesture.

"I am sorry I was such a poor friend," she said quickly.  "I ought not
to have cried.  I behaved like a weak fool.  You will succeed yet, Mark.
I know it; I know it."

The lump in his throat seemed to dissolve.

"But," she continued, "if—if it should be otherwise, do you think that I
would care?  Do you measure my friendship for you by the world’s
foot-rule?"

Mark seized her hands.

"God bless you!" he said passionately.  "God bless you, dear, dear
Betty!"  Then abruptly, with a strange smile, he added, "Good-bye!"

He had gone before she could recover her wits or her voice.  She stood
alone, a piteous figure, truly feminine inasmuch as she was not able to
pursue the man.

"Oh, oh!" she cried, covering her face as she had done in the church.
"I cannot bear the misery behind his smiles."



                              *CHAPTER X*

                          *AFTER THREE YEARS*


"I am growing older and older," said Betty Kirtling.

Lady Randolph, looking up from a paper, peered through her glasses at
charms which Time had embellished rather than diminished.  Betty had
passed her twenty-second birthday; she had begun her fifth season; but
by virtue of high health and spirits she still retained the bloom and
freshness of the _débutante_. She stood at the middle window of the
morning-room of Randolph House, the big brown house at the corner of
Belgrave Square, from whose hospitable doors Archibald and Mark Samphire
had driven to Lord’s Cricket Ground when they were Harrow boys.
Outside, a May sun was shining after a shower; and in the puddles on the
balcony some sparrows were taking their bath.  Betty was reflecting that
London sparrows must be very uncomfortable in a dry summer.

"Are you wiser?" Lady Randolph asked.

"I know that sparrows wash themselves, and that skylarks don’t," Betty
replied.  "I suppose the London sparrows had to bathe, and that they
learned to love it.  How jolly they look, splashing about.  That must be
a cock bird.  Do you see?  He takes a whole puddle to himself."

Lady Randolph laid down the _Morning Post_.

"Archibald Samphire has been made a minor canon of Westchester," she
said abruptly.

Betty slightly turned her head.  Lady Randolph perceived a faint pink
blush tinging the whiteness of her neck.

"And Jim Corrance is coming here to luncheon—to-day."

Betty’s exclamation at this must be explained.  Jim had spent three
years in South Africa, buying and selling gold-mines.  He was now a
junior partner in the great firm which he had entered five years before
as a clerk.

"I shall ask Archibald Samphire and Jim to come to us at Birr Wood for
the Whitsuntide recess.  Do you think Mark would join them!"

"Perhaps; if you were careful to make no mention of me."

"Betty?"

"He shuns me as if I were a leper.  I’ve not seen him for eighteen
months.  Yes—ask him.  Make him come!  I should like to meet those three
once again."

She ran from the room, laughing.  Lady Randolph frowned.  "Does she care
for Jim?" she was reflecting, "or is it still Mark?  Or—is it Archibald?
She has always been loyal to her boy lovers."  Her wise old eyes began
to twinkle.  Many men, some of them irreproachable from the marriage
point of view, had fallen in love with the Kirtling girl with the De
Courcy eyes, but in vain.  "And yet she is not cold," mused her friend;
"a passionate nature if ever there was one.  How will it end?"  She
often told herself that this ever-increasing interest in Betty made life
worth the living.  She recognised in her qualities which invited
speculation.  Betty had a sense of religion lacking, or let us say
elementary, in Lord Randolph’s wife; on the other hand, the girl’s sense
of humour was less keen than her own. Pynsent—she liked Pynsent—always
spoke of Betty’s unexpectedness.  So far, what she had done and said had
been more or less conventional.  That indicated Irish blood—the wish to
please those with whom she lived.

Her reflections were interrupted by Jim Corrance. He explained that he
had landed at Southampton within the week.

"I saw this house last night," he concluded, "and it brought back the
days when you were so kind to us.  So I asked if you were at home.  And
I was delighted to get your wire this morning.  Is Betty here?"

"No."  His face amused his old friend, but she added quickly: "She is
upstairs, prinking—for you. Have you seen Mark Samphire?"

"I saw him yesterday, and I shall see him again this afternoon," said
Jim gravely.  "Mark is overworked, you know."

"I don’t know," said Lady Randolph drily. "Tell me about him."

Jim began to describe the difficulties against which Mark was
contending.  Lady Randolph’s eyes lost their sparkle.

"Do you believe all you say?" she asked when Jim paused.  "You indict
Mark’s common sense and worldly wisdom, but are you as sure as you seem
to be that he is tilting at windmills?"

Corrance was silent.

"I have used your arguments a thousand times," continued Lady Randolph,
"and always, but always, I have doubted their real value.  And I am
supposed to be a scoffer, a freethinker, a woman of the world. It is
amazing that I can sympathise at all with Mark, yet I do, and so do you,
my friend.  You are no more sure than I that he is not right in
sacrificing the things which we rate so highly.  When I last saw him his
face was haggard and white, but he looked happier than you."

Jim stared at the pattern in the carpet, till an awkward pause was
broken by the entrance of Betty, a radiant vision from which the young
man laughingly shaded his eyes.  Her welcome was so warm, that Lady
Randolph made certain the girl’s heart was untouched so far as Jim
Corrance was concerned.  Soon after the three joined Lord Randolph in
the dining-room, where Jim was persuaded to talk of what he had done and
what he hoped to do.  The sun had been shining on him steadily during
three years; and its glow illumined the present and the future.

"You look pink with prosperity," said Betty; then she added: "Have you
heard of Archie’s preferment? he has been made a minor canon of
Westchester."

"Archibald Samphire is the handsomest young man in the Church of
England," observed Lord Randolph.

"Mark always said that Archie had a leg for a gaiter," Corrance
remarked.

"A well-turned leg," said Lady Randolph, "carries a man into high
places; and Archie is hard-working, discreet, and ambitious.  He will
climb, mark me."

Obviously Jim was delighted to hear of his friend’s success; but Betty’s
expression defied interpretation.

"It’s queer," said Corrance, "but old Archie has always got what he
wanted.  Some fellows at Harrow called it luck.  I don’t believe in
luck."

"I do," cried Betty.  "So did Napoleon.  Archie is lucky.  Do you know
that he has come into an aunt’s fortune—about eight hundred a year—which
ought to have gone to the eldest son—George? Archie won the old lady’s
heart, when he was a boy, by writing her a wonderful letter; George
pinched her pug’s tail, or threw stones at her cat, or something.
Archie behaved nicely, and his letter, I believe, was a model."

"Well—I’m hanged!" exclaimed Jim.  "Was it Aunt Deborah Samphire?  It
was—eh?  Well, I remember that letter quite well.  Mark dictated it, for
a lark.  And I contributed a word or two.  She sent Archie a fiver when
he got into the Sixth, and he came to us.  Mark said that Aunt Deb
should have a letter which would warm the cockles of her heart.  It was
a masterpiece."

"Um!" said Lord Randolph.  "This young fellow is certainly a favourite
of the Gods.  Luck? Good Gad—who can doubt it?  There was that scoundrel
Crewkerne——"

He plunged into a story which began behind the counter of a
haberdasher’s and ended in the House of Lords.

"Crewkerne had the devil’s own luck," Lord Randolph concluded; "and luck
seems to sit beside young Samphire and you, my boy, but the other lad,
Mark, the fellow with the eyes, is one of the unlucky ones.  That first
sermon of his now——"

"Which was also his last," said Betty.

"Eh—what?"  Lord Randolph stared.  "You don’t mean that.  He has tried
again—surely?"

"Again—and again," said Betty, "but his stammer always defeats him."

"And he had the real stuff in him," said Lord Randolph.  "What a pity it
was not allowed to come out!"

"The real stuff always comes out," said Lady Randolph, rising.

When Jim took his leave a few minutes later, he was under promise to
spend Whitsuntide at Birr Wood.  Lady Randolph commissioned him to
persuade Mark to be of the party.  Archibald—she felt assured—would join
them.  But it must be made plain that a refusal from Mark would be
considered an offence.

Outside, Jim lit an excellent cigar which he smoked as a cab whirled him
eastward.  Years afterwards he remembered that drive: the swift
transition from Belgrave Square to the Mile End Road.  He had seen Mark
the day before, but only for a few minutes, because some poor creature
had come running for his friend.  But those few minutes stood out sable
against the white background of their previous intercourse.  Never could
he forget Mark’s delight at seeing him: the light in his blue eyes, the
grasp of his thin hand, the thrill of his voice.  And yet, to offset
this, was the grim fact that his friend’s health and strength were
failing.  And this failure, measured by his (Corrance’s) success, seemed
tragic. Yet was it?  The question festered.  And that long drive, the
gradual descent of the hill of Life, lent it new and poignant
significance.  If Mark had forsworn all Randolph House included—and it
held Betty Kirtling—what had he gained?

The well-bred grey between the shafts of the hansom sped on past the
houses of the rich and mighty, and plunged into the roaring world of
work. Here, on both sides of the street, in flaming gold letters for the
most part, were the names of the successful strivers, the prosperous
tradesmen, merchants, and bankers.  Farther on, in Fleet Street, might
be seen other names—those of the heralds and recorders of human
effort—the famous newspapers. Jim’s eyes sparkled, and his heart beat
faster.  For the moment he forgot the dun streets behind these
resplendent thoroughfares—the interminable miles and miles of houses
which shelter the millions who toil and moil out of sight and out of
mind!

Passing the Mansion House, the grey knocked down a ragamuffin.  Corrance
was out of his cab in a jiffy, but the urchin scrambled up, apparently
unhurt.  Jim gave him half a crown and a scolding, much to the amusement
of the burly policeman, who was of opinion that the young rascal might
have done it on purpose.  Jim was horrified.  "Bless yer, sir, they’d do
more than that to get a few coppers."  These words stuck in his
thoughts.

When he reached the Mission House he was received by one of the younger
members—a deacon full of enthusiasm which flared, indeed, from every
word he spoke.  Corrance was struck by the lad’s face—his bright
complexion, clear eyes, and general air of sanity.  Some of the men at
the Mission were ill-equipped for the pleasures of life, and therefore,
perhaps, more justified in accepting its pains in the hope of
compensation hereafter.  They, to be sure, would have repudiated
indignantly the barter and sale of bodies and souls.  None the less, the
self-sacrifice of one pre-eminently qualified to win this world’s prizes
became the more remarkable.

"Samphire will be here in five minutes," said the young fellow.  "Can I
offer you anything—a whisky and soda, a cigarette?"

"If you will join me."

"I shall be glad of the excuse," replied the other frankly.  "It is
horribly thirsty weather—isn’t it? And a thirst is catching.  I’ve been
working amongst the navvies this morning.  Glorious chaps—some of them!
I attend to the games, you know—cricket and football."

He plunged into a description of the men with whom he had dealings; and
from them, by a natural transition, to David Ross, who had just been
ordained Bishop of Poplar.  For David Ross great things were predicted.

"It’s like this," he concluded: "Our people are waking up.  Time they
did, too.  And the men who will fill the big billets will be those who
have seen active service.  I don’t sneer at the scholars, but a bishop
nowadays must be more concerned with the present than the past.  Ross
chucked the schools, and he was right; he has given his attention to
conditions of life amongst the very poor, and I believe he knows more
about ’em than most men of twice his age and experience.  Samphire’s
friends may think he’s wasting his time—from a worldly point of view, I
mean—down here in the slums, but he isn’t."

Mark’s entrance cut short this conversation, and the speaker withdrew at
once.

"Nice boy," said Mark.  "The sort we want most, and so seldom get.  Half
our fellows are discouraged, and show it; but I’m not going to talk shop
to you, old chap."

"I saw Betty Kirtling to-day," said Jim abruptly. "It’s amazing that she
is still Betty Kirtling."

Mark said nothing.  Jim, after a keen glance at his pale face, began to
speak of the Whitsuntide party, which at first Mark refused to join.
Jim grew warm in persuasion, accusing Mark of churlishness, making the
matter one personal to himself.  Finally, Mark consented to spend four
days at Birr Wood.

"We shall hear Archie preach in Westchester Cathedral," Mark said.

"I wish it were you," Jim replied quickly.

"I shall never p-p-preach," stammered Mark.

A few minutes later the friends were on their way to one of those
squalid courts which lie between the Mile End Road and the river.  To
Jim the dull uniformity of the houses indicated a life inexorably drab
in colour and coarse as fustian in texture.  But Mark had the
microscopist’s power of revealing the beauty that lies imprisoned in a
speck of dust.  Seen by the polarised light of his imagination these
dreary dwellings showed all the colours of the spectrum.  Here lived a
family of weavers; there, behind those grimy windows, were fashioned the
wonderful hats—the bank-holiday hats of Whitechapel.  Of every trade
pursued in this gigantic hive he had the details at his tongue’s tip;
and through the woof of his description ran golden threads.  More than
once Corrance touched upon the obstacles—the ever-shifting population,
the indifference which lies between class and class, the drunkenness,
the premature marriages of penniless boys and girls.

"These are mountains—yes."

"You have set your face to the stars, and you do not look back—eh?"
Corrance said quickly.  He was sorry he had put the question, for he
felt that Mark would not try to evade it.

"Look back?" cried Mark.  "Aye—a thousand times; and, perhaps, as one
climbs higher the pleasant valleys will grow dim.  I’m not high enough
for that," he added hastily.

"You have climbed far above me," said Jim vehemently; "and far as you
have climbed I have gone twice as far—down hill."  Then, reading dismay
in Mark’s face, he added with a laugh: "Don’t speak; I have said too
much already.  You have the parson’s power of compelling confession.
Tell me more about these weavers!"

Mark obeyed, conscious that troubled waters surged between himself and
his old friend.



                              *CHAPTER XI*

                         *IN LOVE’S PLEASAUNCE*


Birr Wood lies within three miles of Westchester upon the banks of the
Itchen.  The house itself—the home of the Randolphs for four
centuries—was rebuilt by Inigo Jones, and has been mentioned by Lord
Orford as being one of that great architect’s best works.  Like many of
Jones’s palaces, Birr Wood is a show place.  The magnificent avenue, the
Italian gardens, the terraces, the disposition of the trees in the park
are mere accessories to the vast white pile which dominates the whole—a
glittering monument to rank and wealth and power.

Pynsent, who had painted four members of the Randolph family, admired
the house enormously, but he maintained that it must remain greater than
any man who might inhabit it.  The splendid columns and pilasters, so
expressive of what is enduring in Greek art, were designed obviously to
last for ever, albeit the Randolphs themselves, once so numerous, so
vigorous, and so pre-eminent, were dwindling to extinction.  Pynsent,
possibly because he was an American, failed to apprehend the pathos of
this.  Mark Samphire said to him: "It is so horribly sad to think that
soon there will be no Randolphs at Birr Wood."

"Um," replied the painter, "how much sadder it would be if there were no
Birr Wood for the Randolphs, or those that come after them.  Suppose it
burned down—eh?"

Mark was silent.

"I have heard you say," continued Pynsent, "that the work, the best work
of men’s hands, is greater than the men themselves.  And you are right.
To me Birr Wood is not the ancient home of the Randolphs, nor the
masterpiece of Inigo Jones, but a materialisation, adapted to modern
needs, of the spirit of Greek architecture.  For my part, kind as our
friends have been, much as I like them as individuals, I feel that their
house is, in a strained sense perhaps, profaned by the presence of an
hereditary disease.  The Randolphs Van Dyck painted were worthy to live
at Birr Wood."

This talk took place upon the terrace facing the Italian gardens upon
the Friday preceding Whit Sunday.  The Samphires, Pynsent, Jim Corrance
and his mother, Betty Kirtling, young Kirtling (now Lord Kirtling), and
three fashionable maidens made up a party which had assembled on that
day, and would disperse upon the following Tuesday.

Jim had not met Archibald Samphire for some three years.  Archie, Jim
said to himself, might be only a minor canon, but already he had the air
of a great gun.  He spoke little, and it was understood that he was
thinking of his sermon in Westchester Cathedral.  After dinner, in the
red saloon, he sang three songs: one a lyric, a Frühlingslied sweetly
pastoral and simple; the second a love song by an eminent French
composer; the last that hackneyed adaptation of Bach’s lovely prelude,
Gounod’s "Ave Maria."  When he moved from the piano the girls surrounded
him, prattling thanks and entreaties for more.  But Betty, so Corrance
noted, sat still, with a faint flush upon her cheeks and a suffused
light in her eyes.

"He sings extraordinarily well," said Jim.

"Yes," Betty sighed.

Just then Mark came up, rubbing his hands.  His delight in his brother’s
voice struck Jim as being pathetic.

"It’s the quality that does it," Mark explained. "That second song of
his—rubbish—eh?  But it thrilled—didn’t it, Betty?  And the tragic note,
the note of interrogation: the forlorn ’why’—you heard that?"

"Yes, yes," said Betty hastily.

"A vocal trick," Jim observed, rather abruptly. Then he moved away,
surrendering his seat to Mark, who dropped into it.

"Well?" said Mark, following Corrance’s figure with his eyes.  "What do
you think of old Jim?"

"I am thinking of the new Jim," Betty answered. "And I suppose I can
measure the change in myself by the change in him.  Archie has changed
too. Only you, Mark, remain the same."

She flashed a blinding glance upon him.  Somehow Mark realised that the
glance was an indictment.

"I have changed," he replied quickly.

"No—no.  You are the same Mark, with the same ideas, the same ideals of
years ago."

"Ideals?"  The expression on her face bewildered him.  Not a score of
feet away the others were buzzing about Archie, but Betty and he seemed
to be alone.  "You used to share my ideals, Betty."

"You mean you shared them with me, but when you went away you took them
with you.  Now they are like you—out of sight."

"I am here now," he replied.

"Because your brother is here.  You did not come to see—me."

"Perhaps I did," he murmured, his thin face aflame with colour.  Betty’s
cheeks were pale, but her bosom heaved.

"If that be really true, I forgive," she whispered. "Only—prove it!"

She leaned towards him.

"Betty," he said hoarsely, "you know why I have stayed away from you."
He looked so distressed that she feared the eyes of the others.

"You shall tell me that and more—to-morrow," she murmured, rising.  "My
cousin is crossing to us."

Young Kirtling wanted her to sing, but she refused.

"You always say ’No,’" he growled.

Pynsent joined them, followed by Archibald and the others.  Lady
Randolph seated herself beside Mark.

"We have not had a chat for an age," she began, and then went on
abruptly: "How do you like my guests?"

Mark’s eyes rested for an instant upon young Kirtling’s handsome but
rather saturnine features. Lady Randolph laughed and tapped Mark’s hand
with her fan.

"I didn’t ask him.  He asked himself.  He is still mad about our Betty,
but she flouts him.  The Admiral wished it, as you know."

"And you," said Mark.

"I want the girl to be happy.  And I shall be satisfied if she finds her
peer outside the House of Lords.  She has plenty of money and can marry
whom she pleases."

For the second time that evening Mark’s cheeks flamed.

"She beguiles all hearts," continued Lady Randolph, looking at Mark out
of the corner of a shrewd grey eye; "Jim Corrance makes no secret of his
feelings; and your handsome brother sang for her and at her—to-night.
Somehow I can’t conceive of her as the wife of, let us say, a bishop."

"There are bishops and bishops," said Mark.

"Just so.  I am told that a certain person who has been labouring in a
field which—which does not smell as one that the Lord hath blessed—may,
if he continues to display his remarkable powers of organisation, wear
lawn some day."

Then she spoke discreetly of other things, seeing that Mark’s lips were
quivering and his eyes shining; while the young man listened, hearing
her pungent, pleasant phrases, but seeing only Betty—Betty—Betty!

Meantime that young lady had left the saloon accompanied by Pynsent,
Kittling, and Jim Corrance. Mark could hear their voices in the room
beyond, and Betty’s voice, Betty’s laugh, came clearly to his ears above
the chorus, even as the silvery notes of a flute float upward from the
clashing cymbals and roaring bassoons.  Mark rose quickly and slipped
away into the moonshine of the terrace.

For three years he had told himself daily that the woman he loved could
never be his.  Now—he drew a deep breath—she had come once more within
his grasp.  More, the world, in the person of his shrewd old friend,
recognised that he, the failure, had not really failed, that he might
have to give, even from the world’s point of view, something worth the
taking.  And here, where material things possessed such significance, he
could measure what he had accomplished with a detachment unachievable in
Stepney.  A thousand details presented themselves: a summons to the
house of a great minister, an interview with a prince, who professed
interest in the better housing of the poor, letters from celebrities
asking for information, and his ever-increasing friendship with David
Ross—now famous.  The power of the orator had been denied him, and
perhaps on that account he had been the keener to practise what
otherwise he might have been content to preach.

He walked slowly down the terrace and into the garden which lay below, a
conventional garden cut and trimmed to the patterns set by Le Nôtre at
Versailles and known to the passing tourist as Love’s Pleasaunce,
because it was embellished by marble statues of Venus and attendant
Amorini.  In the centre sparkled a sheet of water wherein and whereon
the fountains played on high days and holidays.  Mark knew that the key
to the middle fountain was concealed in an Italian cypress.  Often as a
boy he had begged permission to turn this key, and always, he
remembered, there had been a certain disappointment because the English
climate so seldom lends itself to such a scene, for instance, as
Aphrodite rising from the waters.  Now he reflected that he had never
seen the fountains play by moonlight.  The whim seized him to turn the
key.  A second later he was gazing spellbound at the goddess in the
centre of the pool.  At the touch of the shimmering waters the white
image thrilled into life.  Clothed with silvery tissues, which revealed
rather than concealed the adorable grace of her limbs, Aphrodite smiled.
Beneath the dimpled surface of the pool, her feet twinkled into a dance,
a measure of the moon, slow, rhythmic, and set to the music of the
fountain.  Beyond, in the shadow of the cypresses, Mark caught a glimpse
of two nymphs: one playing the double flute dear to Thebans, the other,
seated, sweeping the strings of the Homeric phorminx. From these,
surely, floated the liquid notes, the trills and cadences, which had
stirred to movement the feet of the goddess.  Mark touched the key
again. The music died in a sigh.  Aphrodite hid herself in the cold
marble.  The pool, so sweetly troubled, became still.  Mark smiled and
released once more the goddess.  But the illusion had lost its spell.
Mark touched the key for the last time, reflecting that Aphrodite rises
once only for mortal men.  And the pleasaunce, now, had a forlorn
aspect.  A cloud obscured the moon, so that the silver of the scene
became as lead and the shadows grew chill and amorphous.  Mark walked
slowly away towards the lights of the house which held Betty.

On the terrace he paused, startled by a deep voice. Archibald was
calling him by name.

"You here?" said Mark.

Archie was seated on a stone bench, which stood in the shadows.

"Yes.  Sit down!"

"You are in trouble," said Mark quickly.  "Dear old fellow—what’s
wrong?"

"My sermon."

Mark sat down, saying: "Tell me about it."

Archie began to speak with a dogged intonation which recalled Harrow
days.  As he indicated the scope of the sermon already written out, Mark
drummed with his foot upon the terrace.

"I know it," groaned the elder brother.  "It will send the Dean to
sleep, and Lord Randolph will twiddle his thumbs, and my lady will smile
ironically—and Betty——"

"Yes."

"Betty will pity me."

A silence followed.  Mark was reflecting that Betty’s pity without
Betty’s love would be hard to endure.

"You care for her?" he muttered.

"Oh, yes," said Archibald impatiently, "but she says ’No’ to me and
everybody else.  How I have loved that witch," his voice grew
sentimental, "and how I should like to show her that I can preach.  And
so I can for ordinary occasions, but when it comes to a big
thing—somehow I don’t score.  I’d like to score this time—eh?  And if—if
you could help me, why—why, it might make all the difference."

"About Betty?"  Mark’s voice was thin and strained, but Archie was too
engrossed with his own thoughts to notice that.

"Betty?  I’m not thinking about Betty.  I mean that next Sunday may be
the making or marring of my career.

"Oh!"

"I put my profession first, as you do, Mark.  I can say to you what I
would admit to no other, that success in it is vital to me.  I’ve worked
hard, and of course I’ve a pull over most fellows, for which I’m
sincerely grateful; but I’ve not your brains."

"It happens," said Mark after a slight pause, "that I have written a
sermon about Westchester Cathedral.  You might find something in it; not
much, I dare say; but a hint or two.  As—as I shall never preach it,
why—why shouldn’t you have it?"

"I’d like to see it, Mark.  Some of my best sermons have been
suggested—only suggested, mind you—by reading others.  Robertson is a
gold-mine—and Newman.  Where is your sermon?"

"Locked up in my desk at the Mission House."

"Oh!"

"I can nip up and get it," said Mark, after a pause.

"I couldn’t allow that, Mark.  You’re on a holiday and——"

"There’s stuff in that sermon," Mark interrupted. "I’d like you to see
it.  Holiday be hanged!  I’ll fetch it to-morrow."



                             *CHAPTER XII*

                   *BETTY SPENDS AN HOUR IN STEPNEY*


Betty Kirtling came down to breakfast the next morning in her prettiest
frock, and with her prettiest smile upon a glowing face.  Indeed, Lord
Randolph, meeting her in the hall, held up his thin, white hand, and
confessed himself dazzled.  Betty laughed when he quoted a line of
Dryden, sensible that only a poet could do justice to her looks if they
reflected faithfully her feelings.  Perhaps the philosopher, with his
faintly ironical smile, knew better than the poet that "the porcelain
clay of human kind" is easily broken, and (being a collector) he may
have remembered (which accounts for the shadows in his eyes) that rare
pieces seldom escape chipping.  He followed the girl into the
dining-room, and saw that she seated herself next the chair which had
been taken by Mark the morning before.  Mark, however, was not in the
room, his absence being accounted for by young Kirtling, who had met him
driving to the station.

"To the station?" echoed Betty.

Archibald Samphire added that he was charged by his brother to make the
proper excuses.  Mark had gone to town on an important matter, and would
return that evening before dinner.  Lady Randolph frowned.

"’Pon my soul," she exclaimed, "our young man takes himself too
seriously."

"He’s the best and kindest fellow in the world," said Archie.  Then he
hesitated.  He could not explain the nature of Mark’s errand without
exciting curiosity about himself and his sermon.

"What were you going to say?" whispered Betty.

"Mark has gone to town to do me a service," said Archie.

She pouted: "I believe Mark would do anything for you."

With his eyes on his plate, Archie slowly answered, "Yes."  Then seeing
that Betty was trifling with her bacon, he added in a different tone: "I
advise you to try this omelette.  Shall I get some for you?"

Betty said "No" somewhat tartly, wondering why Mark had left Birr Wood.
"He might have told me last night at dinner," she thought.

After breakfast she escaped from young Kirtling and Jim Corrance, and
betook herself to a secluded spot in the gardens, where she sat staring
at a pretty volume of verse—held upside down.  It was intolerable that
she should be sitting here and Mark sixty miles away.  Then she smiled,
remembering that only yesterday the distance between them had seemed
immeasurable.  And a word, a glance, had bridged it!  What a miracle of
Cupid’s engineering!  Her cheeks were hot as she wondered whether she
had given herself away too cheaply.  If propriety faltered "Yes,"
generosity thundered—"No."  She was sure she understood Mark better than
any creature living, and certainly she understood herself.  Always she
had wanted him, but always—always!  And he had wanted her, and would
want her for ever and ever. It will be our object to show Betty Kirtling
as a young woman of many facets illumined by lights and cross-lights;
but for the moment she is presented beneath the blaze of Love, which,
like the sun, eclipses other luminaries.  Betty was an adept at, if not
the mistress of, many accomplishments. She had been told that she might
excel as a musician, a painter, or a writer, if she chose to give any
one of these arts undivided attention.  She preferred to play with all
rather than work with one, and wisely, for her admiration of what others
had done was certainly a greater thing than what she might have done
herself.  And, perhaps, because she had scattered her own energies, she
was the more keenly appreciative of sustained endeavour wherever she
found it.  Young Kirtling, for instance, aroused interest because he
hunted his own hounds as well as any man in England; Jim Corrance
whetted mere affection into something with a sharper edge to it,
inasmuch as he had sought fortune in South Africa and had found it;
Archie was singing himself steadily and stolidly into such exalted
places as the pulpit of Westchester Cathedral.

Sitting there in May time encompassed by Arcadian scents and sounds,
Betty found herself speculating upon the mutual attraction of man and
maid. Young ladies kill time with such meditations as pleasantly as men
kill partridges.  Betty, however, while sipping the sweet, made a wry
face over the bitter.  Mark’s work in the slums stood between her and
him, a mystery which she must accept, knowing that she could never
understand it.  The horrors amongst which Mark moved revolted her; the
contrast between her life and his pierced imagination, and left it to
bleed; pity, sympathy, the woman’s desire to minister to infirmity, were
drained, glutted, by the incredible demand upon them.

These meditations were disturbed by Lady Randolph. Betty, as soon as she
saw her kind friend, remembered that Lady Randolph had shown her this
delightful nook, and had said that she (Lady Randolph) was in the habit
of sitting here.

"You—alone?" said Lady Randolph.  "I have just passed Harry Kirtling.
He asked me if I knew where he could find you.  Shall I tell him?"

"Pray don’t," said Betty, making room for her friend on the stone bench.
"And besides," she added, letting a dimple be seen, "you could not tell
him where I was.  I have spent the last hour in Stepney."

"I can’t see you in Stepney, my dear."

"I thought you would say that," said Betty, nervously playing with the
laces on her frock; then, reading the sympathy in the other’s face, she
burst out: "Oh—I’m a coward, a coward!  I loathe Stepney."

Lady Randolph wondered whether it would be wise to speak.  She cherished
the conviction that when in doubt it is better to say nothing; and yet,
in the end, despite a strong feeling that her advice would be wasted,
she said quietly:

"I knew your mother."

"Am I like her?" interrupted Betty.

"I have often thought," continued the elder woman, ignoring Betty’s
question, "that if Louise de Courcy had had your upbringing her life
would have been so different——"

"You mean she would not have married my father."  Betty’s voice
hardened.  "Well, if she felt as—as I feel, she would have married him
anyway, if she loved him."

"She would not have loved him," said Lady Randolph with emphasis.  "We
women love the things which we are taught to believe are lovable. You,
Betty, have been trained, trained, I say, to love things and people of
good report.  It was otherwise with your mother."

"And my father," added Betty.  "I have always known that I was
handicapped.  Yes; I have been trained to see—it’s a question of
observation, isn’t it?—to see and admire what is good in everything and
everybody, but you don’t know what a materialist I am.  I delight in
your flesh-pots.  Why just now, when I was trying to walk with Mark
through those horrible slums, I found myself thinking of what——?  That
delicious _macédoine_ we had last night!"

Lady Randolph laughed.

"It’s no laughing matter.  I’m greedy; I spend too much time thinking of
_chiffons_; and I spend too much money buying them; I adore great
things, but I cannot give up small things.  I want to run with the hare
and course with the hounds.  Lots of girls try to do both—and succeed in
a feeble sort of way: a fast on Friday and feast on Saturday diet—eh?"

"In Stepney——" began Lady Randolph.

Betty seized her hands.  "Why should I go to Stepney?" she whispered,
blushing.  "I’ll be honest with you."

"I hope so, my dear."

"Mark is going to ask me to marry him.  It may be to-day, or to-morrow,
or the day after, but it’s coming; and I shall fling myself into his
arms."

"Betty!"

"I haven’t a spark of pride left.  His long silence smothered it.  Do
you know that I have been at the back of all his ambitions?  He wanted
to be a famous soldier, because when we were babies I said I must marry
a fighting man."

"If he isn’t a fighting man I never saw one."

"Thank you.  You always appreciated him. When he was spun for the army
he thought he had lost me.  I read despair in his eyes, and he, poor
dear, couldn’t read what was in mine.  And then came that awful scene in
King’s Charteris Church. He gave me up then, but I stuck to him.  And
now—now," her eyes filled with tears although her lips were smiling, "he
shall know that success or failure counts nothing with me.  I want
him—him.  And anything which stands between us I abhor."

Lady Randolph’s attempt to reduce this speech to its elements found
expression in a simple: "You will ask him to give up Stepney?"

"I shall ask him to seek work in some place where you do not smell fried
fish.  There is plenty to do west of Temple Bar."

"And the others?  You have flirted with all of them, Betty; don’t deny
it!"

"But I do deny it."

"You encouraged Harry Kirtling the season before last."

"As if he needed encouragement!"

"He nearly persuaded you to marry him."

"Yes, he did," she confessed, blushing furiously. "I burn when I think
of that Ascot week.  Bah! what fools girls are!  Mark never came near
me, answered my letters with post-cards.  I give you my word—post-cards.
I sent sheaves and received straws.  And Harry makes love nicely."

"You gave him lots of practice," Lady Randolph observed drily.

"He wanted me so badly that he offered to give up his hounds and settle
down wherever I pleased."

"And Jim and Archibald."

"My oldest friends."

"Ah, well," sighed Lady Randolph, "you are a lucky girl, Betty.  Four
good fellows want you."

"Archie wouldn’t tell me why Mark went to town," said Betty absently.
"What a voice he has!  When he sings I feel like a Madonna.  And his
face——! A man has no business to be so good-looking.  I am shameless
enough to confess to you, only to you, that his good looks appeal to me
enormously.  It annoys me.  I find myself staring at him as if he were a
sort of royalty.  And when other girls do it, I think them idiots.
Well, for that matter I have never disguised from myself, or you, that I
am a bit of an idiot."

"You are very human."

"I am not all you think me," cried the girl.  "And yet you read me
better than anyone else, but there are pages and pages turned down.  I
peep at them sometimes, and am quite scared.  Mark shall tear them out
and tear them up.  Dear me!  I am making myself ridiculous: chattering
on and on about myself."

"One is never ridiculous when one is young," said Lady Randolph
solemnly, "and I hope, my dear, you will let me read the turned-down
pages before they are torn up.  I used to say to myself that I should
like to begin life again, to have one more chance.  And, listening to
you, I feel that I am beginning again.  It is exciting.  Only I hope
that sometimes you will listen to me, and try to profit by my experience
of a subject on which you, Betty, are so amazingly ignorant."

"That subject’s name is Legion."

"That subject’s name is Man.  You have tried, I dare say, to measure
Mark with a girl’s rule of thumb, to weigh him in virgin’s scales, but
his dimensions remain an unknown quantity."

For answer, Betty kissed her.

"Tell me," she whispered, "all you know that I do not know."

"We should sit here for forty years!  Our world says you ought to marry
Harry, and our world is always more than half right.  Harry has
entertained you with a vast deal of talk about himself, and perhaps you
think you know him.  Ah! you nod your head with all the cocksureness of
ignorance!  You spoke of his giving up his hounds—for your sake, because
you might find Kirtling a far cry from Bond Street.  Oh, the conceit of
the modern girl!  My dear, Harry knew well enough that if you became his
wife, no such sacrifice would be demanded.  The hounds would remain at
Kirtling—and so would you.  If you were beautiful as Helen of Troy, and
fascinating as Cleopatra, you could not root out that passion for
hunting his own hounds.  It is a master passion—and always will be so
long as he can sit in the saddle.  And in your heart of hearts you
respect and like Harry the more because he does that one thing really
well."

"I am sure you are right," said Betty humbly.

"Well, my dear, what hunting the fox is to Harry, so is the hunting of
vice, and ignorance, and dirt to Mark Samphire.  The masculine ardour of
the chase possesses both, and each will hunt the country he knows best."

Betty’s silence provoked her friend to say more. "You are in for a
fight, child."  She took Betty’s hand, which seemed cold, and pressed it
gently. "On your own confession you are unfit to be the wife of the man
you love, and who loves you; and so—pray don’t ask me for
congratulations."

"You did not marry for love," cried Betty.  Then she paused, ashamed.
"Forgive me!"

"It is true."  Lady Randolph turned a grim face to the girl, and her
voice was harsh.  "I did not marry for love.  Shall we say that I lacked
courage, or did I see clearer than you mountainous differences of
temperament, taste, and opinion, which my love was not strong enough to
scale?  Was I a coward because I turned back?  I do not say Yes or No.
The man I loved had the brains, but not the body of a conqueror.  Do you
think that I was right or wrong because I refused to add burdens to a
back already bowed?"

She spoke with such vehemence that Betty was frightened.

"I d-d-do not know," she stammered.

"_I_ do not know," repeated the other fiercely. "When these mysteries
between our lower and higher natures are revealed, I _shall_ know, and
not till then—not—till—then!"

Her lips closed violently, as if speech were alarmed into silence.



                             *CHAPTER XIII*

                        *BAGSHOT ON THE RAMPAGE*


Alone in his room at the Mission, Mark read over the sermon he had
written upon Westchester Cathedral.  Then he stared at the bare boards,
the whitewashed walls, the narrow camp bedstead, the Windsor chairs:
things eloquent of a renunciation which he had found sweet a week ago.
Here he had been well content to live, here he had known that he might
die.  And now in these same familiar surroundings he felt another man;
the tides of another life ran breast high to meet the quiet waters.  Was
it always so, he wondered?  Did love, such love as he felt for Elizabeth
Kirtling, such love as she felt for him, exact sacrifice?  Must it be
purged and purified in the flame of renunciation?  And the answer came
at once—Yes.  Perhaps the answer always does come, if we put the
question fairly and frankly to the Supreme Court of Appeal.  Mark never
doubted, then or thereafter, that if he took Betty and left his work, it
would be ill for both of them.  This conviction was buttressed by a
half-score of proofs, trivial indeed in themselves, yet in their sum
confirmation strong.  Beneath his hand lay a memorandum-book.  Mark
opened it.  On the first page was a list of names—drunkards all of them,
many women, a few boys and girls.  These poor creatures leaned upon him.
Each week they brought to him such of their earnings as otherwise would
be spent in drink.  With each Mark had fought—and prevailed.  He alone
held the master key to their hearts.  People who live within a mile or
two of the slums may sneer at a repentance or reformation founded upon
an influence merely personal, which may be withdrawn at any minute.  But
those labouring among the very poor and ignorant are well aware that
this personal influence, this amazing power and attraction which one
soul may exercise over another, is the first lever by which ignorance,
and poverty, and sin may be raised to the level whence the Creator is
dimly seen and apprehended through the created.  Mark knew, and every
fellow-worker in the Mission knew, that personal influence may, and
often does, soften the hard surface upon which it shines, so that other
rays may penetrate, but he knew also that if personal influence be
withdrawn before that softening process is complete, induration follows.
Mark read over the names in the little book, and closed it with a sigh
as a knock at his door was heard.  The handsome young deacon entered the
room.

"Hullo!" he cried, "I am glad you’re here."

"What’s up?" said Mark.

"Bagshot is on the rampage."

"The miserable sinner!"

"He got his wages last night, and came round as usual to give ’em to
you, but he wouldn’t give ’em to me.  Then he went off."

"Didn’t you go with him?"

"I wish I had thought of it," said the other ruefully.  "He went
straight from here to the ’Three Feathers,’ and stayed there till
closing time."

Mark looked at his watch.  His train left Waterloo in an hour.  He had
time to see Bagshot, although such time would probably be wasted.
Bagshot was a brand snatched from the burning some six weeks before: a
big, burly, blackguard of a navvy, strong as Sandow, weak as Reuben,
reasonable enough when sober, a madman drunk, with a frail wife and five
small children at his mercy.

"I’ll go alone," said Mark, as the young fellow reached for his hat.

He hurried off, followed at a discreet distance by the deacon.  The
Bagshots lived not far from the Mission, in Vere Terrace, a densely
populated slum. Mark tapped at the door of Number 5, opened by a
tattered girl of twelve, whose fingers and face were smeared with paste.

"Where’s your father, ’Liza?" said Mark.

"Dunno," replied ’Liza.  "’E’s drunk, wherever ’e is.  Would yer like to
see mother, Mr. Samphire?"

Mark followed the child into the living-room of the family.  Coming
straight from Birr Wood, contrast smote him with a violence he had never
before experienced.  The Bagshot family sat round a rickety table making
matchboxes.  Deducting the cost of paste (which the matchmakers supply),
these bring less than fourpence a gross, and a handy child of ten or
twelve can make just about that number in a day’s hard work!  Facing
Mark, stood an old-fashioned mangle, seldom used, because it took two
strong women to turn it; to the right was a chest of drawers in the last
stages of infirmity, crippled by ill-usage and long service, stained and
discoloured like the face of the woman who was proud to own it; to the
right a small stove displayed a battered assortment of pots and pans.
The window, which overlooked a court, was propped open with an empty
bottle.  Into the court, half filled with rubbish and garbage, the May
sun was streaming, illuminating an atmosphere of squalor and
unhomeliness which hung like a fetid fog between the crumbling ceiling
and the rotten floor.

"’Ere’s Mr. Samphire, mother," said the girl. Already her thin, nimble
fingers were at work, while her eyes sparkled with excitement.  In the
congested districts of the East End the decencies of life go naked and
unashamed.  ’Liza knew that her mother would burst into virulent speech,
and was not disappointed.  Bill was drunk again, and violent.  She bared
a part of her neck and bosom, showing a hideous bruise.  ’Liza stuck out
a leg not much thicker than a cricket stump, and offered to pull down
her stocking.  Another child had an ugly lump within three inches of his
temple.

"It wos quite like ole times larst night," said ’Liza, grinning.  "’E
giv’ us all what-for—’e did."

In answer to a question concerning Mr. Bagshot’s immediate whereabouts,
the wife replied sullenly that she neither knew nor cared; then,
remembering Mark’s efforts on behalf of the family, she added curtly:
"I’d keep out of ’is wy if I wos you.  ’E might drop in any minnit."

"And yer’ve got yer best clothes on," added ’Liza curiously.  "Goin’
beanfeastin’ I dessay, or to a weddin’—yer own, my be," she added
sharply.

"Stop yer noise, ’Liza," commanded the mother, wondering vaguely why her
visitor was blushing.

"We wos goin’ to Chingford to-dy," said the child with the lump on his
head; "and mother promised us chops and mashed pertaters—didn’t yer,
mother?"

"I’d like ter eat chops and mashed pertaters for ever and ever," ’Liza
said.  Then, meeting Mark’s eyes, she added: "That ’ud suit me a sight
better than a golden ’arp or a ’evingly crown."

"You shall have chops to-day," said Mark, producing a florin.  "Cut
along and buy them."

"Mebbee yer aunt ’ll let you cook ’em," said Mrs. Bagshot significantly.
’Liza nodded her shrewd little head and vanished; but a minute later she
appeared, breathless.  "Father’s comin’.  Yer’d better tyke yer ’ook,
sir."

Mark said gravely he would stay.  The children were despatched to the
aunt’s house.

"Yer’d better go, sir," said the wife, now pallid with fear.  Mark
smiled confidently, shaking his head.  The drunkard’s heavy, uncertain
step was heard in the passage; his voice, thick and raucous, called for
his wife.

"A word with you, Bill," said Mark, as the man’s huge body darkened the
doorway.  The giant stared stupidly at the only fellow-creature he
respected. Then his hand went mechanically to his head and removed a
greasy cap.  The woman sat down and began making a matchbox.  "I beg
your pardon," continued Mark, holding out his hand; "I told you that I
would take over your wages each week, and last night I failed you.  I am
very, very sorry."

His blue eyes expressed much more.  The heavy, bloodshot orbs of the
huge navvy sought slowly the latent spark of ridicule or contempt.  He
was just sober enough to understand in some inexplicable way that the
tables had been turned.  When he saw the parson he had prepared himself
for everything except this.  Very awkwardly he took Mark’s hand in his
own enormous paw.

"Wot yer givin’ us?" he growled.

"If the money is not all gone, Bill, I’ll take what is left—now."

"Will yer?" said Bill.

"Yes."

Quality confronting quantity smiled steadily, reassuringly.  Quantity
scowled, wriggled uneasily, and quailed.  A chink of silver and copper
proclaimed the moral victory.

"Only seven-and-fourpence," said Mark.  "You can’t go to Chingford with
that."

Bill said something which need not be recorded.

"It is like this," said Mark.  "I failed you, and you failed me, and
your wife and your children have suffered.  I can see that you have a
splitting headache, and I believe the forest air would do you good. Will
you take Mrs. Bagshot and the children to Epping if I pay the piper?  I
ought to be fined for my part in this."

Bill nodded, none too graciously, and some money was given to Mrs.
Bagshot.

"I’m going out of town myself," added Mark, as he took leave of the
giant, "but I know I can trust you, Bill."

Mr. Bagshot grinned sheepishly.  It is possible, although not very
probable, that he had an elementary sense of humour.  Mark hurried away
looking at his watch.  Just round the corner he charged into the deacon,
who offered up fervent thanks that he was unhurt.  "I must run," said
Mark, pushing on, "or I shall miss my train."  He did run till a hansom
was found in the Mile End Road.  Into this he jumped, bidding the driver
use all reasonable haste. None the less as Mark appeared on the platform
at Waterloo the Westchester express was rolling slowly out of the
station.


"Close shave that," said a quiet voice; "you might have been under the
train instead of in it.  Was it worth while?"

Mark sank, gasping, on to the cushions.

"Yes; it was worth while," he exclaimed, and then fainted.

When he recovered consciousness the train was running through Clapham
Junction.  Mark smelled brandy, and saw the impassive face of a tall,
thin stranger bending over him.  No other person was in the carriage.

"Keep quiet for five minutes," the stranger commanded.

Mark closed his eyes.  His heart was thumping, but his brain worked
smoothly.  When he saw the train rolling out of the station he had been
seized with an absurd conviction that he must overtake and travel by it
to the great happiness awaiting him at Birr Wood.  What followed was a
blur, only, strangely enough, the voice of the tall, thin man was
familiar.  He had heard his calm, authoritative accents before; by
Heaven!  he had heard that voice repeating the same words: "_Keep
quiet._"  And they had been spoken to the accompaniment of a thumping,
throbbing heart and horrible physical weakness. Who—who was the speaker?
Ah...!  He remembered.  The long, lofty room at Burlington House, the
boys in all stages of dressing and undressing, the amazement and dismay
on Jim Corrance’s face—these unfolded themselves like the shifting
scenes of a cinematograph.

"You are Amos Barger," he murmured.

He introduced himself to the surgeon, and spoke of the examination at
Burlington House.

"You were very kind," said Mark, "but it was an awful experience for a
boy, because now——"  He paused to reflect that the man opposite had not
asked for his confidence.

"Yes—now?" repeated Barger.

"Now, the sense of perpetual imprisonment"—he brought out the grim words
slowly—"would not convey such a sense of loss."

The surgeon was not sure that he agreed.  Could a young man, a boy,
measure his loss?  Was the capacity for suffering greater in youth?

"I am thinking of one thing," Mark replied, "liberty, the darling
instinct of the newly fledged to fly.  When you clipped my wings, I had
the feeling that I should never move again.  The pain was piercing: one
could never suffer just such another pang."

"Have you learned to hug your chains?"

"I do not say that.  They gall me less."

"But as one grows older"—Amos Barger’s face was seamed with
distress—"one sees what might have been so clearly.  You say I was kind;
the other surgeon was and is one of the cast-iron pots.  Well, I expect
no credit for such kindness.  In you I see reflected myself.  I am of
the weaklings, to whom some incomprehensible Power has said: ’Thus far
shalt thou go—and no farther!’  And I might have gone far had not my
feet, the lowest part of me, failed.  I am halting through life when
every fibre of my body tells me I was intended to run."

Mark was trying to adjust words to his sympathy, when the other
continued abruptly: "Don’t say a word!  We are poles asunder and must
remain so. I am surprised that I spoke at all.  You have a faculty, Mr.
Samphire, of luring Truth from her well."

The two men looked at each other.  Upon the one face disappointment had
laid her indelible touch; upon the other glowed the light of hope and
faith.

"Before we settle down to our papers"—the surgeon indicated an enormous
pile of magazines and journals—"let me remind you that we spun you for
the Service because you cannot run, with impunity, to catch trains—or,
indeed, anything else."

He picked up a review as he spoke and opened it. Mark eyed him vacantly,
reflecting that he had run to catch Betty, not the train.  And he had
spoken of this meeting as coincidence.  Was it coincidence? His heart
began to thump once more.  When he spoke his voice was hoarse and
quavering.

"Thank you.  I suppose just now you had time to make a rough-and-ready
sort of examination?"  The surgeon nodded.  "Is—is there anything
organically wrong with my heart?"

"Um.  It is organically weak—you knew as much before, but you may live
to be sixty if you take care of yourself—which you won’t do."

"If others were dependent on me I would take care of myself."

"Oh!" Barger frowned.  "You are married—got a family—eh?"

"I have been thinking lately of—of marrying."

The surgeon’s face was impassive.  Mark looked out of the window at the
pleasant fields of Surrey, through which the train was running swiftly
and smoothly.  Was Fate bearing him as swiftly and inexorably out of the
paradise wherein he, poor fool, had already lived in anticipation many
years?

"I infer from your silence," he said, "that if you gave a professional
opinion it would be against marriage—for me?"

"I do not say that," replied the other, shrugging his shoulders; "but it
will be time enough for me to give a professional opinion when you ask
for one in a professional way.  I’m running down to Bournemouth for a
holiday, but I shall be at home next Tuesday.  Come and see me.  I’ll
look you over, and answer that question to the best of my ability."

"I’ll come," said Mark.

"Afternoon or morning?" asked the surgeon, whipping out a pencil.  "Book
your hour!"

"Will three suit you, Mr. Barger?"  The surgeon’s pencil scratched upon
the paper.  Mark added: "I shall be punctual."



                             *CHAPTER XIV*

                           *A MORAL EXIGENCY*


Archibald met his brother at Westchester Station, and drove him towards
Birr Wood as the shadows lay long and cool upon the white road. A sweet
stillness hung over the ancient capital—the stillness which in
springtime is eloquent of strife. Everywhere the sap was forcing its way
upward; buds were swelling, leaves were bursting from their bonds.  And
an ethereal mildness permeated the atmosphere, suffusing in golden haze
the setting sun.

"Pull up," said Mark.

"Eh?"

"I should like to read you my sermon here and now, within sight of the
cathedral.  We can walk across the downs afterwards, and arrive in
plenty of time to dress for dinner."

"All right," Archie replied, "I’m keen enough to hear it.  Was it hot in
town?  You look rather done."

A groom took the reins and drove off.  Mark stared at the cathedral.

"It lies in a golden chalice," he said, indicating the haze which
obscured the insignificant buildings of the town while lightening and
revealing the splendid mass of stone, too heavy, too colourless when
seen beneath grey skies.

"Good point that," said Archie, nodding his handsome head.

The brothers walked across a strip of down, and found themselves near a
clump of trees.  Mark pulled from his pocket a sheaf of manuscript, and
read aloud.

Archie lay flat on his back.  Presently he sat up, staring at the
cathedral.  Then he fixed his eyes on Mark’s face, where they remained,
fascinated, till the last word was said.

"Now," Mark commanded, "I want you to declaim a bit of it—standing.  You
can give it all I cannot.  Do you mind?"

Archibald took the manuscript, sensible of emotions and thrills never
experienced before. Dominating these was the wish to do as he was
asked—to declaim a part of the sermon.  He felt a desire to possess
himself of it, to incorporate with it his own physical attributes.

"Let yourself go," said Mark.  He watched his brother’s face intently,
thinking that he would exchange the brains which had composed the sermon
for the body now bending over it in envy and admiration.  Archie had a
gift for committing verse to memory.  At Harrow he often boasted that he
could read through a long ode of Horace and repeat it without making a
blunder.

Presently Archie stood up, his massive proportions outlined against the
amber-coloured sky.  Although barely thirty, he had acquired a certain
dignity of deportment, an air of maturity, in curious contrast to
blooming cheeks and shining eyes.  This aspect is not uncommon in young
clergymen who take themselves seriously.  Looking at Archibald Samphire,
one might predict that in a few years he would assume the solidity of a
pillar of the Church.  Already, in the eyes of the spinsters in and
around Westchester Close, he was regarded as a staff upon which the weak
might safely and gratefully lean; already, when he gave an opinion, soft
eyes gazed upward suffused with moisture.

He began to declaim Mark’s peroration in a slow, impressive voice, the
kind of voice which seems to fill the corners of the soul with echoes at
once strange and familiar.  The late Mr. Gladstone possessed such a
voice.  Mark stared at his brother, absorbing every note and gesture.
What aptitudes were his for such a part.  Listening to him, the younger
brother forgot that he had written the phrases which fell with sonorous
significance upon the silence of the fields. He was able to judge of
what he had done, as if he were hearing the sermon for the first time.
Playwrights experience this bitter-sweet pleasure.  Lines laboured at
for many an hour, become in the mouth of a great actor or actress so
changed, so sublimated by the touch of genius, as to prove
unrecognisable, even as a child of peasants adopted by persons of rank
may so dazzle the eyes of its mother that it appears for the moment as a
stranger.  And who shall interpret that same mother’s feelings when she
sees lavished upon her darling gifts beyond her power to bestow—gifts
which serve as symbols of her loss and another’s gain?

Mark Samphire listened to his brother with ears lacerated by envy; and
because devils tore him he was the more determined to exorcise them, in
the hope that what he did and said might hide what he felt.  When Archie
finished, the younger brother sprang up and seized his hand.

"From the bottom of my soul," he exclaimed, "I believe that this voice
of yours will be heard not only in Westchester, but in every cathedral
in England."

Archie answered, dully, "If you had my voice, Mark——"

"Ah!" gasped Mark, "if—if——"  He paused, and ended quietly, "We need not
speak of that."

"You could read this sermon."

"Even that is denied me.  I can read the lessons or anything else save
what I write myself.  Oh, I have tried and tried.  Always the lump comes
in my throat—and I hear the laugh of that girl.  You remember?"

Archie nodded, betraying his sympathy with a shudder.  "It was awful,"
he said, "awful."

He handed the sheets of manuscript to Mark, adding, "It has helped me
enormously.  I will avail myself of some of your ideas."

"You will redrape my ideas with your words."

"I couldn’t use yours, you know."

Mark gazed abstractedly at the cathedral; then he turned to his brother.

"Look here—I give it to you.  Do what you like with it.  I can’t preach
it myself.  It’s not b-b-bad."

He paused as the stammer seized him.  "Not bad?" echoed Archibald.  "Why
it’s splendid—splendid!"

"And why shouldn’t I help you—my brother?"  His voice softened, as he
stretched out his thin hand and touched Archibald’s mighty arm.  "Take
it!"

Archie hesitated, staring inquiringly at Mark. Mark had always been such
a stickler for plain-dealing.  Then he remembered what Billy had said:
"Take what he gives, _generously_, and so you will best help him to play
his part in life."

Mark, meantime, was reflecting that he should like to read in Betty’s
face the recognition of talents which he was not allowed to proclaim to
the world.

"Take it," he repeated.  "And, look here, I shall sit beside Betty
Kirtling, and afterwards I shall tell her that I wrote it and persuaded
you to preach it. No one else shall know."

Archie, unable to determine the ethics of the matter, sensible in a
dull, inarticulate way that he ought to say NO, said—YES.  His own
sermon was inadequate; there was not time to prepare another; and he
lacked the power of interpreting the message of those grey stones
yonder.  This and more flitted through a mind large enough but somewhat
conventionally furnished.

"But what has Betty Kirtling to do with it?" he concluded heavily.  "Why
tell her?  If this is to be between you and me, Mark—why tell her?"

Mark put up his hand to hide a smile.

"It may not be necessary to tell her," he said quietly.  "She might
guess."  Then seeing consternation on Archie’s fine brows he added: "No
one else will guess, but she—well, she has intuitions."

"Is she going to marry Kirtling?"

Again Mark smiled at his brother’s lack of perception.  He fenced with
the question: "You ought to know; you’ve seen more of her than I have."

"She’s a bit of a flirt."

"No."

"I say—yes.  She has flirted with Kirtling, with me, with Pynsent, with
Jim Corrance, and with you. I sometimes think that she likes you best,
Mark. She might take you, because——"

"Go on!"

"Because," Archie explained, "there are two Bettys: the Betty of Mayfair
and the Betty of King’s Charteris.  I heard Mrs. Corrance say that, and
it struck me as worth remembering.  Most women would only see the Betty
of Mayfair, but the other Betty, who takes some finding, has an
extravagant admiration of good and a morbid horror of evil. A girl
running from evil is likely to rush into the arms of good.  I saw my
chance there," he added thoughtfully, and again Mark smiled.  "I said to
myself that the time to catch the witch was just after the London
season.  I don’t mind telling you that I asked her to marry me the day
she came back from Goodwood last year.  And I was careful about choosing
the right place.  Depend upon it that tells in these affairs.  I chose
the Dean’s garden: there isn’t a sweeter, more peaceful spot under
Heaven. But I wasted my time.  Hullo! what’s the matter?"

"Nothing."

"You’re white as a sheet.  You ought to take more care of yourself, my
dear fellow.  I do Sandow’s exercises every morning and evening.  And I
take a grain of calomel once a week.  You look liverish. I find that my
mind does not work properly unless my body is in tiptop condition.  What
were we talking of?  Oh, yes—Betty Kirtling.  Do you know that Harry
Kirtling has proposed about five times—generally out hunting?  But she
laughs at him. She cried in the Dean’s garden."

"Ah?" said Mark softly.

"She won’t laugh or cry when the right man speaks, and if you are he the
sooner you speak the better.  She’s an enchantress," Archie concluded,
"and her money would come in very handy—wouldn’t it?"

"Confound her money!" said Mark violently.



                              *CHAPTER XV*

                     *APHRODITE SMILES AND FROWNS*


When Betty met Mark just before dinner the story of the Bagshots was
told briefly.

"Is that why you look so discouraged?" she whispered.

He laughed, not quite naturally.

"Surely to—to me, you may show your true feelings. Or do you count me a
fair-weather friend?"

Before he had answered Lady Randolph came up and said that Mark must be
introduced to the lady he was destined to take into dinner.  Mark found
himself bowing before an ample matron who prattled of herbaceous borders
and conifers for nearly half an hour.  Betty sat beside him, listening
to Jim Corrance.  Not till the first entrée was handed did she find an
opportunity to repeat her question to Mark: "Am I a fair-weather
friend?"

Mark met her glance; then before answering, he allowed his eyes to rest
upon her gown and the opals at her throat.  She was wearing a frock of
filmy tissues, made, so her dressmaker informed her, in Tokio, and known
to the fashionable world as rainbow tulle.  The general effect of this
gown, like the jewels which glittered above it, was that of change, and
Betty had christened it the Chameleon, because in certain lights it was
softly pink, in others a misty blue, in others, again, amber or palest
green. Lady Randolph smiled when she saw this wonderful frock, because
it suggested certain phases of character of the girl who wore it.  Mark,
knowing nothing of the relationship between a woman and her clothes,
was, none the less, aware that this gown must have cost a deal of money
and had not been chosen for wearing qualities.

"You make one think of May," he replied.

"You look at my frock, not at me.  Well, if it comes to that, I have a
stout tweed upstairs, which defies hurricanes.  I know what you’re
thinking—and you’re wrong.  I prefer my Harris tweed, but you don’t
expect me to wear it in May—do you?"

"Contrast tickles you, Betty."

"How am I to take that?"

"You like an ice with a hot sauce."

"No doubt, _you_ prefer fried fish."

She glanced at him roguishly, leaning slightly towards him, so that the
sleeve of her gown touched his coat.  From the airy tissues floated a
faint fragrance of roses, and then, drowning it in pungent fumes, came
that sickening odour of the slums.

"I loathe fried fish," he whispered.  Betty smiled as the lady on the
other side of Mark asked him if he knew Father Dolling.  Nor was Stepney
mentioned again, although it obscured the future in yellow fog. Betty
was conscious that Mark eyed her with a persistency for which she could
not quite account.  The same expression may be found on the faces of
emigrants setting sail for a new country, yet looking back on the old,
which holds all they know of life and which they may not see again.
Betty had never set foot on the deck of an emigrant ship; but she was
vaguely apprehensive that this persistency of glance was ominous.  Her
bosom was heaving when she asked him: "Why do you look at me so
queerly?"

"I beg your pardon."

"Why should you?  You must know by this time that I don’t object to
being looked at—by you."

If the words were slightly flippant, the tone in which they were spoken
was serious enough.  She continued: "Your look is that of a man
hesitating to leap.  When you were a boy you went free at your fences."

Mark caught his breath.  Her meaning was unmistakable. She held out
white arms to him—the syren!

"They were dear old days," he murmured.

"You rode hard and straight.  Many a lead you gave me.  When are we
going to have a nice long talk?"

Her voice was trembling.  And he stammered as he replied: "T-to-night,
if you l-l-like."

"It will be heavenly on the terrace," she whispered. "I saw you slip
away last night, and I was tempted to follow you."

"Why didn’t you?" he blurted out.  Last night—he was reflecting—he had
been free.

"I have some pride, Mark.  Not much, perhaps."

"I saw Aphrodite by moonlight.  She was wonderful."

"She is wonderful," Betty murmured.  "Is love dead that you use the past
tense?  Will you take me to the fountain after dinner?"

"Yes."

A minute later Lady Randolph and the ladies left the dining-room.  Mark
poured himself out a glass of port.  The men were talking of the
approaching meeting at Ascot, where one of Lord Randolph’s horses was
likely to win the Gold Vase.  Mark listened to Harry Kirtling’s eager
voice.  How keen he was, this handsome lad!  What a worshipper of horse
and hound!  And his host—old man of the world who had drunk of many
cups—seemed to covet this gold vase as the one thing desirable.  And
when he had won it, the cup would glitter upon his sideboard among a
score of similar trophies unnoticed and forgotten.

"I have the sermon almost by heart," Archie whispered to his brother.
"I read it over three times before dinner.  It’s odd your treatment of
the theme did not occur to me, particularly as I live in the Close."

"One doesn’t see the Matterhorn when one is climbing it," Mark observed.
"If you want to love Westchester live in Whitechapel."

"I couldn’t live in Whitechapel," Archie replied; "it wouldn’t suit me
at all.  Still, as a means to an end—Lord Randolph says that you—er—know
what you’re at."

"Do I?" said Mark.  Then he laughed and struck his brother genially on
the shoulder, adding: "At any rate, you know what you’re at; but to men
like me ignorance of the ultimate aim has its value. Perhaps because I
don’t quite know what I’m doing I take pleasure in doing it."

"You’re a queer chap," said his brother, "and you grow queerer as you
grow older.  You mean that you would sooner have two birds in the bush
than one in the hand."

"The nightingales in the bush—for me," cried Mark.

"I want the bird in the hand," said Archibald solemnly.

"You will cook your bird, old fellow, and eat it with all accessories:
bread sauce, rich gravy, the succulent _salade Romaine_, but you will
never hear it sing.  A bird in the hand never sings."


The night was very still when Mark and Betty descended the stone steps
which led to the fountain: a lovers’ night, fragrant with a thousand
essences. Silvery shafts of moonlight pierced the darkness of the park,
and fell tenderly on the nymphs about the fountain.  But Aphrodite was
not yet revealed, for her pool lay in shadow guarded by sentinel yews
and cypress.

Mark disappeared for a moment; the surface of the pool was troubled;
then, with a soft, sibilant sound, the waters rose and enveloped the
goddess.

"We are in the nick of time," whispered Mark.

As he spoke the moon topped the trees.  For a moment a white flame
seemed to sparkle round the brows of Aphrodite; then the features were
revealed: the languorous half-opened eyes, the dimpled cheeks, the
adorable mouth with its shy smile.  The sculptor had suggested the
admixture of fear and delight, a shrinking from the embrace of the
unknown element, a virginal protest indicated by a gesture of taper
fingers and slender shoulders, a protest overpowered by a subtle
relaxing of the whole body, the nymph surrendering herself to Life and
Love.

Mark turned to Betty.  She met his eyes and then turned aside her own.
The nymph with the phorminx smiled.  And the _amorini_ looked on
approving. Mark had the hunger of Romeo on his thin face, the hunger of
the beggar who has seen white loaves through the windows of a baker’s
shop.  At Milan there is a hole in the wall whence, long ago, unhappy
prisoners looked out upon tables spread with savoury viands: wretches
condemned to starve—within sight and smell of baked meats and sparkling
wines!

Mark looked again at Betty’s face, now pensive, although the dimples
were deepening.  The elusive tints of the gown, transmuted by the
moonbeams into a silvery radiance, shimmered like the watery tissues of
the goddess; the opals at her throat might have been dewdrops.

"Dear Betty," he whispered.

She lifted her heavy lids.  The eyes beneath were dark as the shadows
cast by the cypress, and troubled as the waters of the pool.  What
darkened and troubled them?  What intuition or premonition of sorrow and
suffering?  But Mark saw the underglow which reflected the flames of his
heart.

As they gazed at each other the moon glided discreetly behind a cloud,
and a soft darkness obscured all things, out of which came the music of
the fountain; a symphony of kisses falling with melodic rhythm upon the
face of Aphrodite.  In a clump of syringa beyond the Italian garden a
nightingale trilled.

He knew that he had only to speak the word, to hold out his arms, and
she would come to him.  She was smiling, but with a sadness which
underlay joy: such sadness as may be seen sometimes in the face of a
child, who, coming into possession of a long-desired object, is
confronted with the possibility of losing it.

He took her hand, gripping it.

"Mark—what is the matter?"

Her voice rose in a crescendo of distress, as Mark staggered, gasping
for breath.  Terror-stricken, she supported him to a stone bench hard
by, upon which he sank.

"It is a p-p-passing weakness," he stammered. "I am better already."

"You have been overworking yourself in those detestable slums," she said
vehemently.

"That is the truth," he answered.  "I shall take a holiday."

"A long holiday," she whispered, meeting his eyes.  But he saw the face
of the tall thin doctor and his lean hand raised in protest.  "And you
must have someone, some dear friend, to look after you."

Her fingers pressed his arm.

"Yes," he said eagerly.  "With such a friend I should grow strong
again."

"There are places, earthly paradises, which I’ve read about.  In Samoa
or Tahiti——"

He interrupted her, passionately.

"Don’t speak of them—_yet_.  Betty, I must turn the key of the fountain.
I cannot speak for—for a few days.  Do you understand?  If you could
read my heart.  If—if——"

She saw that his excitement was overmastering him.

"Mark, I do understand.  We understand each other.  You are right.  The
key of the fountain must be turned.  I’ll do it, not you."  She sprang
up lightly, ran to the cypress, and turned the key. When she came back
he was staring at the goddess, white and shivering.

Before she went to bed, Betty was cross-examined by Lady Randolph.

"Then he hasn’t actually spoken?"

"He will," Betty declared.  "And within a week."

"And Stepney?"

"I’d sooner live with him in Stepney——"

"And eat fried fish?"

"And smell fried fish—it’s the smell I hate—than live in a garden of
roses by Bendemeer’s stream with anybody else."

"My poor Betty, you have the disease badly."

Betty, however, did not mention Mark’s physical weakness to her friend.
Instead, she prattled of love for nearly an hour.

The elder woman told herself that she was listening to an idyll; but,
vividly as the tale was presented, a sense of unreality pervaded it; the
conviction that, as a child would put it, the story was too good to be
true.  But because of its goodness Lady Randolph was the more touched by
it.  Your honest cynic respects good, although he rails against its
counterfeit.  Moreover, in this joyous acclamation of love, Lady
Randolph resumed for a few moments her own youth.  It seemed incredible
that she should have grown old, and critical, and distrustful.  Love
touched her with healing fingers, and she became as a little child, free
from the dull limitations of age and experience.

"You have been so sympathetic," said Betty, when she bade her old friend
good night, "but I know, of course, that in your heart of hearts you
think us two fools."

"Not fools, Betty.  Babes in the wood, perhaps, playing amongst the rose
leaves.  Good night, my dear; go and dream of your lover."

But when the door was shut, the woman of the world sighed, and her
shrewd face puckered into many wrinkles.

"Am I a fool?" she asked herself.  "Should I have stopped this?  I fear
that it will come to nothing, but then it will be everything,
everything, everything to them—while it lasts."

Meantime, Archibald was in Mark’s bedroom, talking of the sermon to be
preached on the morrow. He had a score of unessential corrections to
suggest. A slight amplification here, another word there, an apt
quotation, revealed the student of effect, the rhetorician.  Mark
admitted that his brother had improved the manuscript.

"I have thought of nothing else," said Archie. "At first I disliked
preaching another man’s sermon, but now I feel as if a lot of it were
mine."

"It is all yours," said Mark, smiling.  "I have given it to you, haven’t
I?  Only, remember, Betty must know."

"Why?" demanded Archie.  "Women will talk and——" he shrugged his broad
shoulders.  "If the Dean heard of it——  The Dean, you know, is civil,
but he has a cut-and-dried manner which I find rather trying.  He’s a
radical, too.  We always have had radical deans at Westchester.  With my
political views, my faith in institutions, and—er—so forth he is not in
accord.  He told me with really amazing candour that I owed my
preferment entirely to my vocal chords.  I should have thought a
Samphire of Pitt had claims, but no—he repudiates all that.  His own
father was quite obscure: a bookseller, I’ve been told, only don’t quote
me.  One can’t be too careful in a cathedral town.  Well, not to put a
fine point on it, the Dean underrates me.  I’ve felt it keenly.  When I
was singing to him the other night, in his own drawing-room, he went to
sleep: he did, indeed.  Still, to give him his due, he is almost a
monomaniac on the subject of the cathedral, and this sermon ought to
surprise him...."

Mark nodded absently.  His face seemed thinner and paler since he had
parted from Betty less than an hour ago.  As in a dream, he heard
Archie’s voice droning on about the Dean and his Chapter, but he saw
only Betty’s face, Betty’s eyes, which seemed to fill the universe.  She
loved him!  Infirm of body, halting of speech, he had been able to
inspire passion in so splendid a fellow-creature.  The glory of it
filled his soul.

Archie, who must not be blamed for enjoying the sound of his own voice,
talked on and on.  It was past midnight.  Down in the smoking-room young
Kirtling, one could wager, was holding forth on the subject of
fox-hunting.  Jim Corrance, with an ironical smile upon his slightly
melancholy face, was listening politely, thinking, no doubt, of some
future "coup" in the money market.  Lord Randolph, with a long, thin
cigar in his mouth, was certainly alive to the possibility of a
political crisis. Pynsent, watching the three other men from the depths
of an immense chair, was busy fitting their faces into a picture.  All
this, and much more, passed through Mark’s mind.

"Good night," Archie was saying.  "We’ve had a long yarn, haven’t we?"

He stood up, extending his hand, which Mark grasped.  Opposite to the
brothers stood a large cheval glass.  Mark’s eye fell on this, and
straightway the gracious image of Betty vanished, and in her place he
saw himself and Archie standing beside each other with linked hands.
The contrast between the brothers was so startling that the younger
allowed an exclamation to leap from his lips.

"Look," he said, when Archie lifted his handsome brows in interrogation;
"who would believe that the same mother bore us?"

The mirror, indeed, seemed to take pleasure in making more of Archibald
and less of Mark than was warrantable.  The fine massive figure, the
smooth, fresh-coloured cheeks, the flaxen curls of the one accentuated
the leanness, the pallor, the fragility of the other.  Only when you
looked at the eyes you recognised the vitality of spirit in Mark. Lady
Randolph described the eyes of the brothers aptly enough, when she said
that Mark’s reminded her of fire and Archie’s of—water.

"You will fill out," said Archibald, placidly regarding the curves of
his person.

Mark laid his fingers upon his brother’s chest.

"Forty-three inches," said Archie.  "I had a doctor look me over the
other day.  He said I was as sound a specimen as he’d ever examined."

"Good night," said Mark abruptly.

When Archie had left the room, Mark returned to the mirror.

"Am I envious?" he muttered.  "Not for my own sake, God knows, but for
hers.  If I were only strong——"

He began to undress, thinking of the doctor and the train.  Curiously
enough the two were connected. The train rushing on and on through the
quiet landscape, the doctor and he whirled on with it, fellow-passengers
for a few brief minutes, meeting, parting, and meeting again in
obedience to some Power who rules that good shall triumph ultimately
over evil. To Mark this was and always had been a sheet-anchor. At
Harrow, at Barbizon, in the pulpit of the church in King’s Charteris, he
had submitted to the Divine Will; but, now, if the greatest thing on
earth were denied him would he be able to bow his head in resignation?
Every pulse in his body throbbed a passionate—"No."



                             *CHAPTER XVI*

                        *WESTCHESTER CATHEDRAL*


It happened that Lord Randolph was anxious to consult the Dean of
Westchester upon some point of municipal philanthropy, so he drove into
the town earlier than usual on Whit-Sunday.  Archibald accompanied him,
Lord Randolph driving his own pair, which were never driven by anybody
else. When the horses were working well into their collars, Lord
Randolph turned to the preacher-elect and described, not without humour,
his own pangs before the delivery of an important speech in the House of
Commons.

"Only I," he concluded, "had the impending horror of a scathing reply
from the other side.  You black-coated gentlemen have an immense
advantage there, an advantage which I hope you, my boy, will never
abuse.  Is it indiscreet to ask what theme you have taken?"

Archie answered the question by repeating a phrase of Mark’s, which
summed up, aptly enough, the scope and purpose of the sermon.  Lord
Randolph raised his grizzled brows.

"Um!  I like to see a young man tackling a subject bigger than himself:
and the bigger the man, the bigger ought to be his subject.  Often," he
concluded abruptly, "it is the other way.  You are ambitious,
Archibald?"

"Yes," the minor canon confessed; and then, afraid of saying too much,
he held his tongue.  Lord Randolph respected his silence, supposing that
the preacher was occupied with his thoughts.  Nor did he mention that he
expected to meet the Prime Minister at the deanery, who doubtless would
attend service in the cathedral.  If this young fellow acquitted himself
with distinction, his sermon might prove a stepping-stone to great
things.  A week ago no man knew that a maker of prelates was coming to
Westchester, certainly not the Dean, otherwise he might have elected to
preach himself.  Lord Randolph smiled with a slightly cynical curl of
the lip.  The Dean, as has been said, was radical in politics, but he
probably foresaw that his party, now in power, was not likely to endure
for ever.

Lord Randolph left his horses in charge of the groom, and descended at
the ancient gate which leads to the Close.  At the same moment two
figures emerged from the shadows of the deanery porch. "There is the
Prime Minister," said Lord Randolph. "I shall have pleasure, Archie, in
introducing you to him."

"By Jove!" exclaimed the young man.

A moment later the most eloquent speaker in the kingdom was holding
Archibald Samphire’s hand and peering into his face.  The great man had
appreciation of physical beauty, and an eye for a personality.  Archie
blushed: a tribute ever welcome to genius.

"Our preacher to-day," said the Dean.

"Indeed?"

The young man’s hand was retained in the ample grasp of the Prime
Minister, who asked a dozen questions, enveloping Archie with that
magnetic current, which seemed to emanate from him in fuller measure
than from any other of his generation.

"I shall look forward to your sermon," he concluded. "I am sure it will
be worthy of this place"—he spoke with solemnity—"and"—his voice
changed—"and of—you.  You have the gift of eloquence: the lips, the
eyes, the brow.  I hope we shall meet again soon."

He passed on, smiling genially, leaving the gratified Archie alone with
his thoughts.  Lord Randolph might have told him that the speaker
scattered seed of kindly words wherever he went, and who shall say—even
now—what they brought forth?  A kindly word lingers in the ear when a
kind action may be lost to sight.


The party from Birr Wood entered the cathedral some five minutes before
the time when service began.  Betty knelt down to repeat the prayer
which she had learnt when a child from Mrs. Corrance. She was about to
rise, when she happened to steal a glance at Mark kneeling beside her.
At that moment she became sensible of what may be termed spiritual
giddiness.  She seemed to be transported to heights where head and heart
failed.  A glimpse of the world unseen was vouchsafed her: an empyrean
in which she and Mark moved alone amongst the hosts of Heaven.  The
vision was so vivid, so seizing (to use the word in its French
significance) that she felt herself trembling beneath the awe and
mystery of it. And then an impulse, which, in its material aspect, had
assailed her once before when attempting to scale a certain peak in the
Alps, constrained her to look down into what seemed a fathomless abyss.
In the mist and shadows of this vast gulf a dull, opaque object
challenged attention, and she knew this was the earth: a pin’s point in
the celestial horizon, borrowing aught it possessed of light and heat
from the place wherein she stood.  And with this knowledge fear became
articulate.  The horror of giddiness which paralysed her was not due to
the fact that she had been whirled to heights, but to the sense that she
might fall headlong from them!

The deep notes of the organ put to flight the vision. Still kneeling,
she looked upward into the roof of the chancel, with its delicately
carved and gilded ornaments, thence passing to the radiance and
simplicity of the nave beyond.  Above her head, upon the stone
partitions on each side of the sanctuary, stood six carved and gilded
mortuary chests, surmounted by the crowns and inscribed with the names
of the Saxon princes whose crumbling bones they contain; at her feet
almost was the tomb of a great king, slain in the plentitude of his
strength and power; hard by were the magnificent chantries of the
prelates who sanctified their time, their talents, and their money to
the embellishment of this house of God.  In one of the chantries, where
during his lifetime he spent, daily, many hours of devotion, lies the
figure of a man, represented as an emaciated corpse wrapped in a
winding-sheet.  He it was who caused to be carved on the soaring roof of
the choir the sorrowful emblems of our Lord’s Passion: the crown of
thorns, the nails, the hammer, the scourge, the reed and sponge, the
lance, the cross.  And who can doubt that he was inspired to so exalt
these symbols of the suffering which redeemed mankind?  Who can doubt,
gazing at the shrunken limbs and careworn features of the prelate, that
his untiring labour had caused him innumerable hours of pain serenely
endured because he knew that by pain alone Man is purified.  He and his
successors and predecessors, and the armies of masons they employed, had
lived and died that this, the work of their heads and hands, might
endure for generations, a monument of the faith which can move mountains
of stone and change them into forms of surpassing loveliness.  Had they
laboured in vain?

Betty rose from her knees as the choir entered the sanctuary.  At the
same moment Mark touched her arm and glanced across the chancel.
Following his eyes, she saw the familiar face of the Prime Minister.
Other eyes lingered upon that notable head, now bent in meditation upon
the tomb of the king.  Mark touched her again.  Archibald Samphire was
passing by, stately in surplice and hood.  The statesman raised his
head, and stared keenly at the priest.  A half-smile of recognition and
encouragement curved his thin lips.  Archie, conscious, perhaps, that
the eyes of the mighty were on him, looked neither to right nor left.
His face was as that of a graven image.  "He is cold," thought Betty.
"Does he expect, I wonder, to warm others?"

The service began.  At that time a certain boy was singing in the
Westchester choir who became famous afterwards as the finest treble of
his day, combining, till his voice broke, the freshness of youth with
the art which crowns a long and patient apprenticeship. Already musical
folk were talking of the lad and coming from far to hear him.  The choir
sang in unison the first verse of the _Venite_, but above their voices,
above the sonorous peal of the organ, floated the aerial notes of the
boy.  So sublimated was the quality of this child’s voice that Betty—and
many another—looked up, believing for the moment that these flakes of
melody were dropping from heaven. The joyousness which informed each
crystalline phrase electrified the ear.  This indeed was a clarion call
to rejoice!  The pain and perplexity in Betty’s soul fled, exorcised by
this glad spirit, blythe as a skylark carolling in the skies.  She
glanced at Mark. His eyes were shining, his face aglow with pleasure.
Farther down stood Harry Kirtling, unmoved; and on each side were rows
of men and women, some perfunctorily praising God, others gazing with
lacklustre eyes into the past or future, a few touched to the quick by
the message and the instrument by which it was conveyed.  Amongst these,
one face stood out of the crowd, conspicuous by its pallor and the lines
of suffering which scored cheek and mouth and brow.  Unmistakably, Death
had marked this victim of an incurable malady for his own.  Yet,
excepting Mark’s, no countenance in that great congregation revealed
more clearly the happiness and contentment which proclaim success.  Here
was the vitality of the life immortal flaming upon the ashes of the
dead; here was one rejoicing in the salvation of a soul, caring nothing
because the body was about to be destroyed!

The choir sang on together till the eighth verse was reached:

    "To-day, if ye will hear His voice,
    Harden not your hearts!"


These lines were delivered in _recitativo_ by the basses, and then
repeated by the choir.  "_Harden not your hearts!_"  The injunction
rolled down the aisles and transepts; it broke in thunder against the
hoary walls, as it has broken for two thousand years against the
faithless generations; and then, in the silence which followed, there
descended a flute-like echo, emphasising the opportunity and reimposing
the condition.  To-day, this moment, _if_ ye will hear his voice, harden
not your hearts!

Psalms and Lessons succeeded.  Archie read the latter.  Betty, who had
not heard him read since his appointment as minor canon, amended her
conviction that he could not warm others.  He had that persuasiveness of
diction which drapes even the crude and commonplace with samite, and, so
garbed, passes like an angel through all doors.

"For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is
life and peace."

If this indeed were true, how many of those around Betty Kirtling were
of the quick, how many of the dead?  How many, again, were asleep,
lulled to slumber by indifference?  She saw Pynsent staring at Archie’s
face.  Unconsciously he had raised his right hand, as if it held a brush
poised above a canvas.  Beside him sat Jim Corrance engrossed in
thought.  Jim was frowning; his lips were shut, as if he feared that
information of commercial value might leak from them.  It struck Betty,
with a certain poignant suddenness, that Jim, dear old Jim, had lost his
look of youth, and she wondered vaguely whether or not his mother had
marked the loss—and regretted it.  Was his face becoming hard?  Was it
setting into that inexorable mask of death of which the apostle spoke?
She shivered and looked away, meeting the curious gaze of Lady Randolph.
Then with an effort she restrained her vagabond thoughts and eyes, and
listened attentively to the voice of the reader.

Afterwards she wondered if what followed would have impressed her so
profoundly had it not been for what went before.  At the moment she was
merely sensible that her perceptive and intuitive faculties were
sharpened to keen edge.  She knew with conviction that a veil had been
lifted, that she saw clearly and in true proportion what was vital and
everlasting.

When Archie ascended the pulpit, Betty prepared herself for an
anti-climax, Lady Randolph, for a nap.  "_Ye also as lively stones are
built up a spiritual house._"  The preacher repeated his text, and
paused. The Prime Minister inclined his ear in a gesture familiar to all
who knew him; the Dean polished his spectacles and replaced them, as if
seeking to see more clearly what hitherto had been obscured. Silence,
always significant, suffused itself throughout the cathedral!

The sermon began as a history of the cathedral, presented with a
dramatic sense of the relation borne by Gothic architecture to the
renaissance of spirituality in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.
But soon the preacher passed from the sanctuary in which he stood
straight to the hearts of the congregation. It has been well said that
neither writer nor painter lives who can set forth adequately on paper
or canvas what such artists as Wykeham and Fox expressed in stone.  And
who dares to portray the house spiritual: the house hewn out of living
stones under the direction of the Supreme Architect?  But if the whole
transcends description, the parts invite it.  Archibald paused before
taking the stride from the abstract to the concrete.  When he spoke
again his voice was troubled.  Smooth persuasiveness gave place to a
rougher eloquence.  So far, admirable and inspiring though the sermon
had been, it revealed rather the scholar and idealist than the practical
man of the world.  The cathedral, for instance, interpreted the past.
It enshrined the faith and patience of yesterday.  What message did it
hold for the strivers of to-day?

Archie answered that question in the last half of the sermon, and,
answering it, displayed a knowledge of humanity which Mark had gleaned
in Stepney and Whitechapel.  All that is affecting and pathetic in life
was laid bare, but with a delicacy of phrase, a poignancy of suggestion,
a sense of proportion, which thrilled rather than dismayed.  A sane
optimism informed even deformity.  It was characteristic of Mark (and
most uncharacteristic of the preacher) that he dwelt tenderly upon the
inglorious parts of the temple: the rough flints, the bricks, the clay,
the mortar!  Of the glittering ornaments he said little, of the stone
which the builders rejected much.  His congregation listened with an
attention which never waned.  The children stared spellbound at the
splendid figure in the pulpit.  To them, as to their elders, came the
assurance of work to do worth the doing, and the conviction that such
work, however slight, brought with it a reward: the Pentecostal gift.
Here Mark had attempted to define the unpardonable sin: the rejection of
the spiritual and the acceptance of the carnal life.  And then followed
the apostrophe. When it was delivered, smiles curved the children’s
lips; men felt the current of their blood flowing strong and free in
their veins.  For a sound as from heaven had filled the house where they
were sitting, and gladness of heart scourged once more from God’s temple
disease and despair and death!


After the service, the Dean took Archie’s hand and congratulated him.
"You have spoken with tongues," he said, in his too cold voice, which
impressed but never thrilled.  Archibald hesitated, flushed, clutched at
opportunity and missed it.  The Dean turned aside as others approached.
To them Archie listened, wondering if Betty knew.  The Dean, watching
him, amended previous estimates. "The man is really modest," he told his
wife at luncheon.  "He blushed and stammered when I spoke to him."

Archie went into the Close, accompanied by a prebendary, whom, as it
happened, he had slight reason to dislike.  As he left the cathedral he
saw a small group: the Prime Minister, Lord Randolph, and Lady Randolph;
Pynsent and Jim Corrance were standing beyond these.  The Prime Minister
acclaimed the preacher in Latin, holding out both hands:

"I salute Chrysostom," and then he added simply: "Thank you—thank you!"

Once more Archibald clutched at opportunity, but the prebendary, eyeing
him with jealous glance, stood between him and confession.  Then Lord
Randolph and his wife, Pynsent and Corrance, swelled a chorus of
felicitation.  Archie was feeling that the truth must be written on his
scarlet face.  But his friends, like the Dean, attributed confusion to
modesty.

"Here he is!"

Betty’s voice rose above the chorus.  Pynsent made way for her.  Mark
followed, looking pale and worn.

"Oh, Archie, what can I say?"  Her face was radiant.  He did not suspect
that she wished to apologise for every idle jest at his expense, for
every thought and word (and there were many) which now seemed to stain
not him but her, the shallow-witted creature, seeing the ludicrous and
blind to what lay beneath.  "I shall never chaff you again, never."

Archie, however, was looking at Mark.  At the moment he realised that
unless he spoke, Mark would hold his peace.  Mark had not told Betty
yet. The group around him was breaking up.  The Prime Minister had his
watch in his hand.  Lord Randolph had turned his back.  Betty began
again, excitedly:

"And I might have missed it.  Aren’t you going to shake hands with him,
Mark?"

Silently Mark extended his hand.  At his brother’s touch Archie
stammered out: "I owe everything to Mark: he helped me; he has always
helped me."

Mark’s eyes demanded more; his grasp tightened. The others, hearing but
not understanding, shuffled somewhat impatiently.  Betty frowned,
wondering why Mark was so unresponsive.  Surely he would say something.
Then she remembered that since they left the south door of the cathedral
he had said nothing.  Was it possible that he grudged his brother this
triumph?  From any other man such jealousy would have provoked pity and
sympathy, but she had loved and respected Mark because she had never
been able to conceive of him as being mean or petty-minded.  Yet, long
ago, he had confessed that ambition was his besetting sin!

"We shall not be home till two," said Lady Randolph.  "Come, all of
you!"

She bustled away, followed by the others.  Archibald dropped his
brother’s hand, and strode off in the direction of his lodgings.  He
would not join the party till after the afternoon’s service.  Betty
glanced at Mark.

"You never congratulated him.  He went away hurt, poor fellow!  Mark—how
could you?  And it was your praise he wanted.  I saw that.  He looked
hungrily—at you."

Then Mark laughed, while the shadows in Betty’s eyes deepened.  That she
was perplexed he saw, that she was deeply distressed he had yet to
learn. And to give him his due he was thinking at that moment not of
Betty, nor of himself, but of Archie. He regretted that he had not told
Betty the truth, but her admiration had been so great, her praise so
extravagant, that he had shrunk from the assertive: "I did it.  I wrote
it."  Now, if he spoke, Betty being a woman of likes and dislikes, would
scorn his brother and make no effort to hide that scorn.  All this
whirled through his brain while he laughed, because she had
misinterpreted the expression of hunger in Archie’s eyes.

"Don’t laugh!" she enjoined sharply.  "Did you not think his sermon
splendid?"

"It sounded better than I expected," he said, wondering if she would
guess.  He made so certain that she would guess.  It amazed him that the
lynx-eyed Lady Randolph, her sagacious lord, Pynsent, Corrance had been
so easily befooled.  He had yet to learn that the world is equally prone
to believe that a fool may prove a sage as a sage a fool.  The
unexpected excites and disturbs the reason.

"We have all underrated him," she rejoined, more gently.

At tea-time Lord Randolph returned to Birr Wood, bringing Archibald with
him.  After tea Lord Randolph drew Mark aside and told him that the
Prime Minister had asked many questions concerning the Samphires of
Pitt.

"I told him," said he, "that your maternal grandfather had a strain of
Wesley’s and Sheridan’s blood. It seems that he knew and loved him.  He
must have been a remarkable man."

"My mother adored him," Mark replied.  "I can just recall some of the
things she said about him."

"Justice was not done him, I fear.  He served faithfully ungrateful
masters.  Perhaps he ought to have been a preacher.  At any rate his
mantle seems to have descended upon your brother."

He moved away, wondering why Mark had shown so little enthusiasm.

Presently Lady Randolph, under cover of the chatter, said a few words:

"I account for our surprise this morning in one word: Inspiration.
There was Goldsmith, for instance.  Not that I wish to make comparisons.
Archibald is no idiot to be sure, very much the contrary, still I never
gave him credit for being a humourist."

"A humourist, Lady Randolph?"

"What?  You missed the humour in his sermon—you? Why if I hadn’t cried I
must have laughed. What was the keynote of that sermon?  Renunciation.
Eh?  The word was not mentioned.  Very true, but it informed every
phrase.  It might have been written by a man who had failed in this
world, but who knew that elsewhere his failure would be reckoned as
success.  The stone that the builders rejected became the head of the
corner.  Well, so far as this world is concerned, Archie has always
succeeded.  He has genius in being able to put himself in the place of
the man who has failed."

"And the humour?"

"I am coming to that.  I go the round of this huge house every Saturday
morning, and the house-keeper will tell you that my eyesight is
unimpaired. I went into your room, sir, and what did I see?"

"Spare me," said Mark.

"_Soit_!  I went into your brother’s room.  I declare he has prettier
things on his dressing-table than I have on mine.  And well-cut boots in
trees, eau de Lubin on his washstand, and on his chest of drawers—a
trouser-press!  Oh! there’s no harm in such things, of course, but that
sermon this morning and the trouser-press!  The golden sandals—treed!
The halo sprinkled with eau de Lubin!  And yet, and yet he made me cry:
hardened old sinner that I am!  So I say that he is a genius, and an
unconscious humourist, and a Chrysostom, and altogether a most amazing
person.  Now, go and talk to a younger woman."

Mark obeyed.  His old friend eyed his thin figure as he crossed the
room.

"How much help did he give his brother?" she muttered to herself.

Archie was surrounded by joyous prattlers.  Harry Kirtling, Pynsent, and
Jim Corrance were with Betty.

"We are still jawing about your brother’s sermon," said Harry Kirtling.
"I am sorry to say I missed the first part.  A line from my stud groom
this morning rather upset me.  Dear old Trumpeter has navicular. My best
gee—worst luck!  Well, by Jove! that sermon cheered me up; it did,
indeed.  I felt confoundly ashamed of myself and my own small affairs.
That was the effect it had on me.  But Corrance and Pynsent say it made
’em blue."

"Every man worth his salt wants to be at the head of the procession
here," Pynsent explained, in his slightly nasal New England accent.

"Archie stuck his knife into me and turned it," said Corrance.

"You’ve misinterpreted the whole thing," Mark replied eagerly.  "Every
man has his work here, but who knows what relation it may bear, if any,
to the work which comes after?  Great achievements dwindle into
insignificance within a d-decade.  Why, then, should we t-tear ourselves
to p-p-p——"

Meeting Betty’s eyes, the abominable lump came into his throat.  He
paused abruptly, turning aside. Archie, who had joined them, said with
authority:

"Mark is right.  We make a mad effort to scribble our names upon the
quicksands of time."  (Mark, with his back still turned to the group,
smiled.)  "And we die wretched," Archie went on, "because Time’s tides
wash out our writing within an hour.  This struggle after personal
recognition is a certain sign of decadence in a nation."

Mark looked at Betty, who was listening to the speaker with faintly
glowing cheeks.  Pynsent and Corrance seemed to be impressed, because
Archie as preacher (thus Mark reflected) had bewitched them. Yesterday,
only yesterday, an obscure minor canon would not have so delivered
himself; if he had, the others would have scoffed at him as a prig.

"Are we to fight without pay, my dear boy?"

Lord Randolph had approached, cynical, yet interested.

"Forlorn hopes were led before the Victoria Cross was given," murmured
Archie deferentially. Then he remembered that Mark had said this, and
that Mark was present.  At this thought he blushed vividly, once more
confirming an impression of modesty.  He tried to make amends to Mark.
"Why, Mark and I were speaking of this only last night. What did you
say, Mark?"

"N-nothing worth r-repeating," stammered Mark.

"He said that a desperate enterprise never lacked men to attempt it.
And what allures men to almost certain death?  The pay, Lord Randolph?
You would be the last to affirm that.  Have we not heard of many a noble
fellow falling, maybe, within a few feet of the goal, seeing with dying
eyes comrades triumphantly scaling the heights, knowing that the success
of those comrades was rooted in the bodies over which they had passed to
victory?  And these—the failures—have died with a glad shout upon their
lips; they have been found horribly mutilated, but with a smile on their
dead faces. Shall we pity such men, Lord Randolph, or envy them?"

Mark slipped from the room before Lord Randolph replied.  Outside the
door he discovered that his fists were clenched.



                             *CHAPTER XVII*

                              *SURRENDER!*


On the following Tuesday, when Mark reached Amos Barger’s house, he was
told that the surgeon could not see him for a quarter of an hour. Mark
followed a manservant into a back dining-room ponderously furnished with
mahogany and horsehair.  The paper on the wall was hideous in pattern
and colour; the wainscoting was grained in imitation of oak; on the
square table in the centre of the room lay the comic papers and some
society weeklies, amongst them _Kosmos_ and _Mayfair_.  Under the latter
was _The Bistoury_.  Mark paced up and down, pausing now and again to
look out of a window which commanded a prospect of dingy back-walls and
chimney-pots.  From the front of the house a charming glimpse of the
trees in Cavendish Square redeemed the dull uniformity of the street.
Mark had noticed how green was their foliage, recalling the fact that
soot is as Mellin’s food to the vegetable world.  His fancy seized this
fact and played with it.  Soot, the most defiling of things, transmuted
by some amazing process into a brilliant pigment!  What a text for a
sermon!  Presently Mark approached the book-case—a solid, glazed affair
as heavy, doubtless, as the works within.  To his surprise, he found the
lightest of fiction, and every volume showed signs of use.  Barger, he
reflected, was a wise man to laugh with Anstey and Frank Stockton, but
he ought really to buy some new furniture.  Then he remembered that
Barger had admitted failure, more or less.  Possibly, these grim Penates
had been taken at a low valuation from the outgoing tenant.  With these
fugitive speculations he escaped from his own thoughts and fears.

When he went upstairs the surgeon, while shaking hands, eyed him keenly.

"I am the better for my holiday," said Mark.

Barger nodded, and pointed to a chair.

"You said in the train I might live to make old bones.  Weakness of
heart is not a bar to marriage—is it?"

"Very much the contrary," said the surgeon grimly.  "And if you are
sound in other respects——"

"I have never known what it is to be really ill," said Mark eagerly;
"and I don’t think I’ve had breakfast in bed since I left Harrow."

"And not often there—eh?  Never shammed at school did you when the first
lesson was a bit stiff?"

"The first lesson never was very stiff—to me," Mark replied.

Barger, with impassive face, began an examination, which lasted longer
than Mark expected.  At the end Mark said nervously: "The heart is not
weaker than it was?"

"Your heart need not cause you any serious anxiety," said the surgeon
slowly.

"Thank God!" exclaimed the young man.  "From your face I feared a
different verdict."

"There is other trouble, Mr. Samphire."

Then Mark smiled pitifully.  His premonition of disaster was justified.

"You can speak f-f-frankly," he stammered.

The surgeon spoke frankly, making plain in his precise phraseology what
was and what might be. "You will take another opinion," he concluded,
"but it is not a matter of opinion, but of fact.  These," he pointed to
some reagents, "never lie.  Doctors do—sometimes."

"I thank you for not lying to me," said Mark gravely.

Barger fumbled with his test tubes, and then burst out vehemently:

"Your only chance lies in the most careful diet, a life in the open air;
and even then the issue is doubtful."

"And—marriage?"

"Out of the question."

"But if I got better?  Should I be justified in asking a woman to wait?"

His voice was dry and husky.  Barger shook his head.  The trouble might
be staved off for a time, hut there was always the probability of
return.

"You have neglected your body," he said irritably. "You have defrauded
it of all things essential, and it has taken its revenge.  Oh, you
parsons who think of others, why can’t you see that you would serve the
world better if you thought more of yourselves?"

Mark could read the sympathy and pity latent beneath frowns and
irritability.  He held out his hand.  Barger continued:

"You must go to a physician.  Yours is not a case for a surgeon.  You
might try Sir John Drax. He’s a specialist.  Shall I write him a note?
He lives near here, in Welbeck Street."

Berger scribbled a few lines, and handed them to Mark.

"See him at once," he commanded; "suspense is unendurable."

Mark went his way, so blinded by misery that in crossing the street he
barely escaped being run over by a big van.  He sprang to one side in
obedience to the instinct of self-preservation.

Within half an hour Sir John Drax had confirmed Barger’s diagnosis and
prognosis.  Then he asked bluntly if his patient had independent means.
An affirmative simplified the case.  He, too, prescribed fresh air,
simple food, and moderate exercise.

"If I stick to my work in Bethnal Green?"

"You will find yourself in Kensal Green."

"And marriage——?"

"Madness, my dear sir, madness!"

Mark climbed on to the top of the first ’bus which was rolling eastward.
As he did so he heard a small boy proclaiming the name of a winner. The
name seemed familiar.  Then he remembered that it was one of Harry
Kirtling’s horses.  He could see Kirtling’s square, stalwart body and
the handsome sun-tanned face above it.  Of all the bitter minutes in his
life, this one seemed to be the bitterest.

When he reached the Mission, pressing work distracted his attention for
some hours.  He did it as thoroughly as usual, wondering what he should
write to Betty when he was at liberty to go to his own room.  He
wondered also that his friends made no comment upon his appearance.
Surely he carried scars.  A small glass hung in the committee-room where
he was sitting.  He glanced at it.  Outwardly he was unchanged.

Not till the clock struck nine did he find himself alone.  He wrote a
letter to Betty, a long letter, which he read and destroyed.  The next
letter was short, curt, cold: he burned this also.  A few minutes later,
feeling pain in his hands, he discovered that his nails had lacerated
the flesh.  Then he knew that a fight for life and reason was beginning.
The demons were crying "Surrender!"  If he died to-night, Betty would be
free; if he lingered on for half a dozen years, she might deem herself
bond to a dying man.  Virility repudiated such a sacrifice.

"O God," he cried, "let me die to-night!"

Outside, the world of Whitechapel roared in derision.  All Mark had
known of poverty, of vice, of squalor, swelled into a chorus of despair.
Here, in the heart of the slums, in an atmosphere tainted by the dead
bodies of hundreds of thousands who had perished cursing God and man, he
felt that he was choking for fresh air, that the pestilential fumes of
every evil place into which he had entered were destroying him.

He sat down limply on the edge of his bed, wondering whether the end
would come soon, telling himself that he was dead already.  At any rate
his work was done; he would leave the Mission on the morrow.  The animal
instinct to slink off to some lonely spot where none might witness his
misery became overpowering.  But a letter to Betty must be written
first.  He crossed to his desk, where Betty’s face smiled out of a
silver frame.  Gazing at this, he became so absorbed that three sharp
taps on the door were unheeded.  The Bishop of Poplar entered the room,
pausing when he saw the head bent over the table, the thin fingers
clutching the silver frame.  He closed the door, crossed the room, and
laid his hand upon Mark’s shoulder.

"You are in sore trouble."

Mark started to his feet with an exclamation compounded of fear and
surprise.

"You—David——?" he stammered.  "What b-brought you here?"

"You shall answer that question yourself," said Ross gravely.

The men confronted each other.  Great as the contrast was between the
robust health of the one and the infirmity of the other, a critical eye
might have detected a similarity in the two faces—a resemblance the
stronger because it was born of the spirit rather than the flesh.

"I was crossing Welbeck Street this afternoon," said Ross, "when I saw
you leave one of the houses. It was in my mind to follow and speak to
you, but I was hastening to an appointment for which I was late, and
leaving town for Scotland at eight. But it happened that I had noted the
number of the house you were leaving, and I looked it up in a directory
on the platform at Euston.  Mind you, my train was about to start, and I
had taken my ticket, but when I found out that you had seen Drax, I
guessed what had happened.  I let the train go on without me, and came
on here.  Was it coincidence that led me into Welbeck Street this
afternoon, or something more?"

"I am under sentence of death," said Mark.

"Tell me all about it."  He grasped his friend’s hand.

Mark obeyed.  "She has always cared for me," he concluded, "always, you
understand: ever since we were boy and girl.  Many want her.  Gorgeous
insects have buzzed about her, but she flew to a poor drab-coloured
moth.  And I"—his voice shook—"I had fluttered about in the outer
darkness——"

"Was it darkness, Mark?"

"I should have said twilight."

"Then she was your sun?"

Mark paused before he answered slowly: "God made the sun."

"You try to slip by me," replied the other quickly. "Have I misread you?
It seemed to me that you had ideals, standards, rules higher than the
average, that for you the light shone more clearly, revealing what lay
beyond.  Was that light the glamour in a woman’s eyes?"

"The light was reflected in her eyes.  You press me hard, David.  Shall
I plead that the light, no matter whence its source, dazzled me.  There
have been times when I seemed to see the other shore: an enchanted land,
so desirable that I wondered why men preferred to linger here.  But
now"—his voice grew harsh and troubled—"I want this earth.  I want to
live and love—here."

"What do you propose to do?" David asked.

"Do?"  Mark laughed bitterly.  "What can I do, but die—the sooner the
better?  You are a strong man, David; it is hard for you to stand in my
shoes; but if you were I you would surrender."

"What?"

"Shall I say—everything."

"You cannot surrender what you have done already, whether good or ill."

"I have to surrender love," Mark muttered. "What do you know of that,
David?"

"I loved a woman," Ross replied, "and I love her still, although she is
but a memory"—his voice softened—"a memory of what might have been, and
what will be.  And shall I say that this love has fortified me, because
I see it as the reflection of a greater love?  The love you talk of
surrendering is an imperishable possession."

Mark said nothing.

Ross continued: "Drax is a great authority, but he does not know, as I
know, that you have never given your body a fair chance.  Now—my word to
you is FIGHT.  Fight for life, fight for health, fight to save yourself
as you have fought tooth and nail to save others!  Again and again I’ve
begged you to go to my lodge in Sutherland.  Go there with me to-morrow!
Drax prescribes fresh air, plain food, complete rest.  These may be
straws, but clutch them—clutch them!  Why, man, I have towed worse
wrecks than you into dry dock, and I’ve seen ’em sail out of harbour
with every stitch of canvas set staunch and seaworthy craft!  Be my
guest for six months!  Mark, Mark, my dear, good, foolish, gallant
Mark—_Fight!_"

"Thank you, David," Mark replied.  Then the smile which Bagshot knew
well lit up the thin haggard face, as he added slowly: "I d-d-don’t
think it was c-c-coincidence which led you into Welbeck Street this
afternoon."


Next day Mark went North with David Ross. Before departure he wrote a
letter to Betty, which successfully obscured the facts.  He feared that
Betty might insist upon appointing herself his nurse.  And if she came
to him, would he have strength to send her away?  Once she had spoken
shudderingly of a friend married to a hopeless invalid: a poor wretch
lingering on, half dead, changing day by day into something
unrecognisable in mind and body.


"You have the right," he wrote, "to demand an explanation, which I must
give.  I am and shall remain outside that garden into which we strayed
last Saturday. What more can I say?  Nothing.  Try to think of me as a
boy who was near and dear to you...."


The letter was filled up with details concerning his work.  Reading it,
the conclusion was inevitable that the writer had become absorbed in
such work. He hinted at the possibility of taking a vow of celibacy.

Betty kissed this letter before she broke the seal, making sure that it
was a love-letter.  Then she read it, with perceptive faculties blunted
by shock.  Lady Randolph found her in the Italian garden, staring at the
figure of Aphrodite.

"You were right," she exclaimed passionately. "Mark prefers his work
to—me."

Lady Randolph kissed her.

"I have been a fool," said Betty, bursting into tears.



                            *CHAPTER XVIII*

                           *ARIADNE IN NAXOS*


Lady Randolph wisely said nothing, but she wrote to Mark.  He replied by
return of post.

"I love her devotedly, but I have an almost incurable disease: the
result of neglect.  Don’t let my people know of this.  I had the
presumption to believe that the sacrifice of the flesh was a sort of
burnt-offering to God.  The folly of it is hard to bear.  Many men here
are in a like self-crippled condition, and the doctor in charge, a good
sort, makes scathing remarks.  David Ross warned me several times; as
did his successor at the Mission.  Betty, of course, must never find out
the truth, which I could not withhold from you, my kind friend.  You can
best serve her and me by finding her a good, faithful husband, such a
fellow as Harry Kirtling, or Jim Corrance....  She is made for the
happiness which marriage brings.  I can take comfort in the thought that
another may give her what is not mine to offer."

Lady Randolph’s eyes were wet, as she locked up this letter.  Mark had
not mentioned Archie as a possible husband.  "That would break his
heart," she muttered to herself.

Betty and she returned to London, where, during the month that followed,
Betty’s simulated high spirits and inordinate appetite for excitement
provoked a warning.

"If you don’t bend, you’ll break."

"I am broken in pieces, like Humpty-Dumpty, who ought to have been a
girl.  Men don’t break when they tumble off their castle walls.  I’ve
stuck myself together, but I’m a cracked vessel."

Lady Randolph wrote a note that evening to Mrs. Corrance.  She had faith
in the balsamic virtue of the atmosphere in and around King’s Charteris,
and she knew that Jim spent two days out of each week with his mother.
Mrs. Corrance begged Betty to pay her a visit.

"Shall I go?" said Betty.

"I need a rest-cure," Lady Randolph replied pointedly.

So Betty went down into the pleasant Slowshire country, where the warmth
of her welcome gave the girl a curious thrill.  The kisses of the
gentle, grey-haired woman sounded deeps, although they could not touch
bottom, for the motherless girl has deeps unplumbed by any
fellow-creature.  Tea was set out in the pretty old-fashioned
drawing-room with its freshly calendered chintzes, its quaint Chelsea
figures, its simple dignity of expression.  Mrs. Corrance possessed some
Queen Anne silver, which she had used daily ever since Betty could
remember anything. It sparkled softly like the rings upon the white
hands that touched it, shining with a subdued radiance of other days.
Betty saw the same quiet glow in her old friend’s kind eyes: the peace
on the face of age which passes the understanding of youth.

Hitherto she had regarded Mrs. Corrance with grateful affection, but as
one to whom the wind had been tempered, one who lived in a fold seeing
little beyond save Jim.  Betty had always thought of her as mother.
Now, she found herself wondering what part this quiet lady had played as
sweetheart and wife.  Tempests might have raged and died down, before
she (Betty) was born.  Mrs. Corrance’s mind, like her house, was full of
charming nooks, cosy corners, so to speak, wherein a tired spirit might
take his ease, but perhaps there were also bare chambers into which none
was allowed to enter.  Into these, if they existed, Betty felt a
shameful curiosity to go.

While they drank tea Mrs. Corrance asked no questions.  Betty listened
with interest to an account of Jim and his doings in the markets of the
world.

"He would like to instal me, me, my dear, in a fine house in some
fashionable quarter."  She laughed, and Betty laughed too, seeing that
the mother was delighted secretly that her son should desire to lavish
his wealth upon her.

"Do you despise the world, that you live out of it—always?" said Betty.

"I love the country," replied the elder woman evasively; then she added,
as if the possibility had just occurred to her: "I hope you won’t find
it very dull here."

"Not with you," said Betty, slipping her hand into her friend’s.

Next day, Mrs. Samphire drove over from Pitt Hall.  She looked pinker
and plumper than ever, and her hair—arranged in Madonna bands—gave her
the vacuous expression of a stout Dutch doll. When the name was
announced, Betty rose to fly, but Mrs. Corrance entreated her to remain.
While Betty was hesitating, fearing the voluble tongue of Mark’s
stepmother, the lady herself bustled across the lawn to the chestnut
tree beneath which Mrs. Corrance was sitting.  In a moment the pleasant
silences were shattered.

"How cool you look!  And this is dear Betty Kirtling.  We never expected
to have the honour of seeing so smart a lady in our humdrum circles.
Thank you, my poor husband is only so-so.  The doctor has prescribed
golf.  We have laid out a small links in the park.  I think golf such a
charming game—don’t you?  I love to look on at it.  You agree with me,
I’m sure."

Mrs. Corrance tried to lift this interjectional babble out of the rut.

"I suppose," she said reflectively, "that with us middle-aged women
looking on at games is an inherited instinct.  We have always looked
on—haven’t we?  But Betty, I expect, likes to play golf."

Betty, however, unkindly said nothing, while Mrs. Samphire bleated: "Oh,
yes, I do like to see the Squire play golf.  Although, when he misses
the ball, he does—well, I mustn’t tell tales out of school—must I?  How
is dear Lady Randolph?  Did you have a large party for Ascot?  Was the
Prince there?  I have seen your name in the Marlborough House lists.
Really, I wonder you speak to me at all."

"I haven’t said much yet—have I?" said Betty. "Last time we met you were
suffering horribly with neuralgia.  Is it better?"

"I’m a martyr now to dyspepsia.  I’m trying light and colour, Babbit,
you know.  If your poor, dear uncle were alive, how interested he would
be.  I’m wearing red next the skin."

"In July?" ejaculated Mrs. Corrance.

"And I’ve changed the paper in my boudoir, which used to be a depressing
blue, to bright yellow.  All the water I drink is acted upon by a red
lens.  I want Mark to read Babbit.  He has had a sort of breakdown.  You
heard of it?"

"A breakdown?" exclaimed Betty.  "Did you say a—breakdown?"

Light flashed upon her.  Why had she not thought of this?  Her thoughts
crowding together clamoured so shrilly that she could barely hear Mrs.
Samphire’s querulous reply.

"We learned, quite by chance, that he was in a sanatorium in Sutherland.
He ought to have come to Pitt Hall."

"Have you asked him?" said Betty in a low voice.

"He would come to us if he wanted us."

Shortly after Mrs. Samphire took her leave.

"Can Mark be seriously ill?" said Betty.

Mrs. Corrance’s clear eyes lingered for a moment on Betty’s flushed
cheeks; then she said tranquilly: "It is not impossible.  If so, I don’t
blame him for going to Scotland."

"He ought to be at Pitt Hall," said Betty.  "I think I shall take a
brisk walk."

Two days later Betty met the Squire in Westchester.  She soon discovered
that he was hurt because his son had not come home.

"Perhaps he was anxious to spare you—and others.  That would be like
him."

"Yes, yes; he’s the best boy in the world.  But I’m sure there’s nothing
serious the matter.  We Samphires are as hard as nails."

"If he—died up there without making a sign."

The Squire stuttered and choked.

"God bless me! you alarm me.  I must write at once.  I shall insist on
his coming home.  Has he taken you into his confidence, my dear?"

"No."

"Um!  I thought once that—well, I shall write."

Betty felt that her heart was beating.

"He will pay no attention to a letter.  Why not go to him yourself, Mr.
Samphire?"

"By God!—I will."

Betty smiled faintly, for the Squire, when he set his mind to a thing,
was easily turned aside.

Then she went her way; and Mrs. Corrance noted in her diary that Betty
seemed quieter, more like her old self.

On the following Saturday Jim arrived from town, exhaling and exuding
Capel Court.  He strolled with Betty through lanes, where they had
picked primroses and blackberries long ago; and the familiar trees and
hedgerows stood like sentinels of the past, guarding simple joys, which
Betty told herself could never return.  Jim reminded her that a
missel-thrush had built in the old pollard close to the village pound,
and that the eggs, when about to be blown, proved addled.

"You were very keen about eggs," she said.

"I’ve always been keen," said Jim.  "By Jove!—it was a sell about those
eggs.  Well—I still collect eggs, and some are addled!  That Cornucopia
mine, for instance...."

He plunged into a description of a mining deal which had proved
disastrous.

"But I got it back, and a lot more in six weeks."

"Which excites you most—winning or losing, Jim?"

"One gets accustomed to winning," said the successful speculator, "but
losing is heart-breaking, particularly when you are unable to guess what
the loss will be."

"Ah," said Betty.  "What do you do with your gains?"

"Let ’em increase and multiply.  The mater won’t live in a better house,
I mean a larger, and she refuses, in advance, all the presents that I’ve
not given her."  He laughed, then he continued in a hard voice: "That
question of loss interests me."

He looked at Betty, who slightly lowered her parasol and made no reply.

"I never forget my losses."

"Because they have been few?"

"Because they have been heavy.  The fellows in our market would tell you
that I have a very serious failing: I don’t know when to let go."

"I call that a virtue: in a word, you don’t know when you’re beat."

"No," he said steadily.  "I don’t know when I’m beat."

A silence followed, during which the tamer of bulls and bears
decapitated a few dandelions.  Betty watched him out of the corner of
her eye.  A certain dexterity and ruthlessness in Jim’s use of his cane
had significance.  Then she found herself wondering what Jim looked like
when he was a boy.  She could not recall her old playmate, being
obsessed for the moment by the man beside her.  Some men always retain
the look of youth—Mark was one of these; others would seem to have been
born old; many, like Jim Corrance, assume early a hard and impenetrable
crust of middle age.  Jim’s face was thin and lined, although he had the
square figure of an athlete.  One could not picture him as a
rosy-cheeked urchin, nor could one believe that he would grow feeble,
and bent, and white-haired.  And yet, despite his strength and success,
Betty felt poignantly sorry for him.  And being a woman she showed her
compassion in a score of inflections, gestures, which were as spikenard
to the man who loved her.

"I wonder you are so nice to me," he said presently; then as she raised
her delicate brows he added quickly: "I’ve cut loose from so much you
revere.  It’s a pill for the mater, but I couldn’t play the humbug.  I
look at life as it is: as it appears, I mean, to me—a place where the
devil takes the hindmost."

"And those in front——"

"Oh—I dare say the devil takes them also—later."

Betty changed the subject, not because it was distasteful, but for the
subtler reason that she feared her own thoughts, which stuck in a slough
of despond. For the rest of the walk they prattled gaily enough of the
pranks they had played as boy and girl. Jim’s face insensibly softened,
so that Betty caught a glimpse of the Harrovian.  Then, at the mention
of Archie’s name, the talk flowed back into the present.

"I never asked you what you thought of that wonderful sermon of his."

Jim admitted surprise.  "Old Archie has come on," he added.  "He’s a
plodder, and he’s good to look at, and he means to ’get there.’"

"To get—where?"

"To the bench of bishops."

"I used to underrate Archie, but there’s a lot in him."

"A lot of him, too.  Oh—you needn’t frown, Betty.  I think that Archie
makes a capital parson; and I dare say he’ll personally conduct a select
party of you Slowshire people to heaven."

"How bitter you are, Jim."

"I won’t be bitter when I’m with you," he promised.  "I say, there’s the
bush where we caught the Duke of Burgundy fritillary.  I saw it in the
old cabinet the other day.  You nailed it with your hat and gave it to
me, although you wanted it yourself. I felt a beast for taking it, but I
adored you for being so unselfish."

"You offered me your Purple Emperor next day."

"And you refused it," said Jim quickly.

"So I did.  I must tell everybody that I have refused an Emperor."

"Not to mention smaller fry.  Three months ago I thought you meant to
marry Harry Kirtling, and he thought so too, by Jove!"

"You dare to insinuate that I encouraged him?"

"You have a way with you, Betty."  He glanced at her ardently, but she
looked down, faintly blushing, as he continued: "You are not one of
these modern young women who can stand alone."

"That is true," she said simply.  "I am not strong enough to stand
alone, and I admire in men the qualities lacking in myself.  We had
better go home; your mother will be waiting for her tea."

Jim said no more, but in the evening he asked his mother if she had any
reason to suppose that an understanding existed between Mark and Betty.

"When she refused Kirtling, Pynsent and I made certain she was engaged
to Mark.  Now he has gone to the uttermost ends of the earth, and she
never mentions his name to me."

"Nor to me," said Mrs. Corrance.  Then she touched her son’s shoulder
very gently.  "Do not make ropes out of sand, dear."

Jim went back to town on Monday morning, but he returned to King’s
Charteris the following Friday, and walked once more with Betty in the
lovely woods which lie between Westchester and the New Forest. Naturally
and by training an acute observer, although a keener judge of men than
women, Betty puzzled him.  He saw that she was slightly contemptuous of
the material side of life, although willing to listen by the hour to his
presentment of it. This, however, might be a phase, a mood.  He felt
assured, now, that Betty would have married Mark had he asked her to do
so, and he lay awake at night wondering whether she would marry anybody
else. For the rest he determined that he must make haste slowly.  He
would give the girl the fellowship she craved without defining its
elements.  That she was grateful for such abstinence her manner proved.
She became at once open, candid, a delightful companion.

Meantime the Squire had not left Pitt Hall.  When he met Betty, he said,
with some confusion, that the "Madam" (as he called Mrs. Samphire) had
opposed so long a journey; one, moreover, which was like to prove a
fool’s errand.  He excused himself by complaining querulously of an
estate which exacted constant supervision.  His face was even more
florid than usual, and his manner less complacent.  When Betty mentioned
this to Archie (who rode over from Westchester on a well-bred cob), he
expressed a fear that his father was losing money.

"He spoke of going North," Betty said, after a pause.  "If Mark is
really ill, surely he ought to be nursed by—by his nearest and dearest?"

Archie betrayed astonishment.

"Ill?  Really ill?  I’ve heard nothing of serious illness, not a word.
How do you know, Betty?"

"I have guessed," she answered vehemently. "He has slipped away to—to
_die_, perhaps!"

Archie showed a most lively concern.

"No, no, you exaggerate.  Look here, Betty, if someone ought to go
North, I’ll go."

"Oh, Archie—if you would."

"Dear old Mark!  Of course I’ll go.  It happens that I can get a week’s
leave.  I’ll bring him home with me."

He spoke in a warm, sympathetic tone, kindling Betty’s gratitude and
affection.  Never had she liked Mark’s brother so well.

"You can spare the time, Archie?"

"Yes, yes; I’m so glad you spoke to me.  By the way, I’ve a piece of
news for you—great news, too. I am commanded to preach at Windsor."

"Oh, Archie, I _am_ pleased to hear that.  It will mean so much—won’t
it."

"Yes."

She asked questions: Was the date set?  Had he a theme? and so forth.
"You know," she continued gravely, "I shall never forget your
Westchester sermon.  Many sermons touch one, but that gripped. Often,
I’ve not been quite fair to you, and now I’m horribly ashamed of myself.
You forgive me?"

"My dear Betty!  I say—was there so great a difference between that
sermon and others I have preached?"

"Why, Archie, how modest you are!  Don’t you know that you climbed to
the heights that Whit-Sunday?  Before, you seemed to be rambling about
on the comfortable plains.  Oh, I know we can’t scale mountains every
day.  Lord Randolph said as much——"  She paused.

"What did Lord Randolph say?"

"He did not intend that it should reach your ears."

"Betty—you will do me a favour by repeating what he said as he said it.
I am not thin-skinned."

"Well, he said that beer was good liquor, and that spirits should be
used sparingly.  You couldn’t preach such a sermon as that every
Sunday."

"Not I," said Archie.

"The great thing is that you can stir up hearts when the occasion comes.
I feel sure you will surpass yourself at Windsor."

"I wish _I_ felt sure, Betty.  Well—I’ll do my best to persuade Mark to
return with me, but he’s obstinate as a mule where his health is
concerned.  Shall I give him any message from you?"

"You can give him—my love."

She spoke with assumed lightness of tone.  Archie found a phrase.

"A man would travel farther than Sutherland to receive that."  Then he
took his leave, gravely smiling.

"He’s a good sort," said Betty.

None the less she told herself that her intuitions in regard to men were
fluid.  Again and again she tried to grasp them, to mould them into
permanent form, into definiteness; always they flowed away—peaceably
sometimes, with a sweet melodic cadence, as of a Scotch burn, but more
often roaring, like the same burn in spate; in either case leaving but a
small silt behind.

The two days following Archie’s departure she spent alone in the woods
(for Mrs. Corrance seldom left her pretty garden), seeking from Nature
an answer to the problem in her heart.  The great oaks and beeches
preserved an inviolate silence in those languorous July days, but the
pines seemed to have a message for an attentive ear.  Their sighs were,
perhaps, the warning voices of the innumerable dead, hushed and (to most
mortals) inarticulate.  Here and there amidst this rich pastoral country
Betty found sterile acres where even the hardy fir failed to find
sustenance.  These patches in the landscape had a weird fascination.
Betty perceived beauty, dignity, in their subtle, faded tints, their
delicate greys and shadowy browns.  Once upon a time, doubtless, these
barren spots had bloomed, too luxuriantly, perhaps; in due time they
would bloom again in splendid resurrection.  In the centre of one of the
stony places a young birch tree of great beauty stretched slender limbs
toward the green paradise which encompassed it, inclining slightly to
the south.

"I am like that birch," said Betty.



                             *CHAPTER XIX*

                      *A SANATORIUM IN SUTHERLAND*


Archibald Samphire took with him to Scotland a suit-case and a small
handbag. After leaving Perth, where he made an early breakfast, he
opened the bag and pulled out a roll of foolscap covered with neat,
scholarly handwriting. The reading of this MS. seemed to give him
pleasure; but presently his fine brow puckered into wrinkles, and an
excellent cigar was allowed to go out prematurely.

"It’s not as good as I thought," he murmured; and he was not speaking of
his cigar.

Presently he lit another cigar and reread the MS.—the sermon prepared
for Royalty.  When he wrote it, he told himself it eclipsed the one
preached on Whit-Sunday at Westchester.  Afterwards, rereading it in
cold blood, he had come to the conclusion that it did not quite "grip,"
as Betty put it, although sound to the core doctrinally, and discreet;
better suited, perhaps, for august ears than the other.  Now, in this
clear, cool northern air, judgment was of a less sanguine complexion.
The theme warmed into life in the Close at Westchester lacked vitality
in the Highlands.  Mountain and moor made it seem anæmic.  Archibald
looked out of the window, which was open, and inhaled the fresh, pungent
air.  Not a house was to be seen, not even a shepherd’s hut; the moors
spread a purple carpet on which no human creature walked; the mountains,
vast, rugged, solitary, encompassed the moors.  Yet in the heart of this
lonely wilderness men had swarmed together in conflict.  These mountains
had not barred the progress of an army.  Guns, horses, transport waggons
had defiled through the passes and across the treacherous peat bogs.
That clear burn yonder had run red with blood.  Here was fought the
battle of Killiecrankie!  Archie thought of these things as he sat with
the sheets of his sermon in his hand.  He bundled the MS. back into his
bag, and closed it with a snap, divining his inability to deal
adequately with what was primal!

He had wired to Mark that he was coming North; accordingly, at Lairg he
found a "machine" awaiting him, a ramshackle cart drawn by a sturdy
pony, whose attempts to leave the rough roads and plunge on to the moor
indicated that he was more at ease beneath a deer packsaddle than
between a pair of shafts.  The driver eyed somewhat derisively Archie’s
clerical garments.  "Ye’re no a meenister?" he asked; and receiving a
reply in the affirmative, added with emphasis, "Ye’re verra young for
that."  A minute later he asked if his passenger were college-bred.

"I took my degree at Cambridge," said Archie.

"Indeed.  A’m interested in the Punic Wars.  Yon Scipio Africanus was a
gran’ man.  I’d be obliged if ye’d tell me all ye ken aboot him."

Archie changed from pink to the colour of Turkey twill.  What he knew
about Scipio Africanus could have been put into a grain of millet seed.
In some confusion—not wasted upon the critical Scot—he explained that
the Punic Wars were beyond his horizon.  The driver nodded
compassionately, expressing no surprise at the Sassenach’s ignorance. He
was thin and angular; his grey eyes had curious flecks of brown in them;
his face and hands were very red and hairy, and beneath the red hair
Archie detected a certain amount of dirt.  This restored the minor
canon’s sense of superiority.  The Scot, however, wore stout homespun
and superb stockings.

"You wear good clothes," said Archie.

"D’ye think they’re too guid?"

"Certainly not," said Archie hastily.  "Your Highland sheep look in fine
condition."

Once more the driver’s queer eyes met his.  The brown flecks danced in
the grey.

"They’re no mine, and they cam frae Teviotdale—they white-faced sheep."
The contempt in the man’s voice was unmistakable.

Archie wondered if the man also came from the border; he did not look
like a Highlander; Highlanders always said "whateffer."  He wished to
ask questions about Crask, Ross’s lodge, but the brown flecks in the
small, closely-set eyes were oddly disconcerting, so he stared at the
face of the landscape instead of that of the man.  They were driving
over a bleak moor which stretched, far as the eye could reach, to some
delicately blue hills fringing the western skies.  The scene was
panoramic and indescribably desolate.  Along the road black posts, set
at intervals, served as guides to such travellers—shepherds for the most
part—who were obliged to cross the moors in winter-time, when snow
covered all things.  Archie thought of November and shivered. Presently
they passed a small slate-tiled cottage built of rough grey stone and
surrounded by a grey stone wall.  Peats were piled close to a vast
midden, on which some hens were scratching; beyond the peat stack stood
the byre; garden, ornamental or useful, there was none.  As the pony
came to a sudden halt, three rough collies rushed out, barking
furiously. The driver spoke to them and got down; he strode into the
house, remained there ten minutes, and came out wiping his hairy chin.
Archie smelled whisky. The driver picked up the reins, the collies
barked, the pony shambled forward.  Evidently the whisky had had an
effect, for the Scot became communicative.

"He’s a verra mean man, yon," he said, jerking his head in the direction
of the house.  "We were tasting the noo, and I said, as he was filling
the glass—’Stop!’  And wad ye believe it, the brute stoppit?"

Mark would have laughed.  Archibald remained calm.

"There’s too much whisky drunk in Scotland," he said.

"There’s’ mair drunk oot of it," retorted the driver.

Archie refused to enter into argument, and the driver filled a black
cutty with evil-smelling tobacco. After the moor was crossed, the
character of the scenery changed.  The road wound its way beside a
charming burn to which heather-covered hills sloped steeply.  Farther
on, a loch reflected the saffron splendours of the sky.  A splendid
mountain—Ben Caryll—towered to the right.

"Yon’s the hoose," said the driver.

The house crowned a small spur of Ben Caryll. At one side stood a small
wooden chapel embellished by a diminutive bell-tower, in which hung a
single bell of great sweetness of tone.  A big lawn lay on the other
side of the house, and Archie noted with surprise that tennis-courts
were marked out.  He noted also, with equal surprise, the profusion of
flowers and flowering shrubs and the care which allotted to each its
particular place in the general plan of the garden.  The house looked
grey and grim, like all houses in this part of Scotland, and the windows
had been enlarged, giving the building somewhat the appearance of a
small factory.  Behind the tennis-courts stood a row of rough sheds
covered with creepers and facing the south.  In the sheds he caught a
glimpse of tables, chairs, sofas, and other simple furnishings.

Archie rang the bell, which jangled discordantly. The door was opened by
Mark, who held out both hands, smiling.  "It’s awfully good of you, old
fellow," he said.  "I don’t know how to thank you. You’re just in time
for supper.  Here’s the Bishop. He’s up for a day or two."

David Ross nodded cordially and gripped Archie’s hand.  Two men came
forward and were introduced. One shouldered the big suit-case and went
upstairs with it, ignoring protests.  Archie followed, carrying his
small black bag and feeling that he had come on a fool’s errand so far
as Mark was concerned.  Dying? Why, he looked stronger than he had
looked for months.  As soon as the brothers were alone Archie said as
much.

"I suppose it’s the air," Mark explained.  "I’m out-of-doors night and
day.  My trouble is scotched."

"I can’t understand how you can joke about it," said Archie.

"A vile pun, but irresistible.  I say, wash that frown off your face and
come down.  We’ll have a pipe and a good jaw afterwards.  If you think,
by the way, that I do look better, you might say so to David Ross.  He’s
been awfully kind."

"Why didn’t you go home?"

"I c-c-couldn’t," said Mark shortly.

In the refectory, a long, low annexe to the house, the Bishop’s guests
sat at meat.  Some of them were ruddy and robust; others looked thin and
white, but not one, so Archie remarked, wore the sable of discontent.
The eyes that met his were candid and clear—the eyes of men satisfied
with their lot in life. At the foot of the table sat a little fellow
with a big head, which waggled comically.  Archie wondered where he had
seen him before; then he remembered. The little man looked like Mr.
Pickwick, although he lacked that illustrious character’s deportment and
dignity.

"Who is that?" he whispered to Mark, who sat beside him.

"That’s Stride, our resident doctor.  He’s mad keen about the open-air
cure.  He got his ideas from Father Kneippe."

In those days neither Father Kneippe nor his ideas were famous.  The
open-air treatment for disease was practically unknown.  Mark explained
Stride’s methods: his theories on diet and physical culture, facts now
familiar to everybody.

"Stride lives here all the year round, you know. David Ross comes and
goes at long intervals."

"It must be desolate in winter."  Archie gave his impressions, including
a description of the house with the huge midden.  "It was larger than
the cottage," he said in great disgust, "and the drunken savage who
drove me wanted to learn what I knew about Scipio Africanus and the
Punic wars.  Punic wars indeed!"

"I like the country and the people," said Mark, "but you have to climb
to get at either."

After supper the guests marched outside and settled themselves in the
sheds, which were lit with lamps.  Some read, some played chess, some
listened to Stride, who talked unceasingly.  The Bishop led Archie aside
and asked him if he would like to smoke a pipe on the lawn.

"I’ll smoke a cigar," said Archie.  "Can I offer you one?"

"I prefer a pipe," said the Bishop.

They strolled together on to the lawn.  Although it was nearly ten,
twilight still lingered about the landscape, as if loath to leave a
scene so fair in darkness.  Archie listened attentively to what his
companion was saying.

"Your brother has neglected his body."  (Ross had been warned by Mark to
say no more than this.)  "In such cases more or less of a breakdown is
inevitable.  I am delighted that you see a change for the better.  Six
months up here, under Stride, may set him up."

"I hoped to take him back with me.  I came up for that purpose."

"Your brother can return with you, if he wishes, but would it be wise?"

"Perhaps not, perhaps not," said Archie.  "We did not know that you were
prepared to offer so generous a hospitality."

"He will be a paying guest in more senses than one.  I dare say you
would like to talk to him. Good night!  I have an immense pile of
letters to answer.  I hope you will stay with us as long as you please."

He grasped Archie’s hand, and strode off.  Archie watched him for a
moment, enviously.  Ross gave the impression of power in action.  It was
certain that his amazing stride would take him far on any road—and
always _upward and onward_: the motto adopted by his followers.

When he found himself alone with Mark, in the bedroom assigned to him,
Archie said: "Ross seems to think that you are doing better here than
you would, for instance, in Slowshire."

"Why, of course.  I’m mending rapidly.  One cannot do anything rapidly
in Slowshire.  It’s not even a place to die in.  One would dawdle over
it."

"You will speak with such levity——"

"I’ve not your gravity, my dear old fellow. Now then, tell me about
yourself.  What are you doing?"

"I’ve been commanded to preach at Windsor."

Mark was so eager and warm in his congratulations that Archie found it
easy to go on.

"I’ve brought my MS. with me.  I want you to skim through it."

"I must read it at once.  This is wildly exciting."

Archie paced up and down, while Mark sat on the bed reading the sermon.
Judging from his face, the fare was proving unpalatable.  Archie saw
that he was frowning and fidgeting with his fingers, as he used to do at
Harrow, when he was looking over his major’s verses.  This familiar
expression made the big fellow feel ludicrously like a boy.  He half
shut his eyes and waited for the inevitable: "I say, you know, this is
awful bosh," of the Fifth Form days.  Mark read the MS. through, and
then glanced again at certain passages, before he said a word.

"Well," said Archie nervously, "will it do?"

Mark slid off the bed, put his hands in his pockets, and stared at his
brother.

"That depends.  It will do to light some fires with; but it won’t set
the Thames, near Windsor, ablaze."

"Call it ’bosh’ and have done with it."

"It’s not bosh.  You’ve taken one of the Beatitudes."

"The Dean suggested that.  He said it would please.  Of course he
knows."

"The text is the most inspiring in the New Testament, but you’ve treated
it conventionally.  Now look here——"  He paused to collect his ideas.
Archie saw that his eyes were shining with that suffused light which
betokened in him mental or spiritual excitement.  He began to pace up
and down the narrow room; then he burst out: "You lay stress on the
reward hereafter; a hereafter which the finite mind is unable to grasp.
_The pure in heart shall see God in His Heaven_.  Don’t you know that
the pure in heart see God here?  That He is revealed, and only to the
pure, in everything that lies around us. Ah, that is a theme, a
celestial theme: the revelation of the Creator in the things created.
And impurity blinds us.  We look up to God, if we do look up, through a
fog.  You must take that line, Archie. Burn this—and begin again.  And
be sure that you define purity of heart aright.  Don’t confound it with
purity of body.  You are eloquent on the purity of a child.  Why, man,
the purity which knows not impurity is emasculate compared with the
purity which knows impurity, which has fought with impurity, and yet, in
the end, after conflicts innumerable, vanquishes impurity!  I tell you
that what men and women want to-day is substance.  An ideal Heaven, an
ideal earth, appeal to us, yes, but they charm as a mirage charms; they
melt and fade as the mirage does.  What you have written here," he
tapped the foolscap impatiently, "might feed saints, but flesh-and-blood
sinners would go empty away. By Heaven! if I had your voice, I would
make the sinners hear."

"You must help me," said Archie in a low, hesitating voice.

"Why not?" said Mark excitedly.  "Give me the night to think.  To-morrow
we’ll put our heads together and the sparks shall fly.  I haven’t used
my brains for a month.  This will do me good."

"Will it?" said Archie doubtfully.  Already Mark’s face was drawn and
haggard; he looked ten years older than his brother.

"What is life," said Mark contemptuously, "if the salt of helping a pal
be taken from it?  I’m not useless yet.  Good night.  I sleep in a shed,
you know.  And I can see the stars whenever I open my eyes."

"It’s so cloudy here," said Archibald.

"I can see through most clouds, but s-s-some——"

Mark paused abruptly, the light faded in his eyes, as he turned and left
the room.



                              *CHAPTER XX*

                      *BETTY SEES A SPRIG OF RUE*


Archibald returned to Westchester some three days later.  In the small
black bag was another MS. quite as bulky as the first, and covered with
Mark’s handwriting.  Blots and smudges deformed it; the edges were
dog-eared, whole sentences were excised, red pencil marks flamed amidst
the black. Yet Archibald read it through again and again, smiling, and
nodding his handsome head.  He was not alone in his first-class
carriage, and his companion, a shrewd Scotch lawyer, guessed why the
minister kept moving his lips as he read his MS.  In fancy he was
declaiming it.

The day after his arrival at the lodge the elder brother had said to
Mark: "By the way, Betty Kirtling sent her love to you.  Have you any
message for her?"

"None," said he slowly.  "I hope she is well."

Archie, not detecting the anxiety in his tone, thought Betty was looking
very well.  Then he mentioned Jim.

"He comes from Friday to Monday, every week. He wants Betty, but I don’t
fancy he’ll get her."

"Have you any reason for saying that?" Mark asked, wondering whether
Archie was clearer-sighted than he had supposed.

"Jim is a materialist."

"Oh, come now!"

"A money-grubber and an agnostic."

"One of the best of fellows.  Ross never appeals to him in vain."

"As if any rich man couldn’t write a cheque. Betty ought to marry
somebody very different."

"Don’t abuse him to Betty."

"Betty is rather—undisciplined."

"You can say that of all of us.  I hope to God she won’t marry a
schoolmaster."  He glanced at his brother with an eye that flamed.  He
had been smitten by the fear that Betty might marry Archie.

"What strong expressions you use, Mark.  It doesn’t sound quite—how
shall I put it?—well, seemly, for a man who holds Orders.  I see no
chance of Betty marrying a schoolmaster.  I have great hopes that she
will choose wisely.  She said ’No’ to Harry Kirtling, and she will say
’No’ to Jim Corrance."

"And she said ’No’ to you," Mark reflected.


Within the week Archibald rode over to King’s Charteris, where he found
Betty in Mrs. Corrance’s garden gathering roses.  He had wired that he
was returning without Mark.  She took the telegram to her room, where
pride dried her eyes and hardened her heart.  That night Jim told
himself he had a chance.  She had never been so kind to him, so
understanding, so alluring.  But on the brink of declaration he
hesitated, fearing to leap. Afterwards he wondered what might have
happened if he had—leaped boldly instead of looking and longing.

Betty received Archie with the question, "Is Mark really ill?"

Archie hesitated.

"He looks stronger," he said slowly.  "And he is in his usual spirits:
the life and soul of the place. There can’t be anything really wrong.
In fact he joked about his health.  He doesn’t take anything very
seriously, you know.  David Ross told me that he had overworked
himself—more or less."

"You gave him my love?" Betty murmured lightly.  She had the faintest
tinge of colour in her cheeks, but her voice was almost cold.

"Yes."

"And I hope he sent a nice message to me in return?"

"No.  He asked if you were well.  I said—yes. You do look uncommonly
well, Betty."

She wore white, which set off the delicate tints and admirable texture
of her skin, but her hat was black, giving a necessary note of contrast.
At her throat, holding together a _jabot_ of creamy laces, sparkled an
old-fashioned enamel ornament set with tiny brilliants.  Standing on the
sloping lawn, her figure defined against a towering yew fence, and
holding in her hand the roses she had just gathered, the girl made a
picture which lured Archie’s thoughts even from Windsor.

"I suppose a country life agrees with me."

"You are wonderful."

She moved to a bench, the young man following her with eager feet and
eyes.  He could not see that her heart was beating, nor did he notice
that the brilliancy of her eyes was due to an abnormal enlargement of
the pupil.  She sat down, smiling derisively.  Then she bade him tell
her about the sanatorium.  When he had finished, she said quietly, "You
were very, very kind to take that long journey."

"It’s easy to be kind to people like you—and Mark."

His delightful voice softened, because when he mentioned his brother’s
name the memory of what that brother had done on his behalf filled him
with gratitude.

"I hear you are kind to everybody.  All Slowshire sings your praises."

Archibald shook his head, wondering whether Betty would mention the
sermon.  He was burning with impatience to try on, so to speak, some of
its phrases, to watch the effect of them on a woman who had listened to
the Gamaliels of the day. Betty possessed sincerity, imagination,
sympathy. These would flow freely at the touch of a friend’s hand.

"If it would not bore you," he said, "I should like to talk over the
Windsor sermon.  You can help me——"

"I?  Help—you?"

"You can, indeed"; his voice grew eager.  "Whatever I say will be the
fresher and purer if it passes through your mind before it is given to
the world."

"My mind _is_ a sort of filter."  She laughed.  None the less she was
pleased and flattered.  Archibald began to speak in a soft monotone.
Betty half closed her eyes and the lines of her figure slightly relaxed
beneath the caressing inflections of the speaker’s voice.  Whenever
Archie sang she was affected in the same way.  A languor overcame her.
For the moment she was not attempting to grasp the meaning of his words,
which, even as inarticulate sounds, possessed value and significance.
But, soon, she opened her eyes wide and sat up.  By this time Archie was
at the core of his theme, and his treatment of it was so masterly that
Betty found herself thrilling with surprise and delight.  A few minutes
before life had seemed empty.  Now it was full again, brimming over,
bubbling, with possibilities swelling from shadow into substance.
Archie, be it remembered, was not preaching the sermon.  He was rather
submitting the material, the tissues, the threads, the patterns, out of
which a fine piece of work had been already fashioned.  Now and again
Betty was invited to choose, to select, out of these wares some one
which pleased her fancy.  She realised that Archie had more of Mark in
him than she had deemed possible.  Once or twice she seemed to hear
Mark’s eager tones.

"You say that like Mark."

"Has Mark talked to you on this theme?"

"Oh, no," Betty replied, "but he pours out his ideas, as you do."

"Mark and I have talked about this.  He helped me.  He always does."

Archie spoke hesitatingly, on the edge of full confession.  He had a
genuine desire to tell Betty the truth.  The words formed on his lips.

"Yes, yes," said Betty absently.  "Mark has helped me too, many a time;
but he’s in Sutherland."  Her voice became cold as she recalled his
letter.  "I feel as if he were at the North Pole! Well, Archie, I’ve
enjoyed our talk immensely."

"And when may I come to talk to you again?"

"You are not going—now?"

The "now" brought a sparkle to his eyes.

"I must.  I’m one of the busiest men in Westchester."

"I shall run down to Windsor to hear your sermon," she said.

"Our sermon, Betty."

"That’s rubbish.  You must never pay me compliments, Archie.  I couldn’t
stand them from you——" she broke off, irrelevantly: "How did you attain
to your pinnacle?  I suppose you’ve been climbing ever since we were
children.  It’s quite wonderful.  Don’t come Friday or Saturday.  Jim
will be here.  Poor, rich Jim!  What do you think of Jim?"

Archie remembered, in the nick of time, what Mark had said about not
abusing Jim.

"I think what you think," he said slowly.  "Poor, rich Jim!"

After he had gone, Betty picked no more roses, but sat down on the
bench, feeling rather forlorn. Archibald had taken something away with
him. What it was she could not define precisely.  For instance—was it
Jim’s character?  He had said nothing.  Nothing—except her own words:
"Poor, rich Jim."  Jim had been his friend, although the men had now
little in common.  Of course, he would not speak unkindly of an old
schoolfellow.  Yet as a preacher of Christ’s gospel, he must in his
heart rank Jim amongst Christ’s enemies.  Jim was not with Christ.  He
did not believe in Christ.  The conclusion was obvious: he must be
counted as an enemy. An enemy?  Poor Jim!

She was still thinking of Jim, when his mother came towards her.  She
seemed to ascend the grass slope with difficulty; so Betty ran forward
to offer an arm, which was accepted.  As they moved slowly on, Betty
glanced at the quiet face so near her own. Again, curiosity devoured
her.  She observed a faded look which she tried to interpret.  Did it
spell disappointment?  Were the last draughts of life proving bitter?
Perhaps she felt that her work was done, that her little world would wag
on without her. They sat down, and Mrs. Corrance produced her needle,
her silks, and a piece of embroidery from the old-fashioned velvet bag,
which she always carried on her arm.  Betty, who never sewed, wondered
if the day would ever dawn when she would find solace in such trivial
occupations.  Then Mrs. Corrance asked for news of Mark.  After that was
told, silence fell on both: the silence which precedes the breaking of
barriers.  Then Betty said softly: "Are you glad that you have lived—or
sorry?"

The frail hands, poised above the delicate embroidery, sank upon it, and
remained still, while faint lines of interrogation puckered the placid
forehead. Betty continued: "I ought not to ask such questions. I rush in
like a fool.  But then I am a fool, although I long to be wise.  There
is so much a girl like me wants to know, but if you tell me to hold my
tongue I shall not be surprised or offended."

"I’m glad that I have lived, Betty."

"That is because you have loved.  Your love for Jim has filled your
life, ever since I have known you. If—if—oh, I am ashamed to put it so
brutally—but if you lost Jim, or if Jim had never been born—what then?"

"My dear, you press me too hard.  I can hardly conceive of life without
Jim," she smiled.  "He came when all was dark, and there has been light
for me—ever since."

"When all was dark——" repeated Betty.  She knew that Jim’s father had
died when Jim was a small boy.

"Yes.  My married life was not happy.  Perhaps I expected too much, as
is the way with women; perhaps it was not meant that I should be happy."

"Not _meant_?"  Betty spoke with impatience. "Surely the design, the
intention, includes happiness, only we mar it."

"All young people think that," said Mrs. Corrance, "but as we grow older
we see so little real happiness that we must believe, if we believe in
the mercy of God, that, save for the few, happiness on earth is not to
be enjoyed but earned rather, so that it may be enjoyed, without alloy,
hereafter.  And I believe that to everyone a glimpse of happiness is
vouchsafed. Were it not for that, how many would struggle on?"

Betty asked no more questions.  The youth in her rebelled against this
placid acceptance of suffering and strife.  She told herself that she
had enormous capacity for enjoyment.  Politics, literature, history,
sport: all were fish to her net.  But religion, and in particular that
concrete presentation of it by the Church of England, had, so far, left
her cold.  She seemed to have touched but its phylacteries, out of which
came no virtue.  She had met many clever men who confessed themselves
agnostic.  Her kind friend, Lady Randolph, never spoke of religion,
either in its wide or narrow sense.  Certainly she did her duty without
aid or formulæ.  In fact, when Betty came to think of it, some
freethinkers of her acquaintance lived more Christian lives than many
Churchpeople who took the Sacrament every Sunday. This was puzzling.  On
the other hand, the life she had led since the Admiral’s death, the life
of Mayfair, of big country houses, of race-meetings, of perpetual
pleasure-seekings, had begun to pall.  The grandmothers—some of them—who
gambled, and made love, and over-ate themselves, revolted her.  That
they were at heart discontented and unhappy she could not doubt.
Finally, she had just come to the trite conclusion that, in or out of
the fashionable world, the people least to be pitied were those who had
some definite object in view.  Politics, for instance, had probably
saved Lord Randolph from the hereditary curse of his family; fox-hunting
made Harry Kirtling ride straight and walk straight; Jim Corrance
admitted that money-grubbing kept him out of mischief.  These pursuits,
however, led to negative results: being preventive of evil, not
productive of good, except indirectly.  Mark Samphire not only avoided
evil, but did good, as dozens were eager to testify, including herself.
When with Mark she had always been conscious of his power to bring out
the good in her.  And this afternoon, listening to Archie, she had felt
the same thrill, the same irresistible yearning to ascend, to scale the
heights. None the less, she was whimsically aware, being a creature of
sense as well as sensibility, that Mark cast a glamour.  She loved him,
and, loving him, loved what he loved, tried to see Heaven’s wares with
his eyes, and succeeded, so long as the magician remained at her side.
When he was at work in Whitechapel and she was shopping in Bond Street,
Heaven, somehow, seemed distant.  At such times she looked at a set of
sables or a diamond ornament with a pleasure which proved that the clay
within her was very far from being purged.

Upon the following Saturday, when Jim asked her to become his wife, to
share the fortune which would be no fortune without her, she said No, as
kindly as words and looks could say it.  Her distress at the pain she
inflicted touched him profoundly.

"I shall remain your pal, Betty," Jim declared. "The other thing was
always a forlorn hope.  Is it any use saying that I have known for years
that I wasn’t first, and that I was sanguine enough to believe that if
the first failed, I might be second? Isn’t half a loaf better than no
bread, dear?"

She let him take her hand, but she turned aside eyes full of tears.

"We’ll go on as before.  The mater needn’t know—eh? It has been a great
thing for her having you here."

"And a great thing for me," said Betty unsteadily. "I wish I could marry
you, dear old Jim, but I can’t—I can’t."

She broke down, sobbing bitterly.  Jim patted her hand, wondering what
he could say to comfort her, but the words which came into his head
seemed inadequate.  If he had taken her face between his strong hands,
kissed away her tears, and sworn passionately that he would love and
cherish her so long as she lived, she might have changed a mind which
was less strong than her body.  While she sat weeping beside him, she
was thinking not so much that she had lost Mark, but that she had lost
love. The woman within her groaned, the flesh and blood protested.  She
saw herself as in a vision, treading the dreary years alone, with no
strong arm to protect and defend, with no tiny hands to cling to and
caress her.  And at the end of the pilgrimage stood old age, grim and
grey, carrying a sprig of rue in palsied shrivelled hands!



                             *CHAPTER XXI*

                             *RECUPERATION*


Mark went North with David Ross convinced that his months, if not his
days, were numbered; but as time passed, this conviction passed with it,
and hope once more fluttered into his heart. Stride took extraordinary
interest in his case.

"You must become an animal and remain an animal till I give you leave to
assume again the man," he told Mark after Archibald had left Crask. "I
don’t know what you and your brother have been up to, but you’ve had a
relapse.  You must go on all-fours till I tell you to walk upright."

Mark promised, but he added: "I feel an animal—an ass!"

Stride growled out something about dead lions, and set Mark to work in
the garden, bare-legged and bare-headed.  The work was light, but it
strained every muscle in Mark’s body.  Then he was made to lie down in
one of the sheds.  After such rest came refreshment—easily digested,
nourishing food, taken in small quantities, but often.  During this
month Mark reckoned that he was sleeping fourteen hours out of the
twenty-four.  At the end of each week Stride weighed him and applied a
number of tests to determine what strength he had gained. There was a
sort of rivalry between the patients. Dick who had gained two pounds
crowed over Tom who had gained one.  Into this competition Mark entered
with boyish keenness.  Stride said he was the star pupil of the class.

By the beginning of October, a radical improvement had taken place.  The
cold weather set in sharply, but Mark, always susceptible to atmospheric
change, braved the frosty nights with impunity, sleeping in the sheds
with the winds howling about him.  He had the confidence in Stride that
a well-trained dog has in his master.  Some of Stride’s "animals"—as he
called them—proved at first unmanageable.  Coming, as most of them did,
from the strenuous life of crowded cities, accustomed to and yearning
for the stimulus of constant mental action, such stagnation as Stride
enforced seemed insupportable.  These kittle cattle were yoked for a
season with Mark.

Meantime he had received many letters from his friends, but none from
Betty, who had returned to Lady Randolph.  Jim wrote that he had been
rejected, but made no mention of Archibald, who was often seen crossing
the downs between Westchester and Birr Wood.  As a matter of fact, Jim
was not aware of these rides.  He remained in London making money.  From
Pynsent Mark learned of the enthusiasm aroused by Archibald’s Windsor
sermon.


"Reading in the paper" (he wrote) "that your brother was preaching in
St. George’s Chapel, I went down to Windsor yesterday to hear him.  He
is quite amazing. What he said and the way he said it took us by storm.
The Whitsuntide sermon gave only a taste of his quality. Out of the
pulpit he has always struck me as being the typical English parson of
means and position; in it he is—_apostolic_!  I can find no other
adjective to describe his persuasiveness, sincerity, and power.  Lord
Randolph tells me that it made a profound impression in the highest
quarter.  I saw Betty Kirtling and Lady Randolph in the knights’
stalls...."


Mark thrust the letter into his pocket with an exclamation which made
the man working next to him raise his brows.

"Anything wrong, Samphire?  No bad news, I hope?"

Mark blurted out the truth.  His companion, broken down by hard work in
Manchester, had sympathetic eyes and lips which dropped compassion upon
all infirmities save his own.

"I’ve had good news, Maitland: my brother has preached a great sermon at
Windsor, and—and there is something wrong with me.  I have the damnable
wish that he’d failed—as I failed."  Then he laughed harshly, bending
down to pick up his spade.

That afternoon he climbed the mountain, which sloped steeply to the
loch.  The air, he felt, on the top of Ben Caryll would purge and
purify; the panoramic view would enlarge the circle of his sympathies.
And so it proved, although a materialist might assign another cause.
When Mark reached the highest peak he became aware that he had
accomplished a feat of physical endurance beyond such powers as he
possessed two months before.  He was not aware of undue fatigue; on the
contrary, a strange exhilaration permeated mind and body.  He could have
danced, but he sat down, soberly enough, and reread Pynsent’s letter.
When he had done this, he tried to transport himself to Windsor.  He
wanted to sit with Betty in the knights’ stalls, beneath the gorgeous
silken banners, and the emblazoned shields of the princes of the world,
under the eye and ægis of a living sovereign.  But fancy left him—in
Sutherland.  He gazed upon moor and mountain whitened here and there by
snow.  He looked into the pale, luminous skies above, into the frosty
opalescent mists to the westward, through which the sun glowed like a
red-hot ball, and wherever he looked Betty was not.  For the moment he
could not recall her face.  It seemed as if he were seeking a stranger
with a written description of her in his hand.

Sitting there, some voice whispered to him that Betty wanted him, that
he must descend the mountain and go to her.  Then he told himself that
he was mad.  If he obeyed this beguiling voice in his ears, if he went
south—what then?  The hope in his eye and heart would kindle like hope
in her, and such hope was a will-o’-the-wisp flickering above—a grave!

When he came down from the mountain, he found Stride busy in his
laboratory.  Stride possessed a magnificent Zeiss microscope and all the
accessories—incubating ovens, sterilising apparatus, stains, and
reagents—for the highest bacteriological work.  Of late, Mark had given
the little man some help in staining and mounting preparations.

"We are out of one world," Stride had said, "but I will introduce you to
another through an apochromatic lens.  You will find yourself quite at
home, my friend.  Here, in this drop of water, you will note the same
struggle for existence, the same old game as it is played in Whitechapel
or Whitehall."

When Mark began to understand something of the technique of the
microscope, when Stride had shown him its uses, for instance, in the
analysis of diseased tissue or blood, and revealed its magical powers of
diagnosis, Mark asked a question: "How can any doctor work without one?"
Stride laughed at such innocence.

"It takes up too much time.  No hard-working practitioner ignores the
value of it, but he cannot use it.  When necessary, he sends
preparations to some specialist.  A microscope exacts more attention
than a wife.  That is why I"—he slapped his chest and winked
furiously—"have remained single."

This devotion to his work strengthened the chain which linked patient to
doctor.  Stride—Mark felt assured—might have secured fame and fortune in
London.  Yet he chose to remain unknown and poor in Sutherland.

Mark told him that he had climbed Ben Caryll, and felt none the worse
for it.  Stride shook his big head.

"You oughtn’t to attempt such walks—yet."

"Then the time is coming.  I shall regain my health?"

He had never put the question so directly before. Stride eyed him
attentively, hearing a new note in his voice.

"Per—haps."

"If I asked for leave of absence——"

"It would be refused—peremptorily," said Stride. "Why, man, you’d douse
the glim which I’ve been coaxing into flame all these weeks.  What
magnet draws you from Crask?  A woman?"

"Yes—a woman."

"Oh, these tempestuous petticoats!  Now, Samphire, I’m not a fool, and I
guessed, when you came here, that you left a girl behind you.  You are
not engaged to her?"

"No."

"Good!  Now, listen to wisdom.  If everything goes well with you—if
fresh air and simple food and freedom from worry make you whole, you may
marry some day—but you’ll have to wait a long time, so as to make sure,
and even then, after years of comparative health, you may break down
again.  Will this young lady wait for you—indefinitely?"

"I should never ask her to do that."

"Um!  I daresay she’s flirting with someone at this very minute.  Eh?  I
beg pardon, Samphire. Your goddess, no doubt, is an exception; but few
women, if they are women, can get along without a man.  And now you must
leave me.  I’m on the edge of a small discovery.  I’ve done some good
work to-day."

"Your good work will tell, Stride."

"What d’ye mean?  Recognition?  If it comes, so much the better; if it
doesn’t, I’ve had ’the joy of the working’—eh?"

Next day, a letter from Archibald gave many details.  He had enjoyed the
honour of meeting his Sovereign, who said gracious things; he had dined
with a Cabinet Minister; he had been interviewed at length by a
reporter.  The letter concluded as follows:—


"I cannot doubt that my sphere of influence and activity is about to be
enlarged.  If so, I shall count upon your help.  I am deeply grateful
for what you have done already.  I recognise in you, my dear, dear
brother, an insight into human life and character wider than my own. You
have come into contact with what is primal and elemental: an experience
lacking as yet to me.  I have spoken of this to all our friends,
acknowledging frankly my debt to you...."


Mark’s smile, when he read these lines, was not easy to interpret, but
the sense that, for a brief hour, he had grudged his own flesh and blood
a triumph, made him reply cordially and affectionately.  He ended his
letter by assuring Archibald that such help as one brother could give
another would always be at his disposal.

About this time, feeling stronger day by day, he began to wonder what
work he should do in the future.  Stride was emphatic that life in the
East End would mean a return of his malady.  Not being able to preach, a
country curacy was unavailable; and in any case Mark told himself that
such work would be distasteful.  Stride startled him by saying abruptly,
"Why don’t you write?"

"Eh?"

"It’s in you, I’ll swear.  It would be only a crutch, at first, but you
have private means.  You can write out-of-doors.  You will be your own
master.  You can take proper care of yourself...."  Stride waxed
eloquent, and Mark listened with a curious exaltation.

"By Jove!" he said, drawing a deep breath, "I believe I can write."

"Everybody writes nowadays," said Stride, "but I have the feeling that
you can write what a lot of us will want to read.  Think it over!"

Mark thought it over for a week.  Ideas inundated his brain, clamouring
for expression.  He begged permission to try his hand at a short story:
four thousand words.  Stride gave a grudging consent.

"Mind you," said he, "you’re not fit for any sustained mental exertion,
but go ahead—full steam, if you like, and we’ll see what will happen."

Mark wrote his story, and submitted both it and himself to the autocrat.
This was a week later, and the scales proclaimed a loss of two pounds.
Stride pursed up his lips and waggled his big head.

"Back you go to the garden to-morrow," he growled.  "I’ll read your
stuff to-night, and tell you what I think of it.  It’s almost certain to
be rubbish."

In the morning, however, he had nothing but praise for the author, whose
mind was by no means as familiar to him as his body.  He beamed and
gesticulated as if he had discovered a new bacillus. The story was
despatched to an editor, Arthur Conquest, whom Stride knew, and Mark was
enjoined to think no more about it.  Think about it he did, naturally.
The possibility of doing good work in a new field filled him once more
with the ardours of youth.  He told Stride there was a certain
inevitableness about his failures.  What had gone before—all trials and
disappointments—were part of a writer’s equipment.  He could not doubt
that he had found at last a strong-box, so to speak, for such talents as
he possessed.  Action had been denied him, articulate speech was not
his, the power of putting a noble conception on to canvas he lacked; but
he could, he would, he should write according to the truth that was in
him, so help him God!

Stride warned him that the odds were greatly against his manuscript
being accepted.  The editor, however, read the story himself, and
promised to publish it.  His letter contained a message to Mark.


"Will you tell Mr. Samphire" (wrote Conquest) "that I am going to
red-pencil his story, which I take to be a first attempt.  He must serve
his apprenticeship, which in his case needn’t be a long one.  I can see
that he sets for himself a high standard.  If he means business I should
advise him to write a novel and burn it.  When he comes to town, I hope
to make his acquaintance."


"Conquest is cold-blooded," said Stride, "but he has a prescient eye.
All the same, if you have business dealings with him—look out!  And
now—go back to your cabbages."

Mark told Maitland what had passed.  Maitland entered with sympathy into
his plans, confessing that he had tried writing as a trade.

"Grub Street is a long lane with no turning in it for nine-tenths of the
foot passengers.  I hope you’ll gallop down it, Samphire, not crawl as I
did."

Maitland looked, so Mark reflected, as if he had gone afoot down many
paths.  Failure was branded upon his pale, too narrow face, his stooping
shoulders, his large, clumsy hands: all thumbs, and crudely fashioned at
that!  But Ross, who was no longer at Crask, had told Mark that Maitland
filled a very large place in his huge Manchester parish.

"What made you go into the Church?" Mark asked abruptly.

"I had to earn my bread and—scrape; but afterwards——"

"Yes?"

Maitland’s dull, sallow complexion seemed to be suffused with a glow.
It struck Mark that between his face as he was accustomed to see it and
as he saw it now lay the difference between a stage-scene lighted and
unlighted.

"Afterwards," said Maitland, "I knew that the choice of my profession
had been determined by a Power infinitely greater than my own will.  I
became a parson from ignoble motives.  I was soured, bitter, sick in
mind and body, unfit for the duties I undertook.  And then suddenly—one
hardly likes to talk about it—my eyes were opened.  I came into contact
with hundreds worse off than myself.  Some of them bore their burdens
with a patience, a serenity, an unselfishness that were a revelation—to
me.  And then I realised that no life is a failure which brightens
however faintly the lives of others.  Napoleon is the colossal failure
of history, because he darkened a continent.  I would sooner be a beggar
sharing a crust with a child than such as he."

"If you were offered preferment——?"

"I hope to live and die in Manchester."

"You nearly did die.  Suppose you were not strong enough to go back?
You wince, Maitland. That would try your faith.  You have been frank
with me; I shall be frank with you.  I have always wanted one thing, and
because I wanted it so much, I tried to bargain with Heaven.  I said,
’You shall do what you like with me, only give me, give me the woman I
love!’  Well, Heaven seemed to take up the challenge.  You know my
story.  I was defeated again and again.  And I said to myself I’ll grin
and bear it, because she is mine.  Ah, if you could see her, Maitland,
as I see her, if you knew what I have f-f-felt, when I saw her image
f-f-fa—fading——"  He paused, overcome by his stammer, controlled it, and
continued quietly, "I was told that I must die. Ross found me in
despair.  I—I do not know, but the river was close at hand,
and—perhaps—at any rate he rescued me, brought me here, and now, now, I
am beginning to live again.  I see God in His Heaven.  And I see my
angel in mine."

He was so excited that Maitland entreated him to be calm, introducing,
as an anticlimax, the cabbages to be cut and carried in.

Shortly after this Stride allowed him to begin his novel.  After the
first distress of beginning it became plain that this work agreed with
him.  Weight and appetite increased as the manuscript grew fat. He was
out all weathers, and his face became tanned like that of a North Sea
fisherman.  Stride rubbed his hands chuckling, whenever he saw him.

During these months Mark told himself that it was impossible for Betty
to write to him till he broke the silence which he had imposed.
Meanwhile, he heard that Archibald had accepted a London living: St.
Anne’s in Sloane Street. Mrs. Samphire sent Mark a long cutting from the
_Slowshire Chronicle_, a synopsis of his brother’s labours in and about
Westchester.  As secretary, and member of many committees, as a lecturer
on Temperance, as a pillar of the Charity Organisation Society, as the
first tenor of the Westchester Choral Association, Archibald Samphire
had honestly earned the gratitude of the community and the very handsome
salver, which embalmed that gratitude in a Latin sentence composed by
the Dean.  Archibald had been asked to preach four Advent sermons in
Westminster Cathedral.  Mark suggested a theme, revised the sermons,
interpolated a hundred passages, cut and slashed his brother’s beautiful
MSS., and when the sermons were preached and attracted the attention of
London, wrote a letter of warm congratulation to his "dearest old
fellow."  He had taken greater pains with these sermons than with his
own novel, because—as he put it to himself—he had grudged his brother a
triumph which Betty Kirtling had witnessed.

One week after the New Year, he was writing the last lines of his book,
when Stride came into the room and flung down a letter in Archibald’s
handwriting. Mark glanced at it, and at the pile of MS. beside it.

"Is the _magnum opus_ done?" said Stride.

"Very nearly," Mark replied.

"Are you going to take Conquest’s advice and—burn it?"

"I shall let Conquest see it first," said Mark.  He rose from his chair,
crossed the room to where Stride was warming his hands at the fire, and
laid his hand upon his friend’s shoulder.  "It’s not bad," he said
slowly; "I know it’s not bad; and I owe it all to you, Stride."

"What is it about?" said Stride, repudiating the debt with a shake of
his head.  Mark had not shown him any portion of the MS., nor discussed
the theme.

"It’s the story of a faith that was lost and found," said Mark.  "I can
say to you that it is part of my own life, red-hot from my heart, the
sort of story that is written once, you understand, and I have the
feeling that it could have been written only here, in these solitudes."

"I hope it ends happily," said Stride.

"It ends happily," said Mark, staring at his MS.

Stride filled his pipe and then moved to the door.

"It’s going to snow," he said.  "We shall have a heavy fall, unless I’m
mistaken.  It was just such a night as this, last year, when we lost our
shepherd on Ben Caryll."

He went out, whistling.  The door slammed behind him, and the draught
from it fluttered the pages of foolscap lying loose on the table.  Mark
stared at them, smiling, with such a look on his face as a mother
bestows on her first-born, when she is alone with him.  Then, still
smiling, he picked up his brother’s letter and broke the seal, the seal
of many quarterings, which Archibald habitually used.


"My dear Mark" (he wrote): "I am the happiest as well as the luckiest of
men.  Betty Kirtling has promised to become my wife.  We shall be
married as soon as possible, before I settle down to my new work in
London...."


The letter fell from Mark’s hands.  He bent down, trembling, picked it
up, and reread its message. Then, crushing the letter into a ball, he
flung it into the fire, and watched it crumble and dissolve into ashes.
As the flame licked the white paper, the face that stared into the fire
shrivelled into a caricature of what it had been a few moments before.
The lips were drawn back from the teeth in a snarling grin; colour left
the cheeks and flared in purple patches upon the brow.  The slender
limbs shook as with a palsy....

Suddenly, the silence was broken by a laugh: the derisive laugh of the
man who knows that his heavens have fallen.  The sound of his own
laughter seemed to move Mark to action.  He seized the manuscript, and
thrust it into the flames.  When it was destroyed, he laughed again,
crossed to the door, opened it, and passed out—still laughing—into the
driving wind and rain.



                             *CHAPTER XXII*

                            *ON BEN CARYLL*


Mark stood still for a moment, as the wind whipped his face.  Then he
strode towards the burn which runs into the loch at the foot of Ben
Caryll.  He was meeting a north-easter, which drove the rain, now
turning into sleet, with stinging violence against his face.  When he
reached the burn he saw that it was beginning to rise.  It would be in
spate in an hour or two if the storm continued.  The big
stepping-stones, shining through the mists, were almost covered by the
peat-stained, swirling waters, as Mark sprang from one boulder to the
other. Having reached the other side, he paused and looked at the burn.
Above it widened into a broad, deep pool, with flecks and clots of white
spume lying like cream upon its chocolate-coloured surface.  Below, it
narrowed, running foaming through steep rocky banks, and falling some
twenty feet into a bigger pool.  Standing where he stood the roar of the
fall drowned all sounds.  His blood was cooler now; he was able to
think.  He stared at the stepping-stones. Had his foot slipped, the
raging torrent would have whirled him over the falls.  If he returned an
hour later the ford would be impassable. He would have to go round by
the bridge some two miles higher up.  With this thought lurking in but
not occupying his mind he breasted the heather hill immediately to the
right, fighting his way against the wind.  He plunged on until he
reached some peat hags, when he paused to recover breath.  The blood was
racing through his veins.  Never had he felt so alive, so strong; and
yet poison was consuming him.  What poison?  An answer came on the
roaring blast.  _Hate_!  Hatred of his brother. He threw out his arms
towards the darkening skies.

"Curse him!" he cried.  "Curse him!  Curse him!"

Then he crossed the hags, and gained a small turf-covered plateau,
whence Ben Caryll rose steeply and stonily.  This part of the mountain
was known as Eagle Rocks, because for many seasons a pair of golden
eagles had nested on one of the crags.  On a calm day it was no easy
feat to scale these rocks. Tourists, for instance, always went round by
a deer path, which the gillies used also.  Mark laughed. He felt strong,
a man: here was an opportunity to test his strength.  He grasped a tuft
of heather and swung himself to the top of the first rock, but when he
tried to stand upright the wind wrestled with him and prevailed.  He was
constrained to crouch and crawl, clinging to every stick and stone which
hands or feet could find.  But the spirit within would not allow him to
turn back.  Foot by foot he ascended the face of the precipice, knowing
that if a stone turned, or a tuft gave way, he must fall on the sharp
rocks below—knowing and not caring.  When he reached the top he was
perspiring, breathless, bleeding and spent.  He lay still, letting the
sleet lash his face.  When he felt able to move he sat up and looked
across the corrie which lay to the left of the Eagle Rocks.  Beyond this
stretched a gigantic spur of the mountain; and immediately below lay the
strath, with the Crask burn curling down the middle of it.  As he looked
a veil of mist and scud swept over the mountain.  When it seemed
thickest, the wind took it and tore it asunder.  Glimpses of objects
familiar to him during the past five months succeeded each other in
procession, filing by to the roar of the wind and the voices of the
mountain.  In like manner glimpses of his past life presented themselves
for an instant, only to be wiped from memory and obliterated as swiftly.
Out of the mirk soared the spire of Harrow Church.  In the Yard below
the boys were cheering a school-fellow, who ran bare-headed down the
steps and into the street.  It was Archibald, newly elected a member of
the school eleven.  He saw him again, as he stood in the pulpit in
Westchester Cathedral.  Again and again, in the arms of Betty!

Suddenly he became aware that the wind had moderated somewhat in
violence and that snow was falling.  He recalled what Stride had said,
as he rose, stretched his stiffening limbs, and turned to the huge spur
which led to the bridge across the Crask burn.  The snow fell in larger
flakes.  The wind moaned like a woman who has no strength left to
scream.

After stumbling on for a mile or so amongst the rough heather, Mark was
obliged to sit down in the lee of a "knobbie."  With the waning light of
a Highland winter’s afternoon, the air had turned cold; and it seemed to
have thickened, so that Mark breathed as a man breathes in a close and
stifling room.  This rapid fall of temperature and wind produced weird
effects.  The voices of the mountain changed their note.  Defiance died
away in a diminuendo.  Mountain rills, trickling from a thousand springs
to join the burn below, purred beneath the touch of the snow.  The roar
of the falls came faintly to the ear.  After strife and confusion,
Nature was crooning a lullaby.

Exhausted by what mind and body had endured, Mark fell asleep.  The snow
fluttered down, thickly, silently, as the minutes passed.  The cold grew
more intense.  Night came on.  Mark stirred in his sleep; he uttered
inarticulate words; he frowned; he smiled. And then, as if touched by
some warning hand, he woke.  He stared round him, seeking some familiar
face.  When the snow fell into his eyes he rubbed them, and stared
harder than before, trying to pierce the shadows.  Then he cried in a
troubled voice:

"Who touched me?"

No answer came out of the white silence.

"Who touched me?" he cried again.

His ears caught the purr of the rivulets and the muffled roar of the
burn in spate.  He knew where he was.  And then, for a moment, he
hesitated.  A pleasant languor was stealing over him.  Let him sink back
upon his feathery bed—and sleep. No—no!  He had waked to live.

The instinct of life began to throb when he realised the imminence of
death.  Fatigue left him as he strode forward, quickening his pace,
where the ground permitted, to a run.  It was difficult to see, but
salvation lay down hill.  He staggered on, peering to left and right, as
the faint light that remained slowly failed.  Before he reached the burn
it had failed entirely.  He was now in a sore predicament, for the
ground no longer descended sharply, but sloped in undulations.  He began
to grope his way like a blind man, walking in circles.  The roar of the
falls far away to his right could no longer be heard.

He was lost!

He stood compassless in a desert.  No friendly ray from a lantern could
pierce this white horror.  If his friends discovered his absence, which
was unlikely till too late, what could they do?  Search Sutherland in a
snowstorm for one man?

Staggering on through drifts and hags, he realised that the time was
fast approaching when his muscles would fail.

Did he pray for deliverance?  No.  If at that moment one thought
dominated another, it was the conviction that God, if a God existed, had
forsaken him.  The struggle for life involved a paradox with which his
brain could not grapple.  Life had become sweet because it seemed
inevitable that he must die.

Stumbling over a tuft of heather, a cock grouse rose, cackled, and
whirled away.  The vigour of the flight, the vitality of that defiant
note, stimulated the jaded man.  He chose at random a direction, and
began to run, stopping now and again, straining his ears to catch the
sound of the burn.

Presently he stopped altogether, sinking inert, hopeless, spent, upon
the soft snow which received him wantonly, touching him with a caress,
winding itself round him.  He lay still, submitting to Nature, stronger
than he, confessing himself vanquished, and asking that the end might be
speedy.  With death impending, he turned his thoughts towards the woman
he loved—the woman about to marry his brother. He would die, as he
wished to die, gazing into her face, feeling the cool touch of her
fingers, hearing her voice with its tender inflections and modulations.
And her image came obedient to his call.  Her eyes, with their beguiling
interrogation, showing the full orb of the irid between the thin black
lines of the lashes, looked into his.  For the last time he marked the
pathetic droop of the finely curved lips, coral against the ivory of
cheek and chin, lips revealing the teeth which were such an admirable
finish to the face.  Her dark hair, with the dull red glow upon it,
curving deliciously from the forehead, was held together at the top by a
white niphétos rose he had given her.  She was like the rose, he
reflected, a blossom of the earth, sweet, lovely, ephemeral.  He could
not conceive her old, faded, crushed beneath the relentless touch of
time.

The fancy possessed him that she was his, to be taken whithersoever he
might go.  He stretched out his hands, trembling with passion, and the
vision melted.  He grasped the cold snow, not the warm flesh.

At this moment, out of the suffocating silence an attenuated vibration
of sound thrilled his senses. Instantly he was awake, alert—conscious
that help was coming; how and whence he knew not.  The sound permeated
every fibre, but, numbed by exposure and fatigue, he was unable to
interpret its message.  Such as it was, it possessed rhythm—a systole
and diastole, like the laboured beating of his heart.  Was it merely the
heart, recording with solemn knell the passing of a soul?  No—no!  He
sprang to his feet, aflame once more with the lust of life.  The sound
he heard was no delusion of a fanciful brain, no fluttering of a
moribund heart, but a clarion note from without, steadily increasing in
volume, forcing a passage through the blinding snows—the Crask bell!

But at first he was unable to localise the sound: plunging madly this
way and that, settling down at length to his true course, which brought
him within half an hour to the bridge across the burn.  Even then he
strayed again and again from the road, led back to it as often by the
voice of the bell, growing clearer and louder with every step he took.
Presently he heard voices, hoarse shouts, which he answered in feeble
whispers; then a yellow light swinging to and fro shone through the
darkness.  He staggered on to meet it, falling fainting into the arms of
Stride.

                     *      *      *      *      *

Stride asked no questions.  Mark was put to bed, and lay still for some
four hours: then he began to grind his teeth, to clench his fists.
Stride sat beside him watching his friend and patient, with eyes half
shut, like a purring cat’s, the pupils narrowed to a black slit.
Presently he went to the window.  The wind had ceased.  Outside, in
silence, the snow kept on falling, spreading its pall upon the world,
while the cold grew more and more intense.  The crystals were forming
upon the pane, and despite the big peat fire, the temperature in the
room fell point after point.  Staring through the pane, Stride could see
nothing save the piled-up snow on the sill, and the myriad fluttering
flakes beyond: each, as he knew, a crystal of surpassing symmetry and
loveliness, each fashioned by the Master in His sky and despatched to
earth, there to be destroyed, trodden, maybe, into mire and filth, and,
rising again, seeking the skies anew, to be transformed by the same Hand
into rain, or dew, or sleet, or snow, ordained to fall as before, and as
before to rise, the eternal symbol of the soul which descends into the
clay, softens it, is tainted and discoloured by it, and then, in
glorious resurrection, ascends to be purged and purified in the place
whence it came.



                            *CHAPTER XXIII*

                               *HYMENEAL*


Upon the morning of his wedding-day, Archibald Samphire went into the
church of King’s Charteris and prayed before the altar.  While he was
praying, Jim Corrance pushed aside the heavy curtain of the west door
and peered in.  A whim had seized him.  He, the freethinker, the
agnostic, had said to himself that he would like to spend a few minutes
alone in the church where he had been baptised and confirmed.  Rank
sentiment!  But Jim at heart was a man of sentiment, although he took
particular pains to prove to the world that he was nothing of the sort.

When Jim saw Archibald’s fine figure he frowned, thrusting forward his
square chin, and the short hair on the top of his head bristled with
exasperation. Upon each side of the kneeling man were ferns and palms,
whose fronds touched overhead.  The priests’ stalls were ablaze with
daffodils and primroses picked by the school-children in the water
meadows and woods near Pitt Hall.  Through the east window a May sun
streamed in full flood of prismatic colour. The pure rays of the sun
passing through the gorgeous glass absorbed its tints and flung them
lavishly here and there, staining with crimson, or blue, or yellow, the
white lilies which stood upon the altar. Jim smiled derisively.  The
fancy struck him that Archie’s prayers would absorb, so to speak, the
colours of his mind.  The words of the General Thanksgiving occurred to
Jim.


"And we beseech Thee, give us that due sense of all Thy mercies, that
our hearts may be unfeignedly thankful, and that we shew forth Thy
praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives; by giving up ourselves
to Thy service, and by walking before Thee in holiness and righteousness
all our days."


Surely this set—so Jim reflected—forth Archibald Samphire’s pious
ambition.  Doubtless he did aspire to give himself to God’s service,
particularly that form of it which is held in cathedrals; and he
intended, honestly enough, to walk before Him (and before the world) in
holiness and righteousness all his days (which he had reason to believe
would be long and fruitful).

Archibald rose and walked down the aisle.  Jim hid himself behind the
tall font, but he stared curiously at his old school-fellow.
Archibald’s face had lost its normal expression of a satisfaction too
smug to please such a critical gentleman as Mr. James Corrance.  His
massive features were troubled. He looked humble!  Why?  Surely the
crimson carpet beneath his feet, bordered with flowers, over-shadowed by
exquisite ferns and rare shrubs, indicated the procession of a
successful life: a majestic march through the hallowed places of Earth
to the Heaven of All Saints beyond!

Had Jim been able to peer within that mighty body, he might have seen a
self-confidence strangely deflated, a conscience quickened by pangs.
The colossus, whose physical prowess had become a glorious tradition at
Harrow and Cambridge, knew himself to be a moral coward, inasmuch as he
had withheld a vital truth from the woman he loved. Fear of losing,
first, her good opinion of him, then the greater fear of losing the
woman altogether, had withered again and again the impulse to say
frankly: "Mark wrote the two sermons which have made me what I am."
Unable to say this, realising that the many opportunities for speech had
passed, he had just vowed solemnly that his transgression should be
expiated by hard work in his new parish. Truly—as Lady Randolph had
said—was Archibald Samphire an unconscious humourist!  And before we
leave him to return to Jim, let it be added that the big fellow did not
know (and being the man he was could not possibly have known) that he
had wooed Betty with Mark’s words, that he would have wooed in vain with
his own.  Not unreasonably, he was absolutely convinced that the
qualities which had won success in everything undertaken by him had
assured this also, the greatest prize of all, a tender, loving wife.


Jim waited till five minutes had passed, then he strolled back to his
mother’s house, telling himself that he was a brute, a dog in the
manger, because he had misjudged a God-fearing fellow-creature,
immeasurably his superior, who had won in fair competition a prize
beyond his (Jim’s) deserts.

When he returned to his mother’s house a trim parlourmaid handed him a
note.  She told him at the same time that Mrs. Corrance was taking
breakfast in her own room.  Jim nodded, and broke the seal: a lilac
wafer with Betty Kirtling’s initials entwined in a cypher.


"Dear old Jim" (Betty wrote): "please come up after breakfast and take
me for a walk.

"Your affectionate Betty."


Betty was installed in The Whim for her wedding; and the Randolphs and
Harry Kirtling—not to mention other relations—were keeping her company.
Since her engagement had been announced, Jim had scarcely seen her.  He
had taken the news hard.  His clerks, and the jobbers with whom he dealt
found him difficult to please, argumentative, contemptuous, and a
glutton for work throughout that Lenten season.

As Jim approached The Whim, Betty joined him on the drive.  He saw that
she was very pale.

"How good of you to come," she exclaimed.

"Good!" growled Jim.  "As if I wouldn’t cross the Atlantic or the Styx
to walk with you.  Where shall we go?"

Betty took a path which led to the lane running at right angles to the
Westchester road.  High hedges bordered this lane, with ancient yew
trees at uncertain intervals.  To the right lay the best arable land in
King’s Charteris, rich alluvial soil, now green with spring wheat; to
the left, the ground ascended in undulating slopes of pasture till it
melted in the downs beyond.

"Sun is going to shine on you," said Jim.

The sun was blazing in a sky limpid after a week’s heavy rain.  Beneath
its warm beams the soaked landscape seemed to be smiling with
satisfaction.  A peculiar odour of fertility, pungent and potent,
assailed the nostrils, the odour of spring, the odour of earth
renascent, rejuvenated, once more a bride.

"I wish it were June instead of May, Jim."

"That’s the most absurd superstition."

"Jim, I want to ask a question.  Have you seen or heard of Mark?"

Jim looked cross.

"He’s in Sutherland."

"Go on, please."

"He doesn’t answer my letters," said Jim, after a pause.

"He writes to nobody."

"Did you expect him to write?"

"Yes, I did," said Betty vehemently.  "If it had been an ordinary man,
but Mark—Heavens!  Why should I beat about the bush with you, Jim?  Once
I wanted to marry Mark!  You know that.  But he didn’t want—me."

She paused, blushing, her eyes, pools of brown light, opened wide with
their strange look: entreating, interrogating.

"Which was a woman’s reason, I suppose, for engaging yourself to
somebody who did."

The words slipped from him.  Caring for Mark, how could she have
accepted Archibald?  That cried to Heaven for explanation.  He stared at
her, seeing no reproach in her eyes, only a soft shadow of wonder—or was
it regret—or something subtler than either.

"Oh, Jim, feeling as you do about religion, you can’t understand.  I was
looking down, down into the depths.  Archie taught me to look up."

"To him?"

"To God."

"You say that Archibald Samphire revealed God to you?"

"In that sermon at Windsor—yes.  If you had heard it——"

"I heard of it.  You will be the wife of a bishop some day."

He tried to give the conversation a lighter turn, fearing that she would
speak again of Mark, understanding at last that Mark, standing under
sentence of death, had deliberately hidden his heart from her. What else
could such a man have done?  And if Betty realised this, even now, at
the eleventh hour, she might refuse to marry the silver-tongued brother.
And because the temptation to tell her the truth was so poignant, he
resisted it.  It lay on his tongue’s tip to exclaim: "Good Lord!  Is it
possible that you, with your intuitions and sympathies, have failed to
divine Mark’s love for you? Can’t you understand that his love keeps him
in Sutherland, that he dares not write for fear that he should reveal
it?"  At the same time, he knew that marriage between any young woman
and a man suffering from an almost incurable malady was unthinkable.
And if Betty could not marry Mark, was it not better from every point of
view that she should marry his brother?  Would not he (Jim) be taking
upon himself a terrible responsibility if he broke the silence which
Mark’s self-sacrifice had made sacred? These, and a thousand other
thoughts, jostled each other in his brain.

"That sermon touched me at first, because I thought it was Mark
speaking.  Not till then had I realised that Archie possessed the
wonderful power of making life easier, happier, ampler; but why does
Mark, if he cares nothing for me, stand aloof, why—why?"

"It is strange," he admitted slowly.

"Ah," she cried, "you say that reservedly.  You, too, have guessed or at
least suspected——"

"What?"

"That Mark is—jealous—of—Archie."  The words dropped from her lips as if
she loathed them, as if she loathed herself for speaking them.  She
continued quickly: "At Westchester, he was alone with me.  I was
thrilling with surprise and admiration.  We had underrated Archie; you
know that, Jim.  And he had vindicated himself so gloriously. Well, Mark
said nothing, not a word of praise.  Oh, it was ungenerous—abominable!
But I did not think so then.  But now, what other interpretation can I
put upon his silence?"

When she paused, Jim burst into a vehement defence of Mark.  He spoke as
he spoke to his clerks, clenching his fists, thrusting out his chin,
repeating his phrases: "What?  You say that? You use such words as
abominable, ungenerous? You, Betty Kirtling?  Abominable?  Ungenerous?
Well, if he be jealous, is it surprising, is it not most natural?
Abominable?  Great Scott!  He looks at the man, the brother, who has
everything, everything which he lacks—the physical strength, the
persuasive voice, the luck—the devil’s own luck—I don’t pick my words,
Betty Kirtling!  Why—if he were not jealous, if envy at times did not
tear him, he would not be Mark at all, but some impeccable, immaculate
humbug!  Abominable!  From—you!"

Betty turned her back, and walked down the lane; Jim hesitated, and
pursued.

"Betty, forgive me!  I’m a brute, and this, this is your wedding-day.
Here, give me your hand, both hands!  That’s better.  Tell me I’m a
beast. I deserve kicking.  I’ll lie down and let you wipe your boots on
me.  Your wedding-day—and I’ve treated you to this."

The feeling in his face went straight to her heart.

"It’s all right, Jim," she whispered, half crying, half laughing.  "And
I take back—abominable."  She sighed, gazing towards the downs where she
and Mark had played truant.  Then, with quivering lips and wet eyes, she
murmured, "Poor Mark—poor Mark!" disengaged her hands, and ran down the
lane and out of sight.


After the wedding there was an old-fashioned breakfast at The Whim, with
toasts, speeches, cutting of cake, and so forth.  Slowshire came in
force, ate largely, drank deeply, and made merry in the solid, stodgy,
Slowshire way.  None the less, to Lady Randolph and other less acute
observers, the function was somewhat depressing.  The Whim, where so
many cheery gatherings had taken place, had been sold.  The furniture
was to be moved into the Samphires’ London house, while the bride and
groom were on their honeymoon.  The Squire’s wife, in purple satin
slashed with heliotrope silk, supplied every guest who belonged to the
county families with details.

"The dear couple will be so comfortable.  No—there is no rectory.  They
will live in Cadogan Place. Lord Minstead was glad to sell the lease.
They say, you know, that he—pst—pst—pst——"  The speaker’s prominent blue
eyes seemed positively to bulge from her plump, pink cheeks, as she
whispered Minstead’s unsavoury story into attentive ears. "But, as I was
saying, our dear couple—really the handsomest couple I ever saw in my
life—will be _très bien installés_.  I am to find them a cook—fifty-five
pounds a year—do you know of one?  She must be a _cordon bleu_.  Yes, a
kitchen _and_ a scullery-maid. They are very well off, very well off
indeed.  It is expected that they will entertain——"

The Squire, meantime, exchanged a few words with his old friend Lady
Randolph.  His face was flushed and his eyes congested and very puffy
below the lids.  Lips and chin, too, had a faint purplish tinge, always
seen on the faces of those afflicted by a certain form of heart disease.
He was certainly failing, Lady Randolph reflected.  Still, he had lived
his life, enjoyed the cakes and ale—too much of them!—and might reckon
himself amongst the lucky ones.  Pomméry had loosened his tongue.

"They will have—this between ourselves, my dear lady—nearly five
thousand a year.  Archie has done well.  I am very proud of Archie—a
fine fellow—hay? You may call him that—a fine fellow—a very fine fellow
indeed!  Sound"—the Squire thumped his own broad chest—"sound as I am,
sound as a bell, and likely to make old bones."

Lady Randolph, with eyes half closed, nodded, wondering if this pitiful
assumption of high health were genuine or assumed.  Surely the Squire
must know himself to be no sounder than a big pippin rotten at the core.
He stood beside her, tall, portly, scrupulously dressed as a country
gentleman of the old school; and the purple flush deepened and spread as
he talked.

"Archibald will be a bishop.  Do you know that his portrait is coming
out in _Vanity Fair_?  The Chrysostom of Sloane Street they call him.
His Advent sermons have been widely discussed.  And he will have no land
to bother him.  These are hard times for us landowners.  Is Randolph
pinched?  Of course, he has his town property; but it’s different with
me; it’s the very deuce with me.  I’m worried to death about it."

What was fermenting in his mind had come, as it generally does with such
men, to the surface.  Lady Randolph looked unaffectedly sorry, and
expressed her sympathy.  The Squire plunged into the interminable
subject of falling prices, rates, impoverished soil, the difficulty of
finding good tenant farmers, and so forth.  Not till the bride entered
did he cease from his jeremiads.

"Here is Betty," said Lady Randolph.

She wore a travelling dress of pale grey cloth edged and lined with
lavender silk.  Betty had refused to adorn herself in bright colours,
which happened to suit her admirably.  A parson’s wife, she observed,
should dress soberly, and she quoted the Vicar of Wakefield, to Lady
Randolph’s great amusement.  A controversy had arisen over this
particular frock.  Betty, however, seconded by the dressmaker, had her
own way about it.  Now Lady Randolph was certain that her protests had
been justifiable.  The dress, lovely though it was in texture and fit,
had a faded appearance; it suggested autumn instead of spring, dun
October, not merry May.

Betty tripped here and there, bidding her friends and neighbours
good-bye, while Archie stood smiling at the door.  He looked very large
and imposing in a rough grey serge suit, which fused happily the
clerical garb with that of a bridegroom.  Calm and dignified, he
received the congratulations of the men.  Once or twice he drew a gold
watch from his pocket—a present from the Dean and Chapter—opened it,
glanced at it, and closed it with a loud click.  He had never missed a
train, but the possibility of doing so now impended.

Mrs. Samphire held her handkerchief to her face. Mrs. Corrance’s
handkerchief was in her pocket, but her kind eyes were wet.  The young
men from the barracks were laughing loudly, cracking jokes with the
bridesmaids, "whooping things up a bit."  The elderly guests smiled
blandly, thinking possibly of their own weddings.  The children alone
really enjoyed themselves.  Jim Corrance waited till the bride had
passed him; then he rushed into the dining-room, where he found two
generals and an Indian judge solemnly employed in finishing the
Admiral’s famous Waterloo brandy.

"Wonderful stuff," said the judge, as he passed the decanter to Jim; "it
puts everything right—eh?"

Jim nodded.  Through the open doors, leading into the hall, he could see
Betty run down the stairs, followed by Archibald.

The Squire called after her: "God bless you, my dear!  God bless you!"

She was gone.

Jim went out of the dining-room, which was situated, it will be
remembered, at the top of The Whim.  Most of the guests had followed the
bride and groom downstairs.  Upon the Persian carpet lay a small spray
of lilies of the valley, fallen from Betty’s bouquet.  Jim glanced to
right and left. Nobody was looking at him.  Furtively, scarlet in the
face, he stalked and bagged the spray of lilies. He placed it carefully
in his pocket-book.

"That’s the last of our Betty," he said.



                             *CHAPTER XXIV*

                              *A RED TIE*


Archibald had ordered a coupé to be ready for him at Westchester, but
when the Bournemouth express dashed up, the stationmaster was obliged to
confess that a blunder had taken place; no coupé was on the train.  A
first-class carriage was found, in which two seats were already
occupied.

"Somebody ought to be censured for this," said the bridegroom, as the
train slid out of the station. "It’s inexcusable carelessness.  I shall
write to the directors about it."

"Pray don’t," said Betty.  "The matter’s not worth a penny stamp."

"We shall find a coupé at Victoria," he whispered, bending forward.
They were _en route_ for France, having agreed to spend their honeymoon
in Touraine. Betty glanced at the elderly couple, whose curiosity had
been quickened.  Archibald drew back with a slight frown.  "I shall
write from Dover," he said. "I regard it as a duty."

Betty pouted, surprised that he should treat her injunction so
cavalierly.  Men, she reflected, were men, and must be humoured.  After
all, her husband’s annoyance was a compliment to her.  She blushed as
she lay back against the cushions, shutting her eyes.  Her _husband_!
She repeated the word very softly, the colour ebbing and flowing in her
cheeks, as she gave herself up to the thought of him.  Archibald said
nothing; that was tactful. He had plenty of tact—a great gift—and most
agreeable manners.  Suddenly she realised that she was making an
inventory of his good qualities, repeating them to herself like a
parrot.  She sat up, opening her eyes, opening them indeed wider than
usual when she saw what had happened.  Archibald had risen early; he had
spent a busy and exciting morning; he had made an excellent breakfast,
although, being a total abstainer, he had refused the Pomméry and
Waterloo brandy.  Now, not being able to talk to his bride in the
presence of strangers, seeing that she wanted to rest and reflect, he
had settled himself comfortably into his corner and—had fallen asleep!

Betty eyed him furtively.  She did not like to wake him, but his
appearance distressed her.  She bent forward and touched his arm.

"Dear me," he said.  "I saw you close your eyes, Betty, and I closed
mine.  You did right to wake me."

"I couldn’t help it," she replied.  "Your hat had fallen over your left
eye.  It made you look—ridiculous."

They spoke in whispers, leaning forward, so that their heads almost
touched.  But at the word "ridiculous" the bridegroom winced.

Betty had pierced a sensitive skin.  Seeing this, she tried to turn the
incident into a joke, laughing lightly, sorry that she should have hurt
him, yet still seeing the hat tilted over the left eye.

At Victoria the coupé was awaiting them.  The train, however, had only
just backed into the station and would not leave for a quarter of an
hour. Archibald and Betty arranged their belongings, and proceeded to
walk up and down the platform.  A great station was a never-failing
source of interest to Betty.  The infinite variety of faces, the bustle,
the pervading air of change and motion, even the raucous, ear-splitting
sounds, stimulated her imagination.  Nothing amused her more than to
invent stories concerning fellow-travellers.  She brought to this an
ingenuity and an insight which had often delighted Lady Randolph.  Now,
as usual, her eye drifted here and there in search of some attractive
lay figure.  As a rule she selected someone out of the ordinary groove.
The flare of an eye, the twist of a moustache, a peculiarity in figure
or gait instantly aroused her interest.  Passing the bookstall, she saw
a man in an Inverness cape made out of Harris tweed.  Because he had the
appearance of coming straight from Scotland, she examined him more
closely.  At the moment he turned, and their eyes met.  The stranger was
very brown of complexion and wore a beard, but the eyes, blue eyes with
sparkling pin-points of frosty light, were Mark’s eyes.

"That’s Mark!" said Betty excitedly, clutching her husband’s arm.
"Look—look!"

Archibald looked and laughed.

"You have an amazing imagination, my dearest Mark?  That man in
homespun, and a red tie! He’s twice Mark’s size, and he wears a beard.
I noticed him just now.  Mark?  Why Mark’s in Sutherland."

"I was mistaken," said Betty absently.  She walked on quite sure that
the man’s eyes were following her.  She was sure of it, although her
back was turned to him.  A minute before Archibald had asked her if she
would like a tea-basket.  The refreshment-room was just opposite.  An
impulse seized her.

"I think I should like a tea-basket," she said, pausing.  "Will you get
one?  I’ll go back to the carriage."

Archibald obeyed, unsuspecting.  Betty turned and ran to the bookstall.
The man was no longer there.  She looked right and left.  That was
he—disappearing, melting into the crowd outside. Without a moment’s
hesitation she hastened after him, came up behind, plucked at his cape.
He turned at once.  It was Mark.

"You?" she gasped.  "_You_—here?"

Her eyes, wide open, glaring interrogation, fell before his.  He took
her hand, grasping it firmly.

"I can explain.  I heard of your plans from Mrs. Samphire.  I knew that
you were leaving by this train.  I came on the off chance of getting a
glimpse of you."

"You are well, _strong_!"

She raised her eyes, devouring him.  He could see that people in the
crowd were nudging each other, grinning and pointing.  He drew her
aside.

"Yes; I am strong."  As he said it, he realised that he would need all
his strength.  What a mad fool he had been to come, to risk so much.
"Look here," he said harshly, "you must go back to Archie.  Tell
him—tell him that I couldn’t come to his wedding, because, b-b-because
I’ve left the Church.  I wasn’t going to set every tongue wagging in
Slowshire.  Do you see?  Do you understand?  Now—go—run!"

He almost pushed her from him.  Her eyes never left his face.

"Can’t you see me to my carriage?"

This, the obvious thing, had not occurred to him. He walked beside her.
As they passed into the station, Archibald appeared on the platform,
followed by a boy carrying a tea-basket.

"It _is_ Mark," said Betty, as her husband joined them.  They walked
towards the carriage, the most amazing trio in that vast station.  Mark
repeated his reasons for not taking part in the wedding. Archibald
looked confused.

"You have left our Church?"

He repeated it three times.

"Yes; yes—we can’t go into reasons here and now."

"What are you going to do?"

"I am writing."

The guard began to slam the doors.  He came up to the brothers, smiling,
seeing the bride, feeling in his broad palm the tip of the bridegroom.

"Better get in, sir," he said to Mark, who, in his Inverness cape and
rough cap, looked the traveller.

Archibald pushed Betty into the coupé and shook hands with Mark.

"You must tell us everything when we get back. It has been a great
shock," he stared at the red tie; "but I’m delighted to see you looking
so well."

He sprang into the coupé as the train began to move.  Betty pushed him
aside and leaned out of the window.  Mark never forgot the expression on
her face framed by the small, square window.  The engine was screeching
lamentably, like a monster in agony.  Another train was entering the
station, adding its strident note to the chorus, filling the atmosphere
with clouds of white steam.  A third-class carriage full of soldiers
glided by.  The soldiers, mostly boyish recruits, were singing at the
top of their voices, "Good-bye, my lover, good-bye."  A girl standing
near burst into hysterical sobbing. Mark noted these details, as a man
notes some irrelevant trifle in a dream, which remains part of that
dream for ever after.  But his eyes were on Betty’s face.  She had been
borne away by a force slow but irresistible, the relentless Machine, the
symbol of progress, of Fate, if you will, which tears asunder things and
men, and brings some together again, but not all, nor any just as they
were before.  The face was white and piteous, the face of an Andromeda.
Upon it, in unmistakable lines, were inscribed regret and reproach.
Mark turned sick.  He had wished to save this woman; had he sacrificed
her?

Betty heard her husband say, "This has been very upsetting."
Immediately she laughed, withdrawing her face from the window.  Nothing
else, probably, would have erased the tell-tale lines.  She thought that
her laugh was a revelation of what was passing in her mind; but
Archibald took other notice of it.

"You laugh?" he said heavily.  "I know what has happened.  I am not much
surprised.  Mark has gone over to Rome.  Really, my dear little woman,
you must not laugh like that.  I give you my word that I am terribly
distressed.  That red tie!"

"The scarlet woman."

"Pray don’t joke!  This is most upsetting."

She laughed again, knowing that she was on the verge of hysterics,
trying to control herself.  The train, rushing on out of the mists of
London into the splendid May sunshine of the country, rocked violently
as it crossed the points.  Betty fell back upon the cushions, still
laughing and repeating Archibald’s words.

"Upsetting?  I should think so."

Like Mark, she was reflecting that Force was bearing her away, whirling
her asunder, leaving heart and soul here, flinging her body there.  The
irony of it was stunning in its violence.  She covered her face with her
hands, pressing her finger-tips upon her temples, but she did not close
her eyes, which followed Archibald’s slow, methodical movements. He was
arranging the baggage—her handsome travelling-bag, a wedding present
from the Squire, his own massive suit-case, the parasols and umbrellas,
the tea-basket.  In the contracted space wherein he moved he loomed
colossal.  She felt herself shrinking, collapsing.  In a minute, a
moment, he would turn, he would take her cold hands in his, removing
them gently but masterfully from the face quivering beneath.  Then he
would surely read and know.  He had nearly finished his fiddle-faddling
arrangements. He took his hat from his head, looked at it, brushed a few
specks of dust from the crown and rim, and placed it carefully in the
rack.  Out of the pocket of an overcoat he drew a soft travelling cap,
putting it on deliberately, making himself comfortable.  At last he was
coming towards her, the tea-basket in his hand, a smile upon his face,
an endearing phrase upon his lips.  Betty closed her eyes.  The words of
the marriage service sounded loud in her ears, rhythmic, like the roar
of waves breaking on an iron-bound coast: the echo of her oath before
the altar thundering down the empty corridors of the future—"_From this
day forward ... to love, cherish, and to obey till Death us do part!_"

Archibald dropped the tea-basket with a crash. His bride had fainted.



                             *CHAPTER XXV*

                        *MARK HEARS A BLEATING*


Two days later Mark Samphire called upon Jim Corrance at his chambers in
Bolton Street, Piccadilly.  Here Jim lived when he was not making money
or playing golf at Woking.  He played golf regularly to keep himself
fit.  He also played whist and billiards.  Whatever he did, work or
play, was characterised by a dexterity and fertility of resource which
generally ensured success.

Jim’s chambers were furnished comfortably but conventionally.  As a
matter of fact, he had told a famous firm of decorators to do the best
they could for a certain sum of money.  Jim added a few pictures and
engravings, some books, and an impeccable manservant, Tom Wrenn.  He did
not look at the pictures or read the books, but he studied Wrenn, an
interesting document, and mastered him.  Wrenn, for his part, had
nothing but praise for a gentleman who bought the best of wine and
tobacco and entrusted them unreservedly to his man.

When Wrenn ushered Mark into the sitting-room, he exhibited no surprise,
but his master stared at his old friend as if he (Mark) had risen from
the dead. Mark, bearded, brown, sinewy, larger about the chest and
shoulders, confounded Jim—and he said so in his usual abrupt, jerky
fashion.  Then he noted the rough tweeds and the red tie.  Wrenn
lingered for a moment.

"Wrenn," said Jim, "bring some whisky and mineral waters, and the
Rothschild Excepcionales!" Wrenn vanished silently.  Jim seized Mark by
the coat.

"Why, this howls for explanation.  You’ve chucked your black
livery—_you_?"

The emphasis laid on the pronoun expressed surprise, incredulity, and
amusement.

"Yes.  I’ve come here to tell you all about it."

Wrenn appeared with a tray and a long, shallow box of cigars.  Mark,
however, preferred to light his pipe.  As soon as Wrenn had left the
room, he plunged into his story.

"There was just the possibility, you understand, of recovery.  Archibald
came up.  He wanted me to go home, and he brought a message from
Betty—her love.  She was stopping with your mother. That message either
meant everything or nothing. I knew that it meant—everything.  Now,
while Archibald was with me I did a bit of work, brain work, the first
since the smash.  It knocked me out—knocked all my hopes to smithereens.
Would you under such conditions have sent back your love to Betty?"

"No," said Jim; "but—well, never mind; go on——"

"After Archibald had left Crask I took a big turn for the better.  I
suppose that glorious air and the simple food and Stride’s knowledge of
my case worked the miracle.  And then I began to hope again; and I began
to work."  He told Jim about the first short story and the novel, but he
did not mention the Advent sermons of his brother.  "Time slipped by,
Jim.  I was awfully keen about my work."

"I’ll bet you were," said Jim.

"You always chaffed me, because I said that in my philosophy things
turned out for the best.  I told myself that every incident in my life,
every trial and infirmity, had meaning.  Can a man write what is really
vital unless he has striven and suffered and seen others striving and
suffering? I say—no.  God knows I longed to be a man of action.  That
was denied me.  The desire to paint, to express what was in me on
canvas, proved fruitless.  Then the Church opened her doors—I saw a
goal, but my stammer choked me at the start.  All the same, the work in
Stepney warmed me to the core.  I was up to my neck in it."

"And Betty?"

"Ah—Betty.  She was out of sight, Jim, but never out of mind.  A
thousand times I told myself she was unattainable; that a man was a
sickly anæmic ass who allowed a woman to interfere with what he had to
do."

"Right," said Jim.  "That’s gospel."

"All the same, she was back of everything.  Then came last
Whitsuntide——"

He paused.  Jim continued: "I know about that. I suppose you learned,
then, of this cursed mischief inside you?"

"I suspected something; I went to Barger and Drax.  They told me
marriage was madness."

"Great Scott!"

He was more agitated than Mark, thrusting out his chin, shaking his
shoulders, clenching his fists: gestures familiar to Mark since the
Harrow days and before.  It struck Mark suddenly that this scene was
recurrent, the ebb and flow of the heart’s tide breaking on rocks.
Could anything be more futile than talk: the interminable recital of
what was and what might have been?  His voice, as he continued, lost its
tonic quality:

"There is not much more to tell.  Just as I began to hope that my life
might still hold Betty, the news came of her engagement——"

Jim looked at the red tie.

"And then you saw red," he spluttered, "you saw red."

"When that letter came, I could—have—killed—my—brother."

The two men had risen and were staring at each other with flaming eyes.

"I could have killed him," Mark repeated sombrely.  "You know, Jim, what
Archie was to me at Harrow—and long afterwards?"

"The greatest thing on earth," said Jim.  "I used to be awfully
jealous."

"I loved him for his beauty," said Mark drearily, "for his strength and
for his weakness.  I loved him the more because in some small ways I
could help him.  I grudged him nothing—I swear it!—nothing, _nothing_,
except Betty.  I could have let her go to you or Harry Kirtling; but to
him who had all I had not, my b-b-brother——"

His stammer seized him, and he trembled violently.

"We’ll drop it," exclaimed Jim.  He had turned away from Mark’s eyes,
reading in them the hate which was not yet controlled.  "You don’t
feel—er—that way towards _her_?"

"Never, never!"  His eyes softened at once; then he broke out abruptly:
"What made her take him?"  It was out at last.  He expected no answer
from his friend, but Jim said simply: "Surely you know?"

"It’s darkest mystery."

"Why, man, she told me that he dragged her out of the depths."  Jim
repeated what Betty had said. "You know what women are.  A petticoat
flutters naturally towards a parson whenever the wind blows. That did
me.  _I_ couldn’t promise to personally conduct her to—Heaven.  Yes, his
sermons, particularly that Windsor sermon, captured her."

"The Windsor sermon!  You say the Windsor s-s-sermon?" Mark stuttered
out.

"Yes, the Windsor sermon.  I’m told it was wonderful.  He’s a bit of a
prig, but he can preach, and no mistake!  Why, look here!  Have you seen
this?  Out this morning!"

He took up the current _Vanity Fair_ and displayed a caricature of
Archibald Samphire—the Chrysostom of Sloane Street.  It was one of
Pellegrini’s best bits of work, but the "fine animal" in Archibald had
been slightly overdrawn, unintentionally, no doubt, on the artist’s
part.  The florid complexion, the massive jaw, the curls, the lips, were
subtly exaggerated.  None would be surprised to learn that Chrysostom
lived in Cadogan Place with a _cordon bleu_ at fifty-five pounds a year.
Mark gazed at the cartoon and then laid it, face downwards, on the
table.

"The thing’s wonderful," he said slowly, "but it will hurt Betty."

Jim Corrance shrugged his shoulders.  He had come to the conclusion that
a touch of the animal in men was not a disability where women were
concerned.

"I saw them at Victoria," said Mark.

"What?"

Mark explained, blaming himself.

"You’ve given yourself away," said Jim disgustedly.  "She had got it
into her head that you didn’t care, but the man who doesn’t care would
hardly travel from Sutherland to London to catch one glimpse of another
fellow’s bride.  Lord!  You have made a mess of it.  And what are you
going to do now?  Have a drink, and tell me your plans."

"I’m going to write."

"Have you rewritten the novel you burnt?"

"No; but I’m half-way through another."

"You may as well camp with me.  Why not?"

Mark had several reasons "why not," but he gave one which was
sufficient: "I mean to eat and sleep and work out-of-doors."

The two men talked together for an hour and then parted.

"By the way," said Jim, as Mark was taking leave, "the Squire is looking
rather seedy.  I fancy he’s something on his mind.  Are you going down
to King’s Charteris?"

Mark shook his head impatiently, hearing a terrible bleating; but as he
passed through the Green Park, on the way to his lodgings, he reflected
that he would have to go to Pitt Hall sooner or later.  Why not sooner?
He would run down the next day. Then, he repeated to himself what Jim
Corrance had said about Archibald’s sermons, and their effect on Betty.
Looking back now, with an odd sense of detachment, he realised how much
of these sermons had been his, how little Archibald’s.  For this he
blamed himself.  His brother had asked for an inch.  He had given gladly
an ell.  But if—the possibility insisted on obtruding itself (an
unwelcome guest)—if Betty discovered the truth, what would happen?

When he reached his lodging he wrote a letter to the Squire, saying that
he was running down on the morrow and preparing him for a change of
cloth.


"I no longer count myself of the Church of England" (he wrote), "but you
will be doing the wise thing and the kind thing if you ask no
questions."


This bolt from the blue fell on to the breakfast-table. Mrs. Samphire,
like Archibald, jumped to the conclusion that Mark had gone over to
Rome.

"I knew how it would be," she said acidly, "from the very beginning.  I
dare say he will arrive with his head shaved and wearing a cowl.  And
you were saying only yesterday that he could have the King’s Charteris
living, now that Archie is provided for."

"The boy is a good lad," said the Squire heavily. "I shall talk to him.
He must take the King’s Charteris living, he _must_.  I shall make a
point of it.  He can keep a curate to preach.  It’s the obvious way out
of the wood."

"Then he won’t take it."

She burst into detraction of the boy who was like the woman the Squire
had loved.  The Squire listened moodily, eating his substantial
breakfast of kidneys and poached eggs and a slice from the ham of his
own curing.

"He is not a Samphire at all," concluded the lady, as she rose from the
table, leaving the Squire still eating, very red in the face where the
colour was not purple, and showing a massive jowl above his neatly
folded white scarf.  Left alone, he cut himself another slice from the
huge ham, and then reread Mark’s letter, staring at it with congested
eyes, and muttering: "Yes, yes—it’s the obvious way out of the wood, the
obvious way out of the wood.  He can keep a curate who can preach.  Four
hundred a year, even in these times, and a capital house, a really
capital house, in first-rate repair.  I shall talk to him.  The Madam
doesn’t like him—never did! But he’ll listen to his old pater.  It’s the
obvious way out of the wood."

Mark arrived in time for tea.  Mrs. Samphire received him in the long,
narrow drawing-room; and Mark was conscious that his red tie was to her
as a red rag to a bull.  When she spoke, sniffs were audible; and Mark
kept on telling himself that he had been a fool to come.  The Squire
seemed very robust.  What did Jim mean?  The congested eyes, the purple
tinge, conveyed no meaning to a man who had never learned the meaning of
health’s danger-signals.

After dinner father and son found themselves alone.  The Squire had
ordered a bottle of ’47 port to be decanted, almost the last that was
left in the bin.  He had to drink most of it, and while he did so
complained of the changes since _his_ day.

"Archie is teetotal," he said.  "Well he’s playing his own game his own
way, and scoring too, no doubt o’ that.  I dare say you forget that now
he’s provided so well for himself, you can step into the King’s
Charteris living, which in the nature of things must soon be vacant.
Nearly four hundred a year—and a capital house, in first-rate repair.
You can hire a curate who can preach."

The words came out very fluently, for the Squire had repeated them to
himself a dozen times since breakfast.  As Mark made no reply, he
repeated them again, adding, however, somewhat confusedly: "It’s the
obvious way out of the wood."

"Eh?" said Mark.  "What do you mean, pater?"

The Squire coughed nervously.  He was not clever at making explanations.

"Oh," he replied testily, "I take it we needn’t go into that.  Times are
hard.  The allowance I have made you and Archie has crippled me.  Archie
gave up his when he came into Aunt Deb’s money—and in the nick of time,
egad!"

"I can get along with a hundred a year," said Mark quietly.

"Rubbish, my dear lad, rubbish!  But the living’s a good ’un, and the
house in capital repair. You would be very comfortable; and," he eyed
Mark pleasantly, "and you’ll be following Archie’s example—hey?  Marry a
girl with a bit o’ money! There’s Kitty Bowker, and——"

"Pater—we won’t talk of that."

"We?  I’m talking of it.  I don’t ask you to say a word, not a word.
Oh, I know why you didn’t come to Archie’s wedding, but bless you,
Betty’s not the only nice girl in the world.  I’ll say no more. I’m glad
to see you looking so fit.  That slumming in the East End disgusted
you—drove you into that tweed suit—hey?  But it’ll be quite different at
King’s Charteris.  You can manage a day’s hunting a week and a day’s
shooting throughout the season. Kitty Bowker looks very well outside a
horse—and she likes a man who goes free at his fences as you used to do.
Your letter this morning, you know, startled us a bit.  The Madam
thought of Rome. Nothing in that—hey?"

The Squire looked hard at the decanter which indeed was quite empty.

"Absolutely nothing," said Mark absently.

"I told the Madam I’d say a word, and there it is: a capital house, in
excellent repair, with——"

"The present incumbent still alive," said Mark.

"True, true—we’ll say no more, not a word. Shall we go into the
drawing-room?"

He rose with a certain effort and moved too ponderously towards the
door.  For the first time Mark realised that his father must soon become
an old man.  A wave of affection surged through him.

"Pater," he said, touching the Squire’s massive shoulder, "how are you
feeling?  Any twinges of gout or—er—anything of that sort?"

"I’m sound as a bell, Mark.  Of course I have my worries.  There are
three farms on my hands, and the price of corn lower than it has been
for years. I don’t know what George will do after I’m gone. That is why
I—um—spoke of the obvious way out of the wood.  Put on a black tie
to-morrow morning, my dear lad, and—er—a grey suit, to—to oblige me."

"All right," said Mark.  "I’m going to write, you know."

"Write?" the Squire turned, as he was passing into the hall.
"Write—what?"

"Novels, short stories, plays perhaps."

"Oh, d——n it!" said the Squire ruefully.



                             *CHAPTER XXVI*

                             *READJUSTMENT*


After Mark’s return from Pitt Hall, he called on Barger and Drax, who
overhauled him and pronounced him a new man.  Drax, in particular, took
extraordinary interest in the case, refused a fee, and begged Mark to
come and see him at least once a quarter.

"I never thought I should speak to you again," he said frankly.  "It’s
the _vis medicatrix naturæ_. You went back to the simple primal life.
Well—stick to it!  A winter in Sutherland!  Phew-w-w! Kill or cure, and
no mistake.  I should like to meet your friend, Doctor Stride."

The question now presented itself: where should he pitch his tent?  Such
work as he had in mind must be finished in or near London.  His
half-completed novel, _Shall the Strong Retain the Spoil?_ dealt with
Londoners; the scene of it was laid in London.  Finally, after some
search, he found a camping-ground in a small pine wood crowning a great
ridge which overlooked the Thames Valley and the Surrey heaths.

He discovered this spot, which suited him exactly, by accident.  Just
outside Weybridge he punctured the tyre of his bicycle.  While repairing
it, he smelled the balsamic fragrance of some pines to his right, and
Longfellow’s lines came into his mind:—

    "Stood the groves of singling pine trees,
    Green in summer, white in winter,
    Ever sighing, ever singing."


The west wind was blowing, and from the pine-tops floated a lullaby,
soothing and seductive.  Mark sat down, listening to this alluring song,
absorbing the scents and sounds.  Presently he climbed a rough fence and
wandered down one of the many aisles. The carpet beneath his feet was
soft as velvet pile, a carpet woven by the years out of the myriad
leaves dropping unseen and unheard.  Passing through the wood, he saw
the Thames Valley.  A silvery mist was rising out of it.  On each side
of the river were green meadows, bordered by poplars and willows. The
tower of a church could be seen amongst a group of fine elms.  This was
such a spot as he had hoped to find.  Regaining the high-road, he pushed
his bicycle to the top of the hill and stopped opposite a pretty cottage
standing in a garden gay with old-fashioned flowers.  Above the gate was
a sign: _Board and Lodging_.  Mark stared for a moment at the sign,
smiling, because he had expected to find it there.  If the tiny wood
belonged to the owner of the cottage, the matter was clinched.

He left his bicycle against the palings and walked through the garden
and up to the door.  He had time to note that the cottage was built of
brick.  Some of the bricks had a vitreous surface, which caught the
light and suffused a radiance over the other bricks. The general effect
was ripe, mellow, rosy.  The sills and casings of the lattice windows
were painted white; the door was a bright apple-green, with a shining
brass handle, bell, and knocker.  The cottage was heavily thatched.

In answer to Mark’s ring and knock the door was opened by a girl, whom
Mark guessed to be a daughter of the house, not a servant in any sense,
save the one that she served.  Mark lifted his cap.

"Is that wood yours?" he asked.

The girl seemed amused, but she said: "Oh, yes; everything inside the
paling belongs to mother."

"And you have rooms to let?"

The girl asked him to come in and see them, but she added doubtfully: "I
don’t think they’ll suit you."

"I haven’t seen them yet," said Mark, "but I’m sure they will."

The rooms included a small sitting-room and bedroom.  Mark looked at
them with an indifference which brought disappointment to the face of
the girl.

"Can I speak to your mother?"

"She’s an invalid—and in bed, to-day.  If you want to talk business you
must talk with me."

Mark explained that he was anxious to build a shelter in the garden, at
the edge of the wood.  He added that unless the weather was unusually
severe he should sleep, and eat, and work there.  The rooms would do for
a friend, who might come to see him from Saturday to Monday.  He should
want the simplest food, and so forth.  The girl said that the carrying
of meals to the shelter would be a nuisance, especially in rainy
weather.  Mark compromised by offering to eat indoors if the weather
became wet or boisterous.  A bargain was made in three minutes.

"When will you come?" said the girl.

"To-morrow.  My name is Mark Samphire."

"Mother’s name is Dew.  I am Mary Dew."

"Mary Dew," repeated Mark.  He had a tobacco-pouch in his hand and was
filling a pipe.  A pun occurred to him, execrable and therefore
irresistible. "Honeydew is my constant companion," said he; "it is quite
certain that we shall be friends."

Mary laughed.

"I hope so," she said frankly.  "It’s dreadful waiting on people one
doesn’t like.  Last summer we had a gentleman who——"

"Yes," said Mark, lighting his pipe.

"Who wasn’t a gentleman—and I hated him."

She looked serious.  Her face was charming, because the texture of skin
and the colouring were so admirable.  For the rest she was about middle
height, of trim figure, neither thin nor plump: her eyes were of a
clear, intelligent grey, shaded by short black lashes which gave them
distinction and vivacity.  Long lashes may be a beauty in themselves,
but they conceal rather than reveal the eyes behind them.  Mary had
brown hair, and plenty of it, simply arranged; her mouth was wide and
amply provided with white, even teeth; her nose was certainly
tip-tilted.  Altogether a young woman at whom most men would look with
pleasure.

As she stood in the garden, the May sun falling full upon her, every
line of face and figure suggested Spring: Spring in Arcady, fresh,
joyous, radiant. Mark was artist enough to perceive the delicious
half-tones, the tender shades beneath the round chin and about the
finely modelled cheeks.  If Pynsent saw her, he would be mad to paint
her, there, in the crisp sunlight, amongst the honeysuckle, with the
pines "ever sighing, ever singing" behind her.

Suddenly, a thin, querulous note seemed to pierce the silence of the
garden.

"Mary—Mary!"

"Mother wants me.  Good-bye, Mr. Samphire."

Mark held out his hand.

"Good-bye—till to-morrow."

He turned and moved down the path.  Again that thin, querulous note
pierced the silence.  _Mary, Mary!_ an appeal from age to youth, ay, and
a protest, a far-reaching protest, of pain against pleasure.  Mark
pictured the invalid mother, bedridden, possibly, dependent upon the
ministrations of others, calling out of the dismal seclusion of her
chamber to the young, healthy creature in the garden.  He mounted his
bicycle, wondering whether Mary had grown accustomed to that
heart-piercing note, speculating vaguely in regard to its meaning for
her and for others.


Within a week the shelter was built.  Stout posts upheld a roof of
tongue-and-groove boards spread with a rough thatch; the floor was
boarded also and covered with sailcloth, which could be washed and
scrubbed like the deck of a ship.  Two walls were also boarded.  These
were lined with shelves, which contained a miscellaneous collection of
some four hundred books.  The south and west sides of the shelter were
open to the wind and sun, but could be closed, if necessary, by
sailcloth curtains.  A large table stood in the centre; a bed, serving
as a sofa in daytime, occupied one corner; in another were an exerciser,
a punching-ball, and some light clubs and dumbbells; chairs, a
typewriter, a small stove, and a huge chest completed the furnishings.

When it was finished Pynsent and Jim Corrance were invited to inspect
and criticise.  Pynsent brought with him a couple of _mezari_, those
quaint, decorative shawls worn by the women of Genoa, and draped them
cleverly; Corrance brought an Indian rug.  Both men were charmed with
the cottage, the garden, the grove, and the view.  Pynsent, as Mark had
foreseen, wanted to paint Mary Dew, but every hour of the weeks between
June and August was engaged.  "You’re a tremendous worker," said Jim.

"So are you, Corrance.  A man must work nowadays, if he means to keep
his place in the procession. The competition is frightful all along the
line.  I shall paint Mary Dew in the autumn.  What do you call her,
Mark?"

"Honey.  Honey Dew.  Do you see?  A poor pun, but my own.  She’s sweet
as honey and fresh as dew, but her mother is a terrible person."

He described an interview with Mrs. Dew.

"Mary told me that her mother wished to see me. I found her in her own
sitting-room, the prettiest and most comfortable room in the cottage.
Everything deliciously fresh—chintzes, flowers, paper on the wall,
matting—and in the middle Mrs. Dew: faded, peevish, puckered, old beyond
her years. Picture to yourselves a puffy, yellow face with dim, shifty
eyes peering out restlessly between red, swollen lids, a face framed by
mouse-coloured hair and surmounting a great, shapeless body clad in
black alpaca."

"Good!  I see her," said Pynsent.

"I was prepared to sympathise.  She has some ailment, poor creature, a
chronic dyspepsia and a grievance as chronic against destiny.  One could
pity her if she said and ate less.  Her daughter admits that she would
be a different woman if she kept on the muzzle.  She calls herself a
lady, and told me that she married beneath her.  Dew, I fancy, was a
petty tradesman.  He left his widow this small property and a tiny
income.  Mary has a tremendous struggle to make ends meet means.  She’s
one in ten thousand."

"Um!" said Pynsent.  "Don’t fall in love with your Honey Dew!"

"Don’t talk rot, Pynsent!" Mark replied sharply. Jim Corrance frowned at
the painter, who realised at once that he had said something
_mal-à-propos_.

"I shall cut a lettuce for you fellows," said Mark.

As he left the shelter, Jim turned to Pynsent.

"You put your hoof into it," he growled.

"I did," said Pynsent.

"I say—is Mark going to take a front seat?"

"I don’t know."

Mark came back carrying a bottle of Sauterne and a noble _Romaine_,
which he handed to Pynsent, who was famous for his salads.  Mary entered
a minute later with a well-basted chicken and a great dish of peas.  The
trio fell to their luncheon with appetite. Mary added a tart, some
excellent cheese, and the best of coffee.

"I’ve enjoyed myself immensely," said Pynsent. "You’re in Arcady, Mark.
You ought to write an idyll here: Aucassin and Nicolete—hey?"

They moved up into the pine grove, talking about books and art.  Jim
Corrance listened, smoking his big cigar.  Pynsent, who smoked Caporal
cigarettes which he rolled himself, spoke volubly in a sharp New England
twang:

"People prate about giving the world what the world wants.  An artist
gives what’s in him to give. I say that nothing else is possible,
whether the world likes it or whether it doesn’t.  And, luckily, the
world that buys pictures and books is catholic in its tastes.  All the
same, just at present there is a big demand for stuff which is signed.
You know what I mean.  The crowd clamours for individuality. I was
standing in front of a picture of mine at the Academy last year, and a
cleverish-looking girl said: ’That’s a Pynsent.  I like his work because
I always know it, not because I understand it.’  I nearly asked her to
shake hands.  It’s the same with books. There’s an immense quantity of
well-written, interesting novels published every year, but you’ll find
that the few which sell are stamped on every page with the author’s
name.  The brand does it, first and last."

"I only read books that amuse me," said Jim.

"You’re a man.  Men read books sometimes, but women buy them.  Let’s
hope that Mark’s stuff will please the women.  Then he will arrive."

While they were talking, a young man passed through the gate and up the
garden to the cottage door.

"Hullo!  Who’s this?" said Pynsent.

Mary answered the question by coming out of the house in a becoming
frock and hat and joining the young man.  Together they strolled down
the path. The three men stared at each other.  It had not occurred to
any of them that Mary might have a young man.  And this particular one
seemed to be the typical young man, always seen of a Sunday arm-in-arm
with a pretty girl: commonplace, smug, self-assured.  While they looked
Mrs. Dew’s thin querulous voice filtered through the sunlit space of the
garden—

"Mary, Mary—don’t be away too long!"

Mary’s fresh voice came from behind the palings—

"Of course not, mother.  I shall be back to make your tea at four."

"Our Jill has her Jack," said Pynsent.  "That was a becoming hat."

"She made it herself," Mark observed.

"Then she likes her Jack.  Such a girl would not prink to please a man
to whom she was indifferent."

Jim Corrance thrust out his big jaw.  "Mary may have made that hat to
please herself.  If I’d her face, by gad, I’d make just such a hat and
enjoy myself with a looking-glass."

"So would I," said Mark.

Pynsent and Jim returned to town before dinner. They promised to come
again, and often, but Mark guessed that such promises were written in
ink, blue and variable as a May sky.  He expected to be much alone, and
during the months that followed was not disappointed.  From his friends
at the Mission he held aloof.  He knew they would ask questions, deeming
it a duty to argue and reprove.

Mark had written the truth to David Ross after the night on Ben Caryll.
In reply, David wisely made no protest against Mark’s determination to
leave the Church.  That he would speak in due time Mark was
uncomfortably aware, and he learned—not without a feeling of relief—that
his old chief was the busiest man in Poplar.

May passed quickly, devoid of incident and accident.  Towards the end of
it, however, Mark, reading his morning paper, was horrified to learn
that Bagshot, the man he had tried to reclaim, had murdered his wife in
a drunken fit.  He hastened to London, saw the prisoner—an abject,
cowering wreck of what he had been—and listened to his dreadful story.
The poor fellow had struggled hard against the craving for drink, yet in
the end he had slain the woman he loved.  It was heartrending—the
triumph of evil over good.

After seeing Bagshot, Mark reread that battered memorandum-book which he
had carried through terrible slums.  Once more, the appeal of the
friendless and helpless stirred him profoundly.  Very stealthily, like
"humble Allen," he began to revisit some of his waifs; most of them had
disappeared; others as wretched and forlorn occupied their place. But
his ministrations—necessarily ill-sustained and intermittent—appeared
ineffectual.  The joyous confidence of former days had departed.  The
squalor seemed invincible, the forces against which he contended so vast
and ungovernable that sense and sensibility revolted.  Only faith could
remove such mountains, and faith had forsaken Mark Samphire. None the
less, he persevered.

About the end of June Archibald and his wife came back from France and
settled down in Cadogan Place.  Archibald asked Mark to meet them in a
long letter, full of a description of Chenonçeau. At the end was a
postscript in Betty’s handwriting: "_Please come._"  Mark obeyed—a prey
to feelings which cannot be set down.  For six weeks he had seen Betty’s
face looking out of the window of the train, white, piteous, despairing.
But when they met he was amazed to find her rosy and smiling, full of
plans, in high health and spirits.  Then he remembered that his own
health was excellent. Archibald made him welcome, entreated his advice
about the arrangement of books and engravings, begged him to hang his
hat on his own peg, and alluded only vaguely to the red tie.

"You will come back to us," he said confidently.

Betty held his hand tight at parting.  "Don’t slip out of our lives!"
she whispered.

Mark had a glimpse of the face seen from the train, and hardly knew to
what he was pledging himself when he stammered: "N-n-no,
n-n-no—c-c-certainly not."

After this first meeting it became easy to drop in to luncheon or tea.
The novel was under revision, and several passages describing certain
streets and localities had to be rewritten.  Mark had the artist’s
passion for truth, carried possibly to excess.  One of his characters
was a shopgirl who worked in Edgware Road.  Mark spent three days in
Edgware Road, notebook in hand, greedily absorbing the light and colour
of the great thoroughfare.  But he made a point of returning to
Weybridge each night and slept, whenever it was fine, in the grove,
lulled to sleep by the pines.

Curiosity took him to St. Anne’s in Sloane Street, when Archibald
preached his first sermon.  It was crowded with a fashionable
congregation, some of whom came to hear the music—as fine as could be
found in London outside the cathedrals; others, no doubt, were attracted
by a new and eloquent preacher; the rest attended divine service in
their parish church, and would have been in their places, cheered and
sustained by the reflection that they were doing their duty, if the
rector had had no palate to his mouth and the choir had been composed of
village boys squalling free of charge to the accompaniment of a
harmonium.  Mark sat in the gallery, whence he could see Betty occupying
a pew not far from the pulpit.  He wondered what sort of sermon
Archibald would preach.  And he wondered also how it would affect Betty.
Meantime, he examined the congregation.  All these fine folk were
possessed of substantial incomes.  The struggle for daily bread was an
experience unknown to them.  The men seemed to be fathers of families
for the most part, portly squires of ripe, rosy countenances,
many-acred, and duly sensible of the position and station in life to
which it had pleased God to call them.  They put gold into the offertory
bag, and could be counted upon to subscribe handsomely to parochial
charities.  In striking contrast were the brothers and lovers of the
beautifully gowned women beside them.  All, to a man, were frock-coated,
patent-leather-booted, exquisitely cravatted—gilded youths, indifferent
to music or sermon, worshippers in form only, because "it pleases the
mater, you know," or "Dolly expects it," or "I must make myself solid
with Aunt Sarah."  Mark noted their well-cut, impassive features, their
resigned air, and their contemptuous negligence of the responses. The
women, on the other hand, displayed a certain ardour of devotion
tempered by a lively interest in their neighbours’ clothes.  A few
prayed long and fervently, giving themselves up to the emotions inspired
by the lovely music and splendid ritual; the many were intermittent in
their attention.  It was plain that a girl just below Mark, who sang
delightfully, was distracted from thoughts of heaven by the difficulty
of determining whether the cape of a friend across the aisle was trimmed
with sable or mere mink.  But what struck Mark more forcibly than
anything else was an expression common to all the faces when in repose.
While the lessons were being read, men and women alike suffered their
features to relax into a normal look of discontent. Mouths dropped;
heavy lids veiled tired eyes; dismal lines appeared upon fair faces.

When Archibald ascended the pulpit, a thrill vibrated through his
congregation.  Mark perceived at a glance that the Rector of St. Anne’s
had secured the goodwill and enthusiasm of the women.  They stared at
his fine head, their eyes suffused and shining, their lips slightly
parted, a-quiver with anticipation.

"_Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like
his._"

After a moment’s pause, Archibald repeated the text with a different
inflection.  Then, leaning forward, speaking without notes, he began his
sermon. Mark noted certain mannerisms common to many preachers.
Archibald hoped that his brothers and sisters in Christ would bear with
him while he laid before them a few thoughts.  The thoughts appealed
emotionally to a congregation who had consecrated their energies and
potentialities to the art of living. To such, death, especially a
painful death, is horror. The preacher pictured the last hours of the
righteous man, the faithful servant, conscious that his task has been
accomplished in this world, and that in the next a place is awaiting
him, where, under freer, fuller conditions, he may still carry on the
Master’s work.  Then, changing his tone, Archibald portrayed the
death-bed of the evil-liver—hopeless, faithless, God-forsaken!

The sermon made an impression.  As the congregation streamed out of
church into the sunshine, Mark caught words, phrases, ejaculations which
showed plainly that the new rector had at least satisfied expectation.
But Mark told himself the fringe of a great subject had been touched—and
no more.  Archibald’s manner almost suggested the detestable
adjective—melodramatic.  His power was that of an actor rather than an
evangelist.  Above and beyond Mark’s recognition of this was the
certainty that Betty recognised it also, albeit, possibly, not so
clearly.  Mark had kept his eyes on Betty’s face.  More than once some
subtile inflection of the preacher’s voice had thrilled her; but towards
the end of the sermon her attention and interest had waned.
Instinctively Mark groped his way to the conclusion that if Archibald
had gained his wife’s love and esteem by the use of another’s brain, he
might find it difficult to hold by the strength of his own.



                            *CHAPTER XXVII*

                            *IN GRUB STREET*


Mark’s short story had been duly printed and published in Conquest’s
magazine.  About the time of its appearance (midsummer) Mark called on
Conquest, and the acquaintance then made ripened into a sort of
intimacy.  Conquest, quick to perceive that Mark had "stuff" in him, and
learning that Mark was writing a novel, expressed a wish to read it in
typescript.

"I advised you, you remember, to write a novel and burn it."

"I have done so," said Mark quietly.

A big, burly man, with a rugged, leonine head, Conquest liked to be told
he resembled Landor. With this robust physique went a singularly
feminine apprehension and appreciation of details.  The enormous amount
of work he could accomplish, his grasp of technicalities, his knowledge,
amounting to intuition, of what the public wanted, his power of
attracting and dominating young men of talent, and, above all, his
encyclopædic memory, made him invaluable to the firm who employed him.

Mark submitted his novel.  Conquest read it, and sent for the author.
Mark found him in the editorial chair, surrounded by books, papers,
manuscripts, press-clippings innumerable—a chaos out of which the master
alone could evoke order.  In the room beyond, two type-writing machines
were clicking savagely.  Here Conquest’s "sub," a secretary, and half a
dozen myrmidons were hard at work.  The "sub" and his assistants looked
pale and thin; Conquest alone seemed to thrive and expand in an
atmosphere impregnated with the odour of tobacco-smoke, damp paper, and
printers’ ink.

"Sit down!  And listen to the words of the ancient! This is the place
where I do the talking.  When I stop, you must go.  _Shall the Strong
retain the Spoil?_ is d——d good and—don’t look so pleased!—d——d bad.
There’s hope for you.  We’ll publish if you like to pay half the
printer’s bill.  Mind you, the book has but a ghost’s chance of catching
on; but I don’t want it altered.  You’d cut out the best stuff and leave
the trash.  _I_ red-pencilled your short story, but I can’t afford the
time to prune this—and you wouldn’t like it.  Leave it here, and I’ll
send you our regular agreement to look over and sign.  You are under no
obligations, remember, to publish with us.  Good morning.  Dine with me
next Tuesday.  Eight sharp!"

Mark found himself walking down a steep flight of stairs, and heard
Conquest’s strident tones echoing after him.  He could not remember that
he had accepted the offer made to him, but he was sure that Conquest
took such acceptance for granted.

When Tuesday came, he told Conquest that he had read and was willing to
sign the agreement which had been sent him.  Conquest nodded in an
off-hand manner, and did not allude to the subject again.  But he
pressed upon Mark the expediency of joining "The Scribblers," a club
newly organised, and likely to become a power.  Mark consented, pleased
and flattered that a celebrity should exhibit such interest in him.  He
was put up and elected the same week.  Conquest introduced him to half a
dozen members, most of whom took an early opportunity of congratulating
Mark upon his friendship with the great man.

"He’s a wonder," said a popular author, "but, mind you, he works for
Wisden and Evercreech, and he’ll squeeze you like an orange, if you give
him the chance."

The others winked at each other, but said nothing. Tommy Greatorex, a
small, pale man, with very bright dark eyes which redeemed his face from
insignificance, began to talk loudly.  Mark had watched him gnawing
nervously at his nails when Conquest’s name was mentioned.

"Oh—these editors!" he exclaimed, shaking his fist.  "Wouldn’t I like to
tell some of ’em what I think of ’em!  Yes; there are exceptions—thank
the Lord!—but Samphire will soon find out that most of ’em are pinchers.
Six men in this room sling ink for a living.  Is there one who can stand
up and swear that he’s not been squeezed?"  Not a man moved.  "You
see—they sit tight.  In this trade of ours the worker is not paid for
his work when it’s done.  He has to wait for his pennies, poor devil,
although he may be starving.  And often he isn’t paid at all.  A paper
goes to pot, or the special article he has been asked—asked, mind you—to
write is pigeon-holed and doesn’t appear, or there is a change of
management.  Any recourse? Why, man, if you send one of ’em a lawyer’s
letter, you may get your cheque by return of post, but never a line will
you write for my gentleman again. Never more, as the raven said!  One
can’t afford to quarrel with ’em.  And don’t they know it—don’t they
know it, as they blandly turn the screw?  Now, in America, with the big
magazines, it’s different. You submit your stuff, and if it’s available
a cheque comes along with the acceptance, and a good cheque too.  Over
here, a few writers, of course, dictate terms, but the many take what
they get with a humble if not a grateful heart.  If you’ve private means
of your own, you’re all right, but if you have any idea of supporting
yourself with the pen—why, God help you!—for the editors won’t."

"Cool yourself with a whisky and soda," said the popular author,
touching the electric bell.  "Our profession," he looked at Mark, "is
like all others, overcrowded, and editors and publishers carry on their
business along business lines.  I’ll admit that most authors are not fit
to deal with them in a business way.  They don’t like to haggle, and
they don’t know how to haggle.  Personally, I employ an agent."

"That’s all right for you," Tommy retorted, "but an agent’s not much use
unless there’s an established market for one’s wares.  What’s this book
of yours about, Samphire?"

"The East End," said Mark.

"Um—the slums treated humorously?"

"I’ve tried to stick to the facts."

"And you expect to sell ’em as fiction?  Oh—you optimist!"

"A play’s the thing," observed another scribbler. "Write plays."

"Any fool can write a play," said the little man, very scornfully.
"I—_mot qui sous parle_—have written plays, but it takes a diplomatist
to get them read and a genius to get them accepted."

Mark returned to Weybridge rather despondent.

Immediately afterwards he received his first instalment of proofs from
Wisden and Evercreech. Correcting these proved a painful pleasure.
Conquest’s judgment coloured and discoloured every sheet.  What was
good—what was bad?  For his life Mark was unable to criticise his own
work. Some of the bits he had liked when he wrote them now seemed crude
and trite.  His dialogue, he decided, was fair, but the narrative lacked
distinction.  Before beginning another novel, he would study the best
models in French and English. Meantime he would turn out a story or two.
These were written, despatched to Conquest—and returned with a printed
slip politely setting forth the editor’s regret that they were
unavailable.  When he met Conquest some ten days later, the great man
vouchsafed a few words.

"Sorry to return your stuff.  We shall publish the book in October.
Have you thought of a subject for another?  You seem to have gripped
conditions in the East End.  How about a novel in rather lighter vein
dealing with the adventures and misadventures of a millionaire who has
turned philanthropist and wants to spend his pile in Stepney? Or—happy
thought!—make your millionaire a millionairess—a good-looking spinster
paddling her canoe through the slums.  That would be capital. What do
you say?"

"I’ll think about it," said Mark hesitatingly. "I’m awfully obliged to
you, Conquest."

"That’s all right.  By the way, I can use an article on your brother,
two thousand words.  Make it very personal, and secure good photographs
of him and his church."

"But he mightn’t like it, you know."

Conquest roared.  "I say—that’s immense—immense! Not like it?  A popular
preacher!  Ha—ha—ha! Why, it’s incense to ’em, man alive.  Ask him, at
any rate.  If he doesn’t jump, call me fool. Can you see him at once?"

"If you wish it."

Somehow, to Mark’s disgust, Archibald did jump. The article appeared in
a Church paper and led to an incident of much greater importance.
Conquest wired to Mark to come up to town on business. Mark was given a
capital luncheon at Dieudonne’s restaurant, but not till the coffee was
served did Conquest speak of the matter in hand.

"I suppose you know," he said carelessly, but keeping his eyes on
Mark’s, "that I pull many strings.  Now this is between ourselves,
in—the—strictest—confidence.  I want to pump you.  Bless you, it always
pays to be frank.  How do I stand with your brother?  Does he like me?"

"I’m sure he does," said Mark warmly.  At Conquest’s desire he had
introduced him to Archibald.  Conquest had dined in Cadogan Place.

"I can help him—materially.  Of course there’s something in it for me,
but there’s more in it for him, and I thought that you might be willing
to act as a go-between.  Have you noticed a big Basilica which Lord
Vauxhall is building in that part of Chelsea where his new houses are?
You have?  A fine thing—hey?  Oh, you don’t admire the Byzantine style.
Well, that church is the biggest advertisement in London.  Shush-h-h!  I
don’t want to be misunderstood.  Vauxhall, who is a friend of mine,
understands the value of churches.  And he’s a Churchman, too.  He felt
it to be his duty to build that church, and _I_ say, not he, that it’s a
thundering big ’ad’ for the neighbourhood.  Now Vauxhall is immensely
struck by your brother’s eloquence. Vauxhall always wants the best of
everything, and he pays for it, cash on the nail.  He would like to
offer the Basilica and fifteen hundred a year to your brother.  Now the
cat’s out of the bag.  What d’you think of her?"

Mark flushed.  Conquest was his host.

"I think she’s mangy."

"Good," said Conquest, in no way perturbed. "I wanted an honest
opinion."

"As I understand this," said Mark, "Lord Vauxhall offers my brother a
bribe to boom his new neighbourhood."

Conquest shrugged his mighty shoulders.

"You are a young man," he said drily.  "Beware of hasty judgments.  It’s
my experience that motives are generally mixed.  Vauxhall has built and
endowed a magnificent church.  He offers it to your brother, or rather
he empowers me to offer it, if there is a likelihood of the offer being
accepted. Perhaps I had better speak to your brother myself."

"I should prefer that," said Mark.

When he saw Archibald, some days later, he was quite sure, from his
knowledge of Conquest, that the matter had been broached, but Archibald
said nothing to him about it.  Betty, however, talked as if no change
was impending, so Mark inferred that she was either without her
husband’s confidence or that Lord Vauxhall’s offer had been refused.
Betty was full of plans connected with the parish, and busy organising a
large charity concert.  Jim Corrance told Mark that he (Jim) had misread
Betty’s character and temperament.

"She’s happy with her husband," he declared. "He has a way with
him—women can’t resist parsons when they’re good and good-looking.  One
must concede that Archie is both."

Mark said nothing.  He was quite unable to determine whether Betty had
found happiness or not. Sometimes, when alone with husband and wife, he
marked an irritability not without significance. Archibald had acquired,
since he came to London, a certain air and deportment common to many
successful men.  Betty chaffed him, called him "Sir Oracle," and when he
protested against these quips, she would frown and bite her lip.
Archibald was very particular about the antecedents of the people
invited to his house.  Some of Betty’s acquaintances were banned.  Lady
Randolph had a word to say on this.

"Archie is quite right, my dear.  He’s not going to imperil his
preferment by hobnobbing with such frisky folk.  It pays to be
exclusive.  Look at those Bertheim women!  They were—well, we know what
they were; but when they married rich men, they refused to entertain any
matron who was not immaculate.  Now, to be seen at their houses is a
patent of virtue!"

"Archie," said Betty, "is governed by the highest motives; still, I
should like to see this house open to a few nice sinners: painters,
writers, musicians; but Archie says they are all freethinkers or
Laodiceans.  It is a great grief to him that Mark gave up his Orders.
He offered to take him as secretary."

Lady Randolph stared.  There were times when she felt that Betty was an
unknown quantity.

"You allowed him to make that offer?"

Betty turned aside her eyes.  "I did not know that it was made.  Of
course Mark refused—would have done so in any case.  I mention it to
show you what manner of man Archie is.  I don’t think you do him
justice.  You spoke just now as if he were a time-server.  His whole
life is devoted to others."

"Does he—_know_?" said Lady Randolph, alluding to what had passed at
Birr Wood.

"Why should I tell him?"

"Why, indeed, my dear?"

"It would distress him infinitely.  And it might lead to a breach
between the brothers.  Mark comes here.  He has changed greatly.  I
don’t think that anything interests him very much except his literary
work."

"He looks a different man," said Lady Randolph absently.

"If it had not been for that breakdown in those horrible slums, if——"
Betty bit her lip.  Lady Randolph pretended that she had noticed nothing
unusual, but when she said good-bye she kissed Betty twice and
whispered: "If I were you I should not encourage Mark to come here."

"_Encourage_ him?"

"If he needs no encouragement—so much the worse."

Betty laughed nervously.  Mark’s companionship was a pleasure she would
not forego.  She was interested in his book; she liked to hear his talk,
his gossip of Grub Street; his descriptions of the Dews, mother and
daughter; his adventures in search of material.  Behind this lay the
comfortable assurance that she had adjusted a difficult situation. She
had lost the lover of her youth, but she had gained a good husband, a
brother, and a friend. So she told herself that she was rich, repeating
the phrase, till she came to believe it true.  One day she said to Mark,
"I suppose you would call me a rich woman, using the adjective in its
widest sense."

"We are all rich—and poor," Mark replied evasively.  "What rich man is
not poor in some respect; what poor man is not rich in another? This is
an age of classification.  We go about sticking labels on to our friends
and ourselves.  If you honestly think yourself rich, you are so."

Sometimes he wondered if she could measure the violence of feeling which
had driven him from the Church.  She never spoke of his change of cloth;
still she eyed his red tie askance.  Archibald had said something when
he came back from his honeymoon.

"At King’s Charteris you could keep a curate. The pater said that he had
spoken to you.  And it’s the family living."

"I’ll say to you what I didn’t like to say to the pater: ’Drop it.’"

"Certainly," Archibald replied.  "But it’s a pity your powers of
organisation should be wasted."  Then he made the offer which had
provoked astonishment in Lady Randolph.  It astonished Mark also,
revealing as it did his brother’s lack of insight where he (Mark) was
concerned.

"You could help me enormously," Archibald concluded.

"I am going to help myself," said Mark.

Just before the novel was published, Archibald let fall a hint that
Conquest had spoken to him.  Betty happened to be present, but Archibald
addressed himself to Mark.

"Have you ever met Lord Vauxhall?"

"No."

"A very charming man—and a Christian.  He dines here next week.  I
should like you to meet him.  By the way, he’s a friend of Conquest."

"Ah!" said Mark.

"I like Conquest immensely," said Archibald suavely.  "He has the larger
vision."

"Betty—do you like Conquest?" said Mark abruptly.

She answered promptly: "No."

"Why not?" her husband inquired.

"He’s an Octopus man, with his tentacles waving in every direction.  And
his mind is like a big room handsomely furnished, but without a
fireplace in it. Certainly—he’s been sweet as Hybla honey to me, and I
ought to like him, but I don’t."



                            *CHAPTER XXVIII*

                      *A SUNDAY IN CADOGAN PLACE*


In late October, when pages fall as thickly from printing-presses as
leaves do from trees, _Shall the Strong retain the Spoil?_ appeared.
During the preceding Spring many of the best publishers had withheld
books which were now offered to the public. Conquest predicted a glutted
market, and no sales for wares bearing obscure brands.  Mark, he said,
might compass a _succès d’estime_—nothing more. He added that the time
had come to pull strings, if strings were to be pulled.

"I don’t quite understand," said Mark.

"Get so-and-so," he named a popular author, "to enlighten you.  Look
here, Samphire, you’re a man of good family, your people know numbers of
swells, that brother of yours is hand in glove with some bigwigs.  Stir
’em up with a long pole.  I don’t suppose you care to fork out for such
advertising as our friend I mentioned uses.  Paragraphs and all that."

"He pays for paragraphs?"

"Directly and indirectly—you innocent!  I see you are disgusted.  That’s
all right.  I mentioned the matter, because I could steer you a bit, if
you wished to spend say—fifty pounds.  We shall advertise the book, of
course, in the regular way.  It’s the irregular way, my boy, which
brings in the dollars."

"The book must sell on its merits," said Mark.

"As you please," said Conquest.

Shortly afterwards, the first notices were sent to him by the Press
Clipping Agency to which he had become a subscriber.  Mark was told that
his work showed extraordinary promise, that he would take high rank,
when he had found himself, that he was a master of dialogue and dialect,
the author of a powerful and convincing study of conditions which
challenged the attention of every thinking man and woman, and so on and
so forth.  He rushed up to town, showed the clippings to Betty, who
seemed to be more excited and pleased than he was himself, went on to
Wisden and Evercreech, and thence to his club, where he found Tommy
Greatorex, whiter and more nervous than usual, sitting alone by the fire
in the library.  To him the clippings were presently submitted with an
apology.  Tommy took them with an ironical smile.

"They’re always kind to a new man if he shows any ability."  He glanced
at the clippings, flipping them with his lean delicately shaped fingers.
"You are subtle, I see, and daring, and brilliant—and strong!  By Jove,
Samphire, I’ll bet a new umbrella, which I want badly, that you didn’t
know you were such a ring-tailed squealer—hey?  Don’t blush, my dear
fellow.  Wait till your stuff sells, and then read what they’ll say
about it.  Ha—ha!  Listen to this!  One of ’em says: ’Mr. Samphire is
evidently at home in some of the sordid scenes which he describes with
such power and pathos; we take it that he has spent many years in the
slums.’  So far—so good.  It’s more than likely that the fellow who
wrote that is a member of this club and in the know.  Here’s another,
next to it, egad!  ’This story reveals imaginative powers of a high
order, for it is plain that the author has never set foot in
Stepney....’  Ha—ha—ha!  Now sit down, stand me a drink, and tell me how
many copies have been sold."

"A hundred copies were sold the day before yesterday," said Mark.

"Now, that’s a little bit of all right, and no mistake.  I’m delighted
to hear it.  I congratulate you—_con fuoco_!  That means business.
One—hundred—copies in _one_ day!  Whew-w-w!  Hang it, why don’t you
rejoice?"

"Because," said Mark, "I found out that the hundred copies were bought
by one man for one man.  A friend of mine on the Stock Exchange took the
lot.  The book is not selling."

"Sorry," said Tommy quietly.  "I’ve read it. I’ve reviewed it.  This,"
he tapped one of the clippings which he still held in his hand, "is
mine.  I got for it a few shillings, already spent, and the book which I
shall keep, because it is written by a good fellow.  It’s not what’s in
the book which appeals to me, but what’s in the writer, and which will
come out—some day."

"Thank you," said Mark.

He returned to luncheon at Cadogan Place, humbled, and therefore, in a
woman’s eyes, meet for sympathy and encouragement.

"In any case," said Betty, "you have had the delight of writing the
book.  And it _is_ strong and subtle; but, Mark, few people are
interested in slums.  Your book made me cry, and I want to laugh. Life
is so sad, why make it sadder?"

Mark had listened to interminable arguments upon this vexed question.
But in Betty’s tone and manner he caught a glimpse of a spectre.

"Your life is not sad," he said.

"I’m one of the lucky ones," she replied hastily "We were speaking of
your book."

"Hang the book," said Mark impatiently "What is that to me in comparison
with——"  He stopped abruptly, got up from his chair, paced the length of
the room, and came back.

"You are happy—are you not?" he asked.  They were alone in the
drawing-room, filled with the pictures and china which had come out of
the saloon at The Whim.  Archibald was presiding over one of his
innumerable committees.  Looking at Betty as she sat amongst things
familiar to Mark from childhood, it was difficult to believe that she
was a married woman.  She still retained a bloom of maidenhood, a
daintiness and freshness.  Her face suggested the nymph rather than the
matron.

"Of course I am happy," she replied; then she added in a whisper: "Mark,
I ought to be happy, but I am a rebel."

"All women are rebels, Betty.  Against what in particular do you rebel?"

"I oughtn’t to tell you, but—but I must.  I suppose I am the many-sided
woman, who ought to have half a dozen husbands.  I am interested in so
many things.  I like to browse here and there.  But Archie doesn’t care
about anything or anybody outside his own vineyard.  He is going up and
up and I am—falling!  Oh, I’m disloyal, but I must speak. It comes to
this: Archie loves me and of course I love him, but we—we have nothing
to say to each other when we’re alone."

She sat, twisting her fingers, staring forlornly at the carpet.  Mark
burst into speech.  At the sound of his voice, still so youthful in
quality, she raised her head, smiling, eager, intent.

"Why, Betty, we all get blue at times, and sigh for what we’ve not got.
There are women, no doubt, who are fatly content with their lives, but I
don’t suppose they go up or down.  One pictures them in one spot, doing
the same stupid thing, saying the same stupid thing for ever and ever.
I think you’re in a healthy state.  When we feel that we are going down,
we begin to beat our wings and flap upwards.  Some saints, possibly,
might be justified in taking a rest-cure; they are the ones who never do
it."

He rose to go, not daring to stay.

"When are you coming again, Mark?  You always do me good.  Can’t you
spend next Sunday with us?  By the way, have you ever been to our
church?"

"Yes; the first Sunday Archibald preached."

"Oh!  The sermon about Balaam."

"Yes."

"You know, he says that he’s uneven.  But the women in this parish think
him wonderful.  Some of them, who sit near the pulpit, make a point of
crying whenever he gives them a chance.  One told me that when he
pronounced the Benediction she felt purged of all sin!  I could have
bitten her."

Mark promised to spend the following Sunday in Cadogan Place, and duly
accompanied Betty to morning service.  For nearly thirty minutes
Archibald preached to a crowded congregation, who listened intently to a
conventional theme, treated conventionally.  Coming out Mark heard a
tall, thin man, with a striking face, whisper to the woman beside him:
"I came for bread; he gave us pap—in a golden spoon."

"Did you hear that?" said Betty, a moment later.

"Yes."

Some friends greeted Betty, and no more was said till luncheon, to which
the Chrysostom of Sloane Street applied himself, as usual, seriously and
silently.  He looked slightly puffy and his eyes were losing their
clearness and sparkle.  Mark asked abruptly if he were overworked.

"Every minute is filled," said Archibald heavily. "Overworked?  I can
stand a lot of work."

"He would be miserable without it—and bored," said Betty.  "He won’t
even come to concerts with me now."

"It’s the work that tells, nowadays, my dear. Preaching gives a man a
start, but it’s the steady strain of parochial organisation which brings
one to the top of the hill."

"You are neglecting your sermons," said Betty. "For several Sundays they
have struck me as being—how shall I put it—uninspired.  They hold one’s
attention, yes, but they do not grip; they touch, but they do not
penetrate."

Archibald nodded, frowning and crumbling the bread beside his plate.

"The Duchess," he said, "stopped me this morning after church to tell me
that she liked the treatment of my text immensely."

"Oh—the Duchess!" exclaimed Betty.

"I’ve so much on my mind," said Archibald, turning to Mark.  He rose,
looking at his watch. "I must go now to hear a man sing in Upper
Tooting.  The cigars are in my room."

He went out.  As the door shut behind him, Betty turned a contrite face
to Mark’s.

"I hit him when he was down.  What a beast I am!"

At that moment it became a conviction to Mark that Betty loved an ideal
husband, who would fall from the pinnacle on which she had perched him.
A feeling of pleasure at this impending catastrophe almost turned him
sick.  Then, very slowly, he resolved that the powers within him should
be devoted to the preservation of an ideal, so vital to the welfare of
the woman he loved.  Betty began to speak of his literary work.

"When I read your book," she said, "I had an intuition that one day you
would write a play."

Mark quoted Tommy Greatorex.  "That’s an easy job."

"I have a motif for you.  The emotional treatment of religion.  Look at
the success of this new book, _Robert Elsmere_!  The same success awaits
the dramatist who can use like material.  I should make the principal
character a woman of passion with a strong sense of religion."

"A sinner?"

"Yes.  It seems to me that sinners on the stage have great
opportunities.  The world must listen to what they have to say.  In real
life the good people do all the talking, the moral talking, I mean; an
honest sinner holds his or her tongue.  It’s such a pity, for I’m sure
your honest sinner loathes his sin. In my drama the sinner is saved,
because the sense of what she has suffered, her personal experience of
the horror and misery of sin, make for her salvation."

"The right man could do something with it, no doubt."

"Why not you, Mark?"

He fell into a reverie, staring into the fire.  Betty perceived that he
had wandered out of the world of speech into the suburbs of silence,
where visions of what might have been come and go.  Presently he said
abruptly:

"Shall we walk?"

"There’s an east wind blowing, evil for man and beast."

"You’re neither.  Come on."

They crossed the park, skirting the Serpentine, a dull, leaden-coloured
lake wrinkled by the keen wind.  On some of the benches sweethearts were
sitting, serenely unmindful of the blast.

"They feel warm enough," said Betty, laughing. "Well, I’m in a glow,
too."

When they returned to Cadogan Place, Archibald had just arrived from
Upper Tooting.  He said that he had found a superb tenor, whom he had
engaged.

"He sang ’Nazareth’—quite admirably."

Betty, teapot in hand, looked up, interested at once.

"Oh, Archie, you have not sung ’Nazareth’ for months.  Do sing it after
tea!"

"Do!" Mark added.  "I haven’t heard you sing for a year."

Finally, after a little pressing, Archibald seated himself at the piano,
a beautiful Steinway.  As he touched the keys, Betty’s face assumed the
expression of delighted receptivity so familiar to Mark. She glanced at
the singer between half-closed eyes, lying back in her chair in an
attitude of physical and mental ease.  One hand drooped at her side, and
as Archibald sang the fingers of this hand contracted and relaxed,
keeping time to the rhythm of the song.  Mark felt that her pulses were
throbbing, quivering with delight and satisfaction.  The music touched
him also, stirring to determination his desire to help and protect the
woman he loved.  But when his thoughts turned, as they did immediately,
to Archibald, they became of another texture and complexion.  He had not
prayed to God since that night on Ben Caryll.  Now, beneath the spell of
the music, he repeated to himself: "Oh God, take this hate from me; take
this hate from me!"

When Archibald stopped singing, he said that he must go to his study for
an hour’s work before evening service.  Mark accompanied him.  As soon
as they were alone, he blurted out what was in his mind.

"I say, Archie, if you want a little help, I’m your man.  I suppose work
means the preparation of your Advent sermons.  I helped you last year.
Shall I help you this?"

Archibald’s face flushed.

"I don’t know what’s wrong with me," he muttered; "but ideas don’t flow.
If you would help—but, but you have your own work."

"My work!  Well, it’s lucky I’ve an allowance, or I should certainly
starve.  Archie, I’d like to help you.  I ask it as a favour.  Come on;
what’s the use of jawing?  What’s it to be this Advent?  I thought of
something in church this morning which you might lick into shape."

He filled his pipe, talking in his hesitating yet voluble way.
Archibald, the practical, took a pad to jot down notes in shorthand.
Mark began to pace the room as his ideas flowed faster.  It seemed to
him that he had dammed them up for many months; now they came down like
the Crask after a big rain, a cleansing flood, carrying away all refuse,
all barriers.  When he had finished, Archibald arose ponderously and
shook his hand.

"You’re a wonderful fellow," he said slowly; "the hare you, the tortoise
I.  It was always so."

"The tortoise won the r-r-race," said Mark.

When he went to bed that night he flung open wide the window of his
room.  Outside, the night was inky black and tempestuous.  Not a star to
be seen above, and the lamps below burning dimly, throwing pale circles
of light upon the wet, muddy street.  Mark stood inhaling the fresh air,
drawing long and deep breaths, saturating himself with it. Presently he
muttered:

"I may be happy yet."



                             *CHAPTER XXIX*

                        *THE PROCESSION OF LIFE*


Late in May Betty was expecting to be confined; and Mark could see that
Archibald tried in vain to conceal his anxiety.  "One never knows how
these affairs will end," he said a score of times to his brother, who
replied, "Betty is strong; she will do well; you are foolish to borrow
trouble."  None the less, Mark’s anxiety quickened also as the time
approached, becoming the more poignant, possibly, because the birth of
this baby emphasised his own isolation and loneliness.  Betty as
mother—and he felt sure that she would prove an admirable
mother—appeared indescribably remote.  Archibald as father, babbling
already about his _son_, obstructed the horizon.

"The boy may reign at Pitt Hall," said Archibald. "George has written to
say that he hopes it will be an heir—_his_ word—because then he will
feel at liberty to remain a bachelor.  Do you think that Betty is as
prudent as she ought to be?"

"She will do well, she will do well," Mark reiterated.

"You will come to us, Mark.  I shall want you, you know."

"If you insist——"

"I don’t think I could face it without you."

Betty added her entreaties.  "I’m not afraid," she maintained; "but
Archie is behaving like an old woman.  Lady Randolph will be with me; I
should feel easier if you were with Archie.  How devoted you brothers
are to each other!"

Mark hastily put up his hand to cover a smile which he felt to be
derisive.  Then he muttered awkwardly, "All right, I’ll c-c-come."

Again he wondered whether she had suspected the hatred within him.
Surely a creature of her intuitions and sympathies must know.  And if
she did know, and, knowing, faced the facts, trying to adjust the
balance, piecing together the fragments of broken lives, was it not his
duty, however painful, to help her and the man she had married?  And
perhaps she had foreseen that any peril threatening an object dear to
both brothers might serve to unite them. The woman who had whirled them
asunder must cherish the hope that she alone could bring them together.

When the hour came, when he was alone with Archibald at midnight,
straining his ears for that thin, querulous wail of the newly born, he
forgot everything except that Betty might be taken away. The doctor
bustled in from time to time, cheery and sanguine at first, but as the
hours passed betraying uneasiness and anxiety.  Towards morning, when
the whole world seemed to have grown chill and dreary, he asked for a
consultation; and a servant was sent hot-foot for the most famous
accoucheur in Harley Street.

Archibald rushed upstairs.  He crawled down them a few minutes later,
ghastly, trembling, the scarecrow of the prosperous Rector of St.
Anne’s.  Mark, as white as he, seized his arm.

"Well, well, how is she?  That fool of a doctor has exaggerated.  They
always make out everything to be more serious than it is."

"She is going, she is going," the husband muttered.

Mark shook him violently.

"Archie, you must pull yourself together.  Do you hear?"

"It’s a judgment, a judgment."

"What do you say?"

"I never told her about those two sermons.  I’m a coward, a coward.  You
despise me—I have felt it."

The big fellow had collapsed, shrunk incredibly, depleted of windy
self-assurance and vanity.  Mark’s hate and scorn and envy began to ooze
from him as the old love, the virile instinct of the strong to comfort
and protect the weak, gushed into his heart, suffusing a genial warmth
through every fibre of his being.

"I gave them to you freely," he said.  "I urged you to preach that first
sermon.  Put what is past from you."

But Archibald shook his head.  Now that the silence was broken, he
wished to speak, to give his shame and trouble all the words so long
suppressed.  In a pitiful manner he began a self-indictment—_qui
s’accuse s’excuse_.

"If Betty is spared, I shall tell her the truth," he concluded.

Mark frowned, trying to measure the effect of such a belated confession
on Betty.  Then he heard his brother saying in the tone of conviction
which so impressed his congregations, "Of course, Betty did not marry me
because I preached those sermons."

Mark started.  Temptation beset him to answer swiftly: "She did—she did.
I know she did.  Had it not been for my words in your mouth, she would
have waited for, she would have married—me."

He turned aside his face, twisted and seamed by the effort of holding
his tongue.  Archibald continued: "It has been a secret sore.  I thought
hard work—I have worked very hard—would heal it. If—if she is spared, I
shall speak for all our sakes."

Mark’s voice was quite steady when he replied, "For all our sakes.  You
take me into account?"

"Why, of course.  Don’t you remember?  You wished her to know.  You said
you would tell her. Why didn’t you?"

"Why, indeed?" Mark echoed fiercely.  Then, with a sudden change of
manner, he went on: "You must do what you think best.  Betty has placed
you on a pinnacle.  See that you don’t topple over! Practise what you
preach.  Then you will save her soul and your own."

"We talk as if she were not dying."

"She will not die," said Mark solemnly.  At that moment he was sure that
Betty would live, must live, because (and the reason illumines the dark
places through which Mark had passed), because it would be so much
better for her if she died.

Just then the consulting surgeon arrived.  Archibald took him upstairs,
and returned to Mark within a quarter of an hour, saying that the case
was even more serious than had been supposed.

"Drax sentenced me to death," said Mark, "but I’m alive and strong."

Archibald fell on his knees in an agony of supplication.  Mark watched
him.  Suddenly the husband looked up.

"In the name of God, pray," he entreated.  "You are a better man than
I—pray!"

But Mark remained standing.

He desired to pray, but above this desire and dominating it was the
vivid horror of that evil spirit, which had so lately fled and which
might come back. A sense of unworthiness prostrated his spirit, but not
his body.  He glanced at Archibald, and left the room.

Outside, the gas in the hall and passages seemed to be struggling
helplessly against the light of breaking day.  Familiar
objects—furniture belonging to the Admiral—loomed large out of a sickly,
yellow mist.  Mark found himself staring blankly at an ancient clock
ticking with loud and exasperating monotony.  It had so ticked away the
seconds, the minutes, the hours of more than a hundred years!

The next objects that caught his eye were two umbrellas.  They stood
side by side, curiously contrasted: the one a dainty trifle of violet
silk and crystal, encircled with a gold band; and the other large and
massive with a symbolic shepherd’s crook as a handle.  These arrested
Mark’s attention.  He remembered that he had chaffed Betty about her
umbrella, telling her that it was too smart for a parson’s wife, and
absurdly frail as a protection against anything save a passing shower.
She retorted that a wise woman never braves a storm, and then she had
said with the smile he knew so well: "My umbrella, which, after all, is
an _en tout cas_, is just like me: made for sunshine rather than rain."

He sat down, waiting, staring at Betty’s umbrella. When he looked up
Lady Randolph was coming down the stairs very slowly—a white-haired old
woman.  Something in her face choked the question which fluttered to his
lips.  To gain an instant’s time, he opened the library door and called
to his brother—

"Archie!"

Archibald appeared instantly.

"A girl has been born," said Lady Randolph, "but she is dead."

"Dead?" repeated Archibald.

"And Betty?" Mark demanded hoarsely.

"The doctors think she is safe."

The three passed into the dining-room, where some food had been laid
out.  Lady Randolph gave details in a worn voice.  Betty’s pluck had
been amazing; she had displayed a fortitude lacking which she would
probably have succumbed.  The consulting surgeon, who entered shortly
afterwards, assured the husband that, humanly speaking, the danger was
over.  Almost at once Archibald recovered his normal composure and
dignified deportment.  Mark, on the other hand, exhibited signs of
collapse.  He sat down shivering, as if he had been attacked by
malignant malaria.

Next day he saw Betty for a couple of minutes. She smiled and thanked
him, intimating that Archibald had told her that the suspense would have
been intolerable had not Mark helped him to bear it. Of the loss of her
baby she said nothing, but before Mark left the room she exacted a
promise that he would come to see her during the period of
convalescence.


About this time he began his third novel, _The Songs of the Angels_.
Conquest asked him if he were setting to work on the theme suggested by
him, and when Mark pleaded inability to guide a young and beautiful
heiress through the slums of Stepney, the great man shrugged his
shoulders—a gesture now associated in Mark’s mind with derision and
contempt.  Conquest then demanded what he was doing, and hearing the
synopsis of the new story shrugged his vast shoulders once more.

"That won’t sell," he said.  "You could have handled my theme—if you had
tried.  By the way, that brother of yours has jumped at Vauxhall’s
offer.  I knew he would.  He’ll go very far, that young man.  Even the
Basilica won’t be big enough to hold him."

He laughed loudly and strode away.

During July Mark saw Betty regularly twice a week.  Archibald was
working harder than ever in and out of St. Anne’s parish, but of the
Basilica, now nearing completion, not a word was said by either husband
or wife.  Mark wondered if Betty knew.  Her recovery was slow and
intermittent.

"Are you worried about anything?" Mark asked one day.

"Yes," she admitted, after a minute’s hesitation; then she continued
quickly, "Have you noticed another falling off in Archie’s sermons?"

"He’s unequal, of course," Mark replied.  "And the best brains refuse to
work in a tired body."

"I wish you’d say a word about that.  He’d take anything from you."

Again she caught a glimpse of that derisive smile of Mark’s which she
could not interpret, as he promised to speak to his brother.  Did he
reap his reward when Betty said, three weeks later, "Archie has preached
splendidly the last two Sundays.  Has he told you that he has been
commanded to preach again at Windsor?"

Mark nodded rather coldly, so Betty thought.  He reflected that he was
the man with one talent.  How much better that it should be given to the
man who had ten rather than be atrophied by disuse, buried, so to speak,
in one upon whom silence was imposed. Every pang of envy which twisted
his heart he tried to assuage with the anodyne of kind actions.  But the
faith which had never failed him when he was sick seemed to have
forsaken him utterly now that he was whole.


When _The Songs of the Angels_ was half written, telegrams summoned Mark
and his brothers to Pitt Hall, where the Squire lay dying, senseless and
speechless.  He had been seized with a fit, after returning from a long
day’s hunting on Christmas Eve.  The doctors said at once that nothing
could be done.  Pitt Hall was hung with holly and mistletoe; and Mark,
coming out of the room where his father lay dead, saw the servants
pulling down the decorations.  It seemed to him that the old house would
never be the same again.  It never was—to him.

The will revealed a terrible state of affairs.  After the widow’s
jointure was paid, only enough money would be left to keep the estate
out of the market. George, in any case, would have to let it for a term
of years and economise closely, if he hoped to cancel the mortgages.
Low prices, bad years, and a disastrous attempt to recover losses by
speculation had almost wrecked one of the finest properties in
Slowshire.  The younger sons, as residuary legatees, found themselves
absolutely unprovided for.  This, it is true, made no difference to
Archibald, but Mark told himself ruefully that he only possessed his
books and simple furnishings and some ninety pounds.  George was unable
to do anything; but Archibald offered his brother the same allowance he
had been in the habit of receiving.  Mark refused it.

"I think I can pay my way," said Mark.

"I owe you that—and more too."

"Oh, rubbish!"

"If you would live with us, and become my paid secretary.  You could
have your afternoons and evenings free."

"I shall not leave my pines," said Mark.  "Many thanks, but I’m going to
score off my own bat."

This conversation took place upon the afternoon of the funeral.  That
evening, in the smoking-room, the question of the living again presented
itself. George Samphire had inherited his father’s manner and ideas, the
latter tempered, possibly, by life in a cavalry regiment.

"By Jove!" said he, "there’s King’s Charteris for you, Mark.  The
rector, they tell me, won’t see Easter.  It’s the very thing, and you
can keep an eye on my tenant.  That’s settled, thank the Lord!"

An awkward pause followed.  At his father’s grave Mark had worn, and
wore still, black clothes of clerical cut.

"I am a layman," said Mark.

"What?  You’ve chucked it!  But you can’t—can he, Archie?  Once a
parson, always a parson. Archie can arrange anything."

"True," said Archibald, "but——"  He glanced at Mark, who had risen.

"Don’t badger me, George," Mark said quietly. "You must find a better
fellow than I for King’s Charteris.  It’s been a terrible day.  I’m off
to bed."

He marched out of the room, leaving George agape with astonishment.

"What the devil’s the meaning of this?" he asked of Archibald.

"I’m afraid he’s an agnostic."

"Ag—wha-a-t!"

Archibald explained the meaning of the word, not so familiar then as
now.  George listened, frowning, interjecting many an "Oh!" and "Ah!"
and "By Jove!" as the speaker delicately conveyed the impression that he
did not despair of leading this errant sheep back into the fold.

"Mark," he concluded, "has shown a great deal of right feeling, my dear
George.  I cannot doubt but that it will be well with him.  But he is
not one to be pressed."

"That’s sound enough, old Slow-and-Sure, and I suppose we can get some
fellow to keep King’s Charteris warm for him—eh?  And they tell me
you’ll have livings to give away one of these fine days.  Good Lord!
what a mess the poor governor has made of things!"

Saying this, the new squire of Pitt Hall sighed, poured himself out a
whisky and soda, drank it, lit a candle, and went to bed, followed by
Archibald.

Within the week Mark saw Conquest, by appointment, and told him what had
happened, asking at the same time for a settlement of his small account.
To his dismay he learned that he was in the debt of Wisden and
Evercreech.  What was due for his first short story and the illustrated
interview with the Rector of St. Anne’s was swallowed up in the bill for
printing the novel.  Of this, not counting press copies, some three
hundred and fifty had been sold, of which—as had been said—Jim Corrance
bought one hundred outright.

"Our bill needn’t bother you," said Conquest. "And the novel may square
it yet.  You ask for my advice.  Frankly, then, I say—journalism, but
it’s uphill work.  You’ve got to make a special study of editors—and
what they want.  The stuff which Jones prints and pays for, Smith,
perhaps, won’t even take the trouble to return as unavailable."

"Can you give me anything?"

"Nothing except advice, Samphire, and a letter or two.  We are chock
full.  Of course I’ll always consider what you send me, but we have our
regular staff, and fifty besides waiting to step into their shoes."

"If I could get a sub-editorship?"

"Ask for the moon at once.  You don’t know the ropes.  Every fool thinks
he can edit or sub-edit a paper, but the proprietors are not of their
mind.  You’re a clever fellow, Samphire, but you’ll pardon me for saying
that you’re kinky, and you seem to possess a vermiform appendix of a
conscience.  You can support yourself with your pen, when you know how
to use it."

"I’m much obliged to you," said Mark humbly.

Conquest sent him half a dozen letters, which were presented in person.
The editors, somehow, managed to convey the impression that they were
obliging Conquest rather than the bearer of his credentials.  Each
promised, more or less courteously, to consider any work submitted.
Tommy Greatorex, the pessimist, proved an unexpected source of sympathy
and help.  He learned that Mark spoke Italian.  Together they explored
Eyre Street Hill and the purlieus about Hatton Garden, an expedition
which took concrete form in the shape of a paper dealing with the
ice-cream vendors, the plaster-cast image sellers, and the like.  Tommy
sold the paper for twenty guineas, and divided the cheque with Mark.  By
chance Conquest learned of this, and wired for Mark.

"Greatorex says you talk Italian like a Dago. Would you care to
translate an Italian novel for us?  We’ll pay you sixty pounds."

"Thank you very much," said Mark.

Conquest handed him the proof sheets of the novel.

"You must translate with discretion," he said carelessly; "but don’t
emasculate it!  After all, we are not publishing for schoolgirls."

Mark left Paternoster Row, and mounted a ’bus in St. Paul’s Churchyard.
When he had taken his seat, he looked at the sheets and began to read
them very rapidly.  Tommy Greatorex was waiting for him at the
Scribblers.

"Has Conquest given you Nespoli’s novel?"

"It’s in my pocket," said Mark, rather red in the face.  "And it ought
to be in the public sewer.  I shan’t translate it."

"Phew-w-w!" said Tommy.  "What’s the use of being so bally particular?
What did he offer? Seventy-five?  Oh, sixty—the Shylock.  Well, old
chap, if you don’t take the job, somebody else will."

"There’s not a particle of doubt about that," said Mark.

But when he returned the novel to Conquest, he saw that he had offended
the great man, who shrugged his shoulders and said curtly that Mark had
better buy a little lamb and play with it.  This was too much.  Mark
flamed.

"I’ve stood your sneers long enough, Conquest," he said.  "You’ve done
me some good turns——"

"Hold on," said Conquest, black and grim. "Don’t flatter yourself that I
did them for you. You are the brother of Archibald Samphire, and that’s
about the only claim you have to _my_ consideration.  Now then—march!"

He pointed insolently to the door, towering above the slight figure
confronting him.  Mark recovered his temper.

"I’d hit you," he said politely, "if you were smaller, but I can’t reach
your brazen face, you b-b-bully and b-b-blusterer.  And I couldn’t
injure your thick skin with an axe."

The door between the sanctum and the room where the typewriters were
clicking stood ajar. When Mark ended his sentence a sound of giggling
was heard.  Conquest, cursing, turned and kicked the door with violence.
Mark laughed and disappeared, leaving an unscrupulous enemy behind him.

Misfortune, however, introduces us to friends as well as enemies.  Mark
had been hurt because Jim Corrance had not repeated his visit to
Weybridge. Jim, he had said to himself, was cold, absorbed in
money-getting, unmindful even of his mother, dear soul, who must often
yearn for the companionship of her son.  But when Jim heard of the
Squire’s will, he rushed down to Weybridge, taking with him an enormous
hamper.  Mark told Betty what passed.

"Jim arrived with a hamper.  I believe he thought I was starving.  He
brought champagne, cigars, and every potted thing which grows in Fortnum
and Mason’s.  And he told me that he was looking for a confidential
clerk at five hundred a year.  And would I do him the favour to take the
billet.  By Heaven—his face warmed my heart through and through."

"You look," said Betty, "as if someone had left you a fortune!  Those
potted things may come in handy, if you insist on refusing the help
which your friends are only too glad to offer."

"I shall make my way, Betty."

Her eyes were troubled, as she said hurriedly, "Are you sure of that,
Mark?  If—_if_ you should break down again.  Oh, I know what’s in your
mind. You are going to drudge.  And why should you, when Archie and I
would be so delighted to have you here?  You could help him.  He has
told me——"

"What has he told you?"

His sharp interrogation slightly puzzled her.

"Oh, he says that your hints have been invaluable."

So Archibald had withheld the truth.  He heard Betty’s voice entreating
him to come to Cadogan Place.  His heart was throbbing.  Perhaps she
wanted him.

"I c-c-can’t," he stammered.  "I have my p-pride."

"So had Lucifer," she retorted.

That she supposed him cold, he knew.  When they parted, he smiled to
himself because she said angrily: "You think of nothing but your _Songs
of the Angels_!"

"Angels won’t sing in London," he said.

Shortly after this he received a letter from Dudley McIntyre, the head
of an historic publishing house. McIntyre had read the novel which would
not sell, and begged to have the pleasure of meeting the author at an
early date.  This again was a piece of luck which Mark discovered,
later, to be due to Tommy Greatorex.  Tommy, who loathed Conquest, had
told McIntyre of what had passed.  McIntyre had no love for Conquest and
despised his business methods.  When he met Mark, he took a fancy to
him.  Mark, for his part, was charmed with McIntyre, who represented the
publisher of the old school: being all that Conquest was not: courteous,
sympathetic, speaking with precision in well-chosen words untainted by
slang.  McIntyre, however, published _belles lettres_, biographies,
books of travel, rather than novels.  Still, he expressed a wish to see
_The Songs of the Angels_, and said that the theme appealed to him.

"Not that I pretend to be a judge of what will sell or not sell," he
concluded.  "And I seldom pass an opinion upon a manuscript."

"I should be glad to undertake translations," said Mark.

"Will that be worth your while, Mr. Samphire?"

Mark frankly explained his position.  He thought he was qualified to
translate either French or Italian books.  McIntyre said he would make a
note of it, and did so, entering Mark’s address in a small pocket-book.

"Finish your novel," said he at parting.  "And give it undivided
attention."

Accordingly, Mark remained at Weybridge.  He realised that if this novel
failed, he must become, as Betty said, a drudge; and he was certain that
hack-writing meant the sacrifice of higher literary ambitions.  McIntyre
was right.  He must make the effort of his life to grasp something
substantial. If he failed, let him clutch at straws!

Necessity lent edge to the enterprise.  Each morning he woke with an
appetite for work which seemed to increase rather than diminish.  He
became so absorbed in his task that everything and everybody became
subservient to it.  Archibald had taken Betty abroad; Pynsent was in
Paris; Jim Corrance had been summoned to New York; David Ross still held
aloof.  So, for six weeks or more, he was undisturbed by the claims of
friendship: the only claims at that time which he would have considered.

But to such a temperament as Mark’s, speech is vital.  Having no one
else, he talked with Mary. He told himself that Mary was a remarkable
girl, endowed with a fund of practical common sense upon which he was
entitled to draw.  Mary walked every other Sunday, if it was fine, with
the young fellow of whom mention has been made.  The rest of her time
was spent with her mother and in the prosecution of duties which lay
within the apple-green palings of her home.  Mrs. Dew kept one servant,
a cook; Mary worked in the house and in the garden.

The Dews, mother and daughter, knew that Mark was a writer.  Mrs. Dew,
however, considered literary work not quite "genteel."  When Mark said
to her: "You know, Mrs. Dew, that I’m an author," she sniffed and
replied: "I didn’t think you liked it mentioned."

It is curious and instructive to trace any friendship to its source.
Mark had a character in his book not unlike Mary.  The reviewers of his
first novel agreed that Mark drew men with a firm touch; his women, on
the other hand, were unconvincing, artificial, idealised.  It was the
most natural thing that he should say to Mary in his pleasant, friendly
voice: "I s-s-say, Honeydew, if you found yourself in such-and-such a
quandary, what would you do?"

Mary answered this first question so simply and convincingly that it led
to many others.  Mark ignored her sex, talking to her as he talked to
Pynsent and Corrance.

"Such a lot depends upon the success of this book," he told her.
"Journalism means bread-and-scrape, at best cakes and ale, but I’m
hungering for the nectar and ambrosia of Literature.  I feel my power
with the men, but with the women—I grope. What I don’t know about your
delightful sex, Mary, would fill an encyclopædia."

He eyed Mary with wrinkled irritability as a type of composite
womanhood.  After all, he reflected, "Judy O’Grady and the Colonel’s
lady are sisters under their skins!"  Mary was a bridge by which a poor
ignorant man might cross the gulf which separates the sexes.  _The Songs
of the Angels_ was a love story.  He submitted the plot to Mary, who
confounded him by an apt suggestion.

"By Jove, Honeydew, you know all about it.  I suppose you’ve had half a
dozen lovers?"

Mary blushed.

"Only Albert Batley."

He spared her confusion, but Mrs. Dew supplied details.  Albert Batley
had a nice growing business, as a contractor, in and about Weybridge,
where houses were popping up like mushrooms in a night. Mrs. Dew
fretfully complained that Mary did not know her own mind.  Albert, it
appeared, was quite willing to accept a mother-in-law as a permanent
guest, if Mary would only accept him.  "But naturally I’m not
considered," she concluded, in that querulous whine which penetrated so
far.

"Now, Mrs. Dew," Mark replied, "that won’t do with me.  Mary is as good
as gold and your faithful slave."

"She won’t have me long, Mr. Samphire.  I’d like to see her settled,
before I die."

Mark had met Albert, and been much entertained by him.  Without wasting
time in superfluous verbiage, Mr. Batley had given Mark to understand
that he was ready to buy a wedding-ring, not to mention other trinkets,
as soon as Mary gave him the word. If ever man was deeply, inextricably
in Cupid’s toils, Mr. Batley was he.  _À propos_ of this Mark said one
day:

"You see, Honeydew, when a man is in love, he knows it."

"It works the same way with a woman," said Mary.  "Only more so."

"Eh?" said Mark.

Mary explained that a girl really and truly in love was of necessity
aware of her condition, because the fermentation, so to speak, took
place in the bottle, instead of in the barrel with the bung out.  "With
men," she concluded, "it often bubbles away."

Mark detected a note of pain.

"My poor little Honeydew," he said, with warm sympathy.  "You have
suffered.  Some day you must tell me about it."

"I cared for a man," she murmured, "who cared nothing for me; but that’s
over and done with."  Then she added, blushing: "Albert knows all about
it, and he says he doesn’t mind."

"There’s no chance of the other——"

"No, no," Mary interrupted.  "He married."

"You will make Albert very happy," said Mark; "and you will be happy
yourself."

"I am happy now," she replied with conviction.

Mark said no more; but Mary’s words gave him pause.  She called herself
happy.  Happy—in what? Only one answer was possible.  Inasmuch as she
had given in fullest measure to others, happiness had been given to her.



                             *CHAPTER XXX*

                       *A NOTE OF INTERROGATION*


The Samphires returned to Cadogan Place in November.  It was now settled
that Archibald should take the Basilica whenever it was finished, but
the world knew nothing of this till after Christmas, when there appeared
paragraphs in the papers controlled by Conquest.  One of these caught
the eye of Betty, and she took it to her husband, with the direct
question: "Are you thinking of leaving St. Anne’s?"

He replied with a certain air of restraint: "Yes."

"Why?"

"My dearest, I can do better work there than here. I had not meant to
speak about it to you—yet.  Lord Vauxhall has paid me a very great
compliment."

"What sort of compliment has he paid me?  Did he ask you to keep so
important a matter from your wife?"

"I so understood him."

"And your word is pledged?"

"Yes."

"Has he offered you more than you receive here?"

"We shall be richer by some hundreds a year."

"I am sorry," said Betty, with heightened colour. "Lord Vauxhall is
shrewd.  Had you seen fit to consult me, I should have implored you to
remain where you are.  Money is no object to you."

"True.  But preferment——"

"Preferment!  Promotion!  That implies service. You have only been here
eighteen months.  There will be gossip about this."

"As if I cared for gossip."

"We will say no more about it," said Betty; "but I tell you frankly that
I am hurt!"

She turned and left the room.  That he should not have trusted her was
hard to be borne; yet later she made allowances for him.  Doubtless,
Lord Vauxhall had insisted upon secrecy.  Her husband’s sense of honour
had closed his lips.  She had been unjust, unkind, a disloyal wife.  She
had even insulted him, hinting that an increase of income had lured him
from duty.  At this point she bathed her eyes, arranged her hair, and
ran downstairs to beg pardon and entreat forgiveness.  Archibald was
magnanimous.

"You have shown the right feeling, dear Betty, which I knew you
possessed.  I am acting according to my lights."

Next day the Rector of St. Anne’s wired to Mark to come to town; Mark
replied that he had had a bad bout of influenza, in those days a new and
virulent disease.  Archibald, nervous about his Lenten sermons but
laughing to scorn the possibility of catching influenza, went down to
Weybridge in the afternoon.  He found Mark looking pale and thin, but
otherwise in good spirits, and on the high road to recovery.

"You’re a valiant man to visit me.  This confounded disease is so
infectious.  You laugh?  You’ll cry if you get it!  I’ve been as weak as
a baby.  If it had not been for Honeydew——"

He spoke enthusiastically of all his nurse had done for him.  Archibald
nodded absently, turning over in his mind certain possible themes which
he wished Mark to consider.

"Yes, yes," he interrupted.  "She did what she could, I make no doubt."

"She’s one of the very best," cried Mark.  "I say—it was awfully good of
you, old Archie, to run down here.  I expect work has piled up."

"It has; it has.  I want to speak to you about that."  He paused for a
moment, as a smile flickered across Mark’s lips.  Archibald, Mark was
reflecting, had an axe to grind.  He had not left home merely to visit a
brother laid by the heels.  Suddenly his feeling which had flamed grew
chill.  He listened perfunctorily to some introductory remarks.

"My Lenten sermons are giving me grave anxiety; I find that something
out of the common is expected. If you will bear with me, I’ll walk over
the—er—course which I’ve marked out."

"Cut along!" said Mark.

Archibald winced.  Mark had no sense of the fitness of things.  He spoke
at times as if he (the Rector of St. Anne’s) were a boy in his teens.
Perhaps a word in season might——

"_À propos_," he said, with dignity, "don’t you think, my dear fellow,
that it is time for you to put away certain childish—you will pardon the
adjective—certain childish expressions.  It’s absurd to talk of a man of
my weight—’cutting along’...."

"True!  You can stroll if you like, as the placid Pecksniff strolled.
You have put on weight, Archie."

Archibald, indeed, was broader and thicker about the neck and shoulders.
He had lost the look of youth; the hair on the top of his head was
thinner; his eyes were less clear; his fine skin had become redder and
coarser in texture.

"I carry great burdens," he replied.  "Perhaps I ought not to ask you to
share them."

Mark responded instantly, touched by this unexpected solicitude: "I’m
all right."

"You might come to us for a week.  Betty will nurse you."

"That is impossible.  I must finish my book."

"Oh, yes—your book.  I am looking forward to reading that.  But I wish
you would turn your talents to something more serious than fiction. I——"

"Shall we talk about your work?"

Archibald smiled, but Mark fidgeted and frowned, as carefully culled
platitudes fell upon his ear. Archibald was indeed strolling placidly
down familiar paths to the great festival of Christendom.  The very name
of Easter had always quickened Mark’s pulses.  Hitherto he had hastened
to the feast, the most joyful of pilgrims.  Now he was shut out; or
rather, the door stood wide open, but he dared not pass it.  The ban lay
upon him—and upon how many thousands?  His imagination flared, revealing
a multitude staring with yearning eyes at tables spread for others.
Archibald, in his silky tones, was enumerating celestial joys.  His
words flowed like a pellucid stream.

"What are you smiling at?" he asked abruptly.

"I beg your pardon," Mark replied, "but you remind me of an alderman
reciting to a starving mob the names of the dishes to which he and his
corporation are about to sit down."

Archibald had wit enough to see and feel the point.  He saw, too, that
Mark was moved.

"You have an idea.  I should like to hear it, although——"

"Although I am without the pale, you would say. Archie, if you would
descend from your pulpit and walk in the shadows with me for a little
while—and if then you could set forth my doubts and perplexities, how
many, think you, of your congregation would not say: ’I, too, have
wandered in those blind alleys.’  And having pierced the crust of their
indifference with your sympathy and insight, if then you could transmit
the light which seems to have always blazed on you, this Easter would
indeed be a Day of Resurrection to hundreds who now lie cold and dead."
He paused, gazed keenly at Archibald, and continued: "But you—you cannot
do that. You have not trod the wilderness...."  He covered his face with
his hand.

"It is true," said Archibald, in a low voice, "that I do lack an
experience common, I fear, to hundreds of my parishioners.  And if I
cannot open their hearts, and you can, lend me your key."

Mark was silent.  Then, as before, the sense that he had envied and
hated this once dearly beloved brother made him generous.

"I will write down and send what is in my mind. No—don’t thank me!"

He began to talk briskly of other things. Presently Mary came in and
reminded him to take his medicine.  Archibald had not seen her before.
Twice during the previous summer Betty and he had come to Weybridge, but
each day had been spent upon the river.  Mark went into his bedroom, and
Mary disappeared, to reappear a moment later with a tea-tray.  Archibald
was alone with her for a couple of minutes.  She arranged the tea-things
with quick, deft fingers, displaying the admirable lines of her figure
as she moved to and fro, now standing upright, now bending down.  In the
soft light of the spring afternoon she looked charming, with the
inexpressible freshness of youth and health. Archibald addressed her.

"You are," he was about to say "Mary," but changed it to "Miss Dew."

"Oh, no, I am Mary," she replied, smiling. "Your brother calls me
’Honeydew.’"

"My brother calls you a ministering angel."

His soft voice had that fluid quality which percolates everywhere.  He
meant to be polite, nothing more; he wished to thank a pretty girl who
had nursed a brother: but to Mary his words had other significance; his
glance became an indictment, his tone inquisitorial.  Without reason,
her cheeks flamed.  Archibald turned aside, murmuring a commonplace.
When he looked at her, after a discreet interval, she was composed but
pale.  She went out of the room and did not return.

"Um!" said Archibald to himself, "I must speak to Betty about this."

Not, however, till late did he find an opportunity. Harry Kirtling was
dining in Cadogan Place, and loath to say good-night.  The young fellow
had crushed a muscle of his leg out hunting, and had come up to London
to see a famous surgeon, who prescribed gentle walking exercise and
massage. Harry complained bitterly of the hardship of spending a
fortnight away from his kennels, but was consoled by Betty, who promised
to entertain him. Despite his injury, he looked astonishingly well, and
brought with him from Cumberland a breezy atmosphere of mountain and
moor which Betty inhaled gratefully.  He had managed to make it plain
that he was still her devoted slave—a tribute which the best of women
accept without scruple.  And he had asked her advice upon a score of
matters connected with Kirtling.

When Harry had taken his clean, lean body out of her drawing-room, Betty
turned rather impatiently to Archibald.

"Has anything happened?  You have been so glum.  Surely you do not
resent my asking Harry to dine without consulting you?"

"Harry?"  His tone was heavily contemptuous. "Harry can waste as much of
your time as you like to give him.  Yes; something has happened."

He told his story.

"I don’t believe it."

"The girl is attractive.  Her mother, I am told, reckons herself a lady.
Something must be done.  I give you my word that I am not mistaken."

"I don’t believe it," Betty repeated.

None the less, she did believe it.  Here again Archibald’s voice
beguiled her understanding.  He had acquired that power, invaluable to a
clergyman or a barrister, of making every statement sound as if it were
irrefutable fact.

"I went down to Weybridge to see Mark on important business, and for a
quarter of an hour he sang this girl’s praises.  It is obvious that he
wished to impress me, to make me see with his eyes."

"What is she like?" Betty asked, shortly.

Archibald described her with a deliberation which annoyed his wife.

"The girl is very comely, my dear; alluring, many men would call her.  A
seductive figure—round, but not too plump; the complexion of Hebe."

"That’s enough," said Betty.

"I tried to do the girl justice," replied her husband with dignity.
"Personally speaking, her type of beauty does not appeal to me, but as a
man of the world I cannot deny that it may appeal irresistibly to
others!"

"You call yourself a man of the world," said Betty suddenly.  "You do
not preach to us as a man of the world.  If this girl loves Mark, if he
has made her love him, you ought to be the first to urge him to marry
her.  From a pagan point of view such a marriage may seem disastrous,
but from the Christian’s——"

She confronted him with heaving bosom and flaming eyes.  Her agitation
and excitement amazed him. But he grasped the essential fact that he had
blundered, that it might be difficult to retrieve the blunder.  He was
aware that some of his sermons moved his wife to the core, for she had
told him so a score of times.  He was also aware, but as yet in less
degree, that as mere man he had aroused without adequately satisfying
her expectations.

"If you choose to misinterpret me——" he began.

"But I don’t choose.  I ask you, you the preacher and teacher, to make
plain a puzzle which you, not I, have propounded.  Let us admit what you
tell me. Heaven knows that Mark has lived a lonely and forlorn life.
Never has he complained to me; but I have guessed, I have felt
that—that—beneath the mask he chooses to wear a devil tears him.  That
devil drove him from the Church.  Well, we know that misery loves
company.  He has talked to me about this girl.  She is a plucky
creature, like Mark, inasmuch as she faces adversity with a smile.  She
has a selfish, querulous mother to whom she is devoted. Such a girl
would appeal to such a man.  And now you tell me that she is attractive.
It is significant that Mark never mentioned that to me.  I take back
what I said.  I believe you are right.  Mark _has_ learned to love this
girl, and she loves him.  And what are you going to do about it?  And in
what capacity?  As a man of the world?  Or as a priest of the Most High
God?

"I beg you to compose yourself."

"You can compose me by telling the truth——"

"You dare to imply that——"

"I dare be honest with my husband.  I have not been happy for some
weeks, and you must have noticed it.  Sometimes, particularly of late, I
look for the man I married, and I find somebody else. Let me finish!  I
am too conscious of my own shortcomings not to be aware that between
most husbands and wives lie troubled waters only to be passed by mutual
faith and patience.  Why, happiness is faith; and women, I often think,
are on the whole happier than men, because their faith is stronger.  A
woman can believe in her child, in her husband, in her God.  Well, as
years passed, my faith in God grew dim, and you restored my sight. But
now, somehow, I no longer see so clearly.  Is it my fault or yours?  I
listen to your sermons, and then I come back to this luxurious house,
and somebody tells me that you are _persona grata_ at Windsor—that you
are sure to be made a bishop, as if preferment were salvation; and——"

"My dear!" said Archibald, "it is late, and I have half a dozen letters
to write.  You have been talking in an unrestrained manner.  You are not
yourself."

He left the room, erect, impassive, master of himself, but not of her.
She gazed defiantly after him, clenching her slender fingers.  Intuition
told her that this man was trying to serve God and Mammon, but when he
came to bed an hour later, she owned herself humbly in the wrong.  Again
Archibald was magnanimous, assuring his dearest Betty that already he
had forgiven and forgotten her offence.  The "forgotten" sounded
patronising.  As if he, with his memory, could forget!  She lay awake,
perplexed and dismayed, for she knew that Mark was still so dear to her
that the thought of his caring for any other woman was insupportable.



                             *CHAPTER XXXI*

                      *BETTY SEES DANGER SIGNALS*


Second thoughts constrained Archibald not to interfere with Mark.  He
told himself that he had been alarmed unnecessarily.  Mark was in no
position to marry a penniless girl; the infatuation—if infatuation had
been aroused—would subside, the more quickly, doubtless, if undisturbed.
Moreover, he was too busy to give affairs other than his own more than a
passing thought.  Four days after the visit to Weybridge he received
from Mark a huge envelope filled with rough notes and suggestions for a
course of Lenten sermons.  With these (and supplementary to them) were a
score of sheets of foolscap setting forth the phases of modern unbelief,
or want of belief.  Archibald read this record with a keen appreciation
of its dramatic value, but—it would be unfair to suppress the
fact—touched to issues higher than those involved in rhetoric.  His
extraordinary "flair" had not been at fault.  Mark had given him more
than ideas: insight into a human heart.  And whatever he saw Archibald
could describe with emphasis and effect.  At once the plan and purpose
of his sermons were made clear.  He would take infidelity as his theme,
and treat it synthetically, putting together all forms of unbelief, and
exhibiting them as the root from which evil sprang and flourished.
Faithlessness was the common denominator of suffering and sin. He
remembered what Betty had said about happiness in women being dependent
on faith, and told her that wittingly or unwittingly she had hit a
truth. But if he expected her to hit another, he was disappointed.  She
said quietly that she had drawn a bow at a venture.

About this time she paid a visit to Weybridge, Mark still pleading work
as an excuse for not coming to Cadogan Place.  Archibald awaited her
report with awakened interest.  Betty told her husband that Mark was
certainly madly in love—with his heroine.

"And he tells me," she concluded triumphantly, "that Mary, who seems a
nice modest girl, is going to marry a Mr. Batley.  When _The Songs of
the Angels_ is sent off to his publisher, he will come to us."

About mid-Lent the novel was despatched to town. After a few days a
letter came from McIntyre, accepting the MS. and offering better terms
than Mark had expected—fifty pounds upon the day of publication and a
royalty upon a sliding scale.  An American publisher, Cyrus Otway, who
had large dealings with McIntyre’s house, happened to be in England. He
offered Mark similar terms for the American rights.  Mark was jubilant,
but McIntyre predicted limited sales.

"It will be well received," he said.  "My readers have no doubt on that
point, but we do not expect it to be popular.  You have an admirable
style, but your subject—eh?—is sublimated: over the heads of many.  And
the story is sad.  The public likes a happy ending.  Other things being
equal, the story with the happy ending sells four to one at least.  Mr.
Cyrus Otway would like to meet you."  Mark lunched with Cyrus Otway, and
was entertained handsomely.

"I’ll be frank with you, Mr. Samphire," said the Boston publisher, a
thin, pale, carefully dressed man, with a typical New England manner as
prim and precise as a spinster’s, and very bright, restless eyes.  "This
is an experiment on our part—a leap in the dark.  Our people, sir, know
a good thing when they see it.  But the difficulty lies in making them
see it.  Have you done any dramatic work? You have not.  Ah, there’s a
goldfield!  And, if I may be allowed to say so, I think that you would
strike rich ore there.  You have dramatic power and a re—markable
insight into character...."

Mark repeated this conversation to Betty.  He was staying at Cadogan
Place and in high spirits. The drudgery of hack-writing no longer
impended. Already he was in a position to do the work he liked best
where and when and how he pleased.

"A hundred pounds is not much," said Betty doubtfully.

"It will last me a year," said Mark.

Meantime, Archibald’s Lenten sermons were filling St. Anne’s every
Sunday and exciting widespread comment.  Mark had seen and revised the
first three before he left Weybridge.  The others were prepared and
written out under Mark’s eye in the comfortable library at Cadogan
Place.  The Rector of St. Anne’s made no scruple of accepting what help
his brother could give him.  Mark honoured all cheques, reflecting that
this was a labour of love, which made for his happiness as well as
Betty’s.  It never struck him that he was compounding a moral felony.
Such knowledge came later; but, at the moment, had any person—Lady
Randolph, for instance—pointed out what he was doing, he would have
indignantly (and honestly) repudiated his own actions.

Betty listened to every word of these sermons and told herself she was
the wife of an evangelist.  None the less, she did not ignore the fact
that a sharp distinction lay between Archibald as Man and Archibald as
Priest.  One day she said to Mark, "Somehow one does not expect a great
preacher to lose his temper because the cook has sent up cod without
oyster sauce."

"Oh, his little weaknesses ought to endear him to such a woman as you
are.  He tells us each Sunday what a man ought to be, and on weekdays he
shows us what a man is.  A preacher without his little infirmities would
be as uninteresting as—as cod without oyster sauce."

After Easter, Mark returned to Weybridge.  Betty missed him so much that
she had a fit of nervous depression which lasted two days.  She made a
resolution to devote herself to parochial work, to begin a course of
stiff reading: pamphlets dealing with the better housing of the poor,
and kindred subjects.

Mark was now absorbed in writing another novel, and in the correction of
proofs.  _The Songs of the Angels_ appeared simultaneously in New York
and London upon the first of May.  Mark wrote to Betty that he had never
felt in such good health, or more sanguine about the future.  He was
living in the open air, and had the appetite and complexion of a gipsy.

Archibald, meanwhile, was working hard on committees, hand-in-glove with
a ducal philanthropist, whose music-loving duchess declared that Mr.
Samphire had the best tenor voice in the kingdom. In return for this
high compliment, the Rector of St. Anne’s was persuaded to sing at the
duchess’s small dinner parties; and this led to a widening of a circle
of acquaintance, which now included some very great people indeed.
Betty found herself dining out three days in the week, and was amazed to
discover that her husband enjoyed this mild dissipation.  As a celebrity
he began to be courted wherever he went, and his photograph embellished
certain shops.  Young women entreated him to write in their albums.

The world said that Chrysostom was a good fellow and still unspoiled,
but his wife noted an ever-increasing complacency and compliancy which
gave her pause.  He had begged her, it will be remembered, to keep at
arm’s length certain frisky dames whom she had met at Newmarket and
Monte Carlo, when she was under Lady Randolph’s wing.  These ladies were
of no particular rank or position.  But when Lady Cheyne, notorious all
over Europe before and after she married her marquess, called upon Mrs.
Samphire, Archibald insisted upon Betty returning the call and accepting
an invitation to dine at Cheyne House.  Betty protested, but he said
blandly: "I have reason to know that Lady Cheyne is an indefatigable
worker in Chelsea.  She will be a parishioner of ours when we go to the
Basilica. Personally I do not believe half the stories they tell about
her."

"I should hope not," said Betty.  "If a quarter be true, she is dyed
scarlet."

Often she talked to Lady Randolph, but never with the candour of bygone
days.  Intuition told her that her old friend had no great liking for
Archibald, although she rejoiced at his success.

"You were at Cheyne House last night," said Lady Randolph, with the
twinkle in her eye which Betty knew so well.  "I dare swear the dinner,
my dear, was better than the company."

"Archie says the dinner was perfection."  Then she flushed slightly,
remembering that her husband ought to know, for he had spared but few
dishes. "Have you read Mark’s new book?"

"I have," said Lady Randolph.

At once Betty began to praise the _Songs_.  It was to be inferred from
her sparkling eyes and eager gestures that Mark’s success had become
vital to her.  Lady Randolph drew conclusions which she kept to herself.
But that night she said to Lord Randolph: "I saw Betty Samphire this
afternoon. It is as I feared.  Her parson, the man beneath the surplice,
never inspired anything warmer than respect."

"Ay, say you so?  Dear me—that’s a pity.  But there’s stout stuff under
the surplice."

"Stout?"  Lady Randolph smiled.  "You have hit the word, Randolph.
Stout—and growing stouter.  And some of the stuff is—stuffing."

"My dear, you are severe.  _Who drives fat horses should himself be
fat_.  I have noticed that your good round parson is the most popular;
your lean fellow makes everybody uncomfortable.  Archibald is thought
highly of.  He is approachable; he has great gifts of organisation; he
is liked by Nonconformists and Roman Catholics."

"No doubt," replied Lady Randolph impatiently. "In a word he can lunch
at Lambeth and dine at Cheyne House, but I am thinking of Betty.  A
sword impends."

In a vague, mysterious way Betty herself was conscious of danger.  As a
girl the pageant of the London season had excited her.  Her
sensibilities, too keen, her adaptability, her faculty for enjoyment,
inevitably were overstrained during those feverish months between April
and August.  When she married a clergyman she told herself that she was
out of the rapids and at rest in a placid backwater.  Now,
involuntarily, she had been sucked into the current again.  And
curiously intermingled with the feeling of apprehension was a thrill.
At times the desire to let herself go, to fling herself, like a Mænad,
into the gay crowds, to be reckless, as they were, became almost
irresistible.  The devil-may-care temperament of the De Courcys set her
pulses a-tingling.  But so far she had restrained these longings.  And
then one night, in late June, Harry Kirtling met her at a ducal house to
which Archibald deemed it a duty to go.  A splendid entertainment had
been provided.  A famous prima donna and a brilliant violinist enchanted
lovers of music; a French comedian travelled from Paris to recite; minor
luminaries twinkled round these fixed stars.  A few choice spirits,
however, had withdrawn to a small room set apart for cards, wherein a
young guardsman had opened a bank at baccarat. This was in flagrant bad
taste, for both host and hostess detested gambling.  Yet it lent a spice
to the adventure.  Lady Cheyne told her cavalier that she felt as if she
were meeting a lover in a church. When the fun was getting furious,
Betty and Kirtling came in on the heels of curiosity.  Betty drew back,
but Harry held her arm.  A moment later he was recognised and invited to
try his luck. Always easy-going and thoughtless, he pressed forward,
half dragging Betty with him.  Lady Cheyne looked up, saw Betty, and
screamed with laughter. Her mocking laughter roused the devil in Betty.
She had not gambled since her marriage; and gambling in all its forms
was regarded by Archibald as a deadly sin.  Upon the Sunday succeeding
Derby Day he had preached upon this very subject. He had shown that
betting had become a national vice; he had described with dramatic force
its moral effect upon servants and children.  This was one of a series
of sermons upon the sins of the day, in the preparation of which the
Rector of St. Anne’s needed no assistance from others: culling his facts
from pamphlets and Blue Books, and marshalling them with the skill which
comes from long practice. To such sermons Betty lent an indifferent ear.
They were of the Gradgrind type: too didactic, too florid, too obvious,
to appeal to the intellectual members of his congregation.  He preached
in the same Cambyses vein upon drunkenness and gluttony.  When Lady
Cheyne laughed, Betty was vouchsafed a vision of her husband as she had
seen him ten minutes before, sharing a _pâté_ with a be-diamonded
countess who admitted frankly that she lived to sup.

"You must not peach, Mrs. Samphire!" cried Lady Cheyne, turning up her
impudent nose.

For a moment the game was stopped, and those present stared at Betty.

"Peach?" echoed Harry, who had certainly taken more than his allowance
of champagne.  "Not she! Come on, Betty, let us venture a sovereign!"
He put his hand into his pocket and pulled out a five-pound note.
"Halves?" Betty nodded.  "When it’s gone, we’ll stop—eh?"

Betty nodded again, beginning to laugh.  One of the young men offered
her his chair.

"You play," said Harry.  "I’m such an unlucky beggar."  He pushed the
counters which he had received in exchange for his note in front of her.
The dealer picked up the pack in front of him, and began to deal.  Up
till then he had won.  Now his luck deserted him and fell on Betty.

"_Tapez sur la veine_," said Harry.  "Pile it on, Betty!"

By this time Betty was sorry she had sat down. In the hope of losing
what she had won already, she did pile it on, the banker making no
objection.  But still she won, and won, and won.  And then, in the
middle of the noise and laughter, the host walked in—and out!  But the
expression on his face put an instant stop to the proceedings.  The
young guardsman, looking exceedingly foolish, pulled out a pencil and
began computing his losses to Betty.

"I make it seventy-five pound," he said.  "I’ll send it to you
to-morrow, Mrs. Samphire."

"No, no," said Betty.

"Pooh," said Harry.  "You forget that I’m your partner.  We’ll have a
spree together with this ill-gotten gold."  He laughed, and the others
joined in, but Betty smiled dismally.  All London would be prattling of
this escapade within a few hours.

Going home in the brougham she told Archibald what had passed.  The
light inside the carriage was dim, but she felt rather than saw his face
stiffen into amazed displeasure.

"And the Duke came in?"

She understood from his tone that being caught was not the least part of
the offence.

"I have said that I am very sorry."

"You have made me ridiculous," said Archibald in a tone she had not
heard from him before.

"You will make yourself ridiculous," she retorted, "if you take this too
seriously."

He exclaimed hotly: "I would not have had it happen for five hundred
pounds."

The opportunity was irresistible to murmur: "The moral obliquity of it
seems to have escaped you."

"What?  You laugh?  You sneer?  This is too much, too much."

"Much too much," Betty answered disdainfully. "I said I was sorry.
Well, I’m nothing of the kind—now.  I’m glad.  And I shall play again,
if I choose, and back horses, as I used to do, when I was a happy
sinner."

To this Archibald made no reply, and Betty told herself that she was a
shrew.  As the brougham stopped she said in a low voice: "Archie, I
apologise."

Her husband, in a voice colder than liquid air, replied: "I accept your
apology, Betty, but let me beg that nothing of this sort occurs again."



                            *CHAPTER XXXII*

                     *BETTY MAKES GOOD RESOLUTIONS*


During July a deanery in the West of England fell vacant and was offered
to Archibald Samphire.  Conquest, acting on a hint from Lord Vauxhall,
came post haste to Cadogan Place.  It happened that he was shown into
the drawing-room, and it also happened that on the balcony Betty sat in
a chair, fast asleep, with a dull novel on her lap. The balcony was a
pretty place, protected from the sun by a striped awning and filled with
palms and plants.

Conquest looked more enormous than usual in a light grey frock-coat,
open in front, revealing a vast extent of white waistcoat.  His eyes
sparkled keenly beneath the heavy black brows.  Archibald found himself
shirking these piercing eyes, as he explained that his library was
filled with a deputation of working men, from whom he had escaped with
difficulty. Conquest nodded impatiently as Archie’s polished periods
fell softly upon the air heavy with the heat of summer and the perfume
of many flowers.

"Yes, yes," he said; "I’m obliged.  I hate to be kept waiting.  About
this deanery—hey?"

"I am giving the matter earnest consideration."

"You can’t afford to take it," said Conquest abruptly.  "If you go
there, you’ll stay there, mark my words!  That’ll be the end of you.  I
told Vauxhall you’d too much common sense to chuck him.  If it were a
bishopric, of course, Vauxhall would not stand in the way.  I can’t pick
my words. And by this time you and I understand each other."

He spread out his broad, pudgy hands in a gesture familiar to Archibald.

"How did you hear?"

"It’s my business to hear things.  I’ve a hundred eyes and a thousand
ears.  Well?"

"It’s great preferment."

"You will be ’Mr. Dean’ of course.  But you’ll be out of sight and out
of mind.  How did you get this offer?  By being on the spot.  I’ll say a
word more, only you mustn’t give me away.  You met the Prime Minister at
Belgrave House the other day.  My friend, he had heard you preach a
certain sermon at Westchester, but, by gad! he’d forgotten you."

"Forgotten me?" exclaimed Archibald.  "Why, he came up as soon as the
ladies left the dining-room, and was most civil."

"He can be civil when he likes," said Conquest drily.  "All the same, he
had forgotten your name; he did not know what you were doing.  The
Duchess, who is a capital friend of yours and a good creature although
she does sniff, sang your praises for five minutes.  And that did the
trick.  Of course, he made inquiries; he satisfied himself that you are
a corking good worker and a discreet fellow, and all that, but, bless my
soul, aren’t there hundreds of such?  Lord—yes.  But they don’t dine at
Belgrave House.  Now, look here, I’ve no time to waste.  I came here to
do you a friendly turn.  You will gain far more than you will lose by
refusing this so-called preferment.  And I’ll see that your
self-sacrifice is duly recorded.  Trust me for that.  You think you’ve
made a mark.  So you have; so you have; but you must deepen the
impression.  You’ve a magnificent voice, but, man—it won’t carry four
hundred miles.  If you want it to be heard by the right people you must
preach in a London pulpit."

"My dear Conquest, I really——"

"Pooh, pooh!  You don’t like me the less because I talk straight when no
one is listening.  Now—stand and deliver a monosyllable.  Are you going
to chuck Vauxhall?  Yes—or No?"

"I have no intention of chucking Lord Vauxhall or anybody else."

"Right.  That means No.  Good-bye.  You’ll see a leader in next
Saturday’s _Mercury_ which will warm the cockles of your heart."

Before Archibald could reply, Conquest was out of the room.  For a big
man he could move—when he so chose—with amazing quickness and lightness.
He disappeared, leaving a vacuum which Betty filled.  As Archibald
turned, after ringing the bell for a servant to show out Conquest, he
saw his wife standing in the window, framed by the ferns and palms.

"Betty!" he exclaimed.

"Why didn’t you kick that—that beast downstairs? I heard what he said.
He insulted you. I was asleep outside.  His voice woke me.  For your
sake, not mine, I resisted the temptation to come forward, and—oh, I
could have flown at him!"

Her bosom heaved; her eyes sparkled.  Archibald stared at her dully,
wondering what words would meet this emergency.

"Have you nothing to say?" she cried.

"My dear," he said, "you do not understand."

"Then explain—explain!"

"Conquest means well.  He is our friend; a rough diamond, I grant you,
but he means well. He is our friend."

He repeated the words, sensible that they were inadequate, yet unable to
find others.

"Save us from such friends!"

"I had almost decided to send a refusal."

"Why—why, only last night you were on edge to accept.  You gave me a
dozen _pros_ against my two or three _cons_."

"And perhaps," said Archibald, in what Betty sometimes called his
"antiseptic" manner, "those _cons_ outweighed the _pros_, although
numerically less. Conquest takes your view of the matter.  He feels that
I have undertaken a task here in Chelsea, which cannot be abandoned.
He——"

"He tells you to _reculer pour mieux sauter_," said Betty derisively,
"to refuse a deanery and accept a bishopric later!  He—the apostle of
expediency, of diplomacy, of compromise!  Well—I do not judge him.  But
he counts you to be of his own opinion.  He brands you as a time-server,
a worldling, a parasite.  And you let him do it—and shake hands with
him!  And, on next Saturday—you will read a leader in the _Mercury_
which will warm the cockles of your heart."

"Protest would have been wasted," said Archibald. "If you will excuse
me, my dear, I will go downstairs.  The deputation is waiting for me."

"One moment," said Betty.  "I have something to say which must be
said—here and now.  Last night you spoke eloquently enough of that west
country and the life we might lead there.  And I—I," she faltered and
blushed, "I was not honest when I urged you to stay here.  I am drifting
into the old hateful whirlpool from which I thought I had escaped for
ever.  I pictured to myself life in a cathedral close—stagnant,
dun-coloured, full of uninteresting duties—and I recoiled from it.  I
smelled that old smell of cleaned gloves at all the parties.  I thought
of myself, not of you.  But now, I beseech you to consider what London
means to both of us—to you and to me.  And if Mr. Conquest is right, if
your sacred profession is a trade, if great success in it can be
achieved only by such self-advertisement as he thinks justifiable, is
such success worth having to a Christian gentleman?"

Archibald frowned.  Then, feeling that his powers of speech had returned
to him, he answered at length, citing certain prelates whose piety,
sincerity, and humility were above reproach.  Conquest took the
worldling’s view.  He was more than half pagan, and he posed openly as a
scoffer and a cynic.  Still, he was right in contending that the great
places in the Church’s gift were held by those whom a wide knowledge of
the world had equipped.  Such knowledge was not to be gleaned in a
cathedral close lying in the heart of a sleepy west country town.  He
hoped that his dearest Betty would not misunderstand him when he
confessed frankly that he did aspire to the highest positions, not for
what they might hold of honour or emolument, but for the power they
conferred of doing widespread good to others.  Warming to his theme, he
flooded Betty’s perplexed mind with scores of ready-made phrases—phrases
laboriously accumulated: stones, so to speak, with which he had
fortified his own position.

"Oh—I am muddled, muddled," said Betty.

"I have been muddled myself," her husband admitted. "Modern life must
perplex and distress the wisest.  And all of us at times feel a desire
to get out of the hurly-burly.  Shall I say that last night, feeling
worn out and discouraged, I did long for the quiet and peace of that
west-country deanery; but this morning—now," he expanded his chest, "I
am myself again."

He smiled assuringly and left the room.

When he had gone, Betty went back to the chair among the ferns and
palms.  She tried to go over what her husband had said, to look at the
matter fairly from his point of view.  But the effort was greater than
she could compass.  She felt as if she had been submerged in a torrent
of words, and of these words nothing was left—only a sense of desolation
and isolation.

When she saw Mark a few days later, the article in the _Mercury_ had
been published.  Conquest was given to boasting that he could "boom" an
author with such subtlety that none, not even the man himself, suspected
what was being done.  The readers of the _Mercury_ rose from the perusal
of the article in question convinced that a seasonable and well-deserved
tribute had been paid to a saintly and self-sacrificing preacher of
Christ’s gospel.  Archibald, reading it, was aware that his cheeks, as
also the cockles of his heart, were very warm indeed.  Betty did not
read the article.  Mark, however, was full of it, not knowing that
Conquest had written it.

"The truth is," he told Betty, "the truth is, Betty, that I did not like
his acceptance of the Basilica.  It bothered me a good deal.  Now this
proves plainly that Archie is above worldly considerations.  Not another
man of his age would have refused such an offer."

Betty asked for news of the _Songs_.

Of this Mark had nothing very encouraging to tell.  The book, handsomely
received by the Press, was in fair demand at the libraries, but less
than two thousand copies had been sold.  In America as yet it had not,
so Otway wrote, "caught on."  The new novel, _A Soul Errant_, was sure
to be a success. He talked with animation for half an hour, describing
his characters.

"You live for this," said Betty abruptly.

"Do you blame me," he answered quickly, "because I make the most of what
is left?"

"I beg your pardon," she replied.

Later, she inquired after Mary Dew.

"She’s having a better time of it," Mark declared. "I don’t mind telling
you, Betty, that I’ve tackled her mother.  I told her she was a
slave-owner, a despot, and a bully.  She took it like a lamb, and things
at Myrtle Cottage are easier, I can assure you."

"And Albert what’s-his-name, who is going to marry your paragon——"

"Albert Batley is making money.  He has a big building contract near
Surbiton.  He will give Honeydew all she wants, and deserves."

"You know nothing of women, Mark."

"So the critics say—confound ’em; but I tell you, Betty, I know a good
woman when I see her."

"There you are; displaying your ignorance.  You talk in that foolish
masculine manner of good women, as if good women were in a class by
themselves, and different from all others.  Why good and evil are such
relative terms that sometimes I can’t tell one from the other."

"Then you’re a miserable sinner, and blind to boot.  Good, the genuine
article, can never be mistaken for evil, although evil, I grant you, may
counterfeit good.  Bless me!  I’ve been puzzled a score of times by
sinners, but I never mistook a saint."

"How many have you met?"

"More than you think," he replied gravely.

"And where do you place me?  Among the sheep or the goats?"

Mark wondered why her lips trembled.  She looked tired and pale, much
paler than usual.

"What a question!" he said lightly.

"I’ll answer it myself, Mark.  I have an extraordinary appreciation of
good.  There are times when I have soared—yes, that’s the word—into
another world.  I had dreams, visions if you like, when I was a girl,
but the most vivid experience of the kind came upon me unexpectedly—in
Westchester Cathedral, upon the day Archie preached his sermon.  I
grasped Something that morning which cannot be described, but It was
real substance. I grasped It, and I let It go.  Since I have wondered
what It was.  Perhaps I—touched—God."

"Ah!" said Mark.  "Go on, go on!"

She saw that his eyes were shining, that the expression which she had
missed from his face since her marriage had come back.

"Go—on," she sighed.  "I am going back.  Can you help me?"

She turned to him with a pathetic gesture of entreaty.  The light faded
in Mark’s face.  He began to stammer.

"If I c-c-could——"

"You believed once.  And now your faith is gone!  Why?  How?  You _must_
tell me."

In her excitement she laid her hand upon his wrist, clutching it
fiercely.  He felt that her fingers were burning, that the fire in them
was fluid, that in another moment the flame would flare in him,
consuming them both.  He rose, releasing his wrist with violence.

"I c-c-can’t tell you that."  He moved half a dozen paces from her,
before he turned.  When he spoke again his voice was quite steady.
"Faith oozes from some people imperceptibly: there is a steady drain of
which they may be unaware, but my faith left me in an instant.  It may
come back as suddenly.  It may be redeemed.  I have thought sometimes
that faith is God’s franchise which is given freely to all, and taken
away from the unworthy.  And once taken away, it is never given again,
never.  It must be ransomed—paid for."

As he spoke he was aware that at any cost to his own feelings the talk
must be turned into safer channels.  His first impulse had been one of
unreasoning fear and horror.  When she touched him, he lost for a
terrible moment his self-control.  Love is a despot whose lightest word
may make the bravest coward.  Seeing her distress, hearing her quavering
voice, feeling her trembling fingers, he had divined his own weakness.

"Paid for?"  She echoed the words.  "How?"

"By sacrifice," he answered slowly.  "By blood sacrifice."


When he had gone, she went to her room and locked the door.  Alone, her
face flamed with anger against herself.  Had she betrayed her secret?
She could not answer the question.  Had he spoken coldly, precisely—on
purpose?  Nine women out of ten distrust a man’s works, and have absurd
and infantile faith in his words.  But Betty had had a surfeit of words
from her husband.  Of late, much of her leisure had been wasted in
trying to determine their value.  Archibald’s works were
self-explanatory.  He was indefatigable as parish priest and
philanthropist.  Such work could be measured; it lay within a circle,
say the inner circle of the Underground Railway.  But his sonorous
phrases, his dogmas and doctrines, were immeasurable: including this
world, past and present, and the world to come.  It was natural,
therefore, that finding herself compassless in a sea of sentences, she
would steer by the light of such fixed stars as frequent communions,
charity organisation, the visiting of the sick, and the crusade against
alcohol.  In a word, she had come to the conclusion that it did not
matter very much what a man said, but that what he did was vital to his
own welfare and the welfare of others, the true expression of his
character and temperament.  Whenever a woman touches the fringe of such
a commonplace, you may be sure that she will watch a man’s actions, the
more closely, perhaps, because she has become too heedless of his words.
Betty had seen Mark shrink with a violent effort from her touch; he had
kept out of Cadogan Place during the summer; he had lost faith in
revealed religion.  What if these effects were to be traced to one
cause—herself?

When she was able to think articulately, pleasure in her discovery was
obliterated by pain—the bitter pangs of retrospection.  Why had she
doubted him—and herself?  By what irony of fate had she given herself to
Archibald?  But almost instantly she curbed these unavailing regrets.
The past was irrevocable.  What did the future hold for Mark and for
her?  One thing was certain: they must meet but rarely, perhaps not at
all.

And then ensued a struggle, from which she emerged weak indeed, but
triumphant.  Once again she was conscious of that sense of detachment,
of looking in spirit upon the flesh; once again a strange giddiness
warned her that only in fancy had she attained to the heights, that the
cliffs were yet to be scaled.

When she met her husband that afternoon a closer observer than he might
have detected a tenderness in her voice and manner: the first-fruits of
a resolution to do her duty as wife to a good man.  That night, when she
said her prayers, she thanked God passionately, because she could esteem
and respect the Rector of St. Anne’s.



                            *CHAPTER XXXIII*

                             *ILLUMINATION*


In August the Archibald Samphires moved from Cadogan Place to a house on
the Embankment, which belonged to Lord Vauxhall, and was part of that
property which he was so anxious to populate with the "right kind of
people."  The house faced the Thames and contained some charming rooms,
which combined the quaintness and fine proportions of the old Chelsea
houses with such modern luxuries as electric light and radiators.  The
house in Cadogan Place had been papered and decorated by a former
tenant, whose taste was severely æsthetic. Betty abhorred the
olive-greens, the dingy browns, the sickly ochres of the Burne-Jones
school.  But she had accepted them philosophically, reflecting that
houses in London must be repapered and decorated more often than in the
country.  None the less, she sometimes told herself that certain fits of
depression were due to her bilious-coloured walls, and that Babbit’s
theories, as set forth by the Squire’s widow, were worth consideration.

Now she had been given a free hand, at a moment when fashion was
changing with Protean swiftness from darkness to light.  Rose-red and
yellow, delicate greens, ethereal blues, and white-enamelled woodwork
wooed the fancy of housewives.  Betty told Lady Randolph that she was no
longer a woman, but a colour scheme diffusing prismatic tints.

"The rainbow after the storm."

Betty glanced up quickly.  Did her old friend guess that she had passed
through a storm?  Or was it a happy allusion to that frightful
bistre-coloured paper in her bedroom in Cadogan Place?

"I shall be happy here," she said gravely.

They were standing in the drawing-room of the new house.  The Admiral’s
Chippendale furniture was in its place, delicately revealed against
lovely white panelling.  The walls were rose-coloured, of a paper whose
texture was as that of brocade.  The general effect was fresh and
joyous: vernal in the delicacy of its tints, without a hint of the
_bonbonnière_. Outside, the sun was declining in the west, and the river
ran all golden past the trees and meads of Battersea Park.  Some barges,
laden with hay, were gliding by on the ebb-tide.

"Archie’s room will be ready to-morrow," said Betty, "and we ought to be
in the day after.  You have all pitied me, but I have enjoyed the dead
season immensely."

Lady Randolph, who was passing through town on her way to Scotland from
Birr Wood, nodded understandingly.

"The room is just like you, Betty, and that is the prettiest compliment,
my dear, I have ever paid you. And I must say that the dead season has
agreed with you.  I never saw you look more alive."

"The fact is," said Betty seriously, "I have been setting more than one
house in order."

Lady Randolph smiled.  "I have seen—I have guessed——  Ah, well, we wives
try to remould our husbands, and the time is not wasted if we succeed in
remoulding ourselves.  My dear, I must fly.  Can I give you a lift?"

Betty said that much remained to be done, but after her friend had gone
she showed no inclination to set about doing it.  Instead, she sat by
the open window, gazing at the river flowing slowly and silently to the
sea.  Already she had come to regard this as the great waterway of her
thoughts.  She rejoiced because she was about to live upon its banks;
she recognised its suggestion and symbolism, its myriad beauties, its
mystery and power.

At this moment she was reflecting that the Thames was a source of
pleasure and profit to man, because man, as embodied by the Thames
Conservancy, controlled it.  When it burst its banks, the abomination of
desolation followed.  Without the innumerable dams and locks cribbing
and confining it, these splendid waters would be wasted.  Now they
percolated everywhere, into hundreds and thousands of homes.

Would it be so with her own life?  It ran in a channel other than the
one she would have chosen, had choice been given her; it was diverted to
uses she had not apprehended; it was likely to be diffused infinitely,
trickling here and there, instead of rushing free and untrammelled over
a course of its own making.  Since that memorable interview with Mark,
Betty had accepted the limitations which duty imposed.  She had not
shirked the trivial tasks of a parson’s wife, albeit she was tempted to
spend more time (and money) than was lawful in alluring shops.  She had
not seen Mark alone.  She had put from her comment and criticism of her
husband: striving to think of the strength that was in him rather than
the weakness.

Now she was aware that these efforts had not been made in vain.  Life
had become easier, happier, more profitable to herself and others.  She
dared to look forward, and refrained from looking back.

Presently she rose up, glanced, smiling, at the pretty room, and leaving
it reluctantly went downstairs.  Archibald was out of town for a few
days on duty in the Midlands, and by the morrow she hoped that all his
furniture would be moved.  Part had come from Cadogan Place that
afternoon, and, before returning home, she wished to see it placed in
the right room.  In the hall she met one of the servants, who was acting
as caretaker.  In answer to a question, the man said his master’s desk
had arrived in the van which was leaving.  Betty entered her husband’s
room trying to remember the exact spot where Archie wished his desk to
stand. It was an immense affair, with a fluted, revolving top, which,
when closed, locked itself and all drawers.  As she crossed the
threshold of the room, she remembered what Archibald had said. The desk
had been placed in the wrong position.

"Oh, Dibdin," she exclaimed, "that will never do.  Have the men gone?"

Dibdin said respectfully that the van was still at the door, but
suggested that the men should move the desk on the morrow.  Betty,
however, was anxious to see how it looked in the place her husband had
chosen.  So the men were summoned. Doubtless, they were tired, and
possibly sulky at being called as they were about to drive away.  The
desk was very heavy and awkward to move; it stood on a rug upon a
slippery parquet floor.  The men, using unnecessary violence, canted it
slightly forward.  In the effort to steady it, their feet slipped, the
desk fell forward with a crash, and burst open: the fluted lid flying
back, and the contents of a dozen pigeon-holes and drawers being
scattered over the floor.  However, upon examination it was found that
no damage had been done.  The desk was lifted and placed in the desired
position, and the men dismissed.  Dibdin looked so dismayed that Betty
laughed.

"Why, Dibdin, all’s well that ends well."

"Master is so particular about his desk," said Dibdin.  He had been with
Archibald before his marriage.  "He’d never allow me to touch his
papers."

"You shan’t touch them now," said Betty.  "I’ll arrange them, Dibdin,
before I go home."

Dibdin went out, leaving his mistress sitting on the floor surrounded by
notebooks, cheque-books, manuscripts, and all the accessories which
usually cover a busy man’s desk.  As she began to arrange these, she
reflected that the best-laid plans gang agley.  Archibald had insisted
upon locking up everything, and yet, despite precaution—his precious
desk had burst open.  What a lot of MMS. to be sure!  And she had not
the vaguest idea into what drawers and pigeon-holes they ought to go.
Archibald had a reasonable dislike of being disturbed when at work, and
when he was not at work the huge desk was always locked.

Betty recognised an enormous pile of papers as sermons.  Some were
typewritten, date and text being inscribed upon the outside.  Betty
touched them tenderly: her husband’s title-deeds, so to speak, to the
honour and respect she bore him.  Looking at them she blushed faintly,
thinking of the warmer sentiment they had provoked.  As she blushed her
glance fell upon the sermon she had just picked up.  This bore no text,
but across it, in Archibald’s handwriting, were two words: _Whit-Sunday,
Westchester_.

The words provoked a score of memories.  Once more she knelt in the
chancel of that splendid fane, hearing the flute-like notes of the boy;
once more she was conscious of being whirled aloft to ineffable heights.
Then she dropped to earth as suddenly, with a vivid realisation that if
this sermon had never been preached, she would not be here in this
house, the wife of the preacher.  With this reflection came a desire to
read the sermon.  She laid it aside, while she finished the work of
replacing the other MSS. Then she closed the desk, and discovered that
the lock was hampered.  She was wondering whether she ought to seal it,
when she remembered that it would be easy to lock up the room.  The
light was failing, yet the fancy took her that she would like to read
her husband’s sermon in her own room, overlooking the river as it flowed
to the sea.

She went upstairs carrying the MS. in her hand, and sat down.  The sun
was about to set; and the river ran red, no longer golden.  Shadows
obscured the city beyond.  A mist was stealing up from the east, and the
barges floating into it were swallowed up.

Betty unrolled the MS., spread it upon her knee, and began to read.  But
at the first glance she blinked, as if her eyesight were deceiving her.
Then with a muttered exclamation of surprise, she held the sheets of
blue foolscap to the light, and examined them attentively.  The MS.,
from beginning to end, was in Mark’s handwriting.  Here and there words
were interpolated or excised.  In the margin were her husband’s notes,
but the MS. was Mark’s.  What did it mean?

She read it through.  Yes: as it was written, so it had been preached,
and it had been written by Mark!

Why had she not guessed as much before?  She rolled up the MS., tied it
with the red tape which the orderly Archibald used, and went downstairs.
The only other sermon in Mark’s handwriting was the "Purity" sermon, but
many were covered with his notes.  Again and again a phrase remembered,
a thought treasured—because it revealed the man she had chosen as wise,
and noble, and good, and therefore justified that choice and silenced
any doubts she might have entertained regarding it—stood out as Mark’s.
Again and again she read some common-place, some compromise, some
paragraph which rang false, slashed by Mark’s red pencil.  Once or twice
she held up the sheets, examining closely the condemned passages;
smiling derisively as she perceived the violence of protest in the
broad, deeply indented excoriations.  Suddenly Dibdin appeared, bland
but surprised.

"Shall I bring a lamp, M’m?"

"Bring me a basket, Dibdin, and then whistle for a hansom."

She put the sermons into the basket and went back to Cadogan Place,
where a cold supper awaited her.  The footman told the cook that his
mistress had eaten nothing, but had called for a pint of champagne.  The
cook expressed an opinion that nothing in the world was so upsetting as
a "move"; which turned everything and everybody upside down, and
produced "squirmishy" feelings inside. Presently Betty’s maid went
upstairs, and returned with heightened colour.  Her mistress, so she
reported, was as cross as two sticks.

Betty, indeed, was pacing up and down her bedroom in a fever of
indecision and unrest.  The husband she had honoured was destroyed.  The
ghost of him inspired repugnance—a repugnance which found larger room in
the new house.  The pleasure she had taken in furnishing became pain,
inasmuch as not a chintz had been chosen without the reflection that she
was recovering what was dingy and discoloured in her life, substituting
for the old and worn the fresh and new.  And now, in the twinkling of an
eye, her good resolutions, her hopes and aims, her readjusted sense of
proportion—had vanished.  She was in the mood to set ablaze that dainty
room in which in fancy she had passed so many happy hours, to tear down
and destroy the tissues through which she had looked out upon a future
as rose-coloured as they.

She passed a sleepless night, got up feeling and looking wretched, gave
her servants certain hasty directions, and drove to Waterloo.  In her
hand she carried a small bag containing the Westchester and Windsor
sermons.

From Weybridge she walked to Myrtle Cottage, and the exercise brought
colour into her cheeks. She was sure that she would find Mark in the
shelter, so she approached it from the side of the grove, being
unwilling to face Mary’s clear and possibly curious eyes.

Mark was at his typewriting machine when she saw him, and as usual so
absorbed in his task that he never perceived her.  Betty reflected that
he could not have approached her without her being aware of it, but men
surely were fashioned out of clay other than what was used for women.

"Mark!"

He sprang up, with a startled exclamation, and came forwards, holding
out both hands.

"What has happened?"

As he spoke her indignation began to ooze from her.  Intuition told her
that the expression upon Mark’s face revealed intense sympathy.  Her
trouble, whatever it might be, had moved him to the core. Suddenly, a
light flickered out of the darkness. For the first time, she saw herself
and him alone together, shut off from the world.  It came upon her with
a shock that she was glad that Mark, not Archibald, had written the
sermon.  Only he, the lover of her girlish dreams, could have found the
words which had stirred her so profoundly.  Mark repeated the question,
"What has happened?"

"You wrote this?" she cried, holding out the Westchester sermon.

He nodded, realising the fatuity of denial.  For a moment they gazed
into each other’s eyes.  Then she said slowly—

"You wrote the ’Purity’ sermon?"

"M-m-m-most of it," he admitted reluctantly.

"You have helped him ever since?"

"I have revised some of his work."

"And I never guessed it," she exclaimed passionately. "If I had thought
for a moment I must have known that it was you—you—you, not him.  Oh, my
God, I shall go mad!  I married him because you—you had tricked him out
in a garment of righteousness!  Had you come forward at the eleventh
hour and spoken I should have thanked you and blessed you.  Why did you
hold your tongue—why—why—why?"

"I thought you l-l-loved him," he stammered.

"Loved him?"  The scorn in her voice thrilled his pulses.  "I loved what
he said, which was yours. Why did you not say it yourself?"

"Because," his infirmity gripped him, "I c-c-c-couldn’t."  Her face
softened, and the lines of her figure relaxed.

"It is my fault," she said, gazing at him through tears; "I ought to
have guessed."

"Betty"—he had recovered his self-control, now that she was in danger of
losing hers—"Betty, I have done you a wrong.  I withheld the truth,
because truth, faith, love had gone out of my life, blasted by—b-b-by——"

"By me?"

"No—n-n-no."

"By whom?"  He paused, and she continued vehemently: "Mark, I want the
truth.  Nothing else is possible between us.  What killed your faith?
You have never answered that question.  What changed you from the man
you were to the man you are?"

"Hate."

She recoiled at the grim word, recoiled, too, from the expression on his
face.

"You hated—your brother?"  The words fell from quivering lips.  He saw
that she was about to swoop on the truth he had hidden so long.  He was
impotent to avert discovery.  She came very slowly towards him, her eyes
fixed on his.  The expression in them bewildered him.  She raised both
her arms and laid her hands upon his shoulders.

"You hated him.  Then you loved—me."

"Always," he answered.  "To me you came out of Paradise, and brought the
best part of it with you."

"Say it again," she whispered.

"I loved you—always: as child, as boy, as man."

She smiled piteously.  "As child, as girl, as woman I have loved—you.
And yet loving me like that you could believe that I loved him.  Ah,
love is blind indeed."  She held him with her eyes and hands, speaking
softly and quickly: "And because you loved me you gave him what he
lacked.  That was like you.  But did it never strike you that I might
find out?"

"Not till too late.  Betty, I have behaved like a fool.  I gave him that
sermon which I would have given my right hand to preach.  But I had not
foreseen its effect.  Having given it, I could not take it back."  He
went on to describe his breakdown, the scene with Ross and the doctors,
the silence which he dared not break, his slow recovery, the renascence
of his hopes and their destruction.  A dozen times his stammer stopped
him, as many times he was made aware that this abhorred weakness bound
him the closer to the woman who loved him.  When he had finished his
story she looked up.

"What shall we do now?" she asked.

Above, the song of the pines rose and fell in melancholy cadence.  The
day was hot, and would become hotter, but here in this sylvan temple the
air flowed in cool and fragrant currents.  Mark was silent, reflecting
that always he had known this hour would come.  From the moment he had
read Archibald’s letter announcing his engagement, Destiny, with the
leer of some hideous gargoyle, had decreed that he should hate his
brother and love his brother’s wife.  Up to the present moment both
passions had been controlled and confined.  The unforeseen had turned
them loose.

"What shall we do now?"

She stood before him absorbed in the love which at last had found
expression.  What else the world might hold for her was not.

So standing, delicately flushed, but with eyes which neither faltered
nor fell beneath his, the daughter of Louise de Courcy awaited Mark’s
answer.

"You are my brother’s wife," he said slowly.

Betty shrugged her shoulders.  The gesture, almost piteous in its
shrinking protest, moved Mark more than any words she had spoken.

"If—if I asked you, you would come away with me?"

She nodded, meeting his passionate glance, facing, as he did, the issues
involved.  Her hands moved towards him—timidly, but with unmistakable
invitation.

"Betty," he cried, "Betty!"

"Ah! you want me.  You do want me—you do, you do!"

"Want you?" his voice broke.  Instantly she had seized his hands,
drawing him towards her. He held her firmly—at arm’s length.  In that
supreme moment he was perhaps stronger than he had been ever before,
inasmuch as the faith which once had fortified him was his no longer,
and yet without it, believing in nothing, holding in derision God’s law
and man’s, he resisted her, because he was counting the cost to her.
Then, reading his thought, she inclined her head, whispering, "If there
is a God, and if he bade me choose between life here with you and life
hereafter without you, not being allowed to have both—do you know what I
should say?"

"Do not say it," he entreated.  His face was so twisted by the
consciousness that he was taking advantage of her weakness that she
thought he was ill.  When he remained rigid, she added gently, "Let us
go to some place where my love shall make up to you for every pang you
have suffered."

"Stop!" he cried hoarsely.  "Apart from our love, you have not
considered what this means: to me, the man, nothing; to you the loss of
everything which women hold dear.  You must not decide
rashly—you—must—take—time."

She laughed derisively.

"I will take anything you like, so long as you take me."

He caught her to him, closing her mouth with kisses.



                            *CHAPTER XXXIV*

                            *CHARING CROSS*


Betty returned alone to London before mid-day. Mark decided to follow by
an afternoon train.  They had agreed to meet at Charing Cross, to cross
that night to Ostend.  Then, in some remote corner of the Ardennes, they
expected to make plans for the future.  The "move," as Betty had pointed
out, covered anything that might appear odd to the enlightened Dibdin.
Her divided household would understand that she was going to a friend’s
house for the few hours during which her own bedroom furniture was being
shifted.

Mark accompanied her to the station, returning home to pack a
portmanteau.  What doubts he had entertained were dispersed.  He swore
that he would look forward, never backward, and found himself whistling
as he climbed the hill to the cottage.

In the shelter, the first object that he saw was Betty’s handkerchief
lying in the corner of a chair. He picked up the small, square piece of
cambric and put it to his lips.  A faint essence reminded him that
fragrance had come again into his life.  Then he began to arrange his
papers.  When Mary came in to arrange the cloth for luncheon, he told
her that he was going away for a few days.  She expressed no surprise.
Why should she?  It lay on his tongue’s tip to say: "I have been
wretched: now I am going to be happy.  Let us shake hands!"  Watching
her moving here and there he was sensible of an impatience, an
irritability almost impossible to suppress.  Mary subtly conveyed an
impression of protest.  He told himself that this was absurd.  Suddenly
her eyes met his.

"What have I done?" she faltered.

"Why, nothing," he answered.

"You were staring at me so queerly," she answered.  "The business which
takes you away is pleasant, isn’t it?"

He smiled reassuringly.

"Connected with your work, I suppose?"

Her curiosity was natural.  He always spoke of his work to her.

"No," he said shortly.  "It is not.  I dare say you think that I could
not be really keen about anything or anybody outside of my work.  If I
told you——"

He closed his lips, wondering why the truth had so nearly leaked from
them.  His joy had expanded so quickly, that it exacted a larger
habitation.

"I have nothing to tell yet," he said confusedly, "but I may write; you
shall hear from me; I shall be frank—with you."

He fell into a reverie, as she left the shelter.  In a minute she
returned.

"There is a gentleman to see you, Mr. Samphire. Shall I bring him here?"

She handed him a card.  A cry escaped Mark’s lips.

"David!"

The card fell to the ground.  For the moment he felt as if some icy
finger had been laid upon his heart.  He had not seen David since the
Crask days. And he had told himself that this old friend had held
sorrowfully aloof, because he had divined that intercourse between the
faithful and the faithless, between Christian and pagan, would prove
(temporarily at least) inexpedient and abortive.

"Please ask his lordship to come here," he said, frowning.

Mary glanced at his face and withdrew.  Mark followed her with his eyes
as she crossed the pretty garden between the shelter and the cottage.
Not a cloud, he noted, obscured the soft azure of the skies; upon all
things lay the spell of summer.

"Why has he come?"

Instinctively he armed himself for conflict.  It was curious that he
associated the Highlander and his strange powers of second sight with
the quiet English Mary.  The impending fight would be two against one.
Good would side with good, although evil might array itself against
evil.

These thoughts flitted through his mind as David was advancing.  Mark,
summoning up a smile of welcome, met his friend, who smiled back,
extending both hands.

"Mark," he exclaimed, "I am glad to see you. Thank God, you’re well."

"And stronger than I ever was in my life," said Mark.  "You’ll lunch
with me, David.  I must go to town this afternoon, but we can have an
hour together."

"I must go to town too," replied David.  "You look a different man,
Mark."

"I am a different man."

David followed him into the shelter and sat down, with a puzzled glance
at his surroundings.  During luncheon both men were conscious of a new
and disagreeable sense of restraint.

"Have you another novel on the stocks?"

"Yes."

David jumped up, eager, vigorous, impetuous.

"I have come a long way out of my road to ask you a question."

"Ask it," said Mark.

"When are you coming back to us?"

"Can God only be served in cassock and surplice?"

"You evade my question," said David.  "Mark, I have had the feeling that
you were in trouble: ill, dying perhaps.  I—I had to come to you.  But I
find you a strong man, and "—he glanced round at the pleasant
garden—"and wasting time.  Don’t mistake me!  You have been working
hard, no doubt, but at work which others can do as well. You have
recovered your health and——"

"Go on."

"The work God intended you to do is being left undone," said David.
"Why?"

"If we are to remain friends, David, you had better not press this
question."

"If we are to remain friends, I must.  You have resigned a stupendous
responsibility—why?"

"Shall we say—incapacity to administer it?"

"Give me the true reason."

"Can’t you divine it?"

"I have divined it," said David, after a long pause. "You sneer at a
gift which is given to few; but you, of all men, ought to know that it
has been given to me.  And I have divined more.  I know that you are on
the edge of an abyss which may engulf you and another."

"You have divined that?"

The sneer had left him; amazement, incredulity took its place.  David
must have heard some idle rumour.  He asked him at once if it were not
so.

"I have heard nothing."

"On your oath?"

"Certainly—if you wish it."

Mark paced the length of the shelter; then he turned and approached
David, who was watching him.  When less than a yard separated them Mark
stood still and pulled his watch from his pocket.

"It is now two o’clock," he said.  "At half-past six this afternoon I
meet the woman I love and who loves me at Charing Cross.  To-night—we
leave England—together."

The relief of speech was immense, but with this, and dominating it, was
the fierce desire to confront David with the truth, to invite his
arguments, so as to trample on them.

David said hoarsely: "The woman is your brother’s wife.  You—you—Mark
Samphire, the man I thought so strong, will do this shameful thing?
_Impossible_!"

Mark laughed.

"I’m going to speak plainly, David.  For the first and last time I mean
to let myself r-r-rip!"  He drew in his breath sharply.  "You shall see
me as I am.  I appeal not to the Bishop, not to my old friend of the
Mission, but to a more merciful judge than either—a man of flesh and
blood."

He paused, frowning, trying to compose, to marshal his thoughts.  Then
he began quietly, exercising restraint at first, but using increasing
emphasis of word and intonation as he proceeded.

"You say it is impossible that Mark Samphire should do this thing.
Strange!  You have intelligence, sympathy, intuition.  Impossible!  Oh,
the parrot cry of the slave of convention and tradition, of the
worshipper of his own graven images, bowing down before them, unable to
look beyond the tiny circle wherein he moves and thinks. Impossible, you
say?  Impossible for Mark Samphire to run away with his brother’s wife!"

"Incredible then," Ross interrupted.

"Incredible.  It’s incredible you should use such a word with your
experience.  Can’t you realise that the same strength which made me
struggle up towards what you call good or God is driving me as
relentlessly down the other road?  I am not the Mark Samphire of the
Mission days, but the Mark Samphire who came from Ben Caryll knowing
that if he had met his brother alone upon that mountain he would have
killed him, or been killed by him. And having felt that, do you think I
would stick at running away with his wife?"

His tone was so bitterly contemptuous that Ross could only stammer out:
"I have never understood why such love as you bore him turned to such
hate."

"Let your God answer that question.  As man to man I swear to you that
my brother’s extraordinary success in everything we undertook together,
and my own failure, did not sour me.  I grudged him nothing—except her.
And I could have let her go to any other.  I tell you, David, I’ve been
tried too high.  The irony of fate has been too much for me. A time
comes to the stoutest runner when he falls. Then the fellows who have
been ambling along behind trot past blandly complacent.  They are not
first, but they are not last.  The man who might have been first is
last.  I fell at a fence too big for me—and I broke my neck.  We’ve said
enough, too much, about that, but the fact that I could love as few love
ought to be proof to you that my hate would be as strong."

Ross saw that he was trembling violently.

"If you had written to her——"

"If?  That ’if’ is crucifixion.  Yes; yes; if I had written one line,
whistled one note, held up one finger—she would have come to me.  But
then hope had scarcely budded.  My life was so pitiful, so frail a thing
to offer.  And, voluntarily, she had engaged herself to him.  He had won
her, as he had won everything else——"

"Fairly."

"No.  Not fairly."

Briefly, but in vehement words, Mark told the story of the sermons,
concluding with Betty’s discovery of the truth.

"And now," he demanded, stretching out his shaking hands, "do you see
the real Mark Samphire? Is your finger on the pulse of a poor wretch who
tried to do his duty and—here’s the rub, David—who was punished the more
heavily on that account?  If I had played the world’s game, Betty would
be my wife.  Archibald would be still minor canon of Westchester."

Ross took the outstretched hands.

"My poor Mark," he murmured.

"Thanks, David; but don’t pity me!  I envy no man living.  You have
listened to my story, patiently.  One thing more remains to be said.  If
Betty had not discovered the truth, I could have held aloof from her to
the end.  On her account, not because she was my brother’s wife, I
respected the law.  But now," his voice was triumphant, "she wants me.
Do you hear?  She wants me.  I’m necessary to her.  And because of that,
and for no baser reason, I am going to her—to-night."

Ross met his eyes.

"In a word," said he, "you refuse to protect the woman you love against
herself?"

"Once, I should have used that very phrase. What an ocean flows between
us, David!"

"In six months," continued Ross, "you and she will be tormented in a
hell of your own making. There are men and women, thousands of them, who
can steep themselves in the life of the senses.  You are not of them,
Mark, nor ever will be; nor is she."

Mark smiled derisively.

"She and I," he retorted, "are two of the myriad insects crawling upon
one of a million worlds. Something within both of us bids us make the
most of our hour.  We shall do so.  You mean well, David, but you rack
me—you rack me.  Go!"

"So be it," said David.

As he was turning, Mark clutched his sleeve.  An expression in David’s
eyes—the expression which refuses to acknowledge defeat, which indicates
unknown resources—alarmed him.

"You are not going to Archibald," he said hoarsely.

David’s face was twitching with emotion, but his voice was firm and
even.

"You must know where I am going," he said simply.  "I have
failed—through my own weakness—as I have failed before, as I shall fail
again and again, but I believe that He, whose help I am about to
implore, will not fail.  You will not leave England to-night."

When Mark looked up the speaker was gone.

During the next hour preparations for the journey occupied his
attention.  But after his portmanteau was strapped and a fly had been
ordered to take him to the station, nearly an hour remained.  Mark went
into the grove and flung himself at length upon the soft carpet woven by
the singing pines. He closed his eyes, invoking the alluring image of
Betty.  Instantly she came with outstretched hands and shining eyes, but
between them, a grim and sombre figure, knelt David Ross, his face
upturned in supplication.  Mark found himself straining his ears to
catch the words of the prayer, but they escaped, fleeting upward whither
he dared not follow them.

Presently he seemed to hear voices other than David’s, and like his
inarticulate, although familiar. In his room at the Mission he had often
listened to such voices.  What man of ethereal attributes has not?  But
since that night on Ben Caryll these sounds had ceased.

He told himself, irritably, that once again he had fallen a victim to
nervous imaginings, echoes of the material world rather than spiritual
communications. Barger had told him that it was easy—given certain
purely physical conditions—to hypnotise oneself, to sink into a
subconscious coma vibrant with sensations and sounds subject to
scientific analysis.  But even Barger had never denied the
transcendental gift of David Ross, even Barger believed firmly in the
Seer of Brahan, whose predictions concerning the Seaforth Mackenzies had
been verified so marvellously.

It was impossible to ignore the coincidence of David’s visits.  Twice
David had sought him out, when he was in sore straits.

At whose bidding?

The question could not be exorcised by sneer or sophism.  Mark had
compared himself to an insect, a metaphor used ten thousand times by the
agnostic school and properly, since none other is more expressive of the
insignificance and ephemeral nature of man’s body in relation to the
universe.  None the less Mark was aware that moral or spiritual facts,
as a writer puts it, have no relation whatever to physical size, and
that a man’s soul can no more be measured with a yardstick than the
cardinal virtues.

At whose bidding had David Ross been sent?


He travelled to London by a train which reached Waterloo just after
five.  As he neared the city his mood changed from one of doubt and
perplexity to reckless satisfaction.  The hansom which took him to
Charing Cross passed over Waterloo Bridge and down the Strand, always
crowded at that hour of the afternoon.  Twice the hansom was stopped by
the uplifted hand of a policeman.  Each time it drew up opposite a bar
to which thirsty souls were hurrying.  Mark’s ears could catch the sound
of ice tinkling in long tumblers.  Corks were popping intermittently.  A
woman’s laugh rang out above the buzz of innumerable voices.  Mark
stared at the faces of the foot-passengers.  Most of the men were
returning from work.  An air of relaxation informed them.  The day had
been insufferably hot, but now a breeze from the river was flooding the
streets, deliciously cool, astringent, tonic.

The hansom turned in at the station gates, and a moment later a porter
was asking Mark his destination. Mark gave the man instructions as he
handed the cabby a florin.

"Thank ye, sir.  ’Oliday times, sir."

"Yes," said Mark, smiling.  All round him were men and women,
hard-working Londoners, about to escape into the country or to the
seashore after a year’s unremitting grind.  The great summer exodus was
now at its height.  Some of the humbler folk carried articles wherewith
to beguile the leisure hours: musical instruments, shrimping-nets,
spades and buckets, telescopes, and the inevitable hamper of food.

Mark, with time to spare after he had made arrangements for a coupé to
Dover, caught the contagion of excitement and gaiety, and could enter
into the feelings of an octogenarian who was renewing his youth by
playing a penny whistle. Couples were numerous as birds in pairing-time.
Mark looked at these with sympathetic interest. They drifted by, pair
after pair, an eternal procession of Jacks and Jills.  It struck Mark,
not for the first time, that these couples were very youthful.  And he
felt that Betty and he shared their youth, that they had not waited too
long.  Presently a man of his own class approached, peering eagerly to
right and left, consulting first his watch, and then the great clock.
Mark watched him and followed him. The man was excited and nervous.
Suddenly his face brightened; he ran forward, with both hands extended.
"You have come at last," Mark heard him say.  A pretty girl, her face
suffused with blushes, murmured something, and the man answered
hoarsely, "If you had chucked me, I should have cut my throat."  Then
they passed, arm in arm, laughing and chattering, into the crowd and out
of sight.  Mark looked at his watch.  In less than ten minutes Betty
would be here; she also would blush and smile; her hand would be on his
arm; and together they would pass out of the noise and confusion into
sweet, secluded spaces beyond!

His train backed into the station, and passengers began to take their
places.  Mark made sure that his coupé was reserved for him, but he
would not allow the porter to put his traps into it.

"I am expecting a friend," he said; and the porter grinned.  He walked
back to the trysting-place under the clock, one of half a dozen who had
agreed to meet beneath it.  Overhead, the great dial recorded the flight
of time with inexorable, inhuman deliberation.  Mark was fascinated by
the minute hand, creeping on and on, nearing the appointed hour.  Betty
was running things rather fine, he reflected.  In less than seven
minutes the train would be despatched.

Five minutes more glided by.  The discordant noises of the station fell
like the boom of distant breakers upon an ear attuned to the sound of
one voice which out of all the voices in the universe was now mute.  The
porter approached, anxious and insistent.  Mark stammered out a score of
questions. The porter shook his head dismally.

"She must come," said Mark harshly.

As if in derisive answer, the locomotive of the train about to start
whistled.  Doors banged.  The long line of carriages began to move.

"’Ere she is," said the porter phlegmatically.

Mark turned with thrilling pulses.  A woman had rushed up to him, out of
breath and scarlet in the face.  That she had missed her train, and was
distressed inconceivably, no one could doubt; but she was not Betty.
Mark could have struck her.  She stared stupidly at the vanishing train.

"It’s gone," she said.

"Yes," said Mark grimly.

He turned from her to meet the inquisitive stare of a messenger boy.
The boy stared unblinking, and then said, "You’re Mr. Samphire?"

"Yes," said Mark.

"I’m to give you this."

He held out a letter.  Mark took it, broke the seal, and read it,
unmindful of porter and boy, who exchanged glances and winks; then he
turned to the porter.

"Put my things into a hansom," he said in a dull voice.

"Yes, sir," said the porter.

The boy took one more look at Mark.

"That was a knock-out," he murmured to himself, "a knock-out—sure!"



                             *CHAPTER XXXV*

                    *CHRYSOSTOM RETURNS TO CHELSEA*


Betty returned to Cadogan Place, conscious of an extraordinary buoyancy
of spirit, of a gaiety even which made her demure maid stare.  "Getting
out o’ this dirty old house makes you laugh, ma’am," she remarked.

"Yes," said Betty; "it makes me laugh."

When the maid left the room, Betty sat down by the window which
overlooked the gardens below, the gardens typical of such houses as the
one she was leaving—conventionally laid out, fenced with sharply pointed
iron palings, pleasure grounds wherein no person, out of their teens,
took any pleasure whatever.  Betty could see two children and a gaunt
governess walking primly along one of the broad well-swept paths.  One
child, a nice fat little girl, escaped from bondage, hiding behind a
bush.  Betty could hear the voice of the governess calling to her, and
then a sharp rebuke, as the truant came toddling back to the path.

"If my baby had lived——"

She put the baby out of her thoughts.  If it had lived, she and the
child might have remained inside iron palings.

Then, very deliberately, she faced the future.  Her money was settled on
herself.  Mark and she could live where they pleased, as they pleased.
If one place proved disagreeable they could move on and on; the world
was wide.

She smiled happily and contentedly.  Many women, at such a moment, would
have been distraught by anxiety and fear.  But Betty was gladder than
she had ever felt before.  Indeed, she was triumphant. She told herself
that every instinct she had tried to suppress was vindicated gloriously.
To such a proud, refined woman the memory that she had flung herself at
Mark’s head had been always a dire humiliation, the more so because she
had never measured the width and depth of his feeling for her. She
repeated the phrase, "He has always loved me," again and again, letting
the sweetness of it linger upon her lips.

The inevitable sacrifice—the fact which Mark plainly pointed out that
she, the woman, had more to lose than the man—was acclaimed.  Hitherto,
love—whether love of niece for uncle, of friend for friend, of wife for
husband—had exacted nothing from her.  She had been extremely generous
with her money, giving away far more than the tithe. But the signing of
cheques had not included one genuine act of self-denial on her part.
Whatever she had done had been accomplished without effort, without
pain.

Her thoughts turned from herself to Mark. Immediately the smile faded
from her face.

How cruelly he had suffered!  And with what a pleasant smile, with how
gay a laugh he had confronted ill-health, ill-fortune, and
disappointment!

"I shall be so good to him," she swore beneath her breath.  "I shall
make it up to him—and I know how to do it."

Here, again, what had gone before might be reckoned as fuel for the
feeding of love’s flames. She was no green girl, but a woman who
understood men, who could speak the right word at the right time, and
had learned to hold her tongue.

"We shall be the happiest pair in the world."

Presently her eye fell upon the small bag she had carried to Weybridge.
In it were the two sermons. She rose from her chair, hesitated a moment,
and opened the bag.  The sermons, she decided, must be locked up in one
of the trunks she was leaving behind.  The first sermon she had read the
night before, but the second she had not read.

She looked at her watch.  Then she picked up the Windsor sermon, and sat
down to read it, because, reading it, she would hear not Archibald’s
voice, but Mark’s.

The text met her eyes.  _Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall
see God_.

She read no further.  The MS. fell from her fingers, and rolled upon the
carpet.  Betty did not see it, because she saw nothing.  The familiar
room, the gardens below, the great city beyond, faded from her vision.
Darkness encompassed her.  And out of the darkness, like the writing
upon the wall of Belshazzar’s palace in Babylon, flared the words of the
text.


Suddenly, with a violence of contrast which convulsed her, the darkness
was dispelled, and she saw, even as Saul of Tarsus saw, a great light.
If she read Mark’s sermon, if she listened to the pleading voice of the
priest, she would fail to keep tryst with the man, not because she
feared for herself, but because this question could not be evaded: "Will
my impurity prove a curse to him?"

Bending down, she picked up the sheaf of papers, and thrust them
fiercely into the trunk, which stood open near the window.  Then she
sank back into the chair, covering her face with her hands....

So sitting, she was transported to the ancient, banner-hung chapel,
wherein her husband had preached before his sovereign.  But in the
pulpit stood Mark, not his brother, and Mark as she remembered him long
ago, the Mark of King’s Charteris days, thin, pale, strong only in
spirit; yet how strong, how valiant in that!

But he was mute, save for the pleading of the eloquent eyes.  Beneath
the spell of these Betty rose once more, and stood beside the trunk,
staring into it.

Thus standing, she heard the clock in the tower of St. Anne’s strike
four.  At that moment David Ross was praying for her and Mark, praying
and believing that his prayer would be answered.

Betty picked up the MS., locked the door, fell on her knees, and read
the sermon through.


She was still kneeling when the clock struck five. One hour had passed.
Mark was nearing Charing Cross.  She rose from her knees, and sat down
to write a letter: an intolerably difficult task, which must be
accomplished in a few minutes.  She stared dully at the blank sheet of
paper in front of her; then she wrote:—


"I have read your sermon, the one preached at Windsor. Because of that I
cannot come to you, and I entreat you not to come to me.  Mark, my best
beloved, I tempted you.  May God forgive me!  And I know—I _know_, I
say—that He has stretched forth His hand to save us.  And He willed that
your words—what is best in you—the greatest thing you ever did—should
stand between us.  I cannot lower the Mark who wrote that sermon to my
level.  Oh, Mark, will you curse me as faithless?  Or will you know that
it is not my wretched soul I seek to save, but yours—yours.

"As soon as this is sent off I shall go to a friend’s till Archibald
returns.  I must tell him the truth."


Archibald Samphire returned from the Midlands to find a new house set in
order and his wife awaiting him.  He advanced to greet her with a warm
word of affection and congratulation.  But she held up her hand, and
before the distress in her eyes he recoiled, astonished and dismayed.

Although Betty knew that the lapse from honour involved in preaching
another’s sermon was as nothing compared with the sin she had
contemplated, still she felt that the charge against her husband must be
dealt with first.  In a few words she told him of the breaking open of
his desk and the discovery of Mark’s MSS.  He exhibited no confusion,
but his expression changed and in a manner so amazing that Betty let
fall a sharp exclamation.

"I am glad you know," he said simply.

His voice, his face, his fine massive figure expressed relief.  She
repeated his words:

"You are glad that I know?"

She had made sure that he would excuse himself blandly, with dignity,
looking down upon her; and she had told herself that his carefully
chosen words would flood her with contempt, the stronger because her own
speech would prove halting and unrestrained.

"Yes, yes.  I was a coward.  I meant to tell you: I swear it, but I
couldn’t."  Then he repeated the phrase he had used to Mark: "God knows
it has been a secret sore."

"Why couldn’t you tell me?" she asked.

"Because the right moment for doing so slipped by me."

"You married me under false pretences."

"Eh?"

"You wooed me with Mark’s words."

"Wooed you with—Mark’s—words?  I can’t follow you."

And here he stated a fact.  He had neither the ability nor the intuition
to follow a woman down the tortuous path of her feelings and
aspirations.  But at this moment he became aware that something dreadful
remained to be said.  Betty’s pale, haggard face, her trembling fingers,
her panting bosom, revealed an agitation which communicated itself to
him.  Let us be fair to a man with inexorable limitations.  He had
always believed that Betty married him for love.  And he too had married
for love—and other things which he valued; but the other things without
love would not have tempted him to a mere marriage of convenience.  And
marriage with Betty had seemed at the time and afterwards the one thing
needful: rounding a life too square, lending colour and sparkle to a
profession whose habit is sable.  If at times he had been vouchsafed a
glimpse of barriers between his wife and himself, he attributed these to
difference of sex.  But till this minute he had believed her love as
much an inalienable possession as his name.  There was no love in the
face half turned from his.

"You can’t follow me," she repeated slowly. "That is true enough.  Years
ago, when we were children—babies—I loved Mark, and he loved me."

"Paul and Virginia!"

"Yes, yes, Paul and Virginia."

"We all knew that.  At one time I thought you would marry Mark."

"He never asked me," she replied, with blazing cheeks.  "If he had, I
should have married him, sick or well.  I supposed that he didn’t want
me."

"Why, so did I."

She met his eyes fiercely.

"You swear that?"

"Certainly.  Great heavens!  You don’t think that if I had thought
otherwise I should have tried to supplant him.  He went away and left
the field open to all comers—Jim Corrance, Harry Kirtling—and me."

"I have done you an injustice," Betty faltered.

At this Archibald’s sense of what was fitting asserted itself.  "Come,
come," he said, "I regret profoundly that I did not frankly avow those
two sermons to be Mark’s.  I do not expect you to forgive me in a
minute, but you are generous, sensible, and my wife.  We must take up
our lives where we left them less than a week ago."

"That is impossible," said Betty.

She felt a great pity for him.  The blow must fall with hideous
violence, shattering the man’s just pride in what he had accomplished.
His extraordinary success seemed of a sudden to be transformed into an
immense bubble about to be pricked by a word.

And when the word was spoken, when he knew everything, Betty saw what
Mark had seen upon the night that the baby was born—the collapse of a
personality.  The big man who was to fill Lord Vauxhall’s Basilica
dwindled into a boy with the puzzled, wondering eyes of youth confronted
for the first time with what it cannot understand. Betty felt old enough
to be his mother, when he stammered out: "You—_you_ have done this
thing?"

"I might have done it," she answered gently.

He broke down.

"I have lost my brother and my wife," he groaned. "my brother and my
wife."

Instantly Betty realised what Mark had always known—the weakness of the
colossus.  And this knowledge that she was the stronger took the chill
from her heart, restoring magically her moral circulation.  Looking at
him, she wondered how she could have blinded herself to his true
proportions. She had deemed him a Titan!

"What are you going to do?" he asked presently.

"That is for you to say.  If you choose to put me from you——"

He interrupted her.

"You would go to him."

"No."

He rose up and began to pace the room, glancing furtively at his wife,
who never moved.  Suddenly, seizing her arm, and speaking in a loud,
trembling voice, he exclaimed: "Mark is dead—you understand that?  Say
it; say it!"

"Mark is dead," she repeated sombrely.



                            *CHAPTER XXXVI*

                               *FENELLA*


Mark went abroad immediately after the events narrated in the last
chapter, and remained abroad for many months, trying to drown
recollection of Betty in printer’s ink.  By a tremendous effort of will
and unremitting grind he nearly succeeded, but at times he could see
nothing save her face, hear nothing save her voice, feel nothing save
the touch of her lips upon his.  After these visitations he was beset by
a Comus’ crew of spectres: the innumerable disappointments of his life:
_toute l’amertume et tout le déboire de mille événements fâcheux_.

However, Compensation ordained that his _Songs of the Angels_ should
please a certain section of the American public, and a substantial
cheque crossed the Atlantic in a letter from Cyrus Otway, who asked for
another novel.  Mark had learned to use his pen (as Conquest once put
it); but recognition—the acclaim of the multitude—seemed indefinitely
remote.  _A Soul Errant_ appeared, and was pronounced by reviewers an
admirable piece of work, but its sales were limited to a few thousand
copies.

From George Samphire, Mark learned that Archibald and Betty had
entertained royalty upon the occasion when the first service was held in
the Basilica.  Tommy Greatorex wrote: "Your big brother is booming
Vauxhall’s new neighbourhood, and no mistake!"  From Betty herself came
no word whatever.  Archibald, so Mark told himself, had forgiven her,
determined to preserve appearances, to keep the wife with wealth and
beauty, to guard her zealously from the man who had tried to deprive him
of so valuable a possession.  Once again, hatred of Archibald consumed
him.  In his heart he knew that Betty was pining for one line—the
generous "I forgive you.  I understand."  But these words he could not
write.  He believed that she had failed him, that she had lacked
courage, and lacking it, had grasped the first excuse pat to lip and
hand.  It seemed incredible that a sermon should stand between a woman
and the man she loved.  Curiously enough, he could not recall a line of
this sermon thrown off, as it had been, in a brief fever of excitement
and enthusiasm.  Again and again, he repeated to himself the beatitude,
and wondered what he had found to say about it.


On his return to England he moved from Weybridge to Hampstead, where
another shelter was built in a small garden overlooking the Heath.

Meantime, Mary Dew had married Albert Batley, and when Mark paid her a
brief visit he found the bride beaming, obviously content with her lot,
and very proud of her husband’s success as a contractor. Mrs. Dew
explained matters:

"You see, Mr. Samphire, it’s like this: Albert Batley just worships
Mary, and she makes him very comfortable.  Tasty meals go a long way
with men who have a living to earn in this cruel, hard world."

Just as he was leaving Mary said shyly: "I hope, Mr. Samphire, we shall
hear of your getting married. If ever a gentleman wanted a wife to look
after him, you are he."

Mark laughed; then he replied in his easy, genial way: "Yes, yes; if you
had a twin sister, Honeydew, I should ask her to live up a tree with
me."

Alone at Hampstead, he wondered whether a wife was waiting for him
somewhere: a kind, sweet creature, who would teach him to forget.  Drax
had told him that, humanly speaking, he was now free from that insidious
disease which spares so few of its victims.  With care he might live out
his three-score years and ten; he could marry—if he so pleased.  And for
the first time since his father’s death, a balance, steadily increasing,
lay at his bankers.


About midsummer he began his first play—a comedy, which had been
simmering in his brain for many months.  He showed the scenario to
Greatorex, who was not encouraging.

"You’ve immense difficulties ahead of you.  Your unknown playwright must
write his play for one actor-manager, whose ability it illumines" (Tommy
was quoting from an article of his on the modern drama), "and whose
weakness it obscures.  And your moral purpose must be disguised, so as
to give the dramatic critic a chance to discover it.  Personally,
there’s nothing I enjoy so much as discovering in a play something which
the author never thought of.  Now, then, having written your play, you
must persuade your actor-manager to spend some thousands in producing it
adequately.  All said and done, I’d stick to novels, if I were you."

"I must write this play," said Mark.

He wrote it and rewrote it.  Then he read it aloud to Greatorex, who
pointed out many technical blunders.  Not till the play was actable in
every detail would Tommy pass it as fit to be sent the rounds.

And then followed interminable, heartbreaking delays and
disappointments.  Actors and actresses, with rare exceptions, keep plays
for months without reading them, answer no letters, and unhesitatingly
break all promises unprotected by iron-clad contracts. Finally, the
comedy, returned for the sixth time, was flung by Mark into a drawer and
forgotten.

Next summer Mark read in his morning paper the announcement of a son
born to Archibald. A son!  It was enough that the fellow should desire
anything, anything, for the object to fall into his grasp!  Then, in a
passionate revulsion of feeling, wondering how Betty fared, he hastened
to Chelsea and furtively interviewed Dibdin, who assured him that his
mistress was doing not only as well as, but better than, the doctor
expected.  Mark gave Dibdin a sovereign and instructions to report once
a day by letter for three weeks.  Dibdin, an old friend and as discreet
as an archbishop, promised to write, volunteering the information that
the baby was an "uncommon fine boy, a Samphire every inch of him."  From
Jim Corrance, later, Mark learned that Betty was likely to prove an
adoring mother.  Jim had seen her with the urchin.  "She has changed,"
he told Mark, in his blunt fashion.  "It’s natural, I suppose; one
couldn’t wish for anything else; but the Betty of King’s Charteris is
out of sight.  As for Archie—he looks patriarchal."

If Jim wondered why Mark never entered his brother’s house, he was too
shrewd to ask questions. Perhaps he guessed more or less accurately at
the truth.  A score of times, Mark was tempted to take his arm and tell
his old friend everything.  Betty, however, could not be betrayed; and
speech with reserves, with abysmal silences, would avail nothing. But if
he could have unburdened his soul, what a relief, what a balm it would
have proved!

After writing some pot-boiling short stories and articles, he plunged
into a second play, a tragedy, dealing with the inevitable surrender of
woman to tradition and convention.  In accordance with Tommy Greatorex’s
advice, this play was built up for Mrs. Perowne, an English
actress-manager, who had recently returned from an enormously successful
tour in the United States and Australia.  Mark went to see her act again
and again, fascinated by her methods, which were those of Duse, and by
her vivid and extraordinary beauty.  She had red hair, a milk-white
skin, a Spanish cast of features, the spirits and inconsequence of a
child, and amazing physical and intellectual activity.  Mr. Perowne, an
American, had divorced her after a very stormy year of marriage.  Since,
he had died.

This second play, _Fenella_, was written in a spirit compounded of
recklessness and patience.  Mark was reckless inasmuch as his money was
nearly gone; patient, because the artist within him told him that he
must make haste slowly.  But at the back of this supreme endeavour,
ever-increasing and all-absorbing, was the determination to achieve a
success which would surpass that of his brother.  Archibald and he never
met, for Mark saw none of his old friends save Pynsent and Jim Corrance,
but Archibald’s name and fame were for ever in his ears.  A great
reputation is hard to make in England, or elsewhere, but once made it is
easily sustained.  The Basilica was crowded every Sunday morning.  Mark
slipped in one day, wondering what sort of fare would be provided.  He
found it nicely flavoured to the palate of the town.  Jim Corrance
growled out, "Archie gives ’em easily digested food.  Of course he
hasn’t time to prepare such sermons as that Westchester one.  He’s up to
his eyes in parochial work.  That’s what makes bishops nowadays."

Mark saw Betty in her pew without being seen by her.  She looked pale
and thin, but not unhappy.

After the visit to the Basilica Mark worked even harder than before,
although he worked in the open air, and with due regard for his health.
If that failed again, he was conscious that he would be bankrupt indeed.
Accordingly, he lived a life of Spartan simplicity, and played golf
regularly with Jim or Tommy Greatorex.  But _Fenella_ obsessed him.  He
told Jim that he was glad the comedy had not been produced, because
_Fenella_ was stronger and better written.  Tommy growled out protests
and warnings: "_Fenella_, whose acquaintance I’m anxious to make, may
prove an ungrateful hussy. For Heaven’s sake don’t pin your hopes to her
petticoat!"

When the fourth act was nearly finished, Sybil Perowne appeared in a new
play, an adaptation of a French drama, which had enjoyed a _succès fou_
in Paris.  Mark and Tommy went to see it and found an audience cold and
indifferent.  As they came out of the theatre, Mark heard a stout
dowager whisper to her daughter, "My dear, I don’t know what it means,
but it’s taken away my appetite for supper."

"There you are," said Tommy.  "Beware, Mark, of tampering with the
British playgoer’s appetite for supper.  This thing is too sad.  It
won’t go.  Ah, well, the shrewdest managers make abominable mistakes,
and the most successful is the fellow who makes least."

"_Fenella_ is sadder than this."

"Um!" said Tommy.  "Sorry to hear that, my boy."

But when the tragedy was read aloud, Greatorex professed himself amazed.
He jumped up excitedly.

"I believe you’ve found yourself, ’pon my soul! And Sybil is mad keen
for a new play.  Hullo! Phew-w-w!"

Mark had fainted.

When he came to himself he admitted that he had been unable to sleep for
several nights.  Tommy talked like a sage, advising moderation, but
knowing—none better—that _Fenella_ could never have been born without
pangs.  With his sense of the dramatic he perceived that Mark in his
present condition would be likely to impress the actress, herself highly
strung and emotional.  The good fellow took pains to arrange an
interview, obtaining permission to call and bring a friend.

"I’ve cracked you up as the coming novelist, who’s dying to make her
acquaintance.  I said in a postscript that you raved about her."

"She is magnificent," said Mark.

"She never reads plays.  But you must corner her.  Spar free!  I tell
you frankly she’s a slippery one.  I was her Press agent for a season.
If possible, I want her to hear all about her part before she hands the
play on to that scoundrel Gonzales."

Gonzales was Mrs. Perowne’s manager.  Mark frowned when his name was
mentioned.  He had heard of Gonzales.

Mrs. Perowne made the appointment for three. At two Mark met Greatorex
in his rooms.  Tommy was in his oldest clothes and hard at work.

"I’m not coming," he announced.  "Never meant to, either.  Why, man, I
should wreck your chance. Here’s a letter with a gilt-edged lie in it.
Have you the play?  Yes.  Now, look here; leave it in the hall with your
overcoat.  Persuade her, if you can, to listen to the last scene of the
third act.  Don’t leave the house without giving her some of it, if you
have to force it down her throat.  She’ll respect your determination.
Report here."

"I c-c-can’t r-r-read it," stammered Mark.

Tommy hit his desk so hard with his fist that the ink bespattered it.

"Mark," he said solemnly, "I am counting on your making an exhibition of
yourself.  Be sure to stammer, burst a blood-vessel, faint, have a fit,
but stick to your job.  Now—go!"

Mark was pushed out of the room by his friend. When the door slammed
behind him Greatorex burst out laughing.  "He won’t stammer now, and
he’ll read his play."

Mark was shown by an irreproachable butler into a small room hung with
silk and filled with Japanese furniture.  The dominant note was the
grotesque if not the monstrous.  Everything—from the embroideries on the
walls to the tiny carved figures in the cabinets—indicated the cult of
deformity.

He was examining a bit of enamel when Mrs. Perowne came in, holding out
both hands.

"Tommy’s friends are always welcome here," she said graciously.  "That’s
a nice bit—isn’t it?  It’s not Japanese at all, but Byzantine, as I dare
say you know."

Mark confessed that he knew nothing of enamels. He sat down, glancing at
his hostess, who was not unconscious of his scrutiny and surprise.
Always, men meeting her for the first time off the stage were amazed at
her appearance of youth.  She braved the light from the window with
impunity.  Hair, complexion, eyes might have belonged to a maiden of
twenty.  But the mouth—her most remarkable feature—betrayed the woman of
maturity.  It was large, finely curved, and mobile.  Her eyes were of a
rich chestnut tint.

"You want to tell me about a play?" she said, with a low laugh.

"How did you d-d-divine that?"

"The expression of a man who has written a play is unmistakable.  Well,
I am in a charming humour this afternoon.  What is the play about?  _À
propos_—are you the famous Mr. Samphire’s brother?"

Unconsciously Mark winced.

"Yes," he said shortly.

"Tell me about your play."

"I c-c-can’t," he said.  For a moment he hesitated, feeling the lump
rising in his throat; then some emanation from the woman opposite—a
sense of sympathy—restored his confidence.  His face—so plain when
troubled—broke into a smile.  "It’s like this," he continued: "I hate to
give you a synopsis of it.  L-l-let me read a scene or two.  You can
make up your mind in a jiffy whether it pleases you or not; and if it
doesn’t, I’ll go at a nod from you."

"But I never listen to plays.  Surely that wretch, Tommy, told you.  I
talk them over before they’re written.  I’ve got someone coming in
three-quarters of an hour to talk over an unwritten play.  The hundreds
which are sent to me to read are always passed on to Alfred Gonzales."

Mark felt his confidence oozing from every pore. In another minute his
hostess would be bored.  At this ignominious probability his fighting
instincts asserted themselves.

"I wrote this play for you," he said slowly.  "I can’t see another woman
in it at all.  And somehow,"—he stretched out his lean, finely formed
hands with a dramatic gesture—"somehow I seem to have gripped you,
elusive though you are.  Tommy says you’re a good sort.  Be good to
me—for ten minutes. The play’s downstairs in the hall.  Let me fetch it.
Shall I?"

"Yes—fetch it."

He ran like a boy from the room.  Mrs. Perowne got up, glanced at
herself in a small mirror, and sat down in the seat which Mark had just
left.  The change was not without significance.  Before, she had wished
to be seen; now she wished to see. When Mark came back she said quietly:
"Begin at the beginning."

At that moment Mark felt once more the accursed lump in his throat.  His
face contracted.  The woman closely watching him rose and laid her hand
upon his shoulder.

"You have an impediment of speech," she whispered. "Take your time.  You
have interested me. I like men who surmount obstacles.  I’ll sit here
till you can read your play.  I’m going to mix two tiny cocktails,
Martigny cocktails: mild as Mary’s little lamb."

When she came back Mark was at his ease; she had ceased to be a
stranger.  He drank the cocktail, and began the first act.  Mrs. Perowne
lay back in her chair, watching him with half-closed eyes.  She never
moved, absorbing in silence every word and intonation.  When Mark had
finished, she nodded gaily.

"The first act is capital.  When will you come and read the others?"

"At any hour you choose—day or night."

"To-morrow at twelve then.  You must stay to luncheon afterwards."



                            *CHAPTER XXXVII*

                         *POPPY AND MANDRAGORA*


Half an hour later Mark was describing what had passed to Greatorex, who
listened with an odd smile upon his ugly, intelligent face: the smile
which is typical of so much that is left unsaid, the smile of a
knowledge and an experience which cannot be imparted.  Greatorex had
appetite for such food as Mark was giving him, and he demanded every
crumb.  While Mark was speaking the journalist smoked.  The smoke
ascended in fragrant clouds, melting into the thickening atmosphere of
the room.  It struck Greatorex, not for the first time, that the reek of
good tobacco manifested all the things for which men strive and to which
it would seem to be predestined that they should not attain.  Greatorex
asked himself what life would be without the fragrance of hopes and
ambitions which float from us and vanish.  And how stale, how offensive
their odour becomes unless the windows of the mind be flung wide open!

"Mark," he said, dropping the end of his cigarette, "you are desperately
keen on this?"

He meant his words to be taken as affirmation or interrogation,
according to Mark’s mood.  He never invited confidences withheld.

"Yes," Mark replied.

"Why?"

When the eyes of the two men countered, a third person would have
remarked in them an extraordinary difference in colour and quality.
Greatorex had the onyx eyes of a gipsy, bright yet obscured by
mysterious flickering tints, the eyes which conceal and so seldom reveal
the thoughts behind them. Mark’s blue eyes had that candid expression
which pertains to children’s eyes.

"Why?"  Mark repeated the pregnant word.  "I think you know why.  I have
failed in everything I have undertaken.  I have pursued success as if it
were a will-o’-the-wisp——"

"Which it is——"

"And if once I could hold it in my hand, if I could say to myself, I
have it—it is mine—why then——"

He paused.

"You care so much for fame—you?"

"I ask for recognition, not because recognition is in itself a hall mark
of success, but because without it labour would seem to be wasted.  What
is the use of a great poem, a great book, which remains unread?  A
gospel is no gospel until it is preached to thousands."

"Don’t set your heart on this play being produced!"

"I _have_ set my heart on that, Tommy."

"If Sybil takes a fancy to you——" he paused.

Mark’s ingenuous stare was disconcerting.  He continued lightly: "I warn
you that she may like you better than _Fenella_.  It would not surprise
me if she liked you rather too well."

"Don’t be a fool," said Mark angrily.

"If I could only be a fool," Greatorex murmured. "Depend upon it fools
have the best of it.  And they live, some of ’em, in the only paradise
to be found on this planet.  Well, I have spoken, I have warned you."

Upon the following day Mark returned at the hour appointed to Mrs.
Perowne’s flat.  The butler, impassive as the Sphinx, showed him into
the same room with its curious atmosphere of the East.  In a few minutes
the actress appeared in a _kimono_ of some silvery tissue embroidered in
gold, with her hair done _à la Japonaise_, and embellished with barbaric
ornaments.  Clad in this she became a part, and the greatest part, of
the room.  Looking at her, Mark felt ill at ease in his blue serge suit.
At the same time he tried to measure the difference between the woman in
the _kimono_ and all other women whom he had known.  Mrs. Perowne
smiled, reading his thoughts.

"I am quite, quite different to all the others," she said softly.  "I
ought to have lived in the days of Herod Antipas."

When she spoke of Herod, Mark remembered that she had Jewish blood in
her veins.  Her father had been a well-known English picture-dealer; her
mother, a famous dancer, a Spanish Moor.  Her Moorish ancestors, of whom
the actress boasted, were Jews to the marrow, although living in Spain,
outwardly subject to the faith of most Catholic monarchs.  For
generations these people had lived and died incomparable actors,
sustaining from the cradle to the grave a rôle above which glittered the
knives of the Inquisition.  Mark began to understand that the woman
smiling at him was natural, most true to herself, when playing a
part—and yet beneath a thousand disguises throbbed the heart of the
Jewess, the child of all countries and of none.

Mark read his play.

As he read it, he realised how poor an instrument lay in his throat.  He
was hoarse from a neglected cold, and his voice, though flexible,
betrayed the effort made to control it.  But the stammer spared him.  To
Sybil Perowne, familiar with and therefore slightly contemptuous of the
arts of the elocutionist, this rough, uneven inflection and articulation
had something of the charm of a disused viol or harpsichord, whose
frayed, worn strings still hold jangled echoes of cadences melodic and
harmonious long ago.  She had the perceptions of the artist, and that
feeling for art which is partly a gift and partly the result of patient
training.  Her perceptions enabled her to see Mark Samphire as he was,
the man who had fought against odds; her feeling for art approved his
work as the epitome and expression of that fight dramatically set forth
in admirable English. At the end of the second act the reader looked up
for a word of approval: "Go on!" she said.  The climax of the third act
provoked an exclamation at Mark’s physical distress.  She brought him a
glass of champagne and insisted upon his drinking it.  But he saw that
her eyes were shining.  He plunged into the fourth act and stumbled
through it: every word rasping his throat.  When he had finished she
jumped up as Greatorex had done.

"I am a woman of impulse," she cried.  "I will produce your play."

Mark stared at her, not believing his ears.

"You will p-p-produce it?" he stammered.

"Yes," she answered.  "I don’t say there’s money in it; I don’t say it
hasn’t faults and crudities; but I do say it’s a play—and it pleases, it
touches, it thrills—me."

She held out her hand.  Mark had an intuition that she wished him to
kiss it.  He raised it gratefully to his lips.

"And now," she said gaily, "luncheon!  I am famished.  There is no sauce
like emotion.  That is why Spanish people eat so much at funerals."

At luncheon she asked a score of questions about his work and life.

"Last night," she said, "I read _The Songs of the Angels_.  You have
heard these songs yourself, eh? But—do you hear them now?"

She held his glance, faintly smiling at the colour which rushed into his
cheeks.

"There are angels and angels," he said evasively.

"But, if I have interpreted your meaning, the angels you write about are
heard only by the—shall I offend you if I say—the saints.  You are not a
saint?"

"Hardly," said Mark.

"But you might be," she murmured; "that is why you interest me"—she
paused, sighed, and finished the sentence—"so much.  I have never met a
saint; I have never met a man who had the makings of a saint in him—till
to-day."

Mark knew that she had challenged him.

"Out of the makings of a saint," he said curtly, "the devil fashions the
greatest sinner."

"You believe in the devil?"

Mark shrugged his shoulders.

"The devil is ’evil’ with a big D before it.  I certainly believe in
evil."

"I have to drag answers from you.  Do you dislike this sort of talk?
Perhaps you think me indiscreet, impudent; but I like to get my
bearings.  It saves bother.  You can ask me anything—anything, if, if
you regard me as a friend."

"I do," he said hastily; but he asked no questions.

"I don’t quite understand you," she said slowly; "and of course you
don’t understand me.  I am sure, judging from your book, your play,
and—and your face, that you have an extravagant admiration for what you
think to be good women.  Is it not so? You needn’t take the trouble to
say ’yes.’  And I’m only a good—_sort_.  I have a sound body, of which I
take the greatest care, and a sane mind; but I was born without a soul.
_Enfin_, the conclusion is inevitable—for me—I do not believe in the
soul but you do?"

"I did," he answered.

She offered him a cigarette, and lit one herself, as the Sphinx-like
butler brought coffee and liqueurs. The luncheon had been very simple.
Sipping her coffee, the actress began to talk of _Fenella_.

"You wrote the part, you say, for me; but you have drawn _Fenella_ from
life."

Mark denied this.

"You may have done it subconsciously, but you’ve done it.  Now tell me,
have you worked out the technical details?  Have you estimated the
probable expense?"

"I suppose the adequate mounting of it will be costly."

"Between three and four thousand pounds," said Mrs. Perowne carelessly.

Soon after he took his leave.  The play remained in the actress’s
possession.  No mention was made of terms.  Mrs. Perowne had said that
Gonzales would look it over.  Greatorex expressed astonishment that the
affair had come to a head so suddenly, and congratulated Mark; but he
added that a contract must be signed as soon as possible.

"You don’t think——" began Mark.

"My dear fellow, I know a poor devil whose first play was accepted six
years ago.  It has not been produced yet!  Strictly between ourselves, I
don’t mind telling you that I’m the man."

"But if your lawyer——"

"I can’t afford to make an enemy of the actor-manager who _still_ has
it!  I blame myself; I had no contract.  We’ll prepare a corker for you.
I take it that you want nothing if the thing fails, and a fair profit if
it goes—eh?  Just so.  When do you see the fascinating Sybil again?
To-morrow.  Have you made love to her?  She expects it from every man.
Not many disappoint her."

He laughed at Mark’s confusion, and compared him to the infant Moses
found by Pharaoh’s daughter in the bulrushes.  The friends celebrated
the acceptance of the drama at a restaurant, and Mark made merry.

"You feel it?" said Tommy.

"Eh?"

"Success tickling the palm of your hand?"

"I shall mark this day with red, of course!"

"If we were in the West of America," said Greatorex, "we should paint
the night as red as _la belle_ Sybil’s hair.  This sort of thing has
only a tinge of pink in it.  Have you ever let yourself go, Mark? Of
course not!  There is nothing of the beast in you.  You might kill
yourself, or somebody else, but I can’t fancy you on all fours."

They returned to the club, where some choice spirits were discussing art
and literature in a fog of tobacco-smoke.  But Mark, who joined them,
saw no fog—only the sun, shining upon all things and all men.

"He’s had a four-act play accepted," Greatorex explained.  "There’s no
more to tell yet."

Several of the men shook Mark’s hand.  Glasses were replenished, fresh
cigars lighted.  Mark laughed as gaily as any, delightfully aware that
he was receiving something—so to speak—on account, a few pieces of
silver, cash down to bind a bargain.  Some of his companions were
celebrities.  It seemed to him that for the first time he was of them as
well as with them.  These Olympians asked for his opinion, laughed at
his jokes, approved his suggestions. The hours passed swiftly and
pleasantly.

But walking home to Hampstead, beneath the stars, in an air purged by
frost, his triumph dwindled to mean proportions.  He considered the
events of the day.  Out of these, now become shadows for the most part,
the face of Sybil Perowne stood out substantially: a fact to be reckoned
with.  He asked himself if he liked her.  Was he attracted by her beauty
and cleverness?  No; these had not touched him.  Yet he was
attracted—and by what?  A vision of the Japanese room revealed the
fascination, so mysterious, so alluring to the imagination, of the
occult.  The sorceress beguiled the fancy of a man who had only cared
for good women.  He found himself speculating in regard to her.
Doubtless the Sphinx-faced butler could tell some tales—an he would!

If he saw much of her, would he forget Betty? The child of the Moorish
dancer gave poppy and mandragora to those who sought her.

He had made an appointment with Mrs. Perowne in the afternoon, but in
the morning, having nothing to do, he thought he would like to see
Pynsent. Pynsent owned a queer old-fashioned house in Kensington.  Mark
rang the bell, which was answered by a delightful French _bonne_, who
made the best omelette in the world and worshipped Pynsent. Certainly,
Monsieur would be charmed to see his friend.  Alas! yes; the dear studio
in Paris had been abandoned.  She, Francine, was desolated, but what
would you?  Monsieur Pynsent made gold in this detestable London instead
of silver in enchanting Paris!  So chattering, she conducted Mark to the
big studio, which was found to be empty. The master had slipped out for
a minute.  Would Monsieur Mark sit down?  Before he had time to smoke a
tiny cigarette, his friend would be shaking both his hands.  She gave
Mark the cigarettes, the potent Caporal cigarettes, handed him the
latest Paris paper, popped a log on to the fire, and bustled away.

Mark looked about him.  The studio, simply furnished, bare of those
tapestries and properties which most painters buy as soon as they begin
to earn money, was, in short, a workshop full of ingenious appliances
for obtaining curious effects of colour, light and shade.  In the middle
of it stood a huge oak easel.  Several large canvases were turned to the
wall.  An open paint-box, a palette, a bowl full of the coarse, broad
brushes which Pynsent used, told Mark that work was about to begin.
Pynsent took few holidays.  Work had become to him not a means to an
end, but the end itself.  But then such work as his was an end, an
accomplishment, a victory.  Finality distinguished every touch.  Mark
lit one of the French cigarettes, because he knew the fumes of it would
bring back the pleasant days in the _Rue de l’Ancienne Comédie_. He
wondered whether Pynsent—the least sentimental of men—smoked Caporal
tobacco for the same reason.  Possibly.  But more probably because he
was a man in a groove.  One could not conceive of Pynsent with a butler
and footmen.  He lived now as he had always lived, regardless of Mrs.
Grundy, who said tartly that the great painter was a pincher.

After a whiff or two, the _Rue de l’Ancienne Comédie_ revealed itself as
it appeared one morning when a couple of brother students were removing
themselves and their belongings from one studio to another.  Mark had
lent two willing hands and a tongue which outwagged a terrier’s tail.
The students possessed a chest full of costumes.  In these their friends
had arrayed themselves.  From several adjoining studios came other
students and their models, all anxious to help—or hinder.  Every article
was carried in procession down the narrow street to the sounds of loud
laughter, of banjo and mandoline, of drum and cornet, and of various
songs.  A diminutive Frenchman, beardless as a baby, had taken off most
of his clothes and was sitting cross-legged in the middle of a large
flat bath, which four of his friends were carrying, arm-high, down the
street.  The little man had robed himself in a rough towel; he wore a
sponge-bag on his head; and he hugged to his bare chest an enormous
sponge.  All down the street, windows were flung up.  Everybody joined
in the fun.

"_Une petite surprise pour Monsieur—et Madame_."

The voice of the good Francine put to flight the joyous procession.
Mark rose up, flung away the half-smoked cigarette, and saw Betty
advancing into the studio.  Francine hobbled away.  She knew that Betty
had married Mark’s brother.

"Betty!"

"Mark!"

"Don’t go," said Mark, as she paused irresolute. "Pynsent is painting
you, I suppose.  He will be here in a minute.  I’ll go."

"You never wrote," she faltered.

"Was it likely?  How is the boy?"

"I expected a word of—forgiveness.  The boy is very well."

"Is he like you?"

"Everybody says so."

He was silent and very pale, whereas Betty’s face was suffused with
delicate colour.  He was trying to resist an overmastering impulse to
take her in his arms, when he heard Pynsent’s step, and a moment
afterwards his clear incisive voice.

"I am ashamed that I was not here to receive you, Mrs. Samphire.  But I
know you’d sooner talk to Mark than me.  I’m painting her, Mark.  You
shall give us your opinion.  I’ve not seen you for a coon’s age.  What?
Nonsense, my dear fellow.  I can paint just as well while you’re here.
You must stay as long as you possibly can.  Mustn’t he, Mrs. Samphire?"

"Of course," said Betty in her ordinary voice. Pynsent dragged a canvas
across the studio and placed it on the easel.

"There," said he, "what do you think of that?"

Mark approached the easel, as Betty turned to remove her hat and jacket.
The portrait, almost completed, was three-quarters length: a daring
study in what at first glance seemed to be black-and-white. As a matter
of fact, black, as pigment, was not used at all.  The effect of it was
produced by the admixture and contrast of colour.  Looking into the
translucent shadows the eye detected brilliant tints.

"It’s one of the best things I’ve done," said Pynsent.  "It’s kept me
awake nights, this portrait. I got that shadow under the chin by a trick
I learnt in Florence.  You lay three colours one on top of the other.
It’s great.  The fellow who discovered it can’t draw; he’d be a wonder
if he could——"

Pynsent went on talking, unaware of what was passing in the minds of his
friends.  Betty sat down on the model’s dais, and Pynsent arranged her
hands, still talking volubly of light and colour effects.  Mark remained
staring at the picture. "You haven’t said what you think of it,"
concluded Pynsent, as he picked up his palette.

"For whom are you painting it?"

"It’s an open secret, isn’t it?" said the painter, glancing sideways at
his model.  "The grateful Vauxhall wishes to give it to your brother.
But I had difficulty in persuading Madame to sit."

"Vauxhall," repeated Mark stupidly.

"Archie, they say, has put thousands into his pocket.  He boomed the
price of all bricks and mortar within a mile radius of the Basilica.
Well—your opinion, my dear fellow."

Mark still hesitated.  Pynsent was famous for his delineation of
character.  He had the power of seizing and transferring to canvas those
delicate shades of expression which reveal the real man and woman.  In
pourtraying Betty, he had emphasised the mother in her at the expense,
possibly, of the wife.  The portrait was hardly flattering in the
generally received sense.  The face was troubled; lines and shadows lay
on it.  Betty’s youth and beauty were subdued, as if beneath the touch
of suffering rather than time.  But the general effect remained that of
a grace and loveliness independent of colour and texture.  The admirable
contours, the delicate modelling of cheek and brow and chin, indicated a
noble maturity not yet attained but certain to be attained.  Not at that
moment, however, did Mark realise that Pynsent’s portrait was an
incomparable likeness of the Betty who had failed to keep tryst because
the higher nature had overcome the lower and baser.  But he did grasp a
part of the truth.  He told himself that if Betty had not suffered,
Pynsent would have painted another and a different portrait.

"The face is strange to me," said Mark.

"What?" Pynsent exclaimed, staring at the speaker.  "You, you say that?
Why of all men, I——"  He broke off abruptly, sensible of some
psychological disturbance, puzzled and distressed. Mark laughed harshly.
He had almost betrayed himself.  Then he glanced at Betty.  Her likeness
to the picture was extraordinary.

"You m-m-misunderstand me," he stammered. "I meant to say that you had
painted a woman who has changed.  We all change.  I hardly recognise my
own f-face.  This picture is, as you say, the b-b-best thing you’ve
done, and I congratulate you warmly.  I’d like to see it again.  But now
I must r-r-run away.  I d-dropped in to tell you that my play is
accepted."

This piece of news effectively cloaked his nervousness. Pynsent and
Betty expressed their pleasure and congratulation.  Mark shook hands and
escaped.

"I thought he was not himself," said Pynsent, picking up his palette.
"This will make up for a good deal, won’t it?  I know exactly how he
feels. Great Scott!  It seems only yesterday that I had my first picture
hung in the Salon.  I was skied, but I was the happiest man in Paris.
All the same, Mark did not strike me as looking happy—eh?"

She answered his sharp "eh" and still sharper glance with a constrained
"N-n-no."



                           *CHAPTER XXXVIII*

                               *GONZALES*


Mark plunged into the obscurity of the underground railway, cursing the
impulse which had taken him to Pynsent’s studio.  Betty had suffered,
but what was her suffering compared with his?

He repeated this to himself again and again, as the train bore him
eastward.  Then he remembered Jim’s phrase: "Our Betty is out of sight."

Thinking of Jim, he got out at the Mansion House and walked to the Stock
Exchange.  Five minutes with Jim might blow some cobwebs out of his
mind. He reached the huge building and called for James Corrance.  The
porter bade him wait near some glass swinging-doors through which
hatless men were continually passing.  Whenever these opened a dull roar
of many voices fell on Mark’s ear, a menacing growl as of an angry
beast.  In his present mood Mark welcomed any strange noise as a
distraction from the buzzing of his own thoughts. This beast of the
markets made itself heard.  Mark wondered vaguely whether it drowned, to
such men as Jim, all other sounds.

While he stood, peering through the glass doors, a sharp thud, as of a
mallet striking a panel of wood, smote his ears.  In an instant, as if
some wizard had waved a wand, silence fell upon the crowd within the
building, a silence inexpressibly strange and awe-inspiring.  Again the
thud was heard, louder and more articulate.  Mark guessed what was
happening.  A member of the Stock Exchange was about to be "hammered."
The silence, Mark noted, was partially broken by a shuffling of
innumerable feet, as men pressed forward to catch the name of the man
who had failed.  The hammer struck for the third and last time.  Mark
could see that every face was turned in one direction; upon each lay a
grim expression of anxiety.  Then a hoarse voice said in a monotone:
"Mr. Caxton Bruno is unable to comply with his bargains."  A roar of
voices succeeded the announcement, as the crowd resumed the business of
the minute.  The glass doors swung open; and Jim Corrance appeared.

"You heard poor Bruno hammered," he said. "Dramatic—eh?  It always
thrills, because one never knows.  That cursed hammer may sound the
death knell of a dozen firms.  I _am_ glad to see you——"

Talking volubly, he insisted that Mark must lunch with him, although
Mark protested that he had no appetite.  But Jim, when he heard that
_Fenella_ was accepted by Mrs. Perowne, declared that a bottle of
champagne must be cracked.  He carried Mark off to his City club, where
scores of men were eating, drinking, and talking.  Jim pointed out the
celebrities.

"That fellow is a famous ’bear,’" he indicated a short, thick-set,
rather unctuous-looking Jew.  "In the long run the ’bears’ have the best
of it."

"He doesn’t look clever," said Mark.

"Clever?  He’s stupid as an owl outside his own special business.  It
isn’t the clever ones who arrive. I know men with all the qualities
essential to success, but the luck goes against ’em every time.  They
ought to get there with both feet, but they don’t. You must have a glass
of that old cognac, Mark. A play is not accepted every day, by Jove!  I
tell you what I’ll do, my boy.  I’ll give a dinner in honour of the
event.  We’ll get Pynsent, and Tommy Greatorex, and the rest of ’em.
Why not nip over to Paris for it?  Eh?  What are you mumbling?  All take
and no give.  What infernal rot!  Well, I won’t take no.  As if it
wasn’t an honour to entertain so distinguished a gentleman."

Mark’s spirits began to rise.  After all, the world was not such a bad
place.  And the luck which Jim spoke about had certainly changed.  The
play would be produced within the year.  Thoroughly warmed by Jim’s
hospitality, and promising that he would reconsider his refusal to dine
in Paris, he left the City to keep his appointment with Mrs. Perowne.
But the atmosphere of the underground railway, raw, fetid, thick with
smoke, brought back the misery and despair of the morning.  He found
himself reflecting that life after thirty was an underground procession,
a nauseating vagabondage in semi-obscurity, stopping now and again at
stations artificially illumined, garishly decorated, reeking with
abominable odours, crowded with pale, troubled strangers jostling each
other in their wild efforts to hurry on to some other place as
detestable as the one they were leaving....

As for the play upon which so much was staked, was he not a sanguine
fool to take a woman’s word that it would be produced?  And production
did not mean success.  But here he paused.  Production to him did mean
success.  It was good, good, good! It had thrilled two persons who knew.
Greatorex, the cynic, the reader of innumerable plays, and the actress,
the woman of genius.

On this occasion Mrs. Perowne received him in her drawing-room: a
conventional room, white-and-yellow, filled with absurd knick-knacks and
too many flowers, principally exotics of overpowering perfume.  She was
wearing a large hat which overshadowed her face.  Her dress and jacket
of the plainest cloth and cut were trimmed with sable. Mark had passed
her brougham, drawn up a few yards from the entrance of the building,
and guessed that she was going out.  She began to speak about _Fenella_.

"Alfred Gonzales has read it."

"What does he say?"

"He finds it too serious.  He says there’s no money in it."

Mark gasped.

"But Alfred is not infallible," she added.  "I mean to produce
_Fenella_.  It may be wise to throw it first to the dog."  This meant a
first performance in the provinces.  Mark burst into excited speech.

"Then you d-d-don’t mean to ch-chuck me. You’ve raised me to the
heights, Mrs. Perowne. Don’t drop me!  I m-m-mean that I’d sooner know
the worst now.  You said you were an impulsive woman.  Perhaps your
impulse overstepped the b-b-bounds of prudence, you know.  And, if so,
we’ll call the thing off.  But don’t drop me later.  I couldn’t stand
that.  Am I speaking out too plainly? You’ve been very kind, very kind
indeed; I shall always be grateful, b-b-but I can face disappointment
better now than l-l-later."

"Sit down," she said, smiling.  "Why, what a boy you are.  I-I like
boys."

He sat down, trembling, wiping the perspiration from his forehead.

"You are as emotional as I am," she murmured in a caressing voice.
"Now, I’ve an appointment which I must keep.  You can believe that I’d
sooner spend the afternoon with you.  I really mean it.  I have to
recite at a bazaar.  Which bores me horribly. Now do you believe that I
am your friend, that I like you, that you interest me?  And will you be
furious if I add that I like you better than your play—good though it
is?  I prefer the man to his work, the artist to his art."

She paused, glancing at him through half-closed eyes.  There was
something feline about her expression and pose.  Her voice had a purr in
it.  Mark did not know what to say or do.

"I should like to help you to a real success," she continued.  "And why
not?  Your play might be made into a masterpiece.  At present it is
uneven, amateurish, crude in parts.  Alfred put his finger on the weak
spots.  He says that the fourth act ought to be rewritten.  Shall we
rewrite it together? I mean, will you let me help you to make it just
what it ought to be?"

"Why, of course," said Mark eagerly.  "I am not fool enough to suppose
that the thing can’t be improved.  Your help, your hints, your
experience would be invaluable.  I was counting on them at rehearsal."

"But we haven’t come to that yet.  I don’t hold with altering plays at
rehearsals.  After the first night or two, revision may be expedient.
One never knows.  Scenes may drag, or they may be too short.  We needn’t
go into that now.  But my point is that the thing should be as perfect
as the author can make it, before it is read to the company. You agree
with me—_hein_?"

The foreign word of interrogation had a soothing sound.  Mark placed
himself in her hands unreservedly.

"I trust you," he said simply.

She nodded, showing her lovely teeth in a smile. Then she pointed out
that nothing could be done till the piece in which she was acting had
been taken off.  She expected to be quite free in a fortnight’s time.
After Easter she would appear in a rôle which required little
preparation.  During Lent she might go abroad.  But all details could be
settled later.  Would he drink tea with her and talk everything over the
day after to-morrow?

He saw her into her brougham.

"Your play is in Alfred’s hands," she said, as she bade him good-bye.
"He is going to make some notes for us.  Have you met him?  Go and see
him. He’s at the theatre now."

She murmured something he did not catch, as the brougham rolled silently
away.  She was right.  He ought to see Gonzales.  The business connected
with the play, the contract and so forth, must be done through him.
Doubtless that was what she meant when she urged him to go to the
theatre.  He took a ’bus to the Alcazar and sent up his card. Presently
word came down through a tube that Mr. Gonzales would be disengaged in
less than ten minutes.  Mr. Samphire might care to look over the house?
Mark assenting to this, a youth connected with the manager’s department
escorted him through the building, which had been built for Mrs. Perowne
"regardless of expense," as the youth said, and "replete with every
modern appliance."  Mark wondered at the beauty of the decorations in
parts of the theatre other than the auditorium, where lavishness was to
be expected.  The stage was already set, and the youth told Mark that
the "Empire" furniture had adorned the palace of one of Napoleon’s
marshals.

Further details, setting forth the thousands lavished upon scenery and
costumes, gave Mark a dismal impression that the play itself was the
least part of a modern theatrical performance; this impression was
deepened when he met the manager, whom he disliked at the first glance.
Gonzales, it was said, had lured Mrs. Perowne from her husband, holding
out the bait of fame.  She first appeared in one of his adaptations from
the French, a melodrama built about a head of red hair.  Mrs. Perowne’s
red hair had been the feature of posters six yards long, designed by
Cheret.  In America, the yellow press had asserted that Gonzales was in
the habit of dragging his pupil across her room by her flaming locks.
Her screams echoed from Maine to California, and filled every theatre
with curious crowds, who believed the stories when they saw the red
hair.

Gonzales was big and burly, with a close-clipped black beard, through
which protruded a red lower lip.  His face indicated power, cruelty, and
a brutal self-assurance.  He was smoking a very thick cigar, which he
held, when he spoke, between white, fat fingers.  His voice, however,
was charming; melodious, persuasive, with the intonations and
inflections characteristic of the Latin races; and his eyes, heavily
lidded, were finely formed and of a clear umber in colour.  He began to
praise Mark’s play with an insincerity which revolted.  Mark, sensible
of an overpowering desire to escape, listened to interminable phrases.

"You are soaping the ways," he said, when Gonzales paused.  "I
understood from Mrs. Perowne that you saw no m-money in the thing.  You
can tell me frankly what you think of it.  I am not thin-skinned, and I
hope you d-don’t take me for a f-fool."

Gonzales showed his teeth.

"One has to be careful with authors," he said. "I write myself,
trifles," he shrugged his shoulders, "adaptations, as you know, which
have had a measure of success.  And I can’t bear to have them
criticised, these adopted children of mine.  I think them perfect,
perfect.  But you—you are of colder blood—and you say you prefer the
truth which I speak sometimes," he smiled disagreeably.  "Well, then, in
my opinion, you have just missed a big thing.  There’s dramatic power in
every line of _Fenella_, and in Paris it might catch on, but here
tragedy is played—out.  Still, I don’t say that with judicious cutting,
and a slight strengthening of the love interest, and—in short I told
Mrs. Perowne that we could make something of it, if you gave us a free
hand.  Oh, there’s plenty of action, and a freshness of treatment, but
look here——"  He made a couple of suggestions, so admirable, so luminous
of his insight into dramatic possibilities, that Mark admitted at once
the man’s cleverness and knowledge of what was good work.  But when he
had, so to speak, given this sample of his ability, he added with an
odious sneer: "After all the public, our public, asks for something
absolutely different.  For example, I am in treaty now for a comedy in
four acts.  Mrs. Perowne will wear eight dresses, furnished by the four
leading dressmakers of Paris.  _Entre nous_, these confections will cost
us nothing, not a _sou_.  They will be an immense ’ad’ for the
dressmakers and for us.  The comedy must be constructed round these
dresses.  As an artist I deplore such methods, but a successful manager
is forced to employ them."

Mark curtly stated the object of his visit.  Gonzales shrugged his
shoulders.

"The contract?  Is it not early to talk of that?"

Words flowed like a stream of milk from his mouth.  In the "profession,"
he explained, one could not move in haste.  Mrs. Perowne had engagements
to be filled.  It was absurd to talk of producing a play on a certain
day.  It was bad business to take off a paying piece.  And Rejane might
lease the Alcazar.  No, no, he gave Mr. Samphire credit for a certain
delicacy.  He was dealing, remember, with a lady, whose judgment—the
truth was best—he had taken by storm.  As her manager, he had implored
her again and again to read no plays till he, the speaker, had looked
them over.  Finally, Mark took his leave, conscious that he had been
defeated, that this man of many words could warp him to his will.  He
carried away with him, moreover, a conviction that Gonzales was his
enemy, and that the stories about him and Mrs. Perowne were true.



                            *CHAPTER XXXIX*

                          *AT THE MIRAFLORES*


During the fortnight that followed Mark saw Mrs. Perowne every day.  The
actress exercised over him strange powers of attraction and repulsion,
which he tried to analyse: sensible that the repulsion was subtle and
negative, whereas the attraction was obvious and positive.  She had a
score of charms; but beneath them lay something secret and hateful;
possibly a cruelty not alien to red hair and red lips.  By chance, one
day, Mark said that strong smelling-salts held beneath the nose of a
bulldog would make him relax his grip of another dog when more violent
measures had failed. The actress had a Chow for whom she expressed
extravagant affection.  Before Mark could interfere, she had called the
dog to her side and thrust beneath its sensitive nostrils some strong
spirits of ammonia. The poor animal snuffed at them, and was almost
strangled by the fumes.  Mark, furious at such unnecessary cruelty, made
hot protest and then got up to leave the room.  Mrs. Perowne entreated
forgiveness, pleading ignorance and thoughtlessness. Mark saw tears in
her eyes; suborned witnesses, no doubt, but deemed honest by an honest
man.

"I loathe cruelty," said Mark.

"Gonzales is cruel," she replied irrelevantly.

"But you like him?"

"I hate him—sometimes."

He divined in her a desire to talk about Gonzales.

"I hate him always," said Mark.  "I don’t want to hear his name
mentioned.  I know he is a beast."

"Would you like me to dismiss him?" she asked softly.

He stared at her in astonishment.

"Could you?  I understood that he was in—indispensable, as actor and
manager."

"No man is indispensable to—me," she said angrily.  Then her face
changed and softened, suffused by an extraordinary radiance of youth and
vitality.  "I mean to say," she murmured, "that no man, _yet_, has
proved himself indispensable, but——"

She looked at Mark, who got up and began to pace the room, much
agitated.  Her lips were parted, revealing the small, white,
resolute-looking teeth.  She was reflecting, not without a sense of
humour, that Mark was the first man of the many she liked who refused to
dance to her piping.  The fact allured her.

"I must go," he said abruptly.

"But you will come to-morrow?"

He hesitated, blushing like a girl, but on the morrow he came and found
her friendly, genial, the "good sort": a rôle she could sustain to
perfection. Mark, on the other hand, felt himself to be dull and
irritable.  Even the all-absorbing _Fenella_ failed to quicken his wits
or pulses.  He answered absently some suggestions in regard to the
fourth act, staring at the speaker’s eyes, as if trying to read their
message instead of that of the lips.

"Why do you look at me like that?" she asked in a tone absolutely free
from sentiment.

"I am trying to find the real Sybil."

"Sybils are mysteries," she said lightly.  "Besides you come here to
talk about the play—_hein_? not about me."

"I come here to talk about the play," he answered slowly, "but I go away
to think about you."

"And the thoughts are not always pleasant ones?"

"Not always."

"You are truthful."

"Am I?"

"Most men are such liars.  Gonzales, for example—ah, well, we won’t talk
of him.  But the others—oh, the humbugs!"

In fluent, even tones, she began to speak of the men she knew
intimately, the higher Bohemians of art and literature.  It was
impossible not to be amused by her sketches.

"This is caricature," said Mark.

"Studies from life."

"I’m glad I don’t know those—gentlemen."

"You are a man of limitations; and you see others not as they are but as
you would like them to be.  That is why your books do not sell.  Your
characters are strongly drawn, but their strength is a reproach and an
exasperation to readers of weaker clay.  In books, as in real life, we
like to meet people no better and perhaps worse than ourselves. You are
handicapped by ideals, which bankrupt your ideas...."

On this theme she spoke volubly for some minutes. Mark listened, amazed
at her perceptions, at her grasp of life as it is lived in London, at
her audacity in dealing with problems.

"You look astonished," she concluded, "but nowadays revolt is a synonym
of intelligence.  As for me I revolt against stupid traditions and
conventions.  They are to me like those hideous horse-hair sofas and
chairs upon which our grandfathers sat so stiffly.  What?  Good wear in
them?  I dare say they served their purpose, but now they are banished
to obscure lodging-houses."

Mark repeated some of her phrases to Tommy Greatorex.

"She’s as clever as she can stick," Tommy admitted, "but it’s surface
cleverness, like surface water, tricklings from a thousand sources more
or less polluted.  She’s interested in you because you are different
from—the others.  Of course you’re not interested in her—apart from her
profession, I mean.  I sent you to her because I knew you would be proof
against her sorceries—the witch.  Hullo!"

Mark was scarlet.

"I say—you’re not interested, are you?  She’s a wrong ’un.  I warned
you."

"She has good in her."

Greatorex laughed.

"Good?  A needle in a haystack.  Seriously, Mark, you mustn’t burn your
fingers.  Lord!  I was so sure of you.  I foresaw that you would excite
her curiosity and interest; I knew that she would like you, as I said,
better than your play.  In a word I pulled the strings, but I thought I
should make her dance, not you."

"She has been very kind to me."

"What have you been to her?  Tell me to mind my own business, if you
like.  It’s not worth minding, but that doesn’t matter."

"I am going to ask Mrs. Perowne to marry me," Mark replied slowly.

"Phew-w-w!"

Instantly, Mark took his hat and marched out of the room.  Tommy bit his
nails till it occurred to him to light a pipe.  Then he tried to
continue his work, a special article, but he found it impossible to
write a line.  Mark’s face and eyes disturbed him. Finally, he flung
down his pen in a rage.

"I thought I knew him," he muttered, "I thought I knew him.  This is the
bottomless pit, and I led him blindfold to the edge of it."

Suddenly he bethought himself of Pynsent. Pynsent knew Mrs. Perowne, had
painted her portrait—a revelation of character in colour. Accordingly he
wired to Pynsent, asking him to dine at a small restaurant in Baker
Street, and mentioning that a subject of importance was to be discussed.
Pynsent wired back an acceptance for the same evening, and the men met
at eight o’clock.  They sat down to sharpen their appetites upon some
excellent salted fillets of herring.  Not till the _marmite_ was
swallowed did Greatorex give his perplexity words.  Then he said
abruptly—

"You painted Mrs. Perowne?"

"You bet I did—inside and out."

"Did she make love to you?"

"N-n-no," Pynsent replied, not quite readily.

"Why not be frank?  I can hold my tongue."

"I think," Pynsent admitted cautiously, "that she expected me to make
love to her, but I didn’t. I took a dislike to the woman.  And it came
out in the picture.  Unpleasant things were said about it at the time,
but she liked it.  She told me I had succeeded.  And—Great Scott!—so I
had."

"She has captivated and is captivated by Mark Samphire.  He is going to
marry her."

"What?"

"It is partly my fault, but I was so sure of—him."  He told the story at
length.  "And now what are we to do?"

"Mark—Mark!" Pynsent kept repeating stupidly. "It is incredible.  Mark
Samphire—and Sybil Perowne!"

"She has never denied herself anything."

"She’ll suck every ounce of good blood from his body.  It would be
kindness to knock him on the head."

"It would be pleasure to knock her on the head," said Tommy gloomily.

"We can do nothing," said Pynsent, at length, as he lit one of his
Caporal cigarettes, which he smoked between the courses.  "There was
Maiden. When I studied at the Beaux Arts, Maiden was the coming man.  By
Jove!  he had come.  I remember his big picture in the Salon of ’79.
Crowds stood in front of it, jabbering like monkeys.  It was great,
great.  And France bought it.  It hangs in the Luxembourg to-day.  Well,
Maiden had a model, a queer little devil of a girl with huge black eyes
whom he stuck into all his pictures.  He bought her from her mother out
of a slum, the Rue du Haut-Pavé, close to the cabaret du Soleil d’Or,
and she followed him about like a spaniel, all over Normandy and
Brittany.  We wondered what would happen when the child became a woman.
Gad! we might have guessed for a year and a day and never hit the truth.
Maiden married her!  He, the wit, the scholar, the gentleman, married
that guttersnipe. And he hasn’t painted a picture for fifteen years!  I
tell you, Tommy, that it’s impossible to predict what any man will do
when he comes in contact with the wrong woman."

"Or with the right one," said Greatorex, frowning.

They drank their coffee, and by mutual consent went to the Miraflores
Music Hall, feeling that anything which might distract their thoughts
from Mark would prove a relief.  The place was crowded as usual, and
Pynsent, pulling out a pencil, began to draw heads upon a piece of paper
placed in his hat, while Tommy watched his facile fingers, much amused
by the remarks which punctuated every line.

"People must relax," the painter was saying. "These places would be
empty if we lived normal lives.  A self-respecting savage would be bored
to death here."

"True," said Tommy.  "If you want to find sense nowadays you must hunt
for it in the South Pacific, in the islands which Captain Cook and Mr.
Thomas Cook did not find.  Hullo, there’s Jim Corrance."

"Why not tell him," said Pynsent quickly. "He’s Mark’s oldest friend;
he’d do anything for Mark; and he’s a practical sort of chap, too."

Jim joined them with alacrity, obviously glad to see Pynsent, who, of
late, had dropped out of his file.  The three secured a table in the
corner of the foyer, where they could talk without fear of being
overheard, for the noise—the shrill laughter of the women, the deep
notes of the men, the blare of the band—was deafening.  Jim, however,
not knowing Mrs. Perowne, save by reputation, was unable to realise the
gravity of the situation.

"Aren’t you fellows making a mountain of a molehill?" he asked.  "And,
besides, what can old Mark offer Sybil Perowne?"

"A new sensation," said Tommy grimly.  His face impressed Corrance.
Pynsent nodded gloomily.

"There’s David Ross," said Jim.

"The Bishop of Poplar?"

"At one time Mark and he were hand-in-glove. He used to be a
wonder-worker."

"Oh, he is still," said Greatorex.  "I thought we should get something
out of you, Corrance."

"But a parson——" began Pynsent doubtfully.

"He was the amateur middleweight champion before he took Orders," said
Corrance, "and it’s the pugilist in him, not the parson, which has made
him the man he is.  He’ll tackle Mark, never fear.  He tackles
me—periodically, but all the same, if this thing is serious he will
accomplish nothing."

"That is what I say," Pynsent added.

But Tommy, the smallest and weakest of the three, doggedly persisted.
Finally he persuaded Corrance to seek out the Bishop of Poplar.  Having
extracted a promise to this effect, he took leave of the others, for his
article, due on the morrow, had to be finished that night.  Pynsent and
Corrance remained together.  As the little man plunged into the crowd,
Pynsent said: "Tommy Greatorex would cut off his right hand for Mark,
but I’ve heard men call him selfish and self-centred."

Corrance at once began to analyse this indisputable fact, sticking out
his chin, and talking with an aggressive frankness which much amused the
painter, who said presently:

"We may as well admit, Jim, that we’re cold-blooded, you and I——"

"For the sake of argument—yes.  Go on!"

"Partly because of that we’ve succeeded.  I can’t see myself, or you, my
boy, chucking our work to help others, although after the work was done
we might write a cheque—eh?"

"You had better have another whisky and potass."

"Thanks.  I will."

They watched the Miraflores ballet from a couple of balcony stalls.
Fabulous sums had been spent upon the costumes of the dancers, who
represented flowers and butterflies.  Pynsent became absorbed in the
spectacle of light and colour and movement. Now and again he jogged
Corrance with his elbow, calling his attention to this effect and that,
muttering inarticulate exclamations.  The lights in the theatre were
turned low, so that the stage, a blaze of golden splendour, attracted
all eyes.  Then, suddenly, like a sun in eclipse, the stage itself was
obscured.  One saw luminous shadows through which floated spirits of the
air, mysterious winged beings; the butterflies seeking the flowers at
the approach of night.  Impenetrable darkness succeeded as the band
stopped playing.  In the foyer, men and women crowded together craned
their heads in one direction, awaiting the supreme moment.  It came.
Out of the darkness glided a dazzling creature, veiled in what seemed to
be a tissue of diamonds.  From her alone emanated light, a myriad
sparkles.  She advanced slowly with white, outstretched arms, a smile
upon her face. At the edge of the stage she poised herself for flight.
Not a sound broke the silence, but one felt the throb and thrill of a
thousand hearts.  Then a faint strain of music suffused the air, as the
creature took wing.  She soared upward and forward, following the curve
of an ellipse.  Thus soaring, she scattered flowers which fell
everywhere, filling the house with perfume.  In the dome of the building
she vanished.  A sigh of pleasure escaped the lips of the spectators.
The vision reappeared, gliding forward as before out of obscurity.  Once
more, for the last time, she soared upward and vanished.

"Let us go," said Pynsent.  "That was the immortal spirit of Love.  And
she vanished—no wonder—in this temple of——"  He shut his lips, for his
neighbours were staring at him.

Corrance rose, muttering: "The expenses must be stupendous; but
Miraflores shares are at 219. I bought a nice little block at 127
eighteen months ago."

"Shut up, you miserable materialist!"

"I can’t afford to be anything else—nor can Mark, poor devil!"

"I beg your pardon," said Pynsent hurriedly.

They pushed their way through the crowd, pausing at the top of the broad
stairs which led to the street below.  The atmosphere, charged with
odours of musk and patchouli and reeking of strong cigars, was
overpoweringly oppressive.  But on almost every face, pale beneath the
glare of the electric light, flamed a curious satisfaction, curious
because with rare exceptions it was artificial.  The exception may be
mentioned.  A thick-set man, remarkable by reason of his white hair and
pink smooth face, stood at the entrance, bowing and beaming.  The
habitués knew him, and nodded carelessly as they passed by.  Some
exchanged a few words.  The man seemed to be counting: reckoning the
numbers present, computing gains.

"That’s old Harry," said Corrance to the painter. "He runs this place.
Hullo, Harry, how are you? Big house to-night."

"Big house every night," said Harry complacently. "You know that, Mr.
Corrance.  It’s prime—prime. I never get tired of watching it."

He rubbed his plump white hands together, beaming like an aged cherub.

"Holy Moses!" exclaimed Pynsent.  "You never get tired of
watching—this?"  He indicated the promenade in a derisive gesture.

"Never," said Harry, opening his blue eyes in childish astonishment at
such a question.  "Why this is my show.  I planned it.  I stand here
every night."

"It’s meat and drink, old chap, isn’t it?" said Corrance.

"I’ve got just where I wanted to be," Harry said solemnly.  "The boys
call me king of the music-halls."

"Good-night, your majesty," said Corrance, beginning to descend the
stairs.  "There’s one that’s happy and content," he added, as Pynsent
and he strolled down the corridor.

"We’re saprophytes," burst out Pynsent.

"I don’t know what that means," said Jim, "but it sounds something
nasty."



                              *CHAPTER XL*

                               *"COME!"*


True to his promise, Corrance sought out the Bishop of Poplar, and
delivered himself of his message.  David Ross nodded, but his fine eyes
were troubled.

"What’s happened to Mark?" said Corrance irritably.  "D——n it all—I beg
your pardon, David, but Mark would make you swear, bishop though you
are."

"I’ll see him," said David; "but I—I don’t know—I fear——"  He broke off
abruptly.  Then his eyes flashed.  "What’s happened to Mark?

"As for me," said Jim, "I can see, but Mark, the blind fool, wants a
nurse or a keeper.  He’s half child, half lunatic.  I’ll go now.  You’re
up to your nose in work, and so am I.  I suppose you want money, you
shameless beggar?"

"All I can get and all I can’t get."

"I shall have to send you a cheque," Jim growled. "I tell everybody
you’re the dearest friend I’ve got. Good-bye."

He retreated hastily, fearing a lecture.  David returned to an enormous
correspondence with which his secretary was endeavouring to cope.  The
poor man nearly burst into tears when his chief told him that he might
be absent for several hours.  David put on his hat, deaf to a score of
protests.

"I’m going fishing," he said, "and, confound it! I’ve no bait."

Corrance had told him that Mark lunched at the Scribblers.  To that club
the Bishop took his way. There he learned that Mark was writing in the
silence room.  David walked in, unannounced, holding out his hand, which
Mark refused to take.

"You went to Betty," he said fiercely.

"No."

"She failed me."

"Yes; she failed you, thank God."

"What brings you here?"

"You know perfectly well."

"But this is intolerable, this interference!  Will you understand, Ross,
that I insist upon your leaving me alone?"

"That is impossible, Mark.  Why, I want you to come and stay with me for
a month."

"I wonder they ordained you a bishop," said Mark.  "I thought they made
a point of choosing men of—tact."

"I’ve any amount of tact," said David cheerfully. "Mark, you’re a
madman, and in your soul you know it."

"Tommy Greatorex sent you on this fool’s errand?"

"Yes; Greatorex and Jim and Pynsent.  Your friends love you well, Mark.
Have you no love for them?"

"I’ll tell you something, Ross; it may save you time and trouble.  The
love I had for you fellows is dead—dead."  Then, as a gesture of dismay
escaped the Bishop, Mark added: "I cannot love anybody. If it could come
back, if—but it won’t.  That’s why I’ve kept away from most of you.
You—you all bore me.  Oh, it’s my fault, I know.  I’ve become a
one-idea’d man.  I can think of nothing but my play and the woman who is
going to produce it, to give it life.  She’s become part of it, do you
understand, part of me—me.  I can’t lie to you; but I’d like you to try
to realise that the Mark Samphire you once knew is dead.  Who killed
Cock Robin?" he laughed.  "I can’t answer that question."

"You mean you won’t," said the Bishop steadily. "Well, I believe in the
resurrection of the dead. You will come to life again, Mark Samphire,
but not at my touch."

He moved towards the door.

"David!"

The familiar name thrilled upon the air.  It was Mark, the old Mark,
speaking.  In an instant the hands of the two friends were locked.

"I can’t let you go like that," said Mark.  "For all you have done and
would do, I—thank you."

A few days passed without incident.  Spring was abroad in the fields and
woods, hailed by twittering birds and white blossoms.  Mark felt her
caress, and was sensible of that amazing calm which succeeds and
precedes any strenuous effort.  He let himself drift with the current,
lulled almost to sleep by the lilt of the stream which bore him to the
troubled waters beyond his ken.

Someone has said that a fine quality in a human being may become the
source of disaster as well as triumph.  One might go further, and add
that a fine quality denied its triumph, may be wrecked in disaster.
That love for others with which Mark had been endowed would have
increased and multiplied in marriage.  The man had the best qualities or
a husband and father.  He apprehended this with his reason, even as
Betty apprehended it intuitively.  But such manifest destiny had been
denied him, as in like manner it was denied to his friend David Ross.
But David had been given his triumph.  His power of loving, purged from
the taint of selfish emotion, had expanded enormously, incredibly,
suffusing itself, divinely fluid, over vast areas, transmuting
everything it touched, producing and reproducing with inexhaustible
energy and fertility.  Mark’s love might have flowed into as many and
diverse channels had it not been dammed by its bastard brother
passion—hate.

Now, standing (as Greatorex had put it) on the brink of the bottomless
pit, he was conscious that not only was love, the higher love, dead, but
that hate also was moribund.  He could think of Archibald as of one at
an immeasurable distance—a shadowy figure, a blur upon the horizon.  And
since his meeting with Betty in Pynsent’s studio, she also had faded,
and become _unreal_, a phantom of the past, flitting from him into
impenetrable shades.

This feeling of remoteness from the persons whose lives had been so
interwoven with his own underwent a crucial test that same afternoon.
In the _Globe_ Mark read that the see of Parham had been offered to and
accepted by Archibald Samphire. His brother had reached the apex of his
ambitions; he was the bishop-designate of a famous diocese in the North
of England!  Lower down, in the same column, was another paragraph—


"Mrs. Perowne is leaving London for the Continent. The famous actress,
we are given to understand, has accepted a play by one of our rising
novelists, a play which those who have read it declare to be quite out
of the common."


Mark recognised the finger of Tommy in this, as well as the long arm of
coincidence.  Upon the page opposite the column of personal paragraphs
was a sketch of his brother’s life and labours.  Mark laughed.  The
Bishop of Parham.  A spiritual peer! And what a leg for a gaiter!  He
laughed again, reflecting that other paragraphs might be printed
concerning a famous actress and a rising novelist. My lord would read
them with horror.

Next day the _Times_ had a long leader about the Chrysostom of Chelsea.
The late Bishop of Parham, an old infirm man, had distinguished himself
as scholar, and then extinguished himself as prelate, lacking those
powers of organisation which do not, perhaps, lend themselves to
biblical exegesis and the Higher Criticism.  His diocese—of great
extent—had of late years increased enormously in population.  The
discovery of coal and a certain kind of clay had brought about an
upheaval: the pastoral industries, which supported a few farmers and
shepherds, still flourished, but side by side with colossal commercial
enterprises.  Towns, black with the smoke from a thousand factories, had
sprung up like mushrooms upon turf that had never known a plough;
railroads ravaged the face of the landscape with indelible lines; half a
dozen fishing villages bade fair to become seaports of importance.  With
these new and complex conditions, the aged scholar had tried in vain to
cope.  Upon his death, at an advanced age, it was felt at headquarters
that a young man must be selected to grapple with them: an athlete of
tried physical strength, an abstainer (for the statistics in regard to
drunkenness were appalling), an organiser, and above all things an
eloquent preacher.  For such a task no better nor abler man than
Archibald Samphire could be found in the kingdom.  The Prime Minister
had made a wise selection, which the Dean and Chapter of Parham would,
doubtless, approve and confirm. _And so forth_....

Mark bought other journals and read what was written about Parham and
its bishop-designate. In each a few lines were accorded to the wife,
who, by happy chance, was descended from the most ancient and
distinguished of the border families. One paper contained the
following:—


"Our readers will learn with deep sympathy and regret that the health of
the future _châtelaine_ of Parham Castle is causing her husband and many
friends grave anxiety."


Mark sprang to his feet with an exclamation. Betty—ill!  In an instant
he felt his blood circulating violently, stinging him to wild and
over-powering excitement.  The bishop-designate of Parham remained an
attenuated shade; his wife was clothed with palpable flesh and blood.
Ill?  She? Incredible!

He despatched a telegram to Dibdin, the butler, and waited for the
answer, pacing up and down the Finchley Road, regardless of a shower
which wetted him to the skin.  While he waited, one of the telegraph
boys who knew him came up with a despatch.  Mark tore open the envelope.
The telegram was from Sybil Perowne.  She had reached Paris and was
going to Fontainebleau.  Mark stared stupidly at the message.  Then he
murmured between his teeth: "I wish she was going to Jericho."

The actress had become as remote as Betty had been a few hours before.
Between Sybil Perowne and him stretched the long years of youth and
childhood, never to be forgotten—the years which belonged to Betty.  He
went back to meet Betty in a thousand familiar places; she ran to meet
him, her eyes radiant with pleasure, her lips parted in joyous
acclamation.

An hour later Dibdin’s answer came—

                      "Very ill indeed.  Typhoid."


Mark went to Chelsea in the first hansom he saw. At his brother’s house
carriages were coming and going upon the straw which had been laid down.
Dibdin gave details.  His mistress had complained of headache and
general _malaise_ for some ten days, but had refused persistently to see
her doctor. Finally, she had taken to her bed, ravaged by fever. She had
eaten some oysters sent as a present to the preacher by an ardent
admirer.  Archibald also had eaten the oysters, but with impunity.

"Lady Randolph is upstairs, and master is in the library," said Dibdin.
"Won’t you see him, Mr. Mark?"

Mark hesitated.

"Yes," he said nervously, "I will.  Show me in, Dibdin."

Archibald, who was writing at his desk, rose to receive him.  As the
door closed behind Dibdin, the eyes of the brothers met.

"If she asks for me, you will send?" said Mark, moving a step nearer.

"Go," Archibald replied, trembling and turning aside his eyes.

"Not till I have your promise.  She may not ask, but if she does, by
Heaven! you must, you shall send.  Swear it!"

"Go, go!"

But Mark advanced, omnipotent by virtue of the passion within him.

Archibald retreated.  Did he fear violence?  Or did he read in his
brother’s eyes a power of will against which he was helpless.  Pale,
shaken as by a palsy, he stammered out: "I w-w-will s-s-send."

"Swear it!"

"I swear it."

Mark went back into the hall.  Dibdin mentioned, with a pride which at
any other time would have tickled Mark’s humour, that everybody in
London wanted the latest news.  He and George, the footman, were almost
worn out answering inquiries. Princes of the blood, the House of Peers,
the House of Commons, Royal Academicians, county families, had learned
with infinite regret of Mrs. Samphire s dangerous illness.  Mark
listened with eager ears. And what did Dibdin himself think?  Dibdin,
like all of his class, was lamentably pessimistic.  "In the hall, we
entertain no hope, no hope," Dibdin murmured.  "And to think of that
beautiful castle at Parham without the mistress is breaking our hearts
in two, sir."


A terrible ten days passed.  At the beginning of the first week Mark
received a letter from Mrs. Perowne.  Between the lines of it an even
more distracted vision than Mark’s might have caught a glimpse of the
Fury.  Mark read it, wondering what charm he had perceived in her, and
thankful that no links stronger than words bound him to the witch. He
had asked no questions concerning Mrs. Perowne’s past; and she had asked
none concerning his.  The postscript to her letter was very imperative:
"Come to the woman you love, if you are alive."  He replied simply: "The
woman I loved as a boy and a man, the woman I love still, is dying.
Think what you please of me, and forget me as soon as possible."  By
return of post came his play with a brutal line across the title page:
"Take this to her; I have no use for it."  Mark tossed the typescript
into a drawer with a laugh. _Fenella_, the graven image of success which
he had set up and worshipped, had become a thing of absolutely no
importance.  But he remembered the Chow and the spirits of ammonia.  His
dear love, who lay dying, had saved him from—what?

Meantime, his friends sought him out, but he sent away David, and Tommy
Greatorex and Pynsent. Jim Corrance, however, refused to leave him,
although Mark ignored his presence for twenty-four hours.  Then, very
gradually, he thawed into speech with his old friend.  Together they
awaited the bulletins.  The disease was running its slow, tortuous
course.  One telegram spelt hope in capital letters; another—despair:
each rose and fell with Betty’s temperature.  Mark’s self-control
distressed poor Jim unspeakably.  His face, which had lost the
expression of youth, always so captivating, wore an iron mask of
impassivity.  And yet Jim knew that the intermittences of Betty’s fever
imposed themselves on Mark.

We are told that Chinese malefactors condemned to die by the abominable
torment of _Ling_—the death from a thousand cuts—only suffer up to a
certain point.  Then insensibility dulls the knives of the executioners.

Jim was asking himself the question: "Will Mark cease to feel?" when a
telegram from Archibald reached Hampstead, containing one word,
"_Come_."



                             *CHAPTER XLI*

                     *THE POWER BEHIND THE THRONE*


Lady Randolph was awaiting Mark in the pretty drawing-room overlooking
the river.

"Nothing can save her," she whispered.  "She is alive because she could
not die without seeing you.  What is left is yours.  You understand.
Archibald has been generous."

"Archibald has his son," Mark said hoarsely.

"She was not herself till last night, when the fever burnt itself out.
But, Mark, always, always she raved of you.  Husband and child were
never mentioned.  It was terrible for him—poor fellow—terrible!"

Mark followed her upstairs.

Betty lay in bed, the light from the windows, which were opened wide,
streaming upon her emaciated face.  A clean, sweet perfume of violets
filled the air, and whatever might have indicated a long and terrible
illness had been removed.

She met his glance with a strange smile, as he stumbled forward, falling
on his knees at the bedside, saying nothing, but kissing the hand lying
limp upon the coverlet.  Betty spoke first:

"Mark, Mark, Archie has forgiven you."

Mark said nothing.  His brother’s forgiveness came upon him at this
moment as a meaningless blow on the cheek.  What did he care for
Archie’s forgiveness?  But he understood instantly what it meant to
Betty.  It explained the smile with which she greeted him.  The question
in her eyes slowly burnt its way to his heart.

"And he has been so good to me, so—good," she faltered.

"Yes, yes," he said hastily.  Should he lie to her as she lay dying?
Should he swear, if need be, that he, too, was purged of hate and envy?
Why not, if such empty words had any virtue in them for her?  But the
lie could not leave his lips.  A minute or two passed in silence.  Then
she whispered: "You will not leave me, Mark?"

Again he kissed her fingers.

"I shall not leave you, dear, dear Betty."

"Ah, but I must leave you.  And I’m afraid."

"If I could go too——Shall I?  Would it make it easier?"

The life raging in him communicated itself to her. A faint colour flowed
into her cheeks, her eyes sparkled.

"You would do that?"

"Gladly."

"I knew you would say it.  But I am not afraid for myself.  I
am—afraid—for—you.  And if—if you went with me, we should part on the
other side."

The words dropped one by one from her pallid lips, slowly, faintly, yet
with indescribable emphasis.

"You must—wait," she whispered.  "Promise me that you will wait.
Quick!"

He obeyed, awestruck, for she had closed her eyes, and he feared she was
gone.  After a pause she spoke of his sermon: "It is
here—under—my—pillow. Will you read the last two pages to me?"

He consented reluctantly, obedient to some spiritual authority.  At the
sound of his broken, troubled voice, harsh, but vibrant with that
strange arresting quality which always had thrilled her, she smiled and
sighed.  Mark read the manuscript, unable to recognise it as his own.
But reading on, he leaped the years which had passed.  The sermon closed
with a passage of great beauty and power.  When he finished, he said
wonderingly: "Did I write that?"

Betty whispered: "You know now why I couldn’t come."

Mark remembered his own aphorism: that the best work of men is greater
than themselves.  And, if so, the conclusion followed inevitably: this
sermon, infinitely greater than himself, must have been inspired not
from within, but from without—by the Infinite!

"It is getting very dark," said Betty.

"Yes," he replied.

The sun had not reached its zenith, but it was dark indeed for the
speaker.  Betty’s breath came and went with difficulty, as the heart and
lungs slowly failed. Mark raised her head.  Her fingers felt for his
hand. He perceived that she was making a sign on the back of it.  At
first he thought it was a caress, but the fingers traced the same sign
again and again—a cross.

He wished to speak of love, but the dreadful lump filled his
throat—strangling him.  She was dying, slipping from his grasp.  If he
could have believed that a meeting was possible elsewhere, still the
doleful certainty possessed him that the flesh-and-blood woman was
departing for ever.  Revolt raged within him, while her finger traced
the symbol of the faith he had abjured, the symbol of the love which
vanquishes hate and death.

Suddenly the finger stopped.

As suddenly, something seemed to break in Mark’s heart.

"Betty," he cried, "Betty—do you hear me?  I am glad you didn’t come.  I
shall live to thank God you didn’t come."

She opened her eyes, and for the last time he noted that curious
intensity of interrogation by which the full orb of the irid was
revealed.  He saw that she could not speak; he knew with conviction that
no speech was necessary.  Her lips parted in a faint smile, as if the
last flickering doubt were escaping.  Then, with a little shiver, with a
sigh of contentment, her lids fell....


Outside the nurse and Lady Randolph waited, listening.  In the library
below sat Archibald Samphire and David Ross.  Presently Lady Randolph
went downstairs.

"The doors are locked," she faltered.  "And there isn’t a sound.  I
fear—I fear——"

The others understood instantly.

"Oh, my God—not that!" exclaimed Archibald.

He ran upstairs.  At Betty’s door he paused, inclining his ear.  The
silence within the room chilled him to the marrow.  He called Mark by
name, at first in a whisper, then louder, at the last his voice rang
through the house.

"We must break in," he said.

At the first glance it seemed certain that both Mark and Betty lay dead
on the bed.  Even the trained eye of the nurse was deceived.  But after
a stimulant had been administered, Mark recovered semi-consciousness.
When he opened his eyes he began to speak in his natural voice; then he
laughed—gaily, youthfully.

"That’s it, Betty—capital!  Pop it over his head! Good!  Ha—ha! old
Archie, that did you.  I say, I am thirsty...."

He imagined that he was at Pitt Hall playing lawn tennis.


Brain fever set in within twenty-four hours. During his delirium he
called impatiently for his brother, who came trembling.  Mark saw only
the boy.

"Why have you stayed away so long?" he asked. "You’re not going to leave
me, old chap?"

"No, no," stammered Archibald.

"I say, it is jolly seeing you again."

He stretched out his lean, shrunken hand, which Archibald took.
Presently Mark’s vagabond wits wandered to Lord’s Cricket Ground.

"Well played!" he screamed.  "A boundary hit, by Jove!  That’s my
brother, you know, old Archie. Isn’t he splendid?  Isn’t he a slogger?
There he goes again.  What a smite!  Well played, Samphire major!  Well
played, sir—_well played_!"

The tears fell down Archibald’s cheeks.

"He’s been going on like that all night," whispered the nurse; then she
added gently, "He seems to have a wonderful love for you, sir."  She was
another nurse, just called in, still ignorant of such gossip as
circulated in the servants’ quarters. Constrained to listen to hideous
raving, to heartrending revelations, this delirium of love touched her
to the core.  She knew that the famous preacher’s wife lay dead in the
next room, and being a tender-hearted woman, strove to comfort him.

"I hear so much that is so shocking," she whispered. "Only the other day
I was nursing a gentleman who cursed his brother, who—died cursing him!
And after that, _this_——  It must be a comfort to you...."

For a fortnight the fever raged.  During long hours each day the
brothers were together, united by the mocking fiend of delirium.  And
during those hours Mark lived again his youth.  Nothing seemed to be
forgotten.  But delirium achieved more than reproduction—revelation.
Mark, like all healthy boys, had concealed his love for his brother. Of
the nature and extent of that love the elder had formed no
conception—till now, when its steady stream poured down in flood.

After the first shock of seeing his brother’s senseless body, Archibald
told himself (and had said as much to David Ross) that it would be well
if Mark departed in peace out of a world wherein he had suffered
cruelly.  But David Ross shook his head.

"He will not die," he said, with conviction, albeit the two doctors in
attendance held the contrary opinion.

And then, gradually, Archibald came to regard his brother’s ravings as
the shadows of an inestimable substance.  Computing his gains, he
discovered with poignant consternation, that his losses far outweighed
them.  His name was in men’s mouths; he held power, wealth, health in
the hollow of his hand.  But was there one fellow-creature who truly
loved him?  Day after day, Mark’s innumerable friends came to the door:
Pynsent, confessing that he was unable to work from anxiety; Jim
Corrance, haggard with sleeplessness; Greatorex, who seemed to spend his
time on the doormat; Albert and Mary Batley.  And besides these, humbler
friends: waifs and strays, reclaimed drunkards, factory girls, who had
read in the papers that the man who had been kind to them lay dying.

Always Archibald had obtained what he desired; but it never occurred to
him that he desired mean things, or rather that the things so desired
were mean in comparison with other things which he had ignored.  None
the less, the habit of seeking strenuously what he coveted remained.  He
realised, inexorably, that he coveted his brother’s love.  And if Mark
died, that love once given so freely, then changed into hate, and at
last given back in awful mockery, would perish with him.

It is possible, of course, that David Ross cleared his vision.  He told
David the little which David did not know.  In a moment of profound
humiliation he professed himself willing to resign his see. David
indicated other penance, not alien to Christian sense.  In and around
Parham, he pointed out, a transgressor might bow the neck beneath the
yoke of a labour harder than any to be found even in convict
establishments.  That Archibald should question his fitness for the task
assigned him convinced David of the magnitude of the change within him.

Upon the day, however, when the doctors agreed that the crisis of the
disease was approaching, Archibald’s misery reached its culminating
point. Returning life meant sanity.  Mark would awake from a sleep which
had lasted forty-eight hours to the realisation of the past, or he would
sink into the coma and collapse which precede dissolution.

After some discussion it was agreed that Mark’s eyes, when they opened,
should rest on a face dear and familiar to him, yet dissociated from the
events which had succeeded Betty’s marriage. Mrs. Corrance had come to
town; she had helped to nurse Mark; she was staying in the house and
could be summoned at any moment.  Accordingly, when at length Mark
Samphire returned from his wanderings, the first person he saw was his
old friend, as she sat sewing at the foot of his bed.  She smiled
serenely, waiting for him to speak.  None the less, he kept silence so
long that her hand began to tremble.  She was sure that he was conscious
and that he must be thinking of Betty.

"Have I been ill?" he asked gravely.

She rose at once, bent over him, touched his hand, and murmured: "Very
ill.  Brain fever.  Keep quiet."

She laid the tips of her fingers upon his eyelids, gently pressing them
down.  He let them fall, and asked no more questions.  But later, after
he had taken some food, he said with a smile: "Betty told me that I must
wait."

Within twenty-four hours word went forth from those in authority that he
would live; but to Archibald’s recurrent question, one answer alone was
possible.  Mark had not spoken his brother’s name. Archibald’s anxiety
became hourly more poignant. If a glimpse of love had been vouchsafed
him, in order that he might realise that it lay for ever beyond his
reach, then of all men he would reckon himself the most unhappy.

Mark did not break silence, when he learned that he was in his brother’s
house.  David was allowed to visit him, but the bishop spoke only of the
waifs from the slums around the mission, who had not forgotten an old
friend.

"But Bagshot killed his wife," said Mark.

David changed the subject.  When he said good-bye, Mark said curtly:
"I’ve been a beast to you, Davie.  Is it all right?"

Ross repeated Mark’s words to Archibald, who was waiting in the passage:
"I think it is all right," said he.  Then he added, pressing the other’s
hand: "He is asking for pardon."

That night the nurse who had come to him first, and who had tended him
so skilfully, sat alone with him.  Her perceptions had warned her that
she was in a house where tragedy had been enacted.  She knew that her
patient had been found, stricken down upon the death-bed of his
brother’s wife, that the husband had held aloof at that most solemn
hour.

Presently, as she was giving Mark some broth, he asked if he had raved
in his delirium.  Other questions followed.  He learned of Archibald’s
presence at his bedside, of his ministrations. Incredulity melted into
astonishment and then into an expression which the nurse could not
define.

"You were never easy for a moment," she concluded, "unless your brother
was with you."

"And he——?"

"It gave him real comfort to wait on you, poor gentleman!"

"Thank you," said Mark.  "Good night, nurse!"

Next morning he asked for a mirror, exclaiming, when he saw his face:
"What a scarecrow!"  Later, he begged the doctor to allow him to send
for a barber.  For some years he had worn a beard, which, however
closely clipped, had greatly altered him.  When the man came, Mark
ordered him to shave all hair from his face.  This done, he called again
for the mirror.

"Do you see much change?" he asked the nurse.

"I hardly recognise you."

"Others will r-recognise me," he said.

With his back to the light he looked the Mark who had ascended the
pulpit at King’s Charteris. His face was thin, pale, and hollow-cheeked.
The fever had taken from him the flesh and colour which life in the open
air had given him.  Presently David Ross called and was admitted.

"Mark!"

He stood upon the threshold, staring.  Mark smiled.

"Will you do me a favour?" he said, as the nurse slipped from the room.
"I have not seen," he paused for a moment, nervously, "m-m-my
b-b-brother yet.  Will you ask him to c-c-come to me?"


A year later Pynsent wrote to Jim Corrance from Parham Castle.


"Parham has gained far more than Literature has lost. Here, Mark is the
power behind the throne.  _À propos_, I have painted Archibald on his
throne in the sanctuary of Parham Cathedral.  Everything, however, is
subordinated to the face, upon which a ray of light falls obliquely. The
expression you will hardly recognise, till you come here.  When it was
done, Archibald stared at it for many minutes.  Then he said in his
rather heavy way: ’It’s a portrait; you have looked beneath these.’  He
indicated the robes.  _The man looks years older_.  But Mark has got
back his youthful appearance, his high spirits, his keenness, his power
of getting enjoyment out of what most of us would consider tedious and
disagreeable.  As his brother’s secretary and confidential adviser, he
knows that he has found himself.  Archibald reaps all the honour and
glory: and the sheaves are heavy.  If praise, as Keble says, be our
penance here, the Bishop of Parham will wear a hair shirt till he dies.
He tells everybody, with pathetic earnestness, that his brother is the
senior partner in the firm—and, of course, nobody believes him.  Mark
sticks to his red tie, and hunts once a week with Kirtling’s hounds.  He
stammers worse than ever when he gets excited.  It may seem amazing to
you—it is certainly amazing to me—but Mark has the look of a happy,
healthy man; and his nephew, so curiously like Betty, adores him."


Jim showed this letter to his mother.

"All the same," he remarked; "Mark ought to have married Betty.  I am
sure of that."

Mrs. Corrance laid down her embroidery.  She and Jim were keeping house
together: it being agreed that the winter should be spent in town and
the summer in the country.

"I am not sure," she answered slowly.  "I used to pray that Betty would
marry you, but how many have profited by my ’losing of my prayers’?
David Ross might make a guess."

Jim flushed.  Only his mother knew that he had contributed large sums of
money and much time to the Bishop of Poplar’s East End enterprises.

"My dear son," Mrs. Corrance touched his hand with her delicate fingers,
"try to believe that Betty died in order that the three men who loved
her might live."



                                THE END



                                PLYMOUTH
                        WILLIAM BRENDON AND SON
                                PRINTERS





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