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Title: A Gray Eye or So - In Three Volumes—Volume III
Author: Moore, Frank Frankfort
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Gray Eye or So - In Three Volumes—Volume III" ***

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A GRAY EYE OR SO

By Frank Frankfort Moore

In Three Volumes--Volume III

SIXTH EDITION

London

HUTCHINSON & CO., 34 PATERNOSTER ROW

1893

[Illustration: 0007]



A GRAY EYE OR SO.



CHAPTER XXXVIII.--ON A KNOWLEDGE OF THE WORLD.

|SHORTLY after noon he was with her. He had left his rooms without
touching a morsel of breakfast, and it was plain that such sleep as
he had had could not have been of a soothing nature. He was pale and
haggard; and she seemed surprised--not frightened, however, for her
love was that which casteth out fear--at the way he came to her--with
outstretched hands which caught her own, as he said, "My beloved--my
beloved, I have a strange word for you--a strange proposal to make.
Dearest, can you trust me? Will you marry me--to-morrow--to-day?"

She scarcely gave a start. He was only conscious of her hands tightening
upon his own. She kept her eyes fixed upon his. The silence was long.
It was made the more impressive by the distinctness with which the
jocularity of the fishmonger's hoy with the cook at the area railings,
was heard in the room.

"Harold," she said, in a voice that had no trace of distrust, "Harold,
you are part of my life--all my life! When I said that I loved you,
I had given myself to you. I will marry you any time you
please--to-morrow--to-day--this moment!"

She was in his arms, sobbing.

His "God bless you, my darling!" sounded like a sob also.

In a few moments she was laughing through her tears.

He was not laughing.

"Now, tell me what you mean, my beloved," said she, with a hand on each
of his shoulders.

"Tell me what you mean by coming to frighten me like this. What has
happened?"

"Nothing has happened, only I want to feel that you are my own--my own
beyond the possibility of being separated from me by any power on earth.
I do not want to take you away from your father's house--I cannot offer
you any home. It may be years before we can live together as those who
love one another as we love, may live with the good will of heaven. I
only want you to become my wife in name, dearest. Our marriage must be
kept a secret."

"But my own love," said she, "why should you wish to go through this
ceremony? Are we not united by the true bond of love? Can we be more
closely united than we are now? The strength of the marriage bond
is only strong in proportion as the love which is the foundation of
marriage is strong. Now, why should you wish for the marriage rite
before we are prepared to live for ever under the same roof?"

"Why, why?" he cried passionately, as he looked into the depths of her
eyes.

He left her and went across the room to one of the windows and looked
out. (It was the greengrocer's boy who was now jocular with the cook at
the area railings.)

"My Beatrice--" Harold had returned to her from his scrutiny of the
pavement. "My Beatrice, you have not seen all that I have seen in the
world. You do not know--you do not know me as I know myself. Why should
there come to me sometimes an unworthy thought--no, not a doubt--oh, I
have seen so much of the world, Beatrice, I feel that if anything should
come between us it would kill me. I must--I must feel that we are made
one--that there is a bond binding us together that nothing can sever."

"But, my Harold--no, I will not interpose any buts. You would not ask
me to do this if you had not some good reason. You say that you know the
world. I admit that I do not know it. I only know you, and knowing
you and loving you with all my heart--with all my soul--I trust you
implicitly--without a question--without the shadow of a doubt."

"God bless you, my love, my love! You will never have reason to regret
loving me--trusting me."

"It is my life--it is my life, Harold."

Once again he was standing at the window. This time he remained longer
with his eyes fixed upon the railings of the square enclosure.

"It must be to-morrow," he said, returning to her. "I shall come here at
noon. A few words spoken in this room and nothing can part us. You will
still call yourself by your own name, dearest, God hasten the day when
you can come to me as my wife in the sight of all the world and call
yourself by my name."

"I shall be here at noon to-morrow," said she.

"Unless," said he, returning to her after he had kissed her forehead and
had gone to the door. "Unless"--he framed her face with his hands,
and looked down into the depths of her eyes.--"Unless, when you have
thought over the whole matter, you feel that you cannot trust me."

She laughed.

"Ah, my love, my love, you do not know the world," said he.

He knew the world.

Another man who knew the world was Pontius Pilate.

This was why he asked "What is Truth?"

Harold Wynne was in Archie Brown's room in Piccadilly within half an
hour.

Archie was at the Legitimate Theatre, Mr. Playdell said--Mr. Playdell
was seated at the dining-room table surrounded by papers. A trifling
difference of opinion had arisen between Mrs. Mowbray and her manager,
he added, and (with a smile) Archie had hurried to the theatre to set
matters right.

"It is kind of you to call, Mr. Wynne," continued Mr. Playdell. "But I
hope it is not to tell me that you regret the suggestion that you made
yesterday--that you do not see your way to write to your sister to
invite Archie to her place."

"I wrote to her the moment you left me," said Harold. "Archie will
get his invitation this evening. It is not about him that I came here
to-day, Mr. Playdell. I came to see you. You asked me yesterday to
give you an opportunity of doing something for me. I can give you that
opportunity."

"And I promise you that I shall embrace it with gladness, Mr. Wynne,"
said Playdell, rising from the table. "Tell me how I can serve you and
you will find how ready I am."

"You still hold to your original principles regarding marriage, Mr.
Playdell?"

"How could I do otherwise than hold to them, Mr. Wynne? They are the
result of thought; they are not merely a fad to gain notoriety. Let me
prove the position that I take up on this matter."

"You need not, Mr. Playdeil. I heard all your case when it was
published. I confess that I now think differently respecting you from
what I thought at that time. Will you perform the ceremony of marriage
between a lady who has promised to marry me and myself?"

"There is only one condition that I make, Mr. Wynne. You must take an
oath that you consider the rite, as I perform it, to be binding upon
you, and that you will never recognize a divorce."

"I will take that oath willingly, Mr. Playdeil. I have promised my
_fiancée_ that we shall be with her at noon to-morrow. She will be
prepared for us. By the way, do you require a ring for the ceremony as
performed by you?"

Mr. Playdeil looked grave--almost scandalized.

"Mr. Wynne," said he, "that question suggests to me a certain disbelief
on your part in the validity in the sight of heaven of the rite of
marriage as performed by a man with a full sense of his high office,
even though unfrocked by a Church that has always shown too great a
readiness to submit to secular guidance--secular restrictions in matters
that were originally, like marriage, purely spiritual. The Church
has not only submitted to civil restrictions in the matter of the
celebration of the holy rite of matrimony, but, while declaring at the
altar that God has joined them whom the Church has joined, and while
denying the authority of man to put them asunder, she recognizes the
validity of divorce. She will marry a man who has been divorced from
his wife, when he has duly paid the Archbishop a sum of money for
sanctioning what in the sight of God is adultery."

"My dear Mr. Playdell," said Harold, "I recollect very clearly the able
manner in which you defended your--your--principles, when they were
called in question. I do not desire to call them in question now. I
believe in your sincerity in this matter and in other matters. I
shall drive here for you at half past eleven o'clock to-morrow. I need
scarcely say that I mean my marriage to be kept a secret."

"You may depend upon my good faith in that respect," said Mr. Playdell.
"Mr. Wynne," he added, impressively, "this land of ours will never be
a moral one so long as the Church is content to accept a Parliamentary
definition of morality. The Church ought certainly to know her own
business."

"There I quite agree with you," said Harold.

He refrained from asking Mr. Playdell if the Church, in dispensing with
his services as one of her priests, had not made an honest attempt to
vindicate her claims to know her own business. He merely said, "Half
past eleven to-morrow," after shaking hands with Mr. Playdell, who
opened the door for him.



CHAPTER XXXIX.--ON CONSCIENCE AND THE RING.

|HAROLD WYNNE shut himself up in his rooms without even lunching. He
drew a chair in front of the fire and seated himself with the sigh of
relief that is given by a man who has taken a definite step in some
matter upon which he has been thinking deeply for some time. He sat
there all the day, gazing into the fire.

Yes, he had taken the step that had suggested itself to him the previous
night. He had made up his mind to take advantage of the opportunity that
was afforded him of binding Beatrice to him by a bond which she at least
would believe incapable of rupture. The accident of his meeting with the
man whose views on the question of marriage had caused him to be thrust
out of the Church, and whose practices left him open to a criminal
prosecution, had suggested to him the means for binding to him the girl
whose truth he had no reason to doubt.

He meant to perpetrate a fraud upon her. He had known of men entrapping
innocent girls by means of a mock marriage, and he had always regarded
such men as the most unscrupulous of scoundrels. He almost succeeded,
after a time, in quieting the whisperings by his conscience of the
word "fraud"--its irritating repetitions of this ugly word--by giving
prominence to the excellence of his intentions in the transaction which
he was contemplating. It was not a mock marriage--no, it was not, as
ordinary mock marriages, to be gone through in order to give a man
possession of the body of a woman, and to admit of his getting rid of
her when it would suit his convenience to do so. It was, he assured
his conscience, no mock marriage, since he was seeking it for no gross
purpose, but simply to banish the feeling of cold distrust which he had
now and again experienced. Had he not offered to free the girl from the
promise which she had given to him? Was that like the course which would
be adopted by a man endeavouring to take advantage of a girl by means
of a mock marriage? Was there anything on earth that he desired more
strongly than a real marriage with that same girl? There was nothing.
But it was, unfortunately, the case that a real marriage would mean ruin
to him; for he knew that his father would keep his word--when it suited
his own purpose--and refuse him his allowance upon the day that he
refused to sign a declaration to the effect that he was unmarried.

The rite which Mr. Playdell had promised to perform between him and
Beatrice would enable him to sign the declaration with--well, with a
clear conscience.

But in the meantime this same conscience continued gibing him upon his
defence of his conduct; asking him with an irritating sneer, if he would
mind explaining his position to the girl's father?--if he was not simply
taking advantage of the peculiar circumstances of the girl's life--of
the remarkable independence which she enjoyed, apparently with the
sanction of her father, to perpetrate a fraud upon her?

For bad taste, for indelicacy, for vulgarity, for disregard of sound
argument--that is, argument that sounds well--and for general obstinacy,
there is nothing to compare with a conscience that remains in moderately
good working order.

After all his straightforward reasoning during the space of two hours,
he sprang from his seat crying, "I'll not do it--I'll not do it!"

He walked about his room for an hour, repeating every now and again the
words, "I'll not do it--I'll not do it!"

In the course of another hour, he turned on his electric lamp, and wrote
a note of half a dozen lines to Mr Playdell, telling him that, on
second thoughts, he would not trouble him the next day. Then he wrote an
equally short note to Beatrice, telling her that he thought it would be
advisable to have a further talk with her before carrying out the plan
which he had suggested to her for the next day. He put each note into
its cover; but when about to affix stamps to them, he found that his
stamp-drawer was empty. This was not a serious matter; he was going
to his club to dine, and he knew that he could get stamps from the
hall-porter.

He felt very much lighter at heart leaving his rooms than he had felt on
entering some hours before. He felt that he had been engaged in a severe
conflict, and that he had got the better of his adversary.

At the door of the club he found Mr. Durdan standing somewhat vacantly.
He brightened up at the appearance of Harold.

"I've just been trying to catch some companionable fellow to dine with
me," he cried.

"I'm sorry that I can't congratulate you upon finding one," said Harold.

"Then I congratulate myself," said Mr. Durdan, brightly. "You're the
most companionable man that I know in town at present."

"Ah, then you're not aware of the fact that Edmund Airey is here just
now," said Harold with a shrewd laugh.

"Edmund Airey? Edmund Airey?" said Mr. Durdan. "Let me tell you that
your friend Edmund Airey is----"

"Don't say it in the open air," said Harold.

"Come inside and make the revelation to me."

"Then you will dine with me? Good! My dear fellow, my medical man has
warned me times without number of the evil of dining alone, or with a
newspaper--even the _Telegraph_. It's the beginning of dyspepsia, he
says; so I wait at the door any time I am dining here until I get hold
of the right man."

"If I can play the part of a priest and exorcise the demon that you're
afraid of, you may reckon upon my services," said Harold. "But to tell
you the truth, I'm a bit down myself to-night."

"What's the matter with you--nothing serious?" said Mr. Durdan.

"I've been working out some matters," said Harold.

"I know what's the matter with you," said the other. "That friend of
yours has been trying to secure you for the Government, and you were too
straightforward to be entrapped? Airey is a clever man--I don't deny his
cleverness for a moment. Oh, yes; Mr. Airey is a very clever man." It
seemed that he was now levelling an accusation against Mr. Airey that
his best friends would find difficulty in repudiating. "Yes, but you and
I, Wynne, are not to be caught by a phrase. The moment he fancied that I
was attracted to her--I say, fancied, mind--and that he fancied--it may
have been the merest fancy--that she was not altogether indifferent to
me, he forced himself forward, and I have good reason to believe that he
is now in town solely on her account. I give you my word, Wynne, I never
spoke a sentence to Miss Avon that all the world mightn't hear. Oh,
there's nothing so contemptible as a man like Airey--a fellow who is
attracted to a girl only when he sees that she is attracting other men.
Yes, I met a man yesterday who told me that Airey was in town. 'Why
should he be in town now?' I inquired. 'There's nothing going on in
town.' He winked and said, '_cherchez la femme_'--he did upon my word.
Oh, the days of the Government are numbered. Will you try Chablis or
Sauterne?"

Harold said that he rather thought that he would try Chablis.

For another hour-and-a-half he was forced to listen to Mr. Durdan's
prosing about the blunders of the Administration, and the designs of
Edmund Airey. He left the club without asking the hall-porter for any
stamps.

He had made up his mind that he would not need any stamps that night.

Before he reached his rooms he took out of the pocket of his overcoat
the two letters which he had written, and he tore them both into small
pieces.

With the chatter of Mr. Durdan there had come back to him that feeling
of distrust.

Yes, he would make sure of her.

He unlocked one of the drawers in his writing-table and brought out
a small _boule_ case. When he had found--not without a good deal of
searching--the right key for the box, he opened it. It contained an
ivory miniature of his mother, in a Venetian mounting, a few jewels, and
two small rings. One of them was set with a fine chrysoprase cameo of
Eros, and surrounded by rubies. The other was an old _in memoriam_ ring.

He picked up the cameo and scrutinized it attentively for some time,
slipping it down to the first joint of his little finger. He kept
turning it over for half an hour before he laid it on the desk and
relocked the box and the drawer.

"It will be hers," he said. "Would I use my mother's ring for this
ceremony if I meant it to be a fraud--if I meant to take advantage of it
to do an injury to my beloved one? As I deal with her, so may God deal
with me when my hour comes." It was a ring that had been left to him
with a few other trinkets by his mother, and he had now chosen it for
the ceremony which was to be performed the next day.

Curiously enough, the fact of his choosing this ring did more to silence
the whispering jeers of his conscience than all his phrases of argument
had done.

The next day he called for Mr. Playdell in a hansom, and shortly after
noon, the words of the marriage service of the Church of England had
been repeated in the Bloomsbury drawing-room by the man who had once
been a priest and who still wore the garb of a priest. He, at any rate,
did not consider the rite a mockery.

Harold could not shake off the feeling that he was acting a part in a
dream. When it was all over he dropped into a chair, and his head fell
forward until his face was buried in his hands.

It was left for Beatrice to comfort this sufferer in his hour of trial.

Her hand--his mother's ring was upon the third finger--was upon his
head, and he heard her low sympathetic voice saying, "My husband--my
husband--I shall be a true wife to you for ever and ever. We shall live
trusting one another for ever, my beloved!"

They were alone in the room. He did not raise his face from his hands
for a long time. She knelt beside where he was sitting and put her head
against his.

In an instant he had clasped her passionately. He held her close to him,
looking into her eyes.

"Oh, my love, my love," he cried. "What am I that you should have given
to me that divine gift of your love? What am I that I should have asked
you to do this for my sake? Was there ever such love as yours, Beatrice?
Was there ever such baseness as mine? Will you forgive me, Beatrice?"

"Only once," said she, "I felt that--I scarcely know what I felt,
dear--I think it was that your hurrying on our marriage showed--was it a
want of trust?"

"I was a fool--a fool!" he said bitterly. "The temptation to bind you to
me was too great to be resisted. But now--oh, Beatrice, I will give up
my life to make you happy!"



CHAPTER XL.--ON SOCIETY AND THE SEAL.

|THE next afternoon when Harold called upon Beatrice, he found her with
two letters in her hand. The first was a very brief one from her father,
letting her know that he would have to remain in Dublin for at least
a fortnight longer; the second was from Mrs. Lampson--she had paid
Beatrice a ten minutes' visit the previous day--inviting her to stay for
a week at Abbeylands, from the following Tuesday.

"What am I to do in the matter, my husband--you see how quickly I have
come to recognize your authority?" she cried, while he glanced at his
sister's invitation.

"My dearest, you had better recognize the duty of a wife in this and
other matters, by pleasing yourself," said he.

"No," said she. "I will only do what you advise me. That, you should see
as a husband--I see it clearly as a wife--will give me a capital chance
of throwing the blame on you in case of any disappointment. Oh, yes, you
may be certain that if I go anywhere on your recommendation and fail to
enjoy myself, all the blame will be laid at your door. That's the way
with wives, is it not?"

"I can't say," said he. "I've never had one from whom to get any hints
that would enable me to form an opinion."

"Then what did you mean by suggesting to me that it was wife-like to
please myself?" said she, with an affectation of shrewdness that was
extremely charming.

"I've seen other men's wives now and again," said he. "It was a great
privilege."

"And they pleased themselves?"

"They did not please me, at any rate. I don't see why you shouldn't go
down to my sister's place next week. You should enjoy yourself."

"You will be there?"

He shook his head.

"I was to have been there," said he; "but when I promised to go I had
not met you. When I found that you were to be in town, I told Ella, my
sister, that it was impossible for me to join her party."

"Of course that decides the matter," said she. "I must remain here,
unless you change your mind and go to Abbeylands."

He remained thoughtful for a few moments, and then he turned to where
she was opening the old mahogany escritoire.

"I particularly want you to go to my sister's," he said. "A reason has
just occurred to me--a very strong reason, why you should accept the
invitation, especially as I shall not be there."

"Oh, no," said she, "I could not go without you."

"My dear Beatrice, where is that wifely obedience of which you mean to
be so graceful an exponent?" said he, standing behind her with a hand on
each of her shoulders. "The fact is, dearest, that far more than you
can imagine depends on your taking this step. It is necessary to throw
people--my relations in particular--off the notion that something came
of our meeting at Castle Innisfail. Now, if you were to go to Abbeylands
while it was known that I had excused myself, you can understand what
the effect would be."

"The effect, so far as I'm concerned, would be that I should be
miserable, all the time I was away from you."

"The effect would be, that those people who may have been joining our
names together, would feel that they have been a little too precipitate
in their conclusions."

"That seems a very small result for so much self-sacrifice on our part,
Harold."

"It's not so small as it may seem to you. I see now how important
it would be to me--to both of us--if you were to go for a week to
Abbeylands while I remain in town."

"Then of course I'll go. Yes, dear; I told you that I would trust you
for ever. I placed all my trust in you yesterday. How many people would
condemn me for marrying you in such indecent haste--that is what they
would call it--and without a word of consultation with my father either?
When I showed my trust in you at that time--the most important in
my life--you may, I think, have confidence that I will trust you in
everything. Yes, I'll go."

He had turned away from her. How could he face her when she was talking
in this way about her trust in him?

"There has never been trust like yours, my beloved," said he, after a
pause. "You will never regret it for a moment, my love--never, never!"

"I know it--I know it," said she.

"The fact is, Beatrice," said he, after another pause, "my relatives
think that if I were to marry Helen Craven I should be doing a
remarkably good stroke of business. They were right: it would be a good
stroke--of business."

"How odd," cried Beatrice. She had become thoroughly interested. "I
never thought of such a possibility at Castle Innisfail. She is nice, I
think; only she does not know how to dress."

In an instant there came to his memory Mrs. Mowbray's cynical words
regarding the extent of a woman's forgiveness.

"The question of being nice or of dressing well does not make any
difference so far as my friends are concerned," said he. "All that is
certain is that Helen Craven has several thousands of pounds a year, and
they think that I should be satisfied with that."

"And so you should," she cried, with the light of triumph in her eyes.
"I wonder if Mr. Airey knew what the wishes of your relatives were in
this matter. I should like to know that, because I now recollect that
he suggested something in that way when we talked together about you one
evening at the Castle."

"Edmund Airey gave me the strongest possible advice on the subject,"
said Harold. "Yes, he advised me to ask Helen Craven to be my wife. More
than that--I only learnt it a few days ago--so soon as you appeared at
the Castle, and he saw--he sees things very quickly--that I was in love
with you, he thought that if he were to interest you greatly, and
that if you found out that he was wealthy and distinguished, you might
possibly decline to fall in love with me, and so----"

"And so fall in love with him?" she cried, starting up from her chair
at the desk. "I see now all that he meant. He meant that I should be
interested in him--I was, too, greatly interested in him--and that I
should be attracted to him, and away from you. But all the time he had
no intention of allowing himself to be attracted by me to the point
of ever asking me to marry him. In short, he was amusing himself at my
expense. Oh, I see it all now. I must confess that, now and again, I
wondered what Mr. Airey meant by placing himself so frequently by my
side. I felt flattered--I admit that I felt flattered. Can you imagine
anything so cruel as the purpose that he set himself to accomplish?"

Her face had become pale. This only gave emphasis to the flashing of her
eyes. She was in a passion of indignation.

"Edmund Airey and his tricks were defeated," said Harold in a low voice.
"Yes, we have got the better of him, Beatrice, so much is certain."

"But the cruelty of it--the cruelty--oh, what does it matter now?" she
cried. Then her paleness vanished into a delicate roseate flush, as she
gave a laugh, and said, "After all, I believe that my indignation is due
only to my wounded vanity. Yes, all girls are alike, Harold. Our vanity
is our dominant quality."

"It is not so with you, Beatrice," he said. "I know you truly, my dear.
I know that you would be as indignant if you heard of the same trickery
being carried on in respect of another girl."

"I would--I know I would," she cried. "But what does it matter? As you
say, I--we--have defeated this Mr. Airey, so that my vanity at least can
find sweet consolation in reflecting that we have been cleverer than he
was. I don't suppose that he could imagine anyone existing cleverer than
himself."

"Yes, I think that we have got the better of him," said Harold. He was
a little surprised to find that she felt so strongly on the subject of
Edmund's attitude in regard to herself. He did not think it wise to tell
her that that attitude was due to the timely suggestion of Helen. He
could not bring himself to do so. He felt that his doing so would be
to place himself on a level with the man who gives his wife during the
first year of their married life, a circumstantial account of the
many wealthy and beautiful young women who were anxious--to a point of
distraction--to marry him.

He felt that there was no need for him to say anything about Helen--he
almost wished that he had said nothing about Edmund.

"We got the better of him," he said a second time. "Never mind Edmund
Airey. You must go to Abbeylands and amuse yourself. You will most
likely meet with Archie Brown there. Archie is the plainest looking and
probably the richest man of his age in England. He is to be made the
subject of an experiment at Abbeylands."

"Is he to be vivisected?" said she. She was now neither pale nor
roseate. She was herself once more.

"There's no need to vivisect poor Archie," said he. "Everyone knows that
there's nothing particular about Archie. No; we are merely trying a new
cure for him. He has not been in a very healthy state lately."

"If he is delicate, I suppose he will be thrown a good deal with us--the
females, the incapables--while the pheasant-shooting is going on."

"You will see how matters are managed at Abbeylands," said Harold. "If
you find that Archie is attracted toward any girl who is distinctly
nice, you might--how does a girl assist her weaker sister to make up her
mind to look with friendly eyes upon such a one as Archie?"

"Let me see," said she. "Wouldn't the best way be for girl number one to
look with friendly eyes on him herself?"

Harold lay back on his chair and laughed at first; then he gazed at her
in wonder.

"You are cleverer than Edmund Airey and Helen Craven when they combine
their wisdom," said he. "Your woman's instinct is worth more than their
experience."

"I never knew what the instincts of a woman were before this morning,"
said she. "I never felt that I had any need to exercise the instinct
of defence. I suppose the young seal, though it has never been in the
water, jumps in by instinct should it be attacked. Oh, yes, I dare say I
could swim as well as most girls of my age."

It was only when he had returned to his rooms that he fully comprehended
the force of her parable of the young seal.



CHAPTER XLI.--ON DRY CHAMPAGNE AND A CRISIS.

|THE next morning Archie drove one of his many machines round to
Harold's rooms and broke in upon him before he had finished his
breakfast.

"Hallo, my tarty chip," cried Archie; "what's the meaning of this?"

He threw on the table an envelope addressed to him in the handwriting of
Mrs. Lampson.

"What's the meaning of what?" said Harold. "Have you got beyond the
restraint of Mr. Playdell alcoholically, that you ask me what's the
meaning of that envelope?"

"I mean what does the inside mean?" said Archie.

"I'm sure you know better than I do, if you've read what's inside it."

"Oh, you're like one of the tarty chips in the courts that cross-examine
other tarty chips until their faces are blue," said Archie. "There's
no show for that sort of thing here. So just open the envelope and see
what's inside."

"How can I do that and eat my kidneys?" said Harold. "I wish to heavens
you wouldn't come here bothering me when I'm trying to get through a
tough kidney and a tougher leading article. What's the matter with the
letter, Archie, my lad?"

"It's all right," said Archie. "It's an invite from your sister for
a big shoot at Abbeylands. What does it mean--that's what I'd like to
know? Does it mean that decent people are going to make me the apple of
their eye, after all?"

"I don't think it goes quite so far as that," said Harold. "I expect it
means that my sister has come to the end of her discoveries and she's
forced to fall back on you."

"Oh, is that all?" Archie looked disappointed. "All? Isn't it enough?"
said Harold. "Why, you're in luck if you let her discover you. I knew
that her atheists couldn't hold out. She used them up too quickly. One
should he economical of one's genuine atheists nowadays."

"Great Godfrey! does she take me for an atheist?" shouted Archie.

"Did you ever hear of an atheist shooting pheasants?" said Harold. "Not
likely. An atheist is a man that does nothing except talk, and talks
about nothing except himself. Now, you're asked to the shoot, aren't
you?"

"That's in the invite anyway."

"Of course. And that shows that you're not taken for an atheist."

"I'm glad of that. I draw the line at atheism," Archie replied with a
smile.

"I hope you'll have a good time among the pheasants."

"Do you suppose that I'll go?"

"I'm sure you will. I may have thought you a bit of a fool before I came
to know you, Archie--"

"And since you heard that I had taken the Legitimate."

"Well, yes, even after that masterpiece of astuteness. But I would never
think that you'd be fool enough to throw away this chance."

"Chance--chance of what?"

"Of getting among decent people. I told you that my sister has nothing
but decent people when there's a shoot--there's no Coming Man in
anything among the house-party. Yes, it's sure to be comfortable. It's
the very thing for you."

"Is it? I'm not so certain about it. The people there are pretty sure to
allude in a friendly spirit to my red hair."

"Well, yes, I think you may depend upon that. That means that you'll get
on so well among them that they will take an interest in your
personality. If you get on particularly well with them they may even
allude to the simplicity of your mug. If they do that, you may be
certain that you are a great social success."

Archie mused.

It was in this musing spirit that he took in a contemplative way a lump
of sugar out of the sugar bowl, turned it over between his fingers as
though it was something altogether new to him. Then he threw the lump up
to the ceiling, his face became one mouth, and the sugar disappeared.

"I think I'll go," he said, as he crunched the lump. "Yes, I'll be
hanged if I don't go."

"That's more than probable," said Harold.

"Yes, I'd like to clear off for a bit from this kennel."

"What kennel?"

"This kennel--London. Do you go the length of denying that London's a
kennel?"

"I don't do anything of the sort."

"You'd best not. I was thinking if a run to Australia, or California, or
Timbuctoo would not be healthy just now."

"Oh."

"Yes, I made up my mind yesterday, that if I don't have better hands
soon, I'll chuck up the whole game. That's the sort of new potatoes that
I am."

"The Legitimate?"

"The Legitimate be frizzled! Am I to continue paying for the suppers
that other tarty chips eat? That's what I want you to tell me. You know
what a square deal is, Wynne, as well as most people."

"I believe I do."

"Well, then, you can tell me if I'm to pay for dry champagne for her
guests."

"Whose guests?"

"Great Godfrey! haven't I been telling you? Mrs. Mowbray's guests. Who
else's would they be? Do you mean to tell me that, in addition to giving
people free boxes at the Legitimate every night to see W. S. late of
Stratford upon Avon, it's my business to supply dry champagne all round
after the performance?"

"Well," said Harold, "to speak candidly to you, I've always been of
the opinion that the ideal proprietor of a theatre is one who supplies
really comfortable stalls free, and has really sound champagne handed
round at intervals during the performance. I also frankly admit that
I haven't yet met with any manager who quite realized my ideas in this
matter. Archie, my lad, the sooner you get down to Abbeylands the better
it will be for yourself."

"I'll go. Mind you, I don't cry off when I know the chaps that she asks
to supper--I'll flutter the dimes for anyone I know; but I'm hanged if
I do it for the chaps that chip in on her invite. They'll not draw cards
from my pack, Wynne. No, I'll see them in the port of Hull first. That's
the sort of new potatoes that I am."

"Give me your hand, Archie," cried Harold. "I always thought you nothing
better than a millionaire, but I find that you're a man after all."

"I'll make things hum at the Legitimate yet," said Archie--his voice was
fast approaching the shouting stage. "I'll send them waltzing round. I
thought once upon a time that, when she laid her hand upon my head
and said, 'Poor old Archie,' I could go on for ever--that to see the
decimals fluttering about her would be the loveliest sight on earth
for the rest of my life. But I'm tired of that show now, Wynne. Great
Godfrey! I can get my hair smoothed down at a barber's for sixpence, and
yet I believe that she charged me a thousand pounds for every time she
patted my head. A decimal for a pat--a pat!"

"You could buy the whole Irish nation for less money, according to some
people's ideas--but they're wrong," said Harold.

"Wynne," said Archie, solemnly. "I've been going it blind for some time.
Shakespeare's a fraud. I'll shoot those pheasants."

He had picked up his hat, and in another minute Harold saw him sending
his pair of chestnuts down the street at a pace that showed a creditable
amount of self-restraint on the part of Archie.

Three days afterwards Harold got a letter from Mrs. Lampson, giving him
a number of commissions to execute for her--delicate matters that could
not be intrusted to any one except a confidential agent. The postscript
mentioned that Archie Brown had arrived a few days before and had
charmed every one with his shyness. On this account she could scarcely
believe, she said, that he was a millionaire. She added that Lady
Innisfail and her daughter had just arrived at Abbeylands, that the Miss
Avon about whom she had inquired, had accepted her invitation and was
coming to Abbeylands on the next day; and finally, Mrs. Lampson said
that her father was dull enough to make people believe that he was
really reformed. He was inquiring when Miss Avon was coming, and he
shared the fate of all men (and women) who were unfortunate enough to
be reformed: he had become deadly dull. Lady Innisfail had assured her,
however, that it was very rarely that a Hardened Reprobate permanently
reformed--even with the incentive of acute rheumatism--before he was
sixty-five, so that it would be unwise to be despondent about
Lord Fotheringay. If this was so--and Lady Innisfail was surely an
authority--Mrs. Lampson said that she looked forward to such a lapse on
the part of her father as would restore him to the position of interest
which he had always occupied in the eyes of the world.

Harold lay back in his chair and laughed heartily at the reference made
by his sister to the shyness of Archie, and also to the fact of Norah
Innisfail's sitting at the table with the Young Reprobate as well as the
Old. He wondered if the conversation had yet turned upon the management
of the Legitimate Theatre.

It was after he had lunched on the next Tuesday that Harold received
this letter--written by his sister the previous day. He had passed
an hour with Beatrice, who was to start by the four-twenty train for
Abbeylands station. He had said goodbye to her for a week, and already
he was feeling so lonely that he was soon pacing his room calling
himself a fool for having elected to remain in town while she was to go.

He thought how they might have had countless strolls through the fine
park at Abbeylands--through the picturesque ruins of the old Abbey--on
the banks of the little trout stream. Instead of being by her side among
those interesting scenes, he would have to remain--he had been foolish
enough to make the choice--in the neighbourhood of nothing more joyous
than St. James's Palace.

This was bad enough; but not merely would he be away from the landscapes
at Abbeylands, the elements of life in those landscapes would be
represented by Beatrice and Another.

Yes; she would certainly appear with someone at her side--in the place
he might have occupied if he had not been such a fool.

An hour had passed before he had got the better of his impulse to call
a hansom and drive to the railway terminus and take a seat beside her in
the train. When the clock had struck four, and it was therefore too late
for him to entertain the idea of going with her, he became more inclined
to take a reasonable view of the situation.

"I was right." he said, as he seated himself in front of the fire,
and stared into the smouldering coals. "Yes, I was right. No one must
suspect that we are--bound to one another"--the words were susceptible
of a sufficiently liberal interpretation. "The penetration of Edmund
Airey will be at fault for the first time, and the others who had so
many suspicions at Castle Innisfail, will find themselves completely at
fault."

He began to think how, though he had been cruelly dealt with by Fate in
some respects--in respect of his own father, for instance, and also in
respect of his own poverty--he had still much to be thankful for.

He was beloved by the loveliest woman whom he had ever seen--the only
woman for whom he had ever felt a passion. And the peculiar position
which she occupied, had enabled him to see her every day and to kiss her
exquisite face--there was none to make him afraid. Such obstacles in the
way of a lover's freedom as the Average Father, the Vigilant Mother
and the Athletic Brother he had never encountered. And then a curious
circumstance--the thought of Beatrice as a part of the landscapes around
Abbeylands caused him to lay special emphasis upon this--had enabled him
to bind the girl to him with a bond which in her eyes at least--yes, in
his eyes too, by heaven, he felt--was not susceptible of being loosened.

Yes, the ways of Providence were wonderful, he felt. If he had not met
Mr. Playdell.... and so forth.

But now Beatrice was his own. She might stray through the autumn
woods by the side of Edmund Airey or any man whom she might meet at
Abbeylands; she would feel upon her finger the ring that he had placed
there--the ring that----

He sprang to his feet with a sudden cry.

"Good God! the Ring! the Ring!"

He looked at the clock on the mantelpiece. It pointed to four-seventeen.

He pulled out his watch. It pointed to four-twenty-two.

He rushed to the sofa where an overcoat was lying. He had it on him in a
moment. He snatched up a railway guide and stuffed it into his pocket.

In another minute he was in a hansom, driving as fast as the hansomeer
thought consistent with public safety--a trifle over that which the
police authorities thought consistent with public safety--in the
direction of the Northern Railway terminus.



CHAPTER XLII.--ON THE RING AND THE LOOK.

|HE tried, while in the hansom, to unravel the mysteries of the system
by which passengers were supposed to reach Brackenshire. He found the
four-twenty train from London indicated in its proper order. This was
the train by which he had invariably travelled to Abbeylands--it was the
last train in the day that carried passengers to Abbeylands Station, for
the station was on a short branch line, the junction being Mowern.

On reaching the terminus he lost no time in finding a responsible
official--one whose chastely-braided uniform looked repressful of tips.

"I want to get to Mowern Junction before the four-twenty train from here
goes on to Abbeylands. Can I do it?" said Harold.

"Next train to the Junction five-thirty-two, sir," said the official.

"That's too late for me," said Harold. "The train leaves the Junction
for Abbeylands a quarter of an hour after arriving at Mowern. Is there
no local train that I might manage to catch that would bring me to the
Junction?"

"None that would serve your purpose, sir."

Harold clearly saw how it was that this company could never get their
dividend over four per cent.

"Why is there so long a wait at Mowern?" he asked.

"Waits for Ditchford Mail, sir."

"And at what time does a train start for Ditch-ford?"

"Can't tell, sir. Ditchford is on the Nethershire system--they have
running powers over our line to Mowern."

Harold whipped out his guide, and found Ditch-ford in the index. By an
inspiration he turned at once to the page devoted to the Nethershire
service of trains. He found that, by an exquisite system of timing the
trains, it was possible to reach a station a mile from Ditchford on the
one line, just six minutes after the departure of the last local train
to Ditchford on the other line. It took a little ingenuity, no doubt,
on the part of the Directors of both lines to accomplish this, but still
they managed to do it.

"I beg pardon, sir," said an official wearing a uniform that suggested
tolerance of views in the matter of tips--the more important official
had moved away. "I beg pardon, sir. Why not take the four-fifty-five
to Mindon, and change into the Ditchford local train--that'll reach the
junction four minutes before the express? I know it, sir. I was
stationed at change into the Ditchford local train--that'll reach the
junction four minutes before the express? I know it, sir. I was
stationed at that part of the system."

To glance at the clock, and to perceive that he had time enough to drive
to the Nethershire terminus, and to transfer a coin to the unconscious
but not reluctant hand of the official of the liberal views, occupied
Harold but a moment. At four-fifty-five he was in the Nethershire train
on his way to Mindon.

He had not waited to verify the man's statement as to the trains, but
in the railway carriage he did so, and he found that the beautiful
complications of the two systems were at least susceptible of the
interpretation put on them.

For the next two hours Harold felt that he could devote himself, if
he had the mind, to the problem of the ring that had been so suddenly
suggested to him.

It did not require him to spend more than the merest fraction of this
time in order to convince him that the impulse upon which he had acted,
was one that he would have been a fool to repress.

The ring which he had put on her finger, and which she had worn
since, and would most certainly wear--he had imagined her doing so--at
Abbeylands, could not fail to be recognized both by his father and his
sister. It had belonged to his mother, and it was unique. It had flashed
upon him suddenly that, unless he was content that his father and sister
should learn that he had given her that ring, it would be necessary for
him to prevent Beatrice from wearing it even for an hour at Abbeylands.

Apart altogether from the question of the circumstances under which he
had put the ring upon her finger--circumstances which he had good reason
for desiring to conceal--the fact that he had given to her the object
which he valued most highly in the world, and which his father and
sister knew that he so valued, would suggest to both these persons as
much as would ruin him.

His father would, he knew, be extremely glad to discover some pretext to
cut off the last penny of his allowance; and assuredly he would regard
this gift of the ring as an ample pretext for adopting such a course of
action. Indeed, Lord Fotheringay had never been at a loss for a pretext
for reducing his son's allowance; and now that he was posing--with
but indifferent success, as Harold had learned from Mrs. Lampson's
postscript--as a Reformed Sinner, he would, his son knew, think that,
in cutting off his son's allowance, he was only acting consistently with
the traditions of Reformed Sinners.

The Reformed Sinner is usually a sinner whose capacity to enjoy the
pleasures of sin has become dulled, and thus he is intolerant of the
sins of others, and particularly intolerant of the capacity of others to
enjoy sin. This is why he reduces the allowances of his children. Like
the man who advances to the position of teetotal lecturer, after having
served for some time as the teetotal lecturer's Example, he knows all
about the evil which he means to combat--to be more exact, which he
means his children to combat.

All this Harold knew perfectly well. He knew that the only difference
that the reform of his father would make to him, was that, while his
father had formerly cut down his allowance with a courteously worded
apology, he would now stop it altogether without an apology.

How could he have failed to remember, when he put that ring upon her
finger, how great were the chances that it would be seen there by his
father or his sister?

This was the question which occupied his thoughts for the first hour
of his journey. He lay back looking out on the gray October landscapes
through which the train rushed--the wood glowing in crimson and brown
like a mighty smouldering furnace--the groups of children picking
blackberries on the embankments--the canal boat moving slowly along the
gray waterway--and he asked himself how he had been such a fool as to
overlook the likelihood of the ring being seen on her hand by his father
or his sister.

The truth was, that he had at that time not considered the possibility
of her going to Abbey-lands. He knew that Mrs. Lampson intended inviting
her; but he felt certain that, when she heard that he was not going, she
would not accept the invitation. She would not have accepted it, if it
had not suddenly occurred to him that the fact of her going while he
remained in town would be to his advantage.

Would he be in time to prevent the disaster which he foresaw would occur
if she appeared in the drawing-room at Abbeylands wearing the ring?

He looked at his watch. The train was three minutes late in reaching
several of the stations on its route, and it was delayed for another
three minutes when there was only a single line of rails. How would
it be possible for the train to make up so great a loss during the
remainder of the journey?

He reminded the guard at one of many intolerable stoppages, that the
train was long behind its time. The guard could not agree with him, it
was only about seven minutes late, he assured Harold.

On it went, and it seemed as if the engine-driver had a clearer sense of
his responsibilities than the guard, for during the next thirty miles,
he managed to save over two minutes. All this Harold noticed with more
interest than he had ever taken in the details of any railway journey.

When at last Mindon was reached, and he left the train to change into
the one which was to carry him on to the Junction, he found that this
train had not yet come up. Here was another point to be considered.
Would the train come up in time?

He was not left for long in suspense. The long row of lighted carriages
ran up to the platform before he had been waiting for two minutes, and
in another two minutes the train was steaming away with him.

He looked at his watch once more, and then he was able to give himself
a rest, for he saw that unless some accident were to happen, he would be
at Mowern Junction before the train should leave for Abbeylands Station
on the branch line.

In running into the Junction, the train went past the platform of the
branch line. A number of carriages were there, and at the side glass of
one compartment he saw the profile of Beatrice.

The little cry that she gave, when he opened the door of the compartment
and spoke her name, had something of terror as well as delight in it.

"Harold! How on earth--" she began.

"I have a rather important message for you," he said. "Will you take a
turn with me on the platform? There is plenty of time. The train does
not start for six minutes."

She was out of the carriage in a moment. "Mr. Wynne has a message for
me--it is probably from Mrs. Lampson," she said to her maid, who was in
the same compartment.



CHAPTER XLIII.--ON THE SON OF APHRODITE.

|WHAT can be the matter? How did you manage to come here? You must have
travelled by the same train as we came by. Oh, Harold, my husband, I am
so glad to see you. You have changed your mind--you are coming on with
me? Oh, I see it all now. You meant all along to give me this delightful
surprise."

The words came from her in a torrent as she put her hand on his arm--he
could feel the ring on her finger.

"No, no," said he; "everything remains as it was this morning. I only
wish that I were going on with you. Providentially something occurred to
me when I was sitting alone after lunch. That is why I came. I managed
to catch a train that brought me here just now--the train I was in ran
past this platform and I saw your face."

"What can have occurred to you that you could not tell me in a letter?"
she asked, her face still bearing the look of glad surprise that had
come to it when she had heard the sound of his voice.

"We shall have to go into a waiting-room, or--better still--an empty
carriage," said he. "I see several men whom I know, and--worse luck!
women--they are on their way to Abbeylands, and if they saw us together
in this confidential way, they would never cease chattering when they
arrived. We shall get into a compartment--there is one that still
remains unlighted, it will be the best for our purpose; there will be no
chance of a prying face appearing at the window."

"Shall we have time?" she asked.

"Plenty of time. By getting into the carriage you will run no chance of
being left behind--the worst that can happen is that I may be carried on
with you."

"The worst? Oh, that is the best--the best." They had strolled to the
end of the platform where it was dimly lighted, and in an instant,
apparently unobserved by anyone, they had got into an unlighted
compartment at the rear of the train, and Harold shut the door
quietly, so as not to attract the attention of the three or four men in
knickerbockers who were stretching their legs on the platform until the
train was ready to start.

"We are fortunate," said he. "Those men outside will be your
fellow-guests for the week. None of them will think of glancing into
a dark carriage; but if one of them does so, he will be nothing the
wiser."

"And now--and now," she cried.

"And now, my dearest, you remember the ring that I put upon your
finger?"

"This ring? Do you think it likely that I have forgotten it already?"
she whispered.

"No, no, dearest; it was I who forgot it," he said. "It was I who forgot
that my father and my sister are perfectly certain to recognize that
ring if you wear it at Abbeylands: they will be certain to see it on
your linger, and they will question you as to how it came into your
possession."

"Of course they will," she said, after a pause. "You told me that it was
a ring that belonged to your mother. There can only be one such ring in
the world. Oh, they could not fail to recognize it. The little chubby
wicked Eros surrounded by the rubies--I have looked at the design every
day--every night--sometimes the firelight gleaming upon the circle of
rubies has made them seem to me a band of blood. Was that the idea of
the artist who made the design, I wonder--a circle of blood with the god
Eros in the centre."

She had taken off her glove, and had laid the hand with the ring in one
of his hands.

He had never felt her hand so soft and warm before. His hand became
hot through holding hers. His heart was beating as it had never beaten
before.

The force of his grasp pressed the sharply cut cameo into his flesh. The
image of that wicked little god, the son of Aphrodite, was stamped upon
him. It seemed as if some of his blood would mingle with the blood that
sparkled and beat within the heart of the rubies.

He had forgotten the object of his mission to her. Still holding her
hand with the ring, he put his arm under the sealskin coat that reached
to her feet, and held her close to him while he kissed her as he had
never before kissed her.

Suddenly he seemed to recollect why he was with her. He had not hastened
down from London for the sake of the kiss.

"My beloved, my beloved!" he murmured--each word sounded like a sob--"I
should like to remain with you for ever."

She did not say a word. She did not need to say a word. He could feel
the tumult of her heart, and she knew it.

"For God's sake, Beatrice, let me speak to you," he said.

It was a strange entreaty. His arm was about her, his hand was holding
one of hers, she was simply passive by his side; and yet he implored of
her to let him speak to her.

It was some moments before she could laugh, however; which was also
strange, for the humour of the matter which called for that laugh, was
surely capable of being appreciated by her immediately.

She gave a laugh and then a sigh.

The carriage was dark, but a stray gleam of light from a side platform
now and again came upon her face, and her features were brought into
relief with the clearness and the whiteness of a lily in a jungle.

As she gave that laugh--or was it a sigh?--he started, perceiving that
the expression of her features was precisely that which the artist in
the antique had imparted to the features of the little chrysoprase Eros
in the centre of that blood-red circle of the ring.

"Why do you laugh, Beatrice?8 said he.

"Did I laugh, Harold?" said she. "No--no--I think--yes, I think it was a
sigh--or was it you who sighed, my love?"

"God knows," said he. "Oh, the ring--the ring!"

"It feels like a band of burning metal," she said.

"It is almost a pain for me to wear it. Have you not heard of the
curious charms possessed by rings, Harold--the strange spells which they
carry with them? The ring is a mystery--a mystic symbol. It means what
has neither beginning nor ending--it means perfection--completeness--it
means love--love's completeness."

"That is what your ring must mean to us, my beloved," said he. "Whether
you take it from your finger or let it remain there, it will still mean
the completeness of such love as is ours."

"And I am to take it off, Harold?"

"Only so long as you stay at Abbeylands, Beatrice. What does it matter
for one week? You will see, dearest, how my plans--my hopes--must
certainly he destroyed if that ring is seen on your finger by my father
or my sister. It is not for the sake of my plans only that I wish you to
refrain from wearing it for a week; it is for your sake as well."

"Would they fancy that I had stolen it, dear?" she asked, looking up to
his face with a smile.

"They might fancy worse things than that, Beatrice," said he. "Do
not ask me. You may be sure that I am advising you aright--that the
consequences of that ring being recognized on your finger would be more
serious than you could understand."

"Did I not say something to you a few days ago about the completeness of
my trust in you, Harold?" she whispered. "Well, the ring is the symbol
of this completeness also. I trust you implicitly in everything. I have
given myself up to you. I will do whatever you may tell me. I will not
take the ring off until I reach Abbeylands, but I shall take it off
then, and only replace it on my finger every night."

"My darling, my darling! Such love as you have given to me is God's best
gift to the world."

He had committed himself to an opinion practically to the same effect
upon more than one previous occasion.

And now, as then, the expression of that opinion was followed by a long
silence, as their faces came together.

"Beatrice," he said, in a tremulous voice.

"Harold."

"I shall go on with you to Abbeylands. Come what may, we shall not now
be separated."

But they were separated that very instant. The carriage was flooded with
light--the chastened flood that comes from an oil lamp inserted in a
hollow in the roof--and they were no longer in each others arms. They
heard the sound of the porter's feet on the roof of the next carriage.

"It is so good of you to come," said she.

There was now perhaps three inches of a space separating them.

"Good?" said he. "I'm afraid that's not the word. We shall be under one
roof."

"Yes," she said slowly, "under one roof."

"Tickets for Ashmead," intoned a voice at the carriage window.

"We are for Abbeylands Station," said Harold.

"Abb'l'ns," said the guard. "Why, sir, you know the Abb'l'ns train
started six minutes ago."



CHAPTER XLIV.--ON THE SHORTCOMINGS OF A SYSTEM.

|HAROLD was out of the compartment in a moment. Did the guard mean that
the train had actually left for Abbeylands? It had left six minutes
before, the guard explained, and the station-master added his guarantee
to the statement.

Harold looked around--from platform to platform--as if he fancied that
there was a conspiracy between the officials to conceal the train.

How could the train leave without taking all its carriages with it?

It did nothing of the kind, the station-master said, firmly but
respectfully.

The guard went on with his business of cutting neat triangles out of
the tickets of the passengers in the carriages that were alongside the
platform--passengers bound for Ashmead.

"But I--we--my--my wife and I got into one of the carriages of the
Abbeylands train," said Harold, becoming indignant, after the fashion
of his countrymen, when they have made a mistake either on a home or
foreign railway. "What sort of management is it that allows one
portion of a train to go in one direction and another part in another
direction?"

"It's our system, sir," said the official. "You see, sir, there're never
many passengers for either the Abbeyl'n's"--being a station-master he
did not do an unreasonable amount of clipping in regard to the
names--"or the Ashm'd branch, so the Staplehurst train is divided--only
we don't light the lamps in the Ashm'd portion until we're ready to
start it. Did you get into a carriage that had a lamp, sir?"

"I've seen some bungling at railway stations before now," said Harold,
"but bang me if I ever met the equal of this."

"This isn't properly speaking a station, sir, it's a junction," said
the official, mildly, but with the force of a man who has said the last
word.

"That simply means that greater bungling may be found at a junction than
at a station," said Harold. "Is it not customary to give some notice
of the departure of a train at a junction as well as a station, my good
man?"

The official became reasonably irritated at being called a good man.

"The train left for Abbeyl'n's according to reg'lation, sir," said he.
"If you got into a compartment that had no lamp----"

"Oh, I've no time for trifling," said Harold. "When does the next train
leave for Abbey-lands?"

"At eight-sixteen in the morning," said the official.

"Great heavens! You mean to say that there's no train to-night?"

"You see, if a carriage isn't lighted, sir, we----"

The man perceived the weakness of Harold's case--from the standpoint
of a railway official--and seemed determined not to lose sight of it.
"Contributory negligence" he knew to be the most valuable phrase that a
railway official could have at hand upon any occasion.

"And how do you expect us to go on to Abbeylands to-night?" asked
Harold.

"There's a very respectable hotel a mile from the junction, sir," said
the man. "Ruins of the Priory, sir--dates back to King John, page 84
_Tourist's Guide to Brackenshire_."

"Oh," said Harold, "this is quite preposterous." He went to where
Beatrice was seated watching, with only a moderate amount of interest,
the departure of five passengers for Ashmead.

"Well, dear?" said she, as Harold came up.

"For straightforward, pig-headed stupidity I'll back a railway company
against any institution in the world," said he. "The last train has
left for Abbeylands. Did you ever know of such stupidity? And yet the
shareholders look for six per cent, out of such a system."

"Perhaps," said she timidly--"perhaps we were in some degree to blame."

He laughed. It was so like a woman to suggest the possibility of some
blame attaching to the passengers when a railway company could be
indicted. To the average man such an idea is as absurd as beginning to
argue with a person at whom one is at liberty to swear.

"It seems that there is a sort of hotel a mile away," said he. "We
cannot be starved, at any rate."

"And I--you--we shall have to stay there?" said she.

He gave a sort of shrug--an Englishman's shrug--about as like the real
thing as an Englishman's bow, or a Chinaman's cheer.

"What can we do?" said he. "When a railway company such as this--oh,
come along, Beatrice. I am hungry--hungry--hungry!"

He caught her by the arm.

"Yes, Harold--husband," said she.

He started.

"Husband! Husband!" he said. "I never thought of that. Oh, my
beloved--my beloved!"

He stood irresolute for a moment.

Then he gave a curious laugh, and she felt his hand tighten upon her arm
for a moment.

"Yes," he whispered. "You heard the words that--that man said while our
hands were together? 'Whom God hath joined'--God--that is Love. Love
is the bond that binds us together. Every union founded on Love is
sacred--and none other is sacred--in the sight of heaven."

"And you do not doubt my love," she said.

"Doubt it? oh, my Beatrice, I never knew what it was before now." They
left the station together, after he had written and despatched in her
name a telegram to her maid, directing her to explain to Mrs. Lampson
that her mistress had unfortunately missed the train, but meant to go by
the first one in the morning.

By chance a conveyance was found outside, and in it they drove to the
Priory Hotel which, they were amazed to find, promised comfort as well
as picturesqueness.

It was a long ivy-covered house, and bore every token of being a portion
of the ancient Priory among the ruins of which it was standing. Great
elms were in front of the house, and on one side there were apple trees,
and at the other there was a garden reaching almost to where a ruined
arch was held together by its own ivy.

As they were in the act of entering the porch, a ray of moonlight
gleamed upon the ruins, and showed the trimmed grass plots and neat
gravel walks among the cloisters.

Harold pointed out the picturesque effect to Beatrice, and they stood
for some moments before entering the house.

The old waiter, whose moderately white shirt front constituted a very
distinctive element of the hall with its polished panels of old oak, did
not bustle forward when he saw them admiring the ruins.

"Upon my word," said Harold, entering, "this is a place worth seeing.
That touch of moonlight was very effective."

"Yes, sir," said the waiter; "I'm glad you're pleased with it. We try to
do our best in this way for our patrons. Mrs. Mark will be glad to know
that you thought highly of our moonlight, sir."

The man was only a waiter, but he was as solemn as a butler, as he
opened the door of a room that seemed ready to do duty as a coffee-room.
It had a low groined ceiling, and long narrow windows.

An elderly maid was lighting candles in sconces round the walls.

"Really," said Harold, "we may be glad that the bungling at the junction
brought us here."

"Yes, sir," said the man with waiter-like acquiescence; "they do bungle
things sometimes at that junction."

"We were on our way to Abbeylands," said Harold, "but those idiots on
the platform allowed us to get into the wrong carriages--the carriages
that were going to Ashmead. We shall stay here for the night. The
station-master recommended us to go here, and I'm much obliged to him.
It's the only sensible--"

"Yes, sir: he's a brother to Mrs. Mark--Mrs. Mark is our proprietor,"
said the waiter.

"_Mrs_. Mark," said Harold.

"Yes, sir: she's our proprietor."

Harold thought that, perhaps, when the owner of an hotel was a woman,
she might reasonably be called the proprietor.

"Oh, well, perhaps a maid might show my--my wife to a room, while I see
what we can get for dinner--supper, I suppose we should call it."

The middle-aged woman who was lighting the candles came forward smiling,
as she adroitly extinguished the wax taper by the application of her
finger and thumb. With her Beatrice disappeared.

Harold quite expected that he was about to come upon the weak element
in the management of this picturesque inn. But when he found that a cold
pheasant as well as some hot fish was available for supper, he admitted
that the place was perfect. There was no wine card, but the old waiter
promised a Champagne for which, he said, Mr. Lampson, of Abbeylands, had
once made an offer.

"That will do for us very well," said Harold. "Mr. Lampson would
not make an offer for anything--wine least of all--of which he was
uncertain."

The waiter went off in the leisurely style that was only consistent with
the management of an establishment that dated back to King John; and in
a few minutes Beatrice appeared, having laid aside her sealskin coat,
and her hat.

How exquisite she seemed as she stood for an instant in the subdued
light at the door!

And she was his.



CHAPTER XLV.--ON MOONLIGHT AND MORALS.

|SHE was his.

He felt the joy of it as she stood at the door in her beautifully
fitting travelling dress.

The thought sent an exultant glow through his veins, as he looked at her
from where he was standing at the hearth. (There was no "cosy corner"
abomination.)

She was his.

He went forward to meet her, and put out both his hands to her.

She placed a hand in each of his.

"How delightfully warm you are," she said. "You were standing at the
fire."

"Yes," he said. "I was at the fire; in addition, I was also thinking
that you are mine."

"Altogether yours now," she said looking at him with that trustful smile
which should have sent him down on his knees before her, but which did
not do more than cause his eyes to look at her throat instead of gazing
straight into her eyes.

They seated themselves on one of the old window-seats, and talked face
to face, listlessly watching the old waiter lay a white cloth on a
portion of the black oak table.

When they had eaten their fish and pheasant--Harold wondered if the
latter had come from the Abbeylands' preserves, and if Archie Brown had
shot it--they returned to the window-seat, and there they remained for
an hour.

He had thrown all reserve to the winds. He had thrown all forethought to
the winds. He had thrown all fear of God and man to the winds.

She was his.

The old waiter re-entered the room and laid on the table a flat bedroom
candlestick with a box of matches.

"Can I get you anything before I go to bed, sir?" he inquired.

"I require nothing, thank you," said Harold.

"Very good, sir," said the waiter. "The candles in the sconces will burn
for another hour. If that will not be long enough--"

"It will be quite long enough. You have made us extremely comfortable,
and I wish you goodnight," said Harold.

"Good-night, sir. Good-night, madam."

This model servitor disappeared. They heard the sound of his shoes upon
the stairs.

"At last--at last!" whispered Harold, as he put an arm on the deep
embrasure of the window behind her.

She let her shapely head fall back until it rested on his shoulder. Then
she looked up to his face.

"Who could have thought it?" she cried. "Who could have predicted that
evening when I stood on the cliffs and sent my voice out in that wild
way across the lough, that we should be sitting here to-night?"

"I knew it when I got down to the boat and drew your hands into mine by
that fishing-line," said he. "When the moon showed me your face, I knew
that I had seen the face for which I had been searching all my life.
I had caught glimpses of that face many times in my life. I remember
seeing it for a moment when a great musician was performing an
incomparable work--a work the pure beauty of which made all who listened
to it weep. I can hear that music now when I look upon your face. It
conveys to me all that was conveyed to me by the music. I saw it
again when, one exquisite dawn, I went into a garden while the dew was
glistening over everything. There came to me the faint scent of violets.
I thought that nothing could be lovelier; but in another moment, the
glorious perfume of roses came upon me like a torrent. The odour of the
roses and the scent of the violets mingled, and before my eyes floated
your face. When the moonlight showed me your face on that night beside
the Irish lough I felt myself wondering if it would vanish."

"It has come to stay," she whispered, in a way that gave the sweetest
significance to the phrase that has become vulgarized.

"It came to stay with me for ever," he said. "I knew it, and I felt
myself saying, 'Here by God's grace is the one maid for me.'"

He did not falter as he looked down upon her face--he said the words
"God's grace" without the least hesitancy.

The moonlight that had been glistening on the ivy of the broken arches
of the ancient Priory, was now shining through the diamond panes of
the window at which they were sitting. As her head lay back it was
illuminated by the moon. Her hair seemed delicate threads of spun glass
through which the light was shining.

One of the candles flared up for a moment in its socket, then dwindled
away to a single spark and then expired.

"You remember?" she whispered.

"The seal-cave," he said. "I have often wondered how I dared to tell you
that I loved you."

"But you told me the truth."

"The truth. No, no; I did not love you then as I regard loving now. Oh,
my Beatrice, you have taught me what 'tis to love. There is nothing in
the world but love, it is life--it is life!"

"And there are none in the world who love as you and I do."

His face shut out the moonlight from hers. There was a long silence
before she said, "It was only when you had parted from me every day that
I knew what you were to me, Harold. Ah, those bitter moments! Those sad
Good-byes--sad Good-nights out of the moonlight from hers. There was a
long silence before she said, "It was only when you had parted from me
every day that I knew what you were to me, Harold. Ah, those bitter
moments! Those sad Good-byes--sad Good-nights!"

"They are over, they are over!" he cried. The lover's triumph rang
through his words. "They are over. We have come to the night when no
more Good-nights shall be spoken. What do I say? No more Good-nights?
You know what a poet's heart sang--a poet over whose head the waters of
passion had closed? I know the song that came from his heart--beloved,
the pulses of his heart beat in every line:"=


```"'Good-night! ah, no, the hour is ill

'```That severs those it should unite:

'``Let us remain together still,

````Then it will be good night.=


```"' How can I call the lone night good,

`````Though thy sweet wishes wing its flight?

```Be it not said--thought--understood;

````Then it will be good night.=


```"'To hearts that near each other move

'```From evening close to morning light,

```The night is good because, oh, Love,

````They never say Good-night.'"=


His whispering of the last lines was very tremulous. Her eyes were
closed and her lips were parted with the passing of a sigh--a sigh that
had something of a sob about it. Then both her arms were flung round his
neck, and he felt her face against his. Then.... he was alone.

How had she gone?

Whither had she gone?

How long had he been alone?

He got upon his feet, and looked in a dazed way around the room.

Had it all been a dream? Was it only in fancy that she had been in his
arms? Had he been repeating Shelley's poem in the hearing of no one?

He opened a glass door by which access was had to the grounds of the old
Priory, and stood, surpliced by the moonlight, beside the ruined arch
where an oriel window had once been. He turned and looked at the house.
It was black against the clear sky that overflowed with light, but one
window above the room where he had been sitting was illuminated.

It had no drapery--he could see through it half way into the room
beyond.

Just above where a silver sconce with three lighted candles hung from
the wall, he could see that the black panel bore in high relief a carved
Head of the Virgin, surrounded with lilies.

He kept his eyes fixed upon that carving until--until....

There came before his eyes in that room the Temptation of Saint Anthony.

His eyes became dim looking at her loveliness, shining with dazzling
whiteness beneath the light of the candles.

He put his hands before his eyes and staggered to the door through which
he had passed. There he stood, his breath coming in sobs, with his hand
on the handle of the door.

There was not a sound in the night. Heaven and earth were breathlessly
watching the struggle.

It was the struggle between Heaven and Hell for a human soul.

The man's fingers fell from the handle of the door. He clasped his hands
across the ivy of the wall and bowed his head upon them.

Only for a few moments, however. Then, with a cry of agony, he started
up, and with his clasped hands over his eyes, fled--madly--blindly--away
from the house.

Before he had gone far, he tripped and fell over a stone--he only fell
upon his knees, but his hands were clutching at the ground.

When he recovered himself, he found that he was on his knees at the foot
of an ancient prostrate Cross.

He stared at it, and some time had passed before there came from his
parched lips the cry, "Christ have mercy upon me!"

He bowed his head to the Cross, and his lips touched the cold, damp
stone.

This was not the kiss to which he had been looking forward.

He sprang to his feet and fled into the distance.

She was saved!

And he--he had saved his soul alive!



CHAPTER XLVI.--ON A BED OF LOGS.


|ONWARD he fled, he knew not whither; he only knew that he was flying
for the safety of his soul.

He passed far beyond the limits of the Priory grounds, but he did not
reach the high road. He crossed a meadow and came upon a trout stream.
He walked beside it for an hour. At the end of that time there was no
moonlight to glitter upon its surface. Clouds had come over the sky and
drops of rain were beginning to fall.

He crossed the stream by a little bridge, and reached the border of a
wood. It was now long past midnight. He had been walking for two hours,
but he had no consciousness of weariness. It was not until the rain was
streaming off his hair that he recollected that he had no hat. But on
still he went through the darkness and the rain, as though he were being
pursued, and that every step he took was a step toward safety.

He came upon a track that seemed to lead through the wood, and upon this
track he went for several miles. The ground was soft, and at some places
the rain had turned it into a morass. The autumn leaves lay in drifts,
sodden and rotting. Into more than one of these he stumbled, and when he
got upon his feet again, the damp leaves and the mire were clinging to
him.

For three more hours he went on by the winding track through the wood.
In the darkness he strayed from it frequently, but invariably found it
again and struggled on, until he had passed right through the wood and
reached a high road that ran beside it.

As though he had been all the night wandering in search for this road,
so soon as he saw it he cried, "Thank God, thank God!"

But something else may have been in his mind beyond the satisfaction of
coming upon the road.

At the border of the wood where the track broadened out, there was a
woodcutter's rough shed. It was piled up with logs of various sizes, and
with trimmed boughs awaiting the carts to come along the road to carry
them away. He entered the shed, and, overpowered with weariness, sank
down upon a heap of boughs; his head found a resting place in a forked
branch and in a moment he was sound asleep.

His head was resting upon the damp bark of the trimmed branch, when it
might have been close to that whiteness which he had seen through the
window.

True; but his soul was saved.

He awoke, hearing the sound of voices around him.

The cold light of a gray, damp day was struggling with the light that
came from a fire of faggots just outside, and the shed was filled with
the smoke of the burning wood. The sound of the crackling of the small
branches came to his ears with the sound of the voices.

He raised his head, and looked around him in a dazed way. He did not
realize for some time the strange position in which he found himself.
Suddenly he seemed to recall all that had occurred, and once more he
said, "Thank God, thank God!"

Three men were standing in the shed before him. Two of them held
bill-hooks in a responsible way; the third had the truncheon of a
constable. He also wore the helmet of a constable.

The men with the bill-hooks seemed preparing to repel a charge. They
stood shoulder to shoulder with their implements breast high.

The man with the truncheon seemed willing to trust a great deal to them,
whether in regard to attack or defence.

"Well, you're awake, my gentleman," said the man with the truncheon.

The speech seemed a poor enough accompaniment to such a show of
strength, aggressive or defensive, as was the result of the muster in
the shed.

"Yes, I believe I'm awake," said Harold. "Is the morning far advanced?"

"That's as may be," said the truncheon-holder, shrewdly, and after a
pause of considerable duration.

"You're not the man to compromise yourself by a hasty statement," said
Harold.

"No," said the man, after another pause.

"May I ask what is the meaning of this rather imposing demonstration?"
said Harold.

"Ay, you may, maybe," replied the man. "But it's my business to tell
you that--" here he paused and inflated his lungs and person
generally-- "that all you say now will be used as evidence against
you."

"That's very official," said Harold. "Does it mean that you're a
constable?"

"That it do; and that you're in my charge now. Close up, bill-hooks, and
stand firm," the man added to his companions.

"Don't trumle for we," said one of the billhook-holders.

"You see there's no use broadening vi'lent-like," said the
truncheon-holder.

"That's clear enough," said Harold. "Would it be imprudent for me to
inquire what's the charge against me?"

"You know," said the policeman.

"Come, my man," said Harold; "I'm not disposed to stand this farce any
longer. Can't you see that I'm no vagrant--that I haven't any of your
logs concealed about me. What part of the country is this? Where's the
nearest telegraph office?"

"No matter what's the part," said the constable; "I've arrested you
before witnesses of full age, and I've cautioned you according to the
Ack o' Parliament."

"And the charge?"

"The charge is the murder."

"Murder--what murder?"

"You know--the murder of the Right Honourable Lord Fotheringay."

"What!" shouted Harold. "Lord--oh, you're mad! Lord Fotheringay is my
father, and he's staying at Abbeylands. What do you mean, you idiot, by
coming to me with such a story?" The policeman winked in by no means a
subtle way at the two men with the bill-hooks; he then looked at Harold
from head to foot, and gave a guffaw.

"The son of his lordship--the murdered man--you heard that, friends,
after I gave the caution according to the Ack o' Parliament?" he said.

"Ay, ay, we heard--leastways to that effeck," replied one of the men.

"Then down it goes again him," said the constable. "He's a
gentleman-Jack tramp--and that's the worst sort--without hat or head
gear, and down it goes that he said he was his lordship's son."

"For God's sake tell me what you mean by talking of the murder of Lord
Fotheringay," said Harold. "There can be no truth in what you said. Oh,
why do I wait here talking to this idiot?" He took a few steps toward one
end of the shed. The men raised their bill-hooks, and the constable made
an aggressive demonstration with his truncheon.

Against Stupidity the gods fight in vain, but now and again a man with
good muscles can prevail against it. Harold simply dealt a kick upon
the heavy handle of the bill-hook nearest to him, and it swung round
and caught in the stomach the second man, who immediately dropped his
implement. He needed both hands to press against his injured person.

The constable ran to the other end of the shed and blew his whistle.

Harold went out in the opposite direction and got upon the high road;
but before he had quite made up his mind which way to go, he heard the
clatter of a horse galloping. He saw that a mounted constable was coming
up, and he also noticed with a certain amount of interest, that he was
drawing a revolver.

Harold stood in the centre of the road and held up his hand.

One of the few occasions when a man of well developed muscles, if he is
wise, thinks himself no better than the gods, is when Stupidity is in
the act of drawing a revolver.

"Are you the sergeant of constabulary?" Harold inquired, when the man
had reined in. He still kept his revolver handy.

"Yes, I'm the sergeant of constabulary. Who are you, and what are you
doing here?" said the man.

"He's the gentleman-Jack tramp that the lads found asleep in the shed,
sergeant," said the constable, who had hurried forward with the naked
truncheon. "The lads came on him hiding here, when they were setting
about their day's work. They ran for me, and that's why I sent for you.
I've arrested him and cautioned him. He was nigh clearing off just now,
but I never took an eye off him. Is there a reward yet, sergeant?"

"Officer," said Harold. "I am Lord Fotheringay's son. For God's
sake tell me if what this man says is true--is Lord Fotheringay
dead--murdered?"

"He's dead. You seem to know a lot about it, my gentleman," said the
sergeant. "You're charged with his murder. If you make any attempt at
resistance, I'll shoot you down like a dog."

The man had now his revolver is his right hand. Harold looked first at
him, and then at the foolish man with the truncheon. He was amazed. What
could the men mean? How was it that they did not touch their helmets to
him? He had never yet been addressed by a policeman or a railway porter
without such a token of respect. What was the meaning of the change?

This was really his first thought.

His mind was not in a condition to do more than speculate upon this
point. It was not capable of grasping the horrible thing suggested by
the men.

He stood there in the middle of the road, dazed and speechless. It was
not until he had casually looked down and had seen the condition of his
feet and legs and clothes that, passing from the amazed thought of
the insolence of the constables, into the amazement produced by his
raggedness--he was apparently covered with mire from head to foot--the
reason of his treatment flashed upon him; and in another instant every
thought had left him except the thought that his father was dead. His
head fell forward on his chest. He felt his limbs give way under him.
He staggered to the low hank at the side of the road and managed to seat
himself. He supported his head on his hands, his elbows resting on his
knees.

There he remained, the four men watching him; for the interest which
attaches to a distinguished criminal in the eyes of ignorant rustics, is
almost as great as that which he excites among the leaders of society,
who scrutinize him in the dock through opera glasses, and eat _pâté de
foie gras_ sandwiches beside the judge.



CHAPTER XLVII.--ON THE PLEASURES OF MEMORY.

|SOME minutes had passed before Harold had sufficiently recovered to be
able to get upon his feet. He could now account for everything that
had happened. His father must have been found dead under suspicious
circumstances the previous day, and information had been conveyed to the
county constabulary. The instinct of the constabulary being to connect
all crime with tramps, and his own appearance, after his night of
wandering, as well as the conditions under which he had been found,
suggesting the tramp, he had naturally been arrested.

He knew that he could only suffer some inconvenience for an hour or so.
But what would be the sufferings of Beatrice?

"The circumstances under which I am found are suspicious enough to
justify my arrest," he said to the mounted man. "I am Lord Fotheringay's
son."

"Gammon! but it'll be took down," said the constable with the truncheon.

"Hold your tongue, you fool!" cried the sergeant to his subordinate.

"I can, of course, account for every movement of mine, yesterday and the
day before," said Harold. "What hour is the crime supposed to have taken
place? It must have been after four o'clock, or I should have received a
telegram from my sister, Mrs. Lampson. I left London shortly before five
last evening."

"If you can prove that, you're all right," said the sergeant. "But
you'll have to give us your right name."

"You'll find it on the inside of my watch," said Harold.

He slipped the watch from the swivel clasp and handed it to the
sergeant.

"You're a fool!" said the sergeant, looking at the hack of the watch.
"This is a watch that belonged to the murdered man. It has a crown over
a crest, and arms with supporters."

"Of course," said Harold. "I forgot that it was my father's watch
before he gave it to me." The sergeant smiled. The constable and the two
bill-hook men guffawed.

"Give me the watch," said Harold.

The sergeant slipped it into his own pocket.

"You've put a rope round your neck this minute," said he. "Handcuffs,
Jonas."

The constable opened the small leathern pouch on his belt. Harold's
hands instinctively clenched. The sergeant once more whipped his
revolver out of its case.

"It has never occurred before this minute," said the constable.

"What do you mean? Where's the handcuffs?" cried the sergeant.

"Never before," said the constable, "I took them out to clean them
with sandpaper, sergeant--emery and oil's recommended, but give me
sandpaper--not too fine but just fine enough. Is there any man in the
county that can show as bright a pair of handcuffs as myself, sergeant?
You know."

"Show them now," said the sergeant.

"You'll have to come to the house with me, for there they be to be,"
replied the constable. "Ay, but I've my truncheon."

"Which way am I to go with you?" said Harold. "You don't think that I'm
such a fool as to make the attempt to resist you? I can't remain here
all day. Every moment is precious."

"You'll be off soon enough, my good man," said the sergeant. "Keep
alongside my horse, and if you try any game on with me, I'll be equal to
you." He wheeled his horse and walked it in the direction whence he had
come. Harold kept up with it, thinking his thoughts. The man with the
truncheon and the two men who had wielded the billhooks marched in file
beside him. Marching in file had something official about it.

It was a strange procession that appeared on the shining wet road,
with the dripping autumn trees on each side, and the gray sodden clouds
crawling up in the distance.

How was he to communicate with her? How was he to let Beatrice know that
she was to return to London immediately?

That was the question which occupied all his thoughts as he walked
with bowed head along the road. The thought of the position which he
occupied--the thought of the tragic incident which had aroused the
vigilance of the constable--the desire to learn the details of the
terrible thing that had occurred--every thought was lost in that
question:

"How am I to prevent her from going on to Abbeylands?"

Was it possible that she might learn at the hotel early in the morning,
that Lord Fotheringay had been murdered? When the news of the murder had
spread round the country--and it seemed to have done so from the course
that the woodcutters had adopted on coming upon him asleep--it would
certainly be known at the hotel. If so, what would Beatrice do?

Surely she would take the earliest train back to London.

But if she did not hear anything of the matter, would she then remain at
the hotel awaiting his return?

What would she think of him? What would she think of his desertion of
her at that supreme moment?

Can a woman ever forgive such an act of desertion? Could Beatrice ever
forgive his turning away from her love?

Was he beginning to regret that he had fled away from the loveliest
vision that had ever come before his eyes?

Did Saint Anthony ever wish that he had had another chance?

If for a single moment Harold Wynne had an unworthy thought, assuredly
it did not last longer than a single moment.

"Whatever may happen now--whether she forgives me or forsakes me--thank
God--thank God!"

This was what his heart was crying out all the time that he walked along
the road with bowed head. He felt that he had been strong enough to save
her--to save himself.

The procession had scarcely passed over more than a quarter of a mile of
the road, when a vehicle appeared some distance ahead.

"Steady," said the sergeant. "It's the Major in his trap. I sent a
mounted man for him. You'll be in trouble about the handcuffs, Jonas, my
man."

"Maybe the murderer would keep his hands together to oblige us,"
suggested the constable.

"I'll not be a party to deception," said his superior. "Halt!"

Harold looked up and saw a dog-cart just at hand. It was driven by a
middle-aged gentleman, and a groom was seated behind. Harold had an
impression that he had seen the driver previously, though he could
not remember when or where he had done so. He rather thought he was an
officer whom he had met at some place abroad.

The dog-cart was pulled up, and the officials saluted in their own way,
as the gentleman gave the reins to his groom and dismounted.

"An arrest, sir," said the sergeant. "The two woodcutters came upon him
hiding in their shed at dawn, and sent for the constable. Jonas,
very properly, sent for me, and I despatched a man for you, sir. When
arrested, he made up a cock-and-bull story, and a watch, supposed to be
his murdered lordship's, was found concealed about his person. It's now
in my possession."

"Good," said the stranger. Then he subjected Harold to a close scrutiny.

"I know now where I met you," said Harold. "You are Major Wilson, the
Chief Constable of the County, and you lunched with us at Abbeylands two
years ago."

"What! Mr. Wynne!" cried the man. "What on earth can be the meaning of
this? Your poor father--"

"That is what I want to learn," said Harold eagerly. "Is it more than a
report--that terrible thing?"

"A report? He was found at six o'clock last evening by a keeper on the
outskirts of one of the preserves."

"A bullet--an accident? he may have been out shooting," said Harold.

"A knife--a dagger."

Harold turned away.

"Remain where you are, sergeant," said Major Wilson. "Let me have a word
with you, Mr. Wynne," he added to Harold.

"Certainly," said Harold. His voice was shaky. "I wonder if you chance
to have a flask of brandy in your cart. You can understand that I'm not
quite--"

"I'm sorry that I have no brandy," said Major Wilson. "Perhaps you
wouldn't mind sitting on the bank with me while you explain--if you
wish--I do not suggest that you should--I suppose the constables
cautioned you."

"Amply," said Harold. "I find that I can stand. I don't suppose that any
blame attaches to them for arresting me. I am, I fear, very disreputable
looking. The fact is that I was stupid enough to miss the train from
Mowern junction last night, and I went to the Priory Hotel. I came out
when the night was fine, without my hat, and I---- had reasons of my own
for not wishing to return to the hotel. I got into the wood and wandered
for several hours along a track I found. I got drenched, and taking
shelter in the woodcutters' shed, I fell asleep. That is all I have to
say. I have not the least idea what part of the country this is: I must
have walked at least twenty miles through the night."

"You are not a mile from the Priory Hotel," said Major Wilson.

"That is impossible," cried Harold. "I walked pretty hard for five
hours."

"Through the wood?"

"I practically never left the track."

"You walked close upon twenty miles, but you walked round the wood
instead of through it. That track goes pretty nearly round Garstone
Woods. Mr. Wynne, this is the most unfortunate occurrence I ever heard
of or saw in my life."

"Pray do not fancy for a moment that, so far as I am concerned, I shall
be inconvenienced for long," said Harold. "It is a shocking thing for a
son to be suspected even for a moment of the murder of his own father;
but sometimes a curious combination of circumstances----"

"Of course--of course, that is just it. Do not blame me, I beg of you.
Did you leave London yesterday?"

"Yes, by the four-fifty-five train."

"Have you a portion of your ticket to Abbeylands?"

"I took a return ticket to Mowern. I gave one portion of it to the
collector, the return portion is in my pocket."

He produced the half of his ticket. Major Wilson examined the date, and
took a memorandum of the number stamped upon it.

"Did you speak to anyone at the junction on your arrival?" he then
inquired.

"I'm afraid that I abused the station-master for allowing the train to
go to Abbeylands without me," said Harold. "That was at ten minutes past
seven o'clock. Oh, you need not fear for me. I made elaborate inquiries
from the railway officials in London between half past four and the hour
of the train's starting. I also spoke to the station-master at Mindon,
asking him if he was certain that the train would arrive at the junction
in time." Major Wilson's face brightened. Before it had been somewhat
overcast.

"A telegram, as a matter of form, will be sufficient to clear up
everything," said Major Wilson. "Yes, everything except--wasn't that
midnight walk of yours a very odd thing, Mr. Wynne?"

"Yes," said Harold, after a pause. "It was extremely odd. So odd that
I know that you will pardon my attempting to explain it--at least just
now. You will, I think, be satisfied if you have evidence that I was in
London yesterday afternoon. I am anxious to go to my sister without
delay. Surely some clue must be forthcoming as to the ruffian who did
the deed."

"The only clue--if it could be termed a clue--is the sheath of the
dagger," replied Major Wilson. "It is the sheath of an ordinary belt
dagger, such as is commonly worn by the peasantry in Southern Italy and
Sicily. Lord Fotheringay lived a good deal abroad. Do you happen to know
if he became involved in any quarrel in Italy--if there was any reason
to think that his life had been threatened?"

Harold shook his head.

"My poor father returned from abroad a couple of months ago, and joined
Lady Innisfail's party in Ireland. I have only seen him once in
London since then. He must have been followed by some one who fancied
that--that--"

"That he had been injured by your father?"

"That is what I fear. But my father never confided his suspicions--if he
had any on this matter--to me."

They had walked some little way up the road. They now returned slowly
and silently.

A one-horse-fly appeared in the distance. When it came near, Harold
recognized it as the one in which he had driven with Beatrice from the
station to the hotel.

"If you will allow me," said Harold to Major Wilson, "I will send to the
hotel for my overcoat and hat."

"Do so by all means," said Major Wilson. "There is a decent little
inn some distance on the road, where you will be able to get a brush
down--you certainly need one. I'll give my sergeant instructions to send
some telegrams at the junction."

"Perhaps you will kindly ask him to return to me my watch," said Harold.
"I don't suppose that he will need it now."

Harold stopped the fly, and wrote upon a card of his own the following
words, "_A shocking thing has happened that keeps me from you. My poor
father is dead. Return to town by first train._"

He instructed the driver to go to the Priory Hotel and deliver the card
into the hand of the lady whom he had driven there the previous evening,
and then to pay Harold's bill, drive the lady to the junction, and
return with the overcoat and hat to the inn on the road.

Harold gave the man a couple of sovereigns, and the driver said that he
would be able easily to convey the lady to the junction in time for the
first train.

While the sergeant went away to send the Chief Constable's telegrams,
Major Wilson and Harold drove off together in the dog-cart--the man with
the truncheon and the men who had carried the bill-hooks respectfully
saluted as the vehicle passed.

In the course of another half hour, Harold was in the centre of a cloud
of dust, produced by the vigorous action of an athlete at the little
inn, who had been engaged to brush him down. When he caught sight of
himself in a looking-glass on entering the inn, Harold was as much
amazed as he had been when he heard from the Chief Constable that he had
been wandering round the wood all night. He felt that he could not blame
the woodcutters for taking him for a tramp.

He managed to eat some breakfast, and then he fly came up with his
overcoat and hat. He spoke only one sentence to the driver.

"You brought her to the train?"

"Yes, sir. She only waited to write a line. Here it is, sir."

He handed Harold an envelope.

Inside was a sheet of paper.

"_Dearest--dearest--You have all my sympathy--all my love. Come to me
soon._"

These were the words that he read in the handwriting of Beatrice.

He was in a bedroom when he read them. He sat down on the side of the
bed and burst into tears.

It was ten years since he had wept.

Then he buried his face in his hands and said a prayer.

It was ten years since he had prayed.



CHAPTER XLVIII--ON MURDER AS A SOCIAL INCIDENT.

|THIS is not the story of a murder. However profitable as well as
entertaining it would be to trace through various mysteries, false
alarms, and intricacies the following up of a clue by the subtle
intelligence of a detective, until the rope is around the neck of the
criminal, such profit and entertainment must be absent from this story
of a man's conquest of the Devil within himself. Regarding the incident
of the murder of Lord Fotheringay much need not be said.

The sergeant appeared at the inn with replies to the telegrams that
he had been instructed to send to the railway officials, and they were
found to corroborate all the statements made by Harold. A ticket of the
number of that upon the one which Harold still retained, had been issued
previous to the departure of the four-fifty-five train from London.

"Of course, I knew what the replies would be," said Major Wilson. "But
you can understand my position."

"Certainly I can," said Harold. "It needs no apology."

They drove to the junction together to catch the train to Abbeylands
station. An astute officer from Scotland Yard had been telegraphed for,
to augment the intelligence of the County Constabulary Force in the
endeavour to follow up the only clue that was available, and Major
Wilson was to travel with the London officer to the scene of the crime.

In a few minutes the London train came up, and the passengers for
the Abbeylands line crossed to the side platform. Among them Harold
perceived his own servant. The man was dressed in black, and carried a
portmanteau and hat-box. He did not see his master until he had reached
the platform. Then he walked up to Harold, laid down the portmanteau
and endeavoured--by no means unsuccessfully--to impart some
emotion--respectful emotion, and very respectful sympathy, into the act
of touching his hat.

"I heard the sad news, my lord," said the man, "and I took the liberty
of packing your lordship's portmanteau and taking the first train to
Abbeylands. I took it for granted that you would be there, my lord."

"You acted wisely, Martin," said Harold. "I will ask you not to make any
change in addressing me for some days, at least."

"Very good, my lord--I mean, sir," said the man.

He had not acquired for more than a minute the new mode of address, and
yet he had difficulty in relinquishing it.

Abbeylands was empty of the guests who, up to the previous evening, had
been within its walls. From the mouth of the gamekeeper, who had found
the body of Lord Fotheringay, Harold learned a few more particulars
regarding his ghastly discovery, but they were of no importance, though
the astute Scotland Yard officer considered them--or pretended to
consider them--to be extremely valuable.

For a week the detectives were very active, and the newspapers announced
daily that they had discovered a clue, and that an arrest might be
looked for almost immediately.

No arrest took place, however; the detectives returned to their
head-quarters, and the mild sensation produced by the heading of a
newspaper column, "The Murder of Lord Fotheringay" was completely
obliterated by the toothsome scandal produced by the appearance of a
music-hall artist as the co-respondent in a Duchess's divorce case. It
was eminently a case for sandwiches and plovers' eggs; and the costumes
which the eaters of these portable comestibles wore, were described
in detail by those newspapers which everyone abuses and--reads. The
middle-aged rheumatic butterfly was dead and buried; and though many
theories were started--not by Scotland Yard, however--to account for
his death, no arrests were made. Whoever the murderer was, he remained
undetected. (A couple of years had passed before Harold heard a highly
circumstantial story about the appearance of a foreign gentleman with
extremely dark eyes and hair, in the neighbourhood of Castle Innisfail,
inquiring for Lord Fotheringay a few days after Lord Fotheringay had
left the Castle).

Mrs. Lampson, the only daughter of the deceased peer, had received so
severe a shock through the tragic circumstances of her father's death,
that she found it necessary to take a long voyage. She started for Samoa
with her husband in his steam yacht. It may be mentioned incidentally,
however, that, as the surface of the Bay of Biscay was somewhat ruffled
when the yacht was going southward, it was thought advisable to change
the cruise to one in the Mediterranean. Mrs. Lampson turned up on the
Riviera in the spring, and, after entertaining freely there for some
time, an article appeared above her signature in a leading magazine
deploring the low tone of society at Monte Carlo and on the Riviera
generally.

It was in the railway carriage on their way to London from
Abbeylands--the exact time was when Harold was in the act of repeating
the stanzas from Shelley--that Helen Craven and Edmund Airey conversed
together, sitting side by side for the purpose.

"He is Lord Fotheringay now," remarked Miss Craven, thoughtfully.

Edmund looked at her with something of admiration in his eyes. The young
woman who, an hour or two after being shocked at the news of a tragedy
enacted at the very door of the house where she had been a guest, could
begin to discuss its social bearing, was certainly a young woman to be
wondered at--that is, to be admired.

"Yes," said Edmund, "he is now Lord Fotheringay, whatever that means."

"It means a title and an income, does it not?" said she.

"Yes, a sort of title and, yes, a sort of income," said he.

"Either would be quite enough to marry and live on," said Helen.

"He contrived to live without either up to the present."

"Yes, poorly."

"Not palatially, certainly, but still pleasantly."

"Will he ask her to marry him now, do you think?"

"Her?"

"Yes, you know--Beatrice Avon."

"Oh--I think that--that I should like to know what you think about it."

"I think he will ask her."

"And that she will accept him?"

She did not know how much thought he had been giving to this question
during some hours--how eagerly he was waiting her reply.

"No." she said; "I believe that she will not accept him, because she
means to accept you--if you give her a chance."

The start that he gave was very well simulated. Scarcely so admirable
from a standpoint of art was the opening of his eyes accompanied by a
little exclamation of astonishment.

"Why are you surprised?" she said, as if she was surprised at his
surprise--so subtly can a clever young woman flatter the cleverest of
men.

He shook his head.

"I am surprised because I have just heard the most surprising
sentence that ever came upon my ears. That is saying a good deal--yes,
considering how much we have talked together."

"Why should it be surprising?" she said. "Did you not call upon her in
town?"

"Yes, I called upon her," he replied, wondering how she had come to know
it. (She had merely guessed it.)

"That would give her hope."

"Hope?"

"Hope. And it was this hope that induced her to accept Mrs. Lampson's
invitation, although she must have known that Mrs. Lampson's brother
was not to be of the party. I have often wondered if it was you or Lord
Fotheringay who asked Mrs. Lampson to invite her?"

"It was I," said Edmund.

Her eyes brightened--so far as it was possible for them to brighten.

"I wonder if she came to know that," said Helen musingly. "It would be
something of a pity if she did not know it."

"For that matter, nearly everything that happens is a pity," said he.

"Not everything," said she. "But it is certainly a pity that the person
who had the bad taste to stab poor Lord Fotheringay did not postpone his
crime for at least one day. You would in that case have had a chance of
returning by the side of Beatrice Avon instead of by the side of some
one else."

"Who is infinitely cleverer," said Edmund.

At this point their conversation ended--at least so far as Harold and
Beatrice were concerned.

Helen felt, however, that even that brief exchange of opinions had been
profitable. Her first thought on hearing of the ghastly discovery of
the gamekeeper, was that all her striving to win Harold had been in
vain--that all her contriving, by the help of Edmund Airey, had been to
no purpose. Harold would now be free to marry Beatrice Avon--or to ask
her to marry him; which she believed was much the same thing.

But in the course of a short time she did not feel so hopeless. She
believed that Edmund Airey only needed a little further flattery to
induce him to resume his old attitude in regard to Beatrice; and the
result of her little chat with him in the train showed her not merely
that, in regard to flattery, he was pretty much as other men, only, of
course, he required it to be subtly administered--but also that he had
no intention of allowing his compact in regard to Beatrice to expire
with their departure from Castle Innisfail. He admitted having called
upon her in London, and this showed Helen very plainly that his attitude
in respect of Beatrice was the result of a rather stronger impulse
than the desire to be of service to her, Helen, in accordance with
the suggestions which she had ventured to make during her first frank
interview with him.

She made up her mind that he would not require in future to be
frequently reminded of that frank interview. She knew that there exists
a more powerful motive for some men's actions than a desire to forward
the happiness of their fellow-men.

This was her reflection at the precise moment that Harold's face was
bent down to the face of Beatrice, while he whispered the words that
thrilled her.

As for Edmund Airey, he, too, had his thoughts, and, like Helen, he
considered himself quite capable of estimating the amount of importance
to be attached to such an incident as the murder of Lord Fotheringay,
as a factor in the solution of any problem that might suggest itself.
A murder is, of course, susceptible of being regarded from a social
standpoint. The murder of Lord Fotheringay, for instance, had broken up
what promised to be an exceedingly interesting party at Abbeylands. A
murder is very provoking sometimes; and when Edmund Airey heard Lady
Innisfail complain to Archie Brown--Archie had become a great friend
of hers--of the irritating features of that incident--when he heard
an uncharitable man declare that it was most thoughtless of Lord
Fotheringay to get a knife stuck into his ribs just when the pheasants
were at their best, he could not but feel that his own reflections were
very plainly expressed.

He had not been certain of himself during the previous two months. For
the first time in his life he did not see his way clearly. It was
in order to improve his vision that he had begged Mrs. Lampson--with
infinite tact, she admitted to her brother--to invite Beatrice to
Abbeylands. He rather thought that, before the visit of Beatrice
should terminate, he would be able to see his way clearly in certain
directions.

But now, owing to the annoying incident that had occurred, the
opportunity was denied him of improving his vision in accordance
with the prescription which he had prepared to effect this purpose;
therefore----

He had reached this point in his reflections when the special train,
which Mr. Lampson had chartered to take his guests back to town, ran
alongside the platform at the London terminus.

This was just the moment when Harold looked up to the window from the
Priory grounds and saw that vision of white glowing beauty.



CHAPTER XLIX.--ON THE ADVANTAGES OF CONFESSION.

|HE stood silent, without taking a step into the room, when the door had
been closed behind him.

With a cry she sprang from her seat in front of the fire and put out her
hands to him.

Still he did not move a step toward her. He remained at the door.

Something of fear was upon her face as she stood looking at him. He was
pale and haggard and ghostlike. She could not but perceive how strongly
the likeness to his father, who had been buried the previous day,
appeared upon his face now that it was so worn and haggard--much more so
than she had ever seen his father's face.

"Harold--Harold--my beloved!" she cried, and there was something of fear
in her voice. "Harold--husband--"

"For God's sake, do not say that, Beatrice!"

His voice was hoarse and quite unlike the voice that had whispered the
lines of Shelley, with his face within the halo of moonlight that had
clung about her hair.

She was more frightened still. Her hands were clasped over her
heart--the lamplight gleamed upon the blood-red circle of rubies on the
one ring that she wore--it had never left her finger.

He came into the room. She only retreated one step.

"For God's sake, Beatrice, do not call me husband! I am not your
husband!"

She came toward him; and now the look of fear that she had worn, became
one of sympathy. Her eyes were full of tears as she said, "My poor
Harold, you have all the sympathy--the compassion--the love of my heart.
You know it."

"Yes," he said, "I know it. I know what is in your heart. I know its
purity--its truth--its sweetness--that is why I should never have come
here, knowing also that I am unworthy to stand in your presence."

"You are worthy of all--all--that I can give you."

"Worthy of contempt--contempt--worthy of that for which there is no
forgiveness. Beatrice, we have not been married. The form through which
we went in this room was a mockery. The man whom I brought here was not
a priest. He was guilty of a crime in coming here. I was guilty of a
crime in bringing him."

She looked at him for a few moments, and then turned away from him.

She went without faltering in the least toward the chair that still
remained in front of the fire. But before she had taken more than a
few steps toward it, she looked back at him--only for a second or two,
however; then she reached the chair and seated herself in it with her
back to him. She looked into the fire.

There was a long silence before he spoke again.

"I think I must have been mad," he said. "Mad to distrust you. It was
only when I was away from you that madness came upon me. The utter
hopelessness of ever being able to call you mine took possession of me,
body and soul, and I felt that I must bind you to me by some means. An
accident suggested the means to me. God knows, Beatrice, that I meant
never to take advantage of your belief that we were married. But when
I felt myself by your side in the train--when I felt your heart beating
against mine that night--I found myself powerless to resist. I was
overcome. I had cast honour, and truth, yes, and love--the love that
exists for ever without hope of reward--to the winds. Thank God--thank
God that I awoke from my madness. The sight which should have made me
even more powerless to resist, awoke me to a true sense of the life
which I had been living for some hours, and by God's grace I was strong
enough to fly."

Again there was a long silence. He could see her finely-cut profile as
she sat upright, looking into the fire. He saw that her features had
undergone no change whatever while he was speaking. It seemed as if his
recital had in no respect interested her.

The silence was appalling.

She put out her hand and took from a small table beside her, the hook
which apparently she had been reading when he had entered. She turned
over the leaves as if searching for the place at which she had been
interrupted.

He came beside her.

"Have you no word for me--no word of pity--of forgiveness--of farewell?"
he said.

She had apparently found her place. She seemed to be reading.

"Beatrice, Beatrice, I implore of you--one word--one word--any word!"

He had clutched her arm as he fell on his knees passionately beside her.
The book dropped to the floor. She was on her feet at the same instant.

"Oh God--oh God, what have I done that I should be the victim of these
men?" she cried, not in a strident voice, but in a low tone, tremulous
with passion. "One man thinks it a good thing to amuse himself by
pretending that I interest him, and another whom I trusted as I would
have trusted my God, endeavours to ruin my life--and he has done it--he
has done it! My life is ruined!"

She had never looked at him while he was speaking to her. She had not
been able for some time to comprehend the full force of the revelation
he had made to her; but so soon as she had felt his hand upon her arm,
she seemed in a moment to understand all.

Now she looked at him as he knelt at her feet with his head bowed down
to the arm of the chair in which she had been sitting--she looked down
upon him; and then with a cry as of physical pain, she flung herself
wildly upon a sofa, sobbing hysterically.

He was beside her in a moment.

"Oh, Beatrice, my love, my love, tell me what reparation I can make," he
cried. "Beatrice, have pity upon me! Do not say that I have ruined your
life. It was only because I could not bear the thought that there was
a chance of losing you, that I did what I did. I could not face that,
Beatrice!"

She still lay there, shaken with sobs. He dared not put his hand upon
her. He dared not touch one of her hands with his. He could only stand
there by her side. Every sob that she gave was like a dagger's thrust
to him. He suffered more during those moments than his father had done
while the hand of the assassin was upon him.

The long silence was broken only by her sobs.

"Beatrice--Beatrice, you will say one word to me--one word, Beatrice,
for God's sake!"

Some moments had passed while she struggled hard to control herself.

It was long before she was successful.

"Go--go--go!" she cried, without raising her head from the satin cushion
of the sofa. "Oh, Harold, Harold, go!"

"I will go," he said, after another long pause. "I will go. But I leave
here all that I love in the world--all that I shall ever love. I was
false to myself once--only once; I shall never be so again. I shall
never cease loving you while I live, Beatrice. I never loved you as I do
now."

She made no sign.

Even when she heard the door of the room open and close, she did not
rise.

And the fire burnt itself out, and the lamp burnt itself out, but still
she lay there in her tears.



CHAPTER L.--ON CONSOLATION AS A FINE ART.


|HIS worst forebodings had come to pass. That was the one feeling which
Harold had on leaving her.

He had scarcely ventured to entertain a hope that the result of his
interview with her and of his confession to her would be different.

He knew her.

That was why he had gone to her without hope. He knew that her nature
was such as made it impossible for her to understand how he could have
practised a fraud upon her; and he knew that understanding is the first
step toward forgiving.

Still, there ever pervades the masculine mind an idea that there is no
limit to a woman's forgiveness.

The masculine mind has the best of reasons for holding fast to this
idea. It is the result of many centuries of experience of woman--of many
centuries of testing the limits of woman's forgiveness. The belief that
there is nothing that a woman will not forgive in a man whom she loves,
is the heritage of man--just as the heritage of woman is to believe
that nothing that is done by a man whom she loves, stands in need of
forgiveness.

Thus it is that men and women make (occasionally) excellent companions
for one another, and live together (frequently) in harmony.

Thus it was that, in spite of the fact that his reason and his knowledge
of the nature of Beatrice assured him that his confession of the fraud
in which he had participated against her would not be forgiven by her,
there still remained in the mind of Harold Wynne a shadowy hope that she
might yet be as other women, who, understanding much, forgive much.

He left her presence, feeling that she was no as other women are.

That was the only grain of comfort that remained with him. He loved her
more than he had ever done before, because she was not as other women
are.

She could not understand how that cold distrust had taken possession of
him.

She knew nothing of that world in which he had lived all his life--a
world quite full of worldliness--and therefore she could not understand
how it was that he had sought to bind her to him beyond the possibility
(as he meant her to think) of ever being separated from him. She
had laid all her trust in him. She had not even claimed from him the
privilege of consulting with someone--her father or someone with whom
she might be on more confidential terms--regarding the proposition which
he had made to her. No, she had trusted him implicitly, and yet he had
persevered in regarding her as belonging to the worldly ones among whom
he had lived all his life.

He had lost her.

He had lost her, and he deserved to lose her. This was his thought as
he walked westward. He had not the satisfaction of feeling that he was
badly treated.

The feeling on the part of a man that he has been badly treated by a
woman, usually gives him much greater satisfaction than would result
from his being extremely well treated by the same, or, indeed, by any
other woman.

But this blessed consciousness of being badly treated was denied to
Harold Wynne. He had been the ill-treater, not the ill-treated. He
reflected how he had taken advantage of the peculiar circumstances of
the girl's life--upon the absence of her father--upon her own trustful
innocence--to carry out the fraud which he had perpetrated upon her.
Under ordinary circumstances and with a girl of an ordinary stamp, such
a fraud would have been impossible. He was well aware that a girl living
under the conditions to which most girls are subjected, would have
laughed in his face had he suggested the advisability of marrying him
privately.

Yes, he had taken a cruel advantage of her and of the freedom which she
enjoyed, to betray her; and the feeling that he had lost her did not
cause him more bitterness than deserved to fall to his lot.

One bitterness of reflection was, however, spared to him, and this was
why he cried again, as he threw himself into a chair, "Thank God--thank
God!"

He had not been seated for long, before his servant entered with a card.

"I told the lady that you were not seeing any one, my lord," said
Martin.

"The lady?"

Not for a single instant did it occur to his mind that Beatrice had come
to him.

"Yes, my lord; Miss Craven," said Martin, handing him the card. "But she
said that perhaps you would see her."

"_Only for a minute_," were the words written in pencil on Miss Craven's
card.

"Yes, I will certainly see Miss Craven," said Harold.

"Very good, my lord."

She stood at the door. The light outside was very low; so was the light
in the room.

Between two dim lights was where Helen looked her best. A fact of which
she was well aware.

She seemed almost pretty as she stood there.

She had made up pale, which she considered appropriately sympathetic on
her part. And, indeed, there can scarcely be a difference of opinion on
this point.

In delicate matters of taste like this she rarely-made a mistake.

"It was so good of you to come," said he, taking her hand.

"I could not help it, Harold," said she.

"Mamma is in the brougham; she desired me to convey to you her deepest
sympathy."

"I am indeed touched by her thoughtfulness," said Harold. "You will tell
her so."

"Mamma is not very strong," said Helen. "She would not come in with me.
She, too, has suffered deeply. But I felt that I must tell you face to
face how terribly shocked we were--how I feel for you with all my heart.
We have always been good friends--the best of friends, Harold--at least,
I do not know where I should look in the world for another such friend
as you."

"Yes, we were always good friends, Helen," said he; "and I hope that we
shall always remain so."

"We shall--I feel that we shall, Harold," said she.

Her eyes were overflowing with tears, as she put out a hand to him--a
hand which he took and held between both his own, but without speaking a
word. "I felt that I must go to you if only for a moment--if only to say
to you as I do now, 'I feel for you with all my heart. You have all my
sympathy.' That is all I have to say. I knew you would allow me to see
you, and to give you my message. Good-bye."

"You are so good--so kind--so thoughtful," said he. "I shall always feel
that you are my friend--my best friend, Helen."

"And you may always trust in my friendship--my--my--friendship," said
she. "You will come and see us soon--mamma and me. We should be so glad.
Lady Innisfail wanted me to go with her to Netherford Hall--several of
your sister's party are going with Lady Innisfail; but of course I could
not think of going. I shall go nowhere for some time--a long time, I
think. We shall be at home whenever you call, Harold."

"And you may be certain that I shall call soon," said he. "Pray tell
Mrs. Craven how deeply touched--how deeply grateful I am for
her kindness. And you--you know that I shall never forget your
thoughtfulness, Helen."

Her eyes were still glistening as he took her hand and pressed it. She
looked at him through her tears; her lips moved, but no words came. She
turned and went down the stairs. He followed her for a few steps, and
then Martin met her, opened the hall-door, and saw her put into the
brougham by her footman.

"Well," said her mother, when the brougham got upon the wood pavement.
"Well, did you find the poor orphan in tears and comfort him?" Mrs.
Craven was not devoid of an appreciation of humour of a certain form.
She had lived in Birmingham for several years of her life.

"Dear mamma," said Helen, "I think you may always trust to me to know
what is right to do upon all occasions. My visit was a success. I knew
that it would be a success. I know Harold Wynne."

"I know one thing," said Mrs. Craven, "and that is, that he will never
marry you. Whatever Harold Wynne might have done, Lord Fotheringay will
never marry you, my dear. Make up your mind to that."

Her daughter laughed in the way that a daughter laughs at a prophetic
mother clad in sables, with a suspicion of black velvet and beads
underneath.



CHAPTER LI.--ON THE WAYS OF PROVIDENCE AND OTHERS.

|DURING the next few days Harold had numerous visitors. A man cannot
have his father murdered without attracting a considerable amount of
attention to himself. Cards "_With deepest sympathy_" were left upon him
by the hundred, and the majority of those sympathizers drove away to
say to their friends at their clubs what a benefactor to society was the
person who had run that knife into the ribs of Lord Fotheringay. Some
suggested that a presentation should be got up for that man; and when
someone asked what the police meant by taking so much trouble to find
the man, another ventured to formulate the very plausible theory that
they were doing so in order to force him to give sittings to an eminent
sculptor for a statue of himself with the knife in his hand, to be
erected by public subscription outside the House of Lords.

"Yes; _pour encourager les autres!_" said one of the sympathizers.

Another of the sympathizers inquired where were the Atheists now?

It was generally admitted that, as an incentive to orthodoxy, the tragic
end of Lord Fotheringay could scarcely be over-estimated.

It threw a flood of light upon the Ways of Providence.

The Scotland Yard people at first regarded the incident from such a
standpoint.

They assumed that Providence had decreed a violent death to Lord
Fotheringay, in order to give the detective force an opportunity of
displaying their ingenuity.

They had many interviews with Harold, and they asked him a number of
questions regarding the life of his father, his associates, and his
tastes.

They wondered if he had an enemy.

They feared that the deed was the work of an enemy; and they started the
daring theory that if they only had a clue to this supposititious enemy
they would be on the track of the assassin.

After about a week of suchlike theorizing, they were not quite so sure
of Providence.

Some newspapers interested in the Ways of Providence, declared through
the medium of leading articles, that Lord Fotheringay had been murdered
in order that the world might be made aware of the utter incapacity of
Scotland Yard, and the necessity for the reorganization of the detective
force.

Other newspapers--they were mostly the organs of the Opposition--sneered
at the Home Secretary.

Mr. Durdan was heard to affirm in the solitude of the smoking-room of
his club, that the days of the Government were numbered.

Then Harold had also to receive daily visits from the family lawyers;
and as family lawyers take more interest in the affairs of the family
than any of its members, he found these visits very tiresome; only he
was determined to find out what was his exact position financially, and
to do so involved the examination of the contents of several tin boxes,
as well as the columns of some bank books. On the whole, however, the
result of his researches under the guidance of the lawyers was worth the
trouble that they entailed.

He found that he would be compelled to live on an income of twelve
thousand pounds a year, if he really wished--as he said he did--to make
provision for the paying off of certain incumbrances, and of keeping in
repair a certain mansion on the borders of a Welsh county.

Having lived for several years upon an allowance of something under
twelve hundred pounds a year, he felt that he could manage to subsist on
twelve thousand. This was the thought that came to him automatically, so
soon as he had discovered his financial position. His next thought was
that, by his own folly, he had rendered himself incapable of enjoying
this sudden increase in revenue.

If he had only been patient--if he had only been trustful for one week
longer!

He felt very bitterly on the subject of his folly--his cruelty--his
fraud; the fact being that he entertained some preposterous theory of
individual responsibility.

He had never had inculcated on him the principles of heredity, otherwise
he would have understood fully that he could no more have avoided
carrying out a plan of deception upon a woman, than the pointer
puppy--where would the Evolutionists be without their pointer
puppy?--can avoid pointing.

Whether the adoption of the scientific explanation of what he had done
would have alleviated his bitterness or not, is quite another question.
The philosophy that accounts for suffering does not go the length of
relieving suffering. The science that gives the gout a name that few
persons can pronounce, does not prevent an ordinary gouty subject from
swearing; which seems rather a pity.

Among the visitors whom Harold saw in these days was Edmund Airey. Mr.
Airey did not think it necessary to go through the form of expressing
his sympathy for his friend's bereavement. His only allusion to the
bereavement was to be found in a sneer at Scotland Yard.

Could he do anything for Harold, he wondered. If he could do anything,
Harold might depend on his doing it.

Harold said, "Thank you, old chap, I don't think I can reasonably ask
you to work out for me, in tabulated form, the net value of leases that
have yet to run from ten to sixty years."

"Therein the patient must minister to himself," said Edmund. "I suppose
it is, after all, only a question of administration. If you want any
advice--well, you have asked my advice before now. You have even gone
the length of taking my advice--yes, sometimes. That's more than the
majority of people do--unless my advice bears out their own views.
Advice, my dear Harold, is the opinion asked by one man of another when
he has made up his mind what course to adopt."

"I have always found your counsel good," said Harold. "You know men and
their motives. I have often wondered if you knew anything about women."

Mr. Airey smiled. It was rather ridiculous that anyone so well
acquainted with him as Harold was, should make use of a phrase that
suggested a doubt of his capacity.

"Women--and their motives?" said he.

"Quite so," said Harold. "Their motives. You once assured me that there
was no such thing as woman in the abstract. Perhaps, assuming that that
is your standpoint, you may say that it is ridiculous to talk of the
motives of woman; though it would be reasonable--at least as reasonable
as most talk of women--to speak of the motives of a woman."

"What woman do you speak of?" said Edmund, quickly.

"I speak as a fool--broadly," said Harold. "I feel myself to be a fool,
when I reflect upon the wisdom of those stories told to us by Brian
the boatman. The first was about a man who defrauded the revenue of the
country, the other was about a cow that got jammed in the doorway of an
Irish cabin. There was some practical philosophy in both those stories,
and they put all questions of women and their motives out of our heads
while Brian was telling them."

"There's no doubt about that," said Edmund.

"By the way, didn't you ask me for my advice on some point during one of
those days on the Irish lough?"

"If I did, I'm certain that I received good counsel from you," said
Harold.

"You did. But you didn't take it," said Edmund, with a laugh.

"I told you once that you hadn't given me time. I tell you so again,"
said Harold.

"Has she been to see you within the past few days? asked Edmund.

"You understand women--and their motives," said Harold. "Yes, Miss
Craven was here. By the way, talking of motives, I have often wondered
why you suggested to my sister that Miss Avon would make an agreeable
addition to the party at Abbeylands."

Not for a second did Edmund Airey change colour--not for a second did
his eyes fall before the searching glance of his friend.

"The fact was," said he--and he smiled as he spoke--"I was under the
impression that your father--ah, well, if he hadn't that mechanical
rectitude of movement which appertains chiefly to the walking doll
and other automata, he had still many good points. He told me upon one
occasion that it was his intention to marry Miss Avon. I was amused."

"And you wanted to be amused again? I see. I think that I, too, am
beginning to understand something of men--and their motives," remarked
Harold.

"If you make any progress in that direction, you might try and fathom
the object of the Opposition in getting up this agitation about Siberia.
They are going to arouse the country by descriptions of the horrors of
exile in Siberia. They want to make the Government responsible for what
goes on there. And the worst of it is that they'll do it, too. Do you
remember Bulgaria?"

"Perfectly. The country is a fool. The Government will need a strong
programme to counteract the effects of the Siberian platform."

"I'm trying to think out something at the present moment. Well,
good-bye. Don't fail to let me know if I can do anything for you."

He had been gone some time before Harold smiled--not the smile of a man
who has been amused at something that has come under his notice, but the
sad smile of a man who has found that his sagacity has not been at fault
when he has thought the worst about one of his friends.

There are times when a certain imperturbability of demeanour on the part
of a man who has been asked a sudden searching question, conveys as
much to the questioner as his complete collapse would do. The perfect
composure with which Edmund had replied to his sudden question regarding
his motive in suggesting to Mrs. Lampson--with infinite tact--that
Beatrice Avon might be invited to Abbeylands, told Harold all that he
had an interest to know.

Edmund Airey's acquaintance with men--and women--had led him to feel
sure that Mrs. Lamp-son would tell her brother of the suggestion made
by him, Edmund; and also that her brother would ask him if he had any
particular reason for making that suggestion. This was perfectly plain
to Harold; and he knew that his friend had been walking about for some
time with that answer ready for the question which had just been put to
him.

"He is on his way to Beatrice at the present moment," said Harold, while
that bitter smile was still upon his features.

And he was right.



CHAPTER LII.--ON THE FLUSH, THE FOOL, AND FATE.

|MR. AIREY had called on Beatrice since his return from that melancholy
entertainment at Abbeylands, but he had not been fortunate enough to
find her at home. Now, however, he was more lucky. She had already two
visitors with her in the big drawing-room, when Mr. Airey was announced.

He could not fail to notice the little flush upon her face as he
entered. He noticed it, and it was extremely gratifying to him to do so;
only he hoped that her visitors were not such close observers as he
knew himself to be. He would not have liked them--whoever they were---to
leave the house with the impression that he was a lover. If they were
close observers and inclined to gossip, they might, he felt, consider
themselves justified in putting so liberal an interpretation upon her
quick flush as he entered.

He did not blush: he had been a Member of Parliament for several years.

Yes, she was clearly pleased to see him, and her manifestation of
pleasure made him assured that he had never seen a lovelier girl. It was
so good of him not to forget her, she declared. He feared that her flush
would increase, and suggest the peony rather than the peach. But he
quickly perceived that she had recovered from the excitement of his
sudden appearance, and that, as a matter of fact, she was becoming pale
rather than roseate.

He noticed this when her visitors--they were feeble folk, the head of a
department in the Museum and his sister--had left the house.

"It is delightful to be face to face with you once more," he said. "I
seem to hear the organ-music of the Atlantic now that I am beside you
again."

She gave a little laugh--did he detect something of scorn in its
ring?--as she said, "Oh, no; it is the sound of the greater ocean that
we have about us here. It is the tide of the affairs of men that flows
around us."

No, her laugh could have had nothing of scorn about it.

"I cannot think of you as borne about on this full tide," said he. "I
see you with your feet among the purple heather--I wonder if there was a
sprig of white about it--along the shores of the Irish lough. I see you
in the midst of a flood of sunset-light flowing from the west, making
the green one red."

She saw that sunset. He was describing the sunset that had been
witnessed from the deck of the yacht returning from the seal-hunt beyond
the headlands. Did he know why she got up suddenly from her seat and
pretended to snuff one of the candles on the mantelshelf? Did he know
how close the tears were to her eyes as she gave another little laugh?

"So long as you do not associate me with Mr. Durdan's views on the Irish
question, I shall be quite satisfied," said she. "Poor Mr. Durdan! How
he saw a bearing upon the Irish question in all the phenomena of Nature!
The sunset--the sea--the clouds--all had more or less to do with the
Irish question."

"And he was not altogether wrong," said Edmund. "Mr. Durdan is a man
of scrupulous inaccuracy, as a rule, but he sometimes stumbles across a
truth. The sea and sky are eternal, and the Irish question----"

"Is the rock upon which the Government is to be wrecked, I believe,"
said she. "Oh, yes; Mr. Durdan confided in me that the days of the
Government are numbered."

"He became confidential on that topic to a considerable number of
persons," said Edmund.

"And we are confidential on Mr. Durdan as a topic," said she.

"We have talked confidentially on more profitable topics, have we not?"
said he.

"We have talked confidently at least."

"And confidingly, I hope. I told you all my aspirations, Miss Avon."

"All?"

"Well, perhaps, I made some reservations."

"Oh."

"Perhaps I shall tell you confidentially of some other aspirations of
mine--some day."

He spoke slowly and with an emphasis and suggestiveness that could not
be overlooked.

"And you will speak confidently on that subject, I am sure."

She was lying back in her chair, with the firelight fluttering over her.
The firelight was flinging rose leaves about her face.

That was what the effect suggested to him.

He noticed also how beautiful was the effect of the light shining
through her hair. That was an effect which had been noticed before.

She turned her eyes suddenly upon him, when he did not reply to her
word, "confidently."

He repeated the word.

"Confidently--confidently;" then he shook his head. "Alas! no. A man who
speaks confidently on the subject of his aspirations--on the subject of
a supreme aspiration--is a fool."

"And yet I remember that you assured me upon one occasion that man was
master of his fate," said she.

"Did I?" said he. "That must have been when you first appeared among us
at Castle Innisfail. I have learned a great deal since then."

"For example?" said she.

"Modesty in making broad statements where Fate is concerned," he
replied, with scarcely a pause.

She withdrew her eyes from his face, and gave a third laugh, closely
resembling in its tone her first--that one which caused him to wonder if
there was a touch of scorn in its ripple.

He looked at her very narrowly. She was certainly the loveliest thing
that he had ever seen. Could it be possible that she was leading him on?

She had certainly never left herself open to the suspicion of leading
him on when at Castle Innis-fail--among the purple heather or the
crimson sunsets about which he had been talking--and yet he had been
led on. He had a suspicion now that he was in peril. He had so fine an
understanding of woman and her motives, that he became apprehensive of
the slightest change. He was, in respect of woman, what a thermometer is
when aboard a ship that is approaching an iceberg. He was appreciative
of every change--of every motive.

"I was looking forward to another pleasant week near you," said he, and
his remark somehow seemed to have a connection with what he had been
saying--had he not been announcing an acquirement of modesty?--"Yes, if
you had been with us at Abbeylands you might have become associated in
my mind with the glory of the colour of an autumn woodland. But it was,
of course, fortunate for you that you got the terrible news in time to
prevent your leaving town."

He felt that she had become suddenly excited. There was no ignoring the
rising and falling of the lace points that lay upon the bosom of her
gown. The question was: did her excitement proceed from what he had
said, or from what she fancied he was about to say?

It was a nice question.

But he bore out his statement regarding his gain in modesty, by assuming
that she had been deeply affected by the story of the tragic end of Lord
Fotheringay, so that she could not now hear a reference to it without
emotion.

"I wonder if you care for German Opera," said he. There could scarcely
be even the most subtle connection between this and his last remark.
She looked at him with something like surprise in her eyes when he had
spoken. Only to some minds does a connection between criminality and
German Opera become apparent.

"German Opera, Mr. Airey?"

"Yes. The fact is that I have a box for the winter season at the Opera
House, and my cousin, Mrs. Carroll, means to go to every performance,
I believe; she is an enthusiast on the subject of German Opera--she has
even sat out a performance of 'Parsifal'--and I know that she is eager
to make converts. She would be delighted to call upon you when she
returns from Brighton."

"It is so kind of you to think of me. I should love to go. You will be
there--I mean, you will be able to come also, occasionally?"

He looked at her. He had risen from his seat, being about to take leave
of her. She had also risen, but her eyes drooped as she exclaimed, "You
will be there?"

She did not fail to perceive the compromising sequence of her phrases,
"I should love to go. You will be there?" She was looking critically at
the toe of her shoe, turning it about so that she could make a thorough
examination of it from every standpoint. Her hands, too, were busy tying
knots on the girdle of her gown.

He felt that it would be cruel to let her see too plainly that he was
conscious of that undue frankness of hers; so he broke the awkward
silence by saying--not quite casually, of course, but still in not too
pointed a way, "Yes, I shall be there, occasionally. Not that my
devotion will be for German Opera, however." The words were well chosen,
he felt. They were spoken as the legitimate sequence to those words that
she had uttered in that girlish enthusiasm, which was so charming. Only,
of course, being a man, he could choose his words. They were
artificial--the result of a choice; whereas it was plain that she could
not choose but utter the phrases that had come from her. She was a girl,
and so spoke impulsively and from her heart.

"Meantime," said she--she had now herself almost under control again,
and was looking at him with a smile upon her face as she put out her
hand to meet his. "Meantime, you will come again to see me? My father is
greatly occupied with his history, otherwise he also would, I know, be
very pleased to see you."

"I hope that you will be pleased," said he. "If so, I will
call--occasionally--frequently."

"Frequently," said she, and once again--but only for a moment this
time--she scrutinized her foot.

"Frequently," said he, in a low tone. Being a man he could choose his
tones as well as his words.

He went away with a deep satisfaction dwelling within him--the
satisfaction of the clever man who feels that he has not only spoken
cleverly, but acted cleverly--which is quite a different thing.

Later on he felt that he need not have been in such a hurry calling
upon her. He had gone to her directly after visiting Harold. He had
been under the impression that he would do well to see her and make his
proposal to her regarding the German Opera season without delay. The
moment that he had heard of Lord Fotheringay's death, it had occurred to
him that he would do well to lose no time in paying her a visit. After
due consideration, he had thought it advisable to call upon Harold in
the first instance. He had done so, and the result of his call was to
make him feel that he should not any longer delay his visit to Beatrice.

Now, as has been said, he felt that he need not have been in such a
hurry.

"_I should love to go--you will be there_."

Yes, those were the words that had sprung from her heart. The sequence
of the phrases had not been the result of art or thought.

He had clearly under-estimated the effect of his own personality upon
an impressionable girl who had a great historian for a father. The days
that he had passed by her side--carrying out the compact which he had
made with Helen Craven--had produced an impression upon her far more
powerful than he had believed it possible to produce within so short a
space of time.

In short, she was his.

That is what he felt within an hour of parting from her; and all his
resources of modesty and humility were unequal to the task of changing
his views on this point.

Was he in love with her?

He believed her to be the most beautiful woman whom he had ever seen.



CHAPTER LIII.--ON A SUPREME ASPIRATION.

|IT was commonly reported that Mr. Durdan had stated with some degree of
publicity that the days of the Government were numbered.

There were a good many persons who were ready to agree with him before
the month of December had passed; for the agitation on the subject of
Siberia was spreading through the length and breadth of the land.
The active and observant Leader of the Opposition knew the people of
England, Scotland, and perhaps--so far as they allowed themselves to
be understood--of Wales, thoroughly. Of course Ireland was out of the
question altogether.

Knowing the people so well, he only waited for a sharp frost to open his
campaign. He was well aware that it would be ridiculous to commence an
agitation on the subject of Siberia unless in a sharp frost. To try
to move the constituencies while the water-pipes in their dwellings
remained intact, would be a waste of time. It is when his pipes are
burst that the British householder will join in any agitation that may
be started. The British farmer invariably turns out the Government after
a bad harvest; and there can be but little doubt that a succession of
wet summers would make England republican.

It was because all the water-pipes in England were burst, that the
atrocities in Bulgaria stirred the great sympathetic heart of this
England of ours, and the strongest Government that had existed for years
became the most unpopular. A strong Government may survive a year of
great commercial depression; but the strongest totters after a wet
summer, and none has ever been known to survive a frost that bursts the
household water-pipes.

The campaign commenced when the thermometer fell to thirty-two degrees
Fahrenheit. That was the time to be up and doing. In every quarter the
agitation made itself felt.

"The sympathetic pulse of the nation was not yet stilled," we were
told. "Six years of inefficient Government had failed to crush down the
manhood of England," we were assured. "The Heart was still there--it was
beating still; and wherever the Heart of an Englishman beats there was
found a foe--a determined, resolute foe--nay, an irresistible foe, to
tyranny, and what tyranny had the world ever known that was equal
to that which sent thousands and tens of thousands of noble men and
women--women--women--to a living death among the snows of Siberia?
Could any one present form an idea of the horrors of a Siberian winter?"
(Cries of "Yes, yes," from householders whose water-pipes had burst.)
"Well, in the name of our common humanity--in the name of our common
sympathies--in the name of England (cheers)--England, mind you, with her
fleet, that in spite of six years of gross mismanagement on the part
of the Government, was still the mistress of the main--(loud cheers)
England, mind you, whose armies had survived the shocking incapacity
of a Government that had refused a seven-hours day to the artisans at
Woolwich and Aldershot--(tremendous cheers) in the name of this grand
old England of ours let those who were responsible for Siberia--that
blot upon the map of Europe"--(the agitator is superior to
geography)--"let them be told that their day is over. Let the Government
that can look with callous eyes upon such horrors as are enacted among
the frosts and snows of Siberia be told that its day is over (cheers).
Did anyone wish to know something of these horrors?" ('Yes, yes!')
"Well, here was a book written by a correspondent to a New York journal,
and which, consequently, was entitled to every respect".... and so
forth.

That was the way the opponents of the Government talked at every
meeting. And in the course of a short time they had successfully mixed
up the labour question, the army and navy retrenchment question, the
agricultural question, and several other questions, with the stories of
Siberian horrors, and the aggregate of evil was laid to the charge of
the Government.

The friends of the Government were at their wits' end to know how to
reply to this agitation. Some foolish ones endeavoured to make out
that England was not responsible for what was done in Siberia. But this
sophistry was too shallow for the people whose water-pipes were burst,
and those who were responsible for it were hooted on every platform.

It was at this critical time that the Prime Minister announced at a
Dinner at which he was entertained, that, while the Government was fully
sensible of the claims of Siberia, he felt certain that he was only
carrying out the desire of the people of England, in postponing
consideration of this vast question until a still greater question
had been settled. After long and careful deliberation, Her Majesty's
Ministers had resolved to submit to the country a programme the first
item of which was the Conversion of the Jews.

The building where this announcement was made rang with cheers. The
friends of the Government no longer looked gloomy. In a few days
they knew that the Nonconformist Conscience would be awake, and as a
political factor, the Nonconformist Conscience cannot be ignored. A
Government that had for its policy the Conversion of the Jews would be
supported by England--this great Christian England of ours.

"My Lords and Gentlemen," said the Prime Minister, "the contest on which
we are about to enter is very limited in its range. It is a contest of
England and Religion against the Continent and Atheism. My Lords and
Gentlemen, come what may, Her Majesty's Ministers will be on the side of
Religion."

It was felt that this timely utterance had saved the Government.

It was not to be expected that, when these tremendous issues were
broadening out, Mr. Edmund Airey should have much time at his disposal
for making afternoon calls; still he managed to visit Beatrice Avon
pretty frequently--much more frequently than he had ever visited anyone
in all his life. The season of German Opera was a brilliant one, and
upon several occasions Beatrice appeared in Mr. Airey's box by the
side of the enthusiastic lady, who was pointed out in society as having
remained in her stall from the beginning to the end of "Parsifal."
Mr. Airey never missed a performance at which Beatrice was present. He
missed all the others.

Only once did he venture to introduce Harold's name in her drawing-room.
He mentioned having seen him casually in the street, and then he watched
her narrowly as he said, "By the way, I have never come upon him here.
Does he not call upon you?"

There was only a little brightening of her eyes--was it scorn?--as
she replied: "Is it not natural that Lord Fotheringay should be a very
different person from Mr. Harold Wynne? Oh, no, he never calls now."

"I have heard several people say that they had found him greatly
changed, poor fellow!" said Edmund.

"Greatly changed--not ill?" she said.

He wondered if the tone in which she spoke suggested anxiety--or was it
merely womanly curiosity?

"Oh, no; he seems all right; but it is clear that his father's death and
the circumstances attending it affected him deeply."

"It gave him a title at any rate."

The suspicion of scorn was once more about her voice. Its tone no longer
suggested anxiety for the health of Lord Fotheringay.

"You are too hard on him, Beatrice," said Edmund. She had come to be
Beatrice to him for more than a week--a week in which he had been twice
in her drawing-room, and in which she had been twice in his opera box.

"Too hard on him?" said she. "How is it possible for you to judge what
is hard or the opposite on such a point?"

"I have always liked Harold," said he; "that is why I must stand up for
him."

"Ah, that is your own kindness of heart," said she. "I remember how you
used to stand up for him at Castle Innisfail. I remember that when you
told me how wretchedly poor he was, you were very bitter against the
destiny that made so good a fellow poor, while so many others, not
nearly so good, were wealthy."

"I believe I did say something like that. At any rate I felt that. Oh,
yes, I always felt that I must stand up for him; so even now I insist on
your not being too hard on him."

He laughed, and so did she--yes, after a little pause.

"Come again--soon," she said, as she gave him her hand, which he
retained for some moments while he looked into her eyes--they were more
than usually lustrous--and said,

"Oh, yes, I will come again soon. Don't you remember what I said to you
in this room--it seems long ago, we have come to be such close friends
since--what I said about my aspirations--my supreme aspiration?"

"I remember it," said she--her voice was very low.

"I have still to reveal it to you, Beatrice," said he.

Then he dropped her hand and was gone.

He made another call the same afternoon. He drove westward to the
residence of Helen Craven and her mother, and in the drawing-room he
found about a dozen people drinking tea, for Mrs. Craven had a large
circle.

It took him some time to get beside Helen; but a very small amount of
manoeuvring on her part was sufficient to secure comparative privacy for
him and herself in a dimly-lighted part of the great room--an alcove
that made a moderately valid excuse for a Moorish arch and hangings.

"The advice that I gave to you was good," said he.

"Your advice was that I should make no move whatever," said she. "That
could not be hard advice to take, if he were disposed to make any move
in my direction. But, as I told you, he only called once, and then we
were out. Have you learned anything?"

"I have learned that whomsoever she marries, she will never marry Harold
Wynne," said Edmund.

"Great heavens! You have found this out? Are you certain? Men are so apt
to rush at conclusions."

"Yes; some men are. I have always preferred the crawling process, though
it is the slower."

"That is a confession--crawling! But how have you found out that she
will not marry him?"

"He has treated her very badly."

"That has got nothing whatever to do with the question. Heavens! If
women declined to marry the men that treat them badly, the statistics of
spinsterhood would be far more alarming than they are at present."

"She will not marry him."

"Will she marry you?"

Miss Craven had sprung to her feet. She was in a nervous condition, and
it was intensified by his irritating reiteration of the one statement.

"Will she marry you?" she cried, in a voice that had a strident ring
about it. "Will she marry you?"

"I think it highly probable," said he.

She looked at him in silence for a long time.

"Let us return to the room," said she.

They went through the Moorish arch back to the drawing-room.



CHAPTER LIV.--ON THE DECAY OF THE PAT AS A POWER.

|IT was a few days after Edmund Airey had made his revelation--if it
was a revelation--to Helen Craven, that Harold received a visitor in
the person of Archie Brown. The second week in January had now come. The
season of German Opera was over, and Parliament was about to assemble;
but neither of these matters was engrossing the attention of Archie.
That he was in a state of excitement anyone could see, and before he had
even asked after Harold's health, he cried, "I've fired out the lot of
them, Harry; that's the sort of new potatoes I am."

"The lot of what?" asked Harold.

"Don't you know? Why, the lot of Legitimists," said Archie.

"The Legitimists? My dear Archie, you don't surely expect me to believe
that you possess sufficient political power to influence the fortunes of
a French dynasty."

"French dynasty be grilled. I said the Legitimists--the actors, the
carpenters, the gasmen, the firemen, the check-takers, Shakespeare, and
Mrs. Mowbray of the Legitimate Theatre. I've fired out the lot of them,
and be hanged to them!"

"Oh, I see; you've fired out Shakespeare?"

"He's eternally fired out, so far as I'm concerned. Why should I end my
days in a workhouse because a chap wrote plays a couple of hundred years
ago--may be more?"

"Why, indeed? And so you fired him out?"

"I've made things hum at the Legitimate this morning"--Archie had once
spent three months in the United States--"and now I've made the lot of
them git. I've made W. S. git."

"And Mrs. Mowbray?"

"She gits too."

"She'll do it gracefully. Archie, my man, you're not wanting in
courage."

"What courage was there needed for that?"--Archie had picked up a quill
pen and was trying, but with indifferent success, to balance it on the
toe of his boot, as he leant back in a chair. "What courage is needed to
tell a chap that's got hold of your watch chain that the time has come
for him to drop it? Great Godfrey! wasn't I the master of the lot of
them? Do you fancy that the manager was my master? Do you fancy that
Mrs. Mowbray was my--I mean, do you think that I'm quite an ass?"

"Well, no," said Harold--"not quite."

"Do you suppose that my good old dad had any Scruples about firing out a
crowd of navvies when he found that they didn't pay? Not he. And do you
suppose that I haven't inherited some of his good qualities?"

"And when does the Legitimate close its doors?"

"This day week. Those doors have been open too long already.
Seventy-five pounds for the Widow's champagne for the Christmas
week--think of that, Harry. Mrs. Mowbray's friends drink nothing but
Clicquot. She expects me to pay for her entertainments, and calls it
Shakespeare. If you grabbed a chap picking your pocket, and he explained
to the tarty chips at Bow Street that his initials were W. S. would he
get off? Don't you believe it, Harry."

"Nothing shall induce me."

"The manager's only claim to have earned his salary is that he has been
at every theatre in London, and has so got the biggest list of people to
send orders to, so as to fill the house nightly. It seems that the most
valuable manager is the one who has the longest list of people who will
accept orders. That's theatrical enterprise nowadays. They say it's the
bicycle that has brought it about."

"Anyhow you've quarrelled with Mrs. Mowbray? Give me your hand; Archie.
You're a man."

"Quarrelled with Mrs. Mowbray? It was about time. She went to pat my
head again to-day, when there was a buzz in the manager's office. She
didn't pat my head, Harry--the day is past for pats, and so I told her.
The day is past when she could butter me with her pats. She gave me a
look when I said that--if she could give such looks on the stage she'd
crowd the house--and then she cried, 'Nothing on earth shall induce me
ever to speak to you again.' 'I ask nothing better,' said I. After that
she skipped. I promised Norah that I'd do it, and I have done it."

"You promised whom?"

"Norah. Great Godfrey! you don't mean to say that you haven't heard that
Norah Innisfail and I are to be married?"

"Norah--Innisfail--and--you--you?"

Harold lay back in his chair and laughed. The idea of the straightlaced
Miss Innisfail marrying Archie Brown seemed very comical to him.

"What are you laughing about?" said Archie. "You shouldn't laugh,
considering that it was you that brought it about."

"I? I wish that I had no more to reproach myself with; but I can't for
the life of me see how--"

"Didn't you get Mrs. Lampson to invite me to Abbeylands, and didn't I
meet Norah there, bless her! At first, do you know, I fancied that I was
getting fond of her mother?"

"Oh, yes; I can understand that," said Harold, who was fully acquainted
with the systems which Lady Innisfail worked with such success.

"But, bless your heart! it was all motherly kindness on Lady Innisfail's
part--so she explained when--ah--later on. Then I went with her to Lord
Innisfail's place at Netherford and--well, there's no explaining these
things. Norah is the girl for me! I've felt a better man for knowing
her, Harry. It's not every girl that a chap can say that of--mostly the
other way. Lord Innisfail heard something about the Legitimate business,
and he said that it was about time I gave it up; I agreed with him, and
I've given it up."

"Archie," said Harold, "you've done a good morning's work. I was going
to advise you never to see Mrs. Mowbray again--never to grant her an
interview--she's an edged tool--but after what you've done, I feel that
it would be a great piece of presumption on my part to offer you any
advice."

"Do you know what it is?" said Archie, in a low and very confidential
voice: "I'm not quite so sure of her character as I used to be. I know
you always stood up for her."

"I still believe that she never had more than one lover at a time," said
Harold.

"Was that seventy-five pound's worth of the Widow swallowed by one lover
in a week?" asked Archie. "Oh, I'm sick of the whole concern. Don't you
mention Shakespeare to me again."

"I won't," said Harold. "But it strikes me that Shakespeare is like
Madame Roland's Liberty."

"Whose Liberty?"

"Madame Roland's."

"Oh, she's a dressmaker of Bond Street, I suppose. They're all Madames
there. I dare say I've got a bill from her to pay with the rest of them.
Mrs. Mowbray has dealt with them all. Now I'm off. I thought I'd drop
in and tell you all that happened, as you're accountable for my meeting
Norah."

"You will give her my best regards and warmest congratulations," said
Harold. "Accept the same yourself."

"You had a good time at their Irish place yourself, hadn't you?" said
Archie. "How was it that you didn't fall in love with Norah when you
were there? That's what has puzzled me. How is it that every tarty chip
didn't want to marry her? Oh, I forgot that you--well, wasn't there a
girl with lovely eyes in Ireland?"

"You have heard of Irish girls and their eyes," said Harold.

"She had wonderful gray eyes," said Archie. Harold became grave. "Oh,
yes, Norah has a pair of eyes too, and she keeps them wide open. She
told me a good deal about their party in Ireland. She took it for
granted that you--"

"Archie," said Harold, "like a good chap don't you ever talk about that
to me again."

"All right, I'll not," said Archie. "Only, you see, I thought that you
wouldn't mind now, as everyone says that she's going to marry Airey, the
M.P. for some place or other. I knew that you'd be glad to hear that I'd
fired out the Legitimate."

"So I am--very glad."

Archie was off, having abandoned as futile his well-meant attempts to
balance the quill on the toe first of one boot, then of the other.

He was off, and Harold was standing at the window, watching him
gathering up his reins and sending his horses at a pretty fair pace into
the square.

It had fallen--the blow had fallen. She was going to marry Edmund Airey.

Could he blame her?

He felt that he had treated her with a baseness that deserved the
severest punishment--such punishment as was now in her power to inflict.
She had trusted him with all her heart--all her soul. She had given
herself up to him freely, and he had made her the victim of a fraud.
That was how he had repaid her for her trustfulness.

He did not stir from the window for hours. He thought of her without any
bitterness--all his bitterness was divided between the thoughts of his
own cruelty and the thoughts of Edmund Airey's cleverness. He did not
know which was the more contemptible; but the conclusion to which he
came, after devoting some time to the consideration of the question of
the relative contemptibility of the two, was that, on the whole, Edmund
Airey's cleverness was the more abhorrent.

But Archie Brown, after leaving St. James's, drove with his customary
rapidity to Connaught Square, to tell of his achievement to Norah.

Miss Innisfail, while fully recognizing the personal obligations of
Archie to the Shakesperian drama, had agreed with her father that this
devotion should not be an absorbing one. She had had a hint or two that
it absorbed a good deal of money, and though she had been assured by
Archie that no one could say a word against Mrs. Mowbray's character,
yet, like Harold--perhaps even better than Harold--she knew that Mrs.
Mowbray was an extremely well-dressed woman. She listened with interest
to Archie's account of how he had accomplished that process of "firing
out" in regard to the Legitimate artists; and when he had told her all,
she could not help wondering if Mrs. Mowbray would be quite as well
dressed in the future as she had been in the past.

Archie then went on to tell her how he had called upon Harold, and how
Harold had congratulated him.

"You didn't forget to tell him that people are saying that Mr. Airey is
going to marry Miss Avon?" said Norah.

"Have I ever forgotten to carry out one of your commissions?" he asked.

"Good gracious! You didn't suggest that you were commissioned by me to
tell him that?"

"Not likely. That's not the sort of new potatoes I am. I was on the
cautious side, and I didn't even mention the name of the girl." He did
not think it necessary to say that the reason for his adoption of this
prudent course was that he had forgotten the name of the girl. "No, but
when I told him that Airey was going to marry her, he gave me a look."

"A look? What sort of a look?"

"I don't know. The sort of a look a chap would give to a surgeon who had
just snipped off his leg. Poor old Harry looked a bit cut up. Then he
turned to me and said as gravely as a parson--a bit graver than some
parsons--that he'd feel obliged to me if I'd never mention her name
again."

"But you hadn't mentioned her name, you said."

"Neither I had. He didn't mention it either. I can only give you an idea
of what he said, I won't take my oath about the exact words. But I'll
take my oath that he was more knocked down than any chap I ever came
across."

"I knew it," said Norah. "He's in love with her still. Mamma says he's
not; but I know perfectly well that he is. She doesn't care a scrap for
Mr. Airey."

"How do you know that?"

"I know it."

"Oh."



CHAPTER LV.--ON SHAKESPEARE AND ARCHIE BROWN.

|IT was early on the same afternoon that Beatrice Avon received
intimation of a visitor--a lady, the butler said, who gave the name of
Mrs. Mowbray.

"I do not know any Mrs. Mowbray, but, of course, I'll see her," was the
reply that Beatrice gave to the inquiry if she were at home.

"Was it possible," she thought, "that her visitor was the Mrs.
Mowbray whose portraits in the character of Cymbeline were in all the
illustrated papers?"

Before Beatrice, under the impulse of this thought, had glanced at
herself in a mirror--for a girl does not like to appear before a woman
of the highest reputation (for beauty) with hair more awry than is
consistent with tradition--her mind was set at rest. There may have been
many Mrs. Mowbrays in London, but there was only one woman with such a
figure, and such a face.

She looked at Beatrice with undisguised interest, but without speaking
for some moments. Equally frank was the interest that was apparent
on the face of Beatrice, as she went forward to meet and to greet her
visitor.

She had heard that Mrs. Mowbray's set of sables had cost
someone--perhaps even Mrs. Mowbray herself--seven hundred guineas.

"Thank you, I will not sit down," said Mrs. Mowbray. "I feel that I must
apologize for this call."

"Oh, no," said Beatrice.

"Oh, yes; I should," said Mrs. Mowbray. "I will do better, however, for
I will make my visit a short one. The fact is, Miss Avon, I have heard
so much about you during the past few months from--from--several people,
I could not help being interested in you--greatly interested indeed."

"That was very kind of you," said Beatrice, wondering what further
revelation was coming.

"I was so interested in you that I felt I must call upon you. I used to
know Lady Innisfail long ago."

"Was it Lady Innisfail who caused you to be interested in me?" asked
Beatrice.

"Well, not exactly," said Mrs. Mowbray; "but it was some of Lady
Innisfail's guests--some who were entertained at the Irish Castle.
I used also to know Mrs. Lampson--Lord Fotheringay's daughter. How
terrible the blow of his death must have been to her and her brother."

"I have not seen Mrs. Lampson since," said Beatrice, "but--"

"You have seen the present Lord Fotheringay? Will you let me say that
I hope you have seen him--that you still see him? Do not think me
a gossiping, prying old woman--I suppose I am old enough to be your
mother--for expressing the hope that you will see him, Miss Avon. He is
the best man on earth."

Beatrice had flushed the first moment that her visitor had alluded to
Harold. Her flush had not decreased.

"I must decline to speak with you on the subject of Lord Fotheringay,
Mrs. Mowbray," said Beatrice, somewhat unequally.

"Do not say that," said Mrs. Mowbray, in the most musical of pleading
tones. "Do not say that. You would make me feel how very gross has been
my effrontery in coming to you."

"No, no; please do not think that," cried Beatrice, yielding, as every
human being could not but yield, to the lovely voice and the gracious
manner of Mrs. Mowbray. What would be resented as a gross piece of
insolence on the part of anyone else, seemed delicately gracious coming
from Mrs. Mowbray. Her insolence was more acceptable than another
woman's compliment. She knew to what extent she could draw upon her
resources, both as regards men and women. It was only in the case of a
young cub such as Archie that she now and again overrated her powers of
fascination. She knew that she would never pat Archie's red head again.

"Yes, you will let me speak to you, or I shall feel that you regard my
visit as an insolent intrusion."

Beatrice felt for the first time in her life that she could fully
appreciate the fable of the Sirens. She felt herself hypnotized by that
mellifluous voice--by the steady sympathetic gaze of the lovely eyes
that were resting upon her face.

"He is so fond of you," Mrs. Mowbray went on. "There is no lover's
quarrel that will not vanish if looked at straight in the face. Let
me look at yours, my dear child, and I will show you how that demon
of distrust can be exorcised." Beatrice had become pale. The word
_distrust_ had broken the spell of the Siren.

"Mrs. Mowbray," said she, "I must tell you again that on no
consideration--on no pretence whatever shall I discuss Lord Fotheringay
with you."

"Why not with me, my child?" said Mrs. Mowbray. "Because I distrust
you--no I don't mean that. I only mean that--that you have given me no
reason to trust you. Why have you come to me in this way, may I ask
you? It is not possible that you came here on the suggestion of Lord
Fotheringay."

"No; I only came to see what sort of girl it is that Mr. Airey is going
to marry," said Mrs. Mowbray, with a wicked little smile.

Beatrice was no longer pale. She stood with clenched hands before Mrs.
Mowbray, with her eyes fixed upon her face.

Then she took a step toward the bell rope. "One moment," said Mrs.
Mowbray. "Do you expect to marry Edmund Airey?"

Beatrice turned, and looked again at her visitor. If the girl had been
less feminine she would have gone on to the bell rope, and have pulled
it gently. She did nothing of the sort. She gave a laugh, and said, "I
shall marry him if I please."

She was feminine.

So was Mrs. Mowbray.

"Will you?" she said. "Do you fancy for a moment--are you so infatuated
that you can actually fancy that I--I--Gwendoline Mowbray, will allow
you--you--to take Edmund Airey away from me? Oh, the child is mad--mad!"

"Do you mean to tell me," said Beatrice, coming close to her, "that
Edmund Airey is--is--a lover of yours?"

"Ah," said Mrs. Mowbray, smiling, "you do not live in our world, my
child."

"No, I do not," said Beatrice. "I now see why you have come to me
to-day."

"I told you why."

"Yes; you told me. Edmund Airey has been your lover."

"_Has been?_ My child, it is only when I please that a lover of mine
becomes associated with a past tense. I have not yet allowed Edmund
Airey to associate with my 'have beens.' It was from him that I learned
all about you. He alluded to you in his letters to me from Ireland
merely as 'a gray eye or so.' You still mean to marry him?"

"I still mean to do what I please," said Beatrice. She had now reached
the bell rope and she pulled it very gently.

"You are an extremely beautiful young person," said Mrs. Mowbray. "But
you have not been able to keep close to you a man like Harold Wynne--a
man with a perfect genius for fidelity. And yet you expect--"

Here the door was opened by the butler. Mrs. Mowbray allowed her
sentence to dwindle away into the conventionalities of leave-taking with
a stranger.

Beatrice found herself standing with flushed cheeks and throbbing heart
at the door through which her visitor had passed.

It was somewhat remarkable that the most vivid impression which she
retained of the rather exciting series of scenes in which she had
participated, was that Mrs. Mowbray's sables were incomparably the
finest that she had ever seen.

Mrs. Mowbray could scarcely have driven round the great square before
the butler inquired if Miss Avon was at home to Miss Innisfail. In
another minute Norah Innisfail was embracing her with the warmth of a
true-hearted girl who comes to tell another of her engagement to marry
an eligible man, or a handsome man, let him be eligible or otherwise.

"I want to be the first to give you the news, my dearest Beatrice," said
Norah. "That is why I came alone. I know you have not heard the news."

"I hear no news, except about things that do not interest me in the
least," said Beatrice.

"My news concerns myself," said Norah.

"Then it's sure to interest me," cried Beatrice.

"It's so funny! But yet it's very serious," said Norah. "The fact is
that I'm going to marry Archie Brown."

"Archie Brown?" said Beatrice. "I hope he is the best man in the
world--he should be, to deserve you, my dear Norah."

"I thought perhaps you might have known him," said Norah. "I find that
there are a good many people still who do not know Archie Brown,
in spite of the Legitimate Theatre and all that he has done for
Shakespeare."

"The Legitimate Theatre. Is that where Mrs. Mowbray acts?"

"Only for another week. Oh, yes, Archie takes a great interest in
Shakespeare. He meant the Legitimate Theatre to be a monument to the
interest he takes in Shakespeare, and so it would have been, if the
people had only attended properly, as they should have done. Archie is
very much disappointed, of course; but he says, very rightly, that the
Lord Chamberlain isn't nearly particular enough in the plays that he
allows to be represented, and so the public have lost confidence in the
theatres--they are never sure that something objectionable will not be
played--and go to the Music Halls, which can always be trusted. Archie
says he'll turn the Legitimate into a Music Hall--that is, if he can't
sell the lease."

"Whether he does so or not, I congratulate you with all my heart, my
dearest Norah."

"If you had come down to Abbeylands in time--before that awful thing
happened--you would have met Archie. We met him there. Mamma took a
great fancy to him at once, and I think that I must have done the same.
At any rate I did when he came to stay with us. He's such a good fellow,
with red hair--not the sort that the old Venetian painters liked, but
another sort. Strictly speaking some of his features--his mouth, for
instance--are too large, but if you look at him in one position, when
he has his face turned away from you, he's quite--quite--ah--quite
curious--almost nice. You'll like him, I know."

"I'm sure of it," said Beatrice.

"Yes; and he's such a friend of Harold Wynne's," continued the
artful Norah. "Why, what's the matter with you, Beatrice? You are as
pale--dearest Beatrice, you and I were always good friends. You know
that I always liked Harold."

"Do not talk about him, Norah."

"Why should I not talk about him? Tell me that."

"He is gone--gone away."

"Not he. He's too wretched to go away anywhere. Archie was with him
to-day, and when he heard that--well, the way some people are talking
about you and Mr. Airey, he had not a word to throw to a dog--Archie
told me so."

"Oh, do not talk of him, Norah."

"Why should I not?"

"Because--ah, because he's the only one worth talking about, and now
he's gone from me, and I'll never see him again--never, never again!"
Before she had come to the end of her sentence, Beatrice was lying
sobbing on the unsympathetic cushion of the sofa--the same cushion that
had absorbed her tears when she had told Harold to leave her.

"My dearest Beatrice," whispered Norah, kneeling beside her, with her
face also down a spare corner of the cushion, "I have known how you were
moping here alone. I've come to take you away. You'll come down with us
to our place at Netherford. There's a lake with ice on it, and there's
Archie, and many other pretty things. Oh, yes, you'll come, and we'll
all be happy."

"Norah," cried Beatrice, starting up almost wildly, "Mr. Airey will be
here in half an hour to ask me to marry him. He wrote to say that he
would be here, and I know what he means." Mr. Airey did call in half an
hour, and he found Beatrice--as he felt certain she should--waiting to
receive him, wearing a frock that he admired, and lace that he approved
of.

But in the meantime Beatrice and Norah had had a few words together
beyond those just recorded.



CHAPTER LVI.--ON THE BITTER CRY.

|EDMUND AIREY drank his cup of tea which Beatrice poured out for him,
and while doing so, he told her of the progress that was being made
by the agitation of the Opposition and the counter agitation of the
Government. There was no disguising the fact that the country--like the
fool that it was--had been caught by the bitter cry from Siberia. There
was nothing like a bitter cry, Edmund said, for catching hold of
the country. If any cry was only bitter enough it would succeed.
Fortunately, however, the Government, in its appeal against the Atheism
of the Continent, had also struck a chord that vibrated through the
length and breadth of England and Scotland. The Government orators were
nightly explaining that no really sincere national effort had ever been
made to convert the Jews. To be sure, some endeavours had been made from
time to time to effect this great object--in the days of Isaac of York
the gridiron and forceps had been the auxiliaries of the Church to bring
about the conversion of the Hebrew race; and, more recently, the potent
agency of drawing-room meetings and a house-to-house collection had been
resorted to; but the results had been disappointing. Statistics were
forthcoming--nothing impresses the people of Great Britain more than a
long array of figures, Edmund Airey explained--to show that, whereas, on
any part of the West coast of Africa where rum was not prohibited, for
one pound sterling 348 negroes could be converted--the rate was 0.01
where rum was prohibited--yet for a subscription of five pounds, one
could only depend on 0.31 of the Jewish race--something less than half
an adult Hebrew--being converted. The Government orators were asking how
long so scandalous a condition of affairs was to be allowed to continue,
and so forth.

Oh, yes, he explained, things were going on merrily. In three days
Parliament would meet, and the Opposition had drafted their Amendment
to the Address, "That in the opinion of this House no programme of
legislation can be considered satisfactory that does not include a
protest against the horrors daily enacted in Siberia."

If this Amendment were carried it would, of course, be equivalent to
a Vote of Censure upon the Government, and the Ministers would be
compelled to resign, Edmund explained to Beatrice.

She was very attentive, and when he had completed a clever account of
the political machinery by which the operations of the Nonconformist
Conscience are controlled, she said quietly, "My sympathies are
certainly with Siberia. I hope you will vote for that Amendment."

He laughed in his superior way.

"That is so like a girl," said he. "You are carried away by your
sympathies of the moment. You do not wait to reason out any question."

"I dare say you are right," said she, smiling. "Our conscience is not
susceptible of those political influences to which you referred just
now."

"'They are dangerous guides--the feelings'," said he, "at least from a
standpoint of politics."

"But there are, thank God, other standpoints in the world from which
humanity may be viewed," said she.

"There are," said he. "And I also join with you in saying, 'thank God!'
Do you fancy that I am here to-day--that I have been here so frequently
during the past two months, from a political motive, Beatrice?"

"I cannot tell," she replied. "Have you not just said that the feelings
are dangerous guides?"

"They lead one into danger," said he. "There can be no doubt about
that."

"Have you ever allowed them to lead you?" she asked, with another smile.

"Only once, and that is now," said he. "With you I have thrown away
every guide but my feelings. A few months ago I could not have believed
it possible that I should do so. But with God and Woman all things
are possible. That is why I am here to-day to ask you if you think it
possible that you could marry me."

She had risen to her feet, not by a sudden impulse, but slowly. She was
not looking at him. Her eyes were fixed upon some imaginary point beyond
him. She was plainly under the influence of some very strong feeling. A
full minute had passed before she said, "You should not have come to me
with that request, Mr. Airey.

"Why should I not? Do you think that I am here through any other impulse
than that of my feelings?"

"How can I tell?" she said, and now she was looking at him. "How can I
tell which you hold dearer--political advancement, or my love?"

"How can you doubt me for a moment, Beatrice?" he said
reproachfully--almost mournfully. "Why am I waiting anxiously for your
acceptance of my offer, if I do not hold your love more precious than
all other considerations in the world?"

"Do you so hold it?"

"Indeed I do."

"Then I have told you that my sympathies are altogether with Siberia.
Vote for the Amendment of the Opposition."

"What can you mean, Beatrice?"

"I mean that if you vote for the Amendment, you will have shown me that
you are capable of rising above mere party considerations. I don't make
this the price of my love, remember. I don't make any compact to marry
you if you adopt the course that I suggest. I only say that you will
have proved to me that your words are true--that you hold something
higher than political expediency."

She looked at him.

He looked at her.

There was a long pause.

"You are unreasonable. I cannot do it," he said.

"Good-bye," said she.

He looked at the hand which she had thrust out to him, but he did not
take it.

"You really mean me to vote against my party?" said he.

"What other way can you prove to me that you are superior to party
considerations?" said she.

"It would mean self-effacement politically," said he. "Oh, you do not
appreciate the gravity of the thing."

He turned abruptly away from her and strode across the room.

She remained silent where he had left her.

"I did not think you capable of so cruel a caprice as this," he
continued, from the fireplace. "You do not understand the consequences
of my voting against my party."

"Perhaps I do not," said she. "But I have given you to understand the
consequences of not doing so."

"Then we must part," said he, approaching her. "Good-bye," said she,
once more.

He took her hand this time. He held it for a moment irresolutely, then
he dropped it.

"Are you really in earnest, Beatrice?" said he. "Do you really mean to
put me to this test?"

"I never was more in earnest in my life," said she. "Think over the
matter--let me entreat of you to think over it," he said, earnestly.

"And you will think over it also?"

"Yes, I will think over it. Oh, Beatrice, do not allow yourself to be
carried away by this caprice. It is unworthy of you."

"Do not be too hard on me, I am only a woman," said she, very meekly.

She was only a woman. He felt that very strongly as he walked away.

And yet he had told Harold that he had great hope of Woman, by reason of
her femininity.

And yet he had told Harold that he understood Woman and her motives.

"Papa," said Beatrice, from the door of the historian's study. "Papa,
Mr. Edmund Airey has just been here to ask me to marry him."

"That's right, my dear," said the great historian. "Marry him, or anyone
else you please, only run away and play with your dolls now. I'm very
busy."

This was precisely the answer that Beatrice expected. It was precisely
the answer that anyone might have expected from a man who permitted such
a _ménage_ as that which prevailed under his roof.



CHAPTER LVII.--ON THE REJECTED ADDRESSES.

|THE next day Beatrice went with Norah Innisfail and her mother to their
home in Nethershire. Two days afterwards the Legitimate Theatre closed
its doors, and Parliament opened its doors. The Queen's Speech was read,
and a member of the Opposition moved the Amendment relating to Siberia.
The Debate on the Address began.

On the second night of the debate Edmund Airey called at the historian's
house and, on asking for Miss Avon, learned that she was visiting
Lady Innisfail in Nethershire. On the evening of the fourth day of the
debate--the Division on the Amendment was to be taken that night--he
drove in great haste to the same house, and learned that Miss Avon was
still in Nethershire, but that she was expected home on the following
day.

He partook of a hasty dinner at his club, and, writing out a telegram,
gave it to a hall-porter to send to the nearest telegraph office.

The form was addressed to Miss Avon, in care of Lord Innisfail,
Netherford Hall, Netherford, Nethershire, and it contained the following
words, "_I will do it. Edmund_."

He did it.

He made a brief speech amid the cheers of the Opposition and the howls
of the Government party, acknowledging his deep sympathy with the
unhappy wretches who were undergoing the unspeakable horrors of a
Siberian exile, and thus, he said he felt compelled, on conscientious
grounds (ironical cheers from the Government) to vote for the Amendment.

He went into the lobby with the Opposition.

It was an Irish member who yelled out "Judas!"

The Government was defeated by a majority of one vote, and there was a
"scene" in the House.

Some time ago an enterprising person took up his abode in the midst
of an African jungle, in order to study the methods by which baboons
express themselves. He might have spared himself that trouble, if he had
been present upon the occasion of a "scene" in the House of Commons.
He would, from a commanding position in the Strangers' Gallery, have
learned all that he had set his heart upon acquiring--and more.

It was while the "scene" was being enacted that Edmund Airey had put
into his hand the telegraph form written out by himself in his club.

"_Telegraph Office at Netherford closes at 6 p.m_.," were the words that
the hall-porter had written on the back of the form.

The next day he drove to the historian's, and inquired if Miss Avon had
returned.

She was in the drawing-room, the butler said.

With triumph--a sort of triumph--in his heart, and on his face, he
ascended the staircase.

He thought that he had never before seen her look so beautiful. Surely
there was triumph on her face as well! It was glowing, and her eyes were
more lustrous even than usual. She had plainly just returned, for she
had on a travelling dress.

"Beatrice, you saw the newspapers? You saw that I have done it?" he
cried, exultantly.

"Done what?" she inquired. "I have seen no newspaper to-day."

"What? Is it possible that you have not heard that I voted last night
for the Amendment?" he cried.

"I heard nothing," she replied.

"I wrote a telegram last evening, telling you that I meant to do it, but
it appears that the office at Netherford closes at six, so it could
not be sent. I did not know how much you were to me until yesterday,
Beatrice."

"Stop," she said. "I was married to Harold Wynne an hour ago."

He looked at her for some moments, and then dropped into a chair.

"You have made a fool of me," he said.

"No," she said. "I could not do that. If I had got your telegram in time
last evening I would have replied to it, telling you that, whatever step
you took, it would not bring you any nearer to me. Harold Wynne, you
see, came to me again. I had promised to marry him when we were together
at that seal-hunt, but--well, something came between us."

"And you revenged yourself upon me? You made a fool of me!"

"If I had tried to do so, would it have been remarkable, Mr. Airey?
Supposing that I had been made a fool of by the compact into which you
entered with Miss Craven, who would have been to blame? Was there ever a
more shameful compact entered into by a clever man and a clever woman to
make a victim of a girl who believed that the world was overflowing
with sincerity? I was made acquainted with the nature of that compact of
yours, Mr. Airey, but I cannot say that I have yet learned what are the
terms of your compact--or is it a contract?--with Mrs. Mowbray. Still, I
know something. And yet you complain that I have made a fool of you."

He had completely recovered himself before she had got to the end of her
little speech. He had wondered how on earth she had become acquainted
with the terms of his compact with Helen. When, however, she referred
to Mrs. Mowbray, he felt sure that it was Mrs. Mowbray who had betrayed
him.

He was beginning to learn something of women and their motives.

"Nothing is likely to be gained by this sort of recrimination," said he,
rising. "You have ruined my career."

She laughed, not bitterly but merrily, he knew all along that she had
never fully appreciated the gravity of the step which she had compelled
him--that was how he put it--to take. She had not even had the interest
to glance at a newspaper to see how he had voted. But then she had
not read the leading articles in the Government organs which were
plentifully besprinkled with his name printed in small capitals. That
was his one comforting thought.

She laughed.

"Oh, no, Mr. Airey," said she. "Your career is not ruined. Clever men
are not so easily crushed, and you are a very clever man--so clever as
to be able to make me clever, if that were possible."

"You have crushed me," he said. "Good-bye."

"If I wished to crush you I should have married you," said she. "No
woman can crush a man unless she is married to him. Good-bye."

The butler opened the door. "Is my husband in yet?" she asked of the
man.

"His lordship has not yet returned, my lady," said the butler, who had
once lived in the best families--far removed from literature--and who
was, consequently, able to roll off the titles with proper effect.

"Then you will not have an opportunity of seeing him, I'm afraid," she
said, turning to Mr. Airey.

"I think I already said good-bye, Lady Fotheringay."

"I do believe that you did. If I did not, however, I say it now.
Good-bye, Mr. Airey."

He got into a hansom and drove straight to Helen Craven's house. It was
the most dismal drive he had ever had. He could almost fancy that the
message boys in the streets were, in their accustomed high spirits,
pointing to him with ridicule as the man who had turned his party out of
office.

Helen Craven was in her boudoir. She liked receiving people in that
apartment. She understood its lights.

He found that she had read the newspapers.

She stared at him as he entered, and gave him a limp hand.

"What on earth did you mean by voting--" she began.

"You may well ask," said he. "I was a fool. I was made a fool of by that
girl. She made me vote against my party."

"And she refuses to marry you now?"

"She married Harold Wynne an hour ago."

Helen Craven did not fling herself about when she heard this piece of
news. She only sat very rigid on her little sofa.

"Yes," resumed Edmund. "She is ill-treated by one man, but she marries
him, and revenges herself upon another! Isn't that like a woman? She has
ruined my career."

Then it was that Helen Craven burst into a long, loud, and very
unmusical laugh--a laugh that had a suspicion of a shrill shriek about
some of its tones. When she recovered, her eyes were full of the tears
which that paroxysm of laughter had caused.

"You are a fool, indeed!" said she. "You are a fool if you cannot see
that your career is just beginning. People are talking of you to-day
as the Conscientious One--the One Man with a Conscience. Isn't the
reputation for a Conscience the beginning of success in England?"

"Helen," he cried, "will you marry me? With our combined money we can
make ourselves necessary to any party. Will you marry me?"

"I will," she said. "I will marry you with pleasure--now. I will marry
anyone--now."

"Give me your hand, Helen," he cried. "We understand one another--that
is enough to start with. And as for that other--oh, she is nothing but a
woman after all!"

He never spoke truer words.

But sometimes when he is alone he thinks that she treated him badly.

Did she?

THE END.





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