Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Derelicts
Author: Locke, William John
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
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 "Derelicts" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



provided by Google Books



DERELICTS

By William J. Locke

Author of “At The Gate of Samaria” and “The Demagogue and Lady Phayre”

John Lane: The Bodley Head London and New York

1897

[Ill 0010]


DERELICTS



Part I



CHAPTER I--BEYOND THE PALE


Warm day” said the policeman.

The man thus addressed looked up from the steps, where he was sitting
bareheaded, and nodded. Then, rather quickly, he put on his hat.

“Not much Bank Holiday hereabouts.”

“So much the better,” said the man.

“It’s all very well for them as likes it,” said the policeman, wiping
his forehead.

It was the first Monday in August, and his beat was not a lively one.
Curiosity had attracted him toward the sitting figure, and the social
instinct prompted conversation. Receiving, however, an uninterested nod
in reply to his last remark, he turned away reluctantly and continued
his slow tramp up the street.

The man took no notice of his departure, but, resting his chin on his
hands, gazed wistfully across the road. Why he had come here to Holland
Park he scarcely knew. Perhaps, in his aimless walk from his lodgings
in Pimlico, he had unconsciously followed a once familiar track that had
brought him to a spot filled with sweet and bitter associations.

The blinds were drawn in the great house opposite that stared white in
the noonday sun. A beer-can hanging on the area railings announced the
caretaker. Like most of the mansions in the long, well-kept street, it
seemed abandoned to sun and silence.

It was the first time he had seen the house since the cloud had fallen
upon his life. Once its interior had been as familiar to him as his own
boyhood’s home. Its inmates gave him flattering welcome. He was courted
for his brilliant promise and admired for his good looks. A whisper of
feasting and riotous living that hovered around his reputation caused
him to be petted by the household as the prodigal cousin. The comforts
of wealth, the charm of refinement, the warmth of affection, were his
whenever he chose to knock for admittance at that door. Now he had lost
them all, as irrevocably as Adam lost Eden. He was an outcast among men.
Not only had he forfeited his right to mount the steps, but he knew that
the very mention of his existence in that household brought shame and
fierce injunctions of silence.

He gazed at the drawn blinds of the deserted house in an agony of
hopelessness, craving the warm sympathy, the laughter, the dear human
companionship, the mere sound of his Christian name which he had not
heard uttered for over two years--ever since he had entered by that gate
above which the _lasciate ogni speranza_ seemed written in letters of
flame. The lines deepened on his face. The touch of a friendly hand,
a kind glance from familiar eyes, the daily, unnoted possession of
millions, were to him a priceless treasure, forever beyond his reach.
He was barely thirty. His life was wrecked. Nothing lay before him but
pariahdom, and slinking from the gaze of honest men. And within him
there burnt no fiery sense of injustice to keep alive the flame of noble
impulse--only self-contempt, ignominy, the ineffaceable brand of the
gaol.

It was on the pavement opposite that he had been arrested. He had
tripped down the steps in evening dress, his ears buzzing with the
laughter within, in spite of tremulous throbbings of his heart, and had
walked into the arms of the two quiet officers in plain clothes who had
been patiently awaiting his exit. From that moment onward his life
had been one pain and horror. Regained freedom had brought him little
joy--had brought him in fact increased despair. During the last few
months of his imprisonment he had yearned sickeningly for the day of
release. It had come. Sometimes he regretted the benumbed hours of that
mid-time in gaol, when pain had been lost in apathy. He had been free
for five months. In all probability he would be free for the rest of his
life. Sometimes he shuddered at the prospect.

The policeman again passed by, and this rime eyed him askance. Why was
he sitting on those steps? A suspicion of felonious purpose relieved the
monotony of his beat.

“You ’ll be moving on soon,” he said. “You mustn’t doss on them doorsteps
all day.”

The man looked at him rather stupidly. His first impulse was one of
servile obedience--an instinct of late habit, and he rose from Beyond
the Pale his seat. Then his sense of independence asserted itself, and
he said, in a somewhat defiant tone:--

“I felt faint from the heat. You have no right to molest me.”

The policeman glanced at him from head to foot A gentleman evidently,
in spite of well-worn clothes and gloveless hands thrust into trousers
pockets. He wore no watch-chain, and his shirt-cuffs were destitute of
links. “Down upon his luck,” thought the policeman; “ill too.” The man’s
face was pinched, and of the transparent white of a thin, fair man with
delicately cut features. His eyes were heavy, deeply sunken, and wore an
expression of weariness mingled with fear. The side muscles by his mouth
were relaxed, as if a heavy drooping moustache had dragged them
down; the scanty blonde hair on his upper lip, curled up at the ends,
contrasted oddly with this impression. He looked careworn and ill. His
clothes hung loosely upon him. The policeman surrendered his point.

“Well, you ain’t obstructing the traffic,” he replied good-humouredly;
and again he left the man alone, who reseated himself on the shady
steps, as if disinclined to stir from comfortable quarters. But the
spell of his meditations had been broken. He leaned his head against the
stone pillar of the balustrade and tried to think of occupation for the
day. He longed for to-morrow, when he could resume his weary search for
work, interrupted since Saturday noon. At first he had plunged into the
hopeless task with feverish anxiety, humiliated by rebuffs, agonised
through the frustration of idle hopes. Now it had grown mechanical, a
daily routine, devoid of pain or joy, to drag himself through the busy
streets from office to office and from shop to shop. He resented the
Sunday cessation of work, as interfering with the tenor of his life.
This Bank Holiday added another Sunday to the week.

The heat and glare and soundless solitude of the street made him drowsy.
The thought of death passed through him: an euthanasia--to fade
there peacefully out of existence. And then to be picked up dead on a
doorstep--a fitting end. _Finis coronat opus_. He sniffed cynically at
the idea. The minutes passed. The shade gradually encroached upon the
sunlight of the pavement. A cat from one of the great deserted houses
drew near with meditative step, smelt his boots, and, in the bored
manner of her tribe, curled herself up to slumber. A butcher’s cart
rattling past awoke the man, and he bent down and stroked the creature
at his feet. Then he became aware of a figure approaching him, along
the pavement--a tiny woman, neatly dressed. He watched her idly, with
lack-lustre gaze. But when she came within distance of salutation, their
eyes met, and each started in recognition. He rose hurriedly and made a
step as if to cross the road, but the little lady stopped still.

“Stephen Chisely!”

She moved forward and laid a detaining touch upon his arm, and looked up
questioningly into his face:--

“Won’t you speak to me?”

The voice was so soft and musical, the intonation so winning, that he
checked his impulse of flight; but he stared at her half bewildered.

“You haven’t forgotten me--Yvonne Latour?” she continued.

“Forgotten you? No,” he replied, slowly. “But I am not accustomed to
being recognised.”

“The world is very full of hateful people,” she said. “Oh! how
wretchedly ill you are looking! That was why you were sitting down on
the doorstep. My poor fellow!”

There was a suggestion of tears in her eyes. He turned his head away
quickly.

“You mustn’t talk to me like that,” he said, huskily. “I’m not fit for
you to speak to. When I went under, I went under--for good and all.
Good-bye, Madame Latour--and God bless you for saying a kind word to
me.”

“Why need you go away? Walk a little with me, won’t you? We can go along
to the Park and sit quietly and talk.”

“Do you really mean it--that you would walk with me--in the public
streets?”

“Why, of course,” she replied, with a little air of surprise. “Did
we not have many walks together in the old days? Do you think I have
forgotten? And you want friends so, so badly that even poor little me
may be of some good. Come.”

They moved away together, and walked some steps in silence. He was too
dazed with the sudden realisation of his yearning for human tenderness
to find adequate speech. At last he said harshly:--

“You know what you are doing? You are in the company of a man who
committed a disgraceful crime and has rotted in a gaol for two years.”

“Ah, don’t say such things,” said Madame Latour. “You hurt me. There
are hundreds of people in this great London, honoured and respected, who
have done far worse than you. Hundreds of thousands,” she added, with
exaggerated conviction. “Besides, you are still my good, kind friend.
What has passed cannot alter that.”

“I can’t understand it yet,” he said lamely. “You are the first who has
said a kind word to me.”

“Poor fellow!” said Yvonne again.

They emerged into the Bayswater Road. Before he had time to remonstrate,
she had hailed an omnibus going eastward. “We will get out at the corner
of the Park. You mustn’t walk too much.”

The ’bus stopped. He entered with her and sat down by her side. When the
conductor came for the fares, Yvonne opened her purse quickly; but a
flush came over her companion’s pale face as he divined her intention.
“You must let me,” he said, producing a couple of pence from his pocket.

The rattling of the vehicle prevented serious conversation. The
talk drifted naturally into the desultory commonplace. Madame Latour
explained that she had been giving the last singing lesson of the season
at a house on the other side of Holland Park, that her pupil had neither
ear nor voice, and that by the time she had learned the accompaniment
to a song it had already grown out of date. “People are so stupid, you
know.”

She said it with such an air of conviction, as if she had discovered
a brand-new truth, that the man smiled. She noted it with her quick,
feminine glance, and felt gladdened. It was so much better to laugh than
to cry. She was encouraged to chatter lightly upon passing glimpses
of people in the street, of amusing incidents in her profession as a
concert singer. When the ’bus stopped, she jumped out, disregarding his
gravely offered hand, and laughed, her face glowing with animation.

“Oh, how nice it is to be with you again!” she said, as they crossed to
the entrance gate of Kensington Gardens. “Say that you are glad you met
me.”

“It is like a drop of water on the tongue of the damned,” he said in a
low voice--too low, however, for her to hear, for she continued to look
up at him, all smiles and sweetness.

She seemed a thing of warmth and sunshine, too impalpable for the rough
uses of the world. One would have said she was the embodied spirit of
the warm south of Keats’s ode. Her dark hair, massed in a hundred little
waves over her forehead and temples, gave an indescribable softness to
her face. A faint tinge of rose shone through her dark skin. Her
great brown eyes contained immeasurable depths of tenderness. A
subtly-mingled, all-pervading sense of summer and the exquisitely
feminine enveloped her from the beautiful hair to her tiny feet. She was
in the sweetest bloom of her womanhood and she had all the unconscious,
half-pathetic charm of a child. In a crowded ball-room, amidst dazzling
dresses and flashing arms and necks and under the electric light,
Yvonne’s beauty might have passed unnoticed. But there, in the shady
walk upon which they had just entered, in that quiet world of cool
greens and shadowed yellows, she appeared to the man’s weary eyes the
most beautiful thing on the earth.

“How sweet it is here,” she said, as they sat down upon a bench.

“Incomprehensibly sweet,” he replied.

His tone touched her. She laid her tiny gloved hand upon his arm.

“I wish I could help you--Mr. Chisely,” she said gently.

“That is no longer my name,” he said. “And so you must n’t call me by
it. I have given it up since--since I came out. Would you care to hear
about me? It would help me to speak a little.”

“That’s why I brought you here,” said Yvonne.

He bent forward, elbows on knees, covering his face in his hands.

“I don’t know, after all, that there’s much to say. My poor mother died
while I was in prison--you know that; I suppose I broke her heart. Her
money was sunk in an annuity. The furniture and things were sold to
pay outstanding debts of mine. I came out five months ago, penniless.
Everard’s bankers communicated with me. As the head of the family he had
collected a lump sum of money, which was given to me on condition that
I should change my name and never let any of the family hear of my
existence again. My mother’s people refused to have anything to do with
me. God knows why I was sitting outside their house to-day. Perhaps you
think I ought n’t to have accepted Everard’s gift. A man hasn’t much
pride left after two years’ hard labour.... I took the name of Joyce.
I saw it on a tradesman’s cart as I reached the street after the
interview. One name is as good as another.”

“But you are still Stephen?” said Yvonne.

“I suppose so. I have hardly thought of it. Yes, I suppose I keep the
Stephen.... I am husbanding this money. I have only that between me and
starvation, if anything happened, you know. What I have passed through
is not the best thing for one’s health. Meanwhile, I am trying to get
work. It is a bit hopeless. I know I ought to go out of England, but
London is in my blood somehow. I am loth to leave it. Besides, what
should I do in the colonies? I am not fit for hard manual labour. They
tried it in there, and I broke down; I made sacks and helped in the
kitchen most of my time. If I could earn a pound a week in London, I
should n’t care. It would keep body and soul together. Why I should want
to keep them together I don’t know. I suppose my spirit is broken, and I
am too apathetic to commit suicide. If I had the spirit of a louse I
should do so. But I haven’t.”

He stopped speaking and remained with his head bowed in his hands.
Yvonne could find no words to reply. His almost brutal terseness had
given her a momentary perception of his self-abasement which surprised
and frightened her. Generous and tender-hearted as she was, she had
ever found men insoluble enigmas. They knew so much, had so many strange
wants, seemed to exist in a world of ideas, feelings, and actions beyond
her ken. Here was one with nameless experiences and shames. She shrank
a few inches along the seat, not from repulsion, but from a sudden
sense of her own incapacity of comprehension. She felt tongue-tied and
helpless. So there was a short silence.

Joyce noticed the lack of spontaneous sympathy, and, raising a haggard
face, said:--

“I have shocked you.”

“You talk so strangely,” said Yvonne--“as if you had a stone instead of
a heart.”

“Forgive me,” he said, softening at the sight of her distress. “I am
ungrateful to you. I ought to be happy to-day. I will be happy. I should
like to bend down and kiss your feet for sitting here with me.”

The change in his tone brought the colour back into Yvonne’s face and
the sun into her eyes. She was a creature of quick impulses.

“Have I really made you happy? I am so glad. I seem to be always trying
to make people happy and never succeeding.”

“They must be strange people you have dealt with,” said Joyce with a
weary smile.

She shrugged her shoulders expressively.

“I suppose it is that other people are so strange and I am so ordinary.”

“You are the kindest, sunniest soul on earth,” said Joyce. “You always
were.”

“Oh, how can you say so?” she cried, shaking her head. She was all
brightness again. “I am such an insignificant little person. Everything
about me seems so small. I have a small body, a small voice, a small
sphere, a small mind, and oh! I live in such a small, tiny flat.
You must come and see me. I will sing to you--that is my one small
talent--and perhaps that will cheer you. You must be so lonely!”

“Why are you so good to me?” Joyce asked.

“Because you look wretched and ill and miserable.” she said impulsively,
“and I can’t bear it. You were good to me once. Do you remember how
kindly you settled everything for me after Amédée left me? I don’t know
what I should have done without you. And then, your mother. Ah, I know,”
 she continued, lowering her voice a little, “I know, and I cried for
you. I saw her just before the end came and she spoke of you. She said
‘Yvonne, if ever you meet Stephen, give him a kind word for my sake.
He will have the whole world against him.’ And I promised--but I should
have done just the same if I had n’t promised. There is n’t any goodness
in it.”

He pressed her hand dumbly. Her eyes swam with starting tears, but his
were dry. Sometimes when he thought of the devastation his crime had
wrought, he would fall on his knees and bury his face, and long that he
could ease his heart in a storm of weeping. But it seemed too dead for
passionate outburst. Yet he had never felt so near to emotion as at that
moment.

They talked for a short while longer, of old days and home memories,
bitter-sweet to the young man, and of his present position, whose
hopelessness Yvonne refused to allow. She was anxious to effect a
reconciliation between him and his family. His mother’s relations who
lived in Holland Park she did not know. But his cousin, Everard Chisely,
Canon of Winchester, might be brought to more Christian sentiments of
forgiveness. She would plead with the Canon the first time that she met
him. But Joyce shook his head. No. He was the black sheep. Everard had
behaved generously. He must go his own way. No modern Christianity could
make a man forget the disgrace that had been brought upon his name by
felony. Besides, Everard never went back upon his word. Like Pilate,
what he had written, he had written, and there was an end of the matter.

“But how do you come to know Everard?” asked Joyce, wishing to turn the
conversation.

“I met him several times at your mother’s,” replied Yvonne. “He used
to be so kind to her. And there he heard me sing--and somehow we have
become immense friends. He comes to see me, and I sing to him. Dina
Vicary says he comes up to town on purpose. Did you ever hear such
a thing? But I can’t tell you how respectable it makes me feel--so
impressive you know--a real live dignitary. Once he came when Elsie
Carnegie and Vandeleur were there showing me her new song and dance.
You should have seen their faces when he came in. Van, who sings in the
choir of a West End church, began to talk hymns for all he was worth,
while Elsie flicked her lighted cigarette into a flower-pot. It was so
funny.”

Yvonne broke into a contagious ripple of laughter. Then, remembering the
flight of time, she looked at her watch and rose quickly from the seat.

“I had no idea it was so late! I am going out to lunch. Now you will
come and see me, won’t you? Come to-morrow evening. I live at 40
Aberdare Mansions, Marylebone Road. By the way, do you still sing?”

“I had forgotten there was such a thing as song in the world,” said
Joyce sadly.

“Well, you ’ll remember it to-morrow evening,” said Yvonne. “I have an
idea. _Au revoir_ then.”

“God bless you,” said Joyce, shaking hands with her.

She nodded brightly, and tripped away up the path. Joyce watched her
dainty figure until it was out of sight, and then he wandered aimlessly
through the Park, thinking of the past hour. And, for a short while,
some of the contamination of the gaol seemed to be wiped away.



CHAPTER II--YVONNE

That evening Yvonne was standing by the door of a concert-hall, as
her friend and fellow-artist Vandeleur adjusted a red wrap round her
shoulders. He was a burly, pudding-faced Irishman with twinkling dark
blue eyes and a persuasive manner. His fingers lingered about the wrap
longer than was necessary.

“Good-bye,” said Yvonne, “and thank you.” She was feeling a little
upset. Vandeleur, a popular favourite, had preceded her on the
programme, and his song had been met with rapturous applause.

“You have ‘queered’ me, Van,” she had said, in pure jest.

Whereupon, he had returned to the platform to give his enthusiastically
demanded encore, and, to the disappointment of the audience, had sung
the most villainous drawing-room ballad he could think of, without an
attempt at expression. The applause had been perfunctory, and Yvonne’s
appearance had created a quickening of interest. Vandeleur’s unnecessary
quixotism put Yvonne into a false position. So she thanked him shyly.

“Let me just have ten minutes of a cigarette at home with you,” he
pleaded.

Yvonne was tired. It was very hot; she had been running hither and
thither about London since the morning, and was longing in a feminine
way to free herself of hampering garments, and to lie down with a French
novel for an hour before going to bed. But when a man spoke to her with
that note of entreaty in his voice she did not know how to refuse. She
nodded assent. Vandeleur called a cab and they drove together to her
flat.

It was up many flights of stairs--the passage was very narrow, the
drawing-room very tiny. The big Irishman standing on the hearthrug
seemed to fill all the space left by the grand piano. How this article
of furniture was ever brought into the flat puzzled Yvonne’s friends
as much as the entrance of the apples into the dumplings puzzled George
III., until some one suggested the same solution of the problem--the
flat had been built round the piano. Everything else in the room
was small, like Yvonne herself, the armchairs, the couch, the three
occasional tables. A few water-colours hung around the walls. The
curtains and draperies were fresh and tasseled All the room, with its
dainty furniture and pretty feminine knick-knacks, was impressed with
Yvonne’s graceful individuality--all except the immense grand piano,
which asserted itself loudly, a polished rosewood solecism. It seemed
such a very big instrument for so small a person as Yvonne.

She threw herself into an armchair by the fire, with a little sigh. She
had been unusually quiet during the drive home.

“And what’s making you miserable?” asked Vandeleur, in a tone of
concern.

“I wish you had n’t done that, Van,” she said, with a wistful puckering
of her forehead.

“Ah, there! now you’re vexed with me. There never was an animal like me
for treading on my dearest friends. I’m like the elephant you may have
heard of, that squashed the mother of a brood of chickens by mistake,
and, taking it to heart, just like me, gathered the little ones under
his wing, and, sitting down upon them, said: ‘Ah, be aisy now, I’ll be
a mother to you’; he did n’t hurt the chickens’ feelings exactly--but it
was mistaken kindness. Was it your feelings I trampled on?”

“Ah, no, Van,” said Yvonne, smiling. “But don’t you see, it was doing a
thing I can never pay you back for.”

“Faith, the sight of your sweet face is payment enough.”

“But you can have that for nothing--such as it is.”

“It’s the sweetest face that ever was made,” said the Irishman, flinging
a freshly-lighted cigarette into the grate behind him. “I’d cut off my
head any day to get a sight of it But are you wanting to pay me more
than that? By my soul, there’s just an easy way out of your difficulty,
Yvonne!”

He looked down at her, his free very red, and questioning in his
eyes. She caught his glance and sat upright, stretching out her hand
appealingly. Men had looked at her like that before,--craving for
something she had not in her to give. She had always, on such occasions,
felt what a shallow, poverty-stricken little soul she was. What was in
her that could bring the trouble into men’s eyes? Here was Van, the kind
friend and good Derelicts comrade, going the way of the others. She was
frightened and distressed.

“Oh, Van, don’t!” she cried. “Not that I can’t bear it!”

She covered her face with her hands, as he came quickly forward and
leaned over her chair. “Just a tiny bit of love, Yvonne. So small that
you would n’t miss it. I could do with it all, but I know I can’t get
that. I only ask for a sample. Come, Yvonne.”

But Yvonne shook her head.

“Don’t, Van,” she repeated, piteously; “you’re hurting me.”

Her tone was so pathetic that the big man drew himself up, thumped
his chest, and seized his hat. “I’m a great big brute to come and take
advantage of you like this. Of course you couldn’t care about a great
fat bounder like me. And you’re half dropping with weariness. It’s a
villain I am. I’ll leave you to your sleep, poor little woman. Good
night.”

He held out his hand, and she allowed hers to remain in it for a moment.

“I have n’t been ungrateful to you, have I?” she asked. “I did n’t mean
to be. But I thought you were different.”

“How, different?”

“That you would never make love to me. Don’t, Van, please. It would
spoil it all.”

“Well, perhaps it would,” replied Vandeleur, philosophically. “Only it
is so devilish hard not to make love to you when one’s got the chance.
And, begad! if you’d just give up looking like a little warm, brown
saint, it would be better for the peace of mind of the men.”

He stooped and touched her hand with his lips and strode buoyantly out
of the room. She heard him humming one of his songs along the passage,
then the slam of the front door; then there was silence, and Yvonne went
to bed with a grateful sense of escape from unknown dangers. Still,
she was sorry for Vandeleur, although she had a dim perception of the
superficiality of his passion. It would have been nice, had it been
possible, to make him happy. She had a queer, unreasonable little
feeling that she had been selfish. She sighed as she settled herself to
sleep. The ways of the world were very complicated.

To those who knew her it was often a subject for marvel that she was
not crushed in the fierce struggle of life. A creature so yielding, so
simple, so unaffected by experience or the obvious external lessons of
the world, and yet standing serenely in the midst of the turmoil, seemed
an incongruity--gave a sense of shock, a prompting to rescue, such
as would arise from the sight of a child in the middle of a roadway
clashing with traffic. She was made for protection, tenderness, all the
sheltering luxuries and amenities of life. It was a flaw in the eternal
fitness of things that she was alone, earning her livelihood, with
nothing but her sweetness and innocence to guard her from buffeting and
downfall.

Yet it was her very simplicity that saved her from outward strain;
and inward stress was as yet spared her, through her unawakened child’
nature. She laughed when folks pitied her. To earn her living was an
easy matter. Born in the profession, trained for it from her earliest
days, she had taken to it as a young swan to the water. Engagements came
like the winds, the visits of her friends, and other such natural and
commonplace phenomena. She sang, or gave her lessons, and the money was
paid in to the branch of the City Bank close by her flat, and when she
needed funds for her modest expenses she wrote a cheque and sent her
maid to cash it When her balance was getting low, she practised little
economies and postponed payment of bills; when it was high, she settled
her debts, bought new clothes, and had a dozen oysters now and then for
supper. It was very simple. She did not pity herself at all. Nor did she
feel the trouble of her past married life. It had gone by like a cloudy
day, forgotten in succeeding sunshine, and had left singularly little
trace upon her character. Even the period of unhappiness had not weighed
unduly. A more resistful nature might have been wrecked irretrievably;
but Yvonne had been cast upon the shoals only for a season.

When Amédée Bazouge, a Parisian tenor who had settled in London, first
met her, he was surfeited with various blonde beauties of the baser
sort, and in a sentimental mood, during which he frequently invoked the
memory of his mother, he chose to fall desperately in love with little
brown Yvonne, likening her to the Blessed Virgin and as many saints as
he recollected. Yvonne was very young; this sudden worship was new to
her; the pain in his heart that he so passionately dwelt upon seemed a
terrible thing for her to have caused. She married him because he said
that his life was at stake. She gave him herself as she would have
given sixpence to a poor man in the street. Why she was necessary to his
life’s happiness she could not guess. However, Amédée said so, and she
took it on faith.

For a while she was mildly content in his exuberant delight He
whispered, in soft honeymoon hours, “_m’aimes-tu?_”--and she said “Yes,”
 because she knew it would please him; but she was always happier at
other times, when she was not called upon for display or expression of
feeling. She liked him well enough. His somewhat common handsomeness
pleased her, his effervescent fancy and boulevard wit kept her lightly
amused, and his vehement passion provided her with an interest strangely
compounded of fright, wonder, and pity.

But Amédée Bazouge was not made either by nature or education for the
domestic virtues. His repentant mood passed away; he forgot the memory
of his mother, and found Yvonne’s innocence grow insipid. He hankered
after the strange goddesses with their full-flavoured personalities,
their cynicism, their passions, and their stimulating variety. Regret
came to him for having broken with the last, who always kept him in
a state of delicious uncertainty whether she would overwhelm him with
passionate kisses or break the looking-glass in a tempest of wrath.
So, gradually, he sought satisfaction for his reactionary yearnings and
drifted away from Yvonne. And then she grew unhappy. He did not treat
her unkindly. In all their dealings with each other a harsh word never
passed the lips of either. But she felt cold and neglected. Instead
of being met after a concert and accompanied to their little house at
Staines, she went the long journey alone. The quiet evenings of music
and singing together were things of the past. Often a week elapsed
without their meeting. To complete her trouble, her mother died
suddenly, and Yvonne felt very lonely. She would sit sometimes and cry
like a lost child.

At last they parted. Amédée returned to Paris, and Yvonne took her
little flat in the Marylebone Road. The clouds passed by and Yvonne was
happy again. She had retained professionally her maiden name of
Latour, and now she assumed it altogether, only changing the former
“Mademoiselle” into “Madame.” Her husband faded into a vague memory.
When she received news of him it was through a paragraph in the
“Figaro,” announcing his death in a Paris hospital. She wore a little
crape bonnet to notify to the world the fact of her widowhood, but she
had no tears to shed. When friends condoled with her over her sad lot,
she opened her round eyes in astonishment.

“But, my dear, I am as happy as I can possibly be,” she would say in
remonstrance. And it was true. She had come through the ordeal of an
unhappy marriage, pure and childlike, her heart unruffled by passion and
her soul unclouded by disillusion.

There are some women born to be loved by many men, yielding, trustful,
appealing irresistibly to the masculine instincts of protection and
possession. Sometimes they are carried off by one successful owner and
bear him children, and hear nothing of the hopeless loves that they
inspire. Sometimes, like Yvonne, they are at the mercy of every gust
of passion that stirs the hearts of the men around them. They are too
innocent of the meaning and scope of love to bide the time when love
shall take them in its grip; too weak, tender, and compassionate to
harden their hearts against the sufferings of men. If they fail, the
world is unsparing in condemnation. If happy circumstance shelters
them, they are canonised for virtues that stop short of their logical
conclusion. Wherefore we are tempted to say hard things of the world.

Fate, however, had dealt not unkindly with Yvonne. At times her path
had been sadly tangled and she had sighed, as she did this night after
Vandeleur’s unexpected declaration. But chance had always come to her
aid and cleared her way. She trusted to it now as she fell asleep.



CHAPTER III--IN THE DEPTHS


If you step this way, the manager will see you,” said the clerk,
lifting the flap of the counter.

Joyce rose from the cane-bottomed chair on which he had been sitting,
and followed the clerk through the busy outer office into the private
room beyond. An elderly man in gold spectacles looked up from his desk.

“What can I do for you?”

“I am seeking employment,” said Joyce, “can you give me any?”

“Employment?”

If Joyce had asked him for Prester John’s cap, or the Cham of Tartary’s
beard, his tone could not have expressed more surprise.

“Yes,” replied Joyce. “I don’t mind what it is--clerk, copyist,
handy-man, messenger--so long as it’s work.”

“Utterly impossible,” said the manager, shortly.

“Would it be of any use to leave my address?” asked Joyce.

“Not a bit. Good day to you.”

Joyce walked out apathetically on to the landing. It was a nest of city
offices in a great block of buildings in Fenchurch Street, a labyrinth
of staircases, passages, and ground-glass doors black-lettered with the
names of firms. He was going through them systematically. Often he could
not gain access to a person in authority. When he succeeded, it was the
same history of rebuff. He felt somewhat downcast at the result of this
last interview, the cheerful alacrity with which he had been received
having given him an unreasonable hope. He paused for a few moments
deciding upon what door to try next Some names looked encouraging,
others forbidding--a futile superstition, yet one not without influence
upon his unfed mind. Why “Griffith & Swan” should have attracted and
“Willoughby Bros.” repelled him is a psychological problem that must
forever remain insoluble. It is none the less a fact that he bent his
steps along the passage to the door of the first-mentioned firm. But
there he was repulsed at the outset. The chiefs were engaged. Had he an
appointment?

What was his business? The only way to see the chiefs was by writing to
fix an interview. Joyce retired, climbed wearily up the stone staircase
to the next floor. Everywhere the same monotonous result.

At last his application was seriously entertained. His heart beat
anxiously. It was at a firm of shipping agents. Two clerks had gone on
their holiday, another one had just that morning fallen ill. They were
short-handed. The junior partner, a brisk young fellow, looked shrewdly
at Joyce, divining his education and capacity.

“I could give you some temporary work, certainly. Only too glad, for we
are in a hole. But of course we must have some references.”

“I am afraid I can give you none,” replied Joyce. “I have had a good
education and business training, and I could do your work. But I’m a
lonely man--without friends.”

“What have you been doing lately for a living.”

The matter-of-fact question turned his heart sick. He had known that he
would have to answer it before he could enter upon any employment; but
he had always shrunk from formulating a plausible reply, weakly
trusting to his mother-wit when the dreaded moment should come. Now his
mother-wit deserted him. He could think of nothing but the past reality.

“I would rather tell you nothing about myself,” he said lamely.

The young partner shrugged his shoulders good-humouredly.

“Well, that’s your affair. But you see we can’t take a stranger into our
office without his giving us some formal voucher for his honesty.”

Joyce looked at him appealingly, with glistening eyes, a new Moses on
Mount Nebo. Only then did he fully realise the utter hopelessness of his
position. The veriest office-boy needed a certificate of character. He
had none.

The partner, clean-shaven, ruddy-cheeked, was lounging against the
mantel-piece, hands in pockets, a whimsical smile playing around the
comers of his mouth. His speech, though business-like, was kindly. He
looked a gentleman. Joyce was seized with a mad, despairing impulse. He
flushed to the roots of his hair, clenched his hands by his sides and
advanced an involuntary step towards his interlocutor.

“I will tell you the truth,” he cried breathlessly. “I must find work
soon or I shall starve. Give it to me and I will work night and day
for you. I took a double first at Oxford. I practised as a solicitor. I
lived beyond my means and misappropriated trust-money. I could not pay
it back. My name was struck off the rolls and I had two years’ hard
labour. I have been looking for work every day for five months. I am not
such a fool as to risk that hell again. For God’s sake give me a chance
and set me on my feet again.” His voice rang with the agony of entreaty.
His lips quivered. When he ceased speaking he was shaking from head to
foot.

The young man shifted the crossing of his feet and put up an eyeglass
that had been dangling on his waistcoat.

“Well, you have pretty damned cheek, I must say!” he remarked, with a
drawl.

Joyce stared at him for a moment stupidly, and then turned away
without a word, crushed and humiliated to his soul. Round and round the
rectangular well-staircase he went, dizzy with the reaction. He could
knock at no more doors. The names seemed to swell large and to jeer at
him as he passed. A burst of laughter from two men, issuing from some
office above, echoed and rattled down the staircase and jarred upon
every nerve of his body. He quickened his pace to a run, and did not
stop until he reached the sweltering street. White and faint he leant
against the wall, vaguely conscious of the ceaselessly hurrying mass
that passed him by. After a minute or two he recovered self-possession
enough to move onwards with the westward stream on the pavement His
quest of work was abandoned. He could only feel sickening regret for
having given way to his insane impulse and shrink from the echoing tones
of the other man’s cynical contempt. The last shred of his self-respect
was torn away. He seemed to be the naked gaol-bird before those thousand
eyes that glanced upon him. The idea grew into morbid exaggeration. A
man or woman making way for him to pass appeared to be shrinking from
the soil of his touch. Every policeman was identifying him. A penny-toy
man by the Mansion House, who had taken off his cap and was scratching
a closely-cropped head, grinned at him with the familiarity of an old
acquaintance.

It became unbearable. He fled into a public-house in Cheapside
and ordered a glass of whisky. The spirit ran through his veins
comfortingly. He drank another, and went out into the street. Soon the
spirit, acting on an empty stomach, dulled his senses and provoked a
vague suggestion of debauch as the only consoler. In the days of
his vanity Joyce had known the flush of wine on joyous nights, but
drunkenness had always been hateful to him. Yet now, in his morbid
state, the temptation was irresistible. He went from tavern to tavern
with dull, stupid recklessness, cognisant only of the motive to drink
and of his own mechanical personality. At last, staggering out of a
public-house in Fleet Street, he tripped at the threshold and fell
insensible on the pavement.

When he recovered consciousness it was quite dark. For a few moments he
did not seek to discover where he was. But a chance movement caused him
nearly to fall from where he lay, and he started to a sitting posture.
His feet touched the ground sooner than he expected; the slight shock
completed his awakening. Where was he? He stretched out his hand and
felt the wall. It was stone. Stone, too, was the floor, as he found
by stamping his foot. Then the truth burst upon him with indescribable
terror. It was the cell of a police station. Although his head swam and
his eyeballs ached, the flight of the discovery had thoroughly sobered
him. It was the final calamity and degradation of the day. He was in
prison again. He would again have to put on the hateful clothes and
cower beneath the warder’s glance. Once more he would have to go
through that dreadful ignominy. Exaggerating the consequences of his
misdemeanour, he conjured up all the horrors of his previous term.
A sense of utter self-loathing swelled within him like a nausea. He
crouched on the narrow bench, holding his hair in a feverish grasp. The
gaol had got him, body and soul. It was all that he was fit for.

An hour passed. Then the door opened and a policeman appeared in the
light of the passage. Joyce looked up at him haggardly.

“Oh, you’re all right now, are you? Better come up and see the
Inspector.”

Joyce staggered to his feet and clutched the policeman’s supporting arm.

“I was in great trouble,” he said hoarsely. “And then the heat--an empty
stomach--a few glasses knocked me over.”

“Explain that upstairs,” replied the other. “Bless you, it ’ll be all
square.”

Brought before the Inspector, he pulled himself together and pleaded
his cause with an intensity that amused the officials. They could see
nothing tragic in a “drunk and incapable.”

“Very well,” said the Inspector at last. “I see it was an accident. Call
it heat-apoplexy. I sha’n’t charge you. You had better get home to bed.”

Joyce grew faint with the revulsion of feeling, and steadied himself by
the iron ruling. One of the men took him to the door, hailed a passing
cab and helped him in. At first, ill and dizzy as he was, he felt
the animal’s instinctive joy in suddenly regained liberty. The
non-fulfilment of his agonising forebodings filled him with a wondering
sense of relief. But this did not last long. Despair and selfabhorrence
resumed their hold upon him, causing him to shiver in the cab as with an
ague.

He crawled upstairs to his attic, and after having procured some food,
of which he ate as much as he could swallow, he went to bed and fell
into a heavy sleep. In the middle of the night he woke with a start. The
recollection of his engagement with Yvonne Latour had penetrated through
the sub-consciousness of half-awakening. He uttered a cry of dismay.

All the previous evening and all that morning he had thought of the
promised visit To sit in a lady’s room, to live for a moment a bit of
the old life, to forget his pariahdom in Yvonne’s welcoming smile, to
have the comfort of her exquisite pity--the prospect had rendered him
almost buoyant during the early part of his round. But the pain
and fever of after-events had driven her from his mind. Now, in his
suffering state, it seemed as if he had lost an offered corner of
Paradise, rejected the one hand that was stretched out to save him
from perdition. He lay awake many hours. At last, toward dawn, he fell
asleep again and did not wake till mid-day.

He rose, rang for his breakfast, which was brought him, as usual, on
a tray, by the slatternly maid-of-all-work. He was still feeling
prostrated in mind and body. Having eaten what he could, he drew up the
blind to look at the day. The fine weather was still lasting. But he
felt no desire to go out. What was the use? Judging by the lesson of
yesterday it would be futile to continue his search for employment As he
turned away from the window, he caught sight of his white haggard face
and bloodshot eyes in the mirror, and he shrank back, as though it
revealed to him the miserable weakness of his soul. Then he threw
himself half-dressed upon the bed, and there he remained, abandoning
himself to the hopeless inaction of defeat, and eating his heart out in
remorse for the shipwreck he had made of his life.

He did not pose before himself as a victim to circumstance. Could he
have done so, he might have found some poor consolation. His criminal
folly lay as much upon his soul as its punishment. Again, it had not
been a grand stroke of villainy requiring for its execution a masterly
coolness and genius for which he might at least have had an intellectual
admiration. But it had been of the same petty sort as that of the
shop-boy led astray by low turf associates, who pilfers day by day from
his master’s till, hoping the luck will turn and enable him to replace
the stolen shillings. The difference had been merely one of degree. His
operations had been on a larger scale, his vices more fastidious, his
circle of loose friends more aristocratic. But he had had the same
contemptible motives for his crime, and the same contemptible excuses.
He spared himself no arrow of self-scorn.

Latterly, through sheer weariness, he had grown apathetic, taking
his self-abasement as one of the conditions of life. A man is not
physiologically capable of continuous outburst. But now the iron had
entered deep into his soul, causing him to writhe in torment.

What would be the end? The question haunted him, and yet it seemed
scarcely worth consideration. There was no employment to be obtained by
such as he. He would eke out his small capital as far as possible, and
when that was exhausted, he could put an end to his worthless life. Or
would his cowardice drag him down among the class of habitual criminals,
lead him to crime as a means of livelihood? He shuddered, remembering
his short spell of agony in the cell of yesterday.

The hours passed. Towards evening he dressed himself and went out to a
dingy Italian restaurant near Victoria station, where he usually dined.
On coming out again into the street he hesitated for some time as to
what he should do next. He thought of Yvonne with wistful longing, but
had not the courage to go and seek her. The sense of degradation was
too strong upon him. He shrank with morbid sensitiveness from taking
advantage of her guilelessness by bringing his contamination into her
presence. For, paradoxical as it may seem, an instinctive pride still
remained in the man. Had he chosen to lay it aside, doubtless more than
one of his former friends would have consented to receive him on some
sort of terms of acquaintanceship. But he had sought out none, and
if chance brought him into sight of a familiar face in the street, he
effaced himself and hurried on. Yvonne was the only figure out of the
past with whom he had communicated. And now he had cut himself adrift
from her.

After a few undecided turns up and down the pavement, he directed his
steps mechanically to a customary haunt of his, the billiard-room of a
public-house in Westminster. It was better than the wearying streets
and the choking solitude of his attic. A couple of shabby men in dingy
shirt-sleeves were playing at the table. On the raised divan, in the
gloom of the walls, sat a silent company of lookers-on. With a group
of these, Joyce exchanged nods, and took his place sombrely among them.
They were a depressed, out-at-elbows crew, who came here night after
night, speaking little, drinking less, and never playing billiards at
all. They watched the game, now and then applauded, oftener condoled
with the loser than congratulated the winner. They formed an orderly
and appreciative gallery, and set, as it were, a tone of decorum in
the room; and for this reason their presence was not discouraged by the
landlord. Eight was their average number. They were mostly men in
the prime of life, and belonged, as far as one could judge by their
voluntary confidences, to the obscure fringes of journalism, the stage,
and independence. Those who occupied the last position lived chiefly on
their wives. There was a decayed medical student who dod Heaven knows
what for a living, and a red-headed, vulgar man, who gave out that he
had thrown up a country rectorship, through conscientious scruples.
Differing widely as they did in personality, yet they retained one
common characteristic. Failure seemed written on each man’s face. A kind
of mutual affinity had drawn them together. To Joyce’s cynical humour it
appeared as if something more than mere chance had caused him to stumble
upon them one evening two months before.

“I’m afraid I have left my ’baccy at home,” said the man sitting next
to Joyce, who was filling his pipe. “Thank you very much. A change in
tobacco is very gratifying at times to the palate.”

He was a man of singular appearance. The bones in his face were very
large, the flesh scanty; his nose hooked, his eyebrows black and
meeting. His long upper-lip and his chin were shaven; but he wore
thick black mutton-chop whiskers which contrasted oddly with a bush of
whitening hair above his temples and at the back of his head. Whether he
was bald or not, no one ever knew, as he always retained his hat fixed
in one never-changing, respectable angle. This hat was very, very
old, an extravagantly curled silk hat of the masher days in the early
eighties. But the most striking feature of his costume consisted in a
long thick Chesterfield overcoat which he obviously wore without coat
or waistcoat beneath. In the sultry August weather the sight of him
made the beholder perspire. Although there was no trace of linen at his
wrists or down the arms as far as one could see, a dirty frayed collar
and a shirt-front adorned with a straight black tie appeared above the
tightly buttoned overcoat. Joyce knew him by the name of Noakes.

He looked at Joyce, as he spoke, out of pale-blue, unspeculative eyes,
and returned the tobacco-pouch. “You had better take another fill or
two, while you are about it,” said Joyce.

“I don’t like to trespass upon your generosity,” said Noakes. But
he helped himself plentifully, tying up the tobacco in his
pocket-handkerchief. They smoked on during a long silence, broken only
by the click of the billiard-balls, the monotonous cry of the marker,
and occasional murmurs of applause. The air was heavy with drink and
tobacco-smoke, fresh and stale.

“I must be getting back to work,” said Noakes at last.

The word roused Joyce from the lethargy into which he had fallen. He had
never associated Noakes with definite employment. For a moment he envied
him.

“I wish to heaven I could,” he said.

“A man of your attainments,” replied Noakes, respectfully, “ought never
to be at a loss. Now I should say you have been to a public school?”

Joyce nodded.

“And the university?”

Joyce did not reply, but Noakes went on: “Yes; one can see it Somehow a
man of acute observation can always tell. I remember your correcting me
the other night when I spoke of Plato’s dramatic unities. I looked
up the matter in the British Museum, and found that you were right in
attributing them to Aristotle. As I said before, a man of your education
ought to have no difficulty.”

“You might suggest something,” said Joyce, with a shade of irony.

“Authorship.”

“Are you an author?”

“With all due modesty, I may say that I am,” returned Noakes, gravely.
“I don’t find it very remunerative, but I attribute that solely to the
deficiencies in my education.”

“What do you write?” asked Joyce, interested in spite of himself in this
odd, pathetic figure.

“I have adopted two branches of the profession--one, the literary
advertisement; the other, popular fiction.”

He drew a halfpenny evening paper from his pocket, and, designating
a half-column with his thumb, handed it to Joyce. It was headlined
“Nihilism in Russia,” opened with an account of Siberian horrors, and
ended, of course, with somebody’s pills.

“I always pride myself upon there being more literary quality in my work
than is usually given to that class of thing,” he remarked complacently,
while Joyce idly ran through the column. “And in my fiction I always try
to keep the best models before me, Stevenson and Mayne Reid. I happen
to have a copy of one of my latest works in my pocket. Perhaps it might
interest you to glance through it. In return for the tobacco,--with the
author’s compliments.”

Joyce received into his hands a thin volume in a gaudy paper wrapper. It
was entitled “The Doom of the Floating Fiend.” The printing, in packed
double-column, and the paper were execrable. The author’s name did
not figure beneath the title. From the most cursory glance through the
pages, Joyce could see they were deluged in blood.

“I shall be glad to read it,” he said, mendaciously, putting it into his
pocket.

“If you find anything noteworthy of criticism in my style, I should feel
grateful for you to tell me,” said Noakes. “My ambition is to write some
day for a more cultured public. I have a pastoral idyll that I shall
write when I have time. But, you see, there is a continuous market for
books of adventure.”

He spoke in a toneless, even voice, without a shade of enthusiasm or
regret appearing in his eyes.

“Do you think it would be of any use for an outsider to try it--one not
in the swim with the publishers?” asked Joyce, curiously.

“Certainly. But one needs the imaginative faculty. If you ’ll look at my
forehead, you will see I have it firmly developed. Allow me to look at
yours. Yes; I see it there. Once started, it is constant employment.
They pay half a crown per thousand words. I do my three thousand a day.”

Noakes rose to depart.

“Thanks for the information,” said Joyce. “I may try my hand. Won’t you
have a glass with me before you go?”

“No, thank you,” said Noakes. “I find stimulants interfere with
brain-work. Good evening.”

Noakes gone, Joyce found himself next to the red-headed ex-rector,
who was fast asleep, his dirty, pudgy fingers clasped in his lap. He
remained, therefore, solitary, and after having looked for some time
dejectedly at the three ever-clicking balls on the table, he went out
again into the street.

Noakes’s hint had taken root in his mind. If that dilapidated man could
maintain himself honestly by “popular fiction,” surely he could do so
too. Off and on during the last five months he had striven to write an
article or short story, but his mind had refused to work. The conviction
that his intellect had been shattered during those two awful years had
added to his despair. But now he told himself that this was work in
which intellectual subtlety and fastidiousness would prove a hindrance.
The one thing needful was imagination: also a terrible faculty for
continuous quill-driving. To gain a livelihood there would have to be
written daily stuff equal to three columns of the “Globe” newspaper. And
seven-and-sixpence as the reward! A noble end, he thought bitterly
to himself as he walked along, to the ambition of Stephen Chisely,
double-first of New College, Oxford--to become a writer of “penny
bloods.”

Still, the suggestion had acted as a stimulus. When he entered his room,
he did not feel so broken and purposeless as when he had left it. The
intellectual effort he had made whilst walking home in scheming out an
experimental chapter had broken the spell of morbid introspection. As
soon as he had lit the gas, he drew out writing materials, and, fitting
before his dressing-table, began the scene of slaughter he had arranged.
At the end of a couple of hours he found he had written two slips of one
hundred and fifty words each. He regarded them ruefully. At that rate
it would take him twenty hours a day to earn his seven-and-sixpence.
The idea occurred to him to look at the “Doom of the Floating Fiend.” He
read a few pages and then dropped the work hopelessly on to the floor.
The instinct of the scholar and man of culture awakened in revolt His
mind would not be prostituted to stuff like that.

“Sooner death!” he said to himself, with whimsical bitterness. His own
carefully elaborated efforts he tore up with a sigh. Then, tired out, he
prepared to go to bed.

Suddenly, in the midst of his undressing, he caught sight, to his
immense surprise, of a letter lying on his counterpane, where the maid
of all work had carelessly thrown it. From whom could it be? Letters
were things of an almost forgotten past. It was in a woman’s hand. Then
he remembered he had given his address to Yvonne. The letter was from
her, and ran:--

     “Dear Stephen,--Oh, why didn’t you come last night? I was
     _so_ disappointed. You surely did n’t think I only asked you
     out of politeness. I hope nothing has happened to you. My
     head was running over all day with a little plan for you. Do
     come and catch it before it all runs away. I shall be in to-
     morrow afternoon.

     You know it’s just like old times--writing a silly little
     note to you.

     Yours sincerely,

     Yvonne Latour.”

Joyce went to bed and slept the sound sleep of a jaded man. But the
letter lay under his pillow.



CHAPTER IV--DEA EX MACHINA


There’s nothing like leather,” cried Yvonne, gaily. “If I had been a
milliner, I should have thought what a gentlemanly shopwalker you would
have made. As I am a singer, I can only think of the profession. You did
n’t know I was so philosophical, did you?”

“But I can’t sing a note now, Madame Latour,” said Joyce.

“We ’ll try after you have had some tea. But you ’ll be good enough for
Brum, I’m quite sure. If he did n’t take you on I should never speak to
him again.”

With which terrible threat she poured the tea outside the cup into the
saucer.

“It seems too good to be true,” said Joyce, in a subdued tone. “It
seemed impossible I should ever get work among honest men again. I am
deeply grateful to you, Madame Latour--I cannot tell you how deeply.”

“Here is some tea,” said Yvonne, cup in hand, “I have put milk in, but
no sugar. I am so glad you like my little scheme. I was afraid it was
n’t worth your while.”

Joyce laughed ironically.

“You would n’t say that if you knew the posts I have sought after, the
advertisements I have answered. It will be a fortune to me.”

“And it may lead--how for, you don’t know. Why in two or three years you
may be playing a leading part in a West End light opera. Or you may do
dramatic business and come to the top. One never can tell. Won’t it be
nice when you can command your £40 or £50 a week?”

Yvonne was very happy. She had conceived the plan all by herself and had
gone off impulsively to Brum to put it into execution. Joyce’s future
was assured. His cleverness, of which she used to be a little afraid in
earlier years, would soon lift him from the ranks. She was excited over
this forecast of his success. But Joyce could not look so far ahead. All
he could feel was a wondrous relief to find a door still open for
him, gratitude to the woman who had led him to it. His spirit was too
shrouded to catch a gleam of her enthusiasm. She strove to brighten him.

“You will find Brum all right. He has always been good to me, since
I stepped into a gap for him once at a charity matinée---a medley
entertainment, you know. When he has a theatre in London he always sends
me a box, if there’s one vacant. You see, I knew he was taking out ‘The
Diamond Door,’ into the provinces, and he pays pretty high salaries all
round--so I did n’t see why you should n’t have a chance in the chorus.
Oh, you ’ll like the stage so much. I wish I were on, instead of singing
at concerts. I have always hankered after it.”

“Why don’t you make the change?” asked Joyce.

“I’m not good enough. I am too insignificant. But I don’t really mind. I
love singing for singing’s sake, no matter where it is. I only have one
great anxiety in life--that I should lose my voice. Then I should put
my head under my wing and die, like the _cigale_. That is to say, if the
_cigale_ has wings--has she?”

“Yes, pretty brown wings--as yours must be. I believe you have them
somewhere hidden from us.”

“You mustn’t make pretty speeches,” said Yvonne, pleased.

“It expresses clumsily what I feel,” said Joyce, with a sudden rush of
feeling. “I have been asking myself what are the common grounds on
which we can meet--you, a pure, bright, beautiful soul--and I, a mean,
degraded man, who knows it to be almost an outrage upon you to cross
your threshold. I feel we are not of the same human clay. I wonder how
it is that the sight of me does n’t frighten you. Thank God you don’t
see me as I see myself.”

“Hush!” said Yvonne, gently.

She glanced at him in a puzzled way, unable to comprehend. She knew that
he felt his disgrace very deeply, but she could not understand the way
in which he related it with herself. Beyond looking careworn and ill,
he seemed almost the same externally as in the days of their former
intimacy; and more so now than on the occasion of their meeting on the
Bank Holiday, when he was shabbily attired. Now he was wearing a new
blue serge suit and a carefully tied cravat--he had bought the clothes
on the chance of his being suddenly required to be correctly dressed,
and this was his first time of wearing them--and looked at all points
the neat, well-groomed gentleman she had always known; so that she found
it difficult to realize fully even the change in his material fortunes.
The blight that had come over his soul was altogether beyond her power
of perception. She could find no words to supplement her sympathetic
exclamation, and so there was silence. When she looked at him again, as
he sat opposite, his cheek resting on his hand, and his mournful eyes
fixed upon her, she found herself thinking what a good-looking fellow
he was, with his clear-cut face, refined features and trim blonde
moustache. It was a pity he had those deep lines on each side of
his mouth and wore so unsmiling an expression. There was sunshine in
Yvonne’s heart that quickly dissipated clouds. She rose suddenly, and
went round to the key-board of the great piano.

“I ’ll sing you something first and then we ’ll try your voice.”

She paused before she sat down, and asked:

“Would you like something sad or something gay?”

The afternoon light, slanting in through the further unshaded window,
fell full upon her, and revealed the warmth of her cheeks and the
smiling softness of her lips. To have demanded sadness of her would have
been an act of unreason.

“Something bright,” said Joyce, instinctively.

She ran her fingers over the keys and broke into a _barcarolle_ of
Théophile Gautier.

                             “Dites, la jeune belle,

                             Ou voulez-vous aller?

                             La voile ouvre son aile,

                             La brise va souffler!

                             L’aviron est d’ivoire.

                             Le pavillon de moire,

                             Le gouvernail d’or fin;

                             J’ai pour lest une orange,

                             Pour voile une aile d’ange,

                             Pour mousse un séraphin.”

Her exquisite voice, sounding like crystal in the little room, seemed to
Joyce as if it came from the dainty boat Her sweet face seemed to peep
forth under the angel’s wing, mocking the seraphic cabin-boy.

The setting was as perfect as her rendering. All the joy and
inconsequence of life rang from her lips. She came to the last verse.

59

                             “Dites, la jeune belle,

                             Ou ovoulez-vous aller?

                             La voile ouvre son aile,

                             La brise va souffler!

                             --Menez-moi, dit la belle,

                             À la rive fidèle

                             Ou l’on aime toujours.

                             --Cette rive, ma chère,

                             On ne la connaît guère

                             Au pays des amours”

When she had finished, she looked up at him, as he leaned over the tail
of the piano, with laughter in her eyes.

“I adore that song. It is so lovely and irresponsible. Canon Chisely
says it is cynical. But it always puts me in mind of a dragonfly.”

“I am afraid Everard is right,” replied Joyce, with a smile. “But if you
live in the fairyland of love, constancy must be a serious hindrance to
affairs.”

“Oh, now you talk just as you used to!” cried Yvonne, “I ’ll sing you
something else.” She scamped the prelude in her impulsive way, and
began, “Coming thro’ the Rye.” His black mood was lifted. The tender,
mischievous charm of her voice held him in a spell, and he smiled at her
like “a’ the lads” in the song.

“Now it is your turn,” she said, reaching towards a pile of songs. “Help
me to choose one.”

He selected one that he used to sing and commenced it creditably. But
after a few bars he broke down. Yvonne encouraged him to take it again,
which he did with greater success. But his voice, a high baritone, was
wofully out of condition. At a second breakdown, he looked at her in
dismay.

“I fear it’s no good,” he said.

“Oh, yes it is,” said Yvonne. “They don’t want a Santley in the chorus
of the provincial company of a comic-opera. We ’ll have a good long time
now. You shall do some scales. And you can come in to-morrow morning,
before you go to Brum, and have half-an-hour more, and that will set you
right.”

The little authoritative air sat oddly upon her. Vandeleur used to
say that Yvonne in a business mood was even more serious than a child
playing at parson. But she knew she was giving a professional opinion;
and that was bound to be serious. Taking him through the scales,
then, in her best professional manner, she brought the practice to a
satisfactory conclusion. Then she became the sunny Yvonne again, and,
after he had gone, sat smiling to herself with the conscious happiness
of a fairy god-mother.

*****

The interview with Brum, the manager, was satisfactory, and Joyce after
accepting the engagement at thirty shillings a week, went straight on
to rehearse with the rest of the chorus. And after this there were daily
rehearsals extending to the Sunday two weeks ahead when the start was to
be made for Newcastle, where the company opened. After the first two
or three days, the rather helpless sense of unfamiliarity wore off, and
Joyce found his task an easy one. His voice, by comparison, certainly
warranted his selection, and in knowledge of music and general ability
he was vastly superior to his colleagues, who received rough usage for
stupidity at the hands of the stage-manager. He found them mostly dull,
uneducated men, two or three with wives in the female chorus, very
jealous of their rights and the order of precedence among them, but with
little ambition and less capacity. In spite of the old suit, which he
was careful to wear, he was looked upon at first, rather resentfully,
as an amateur; but he bore disparaging remarks with philosophical
unconcern, and, after a judicious drink or two at a “professional” bar
near the stage-door of the theatre, he was accepted among them without
further demur.

But Joyce was too much exercised at this time with his own relations to
himself to think much of his relations to others. The reaction from the
most poignant despair he had known since his freedom, to sudden hope,
had set working many springs of resolution. He would banish all thoughts
of the past from his mind, forget Stephen Chisely in the new man Stephen
Joyce, take up the new threads fate had spun for him, and weave them
into a new life without allowing any of them to cross the old: a
resolution which would be laughable, were it not so eternal, and
so pathetic in its futility. The world will never know the enormous
expenditure of will-power by its weak men.

The fortnight, however, passed in something near to contentment and
peace of soul. If we can cheat ourselves into serenity at times, it is
a gift to be thankful for. Besides, occupation is a great anodyne to
trouble; and the provincial production of a great London success offers
considerable occupation for those concerned in it. Rehearsals were
called twice a day, morning and evening. As Joyce did not leave the
theatre until nearly midnight he had no time to look in at the familiar
billiard-room, and so Noakes and his “penny bloods” were forgotten. On
the other hand he spent several of his afternoons with Yvonne, who was
delighted with his accounts of himself, and sent him away cheered and
sanguine.

“The only thing I regret,” said Joyce, during his farewell visit, “is
that I shall be cutting myself off from you. I suppose every one is
entitled to a grievance. And this is mine. Do you know you are the only
friend I have in the world?”

As Yvonne knew that the world was very big and that she herself was
very small, the fact somewhat awed her. She regarded him pityingly for a
moment “What a dreadful thing it must be to feel alone like that.”

“I have n’t felt it so, since I met you,” said Joyce.

“But you won’t have even me, any more. I wish I could help you.”

“Help me? Why, you ‘ve raised me out of the gutter, Madame Latour.”

“Oh, don’t call me ‘Madame Latour,’” she said, “I don’t call you ‘Mr.
Joyce.’ I am ‘Yvonne’ to all my friends. You used to call me ‘Yvonne’
once.”

“You were not my benefactress then,” said Joyce.

“Please don’t call me hard names,” she returned whimsically, “or I shall
be afraid of you, as I used to be.”

“Afraid of me?” echoed Joyce.

“Yes. Weren’t you dreadfully clever? I was always afraid you would think
me silly. And then, often I could not quite understand what you were
saying--how much you meant of what you said. Don’t you see?”

“I see I must have been insufferable,” he replied. “It makes what you
are to me now all the more beautiful. But I scarcely dare call you
‘Yvonne’--don’t you understand? But it would gladden me to write it May
I write to you on my pilgrimage?”

“It would be so good of you, if you would,” she answered eagerly. “I do
love people to write to me.”

She had unconsciously slipped from her fairy-godmother attitude. Her
simple mind could not look upon welcoming his letters as an act of
graciousness.

“Would you sing to me once more before I go?” he asked, a little later.
“I don’t know when I shall see you again, and I should like to carry
away a song of yours to cheer me.”

She sat down at the piano and sang Gounod’s Serenade. Something in
its yearning tenderness touched the man in his softened mood. The pure
passion of Yvonne’s voice pierced through the thick layers of shame and
dead hopes and deadening memories that had encrusted round his heart,
and met it in a tiny thrill. He leaned back in his chair, staring at the
walls, which grew misty before his eyes. The scene changed and he was
back again in his mother’s house and Yvonne was singing this song. The
benumbing spell that had kept him dry-eyed since the news came to him of
his mother’s death, was lifted for the moment. But, only when a sudden
silence broke the charm, was he aware that tears were on his face.

He brushed them away quickly, rose, took her hand and kissed it, and
then he laughed awkwardly, and bade her good-bye.

On his way downstairs he brushed against a man ascending. It was a
squarely-built, keen-faced man of forty in clerical attire. Each stepped
aside to apologise, and then came the flash of recognition. Joyce
looked down in some confusion. But Canon Chisely turned on his heel and
continued his ascent.

Joyce walked away moodily. His cousin’s cut brought back the old
familiar sense of degradation which Yvonne had charmed away. Again he
realised that he was an outcast, a blot upon society, an object of scorn
for men of good repute. No one but Yvonne could have befriended him
and forgotten what he was. And Yvonne herself,--was her friendship not
perhaps solely due to her childlike incapacity to appreciate the depths
of his disgrace? He would have given anything not to have met the Canon
on the stairs.

*****

Three weeks afterwards Yvonne was at Brighton for change of air
and holiday, accompanied by Geraldine Vicary, her dearest friend,
confidante, and chastener. They had taken lodgings in Lansdowne Place,
where they shared a sitting-room and discussed Yvonne’s prospects and
peccadilloes. Not but what the discussion was continued out of doors,
on the Parade, or in a quiet nook on the sands at Shoreham; but it
proceeded much more effectively within four walls, where there was
nothing to distract Yvonne’s attention. Miss Vicary had her friend’s
good most disinterestedly at heart, and Yvonne herself loved these
discussions, very much as she loved church. She felt a great deal better
and wiser, without in the least knowing why. In intervals of leisure
they idled about, dissected passing finery, and ate prodigious
quantities of ices--which, as all the world knows, is the proper way to
enjoy Brighton.

They were sitting in one of the shelters on the cliff overlooking the
electric toy-railway. It was a lovely day. A sea-breeze ruffled the blue
Channel into a myriad dancing ridges, and blew Yvonne’s mass of dark
hair further back from her forehead. Suddenly she slipped her hand into
her friend’s.

“Oh, Dina, is n’t this delicious!”

“Rapturous,” said Geraldine, with a smile. She was a tall,
plainly-dressed young woman, some four years older than Yvonne, with a
pleasant, frank face and a decided manner. She wore a plain sailor-hat,
a blouse, and a Dea ex Machina grey-stuff skirt that hung rather badly
beneath a buff belt; thus contrasting with Yvonne, who suggested dainty
perfection of attire, from the diminutive bonnet to the toe of her
little brown shoe. Miss Vicary gave the impression of the typical
schoolmistress, which she would most probably have been, had not the
possession of a magnificent voice decided her career otherwise.

“I mean it’s delicious being here alone with you,” returned Yvonne.
“Away from men altogether.”

“They are a horrid lot,” said Geraldine, drily. “I wonder you see as
much of them as you do.”

“But how can I help it? They will keep coming my way. Oh, I wish they
were all women. It would be so much nicer!”

Geraldine broke into a laugh.

“You goose!” she said. “You wouldn’t have the women felling in love with
you as the men do!”

“But I don’t want them to fall in love with me,” cried Yvonne. “It is so
stupid. I don’t fall in love with them.”

“Then why do you give them encouragement? I am always at you about it.”

“I am only kind to them, as any one else would be.”

“Fiddlesticks, my dear. You should keep them in their place.”

“But what _is_ their place?” asked Yvonne, pathetically. “I never know.
That is why I wish they were women. Oh, I love so being here with you,
Dina. I wish I had a lot of women friends that I could talk to when I
can’t see you. But you’re the only real woman friend I ’ve got.”

“You dear little mite!” exclaimed Geraldine, with sudden impulse. “I
can’t see why women don’t take to you. And I can understand all the men
falling in love with you. Even the Canon.”

“Oh, how can you say such a thing?” cried Yvonne, quickly, the colour
coming into her cheeks.

“By reason of the intelligence that God has given me, my dear,” replied
Geraldine. “I would send him packing if I were you.”

“It is very kind indeed of a man like that to come and see me.”

“And to pick you out from among all the concert singers in London for
his musical festival?”

“But we’re old friends, Dina. He is only doing me a good turn.”

“So as to deserve another, you simple darling. In the meantime,
I wouldn’t encourage Vandeleur or your new _protégé_, the Canon’s
unmentionable cousin.”

“You know, I once thought there was something between you and Van,”
 remarked Yvonne, with guileless inconsequence.

“Rubbish!” said Miss Vicary. And then she added, rising hastily, after a
moment’s silence, “Look, you are getting chilly in this cold wind,--and
I am sure you have next to nothing underneath.”

To keep Yvonne out of draughts and other pretexts for catching cold was
one of Miss Vicary’s self-imposed tasks, and she sought to compensate
Yvonne’s reckless exposure of herself when alone by excess of vigilance
on her own part when Yvonne was under her control--which is not an
uncommon irrationality in women, who, geniuses or not, have an infinite
capacity for taking superfluous puns. However, in spite of her maternal
precautions, it happened that Yvonne was laid up two or three days
afterwards with a cold which flew at once to her throat. Although in
no way serious, it filled her with dismay. She knew her throat to be
delicate. That her voice might one day fail her was the dread of her
life.

“What does he say about me?” she asked, pathetically, when Geraldine had
returned from a short consultation with the doctor. “Is it going to hurt
my voice? Oh, do tell me, Dina?”

“You must n’t talk, or else it will,” replied Geraldine, severely.

Then she threw off the chastener, put on the consoler, and, sitting on
the bed, petted Yvonne until she had restored her mind to a measure of
peace.

“Then I must throw up my engagements?” Yvonne asked, wistfully, after a
while.

“Certainly the one here next week. But don’t bother your dear little
head about it.”

“And the concerts at Fulminster for Canon Chisely. I must get well for
them, Dina.”

“Why, of course you will,” replied Geraldine. “They are weeks and weeks
ahead. Besides, let the Canon go to Jericho!”

“Why are you so hard upon Canon Chisely?” asked Yvonne.

“A case of Dr. Fell, I suppose. I don’t like his always hanging about
you.”

Yvonne burst out laughing.

“I believe you are jealous, Dina,” she cried.

Miss Vicary’s retort was checked by the entrance of the landlady with
Yvonne’s supper. She busied herself with the arrangement of plates and
dishes on the tray. But all the time the expression on her face was that
of a woman who foresees a considerable amount of trouble to come.



CHAPTER V--THE COMIC MUSE

The common dressing-room appointed for the male members of the chorus
was crowded with half-attired men, strangely punted and moustachioed.
The low, blackened ceiling beat down the heat from the gas-jets over the
dressing-ledges, and the air reeked of stuffiness, tobacco, and yellow
soap. Everywhere was a confusion of garments, grease-paints, open bags,
beer bottles, and half-emptied glasses. It wanted only five minutes to
the rise of the curtain, and hurry prevailed among belated ones, who got
in each other’s way and swore lustily.

Joyce had finished dressing. He wore a mandarin’s hat, a green robe, a
pigtail, and long, drooping moustaches, like the rest of his
companions. Having nothing more to do, he was leaning back against the
dressing-table with folded arms, and staring absently in front of him.

“You are looking down in the mouth, old man,” said the man who dressed
next to him, turning away from the mirror and buttoning his robe.

“I beg your pardon, McKay?” said Joyce, with a start.

“I asked why you were so blooming cheerful,” answered the other.

“I was only thinking,” said Joyce.

“It seems to be an unpleasant operation, old man.”

“Don’t you see it’s of _her_?” said another man standing by. “They’re
always like that.”

“Perhaps it’s better to put her out of your mind and grin--isn’t it?”
 retorted Joyce, pointedly, for the railer’s quasi-matrimonial squabbles
had already become a byword in the company. McKay burst, into a loud
laugh, in which those who heard joined, and the railer retired in
discomfiture.

“Had him there,” said McKay. “Well, how’s the world, anyway?”

“Oh, all right!” replied Joyce, vaguely.

“Blake and I took his missus and two of the girls for a sail to-day,”
 said the other. “If the whole crew hadn’t been sick, we should have had
a gay old time. Been doing anything?”

“No. What is there to do?”

“At Southpool? Why, there’s no end of things. I wish we went to some
more seaside places, late as it is.”

“I don’t think it matters much where we go,” said Joyce. “Life is just
the same.”

“I suppose it is, if you moon around by yourself. Why don’t you get a
pal?”

“Masculine or feminine?” asked Joyce; for there was as much pairing in
the company as in the Ark.

“Whichever you please. You pays--no you don’t--you takes your choice
here without paying your money. But take my tip and keep clear of women.
You never know when they ’ll turn round and scratch you--like cats. After
all, what can you expect of ’em? I ’ve done with ’em all long ago.”

“What about the sea-sick girls to-day?”

“I would n’t touch any of ’em with a ten-foot pole,” replied the
misogynist, with bitter scorn. “I never was in an engagement where there
was such an inferior lot of ladies. I don’t know where the management
picked them up. And to think of the number of nice girls in London
simply starving for work.”

“They seem right enough,” said Joyce, indifferently.

“Gad! You should have been with me in ‘Mother Goose’ at Leeds this
winter. I was playing one of the men in the moon--they noticed me from
the front. You should have seen the slap-up lot we had there. What kind
of shop were you in for the winter?”

“I was in another walk of life,” replied Joyce, with a curl of his lips.

At that moment the call-boy’s voice was heard in the passages:
“Beginners for the first act;” and then he appeared himself at the door.

“Everybody on the stage.”

They trooped out, up the narrow stairs and along the dusty passages and
through the wings on to the stage, where they were met by the ladies
of the chorus, who came on from the other side; and then all grouped
themselves in their customary attitudes under the stage-manager’s eye.
Joyce was posed, second on the left, with a girl resting her head on his
knee. He greeted her as she took her place.

“How are you to-night, Miss Stevens?” he whispered.

“Oh, badly. The heat in the dressing-room is awful.”

“So it is in ours. It is a wonder we don’t all melt together in a sticky
lump.”

“It is the worst arranged theatre I was ever in.”

“I am sorry,” said Joyce, “you look tired.”

“Hush--the orchestra--”

The curtain rose slowly, revealing the glare of the footlights and the
vague cavernous darkness of the auditorium, seen shimmering, as they
reclined on the stage, through the band of unbumed gases above the jets.

The opening chorus began with its nod-ding-mandarin business, followed
by eccentric evolutions. Then the tenor came on alone. He jostled Joyce
who was standing near the entrance.

“Damn it, don’t take up all the stage,” he muttered irritably under
cover of the radiant expression demanded by the business.

He broke into his song, the chorus lining the sides. Then two minor
characters appeared, and after some dialogue, interrupted by Chinese
exclamations of delight on the part of the chorus, the latter danced off
in pairs.

“I do call that cheek,” said Miss Stevens, as soon as they had reached
the wings, “why could n’t he look where he was going to?”

“Yes, it was his fault,” said Joyce.

“That’s the way with all these light tenors--simply eaten up with
conceit. If I were you I’d give him a piece of my mind and ask him what
the something he meant by it.”

“I have n’t enough individuality here to make it worth while,” replied
Joyce with a shrug of the shoulders.

The girl did not quite understand, but she caught enough of his drift to
perceive that he was not going to retaliate. Possibly she thought him a
poor-spirited fellow. “Oh, well--if you like being insulted--” she said,
turning away toward a group of girls.

Joyce did not attempt to remonstrate. What did it matter whether a
coxcomb had cursed him? What did it matter, either, whether he had
fallen in Miss Stevens’s estimation? In fact, what did anything matter,
so long as starvation was not staring you in the face, or your companion
was not pointing at the trace of black arrows? He turned also and joined
in desultory whispering with McKay and Blake. At the end of the first
act, men and women went off at different sides to their dressing-rooms.
It was only during a wait in the second act that he found himself next
to Miss Stevens again.

“Are you going to see me home again tonight after the performance?” she
asked.

“If you will allow me,” replied Joyce.

“I’m sorry I was short with you,” she said, awkwardly.

“Oh, it was nothing.”

The polite indifference in his tone rather piqued her. She was naturally
a plain, anaemic girl and the heavy make-up of grease-paint did not
render her more attractive at close quarters. The knowledge of this
irritated her the more.

“You don’t seem to care about anything.”

“I don’t much,” said Joyce.

At that moment the leading lady came off the stage and passed by them as
they stood leaning against the iron railings of the staircase. She
was wearing the minimum of costume allowed by Celestial etiquette, and
looked very fresh and charming.

“Oh, you are Mr. Joyce, aren’t you?” she said, pausing at the top of
the stairs; and, as Joyce bowed,--“Some one told me you were a friend of
Yvonne Latour’s.”

“Yes,” said Joyce, “I have known her for a very long time.”

“How is she? I have n’t seen her for ages.” She moved down a couple of
steps, so Joyce had to lean over the balustrade to reply.

“She’s a dear little creature. I used to know her while she was living
with that wretch of a husband of hers,” said the lady, looking up. “He’s
dead, or something, is n’t he?”

“Yes, thank goodness,” said Joyce, with more warmth perhaps than he was
aware of; for she smiled and replied:--

“You seem to look upon it as a personal favour on the part of
Providence.”

“I think it is a personal boon to all Madame Latour’s friends.”

“Oh, I am delighted,” she said, with a touch of raillery. “If ever there
was a marriage that ought to have been labelled ‘made in heaven,’ that
was one.”

“Yes, it was a very cheap imitation of native goods,” replied Joyce,
with a smile.

“Well, if you were going to meet her soon, I should ask you to remember
me to her; but as we are on a long tour--”

“I shall be writing shortly,” he interposed.

“Then that will do. Good-night, Mr. Joyce.”

She disappeared down the stairs. When Joyce turned round, he discovered
that Miss Stevens had walked off, perhaps in dudgeon at having been
neglected. Joyce felt sorry. She was the only girl with whom he cared
to be on friendly terms outside the theatre, and who, accordingly, had
manifested any interest in his doings. It would be a misfortune if she
were offended. Meanwhile the late unexpected chat about Yvonne had been
very pleasant. Miss Verrinder had been nice and frank, assuming from the
first that he was a gentleman, and could be spoken to without restraint.
Joyce felt the fillip to his spirits during the rest of the performance.

When it was over, he dressed as quickly as the crowded confusion of the
dressing-room rendered possible, and refusing an invitation on the part
of McKay to drink at the adjoining public-house, went down the short
street that led to the Parade, where he had arranged to meet Miss
Stevens.

She did not keep him long waiting. He relieved her of a bulky parcel she
was carrying, and, holding it under his arm, walked gravely by her side.

“I thought you said you were n’t an amateur,” she said suddenly.

“Neither am I. It’s my livelihood.”

“Oh, yes--between you and starvation, I suppose.”

“Just so,” said Joyce.

“Could n’t you do anything else?”

“I can’t get anything else to do.”

“Then how did you manage to come down in the world?”

“How do you know I have come down?” asked Joyce, amused at the
catechism.

“Can’t I see you were up once? Miss Verrinder would n’t have talked to
you like that if you had n’t belonged to her set. And I have heard of
Yvonne Latour. She does n’t make friends with the likes of McKay and me
and the rest of us. So you’re either an amateur come for the practice or
the fun of the thing, or--”

“It’s hugely funny, I assure you,” he interrupted, “to live in a
back-street bedroom--‘lodgings for respectable men’--on thirty shillings
a week, and save out of that.”

“Well, then you’ve come a cropper.”

“Really, Miss Stevens,” he replied drily, “it would be rather
embarrassing to have to account to you for all my misdeeds.”

“Oh, I don’t want to hear ’em. Not I--I’m not that sort But when I
like a man, I like to know just what he is. That’s all. Now my father
was a butler, and my mother a housekeeper, and they used to let lodgings
in Yarmouth. And they’re dead now, and I shift for myself. Now you know
all about me. I think I’d better carry that parcel.”

She was rather defiant Joyce could not understand her. Surely something
more than inconsequent bad taste had prompted her to draw this
distinction between their respective origins. But he was too
self-centred to speculate deeply upon feminine problems. He hugged the
parcel closer, and said:--

“Nonsense. The paper is torn and all the stuff will drop out.”

“Oh, then I must carry it,” she cried, in quite a different tone. But he
refused gallantly.

“What’s inside it?” he asked, glad to divert the conversation into less
perplexing channels.

“It’s a dress--the one I wear in the third act. Well, you can carry it.
My head’s splitting. And I’m ready to drop.”

They had reached the end of the Parade. Their way lay at right
angles through the town. It was a gusty, though warm night, and the
cloud-racked sky and sea were dimly visible.

“Would you like to sit down for a few minutes?” he asked.

“Would you like it?”

Her white face was turned up earnestly toward his.

“It might do you good,” he replied.

“No,” she said abruptly, after a pause, “Let us get home.”

They walked together in silence. Joyce’s thoughts were far away. He
parted from her at the door of her lodgings and went on slowly to his
own.

He had accustomed himself quickly to the nomad life on tour, its
mechanical regularity despite the weekly change of scene. Once, perhaps,
a round like this among the large provincial towns would have been
filled with interests. But now it was empty. He tried in vain to whet
his dull curiosity, by strolling through the streets and seeking to busy
his mind with the industrial or municipal aspects, the art treasures,
the historical monuments of the various towns. But all intellectual
keenness seemed to have been blunted during those deadening years. His
lonely walks were at best but an aimless killing of time. All the towns
presented to him the same essential features: one busy thoroughfare, the
theatre with its flaring bills, and a poverty-stricken side-street where
his bedroom was situated. His life was singularly monotonous. The long
hours of the day, given up to lounging in solitude, or reading
what cheap literature his means would allow, were succeeded by the
uninspiring, almost impersonal work at the theatre. All that was
required of him was to sing his parts correctly, and to execute
automatically the “business” in which he had been drilled. It was
painfully easy. But he doubted within himself whether he had any
dramatic aptitude. He could never divest himself of the self-conscious
idea that he looked a fool in theatrical garb. The green robe and
pigtail gave him the sense of being a spectacle for gods and men. His
spirit was too crushed to look upon life humorously. Still, the great
anxiety was lifted from his mind. It was a livelihood, secured for an
indefinite time. The tour was booked a year ahead, and, as the outset
proved “The Diamond Door” to be as great a provincial success as it had
been a London one, there seemed no reason against a continuous run for
three or four years. In the meantime, he might advance a step or two.
But he did not care to contemplate the future. He was thankful for the
dull, unruffled present. He was working again among honest men, reckoned
as one himself. Could he dare hope for more?

At times he found himself half cynically content with his lot. At
others, a yearning rose within him like a great pain to be able to look
the world in the face without shrinking from its condemnation. A strange
idea began to work in his brain; to win back by some great deed of
sacrifice his self-honour and respect. But he knew himself to be a
dreamer of dreams, of too sorry stuff for such stern action. He would go
whither the wind drifted him. Of this he thought as he walked home after
parting with Annie Stevens.

He met her the next morning on the beach, a long way from the town,
sitting, a lonely figure upon a great drain-pipe rising half above the
sand. She was resting her chin upon her fingers, that grasped a crumpled
copy of “Tit-Bits,” and she was looking out to sea. Their eight weeks
of pairing on the stage had brought to Joyce a feeling of companionship
with her, which he did not have as regards the others. Besides,
those who were not either domestic or commonplace, belonged to the
flaxen-haired, large-eyed, tawdrily-dressed type so common in the lower
ranks of the profession. Miss Stevens had a personality which, though
unrefined, was at least her own, and he honestly liked her.

She gave a little start when she was aware of his presence, and a quick
flush came into her cheeks. But he did not notice it With a pleasant
greeting he sat down by her side and talked of current trifles. At last
she broke out suddenly.

“Oh, don’t let’s talk ‘shop.’ I’m sick of the piece and the theatre
altogether.”

“Oh, come, it is not so bad,” said Joyce, consolingly. “We both ought to
be playing good parts, and having rosier prospects. But things might be
very much worse.”

He was feeling brighter this morning. Yvonne had written him a long,
gossipy letter, full of encouragement and her own unconscious charm,
thus lifting him on a little wave of cheerfulness. With a friend like
Yvonne and daily bread, he ought to be thankful. As for Miss Stevens,
he did not see what she had particularly to grumble at If she had been
beautiful or talented, she might have had reason to quarrel with her
lot.

“Besides,” he added after a pause. “Look what a lovely day it is!”

“So you think we ought to be quite happy?”

“Moderately so.”

She was in a taciturn mood, and did not reply, but turned a little away
from him and began to dig the sand with the toe of her boot. Suddenly
she said, rather petulantly:--

“I wonder if you could ever love a woman.” He had grown accustomed to
her late, discrete methods of conversation, so the question scarcely
surprised him. He took off his hat, so as to enjoy the breeze, and
rested both hands at his sides on the drain-pipe.

“I suppose I could if I tried,” he said carelessly, “but I’m very much
better as I am. Why do you ask?”

She shrugged her shoulders.

“I don’t know. I thought I’d say something. We were n’t having exactly a
rollicking time, you know.”

This time the acerbity in her tone did strike him. Something had gone
wrong with her. He bent forward so as to catch a sight of her averted
face.

“What is the matter, Miss Stevens?” he asked concernedly. “You are not
yourself. Could I be of any service to you?”

She did not reply. Her silence seemed an encouragement to press his
sympathy. It was a new thing to be of help to a human being. He put his
fingers on her sleeve and added:--

“Tell me.”

She drew away her arm and started to her feet.

“Yes, I will tell you. I ’ve been making a miserable little fool of
myself. Let’s go back.”

Joyce rose and walked by her side.

“You are not by any chance embarrassed in money matters?” he asked, in
as delicate a tone as he could.

“Money!”

She looked at him incredulously for a moment, then broke into hysterical
laughter.

“Money!” she repeated. “Oh, you are too comic for anything!”



CHAPTER VI--MELPOMENE

Two weeks passed and Joyce found himself in Hull. During the previous
week Miss Stevens had lodged quite near to the theatre, and there had
been no occasion for his escort after the performance. Besides, she had
maintained a distant attitude toward him which precluded further offer
of sympathy in her affairs. He was sorry for her; she seemed lonely,
like himself, and, like himself, to have some inward suffering that made
life bitter. He was glad, then, to find at Hull that they lodged in the
same street, some distance away from the Theatre Royal, so that he could
propose, as a natural thing, the resumption of their former habit. She
had acquiesced readily on the Monday night, and they had met as a
matter of course on the four succeeding evenings. Her late aloofness was
followed by a more intimate and submissive manner. There were no more
defiant utterances and fits of petulance. She seemed anxious to atone
for past irritability, and Joyce, vaguely remembering a spring-tide
cynicism of his, that one must be astonished at nothing in a woman,
received these advances kindly, and looked upon their friendly relations
as consolidated.

He also found himself progressing in favour with the rest of the
company. Several desultory chats with Miss Verrinder, the friend of
Yvonne, had not only brightened the dulness of the theatre life, but
also given him a little _prestige_ among his colleagues. For there is a
good deal of humanity in man, including the chorus of comic opera. So,
such as it was, Joyce’s contentment rose to high-level at Hull. He did
not couple the town with Hell and Halifax in his litany of supplication,
but, on the contrary, found it a not unpleasant place, which, moreover,
was in process of undergoing a rare week of sunshine.

His favourite spot was the Corporation Pier, with its double deck and
comfortable seats and view across the Humber. His well-worn clothes were
in harmony with its frequenters, and he felt more at ease than on the
Parade of a seaside resort thronged with well-dressed Derelicts people.
Here he brought his book and pipe, read discursively, watched the
shipping, fell into talk with seafaring men, who told him the tonnage
of vessels and the ports from which they came. Often a great steamer
performing the passenger service across the North Sea would come into
the docks close by, and he would go and watch her land her passengers
and cargo. The hurry and movement were welcome to him, breaking, as they
did, the lethargy of the day. If the docks were quiet, there was always
the mild excitement of witnessing the arrival of the Grimsby boat at the
pier.

On Saturday morning this last incident had attracted him from his seat
on the lower gallery to the little knot of expectant idlers gathered by
the ruling. The steamer was within a quarter of a mile, the churn of her
paddles the only break visible in the sluggish water of the river. He
stood leaning over, pipe in mouth, idly watching her draw near. When
she was moored alongside and the gangway pushed on to the landing-stage
below, he moved with the others to the head of the slope to watch the
passengers ascend. Why he should particularly interest himself in the
passage of humdrum Melpomene labourers, fishwives, artisans, and young
women come to shop in Hull, he did not know. He watched them, with
unspeculating gaze, pass hurrying by, until suddenly a pair of evil
eyes looking straight into his own made him start back with a shiver of
dismay.

Escape was impossible; in another moment the man was by his side.

“Hullo, old pal! Who would have thought of seeing you?”

Joyce did not take the dirty hand that was proffered. He stuck his own
deep in his pockets, frowned at the man, and turned away. But the other
followed.

“Look here, old pal, I don’t call this a friendly lead--bust me if I do.
You might pass the time of day with a bloke--especially as it is n’t sol
ong ago----”

The man’s voice was loud, the pier busy with people. The air seemed
to Joyce filled with a thousand listening ears. His blood tingled with
shame. He freed round with an angry look.

“What do you want with me?”

“Oh, don’t take on, old pal,” replied the other, in lower tones. “I
ain’t going to give you away--don’t you fear. It’s only pleasant to meet
old pals again--in better circs. Ain’t it?”

Joyce had always loathed him--a flabby, sallow, greasy-faced fellow,
with blear eyes and a protruding under-lip. He had been sentenced for a
foul offence against decency. Joyce’s soul used to revolt at the sight
of him as they sat on either side of the reeking tub washing up the
cooking utensils in the prison kitchen. The hateful stench rose again to
his nostrils now and turned his stomach.

“Can’t you see I am going to have nothing to do with you?” he said
angrily.

“Come, don’t be hard on a bloke when he’s down,” replied the man. “It
ain’t everyone that gets on their legs again when they comes out. I ’ve
been out two months, and I haven’t had a job yet. S’welp me! And there’s
the wife and the kids starving. Give us a couple of quid to send to
’em and make ’em happy again. Just two thick uns.”

Joyce stared at him, breathless with indignation at his impudence.

“I ’ll see you damned first!” he cried fiercely.

“Well, make it ten bob, or five, or the price of a drink, old pal. You
can’t leave an old fellow-boarder in distress, or the luck will turn
agen you.”

He leered up into Joyce’s face, disclosing a jagged row of yellow teeth.
But Joyce started forward and took him by the collar.

“If you try to blackmail me,” said he, pointing to a policeman on the
quay, “I ’ll give you in charge. Just stay where you are and let me go my
ways.”

He released him and marched off. But the man did not attempt to follow.
He slipped into a seat close by and sang out sarcastically: “If you ’ll
leave your address, I ’ll send you a mourning card when the kids is
dead!”

Joyce caught the words as he hurried down the stairs. When he had
crossed the quay to the hotels, he looked up at the pier, and saw the
man leaning over with a grin on his face. It was only when he reached
his lodging that he breathed freely again.

What he had long expected had come to pass--recognition by a
fellow-prisoner. It was a horrible experience. It might occur again and
again indefinitely. He walked agitated up and down his poorly-furnished
bedroom. Could he do nothing to guard against such things in the future?
If he could only disguise himself! Then he remembered that the moustache
which might have served him as a slight protection against casual
glances had been sacrificed to theatrical exigencies. He ground his
teeth at the futility of the idea. And at intervals wrath rose up hot
within him at the man’s cool impudence. Two pounds--more than a week’s
salary--to be thrown away on swine like that! He laughed savagely at the
thought.

He grew calm after a time, lay down on his bed and opened a book. But
the face of the man, bringing with it scenes of a past in which they had
been associated came between his eyes and the page.

“Anyhow, it’s over,” he exclaimed at last, with a determined effort to
banish the memories. “And, think God, it’s Saturday, and I shall be in
Leeds to-morrow.”

To avoid the chance of meeting him in the streets, however, he stayed at
home all day, sending round a note of excuse on the score of seediness
to Miss Stevens, with whom he had arranged to take an afternoon stroll.
On his way to the theatre he caught sight of the man standing by a
gas-lamp at a street-corner on the other side of the way. He hurried on,
glad at his escape, for the glance of the man’s eyes resting upon him
was abhorrent.

For the first time since he had started on the tour the rough
companionship of the dressing-room was a comfort and delight. Here
were kindly words, welcoming faces, the pleasant familiarity of common
avocation. He forgot the heat, and the crush, and the tomfool aspect
the dressing had always presented. The place was home-like, familiar,
sheltering. His costume, as he took it down from the peg, seemed like
an old friend. The jolly voices of his companions rang gratefully in his
ears. The disgust of the day faded into the memory of a nightmare. This
was a reality--this hearty good-fellowship with uncontaminated men.

When he went out with them on to the stage, before the curtain rose,
and met the ladies of the chorus, he greeted those that he liked with
a newer sense of friendliness. Until then he had never been aware how
pleasant it was to have Annie Stevens’s head resting on his knee. He
thanked God he was a criminal no longer--not as that other man was.
Certainly Phariseeism is justifiable at times.

He was very kind to Miss Stevens all the evening during the waits, when
they happened to be together. His apologies for having to put off their
engagement met with her full acceptance. She was solicitous as to his
health--asked him in her downright fashion whether he ate enough.

“You are a gentleman, you know, and not accustomed to poor people’s ways
and their privations.”

“My dear,” he replied, dropping for the first time into the old
professional’s mode of address. “I ’ve gone through privations in my life
that you have never dreamed of. This is clover--knee-deep.”

And he believed it; thought, too, what a fool he had been to grumble at
this honest, pleasant theatrical life. The reaction had rather excited
him.

“I look upon myself as jolly well off here,” he said. “And I eat like an
ox, I assure you. Do you know, it’s very good of you to take an interest
in me?”

“Do you think so?” said the girl, with a little laugh, and turning away
her head.

At the end of the first act a fresh pleasure awaited him. It was a night
of surprising sensations. The stage-manager called him into his room.

“Walker has been telegraphed for--wife very ill--and he won’t be able
to play on Monday. Do you think you could play his part till he comes
back?”

“Rather!” said Joyce, delighted.

“You are the only one of the crowd that can sing worth a cent,” said
the stage-manager with a seasonable mixture of profanity. “I ’ll pull
you through. Perhaps he’s not coming back at all. One never knows. If
he does n’t and you go all right, there’s no reason why you should n’t
stick to it.”

Walker spoke exactly four lines, sang once in a quartette and had a
couplet solo. Otherwise he made himself useful in the chorus. But it
was a part, his name was down in the bill. The value of the step, moral,
pecuniary and professional was considerable. Joyce felt that his luck
had turned at last. Here was the gate into the profession proper open to
him.

The news soon spread through the company. A “call” for rehearsal on
Monday morning for the chorus and those of the principals concerned in
the change was posted up. He felt himself a person of some importance.
McKay congratulated him; and Blake, although he said, “You swells get
all the fat,” spoke by no means enviously. The others cracked jokes
and suggested drinks all round, which, being sent for by Joyce, were
consumed in the dressing-room. Annie Stevens squeezed his hand, during
their dance together, and whispered a word of pleasure. He had no
idea that so infinitesimal a success could have masqueraded as such a
triumph. He longed to get back to his room to write it all to Yvonne.

At the stage-door, after the performance, he met Annie Stevens, who had
hurried through her dressing.

“I’m glad for your sake, but I’m sorry for my own,” she said, after they
had walked a few steps.

“Why, what difference can it make to you?” asked Joyce laughing.

“I shall have to play and sing with somebody else.”

“True. I was forgetting. Yes, it will seem funny. I shall miss you too.”

“I don’t believe you care one bit,” said the girl.

To acquiesce would have been rude. He answered her with vague regrets.
She interrupted him with a laugh in which was the faintest note of
scorn.

“Oh, you’re very glad to get rid of me, and the stupid kissing and
everything. You won’t have to give any one a Chinese kiss now. And they
were very Chinese, you know.”

“An English kiss would have been out of the picture,” said Joyce.

“We’re not in the picture now,” she said softly.

Joyce felt that he was doing something very foolish, perhaps dangerous.
He had never had the remotest fancy for allowing his companionship with
her to degenerate into a flirtation. But what could he do? He bent down
and kissed her.

There was an awkward silence for a few yards, which she broke at last in
her irrelevant way.

“I should so like a glass of port wine tonight.”

“So should I,” said Joyce, cheerfully. “Or something like it. We ’ll go
into the Crown yonder.”

Two or three times before they had had a glass together on their way
home. To-night, therefore, the suggestion seemed natural. They entered
the private bar of the public-house, and Joyce ordered the liquors. Only
one young man was there, reading a sporting paper on a high stool. It
was a quiet place, with the view beyond the counter down the bar cut off
by a ground-glass screen, through a low space under which the customers
were served.

Joyce pushed the port wine smilingly to Miss Stevens, and, with his
back to the door, was pouring some water into his whisky, when a
voice sounded in his ear, causing him to start violently and flood the
counter.

“I say, old pal, _are_ you goin’ to help a poor feller?”

The man was standing behind him, the leer upon his greasy face. Joyce
had been blissfully unaware that he had dogged his steps from that
street corner to the stage-door of the theatre, and from the stage-door
hither. The sight of him was a stroke of cold terror.

“Go away. I ’ll give you in charge,” he stammered, losing his head for
the moment.

Annie Stevens clutched his arm.

“Who is this beastly man?” she said.

“Only an old pal, miss,” said the man, edging towards the door. “We was
in quod many months together, and now he won’t give me ’arf a crown to
keep me from starving.”

“By God!” cried Joyce, making a sudden dash at him.

But the man was too quick; he had secured his retreat, and when Joyce
reached the pavement--the house was at a corner of cross roads--he
could not catch the fall of his footsteps. The man had vanished into
the night, and pursuit was hopeless. It had all passed with the sudden
unexpectedness of a dream. Joyce put his hand to his forehead and tried
to think. He could scarcely realise exactly what had happened. He seemed
to be enveloped with tiny tingling waves that drew his skin tight like
a drum for his heart to beat against. He turned, and saw Annie Stevens
standing by his side, in the light of the public-house, with anger on
her face.

“What have you got to say for yourself?” she asked brusquely.

“Do you believe that man?” said Joyce, the words coming painfully.

Their lack of conviction damned him. The girl drew back a step, and
looked at him with revulsion in her eyes.

“You can’t deny it! I see that you can’t. You’ve just come out of
prison.”

If the world had been at his feet he could not have lied convincingly
at that moment. He could only stare at her haggardly and rack his brains
for words that would not come. She moved away instinctively from the
public glare and turned down the dark street that led toward their
destination.

“It’s a lie,” he said desperately, striding to her side.

“No it is n’t. It’s truth. I read it on your face. That’s why you’ve
come down in the world--that’s why you live by yourself--that’s why you
didn’t dare come out this afternoon--and that’s where you’ve known all
those privations I never dreamed of. It’s no good telling lies.”

“Well, it’s true,” said Joyce. “And I ’ve paid the penalty for my folly
ten times over. Forget all this, Annie, for God’s sake.”

“Go away!” she cried, walking faster. “I don’t want to see you again.
Oh, to think of it makes me sick! Go away, do!”

But he followed her imploringly. He was at her mercy. “I don’t care what
you think of me,” he said. “I will keep out of your way as much as you
like. Only, a word from you would ruin me. Keep my story secret, like an
honourable woman. I have done nothing to you.”

“Yes, you have!” she cried, stopping short and facing him. “You have
dared to kiss me. Oh--a pretty fine gentleman you are--with your
patronising superior ways--and I thinking myself an ignorant, common
girl, not good enough for you! What were you? A pickpocket?”

“You abuse me as if I were one,” said Joyce, bitterly. “Good-night, Miss
Stevens. I shall not molest you any further.” He motioned to her with
his hand to pass on in front. She regarded him for a moment stonily,
and then, with a short exclamation of disgust, swung round sharply and
proceeded at a hurried pace down the dismal, ill-lighted street. Joyce
watched her until she was swallowed up in the darkness, and had obtained
sufficient start for him to follow in her footsteps without fear of
overtaking her.

But as he walked along, the dread of her indignation seized him. If only
he could say another word to her before the morning, he might secure her
pity and her silence. The idea grew more and more insistent, until
he could bear it no longer. He started off at a run, at first on the
pavement of the quiet side street, and then in the roadway by the kerb
of the busier thoroughfare into which it led, and regardless of jostling
and oaths, continued his way, until he succeeded in catching her up just
as she was inserting the latchkey into her door.

“Annie,” he cried, his chest heaving painfully from the exertion of
running. “Promise me you won’t breathe a word of this to any one.”

She let herself in deliberately and stood in the dark passage.

“I ’ll promise nothing. I never want to set my eyes on you again!”

And then she slammed the door in his face.

He turned away sick at heart, and went to his own lodging. Resentment at
her coarse anger, and speculation as to the motives of the sudden change
from friendliness to hatred were things that did not come to him till
afterwards. Sufficient for the night was the despair of the sleepless
hours, the dread of the girl’s tongue, and the anguish of tottering
hopes. He did not write to Yvonne. The little triumph of the evening
seemed like a gay pagoda struck by lightning.



CHAPTER VII--A FORLORN HOPE

At the railway station the next afternoon he found most of the company
already assembled on the platform. Curious glances were cast upon him as
he appeared; there were nudgings and whisperings; some giggling on the
part of the chorus girls standing round Annie Stevens, who was looking
paler and more defiant than usual. A group of his colleagues melted away
at his approach. He saw at once what had happened. The fears that had
haunted him all the night and all that day were realised. He felt his
face and lips grow white, and his limbs trembled. With an instinctive
remnant of self-assertion, he went up to Blake, who was standing by one
of the reserved carriages. It seemed a long time before he could speak.
At last he asked him stupidly at what time the train started.

“Four-forty,” said Blake, curtly.

“And when do we get to Leeds?”

“How the devil should I know? If you want to know, there’s the guard.
Ask him.”

With which he moved away and joined two or three others a few steps
off. Joyce felt too sick with misery to resent the rudeness. He walked
a short distance along the train, and seeing one of his colleagues in a
compartment, concluded that it was reserved for the chorus-men and crept
into the far corner, where he sat down, holding a newspaper before his
face.

The compartment filled and the train started. At first there was a
general constraint in the talk. Then a game at nap was instituted; but
no one spoke to Joyce. At Selby there was over an hour’s wait. With a
feeling that he must be alone at any cost, he rushed out of the station,
and, avoiding the town, wandered aimlessly through lanes and fields
until it was time to return. He was too dazed and overwhelmed by this
sudden blow to think coherently. Now it was the girl’s deliberate
cruelty that passed his comprehension; now the sickening shame at being
known in his true colours to a whole society burned into his flesh.
Only one thought stood out from the rest in lurid clearness--the
impossibility of his continuing the tour. Even if the management took
no notice of the discovery, he felt he would rather starve to death in
a hole than live through that hell of daily aversion and contempt. To
return to the company and travel with them as far as Leeds was pain
enough. He would face that, however, and then--

It was gathering dusk when he arrived at the station, just in time
to see the guard about to wave the green flag. The handle of the
compartment was in his grasp when he heard McKay say:--

“Well, because a fellow’s happened to be in quod, that doesn’t mean he’s
likely to sneak your watches out of the dressing-room!”

He opened the door and entered amid a dead silence, which lasted, with
few interruptions, all the rest of the journey. Joyce looked round
at his seven companions, with an awful sense of isolation. Only
four-and-twenty hours before he had loved them for their warm
good-fellowship. He was wrung with the pity of it. McKay’s words still
sounded in his ear. They were horrible enough, but it was evident they
were meant in his defence. Once he met his glance, and read in it a
signal of kind intent. But the others steadily looked another way when
his eye fell upon them.

When they left the train at Leeds, McKay touched him on the shoulder and
drew him apart from the hurrying stream of passengers and porters.

“What’s all this yarn that Annie Stevens has been telling us?”

“Oh, it’s true enough,” replied Joyce, wearily.

“The damned little hell-cat,” said McKay. “I told you to keep clear of
women.”

“It was bound to come out. One of you fellows might just as well have
been with me in the pub last night.”

“Do you think a man would have given you away like this?” asked McKay,
with great scorn.

“I ’ve come to the conclusion that anything’s possible in this infernal
world,” said Joyce, bitterly. “I suppose the whole crowd are against
me.”

“Well, there is a bit of feeling, certainly,” replied McKay, in an
embarrassed tone. “And maybe it won’t be very pleasant for you. They all
talk as if they were plaster of Paris saints,--and, dash it all--they
made me sick; so I thought I’d come and say I’d stand by you.”

“Thank you, McKay,” said Joyce, touched. “You are a good sort. But I
sha’n’t ask you. I am not going on with the tour.”

“I think you’re just as well out of it, to tell you the truth,” said
McKay. Then his anger against Annie Stevens broke out again in an
unequivocal epithet.

“The little--------,” he said.

“I suppose it is horrible in a woman’s eyes,” said Joyce, moving with
McKay toward the crowd round the luggage-van. “But I can’t see why she
should hate me like this, all of a sudden, and wish to ruin me.”

“Can’t you? It’s pretty plain.”

“No,” said Joyce. “We have always been the best of friends.”

“Friends? You don’t mean to say you did n’t know she was gone on
you--clean gone, all off her chump? No one liked to chaff you about it,
because you have an infernal sarcastic way of scoring off fellows. But,
Gawd! The way she used to look at you was enough to make a man sick!”

“Do you mean she was in love with me?” asked Joyce, falteringly,’ as the
whole situation of affairs, past and present, began to dawn upon him.

“Well, rather,” said McKay, with a chuckle. “What do you think?”

Several of the company were still around the pile of luggage by the van,
claiming their things and waiting for porters. Standing on one side was
Annie Stevens, and, as it happened, Joyce recognised his Gladstone bag
lying at her feet He went and picked it up, and was going off silently
with it, when he felt her touch on his arm. Dim as the light was, he
could see that her face was haggard and drawn. She met his stern gaze
beseechingly.

“For God’s sake, forgive me,” she whispered.

“You have played too much havoc with my life,” replied Joyce coldly.

“I shall kill myself,” said the girl.

“Some people are better dead,” said Joyce, turning away, bag in hand.

On the platform beyond the barriers he met McKay again.

“Good-bye, McKay,” he said. “I have only two friends in the world who
know my story, and you are one.”

“Good-bye, old man,” said McKay. “Better luck next time.”

They shook hands and parted, McKay to join his friend Blake at the
lodgings they had secured already, Joyce to put up for the night at the
first cheap hotel he could find.

The next day he was in London again, in his old room in Pimlico--a
broken-hearted, broken-spirited man. For two days he remained in a state
of stupid misery, yearning for the life he had just abandoned; tortured,
too, by reproaches for his cowardice. Why had he not faced the ignominy,
and tried to live it down? Then the conviction of the hopelessness
of the attempt was forced upon him. Even if he had continued in the
profession, his name would soon have been known throughout it as the
ex-convict,--and he had been in it long enough to perceive how narrow
the theatrical circle is,--and all hope of advancement would have been
worse than futile. On the third day he went to see Yvonne, but she had
just gone out of town. The porter at the flat did not know how long she
would be away. She was at Fulminster. Her letters were forwarded there.
So Joyce wrote her a short note, explaining his situation, and set
himself to wait patiently for her coming.

But on that evening, out of sheer weariness and longing for human
companionship, he turned into his old haunt, the billiard-room in
Westminster. It seemed just the same as on the last evening he had been
there. The occupants of the divan might never have moved from that night
to this. His appearance was greeted with incurious, uninterested nods.
The only one that offered his hand was Noakes, who was sitting at the
end, still in his Chesterfield overcoat and old curly silk hat, but
looking more woe-begone and pallid than ever. There was a touch of pain,
too, in his usually expressionless pale-blue eyes. Joyce took his seat
next to him and bent forward, elbows on knees and chin resting in his
hands.

“You have been absent from town?” asked Noakes, in his precise, toneless
way.

Joyce nodded, with a murmur of assent.

“I, too, have not been here lately.”

“Press of literary work?” asked Joyce, without looking up.

The other did not notice the shade of sarcasm. He passed his hand across
his eyes and sighed.

“I have given it up.”

“Have you come into a fortune?”

“No. I have had the deadliest misfortune that can befall a man.”

Something genuinely tragic in his tone made Joyce start up from his
dejected attitude and look at his neighbour.

“I beg your pardon,” he said. “I did not know.”

“Of course not; no one does. At least, no one I can repose any
confidence in.”

There was an air of dignity in this oddly attired figure, with the
ludicrous silk hat above the black mutton-chop whiskers and bushy white
hair, and yet a mute appeal for sympathy which Joyce could not but
perceive.

“I, too, have been hard hit lately,” he said, in a low voice.

“Ah, not like me,” said the other, turning round in his seat, so that
his words should reach only Joyce’s ear. “Until three weeks ago I had
a wife and child. No man ever loved as I did. I worked for them till
my brain almost gave way--fifteen hours a day, week after week, starved
myself for them, denied myself the clothes on my back. Now I have them
no longer. Life is valueless to me.”

“Are they--dead?” asked Joyce.

“No. Gone off with the lodger on the first floor,” replied Noakes,
solemnly.

Joyce remained silent. What could he say? He looked sympathetic. Noakes
blew his nose in a dirty piece of calico with frayed edges that courtesy
called a pocket-handkerchief, and continued:--

“So my life is wrecked. My imagination is darkened and I can write
no more. I have given up my literary ambitions. It is not worth while
writing penny bloods at half a crown a thousand for one’s own support.”

“What are you going to do then?” asked Joyce, interested in the quaint
creature.

“I am going abroad. I have come here perhaps for the last time. On the
day after to-morrow I sail for South Africa.”

Was it a sudden inspiration? Was it the coming to a head of vague
resolutions, despairs, workings, the final word of a destiny driving him
from England? Was it a sudden sense of protecting brotherhood towards
this forlorn, tragic scarecrow of a man? Joyce never knew. Possibly it
was all bursting upon his soul at once. Springing to his feet, he held
out his hand to Noakes.

“By all that’s holy, I ’ll come with you!” he cried, in a strange voice.

The other, after some hesitation, took his hand and looked at him
pathetically.

“Are you in earnest?”

“In dead earnest.”

“I am going in the very cheapest possible manner.”

“So am I.”

“I am going, with a few pounds I have scraped together, to try my luck.”

“The same with me. It can’t be worse than England; starvation is
certain here. Come, say, honour bright--will you be glad of me as a
companion--as a friend if you like? I am a lonely bit of driftwood like
yourself.”

Then Noakes rose to his feet and this time squeezed Joyce’s hand and his
pale eyes glistened.

“I ’ll swear to be your friend in peace and in danger,” he said, in his
quaint phraseology. “And I thank the God of all mercies for sending you
to me in my hour of need.”

“All right,” said Joyce. “And now let us have some whisky, and talk over
details.”

And so, in that dingy billiard-room, unknown to the moulting Bohemians
huddled up in somnolent attitudes close by on the divan and unheeded by
the shirt-sleeved men passing around the table intent on their game,
was struck the strangest bargain of a friendship ever made between two
outcast men; a friendship that was to last through want and sickness
and despair and hope, and to leave behind it the ineffaceable stamp of
nobler feeling.

But at first there was much admixture of cynicism on Joyce’s side. He
laughed aloud, in the bitterness of his heart, at the object he had
taken for his bosom friend. It was only later, when he learned the
patient, dog-like devotion of the man, that he felt humbled and ashamed
at these beginnings.

With a draft on a Cape Town bank for the remainder of his capital, and
a last regretful letter from Yvonne in his pocket, he left Southampton.
And as they steamed down Channel, in the mizzling rain of a grey
November day, he leaned over the taffrail and stared at the land of
his brilliant hopes, his crime, his punishment, his struggles and his
dishonour, with a man’s agony of unshed tears.

He was going to begin life anew in a strange undesired country;
hopeless, aimless, friendless save for that useless creature who
was pacing up and down the deck behind him, still in his ridiculous
headgear. He had made no plans. The future to him when he should land at
Cape Town was as unknown--as it is to any of the sons of men, did we but
realise it.



CHAPTER VIII--THE CANON’S ANGEL

While Joyce was straining his eyes through the darkness for the last
sight of land and eating out his heart in bitter regrets, Yvonne was
busily engaged at Fulminster in rehearsing for the next day’s concert.
She had spent four days at Fulminster, the guest of Mrs. Winstanley,
and found herself somewhat lost among the very decorous society of
which Canon Chisely was a leading member. And while she was scanning the
social heavens in half pathetic search of her bearings, Joyce’s letters
had arrived, with their tidings of catastrophe and exile. So, while
there was a smile on her lip for the Canon and his friends, there was
a tear in her eye for Joyce. His humiliation and her failure as fairy
godmother brought her a pang of disappointment. She felt very tenderly
towards Joyce. In her imagination, too, Africa was a dreadful place,
made up of deserts, lions, and ferocious negroes in a state of nudity.

If she had seen him before he started, she might have dissuaded him
from encountering such discomforts. She thought of this tearfully in the
intervals that Fulminster affairs allowed her for reflection.

She was staying with Mrs. Winstanley. Now Mrs. Winstanley was the
leading social authority in Fulminster. She was a distant cousin of
Canon Chisely. In fact, she was an infinite number of irreproachable
things. Mothers came to her as a matrimonial oracle. The Mayor consulted
her on ticklish questions of civic etiquette. The affairs of the parish
were in her hands. Although she inhabited a well-appointed house of her
own, she superintended the domestic arrangements of the Rectory; and
performed all the duties of hostess for her cousin when he entertained.
Thus, parochially and socially she was invaluable to the Canon--his
right-hand woman, one who could share his dignity, and, by so doing, add
to its impressiveness. If he had been called upon to write her epitaph,
he would have carved upon the stone, “Here lies a woman of sense.” Now,
when a responsibly placed and grave bachelor of three-and-forty holds
that opinion of a woman of his own years, and consults her in all his
concerns, the result is not difficult to imagine. Cousin Emmeline ruled
the Rectory, with exquisite tact it is true--for if there was one of
her peculiar and original virtues of which she made a speciality, it was
tact--but yet her influence was paramount.

When the Canon had come to her with a request to invite Madame Yvonne
Latour to stay with her, she had elevated polite eyebrows.

“Whoever heard of such a thing!”

“It seems simple,” said the Canon. “I can’t invite her to my own house,
so I beg you to invite her to yours.”

“You are not going to do this for all the professionals engaged at the
festival?”

“Of course not,” answered the Canon; “who is suggesting anything so
absurd?”

“Then why make an exception of Madame Latour, who is not even singing
the leading parts?”

“She is very delicate and requires comforts,” he replied. “If she is
not taken care of, she may not be able to sing at all. Besides, it is my
particular desire, Emmeline. I assume the privilege of expressing it to
you.”

“I take it she is a very great friend of yours?”

“A very great friend,” said the Canon.

Mrs. Winstanley reviewed many unpleasant possibilities. Certain
weaknesses becoming apparent in her own impregnable position strongly
tempted her to refuse. She bit her lip and looked at her manicured
finger-nails.

“Come, you’re a woman of sense,” added the Canon, after a pause.

The tribute turned the tide of her judgment. She was a woman of sense.
How absurd of her to have forgotten. An ironical smile played on her
lips and lurked in her steel-grey eyes.

“You want to present Madame Latour to Fulminster society, Everard, with
whatever advantages may be attached to my chaperonage?”

“Precisely,” said the Canon.

“Well, I will send the invitation. But will she accept it?”

“I ’ll see about that,” he replied briskly. “I am deeply indebted to you,
Emmeline.”

She smiled, shook hands and followed him, with a word of parting, to
the door. Then as soon as it was shut upon him, she stamped her foot and
walked across the room, with an exclamation of impatience.

“I wonder what kind of a fool he is going to make of himself!”

She soon saw. One is not a woman of sense for nothing. On the eve of the
Festival, which was being held for the purpose of raising funds for the
restoration of the old Abbey church, of which the Canon was rector, he
gave a consecrating dinner-party.

The Bishop of the diocese, who was staying at the Rectory, was there;
Sir Joshua and Lady Santyre, and others of the high and solemn world of
Fulminster. Yet the Canon, with a high-bred tact, delicately conveyed
the impression that Madame Latour was the guest of the evening. Mrs.
Winstanley kept eyes and ears on the alert. There was much talk of the
Festival. On the morrow the “Elijah” was to be given, with Madame Latour
in the contralto part. The Canon was solicitous as to her voice, beamed
with pleasure when she offered, in her sweet, simple way to sing to
his guests, and stood behind her as she sung, with what, in Mrs.
Winstanley’s eyes, appeared an exasperating expression of fatuity.

A little later in the evening, a young girl,

Sophia Wilmington, went up to him with the charming insolence of youth.

“Why did n’t you tell us she was so sweet? I ’ve fallen head over ears in
love with her.” The Canon smiled, bowed, and delivered himself of this
extraordinary speech:--

“My dear Sophia, next to falling in love with me, myself you could not
give me greater pleasure.”

“She is so lovely,” said the girl.

“A chance for a medallion,” said the Canon. Miss Wilmington had a pretty
taste in medallion painting.

“Oh, I couldn’t get her colouring; but I should love to try--and
her voice. To me, any one with a gift like that seems above ordinary
mortals. You see I am quite ready to worship your angel.”

“My angel?” said the Canon, sharply.

Mrs. Winstanley, who was close by, discussing the Engadine with the
Bishop, did not lose a word of the above conversation. At his last
exclamation, she shot a swift side glance which caught the momentary
confusion and flush on the Canon’s face. She was quite certain now of
the sort of fool he was going to make of himself.

Meanwhile, the girl broke into a gay laugh.

“It did sound funny. I meant the angel in the ‘Elijah.’”

“Oh,” said the Canon, “I was forgetting the ‘Elijah.’”

Mrs. Winstanley resolved at least to say a warning word. Before she
left, she managed to have a few words with him.

“I hope you are keeping your eyes very wide open, Everard,” she sud, in
a whisper.

The Canon took her literally and so regarded her. But she smiled and put
her hand on his sleeve.

“She is quite charming and all of that, I grant. But she is very much
deeper than she looks.”

“Really, my dear Emmeline--” he began, drawing himself up.

“Tut! my dear friend; don’t be offended. You have called me a wise woman
so often that I believe I am one. Well, trust a wise woman, and look
before you leap.”

“I am not in the habit of leaping, Emmeline,” said the Canon, stiffly.

Mrs. Winstanley laughed, as if she had a sense of humour; and in a few
minutes was driving Yvonne homewards in her snug brougham.

But the Canon, after he had performed his last duties as host towards
his right reverend guest, sought the great leathern armchair before his
study fire and lit a cigar. Emmeline’s words had disturbed him. That is
the worst of keeping a consultant cousin--a woman of sense. Her advice
_may_ save you from months of regret, but it is sure to cause you bad
quarters of an hour. You remember the woman and disregard the sense
on such occasions; or _vice versa_. Hitherto Emmeline had been
infallible..The fact annoyed him, and he let his cigar die out, another
irritation. At last he rose impatiently, and going to a violin-case,
drew from it a favourite Guarnerius fiddle, tenderly wrapped in a silk
handkerchief. And then, having put on the _sourdine_, so as not to
disturb right reverend slumbers, he played “O, rest in the Lord,” with
considerable taste and execution.

Perhaps it is well that Mrs. Winstanley did not hear him.

*****

The concert began at three o’clock. The new Town Hall was packed from
ceiling to floor. Canon Chisely stood up by his seat near the platform
and looked around at the great mass of the audience, which included
the flower and influence of the county, and then, turning, scanned the
serried hedgerow of the orchestra, the crowding terraces of the choir,
and the thin line of professionals in front, among whom Yvonne’s tiny
figure had just come to make a spot of grace; and he felt a glow of
pride. It was all his doing. The dream of many years was in process of
being realised--the completion of the Abbey Restoration Fund. Moreover,
he had succeeded in developing his first conception of an unambitious
concert into a musical event, to be chronicled by critics from the
London dailies. He had other reasons, too, for satisfaction, neither
professional nor aesthetic.

Yvonne was feeling fluttered and happy. Fluttered, because it was
an important engagement. There are very few chances, even for a real
contralto, in oratorio music, and her voice was more mezzo. Hitherto
she had contented herself with the scraps. If she had known that the
“Elijah” had been deliberately selected because it was the one oratorio
in which the contralto part not only suited her voice perfectly, but
also rivalled the soprano in importance, the fluttering would have been
intensified by perplexity. And she was happy, because all the world was
smiling on her, particularly Geraldine Vicary and Vandeleur, with whom
she was in immediate converse. Vandeleur had been engaged long since by
the Canon for the name-part, partly on account of his magnificent bass
voice, and partly to please Yvonne. Geraldine Vicary had stepped into
a gap caused by the withdrawal of a more celebrated soprano at the last
moment. Yvonne was smiling brightly upon Vandeleur. She liked him. He
had made no subsequent reference to his declaration of love, and Yvonne,
with her facile temperament, had almost forgotten the circumstance.
Besides, he had gone back to his old allegiance to Geraldine, which
pleased Yvonne greatly.

The conductor stepped to his stand and tapped with his baton. Silence
succeeded the buzz of talk and the din of the tuning of fiddles. Three
chords from the orchestra, and Vandeleur sang the introduction; the
overture, the opening chorus, and then Yvonne took up her part. Singing
was her life. After the first bar, she sang spontaneously, like the
birds, free from nervousness or self-consciousness. And during her waits
the sublime music absorbed her senses. It swept on through its themes
of despair, renunciation, revelation, and promise; through all its vivid
contrasts--the great trumpet voice of the prophet, the rolling mass of
sound of the chorus, the vibrating notes of the messenger--“Hear ye,
Israel; hear what the Lord speaketh “--the calm, sweet voice of the
angel, telling of peace.

The Canon listened through all with the ear of a musician and the heart
of a religious man. But there was a chord in his nature that remained
untouched when Yvonne was not singing, and quivered strangely when her
voice was raised. It was so pathetically weak, so different in quality
from Geraldine Vicary’s powerful soprano, apparently so incapable of
filling that vast hall; and yet so true, so exquisitely modulated
that every note rang clear to the farthest gallery. The man forgot
his three-and-forty years, the strange mingling of worldly wisdom and
priestly dignity by which most of his judgments were formed, and
he identified the woman with the voice, pure, angelic, irresistibly
lovable.

He turned to his neighbour, Mrs. Winstanley, after the “O, rest in the
Lord,” his eyes glistening, and whispered, “What do you think?”

“An unqualified success, Everard.”

“I am so glad.”

“You deserve every congratulation.”

“Thanks, from my heart, Emmeline.”

“The Obadiah man is delightful.”

He looked blankly at her, unable to read what lay behind those calm,
grey eyes. Then a great comfort fell upon him. The woman of sense had
manifested a lack of intuition that could be called by no other name
than stupidity. He hugged his knee, delighted. But he made no more
references to Yvonne.

The silence following the crash of the last “Amen,” announced the end.
It woke him from a dream. He started to his feet with the impulse to
seek Yvonne on the platform, but he was immediately hemmed in by a
circle of congratulatory friends. As soon as he obtained breathing
space, he turned round, to find that she had withdrawn to the ladies’
dressing-room to put on her things. The hall cleared rapidly. Mrs.
Winstanley waited for Yvonne, who did not come at once, having a flood
of things to tell to Geraldene. The Canon grew impatient. It was getting
late, and he had to drive the Bishop home in time to dress for dinner at
a great house some distance away. It would be his only chance of seeing
Yvonne that evening. At last she came through the side-door and down the
platform with Miss Vicary. He advanced to assist them at the steps, and
then, after a few courteous words of thanks to Geraldine, who walked on
unconcernedly toward the waiting group, found himself alone with Yvonne.

She wore high-standing fur at her throat and a tiny fur toque in the
mass of dark hair, and she looked very winsome. Foolish speeches ran in
his grave head, but he could not formulate them.

“I hope you are not very tired,” he said, with dignified lameness,
pacing by her side, his hands behind his back.

“Not very. My throat is a bit stiff, but that will go off. Well, was I
all right?”

“My dear child--” began the Canon, stopping abruptly.

“I was afraid I might let the piece down, you know,” she said, with a
serene smile. “I am not a great vocalist, like Miss Vicary.”

“Don’t speak like that,” he said, awkwardly.

“Besides, your voice has a charm that her’s can never have.”

“So you are quite pleased with me?” She looked up at him with such
trustful simplicity that his rather stern face grew tender with a smile.
It seemed as if a glimpse of her true nature was revealed to him.

“You are like a child-angel, asking if it has been good.”

“Oh, what a sweet, pretty thing to say!” cried Yvonne, gaily. “I shall
always remember it, Canon Chisely. Now I know I sang nicely. And, you
know, it’s almost like being in heaven to sing that part.”

“You called us all there to you,” said the Canon.

Yvonne blushed, pleased to her heart by the sincerity of the compliment.
Coming from Canon Chisely, it had singular force. There was an air of
strength and dignity about his broad shoulders, his strongly-marked,
thoughtful face, and his grave, yet kindly manner, that had always set
him apart, in her estimation, from the other men with whom she came
into contact. She never included him in her generalisations upon men
and their strange ways. His profession and position, as well as his
personality, put him into a category where her unremembered father, and
Mr. Gladstone, and the great throat-surgeon whom she had once consulted,
vaguely figured. She was always conscious of being on her very best
behaviour while talking to him.

The Canon glanced at his friends. They were conversing animatedly, as if
in no great hurry to depart. So he leant back against the platform and
lingered a while with Yvonne.

“You must take care not to catch cold,” he said, after a while. “I
believe it’s a horrid evening.”

“Oh, don’t fear. I shall be all right tomorrow,” said Yvonne.

“I am not thinking of to-morrow at all, though any hitch then would be
a misfortune, certainly. I am anxious about yourself. Your throat is
already relaxed.”

“You mustn’t spoil me, Canon Chisely. I am used to going out in all
kinds of weather. I have to, you know.”

“I wish you had n’t. You are far too fragile.”

“Oh, I am stronger than I look. I am tough--really.”

She brought out the incongruous epithet so prettily that he put back his
head and laughed.

“If I had any authority over you, you should not play tricks with
yourself,” he said, in grave playfulness.

“But you have a great deal of authority over me. I should never dream of
disobeying you.”

He leaned his body forward, his hands resting on the platform edge
behind him, and looked at her earnestly.

“Do you think so much of me as that?” he asked, in a low voice.

“Why, of course, I think everything of you,” replied Yvonne, innocently.
“Don’t you know that?”

An answer was on his lips, but, happening to look round, he caught Mrs.
Winstanley’s ironical glance, an off-switch to sentiment. He stroked a
grizzling whisker and drew himself up.

“I mustn’t keep the Bishop waiting,” he said.

“Nor I, Mrs. Winstanley.”

They joined the group, where Yvonne received her congratulations and
compliments with childish pleasure. In a few moments they separated, and
the Canon drove off, regarding the Bishop by his side with uncanonical
feelings.

Late that evening Vandeleur was smoking a cigarette in Miss Vicary’s
hotel sitting-room. As Yvonne’s friends, they had been dining with
Mrs. Winstanley. Vandeleur was charmed with her urbanity, and sang her
praises with Celtic hyperbole.

“I should n’t trust her further than I could see her,” said Geraldine.
“She hangs up her smile every night on her dressing-table.”

“Just hear a woman, now,” said the Irishman.

“Yes, just hear a woman,” retorted Geraldine, sarcastically. “I suppose
you think she loves Yvonne, don’t you?”

“Of course I do. I’m sure she’s thinking how sweet she is this very
minute.”

“She would like to be poisoning Yvonne this very minute.”

“Well, I’m blest!” exclaimed Vandeleur, letting the match die out with
which he was preparing to light a fresh cigarette. “It takes a woman to
imagine gratuitous devilry!”

“And it takes a man to absorb himself in his dinner to the besotting of
his intelligence! But I have eyes. And a logical mind--don’t tell me I
have n’t Now, hitherto, Mrs. Winstanley seems to have been the central
figure in this wretched little provincial society. Who is, at the
present moment?”

“Sure, it’s yourself, Geraldine--the great soprano from London.”

She did not condescend to notice the flattery.

“It’s Yvonne. I bet you she’s the most-talked-of person in Fulminster
this evening. And Mrs. Winstanley the sickest. Oh, how dull men are!
What is all this Festival, really, but the apotheosis of Yvonne?”

“It’s the canonisation of Yvonne, I should say,” remarked Vandeleur,
drily.

Miss Vicary’s expression relaxed, and she leaned back in her chair.

“You’re not such a fool, after all, Van.”

“So I ’ve been told before,” he replied, with a chuckle. “Anyhow, it will
be a splendid thing for the dear child.”

“Oh, how can it be? I have no patience with you!”

“That’s obvious,” said Vandeleur.

“Yvonne would give any man her head, if he whimpered or clamoured for
it,” Geraldine, rising to her feet, “and then tell you in her pathetic
way, ‘but he wanted it so, dear.’ And there isn’t a man living who could
be good enough to Yvonne!”

“There I agree with you,” said Vandeleur.

Meanwhile, Yvonne was going to sleep, quite unconscious of the facts
that had aroused Miss Vicary’s indignation. The memory of the artistic
triumph of the day and the Canon’s generous praise lingered pleasantly
around her pillow. But if there was any one man to whom her thoughts
were tenderly given, it was the unhappy friend of her girlhood, who was
then speeding into exile over the bleak autumn seas.



CHAPTER IX--PAST, PRESENT, AND FUTURE

If genius is mad, sensitiveness degenerate, and emotionality neurotic,
and if heredity is the determining principle in the causation of
character, comparative psychology enables us to account for many things.
On these lines it could fairly be argued that one family taint of
neurosis, manifesting itself diversely, had driven Stephen Chisely
to the gaol and brought his cousin, the Canon, to the feet of Yvonne.
Though there may be fallacies in the premises, there is, however, a
certain plausibility in the deduction. Through both men ran a vein of
artistic feeling carrying with it a perception of the beautiful and an
impulse toward its attainment This malady of sensitiveness--to speak by
the book--had carried Stephen beyond the bounds of moral principle. It
prevailed at times over Canon Chisely’s natural austerity and hardness.
If in the one case it had been a curse, in the other it was a blessing.

In politics a Tory, in social attitude proud of caste, in creed a rigid
Anglican, in morals conventional, in affairs a man of cold, crystalline
judgment, he had few of the undegenerate qualities that make for
lovableness of character. The aesthetic sense, deeply spreading, was the
redeeming vice of a sternly virtuous man. It was his social
salvation, his vehicle of happiness, his bond of sympathy with his
fellow-creatures.

The beauty of Yvonne’s voice had attracted him toward her, years
before--afterwards, the beauty of her face. But it was not until
the conception of her nature’s beauty, idealised by he knew not what
artistry within him from voice and free and simple thoughts and acts,
arose within his mind, that he became conscious of deeper feelings. At
first it seemed as if he had disintegrated the soul of his favourite
Greuze--fathomed the unplumbed innocence of its eyes as its hand closes
over the apple--and was regarding it with a poet’s wonder. But then
his sterner nature asserted itself, restoring mental equilibrium. He
realised that his feelings for her were what men call love, and soberly
he thought of marriage.

He had often, previously, considered the advantages of matrimony. It
was an honourable estate, becoming to his position, involving parental
responsibilities which, for God’s greater glory, it behoved a man of
his calibre to seek. The wife he had contemplated was to be a woman of
culture, reserve, high principle, who could grace his table, aid him in
spiritual affairs, and bear him worthy offspring. He was called upon
now to reorganise his conceptions. It is true that his idea of the
advantages of the married state was unaffected, save by the addition of
one undreamed of--the sunshine of a sweet woman’s face in his cold home.
But the disparity between the ideal woman and the real one was alarming.
Socially, parentally, spiritually, was Yvonne the woman to hold the high
office of his wife? He gave the matter months of anxious reflection. He
was marrying at leisure, certainly, he thought grimly; would he repent
in haste? At length his love for Yvonne wove itself into his schemes for
the Festival. Yvonne should come to Fulminster, take her place at once
in society under Mrs. Winstanley’s chaperonage and win her welcome with
her voice. Thus he would have an opportunity of judging her within his
own environment. A complex mingling of passion and calculation.

And Yvonne, demurely innocent, had passed through the ordeal. As the
Canon drove away from the “Elijah,” he doubted no longer. Before she
left Fulminster he would ask her to be his wife. It is characteristic of
the man that he had no serious fears of her refusal.

*****

The Festival was over. It was the day after. Miss Vicary and Vandeleur
had returned to town by an early train and Yvonne was spending an
idle morning over the fire. She had wandered round the shelves of the
morning-room in search of a novel, and had selected “Corinne” because it
was French. But Yvonne was a child of the age, and children of the age
do not appreciate Madame de Staël. One can understand a dear old lady in
curls and cap sighing lovingly over “Corinne,” bringing back as it does
memories of inky fingers and eternal friendships; but not--well, not
Yvonne. She loved “Gyp.” An unread volume was in her trunk upstairs.
She felt too tired and lazy to get it. Besides, she was not quite sure
whether the sight of “Gyp” would not shock Mrs. Winstanley, who was
engaged over her voluminous correspondence at a table by the window.

“They have such queer prejudices,” thought Yvonne. “One never knows.”

So she dropped “Corinne” on to the floor and looked at the fire. In
spite of her awe of Mrs. Winstanley, she was sorry to leave Ful-minster.
Life had been made very pleasant for her the last few days. Her throat
was somewhat relaxed after the strain. She wished she could give it a
long rest. But on Monday she was engaged to sing at a club concert at
the Crystal Palace and in the morning she was to resume her singing
lessons; and the weather in London was wet and muggy. It would be bliss
to be idle, not to think of earning money and just to sing when you
wanted. She turned her head and caught a chance glimpse of her hostess’s
face. The morning light streaming full upon it showed up pitilessly the
network of lines beneath her eyes and the fallen contours of her lips
and the roughness of her skin. Yvonne was startled at seeing her look so
old and faded--a letter to a sister-in-law detailing Everard’s folly did
not conduce to sweetness of expression--and she wondered whether she,
Yvonne, would be happy when she came to look like that. She shivered
a little at the thought. Yes, the years would pass, leaving their
footprints, and she would grow old and her voice would pass away. It was
dreadful. When Yvonne did enter the gloom, she made it very dark indeed,
and summoned every available bogey. What should she do in her old age,
when she could no longer earn her living? Geraldine was always preaching
thrift, but she had put nothing by as yet. If she became incapacitated
to-morrow, she did not know how she would live. She looked at the fire
wistfully, her brow knitted in faint lines, and found her position very
pathetic. But just then Bruce, Mrs. Winstanley’s collie, rose from the
rug and came and laid his chin on her knees, looking at her with great,
mournful eyes. Yvonne broke into a sudden laugh, which astonished both
Bruce and his mistress, and taking the dog’s silky ears in her hands,
she kissed his nose and rallied him gaily on his melancholy. So Yvonne
stepped out of the darkness into the sunshine again.

Presently a servant entered.

“Canon Chisely would be glad if he could see Madame Latour for a
moment.”

“Where is the Canon?” asked Mrs. Winstanley.

“In the drawing-room, ma’am.”

Yvonne rose quickly and went to her hostess, who slipped a sheet of
blotting-paper over her half-finished page.

“Shall I go down?”

“Naturally.”

Yvonne spoke a word to the servant, who retired, and then gave her hair
a few tidying touches before the mirror in the over-mantel.

“I wonder if he has brought me those old Provençal songs.”

“I hope he has, my dear,” said Mrs. Winstanley, drily.

“Well, he is sure to have something nice to tell me, at any rate,”
 replied Yvonne, in her sunny way.

The Canon was standing on the hearthrug, his hands behind his back. On
the table lay his hat and gloves. Yvonne advanced quickly across the
room to meet him, her face lit with genuine pleasure. He greeted her
gravely and held her hand in both of his.

“I have come to have a serious talk with you.”

“Have I been doing anything wrong?” asked Yvonne, looking up into his
face.

“We shall see,” he said, smiling. “Let us sit down.”

Still holding her hand, he drew her to the couch by the fireside, and
they sat down together.

“It is about yourself, Yvonne--I may call you Yvonne?--and about myself
too. You have always felt that you have had a friend in me?”

“Ah! a dear friend, Canon. No one is to me the same as you. I shan’t
mind at all if you scold me.”

She looked at him so guilelessly, so trustingly, that his heart melted
over her. Verily she was the wife sent to him by heaven.

“I was but jesting, Yvonne. Besides, how could I dare scold you? It is
I who come as a suppliant to you, my dear. I love you, and it is the
dearest wish of my heart to make you my wife.”

The sun died out of Yvonne’s eyes, her heart stopped beating, she looked
at him in piteous amazement.

“You--want me--?”

“Yes. Is it so strange?”

“You are jesting still--I don’t understand--” She had withdrawn her hand
from his clasp, and was sitting upright, twisting her handkerchief and
trembling all over. It was so unexpected. She could scarcely trust her
senses. She had regarded him more as an influence than as a man. To
Geraldine’s wit she had given not a moment’s thought. To marry Canon
Chisely--the idea seemed unreal, preposterous. And yet she heard
his voice pleading. She was overwhelmed by the sudden magnitude of
responsibility. He had swooped down and caught her up through the vast
moral spaces that lay between them, and she was dizzy and breathless.

“I do not press you for your answer,” she heard him saying.
“To-morrow--a week, a month hence--what you will. Take your time. I can
give you a good name, comfort in worldly things--the ease and freedom
from care which, thank God, my means allow--an honourable position, and
a deep, true affection. Would you like me to wait a month before I speak
to you again?”

“A month could make no difference,” murmured Yvonne. “It would seem
as strange then as now.” There was a sudden pause in the whirl of her
thoughts. Was it a bewildering device of his to show her kindness,
provide for her future?

“I could n’t accept it from you,” she added incoherently.

“But it is I who want you, Yvonne,” said the Canon, earnestly. “It is I
who must have you to brighten my home and comfort my life. If your life
is lying idle, as it were, Yvonne, give it me to use for my happiness.
For months I have given this my deepest, most anxious thought. I am not
a man to talk lightly of love and marriage. When I say that I want you,
it means that you are necessary to me. And you trust me?”

“Above all men--of course--”

“Then your answer--‘yes,’ or ‘no,’ or ‘wait.’”

She was silent. He put his arm round her shoulders and drew her to him.

“You must be my wife, Yvonne. Why not say ‘yes’ now?”

She felt powerless beneath the strong will and authority of the man. Why
he should wish to marry her, she could not understand; but his words had
all the weight of an imperative.

“If you must have me, then--” said she in a quavering little voice, “I
must do as you say.”

“You will be happy, my child,” he said, reassuringly. “I will make it
all sunshine for you--you need have no fears.”

He drew her yet closer to him and kissed her forehead; then he released
her gently.

“So it’s a promise?”

“Yes,” said Yvonne.

“Then look into my eyes and say, ‘Everard, I will take you for my
husband.’”

He said it loverwise, and, dignitary though he was, with a touch of a
lover’s fatuity. The tone revived Yvonne’s animation.

“Oh, I could n’t,” she cried, with a queer little laugh, midway between
despair and gaiety. “I shouldn’t dare--it wouldn’t sound respectful.”

“Try,” said he. “Say ‘Everard.’”

But Yvonne shook her head. “I must practise it by myself.”

The Canon laughed. He was well contented with the world. Her modesty
and innocence charmed him. Married though she had been, the fragrance of
maidenhood seemed still to hover round her. She was an exquisite thing
to have taken possession of.

“Are you happy?” he asked, taking her small brown hand that lay clasped
with the other on her lap.

“I am too frightened to be happy--yet,” she replied softly, with a shy
lift of her eyes.

“I don’t quite understand what has happened. Half an hour ago I was a
poor little singer--and now--”

“You are my affianced wife,” said the Canon, with grave promptness.

“That’s what I can’t realise. Everything seems topsy-turvy. Oh, it
_is_ your wish, Canon Chisely, isn’t it? You are so good and wise, you
wouldn’t let me do anything that was not right?”

“Always trust to me for your happiness, Yvonne, and all will be well,”
 answered the Canon.

Presently she rose, gave him her hand with simple dignity.

“I must go and think it over by myself. You will let me? Another time I
will stay with you as long as you want me.”

The Canon led her to the door, kissed her hand, bending low over it in
an old-fashioned way, and bowed her out of the room. Then he rang for
the servant and sent a message to Mrs. Winstanley. He was a man of
prompt execution.

In the interview that followed, the Canon came off triumphant. He
parried his cousin’s thrusts of satire with a solicitude for her own
welfare that was not free from irony. If she had not so openly showed
him her distaste for the marriage, he might have displayed some sympathy
for her in the loss of _prestige_ that she was sustaining as lady ruler
of the Rectory. As matters stood, he considered she had forfeited it by
her caprice. Besides, he had shrewdly determined that there should not
be a triple dominion in his house.

“I hope she will extend your sphere of usefulness, Everard, as a wife
should,” said Mrs. Winstanley. “But she is inexperienced in these
matters. You will not be hard upon her.”

“I am only hard on those who disregard my authority. Then it is duty and
not seventy. Have you ever found me a harsh taskmaster, Emmeline?”

“You would n’t compare us surely?”

“Certainly not. I could compare my wife with no other woman. It would be
in all respects wrong.”

“Well,” she replied, bidding him adieu, “I hope that you will be happy.”

“My dear Emmeline,” said the Canon, “I have been humbly conscious
for years that my happiness has always been one of your chief
considerations.”

From Mrs. Winstanley’s he proceeded at once to Lady Santyre’s, where
he received congratulations and luncheon. He left with the comfortable
certainty that all Fulminster would ring with the news of his engagement
during the course of the afternoon. His announcement was as public as if
he had proclaimed it from the pulpit. And Fulminster did ring as he
had expected--not that it was unprepared, for the Canon’s attentions to
Madame Latour had been a subject of universal speculation. Murmurings
arose in certain quarters. The neighbourhood abounded in the
aristocratic fair unwedded, and the Canon was highly eligible. One
of the aggrieved declared that all the Chiselys were eccentric, and
instanced the unfortunate Stephen.

“My dear,” replied in remonstrance her interlocutor, who had just
married her last daughter to the leading manufacturer in Fulminster,
“You must not talk as if the Canon had run off with a ballet-girl.”

But generally his indiscretion was condoned. It had been a stroke of
genius to let Yvonne charm her critics from a public platform at the
very outset.

For Yvonne herself, the remainder of her visit passed in a whirl.
Families called upon her; mothers congratulated her; the “Fulminster
Gazette” interviewed her; the Santyres changed the small dinner-party,
to which she had been already asked, into a solemn banquet in her
honour; and the Canon was ever at her side, attentive, courteous,
dignified, authoritative, playing his part to perfection. The flattery
pleased her. The universal deference paid to the Canon, of which she had
grown more keenly conscious, awakened a shy pride. But it all seemed an
incongruous dream, out of which she would awake when she found herself
in her tiny flat in the Marylebone Road. She was afraid to go back. If
it was a dream, she would regret this sudden lifting from her shoulders
of all sordid cares, the dread of losing her voice, of poverty, and the
grasshopper’s wintry old age. If it continued true, she feared lest the
familiar surroundings might pain her with regret for the life she was
abandoning--the sweet artist’s life, with all its inconsequences and its
purposes, its hopes and fears, its freedom and its claims. Even now, she
cried a little at the prospect of giving it up. And then she wouldn’t
know herself. Hitherto, her conception of herself had been Yvonne
Latour, the singer. That was her Alpha and Omega. It would be like
looking in the glass and seeing a total stranger. It was pathetic.

On Sunday she received a series of sensations. She believed such
elemental doctrines as she had received at her mother’s knee: in a
beautiful heaven and a fearful hell, in Christ and the angels--she was
not quite certain about the Virgin Mary--in the Lord’s Prayer, which she
said every night at her bedside, and in the goodness of going to church.
Her religion might have been that of a bird of the air for all the
shackles it laid upon her soul. But the outer forms of worship impressed
her strongly--church music, solemn silences, vestments, stained windows,
even words. She felt very solemn when she called her innocent self a
“miserable sinner” in the Litany, and the word “Sabbaoth,” in the “Te
Deum,” always seemed fraught with mystic meaning. The symbolic hushed
her into awe. Even the surplices of the choir-boys set them apart
for the moment, in her mind, from the baser sort of urchins. And, _a
fortiori_, the clergyman, in surplice and stole, had always appealed to
her childish imagination as a being that moved in an especial odour of
sanctity. It is fair to add that Yvonne’s church-going had never been
as regular as might have been desired, so these reverential feelings
had not been staled by custom. However, when the Canon appeared at the
reading-desk, and his fine voice rang through the Abbey, Yvonne felt a
sudden pang of alarm. The night before he had been so tender and playful
that he had almost seemed to be upon her level. And now, he was far, far
away. The distance between her, poor, insignificant little Yvonne, and
him performing his sacred office, appeared immeasurably vast. And when
he mounted the pulpit, her awe grew greater. She could not realise that
he was her affianced husband.

He preached on the text from the story of Nicodemus, “Except a man be
born again.” The words caught her fancy as being apposite to her
own case, and, disregarding the thread of the Canon’s discourse, she
preached a little sermon to herself. She was going to be born again.
Yvonne the singer would die, and a new, regenerate Yvonne, the lady of
the Rectory, Mrs. Everard Chisely, would appear in her stead. She caught
a phrase in which the Canon touched upon the spiritual pain attending on
the death of the old Adam. She wondered whether she would be called upon
to suffer the fire of purification. It was like the Phoenix. At this
point she pulled herself up short. To mix up the Phoenix and Nicodemus
might be profane. So she bestowed her best attention on the remainder of
the sermon.

That afternoon he took her through the Rectory--a great rambling
Elizabethan house, with nineteenth-century additions. She followed him
meekly from room to room, filled with wonder at the beauty of her future
home. The Canon had spent much money over his collections--overmuch,
some critics said--and the house was a museum of art treasures.
Pictures, statuary, wood-carvings, rare furniture met her in every
apartment, at every turn of the stairs. At first, the awe with which his
sacerdotal character had inspired her kept her subdued, but gradually
the new impressions effaced it. He spoke as if all these things were
already hers--established, as it were, a joint ownership.

“This is your own boudoir,” he said, as he led her into a pleasant room,
overlooking the lawn and commanding a view of the Abbey. “Do you think
you will be happy in it?”

“I must be,” she said, gratefully. “Not only because you have given me
the most beautiful room in the whole house, but because you are so good
to me in all things.”

“Who could help being good to you, my child?” said the Canon.

He was sincere. Yvonne felt humbled and yet lifted. Her eyes dwelt for a
shy moment on his. He seemed so kind, so loyal, so indulgent, and yet
a man so greatly to be venerated and honoured, that all her sweet
womanhood was moved. Standing, too, in this room that was to be her
own, she felt the future melt into the present. Her hand slipped timidly
through his arm.

“I shall never know why you want me,” she said, in a low voice, “but I
pray God I may be a good and loving and obedient wife to you.”

“Amen, dear,” said the Canon, kissing her.



CHAPTER X--COUNSELS OF PERFECTION

So Yvonne was married, and for six months was completely happy.
Fulminster and the county entertained her, and she entertained
Fulminster and the county. Her husband petted her and relieved her
of serious responsibilities. She won the hearts of Mrs. Dirks the
housekeeper, of Jordan the gardener, and Fletcher the coachman, three
autocrats in their respective spheres of influence--victories whereby
she controlled the menu, filled the house with whatever flowers struck
her fancy, and had out the horses at the moment of her caprice. Her
quick wit soon obtained a grasp upon domestic affairs and her
headship in the household was a practical fact which the Canon proudly
recognised. Her social duties she performed with the tact born
of simplicity. Mrs. Winstanley went away raging after her first
dinner-party. She had expected a consoling proof of incapacity and had
witnessed a little triumph of hostess-ship.

Not a cloud had appeared on her horizon since the wedding-day, when
they had started upon a magic month in Italy, among blue lakes and bluer
skies and gorgeous pictures and marble palaces. After that, there had
been the excitement of home-coming, the fluttering sweetness of
taking possession, the bewildering succession of fresh faces in her
drawing-room, the long drives to return calls, and to attend parties in
her honour. The new duties interested her. She revelled in an infants’
class at the Sunday school, which she instructed in a theology undreamed
of by the Fathers. She sang at local concerts. She dressed herself in
dainty raiment to please her husband’s eye. In fact she made a study
of his æsthetic tastes from food to music, and delighted in gratifying
them. With feminine pliancy she strove to adapt her moods to his. His
face became a book which she loved to read when they met after a few
hours’ absence; and, according to what she read, she became demure, or
gay, or businesslike. In her leisure hours she sang to herself, read
French novels, which she obtained in unlimited supply from London, and
sought the society of Sophia Wilmington and her brother, who quickly
constituted themselves her chief friends and advisers in Fulminster.
Often she sat idle and gave herself up to dreamy contemplation of her
beatitude.

In these moods comparisons would arise between her two marriages, and
between the two men. Scenes, almost forgotten during the years of her
widowhood, revived in her memory. Phases of present wedded relations
brought back vividly analogous phases in the past. The contrast
sometimes produced an emotion that seemed too great for
self-containment, and she longed to open her heart to her husband.
But she dared not. Love might have broken down barriers, but not the
grateful, respectful affection she bore the Canon. Besides, beyond one
little talk, two years ago, at the house of Stephen’s mother during her
last illness, no mention had been made between them of Amédée Bazouge.

Man-like, he preferred to dismiss the circumstance from his mind as
unpleasant. But the woman found pleasure in remembering, and in using
the contrasts to heighten her present happiness.

Thus for six months she had known no trouble, and had laughed at her
old tremulous misgivings as to her capacity for filling her present
position.

Suddenly, one afternoon in early June, as they were sitting in the
shadow of the old Abbey, cast across half the lawn, the Canon laid down
the review he was reading by the foot of his chair, and, deliberately
folding his gold pince-nez and thrusting it in his waistcoat, looked at
her and said, “Yvonne.”

She closed “Le Petit Bob” with a snap, and became dutiful and smiling
attention.

“I have something to say to you,” he remarked gravely; “something
perhaps painful--about certain possible little changes in our lives.”

“Changes?” echoed Yvonne blankly.

“Yes, I have been wishing to speak for some months past. I think, dear,
you ought to be more serious, and give me greater help than you have
done hitherto. Do you follow me?”

If the quiet Rectory garden had suddenly been transformed into a Sahara,
and the golden laburnum by which she was sitting, into a pillar of fire,
she could not have been more bewildered. But she felt a horrible pain,
as from a stab, and the tears started to her eyes.

“No. Not at all--what is it?”

“I don’t wish to be unkind to you, Yvonne. I am only speaking from a
sense of duty. Once said, it will be, I am sure, enough.”

“But what is it? What is it?” she repeated piteously. “What have I done
to displease you?”

He took up his parable, with crossed legs and joined finger tips, and
in a quiet, unemotional voice catalogued her failings. She was not
sufficiently alive to the deeper responsibilities of her position. Many
parochial duties that devolved upon the Rector’s wife, she had left
undone. She took no puns to improve her acquaintance with doctrinal and
ecclesiastical affairs.

“I am not exaggerating,” he said, “for you did tell the Sunday-school
children that St. John the Baptist was present at the Crucifixion,
Yvonne, did n’t you?”

He smiled, as if to soften the severity of his charges; but Yvonne’s
face was fixed in tragic dismay, and the tears were rolling down her
cheeks.

He rose and advanced to her with outstretched arms. She obeyed his
suggestion mechanically and allowed herself to stand in his embrace.

“It is best to say it all out at once, Yvonne,” he said gently. “And you
will think over it, I know. You must n’t be hurt, little wife.”

But she was--to the depths of her heart. “I did n’t know you were not
pleased with me,” she said with trembling lip. “I thought I was doing my
very best to make you happy.”

“And you have, my child--very happy.”

“Oh no--I have n’t. I will try to do what you want, Everard. But I told
you I was n’t fit for you--I can do nothing, nothing but just sing a
little. But I will try Everard. Forgive me.”

“Freely, freely, dearest,” said the magnanimous man, patting her on the
shoulder. “There, there,” he added, kissing her forehead. “It pained
me intensely to say what I did. But if duties were always pleasant, it
would be a world of righteousness. Dry your eyes and smile, Yvonne. And
come and play my accompaniment for a few minutes before dinner.”

He drew her arm within his and led her into the house, through the open
French window, talking of trifles to assure her of his affectionate
forgiveness. It was not in Yvonne’s nature to show resentment. She fell
outwardly into his humour, and thanked him sweetly for his somewhat
exaggerated attentions in arranging the piano and music; but as she
played, the notes became blurred.

“A little out there,” he said, standing behind her, his violin under his
chin. “Let us go back four bars.”

She struggled on bravely, biting her lip to keep back the tears that
would come and render the page illegible. At last a drop fell on a black
note, as she was bending her head towards the music-book. The Canon
stopped short and laid his violin and bow hastily on the piano.

“My dearest,” he exclaimed, stooping over her. “It is all over. Don’t be
unhappy. I did not mean to be unkind to you. I am afraid I was. It is I
who am not fit for so tender and sensitive a nature.”

He sat down by her on the broad piano-seat and let her cry upon his
shoulder. He had an uncomfortable feeling that in some way he had been
brutal. A man must be as hard as Mephistopheles not to experience this
sensation the first time he makes a woman cry. The second or third time
he calls his attitude firmness; afterwards he characterises her conduct
as unreasonable. A wise woman makes the very most of the first tears of
her married life. But Yvonne was not a wise woman. She dried her eyes
as fast as she could, and felt ashamed and humbled, and went and bathed
them in eau-de-cologne and water, and, seeing that the Canon desired her
to be her old self, for that evening at any rate, did her best to humour
him.

After this, her life went on, not unhappily, but unlifted by the
buoyancy of the first six months. Her illusions had been shattered. The
spontaneity of her actions was checked. They became little tasks, whose
excellence she could not judge until the Canon had pronounced upon them.
She made prodigious efforts to fulfil his wishes. Some met with
success. Others, such as attempts at parish organisation, failed.
Mrs. Winstanley, like Betsy Jane in Artemus Ward’s book, would not be
reorganised. The Canon intervened, but his cousin stood firm, and at
last he had to yield. In district visiting, Yvonne had hard struggles.
If she had carried her own charming _insouciance_ into working
homes, she would have won all hearts. But, morbidly conscious of
the responsibilities of her position, she judged it her duty to cast
frivolity from her and to put on the serious dignity of the Rector’s
wife, which fitted her as easily as a suit of armour. As for theology,
she read with a zeal only equalled by her incapacity of appreciating the
drift of the science. To the end of her days Yvonne could see no other
difference between a Churchman and a Dissenter, except that one had a
pretty service and the other a dull one. So closely, however, did she
pursue her studies that the Canon took pity on her, and came back from
London one day with “Gyp’s” latest production in his pocket. It would
have done an archbishop good to see the gleam of pleasure in Yvonne’s
eyes.

Six more months passed, and Yvonne began to weary of the strain of
self-improvement. The sterner side of the Canon’s character showed
itself in a hundred little ways. Small censurings became frequent,
praise difficult to obtain. With the Canon’s gracious consent, she
despatched at last an invitation to Geraldine, who had already paid her
a visit in the spring. But that was in the days of her happiness.

Geraldine came, and her keen wit very soon penetrated the situation.
Yvonne had been too loyal to complain.

“You’ve just got to tell me all about it,” she said in her determined
fashion.

It was their first evening, after dinner, as soon as the Canon had gone
down to his library.

“All about what, Dina?” asked Yvonne.

“Oh, don’t pretend not to know. You were as happy as a bird when I was
here last, and now you don’t open your mouth.”

“I think I want a change,” said Yvonne. “I am getting too respectable.
At first, you see, everything was new, and now I have got used to it.
I think if I could run about London by myself for a month, and sing at
lots of concerts, it would do me good. And oh, Dina--I should so much
like to hear a man say ‘damn’ again!”

“Well, I’m not a man, but I’ ll say it for you--damn, damn, damn. Now do
you feel better?”

“Oh, you look so funny as you say it!” cried Yvonne, with a laugh. “I
wish it was something artistic and you could teach it to the Canon.”

“It strikes me, if I were to set about it, I could teach the Canon a
good many things. First of all, what a treasure he has got--which he
does n’t seem quite aware of.”

“Oh, Dina, you mustn’t say that,” said Yvonne, looking shocked. “He is
all kindness and indulgence--really, dear. If I feel dull, it is because
I am wicked and hanker after frivolous things--Van, for instance, and a
comic song. Do you know you have n’t once spoken about Van?”

“Oh, don’t talk of Van,” said Miss Vicary; “I am getting tired of him.
He never knows his mind three days together. If I was n’t a fool I would
give him up for good and all.”

“But why don’t you marry and make an end of it?” asked Yvonne. “I don’t
understand.”

“Ask Van. Don’t ask me. There’s somebody else now. Elsie Carnegie, of
all people.”

“Poor Dina.”

“Oh, not at all. Dina is not going to break her heart over Van’s
infidelities. I’m quite content as I am. Only I’m a fool--there! I ’ve
never told you I was a fool before, Yvonne. That’s because you are so
sedate and respectable. I’m getting to venerate you.”

“I should like to talk to him seriously about it--for his good.”

“Oh, heavens, my child, he’d be falling in love with you again and
having the whole artillery of the Church about his ears!” Yvonne laughed
gaily. The talk was doing her good. Geraldine’s forcible phraseology
was a tonic after the politer accents of Ful-minster. They drifted
away unconsciously from the main subject upon which they had started.
Geraldine had many things to tell of the doings in the musical world.

“Oh, I wish I was back for a little,” cried poor Yvonne. “Singing in a
amateur way is not like singing professionally, is it?”

“I think you are better where you are,” replied Geraldine, seriously,
“in spite of all things. It is no use being discontented.”

“Not a bit,” sighed Yvonne. She was silent for a little, and then she
turned round to Geraldine.

“I don’t think you would do very well married, Dina. You are too
independent. A woman has to give in so much, you know; and do so much
pretending, which you could never do.”

“And why pretend?”

“Oh, I don’t know. You have to--in lots of things. I suppose we women
were born for it. Men have all kinds of strange feelings, and they
expect us to have the same, and we have n’t, Dina; and yet they would be
hurt and miserable if we told them so--so we have to pretend.”

Geraldine looked at her with an expression of pain on her strong face,
and then she bent down--Yvonne was on a low stool by her side--and flung
her arms about her.

“Oh, my dear little philosopher, I wish to God you could have loved a
man--and married him! That is happiness--no need of pretending. I knew
it once--years ago. It only lasted a few months, for he died before we
announced our marriage--no one has ever known. Only you, now, dear. Try
and love your husband, dear--give him your soul and passion. It is the
only thing I can tell you to help you, dear. Then all the troubles will
go. Oh, darling, to love a man vehemently--they say it is a woman’s
greatest curse. It is n’t; it is the greatest blessing of God on her.”

“You are speaking as men have spoken,” replied Yvonne, in a whisper,
holding her friend’s hand tightly. “I never knew before--but God will
never bless me--like that.”



CHAPTER XI--THE OUTCAST COUSIN

The autumn hardened into winter and the winter softened into spring,
and the relations between Yvonne and the Canon seemed to follow the
seasons’ difference. He had learned her limitations and no longer set
her tasks beyond her powers.

“You must not try to put a butterfly into harness,” said Mrs.
Winstanley, who had gradually been gaining lost influence. He had called
to consult her upon some parochial question and the talk had turned upon
Yvonne. The Canon bit his lip. He had fallen into the habit of making
confidences and regretting them a moment afterwards.

“You do Yvonne injustice.”

“I did once, I grant,” she replied; “but now, as you see, I am pleading
for her.”

“Yvonne needs no advocate with me,” said the Canon, stiffly.

“She may.”

“What do you mean, Emmeline?”

“If you don’t understand her nature, you may misinterpret her conduct.
You see, Ever-ard, she is young and light-natured--and so, like seeks
like. You may always count upon me to keep things straight outside.”

She had laid her hand upon his arm, and spoke in her quiet,
authoritative voice. Her manner was too dignified to be intrusive. She
was eminently the woman of sense. Her reference was well understood by
him, but being a man accustomed to the broad issues of life, he did not
appreciate the delicate pleasure such a conversation afforded her.

On this occasion, he went from her house straight to the Rectory, and in
the drawingroom found young Evan Wilmington bidding good-bye to Yvonne.
Her sunniest smile rested on the young fellow; when the door shut upon
him, the after-glow of amusement was still upon her face. The Canon felt
an absurd pang of jealousy. Such had not been infrequent of late, since
he had abandoned his scheme of reorganisation. In fact, as Yvonne had
fallen from his conjugal ideal--the woman who, as an impeccable consort
and mother of children was to lend added dignity to his days--his
feelings as regards her had been growing more helplessly human. His
conception of the dove-like innocence of her nature had suffered no
change. Her pure voice had ever been to him the speech of a purer soul.
It was no vulgar jealousy that pained him; but jealousy it was, all the
same.

He went to her and put his hands against her cheeks and held up her
face.

“Don’t smile too much on young Evan,” he said. “It is not good for him.
I want all your best smiles for myself, sweetheart.”

“He has been making me laugh,” said Yvonne.

“And I cannot?”

“He is a silly boy and you are the venerable Canon Chisely.”

“That’s it,” he said, rather bitterly, releasing her.

Her expression changed. She caught him, as he was turning away, by the
lapels of his coat.

“Are you serious, Everard? You are! Forgive me if I have hurt you.
I can’t bear to do it. Do you wish me to see less of Mr.
Wilmington--really?”

Looking into her eyes he felt ashamed of his pettiness.

“See your friends as much as you like, my child,” he sud, with a
revulsion of feeling.

The matter was settled for the time being, but thenceforward the even
tenor of their life was disturbed occasionally by such outbursts. Once
he grew angry. “You have the same smile for any man who speaks to you,
Yvonne.” She replied with gentle logic, “That ought to prove that I like
all equally.”

“Your husband included.”

She turned away wounded. “You have no right to say that.”

“Then what have I a right to say, Yvonne?”

“Anything,” she cried, facing him with brightening eyes, “anything
except that I do not try with all my heart and soul to be a good wife to
you.”

This time it was he who said “Forgive me.” Unconsciously her
influence grew upon him in his lighter moods, as he excluded her from
participation in his serious concerns. To win from her a flash other
than dutiful he would humour any caprice. Yvonne was too shrewd not to
perceive this. His tenderness touched her, saddened her a little. On her
birthday he gave her a pair of tiny ponies and a diminutive phaeton--a
perfect turn-out. He lived for a week on the delight in her face when
they were brought round (an absolute surprise) to the front door. Yet
that evening she said, with her little air of seriousness, after she had
been meditating for some time in silence, with puckered brow:--

“I wonder if I am quite such a child as you think me, Everard. I should
like something to happen to show you that I am a woman.”

“Don’t say that, dear,” he replied, contentedly, holding up his glass
of port to the light and peering into it--he was a specialist in
ports--“such a chance would probably be some calamity.”

Yvonne was not alone in noting the true inwardness of the Canon’s course
of action. Mrs. Winstanley did so, to her own chagrin. The ponies were
as distasteful to her as the beast of the Apocalypse. She was with Lady
Santyre, in the latter’s barouche, when she first saw them. Yvonne,
aglow with the effort of driving, was sending them down the Fulminster
Road at a rattling pace. She nodded brightly as she passed, pointing to
the ponies with her whip.

“How fond the dear Canon is of that little woman,” said Lady Santyre,
her thin lips closing as if on an acidulated drop.

“Psha!” said Mrs. Winstanley, with one of her rare exhibitions of
temper. “If he were a few years older, it would be senile infatuation!
She is beginning to curl him round her finger.”

But there was one subject near to Yvonne’s heart on which the Canon
was inflexible--Joyce. Often Yvonne had sought to soften him toward the
black sheep, but in his gentlest moods the mention of his cousin’s name
turned him to adamant. He even resented Yvonne’s helpful friendship
before her marriage. On the afternoon that he had passed Joyce on the
stairs, he had spoken as strongly to Yvonne as good taste permitted.
Now that he had authority over her, he forbade her to hold further
communication with the man who had disgraced his name. Finally she
abandoned her attempts at conciliation, but pity prevailing over wifely
obedience, she kept up her correspondence with Joyce, unknown to the
Canon. That is to say, she wrote cheery, gossipy letters now and then to
the address she had received from Cape Town, trusting to luck for their
ultimate delivery, but receiving very few in return, for Joyce had often
not the heart to write.

She was reading, one day, his last letter, many pages closely filled.
It had come that morning, under Miss Vicary’s cover, according to her
request. The envelope lay on the table in the centre of the room;
but she had taken the letter to the broad, cushioned window-seat, her
favourite place in summer, where she could see the old abbey, and enjoy
the scent of the mignonette and syringa from the beds below. It was the
quiet afternoon hour, before tea, when she generally read or idled or
sang to herself. She was at peace with all the world, and her heart was
full of pity for Joyce.

Yet it was the most hopeful of the four letters she had received from
him. The previous ones had told of struggles and privations innumerable;
the aimless tramp from one town to another in the search for more than
starvation wages; the hopeless attempts to live in mining camps, where
unskilled labour was a drug in the market; sickness, and the dwindling
of his little capital. This one took up the tale broken off some months
before. Noakes and himself had left the mines, had wandered, sometimes
alone, sometimes with other adventurers, into Bechuanaland, where he had
purchased with his last remaining pounds a share in a small farm. It
was a haven of rest. But the country was unhealthy. The work was hard.
Noakes lay ill in bed; medical advice was a hundred and fifty miles
away. To cheer the invalid, he had schemed out a novel on the life they
had recently passed through, and was writing it at nights for Noakes
to read during the day. He was writing it on a bundle of yellow
package-paper which had remained over from the stock of a small “store”
 once run by the chief owner of the farm.

He spoke of the comfort of her letters. Four of them had just come to
his hands at once. He had read them aloud to Noakes, who was even more
friendless than himself. Yvonne’s heart was touched at the thought
of the poor man who never got a letter, and had to extract vicarious
comfort from his friend’s. She knew him quite well through Joyce’s
description, and loved him for the quaint lovableness that appeared in
the narrative of their joint fortunes.

“He shall have a letter all to himself,” said Yvonne aloud; and she rose
to put her idea into execution.

But just as she was bringing her writing materials to the window-seat,
which was strewn with the sheets of Joyce’s letter, the Canon came into
the room.

“Can you give me some tea quickly, dear?” he said, ringing the bell. “I
am called away to Bickerton.”

He sank into a chair with a sigh of relief. It had been a busy day and
the weather was hot.

“Would you like me to drive you over?” asked Yvonne.

“Dearly,” said the Canon. He leaned back, and stretched out his hand in
a gesture of contented invitation.

“It won’t be taking you from your correspondence? You seem up to your
eyes in it.”

“Oh, it can wait,” said Yvonne, smiling down upon him as he held her
hand.

Soon the servant brought the tea, and Yvonne established herself over
the tea-cups. The Canon, whilst waiting, glanced idly at the books
and odds and ends on the table by his side. Suddenly he uttered an
exclamation of surprise. He had become aware of the foreign envelope,
with the Cape Colony stamp and its address to “Mrs. Chisely, care of
Miss Vicary.” He also recognised Joyce’s handwriting which happened to
be singularly striking in character. His brow grew dark.

“What is the meaning of this, Yvonne?”

“A letter from Stephen,” she replied with a sudden qualm.

“And sent to you clandestinely. You have been corresponding with him
secretly in defiance of my express desire. How dared you do it?”

He spoke in harsh tones, bending upon her all the hardness of a
stern face. She had never seen him angered like this before. She was
frightened, but she steadied herself and looked him in the face.

“I couldn’t help it, Everard,” she said, gently. “The poor fellow
regards me as his only friend. I was forced to disobey you.”

“That poor fellow has been guilty of mean robbery. He has herded with
ruffians in a common gaol. He has dragged an old honoured name through
the mire. For a man like that--once a knave always a knave. I don’t
choose to have my wife keeping up friendly relations with an outcast
member of my family. I am deeply offended with you--I pass over the
underhand nature of the correspondence, which in itself deserves
reprobation.”

“I believe in Stephen,” replied Yvonne, growing very white. “He has been
punished a thousand times over. He will live an honourable man to the
end of his life. And if you read how he speaks of the few silly letters
I have written him--his joy and gratitude--you would not wish to deprive
him of them.”

“Do you mean to say that you are deliberately setting yourself in
opposition to my wishes, Yvonne?” asked the Canon in angry surprise.

Yvonne was in great distress. She could not defy him openly, and yet
she knew that no power on earth would prevent her from doing Joyce her
little deeds of mercy.

She looked at him piteously for a moment, and then sank by his chair and
clasped his knees. “I can’t do what you want, Everard,” she cried. “We
were such friends in days past--And when I met him again, he looked so
broken and lonely--I could n’t in my heart let him go--and having given
him my friendship, I can’t be so cruel as to take it from him now. I
can’t feel what you do about the disgrace. I haven’t the capacity
perhaps. And I promised his dead mother to be kind to him. I did indeed.
“I can’t do what you want, Everard,” she cried. “We were such friends in
days past--And when I met him again, he looked so broken and lonely--I
could n’t in my heart let him go--and having given him my friendship, I
can’t be so cruel as to take it from him now. I can’t feel what you do
about the disgrace. I haven’t the capacity perhaps. And I promised his
dead mother to be kind to him. I did indeed, Everard, friendship, I can’t
be so cruel as to take it from him now. I can’t feel what you do about
the disgrace. I haven’t the capacity perhaps. And I promised his dead
mother to be kind to him. I did indeed. “I can’t do what you want,
Everard,” she cried. “We were such friends in days past--And when I met
him again, he looked so broken and lonely--I could n’t in my heart let
him go--and having given him my friendship, I can’t be so cruel as to
take it from him now. I can’t feel what you do about the disgrace. I
haven’t the capacity perhaps. And I promised his dead mother to be kind
to him. I did indeed, Everard--and a promise like that I must keep.”

He put her not unkindly from him and, rising to his feet, took two or
three turns about the room. Stopping, he said:--

“Why did you not tell me of this promise before?”

“I was afraid to vex you,” said Yvonne.

“You have vexed me much more by deceiving me,” he replied.

But there the matter had to end. He could not bid her break her word,
nor would he allow himself to yield to a tempting sophistry that women’s
ante-nuptial promises were annulled by marriage. To regain his good
graces, however, Yvonne pledged herself never to intercede with him on
Joyce’s behalf in the future--in fact to preserve an absolute silence
concerning the black sheep and his doings.

This settled, she drove him over to Bicker-ton in her pony carriage. And
the even tenor of her life went on.

*****

It was many weeks before the letters arrived at the farm in South
Africa. The monthly ox-waggons that came from the nearest post-town
brought them, together with the usual load of form and household
requisites, tinned provisions, and liquors. Day after day, Joyce had
stood by the prickly-pear hedge on the rise behind the house, looking
over the dreary plain, in wistful watch for the specks on the horizon
that alone connected him with civilisation. They arrived at night--a
blustering August night, with frost in the air, and a cloudless sky
in which the Southern Cross gleamed. Before waiting to help unload and
outspan the teams, he rushed into the house with the meagre post-bundle.
It contained a few colonial newspapers, some letters for Wilson, the
farmer who was away, and the two letters from Fulminster. The rough
table, on which he sorted them by the light of a flaring chimneyless
lamp, was drawn up to the bedside of Noakes.

“One for you, old man,” said Joyce.

“For me?”

Noakes stretched out his thin arm eagerly, and clutched the undreamed of
prize.

“From Yvonne. It’s to cheer you up, old chap, I expect. It’s just like
her, you know.”.

Joyce ran through his letter rapidly and went out to superintend the
unloading. But Noakes, who was past work, remained in bed and pored over
Yvonne’s simple lines till the tears came into his eyes.

When all was settled, the stores taken in, the teams secured, the
natives who had driven them established in the huts, and finally the
Englishman in charge provided with food and whisky and sent to sleep,
Joyce sat down by his friend’s side and gave himself up to the greatest
pleasure his life then held. The wind howled outside, and the draught
swept in through the cracks on the doors, and the ill-fitting windows,
and up the rude chimney beneath which a fire was smouldering. Noakes
coughed incessantly. The atmosphere was tainted with the smell of the
lamp, the thin smoke from the fuel, the piles of sacking and mealy-bags
that lay in corners of the room, and the strips of bultong or dried beef
hanging in the gloom of the rafters. The room itself, occupying nearly
the whole area of the ground-floor of the rudely built wooden house, was
cheerless in aspect. The table, two or three wooden chairs, some shelves
holding cooking utensils and odds and ends of crockery, a litter of
stores and boxes, a frameless dirty oleograph of the bubble-blowing boy,
a churchman’s almanac, two years old, against the wall, and Noakes’s
sack bed--that was all the room contained. In a corner was a ladder
leading to the loft, where Joyce and the farmer slept, and whence now
came the muffled sounds of the snoring of the English driver. But for a
few moments Joyce forgot the cheerless surroundings.

He sat late with Noakes, reading the letters aloud and talking of
Yvonne. At last, after a short silence, Noakes rased himself on his
elbow and gazed earnestly at his friend. He was very gaunt and wasted--

“That’s the only tender thing a woman has ever done for me,” he said.
“No,” he added in reply to Joyce’s questioning look, “my wife was never
tender. God knows why she married me.”

“We ’ll make our fortunes and go back, and you shall know her,” said
Joyce.

“No. I shall never go back. I shall never get half a mile beyond this
door again.”

“Nonsense,” said Joyce. “You ’ll pull round when the spring comes.”

“I have performed my allotted task. It was a severe portion and it has
finished me off.”

“Look here, old man,” cried Joyce, “for God’s sake don’t talk like that.
I can’t live in this accursed place by myself. You’ve been broken down
by our hard times--but you ’ll get over it all, with this long rest.”

“I am going to a longer one, Joyce. I don’t mind going, you know. And
then you ’ll be free of me. I am but a cumberer of the ground--I am of no
use--I never have been of any use--I have been carrying water in a sieve
all my life.”

He began to cough. Joyce put his arm around him for support, and tended
him gently.

“You have a lot to do, old man,” he said soon after. “The foolscap
has come, and a great jar of ink, and you can start copying out the
manuscript to-morrow.”

“Ah yes, I can do that,” said Noakes.

“Now go to sleep. I ’ll sit by you, if you like,” said Joyce.

He moved the lamp to a ledge behind Noakes’s head, and sat down near by,
with the budget of newspapers. Noakes composed himself to sleep. At last
he spoke, without turning round.

“Joyce.”

“Yes, old man.”

“Make me a promise.”

“Willingly.”

“Bury that dear lady’s letter with me.”

“Will it make you happy to promise?”

“Yes.”

“Then I promise,” said Joyce, humouring him. “Now I’m not going to talk
to you any more.”

A few minutes later, his breathing told Joyce that he slept. The
newspapers fell from Joyce’s hand, and he put his elbows on his knees
and crouched over the smouldering logs. Noakes spoke truly. There was
little chance of recovery. He would be left alone again soon. It would
be very comfortless. The poor wreck who was dragging out his last days
upon that wretched bed had been an unspeakable solace to him. Without
his womanlike devotion he would have died of fever six months back on
the Arato goldfield. Without the influence of his calm fatalism, he
would have given up heart long ago. Without his steadfast purity of
soul, he would have gone recklessly to the devil. The thought of losing
him was a great pang.

He himself, too, was far from strong. The climate, the hard manual
labour for which he was physically unfit were telling upon him heavily.
He yearned for home, for civilised life, for the lost heritage of
honour. Yvonne’s letter, telling of the little commonplaces of the lost
sweet life of decent living, had revived the ever dormant longing. He
began to dream of her, of that last day he had seen her, of her voice
singing Gounod’s serenade.

It was difficult to picture her as married to his cousin Everard, whom,
in the days of his vanity, he had despised as a prig and now dreaded as
a scornful benefactor. It was a strange mating. And yet she seemed happy
and unchanged.

The wind blustered outside. The cold draught whistled through the room.
Joyce rose to his feet with a shiver, went to a corner for a couple of
sacks, which he threw over the sleeping man, and, after having wistfully
read Yvonne’s letter once more, ascended the ladder to the loft, where
the shapeless mattress of dried grass and sacking awaited him.



CHAPTER XII--HISTOIRE DE REVENANT

Ostend is a magnificent white Kursaal on the Belgian coast. Certain
requisites are attached to it in the way of great hotels and villas
along a tiled _digue_, and innumerable bathing-machines on the sands
below. There is an old town, it is true, somewhere behind it, with
quaint narrow streets, a Place d’Armes dotted round with cafés, and
a’ thronged market-square; there is also a bustling port and a fishing
population. But the Ostend of practical life begins and ends at the
Kursaal. Were it to perish during a night, the following day would see
the exodus of twenty thousand visitors. The vast glass rotunda can hold
thousands. Within its precincts you can do anything in reason and out of
reason. You can knit all day long like Penelope, or you can go among
the Sirens with or without the precautions of Ulysses. You can consume
anything from a biscuit to a ten-course dinner. You can play dominoes at
centime points or roulette with a forty-franc minimum. You can listen to
music, you can dance, you can go to sleep. You can write letters, send
telegrams, and open a savings-bank account. By moving to one side or the
other of a glass screen you can sit in the warm sunshine or in the keen
sea wind. You can study the fashions of Europe from St. Petersburg to
Dublin, and if you are a woman, you can wear the most sumptuous garments
Providence has deigned to bestow on you. And lastly, if you are looking
for a place where you will be sure to find the very last person in the
world you desire to see, you will meet with every success at the Kursaal
of Ostend.

Such was Mrs. Winstanley’s passing thought one day. She was there with
Sophia and Evan Wilmington. It was always a great pleasure, she used
to say, to have young people about her; and very naturally, since young
people can be particularly useful in strange places to a middle-aged
lady. The brother and sister fetched and carried for her all day long,
which was very nice and suitable, and Mrs. Winstanley was in her
most affable mood. On the day in question, however, she saw, to her
astonishment and annoyance, Canon Chisely and Yvonne making their way
towards her through the crowded lines of tables.

“Good gracious, Everard!” she said as they came up. “How did you find
your way here? I thought you were going to Switzerland.”

“So we are,” replied the Canon. “We have broken our journey. And as for
getting here, we took the boat from Dover and then walked.”

“The frivolity of the place is infecting you already, Canon,” cried
Sophia, with a laugh. “I hope you are going to stay a long time.”

“Oh, not too long,” said Yvonne. “It wouldn’t be fair to the Canon, who
needs some mountain air. This is just a little treat all for me.”

She glanced at him affectionately as she spoke. It was good of him to
tarry for her sake in this Vanity Fair of a place.

“We were going by Calais, as you know,” said the Canon, explanatively
to Mrs. Win-stanley. “We only changed our minds a day or two ago--we
thought it would be a little surprise for you.”

“Of course it is--a delightful one--to see dear Yvonne and yourself.
Where are you staying?”

“At the Océan,” said the Canon, “and you must all come and dine with us
this evening.”

“And will you come to the _bal_ here afterward?” asked Sophia. “Evan has
run across some college friends--or won’t you think it proper?”

“I am going to wear the whole suit of motley while I am here,” replied
the Canon gaily.

He kept his word, not being a man of half measures. No check should be
placed on Yvonne’s enjoyment She had been moping, as far as Yvonne could
mope, during the latter dullness of Fulminster; now she expanded like a
flower to the gaiety around her. The Canon found an aesthetic pleasure
in watching her happiness. Her expressions of thanks too were charmingly
conveyed. Since that unfortunate attempt on his part, over a twelvemonth
back, to instruct her in the responsibilities of her position, she had
never exhibited toward him such spontaneous feeling. He let her smile
upon whom she would, without a twinge of jealousy.

Yvonne enjoyed herself hugely. She danced and jested with the young men;
she chattered in French to her table d’hôte neighbours, delighted to
speak her mother’s tongue again; she staked two-franc pieces on the
public table, and one afternoon came out of the gaming-room into the
great hall where the Canon was sitting with Mrs. Winstanley, and poured
a great mass of silver on to the table--as much as her two small hands
joined could carry.

“I thought gambling was against your principles, Everard,” said Mrs.
Winstanley, after Yvonne had gone again.

“I am sacrificing them for my wife’s happiness, Emmeline,” he replied,
with a touch of irony.

“Yes, it would be a pity to spoil her pleasure. She is such a child.”

“I wish we all had something of her nature,” said the Canon.

Mrs. Winstanley noted the snub. She was treasuring up many resentments
against Yvonne. In her heart she considered herself a long-suffering
woman.

“You seem to enjoy it too, Everard,” said Yvonne to him that evening.
They were sitting near the entrance watching the smartly-dressed people.
“And I am so glad to be alone with you.”

He was pleased, smiled at her, and throwing off his dignity, entered
into the frivolous spirit of the place. Yvonne forgot the restraint she
had always put upon her tongue when talking to him. She chattered about
everything, holding her face near him, so as to be heard through the
hubbub of thousands of voices, the eternal shuffling of passing feet,
and the crash of the orchestra in the far gallery.

“It is a _Revue des Deux Mondes,_” she said, looking rapidly around
her, with bright eyes.

“How?” asked the Canon.

“The _beau_ and the _demi_,” she replied, wickedly. She shook his knee.
“Oh, do look at that woman! what does she think a man can see in her!”

“Powder,” answered the Canon. “She has been using her puff too freely.”

“She has been putting it on with a _muff_,” cried Yvonne.

He laughed. Yvonne had such a triumphant air in delivering herself of
little witticisms.

A magnificently dressed woman, in a great feathered hat and low-dress,
with diamonds gleaming at her neck, passed by. “You are right, I fear,
about the two worlds,” said the Canon.

“Are n’t there crowds of them? I like to look at them because they wear
such beautiful things. And they fit so. And then to rub shoulders with
them makes one feel so delightfully wicked. You know, I knew a girl
once--she went in for that life of her own accord and she was awfully
happy. Really. Is n’t it odd?”

“My dear Yvonne!” said the Canon, somewhat shocked, “I sincerely trust
you did not continue the acquaintance, afterwards.”

“Oh, no,” she replied, sagely. “It would not have done for me at all.
A lone woman can’t be too careful. But I used to hear about her from my
dressmaker.”

Her point of view was not exactly the Canon’s. But further discussion
was stopped by the arrival of the Wilmingtons, who carried off Yvonne
to the dancing-room. The Canon, drawing the line at his own appearance
there, strolled back contentedly to the hotel to finish the evening over
a book.

Two mornings afterwards Yvonne was walking by herself along the _digue_.
They were to leave for Switzerland the next day, and she determined to
make the most of her remaining time. Sophia Wilmington, for whom she
had called, had already gone out. The Canon, who was engaged over his
correspondence, she was to meet later at the Kursaal. It was a lovely
morning. The line of white hotels, with their al fresco breakfast tables
spread temptingly on the terraces, gleamed in the sun. The _digue_ was
bright with summer dresses. The sands below alive with tennis players,
children making sand-castles, and loungers, and bathers, and horses
moving among the bathing-machines. Yvonne tripped along with careless
tread. Her heart was in harmony with the brightness and movement and
the glint of the sun on the sea. Once a man, meeting her smiling glance,
hesitated as if to speak to her, but seeing that the smile was addressed
to the happy world in general, he passed on his way. It was easy to
kill time. She went down the Rue Flammande and looked at the shops. The
jewelry and the models of Paris dresses delighted her. The display
of sweets at Nopenny’s allured her within. When she returned to the
_digue_, it was time to seek the Canon at the Kursaal.

The liveried attendants lifted their hats as she ran up the steps and
passed the barrier. She gave them a smiling “_bonjour_.” Neither the
Canon nor any of the friends being visible on the verandah, she entered
the great hall, where the morning instrumental concert was going on.
She scanned the talking, laughing crowd as she passed through. Many eyes
followed her. For Yvonne, when happy, was sweet to look upon. She was
turning back to retrace her steps, when, suddenly, a man started up from
a group of three who were playing cards and drinking absinthe at a small
table, and placed himself before her.

“_Tiens! c’est Yvonne!_”

She stared at him with dilated eyes and parted lips and uttered a little
gasping cry. Seeing her grow deadly white and thinking she was going to
faint, the man put out his arm. But Yvonne was mistress of herself.

“_Allons d’ici_,” she whispered, turning a terrified glance around.

The man raised his hat to his companions and signed to her to come. He
was a handsome, careless, dissipated-looking fellow, with curly hair and
a twirled black moustache; short and slightly made. He wore a Tyrolese
hat and a very low turned-down collar and a great silk bow outside
his waistcoat. There was a devil-may-care charm in his swagger as
he walked--also an indefinable touch of vulgarity; the type of the
_cabotin_ in easy circumstances.

Yvonne, more dead than alive, followed him through the deserted _salle
des jeux_ on to the quiet bit of verandah, and sank into a chair that he
offered. She looked at him, still white to the lips.

“You?”

“Yes,” he said laughingly, “why not? It is not astonishing.”

“But I thought you dead!” gasped Yvonne, trembling.

“_A la bonne heure!_ And I seem a ghost. Oh, I am solid. Pinch me. But
how did you come to learn? Ah! I remember it was given out in Paris. A
_canard_. It was in the hospital--paralysis, _ma chère_. See, I can only
just move my arm now. _Cétait la verte, cette sacrée verte--_”

“Absinthe?” asked Yvonne, almost mechanically.

He nodded, went through the motions of preparing the drink, and laughed.

“I had a touch lately,” he went on. “That was the second. The third I
shall be _prrrt--flambé!_ They tell me to give it up. Never in life.”

“But if it will kill you?”

“Bah. What do I care? When one lives, one amuses oneself. And I have
well amused myself, eh, Yvonne? For the rest, _je m’en fiche!_”

He went on talking with airy cynicism. To Yvonne it seemed some horrible
dream. The husband she had looked upon as dead was before her, gay,
mocking, just as she had known him of old. And he greeted her after all
these years with the-same lightness as he had bidden her farewell.

“_Et toi, Yvonne?_” said he at length. “_Ça roule toujours?_ You
look as if you were brewing money. Ravishing costume. _Crépon_--not
twenty-five centimes a yard! A hat that looks like the Rue de la Paix!
_Gants de reine et petites bottines de duchesse!_ You must be doing
golden business. But speak, _petite_, since I assure you I am not a
ghost!”

Yvonne forced a faint smile. She tried to answer him, but her heart was
thumping violently and a lump rose in her throat.

“I am doing very well, Amédée,” she said. The dreadfulness of her
position came over her. She felt sick and faint. What was going to
happen? For some moments she did not hear him as he spoke. At last
perception returned.

“And you are pretty,” Amédée Bazouge was saying. “_Mais jolie à
croquer_--prettier than you ever were. And I--I am going down the hill
at the gallop. _Tiens_, Yvonne. Let us celebrate this meeting. Come and
see me safe to the bottom. It won’t be long. I have money. I am always
_bon enfant._ Let us remarry. From to-day. _Ce serait rigolo!_ And I
will love you--_mais énormément!_”

“But I am already married!” cried Yvonne.

“Thinking me dead?”

“Yes.”

He looked at her for a few seconds, then slapped his thigh and, rising
from his chair, bent himself double and gave vent to a roar of laughter.
The tears stood in Yvonne’s eyes.

“Oh, but it’s comic. You don’t find it so?”

He leant back against the railings and laughed again in genuine
merriment.

“Why, it’s all the more reason to come back to me. _Ça y met du salé_.
Have you any children?”

Yvonne shook her head.

“_Eh bien!_” he exclaimed, triumphantly, stepping towards her with
outstretched hands. But she shrank from him, outraged and bewildered.

“Never, never!” she cried. “Go away. Have pity on me, for God’s sake!”

Amédée Bazouge shrugged his shoulders carelessly.

“It’s a comedy, not a tragedy, _ma chère_. If you are happy, I am not
going to be a spoilsport. It is not my way. Be tranquil with your good
fat Englishman--I bet he’s an Englishman--In two years--bah! I can amuse
myself always till then--my poor little Yvonne. No wonder I frightened
you.”

The affair seemed to cause him intense amusement. A ray of light
appeared to Yvonne.

“You won’t interfere with me at all, Amédée--not claim anything?”

“Oh, don’t be afraid. _Dès ce moment je vais me reflanquer au sapin!_ I
shall be as dead as dead can be for you. _Suis pas mechantt va!_”

“Thank you,” said Yvonne. “You were always kind-hearted, Amédée--oh,
it was a horrible mistake--it can’t be altered. You see that I am
helpless.”

“Why, my child,” said he, seating himself again, “I keep on telling you
it is a farce--like all the rest of life. I only laugh. And now let us
talk a little before I pop into the coffin again. What is the name of
the thrice happy being?”

“Oh, don’t ask me, I beg you,” said Yvonne shivering. “It is all
so painful. Tell me about yourself--your voice--Is it still in good
condition?”

“Never better. I am singing here this afternoon.”

“In the Kursaal?”

“Why, yes. That’s why I am here. Oh, _ca marche--pas encore paralysée,
celle-là_. Come and hear me. _Et ton petit organe à toi?_”

“I am out of practice. I have given up the profession.”

“Ah, it’s a pity. You had such an exquisite little voice. I regretted
it after we parted. Two or three times it nearly brought me back to
you--_foi d’artiste!_”

“I think I must go,” said Yvonne after a litde. “I am leaving Ostend
to-morrow and I shall not see you again. You don’t think I am treating
you unkindly, Amédée?”

He laughed in his bantering way and lit a cigarette.

“On the contrary, _cher ange_. It is very good of you to talk to a poor
ghost. And you look so pathetic, like a poor little saint with its harp
out of tune.”

She rose, anxious to leave him and escape into solitude, where she could
think. She still trembled with agitation. In the little cool park, on
the other side of the square below, she could be by herself. She dreaded
meeting the Canon yet awhile.

“Do give up that vile absinthe,” she said, as a parting softness.

“It is the only consoler that remains to me--sad widower.”

“Well, good-bye, Amédée.”

“Ah--not yet. Since you are the wife of somebody else, I am dying to
make love to you.”

He held her by the wrist, laughing at her. But at that moment Yvonne
caught sight of the Canon and Mrs. Winstanley, entering upon the
terrace. She wrenched her arm away.

“There is my husband.”

“_Nom de Dieu!_” cried Bazouge, stifling a guffaw before the austere
decorum of the English churchman. “_Ça?_ Oh, my poor Yvonne!” She shook
hands rapidly with him and turned away. He bowed gracefully, including
the new-comers in his salute. The Canon responded severely. Mrs.
Winstanley stared at him through her tortoise-shell lorgnette.

“We have been looking all over the place for you,” said the Canon,
as they passed through the window into the _salle des jeux_, leaving
Bazouge in the corner of the verandah.

“I’m sorry,” said Yvonne penitently.

“And who was that rakish-looking little Frenchman you were talking to?”

“An old friend--I used to know him,” said Yvonne, struggling with her
agitation. “A friend of my first husband--I had to speak to him--we went
there to be quiet. I could n’t help it, Everard, really I could n’t.”

“My dear child,” sud the Canon, kindly, “I was not scolding you--though
he did look rather undesirable.”

“I suppose you had to mix with all kinds of odd Bohemian people in your
professional days?” said Mrs. Winstanley.

“Of course,” faltered Yvonne.

They went through the great hall. At the door they parted with Mrs.
Winstanley, who was waiting for the Wilmingtons. “We will call for you
on our way to the concert this afternoon,” said the Canon.

“Thanks,” said Mrs. Winstanley, and then, suddenly looking at Yvonne--

“Mercy, my dear! How white you are!”

“There’s nothing the matter with me,” said Yvonne, trying to smile.

“It’s past our _déjeuner_ hour,” said the Canon, briskly. “You want some
food.”

“Perhaps I do,” said Yvonne.

She went with the Canon on to the _digue_, and walked along the shady
side, by the hotels, past the gay terraces thronged with lunching
guests. But all the glamour had gone from the place. An hour had changed
it. And that hour seemed a black abyss separating her from happiness.

An hour ago she had looked upon this kind, grave man who walked by
her side as her husband. Now what was he to her? She shrank from the
thought, terrified, and came nearer to him, touching the flying skirt of
his coat as if to take strength from him.

They entered the crowded dining-room, where the _maître d’hotel_ had
reserved them a table. She struggled bravely through part of the meal,
strove to keep up a conversation. But the strain was too great. Another
five minutes, she felt, would make her hysterical. She rose, with an
excuse to the Canon, and escaped to her room.

There she flung herself down on the bed and buried her face in the cool
pillows. It was a relief to be alone with her fright and dismay. She
strove to think, but her head was in a whirl. The incidents of the late
scene came luridly before her mind, and she shivered with revulsion. A
rough hand had been laid on the butterfly and brushed the dust from its
wings.

The Canon came later to her room, kindly solicitous. Was she ill? Would
she like to see a medical man? Should he sit with her? She clasped his
hand impulsively and kissed it.

“You are too good to me. I am not worth it. I am not ill. It was the
sun, I think. Let me lie down this afternoon by myself and I shall be
better.”

Surprised and touched by her action, he bent down and kissed her.

“My poor little wife.”

He stepped to the window and pulled the curtain to shield her eyes from
the glare, and promising to order some tea to be brought up later, he
went out.

The kiss, the term, and the little act of thoughtfulness comforted her,
gave her a sense of protection. She had been so bruised and frightened.
Now she could think a litde. Should she tell Everard? Then she broke
down again and began to cry silently in a great soothing pity for
herself.

“It would only make him unhappy,” she moaned. “Why should I tell him?”

She grew calmer. If Amédée would only keep his promise and leave her
free, there was really nothing to fret about. She reassured herself with
his words. Through all his failings toward her he had ever been “_bon
enfant_.” There was no danger.

Suddenly a thought came that made her spring from her bed in dismay. The
concert. She had forgotten that Amédée was singing there. Everard was
going. He would see the name on the programme, “Amédée Bazouge.” There
could not be two tenors of that name in Europe. Everard must be kept
away at all costs.

She rushed from the room and down the stairs, in terrible anxiety lest
he should have already left the hotel. To her intense relief, she saw
him sitting in one of the cane chairs in the vestibule smoking his
after-lunch cigar. He threw it away as he caught sight of her at the
head of the stairs, breathless, and holding the balusters, and went up
to meet her.

“My poor child,” said he in an anxious tone. “What is the matter?”

“Oh, Everard--I don’t want any more to be left alone. Don’t think me
silly and cowardly. I am afraid of all kinds of things.”

“Of course I ’ll come and sit with you a little,” he replied kindly.

They entered her room together. Yvonne lay down. Her head was splitting
with nervous headache. The Canon tended her in his grave way and
sat down by the window with a book. Yvonne felt very guilty, but yet
comforted by his presence. At the end of an hour, he looked at his watch
and rose from his seat.

“Are you easier now?”

“You are not going to the Kursaal, Everard?”

“I am afraid Emmeline is expecting me.” She signed to him to approach,
and put her arms round his neck.

“Don’t go. Send her an excuse--and take me for a drive. It would do me
good, and I should so love to be alone with you.”

It was the very first time in her life that Yvonne had consciously
cajoled a man. Her face flushed hot with misgivings. It was with a
mixture of her sex’s shame and triumph that she heard him say.

“Whatever you like, dear. It is still your holiday.”



CHAPTER XIII--Dis Aliter Visum

But the best laid schemes of Yvonnes and men often come to nothing.
While she was devising, on her drive along the coast, a plan for
spending a quiet dangerless evening at the hotel, Mrs. Winstanley was
sitting in solitary dignity at the concert, nursing her wrath over
Professor Drummond’s “Natural Law in the Spiritual world,” a book which
she often perused when she wished to accentuate the rigorous attitude of
her mind.

Yvonne had reckoned without Mrs. Winstanley. Otherwise she would have
offered her a seat in the carriage. As it was, Mrs. Winstanley felt
more resentful than ever. Under the impression that the Canon was to
accompany her to the Kursaal, she had graciously dispensed with the
escort of the Wil-mingtons, who had gone off to see bicycle races at the
Vélodrome. She was left in die lurch.

To dislike this is human. To wrap oneself up in one’s sore dignity is
more human still, and there was much humanity that lurked, unsuspected
by herself, in Mrs. Winstanley’s bosom. It asserted itself, further,
in certain curiosities. She had seen that morning what had escaped the
Canon’s notice--the stranger’s grasp on Yvonne’s arm and the insolent
admiration on his face. This fact, coupled with Yvonne’s agitation, had
put her upon the track of scandal. The result was, that at the concert
she made interesting discoveries, and, piecing things together in her
mind afterwards, bided her time to make use of them.

It would be for the Canon’s sake, naturally. A woman of Mrs.
Winstanley’s stamp is always the most disinterested of God’s creatures.
She never performed an action of which her conscience did not approve.
But she was such a superior woman that her conscience trembled a little
before her, like most of the other friends whom she patronised. She did
not have to wait long. The Canon called upon her soon after his return
to invite herself and the Wil-mingtons to dinner. It was his last
evening at Ostend, and Yvonne was not feeling well enough to spend it,
as usual, at the Kursaal.

“Yvonne is still poorly, Everard?” she asked, with her air of
confidential responsibility.

“A little. She has been gadding about somewhat too much lately, and it
has knocked her up.”

“Has it not occurred to you that her encounter this morning may have had
something to do with it?”

“Of course not,” replied the Canon, sharply. “It would be ridiculous.”

“I have reasons for not thinking so, Everard. The man was singing at the
Kursaal this afternoon. Here is his name on the programme.” She
handed him the slip of paper. He read the name among the artistes. “M.
Bazouge.” He returned it to her.

“Well?”

“Does it not seem odd to you?”

“Not at all. A relation of her first husband’s, I suppose. In fact
Yvonne said as much.”

“I could not help being struck by the name, Everard. It is so peculiar.
I remembered it from the publication of the banns.”

“I compliment you on your memory, Emmeline,” said the Canon.

Mrs. Winstanley drew herself up, offended.

She walked from the window where they were standing to a table, and
fetched from it a newspaper.

“Do you remember the Christian name of Yvonne’s first husband?”

The Canon drew himself up too, and frowned.

“What is the meaning of all this, Emmeline? What are you trying to
insinuate?”

“If I thought you were going to adopt this tone, Everard, I should have
kept my suspicions to myself.”

“I certainly wish that you had,” said he, growing angry. “It is an
insult to Yvonne which I cannot permit. My wife is above suspicion.”

“Like Caesar’s,” said the lady with a curl of the lip. “Do you know that
we are beginning to quarrel, Everard? It is slightly vulgar. I am your
oldest friend, remember, and I am trying to acquit myself of a painful
duty to you.”

“Duty is one of the chief instruments of the devil, if you will excuse
my saying so,” replied the Canon.

“Oh, very well then, Everard,” she said hotly. “You can go on being
a fool as long as you like. I saw your wife struggling in this man’s
embrace, more or less, this morning. Two or three strange coincidences
have been forced upon my notice. For your sake I have been excessively
anxious. My conscience tells me I ought to take you into my confidence,
and I can do no more. You can see the Christian name of this Bazouge
in the Visitors’ List, and adopt what course of action you think fit.
I wash my hands of the whole matter. And I must say that from the very
beginning, two years ago, you have treated me all through with the
greatest want of consideration.”

The Canon did not heed the peroration. He stood with the flimsy sheet
clenched in his hand and regarded her sternly. She shrank a little, for
her soul seemed to be naked.

“You have tried to ferret this out through spite against Yvonne. Whether
the horrible thing you imply is true or not, I shall find it hard to
forgive you.”

Mrs. Winstanley shrugged her shoulders. “In either case, you will come
to your senses, I hope. Meanwhile, considering the present relations, it
might be pleasanter not to meet at dinner to-night.”

“I am sorry to have to agree with you, Emmeline,” said the Canon.

She made him a formal bow and was leaving the room; but his voice
stopped her.

“Your anxiety cannot be very great, or you would wait to learn whether
your suspicions are baseless or not.”

She paused, in a dignified attitude, with her hand on the back of a
chair, while he adjusted his gold pince-nez and ran through the list.

“You are right so far,” he said coldly. “The names are identical.”

They parted at the door. The Canon walked back to his hotel with anger
in his heart. In spite of cumulative evidence, the theory that his
cousin had insinuated was prima facie preposterous. It was important
enough, however, to need some investigation. But the feeling uppermost
in his mind was indignation with Mrs. Winstanley. He was too shrewd a
man not to have perceived long ago her jealousy of Yvonne; but beyond
keeping a watchful eye lest his wife should receive hurt, he had not
condescended to take it into serious consideration. Now, beneath her
impressive manner he clearly divined the desire to inflict on Yvonne
a deadly injury. To have leaped at such a conclusion, to have sought
subsequent proof from the Visitors’ List, argued malicious design. He
could never forgive her.

Still the matter had to be cleared up at once. On his arrival at the
Océan, he went forthwith to Yvonne’s room, and entered on receiving an
acknowledgment of his knock. She was standing in the light of the window
by the toilet table, doing her hair. The rest of the room was in the
shadow of the gathering evening.

“Well,” she said, without turning, “are they coming?”

The grace of her attitude, the intimacy of the scene, the pleasantness
of her greeting, made his task hateful.

“No,” he said, with an asperity directed towards the disinvited guest.
“We shall dine alone to-night.”

But his tone made Yvonne’s heart give a great throb, and she turned to
him quickly.

“Has anything happened?”

“A great deal,” said the Canon.

Where he stood in the dusk of the doorway, the shadow accentuated the
stern lines of his face and deepened the sombreness of his glance. His
brows were bent in perplexities of repugnance. It was horrible to demand
of her such explanations. To Yvonne’s scared fancy, his brows seemed
bent in accusation. That was the pity of it. For a few seconds they
looked at one another, the Canon severely, Yvonne in throbbing suspense.

“What?” she asked at length.

He paused for a moment, then threw his hat and the crumpled Visitors’
List on to the table and plunged into the heart of things--but not
before Yvonne had glanced at the paper with a sudden pang of intuition.

“Emmeline has discovered, Yvonne, that the man--”

He got no further. Yvonne rushed to him with a cry of pain, clung to his
arm, broke into wild words.

“Don’t say any more--don’t--don’t. Spare me--for pity’s sake. I did not
want you to know. I tried to keep it from you, Everard! Don’t look at me
like that?”

Her voice ended in a note of fright. For the Canon’s face had grown
ashen and wore an expression of incredulous horror. He shook her from
him.

“Do you mean that this is true? That you met your first husband this
morning?”

“Yes,” said she, with quivering lips. Question and answer were too
categorical for misunderstanding. For a moment he struggled against the
overwhelming.

“Are you in your right senses, Yvonne? Do you understand what I asked
you? Your first husband is still alive and you saw him to-day?”

“Yes,” said Yvonne again. “Didn’t you know when you came in?”

“I did n’t know,” he repeated almost mechanically.

The blow crushed him for a while. He stood quite rigid, drawing
quick breaths, with his eyes fixed upon her. And she remained still,
half-sitting on the edge of the bed, numb with a vague prescience of
catastrophe, and a dim, uncomprehended intuition of the earthquake and
wreck in the man’s soul. The silence grew appalling. She broke it with a
faltering whisper.

“Will you forgive me?”

The poor little commonplace fell in the midst of devastating
emotions--pathetically incongruous.

“Did you know that this man was alive when you married me?” he asked in
a hard voice.

“No,” cried Yvonne. “How could I have married you? I thought he had been
dead nearly three years.”

“What proofs did you have of his death?”

“A friend sent me a number of the Figaro, with the announcement.”

“Was that all?”

“Yes,” said Yvonne.

“Do you mean to tell me,” he insisted, “that you married a second time,
having no further proofs of your first husband’s death than a mere
newspaper report?”

“It never occurred to me to doubt it,” she replied, opening piteous,
innocent eyes.

The childlike irresponsibility was above his comprehension. Her apparent
insensibility to the most vital concerns of life was another shock to
him. It seemed criminal.

“God forgive you,” he said, “for the wrong you have done me.”

“But I did it unknowingly, Everard,” cried poor Yvonne. “If one has to
get greater proofs, why did you not ask for them, yourself?”

The Canon turned away and paced the room slowly, without replying. At
last he stood still before her.

“Among ordinary honourable people one takes such things for granted,” he
said.

“Forgive me,” she said again, humbly.

But he could find no pity for her in his heart. She had wronged him past
redemption.

“How much truth was there in the newspaper story?” he asked coldly.

She told him rapidly what Amédée Bazouge had said concerning his attack
in the hospital and his subsequent stroke.

“So the man is wilfully killing himself with absinthe?” he said.

“It appears so,” replied Yvonne with a shudder.

“Could you tell me what passed between you otherwise--in general terms?”
 he asked, after a short silence. “You explained your position? Or did
you leave him in ignorance, as you were going to leave me?”

“I told him--of course. It was necessary. And he laughed--I thought to
spare you, Everard.”

“Spare me, Yvonne?”

“Yes,” she said, simply, “I could have borne all the pain and fright
of it alone--why should I have made you unhappy? And _he_ said he would
never interfere with me, and I can trust his word. Why should I have
told you, Everard?”

“Do you actually ask me such a question, honestly?”

“God knows I do,” she replied pitifully.

“And you would have gone on living with me--I not being your husband?”

“But you are my husband,” cried Yvonne, “nothing could ever alter that.”

“But good God! it does alter it,” cried the Canon in a voice of anguish,
breaking the iron bonds he had placed on his passion. “Neither in the
eyes of God nor of man are you my wife. You have no right to bear my
name. After this hour I have no right to enter this room. Every caress
I gave you would be sin. Don’t you understand it, child? Don’t you
understand that this has brought ruin into our lives, the horror of
loneliness and separation?”

“Separation?” said Yvonne.

She rose slowly from her seat on the bed and stared at him aghast.

The twilight in the room deepened; the shadow of a wall opposite the
window fell darker. Their faces and Yvonne’s bare neck and arms gleamed
white in the gloom. They had spoken with many silences; for how long
neither knew.

“Yes,” replied the Canon in his harder tones, recovering himself “It
means all that.”

“I am to go--not to live with you any more?”

“Could you imagine our past relations could continue?”

“I don’t understand,” she began feebly. And then the darkness fell upon
her, and her limbs relaxed. She swayed sideways and would have fallen,
but he caught her in his arms and laid her on the couch.

“Thank you,” she murmured faintly.

She hid her face in her hands and remained, crouched up, quite still, in
a stupor of misery. The Canon stood over her helplessly, unable to find
a word of comfort.

The sight of her prostration did not move him. He had been wounded to
the very depths of his being. His pride, his honour, his dignity were
lacerated in their vitals. He burned with the sense of unpardonable
wrong.

“It is self-evident,” he said at last, “that we must part. Our remaining
together would be a sin against God and an outrage upon Society.”

She rased herself wearily, with one hand on the couch, and shook her
head slowly.

“Such things are beyond me. No one will ever know.”

“There is One who will always know, Yvonne.”

She pondered over the saying, as far as her tired, bewildered brain
allowed. It conveyed very little meaning to her. Theology had not
altered her child-like conception of the benevolence of the Creator.
After a long time she was able to disentangle an idea from the
confusion.

“If it is a sin--don’t you love me enough to sin a little for my sake?”

“Not that sin,” he said.

Yvonne lifted her shoulders helplessly.

“I would commit any sin for your sake,” she said. “It would seem so
easy.”

Curiously assorted as they were, a poetic idealism on the one side and
grateful veneration on the other had hitherto bound them together. Now
they were sundered leagues apart; mutual understanding was hopeless.
Each was bewildered by the other’s moral attitude.

The logical consequences of the discovery, that appeared so luridly
devious to the Canon’s intellect, failed entirely to appeal to Yvonne.
She referred them entirely to his personal inclinations. On the other
hand, the Canon had a false insight into her soul that was a chilling
disillusion.

The beauty of her exquisite purity and innocence had always captivated
in him the finer man. It was a mirage. It was gone. Emptiness remained.
She was simply a graceful, non-moral being--a spiritual anomaly.

Yvonne shivered, and rising, walked unsteadily to the wardrobe, whence
she took a dressing-jacket. Putting it on, she returned to the couch. It
was almost dark. The Canon watched her dim, slight figure as it passed
him, with a strange feeling of remoteness. A hundred trivial instances
of her want of moral sense crowded into his mind to support his
view--her inability to see the wrong-doing of Stephen, her indefinite
notions in religious matters, her mental attitude toward the girl that
had gone astray, of whom she had been talking only the night before, her
expressed intention of hiding this terrible discovery from him. He had
been duped, not by her, but by his own romantic folly.

Yet what would his life be without her--or rather without his illusion?
An icy hand gripped his heart. He turned to the glimmering window and
stared at the blank wall.

Presently a moan struck upon his ear. He wheeled round sharply, and
distinguished her lying with helpless outspread arms on the couch. Mere
humanity brought him to her side.

“I am so tired,” she moaned.

“You must go to bed,” he replied in a gentler voice than hitherto. “We
had better part now. To-morrow, if you are well enough to travel, we
will leave for England.”

“Let me go alone,” she murmured, “and you go on to Switzerland. Why
should your holiday be spoiled?”

“It is my life that is spoiled,” he said ungenerously. “The holiday
matters very little. It is best to return to England as soon as
possible. Between now and to-morrow morning I shall have time to reflect
upon the situation.”

He struck a match and lit the candles and drew down the blind. The
light revealed her to him so wan and exhausted that he was moved with
compunction.

“Don’t think me hard, my child,” he said, bending over her. “It is the
bitterest day of our lives. We must pray to God for strength to bear it.
I shall leave you now. I shall see that you have all you want. Try to
sleep. Good-night.”

“Good-night,” she said miserably.

And so, without touch of hand, they parted.

The hours of the evening wore on, and night came. At last she cried
herself to sleep. It had been a day of tears.

They left Ostend quietly the following morning by the Dover boat. During
the whole journey the Canon treated Yvonne with the deferential courtesy
he could always assume to women, seeing to her comforts, anticipating
her wants, even exchanging now and then casual remarks on passing
objects of interest. But of the subject next his heart he said not a
word. The crossing was smooth. The sea air revived Yvonne’s strength.

His silence half comforted, half frightened her. Had he relented? She
glanced often at his impassive face, in cruel anxiety to pierce to the
thoughts that lay behind. Yet a little hope came to her; for fear of
losing it she dared not speak. To her simple mind it seemed impossible
that merely conscientious scruples could make him cast her off. If he
loved her, his love would triumph. If he persisted in his resolve, he
cared for her no longer. In this case her future was very simple. She
would go back to London and sing.

She seemed to have cried her feeling away during the night--such as he
had left unbruised and untorn. For the quivering flesh is only sensitive
up to a certain point of maceration. He had trodden upon her pitilessly;
but she felt no resentment. In fact, she would have been quite happy if
he had put his arms round her and said, “Let us forget, Yvonne.” By the
end of the journey she had cajoled herself into the idea that he would
do so.

A suite of rooms received them in the quiet West End hotel where the
Canon always stayed. They dined alone, the discreet butler waiting on
them, for the Canon was an honoured guest. When the cloth was removed,
the Canon said in his even voice:--

“Are you sufficiently recovered, Yvonne, to discuss this painful
subject?”

“I am quite ready, Everard.”

“We will make it as short as possible. What I said last night must
remain, whatever be the suffering. I have loved you deeply--like a young
man--in a way perhaps ill befitting my years. The memories, for they are
innocent, will always be there, Yvonne. If I did not seek strength from
Elsewhere, it might wreck my life to part from you.”

Her hope was dashed to the ground. She interrupted him with one more
appeal. “Why need we part, Everard?” she said, in a low voice. “I mean,
why cannot we live in the same house--before the world--?”

“It is impossible,” he replied. “You don’t know what you are asking.”

His voice grew husky. He paused a few seconds, then, recovering himself
continued in the same hard tones:--

“As we must live apart, it is my duty to make provision for you. I shall
alter my will, securing to you what would have come to you as my wife.
During my lifetime I shall make you an allowance in fair proportion to
my means. And it will be, of course, unconditional.”

Then, for the first time, her gentle nature rose up in revolt against
him.

“I could not accept it, Everard,” she cried with kindling cheeks. “If I
have no right to bear your name I have no right to your support. Don’t
ask me to take it, for I can’t.”

“Yvonne, listen to me--”

“No,” she went on passionately, “I am speaking as a woman now; the time
has come, and you were right in your prophecy--I would sooner die than
live away from you and be supported by you. You don’t understand--it is
as if I had done something shameful and you were putting me away from
you. Oh, don’t speak of it,--don’t speak of it. If I am not your wife
before God, I have no claims on you.”

“To hear you speak like that pains me intensely,” he said. “Do you think
I have lost all regard for you?”

“If you loved me, you would not wish to part from me,” said Yvonne with
her terrible logic.

They were on different planes of thought and feeling. The Canon argued,
insisted, but to no purpose. Yvonne was inconvincible.

The talk continued, drifted away for a time to arrangements for the
immediate future. A reply telegram came from Geraldine Vicary, to the
effect that she would be with Yvonne in the morning. It was settled that
Yvonne should stay with her provisionally, and that she, in order to
avoid painful meetings and communications, should be Yvonne’s agent in
the necessary settlement of affairs. Finally, the Canon returned to
the subject of the allowance. He would settle a certain sum upon her,
whether she would accept it or not. Yvonne flashed again into rebellion.
The idea was hateful to her. He had no right to make her lose her
self-respect.

“But it is my solemn duty that I must perform. Will nothing I can say
ever make you understand?” he exclaimed at last, in exasperation.

Yvonne rose and came to where he sat, and laid her hand upon his
shoulder with an action full of tenderness, and looked down upon him
with her wistful dark eyes, all the more wistful for the rings beneath
them.

“Don’t be angry with me--over last evening. It is good and generous of
you to wish to make provision for me. But I shall be much happier to
feel myself no burden upon you. And it will be so easy for me to earn my
living again. I shall be much happier, really.”

The little word, with which she so often confirmed her statements, the
familiar touch of her hand, the sense of her delicate, fragile figure so
near him caused a spasm of pain to pass through his heart; disillusion
had not touched his common, human want of her. He bowed his head in his
hands.

“Some day, Yvonne, it may be possible for me to ask you--to come back.
If I give in to your wishes now, will you give in to mine then?”

The emotion in his voice was too strong to escape her. It stirred
all the yielding sweetness and tender pity of Yvonne. She forgot the
reproaches, the pitilessness, the religious scruples comprehended only
as unloving. His broad shoulders shook beneath her touch.

“I will come whenever you want me,” she said.

“If I have been ungenerous in word or thought to you, Yvonne, forgive
me.”

Her hand strayed shyly to a lock of grizzling hair above his temples and
smoothed it back gently.

He raised his head, and looked at her for a second or two with an
expression of anguish.

Then he sprang to his feet, and before Yvonne, shrinking back, could
realise his intention, his arms were about her in a tight clasp, and
his kiss was on her face. “God help us. God help us both, my child.” He
released her and went hurriedly from the room.

And so they parted.



Part II



CHAPTER XIV--“IN A STRANGE LAND”

They buried Noakes on the other side of the _kopje_ behind the house.
He had lasted through the winter and early spring, but the season of the
rains and heat, when the damp oozed through wooden walls and mud floor,
and hung clammily upon sheets and pillows, gave the remnants of his
lungs no breathing chance, and Noakes went uncomplainingly to his place.

Joyce laid “the dear lady’s” letter on his breast before nailing down
the rough wooden coffin. It seemed as if most of his own heart too were
enclosed with the letter, to be put away under the ground for ever and
ever. Wilson the farmer, himself, and a Kaffir carried the coffin to the
hole that had been dug beneath a blue gum-tree. There Wilson read the
burial service of the Church of England.

He was a religious man, when he was not drunk, and set great store by
a prayer-book that he had saved from the wreckage of churchgoing times.
Over a fat, phlegmatic, brick-red face the sun had spread a glaze, as if
to shield the colour from other counteracting climatic influences.
His speech was thick and uneducated. At first Joyce had resented his
intention as a mockery, and only to avoid unseemly wrangling did he
stand there and listen, while the Kaffir squatted by, scratching his
limbs in meditative wonder at the incantation. But very soon the solemn
beauty of the service appealed to him. “Earth to earth, ashes to ashes,
dust to dust.” He stooped and threw some handfuls of the red soil
reverently into the grave. It seemed not unfitting that the rude voice
should give the broken life this rude burial.

The service over, Wilson signed to the Kaffir to fill in the grave,
and flicking the perspiration from his forehead, for the sun beat down
fiercely, turned to Joyce.

“Come in now and have a drink.”

But Joyce refused and remained there alone, with his head sunk on his
breast, watching the Kaffir. When the task was done, he set at the
grave-head a great stone he had previously brought there, and slowly
went away. His steps took him mechanically back over the _kopje_. But
when he arrived at the prickly-pear hedge on top, the sight of the mean
shanty and the Kaffir huts and the straggling fields high with com and
maize, jarred upon his mood. He turned, and descending, struck across
the rank, sodden veldt, that stretched eastward in a terrible monotony
to the sky-line. There, at any rate, he could be alone, away from the
sights and sounds of his dreary toil. A broad gully, half filled with a
red, swollen stream, stopped his progress. Half a mile farther up was a
bridge. But he was tired and hot and sick at heart. A slab in the shade
of an overhanging edge of the ravine met his eye. He clambered down and
sat there, looking into the small swirling flood.

A centipede crawled close by. He drew his knife from his belt, cut the
creature in two, and flicked the pieces into the water, which swept
them instantaneously out of sight. He looked at his knife that had so
speedily given death to the insect. Was he much better, more useful?
One gash, a leap into the stream, and he would be carried away into
eternity. Till yesterday his life had some meaning--the support of the
poor forlorn man just buried. Now, what was the good of his living?
There was no joy for himself, no service to one of God’s creatures. But
after digging his knife idly into the crumbling slab, he returned it to
his belt.

Yet what he had dreaded with almost morbid heart-sinking these latter
months had come about. He was alone. Noakes had gone--passed away like
a shadow, as the burial service hath it. The phrase brought back to his
mind a tag from old days of scholarship--[Greek]--“man is the dream of
a shadow.” He mused upon the saying. Time was, he remembered, when he
had wondered at the strange Greek melancholy underlying even Pindar’s
gladness in outward things, thews and sinews and supple forms. Now
he understood. What sane man who had watched the world could escape
it--this overwhelming sense of the futility of things? To what ends
had Noakes’s life been lived? The ceaseless awful toil of grinding out
despicable literature at sweated wages; the begetting of a child to an
inheritance of misery in the world’s tragedy; the crowning futility of
his senseless exile--what purpose had it all served? Save for the pity
of it, could it be taken seriously? And he himself dangling his legs
over this gully? Verily, the dream of a shadow.

The lines in which the passage occurred came into his head. He repeated
them aloud. Such reminiscences of former culture occasionally visited
him and smote him with their ironic incongruity. He broke into a
mirthless laugh.

The westering sun had already touched the top of the far distant High
Veldt when he turned his steps homeward.

Wilson was squirting tobacco juice over a gate and giving directions as
to the repairing of one of the sluices, that drained the land into the
gully, whence Joyce had come.

“This damn thing will all go to glory soon,” he said.

“We ought to get some pipes,” said Joyce.

“And lay on gas and hot-water,” returned Wilson, sarcastically. “Where’s
the money to come from?”

Joyce shrugged his shoulders and continued his way to the house. He did
not much care. Things were going badly. Well, things had gone badly with
him since he stepped aside from the paths of honest living. He could
expect nothing else.

The sight of the rough bed, tenantless now for the first time for many
months, was inexpressibly cheerless. The indentations too of the coffin
still remained upon it. He smoothed them out mechanically. Then reaching
for a thick pile of foolscap that was on the shelf, he sat down with it
upon the bed. It was the MS. of the novel which Noakes had copied from
the yellow package-paper--all written in his beautiful round hand. He
had been a writing master in his youth and retained a professional pride
in penmanship. For months this copying had been all he could do.

Joyce read here and there, at last became interested. The work was good.
And then for the first time he seriously contemplated mailing it to a
publisher. When the Kaffir came in later to help him prepare supper, he
had made up his mind.

It was a gloomy book, dealing with the abject side of colonial pioneer
work--a tragedy of wasted lives and hopes foredoomed to disappointment.
A picture of wrecks and derelicts; men of broken fortunes, breaking
hearts, degraded lives; poor fools, penniless, craftless, who had come
hither like Noakes, allured by vague visions of El Dorado, to find no
place for them in this new rude land where unskilled labour belongs to
the natives, who defy competition. He called it “The Wasters.” Almost
unconsciously, his intellectual powers had returned to him whilst
writing it. The English was pure, the style vigorous and scholarly. And
the feeling--he had written it with his heart’s blood. Before he went to
sleep that night, he appended to it an alternative title, “The Dream of
a Shadow.”

In the course of time the manuscript was despatched and Joyce settled
down to many months’ forgetfulness of it, and to humdrum loneliness and
labour. Time went quickly, for he took no heed of its flight, having
nothing to hope for. He tried to begin another book, but the stimulus
of Noakes’s appreciation was gone and he sank again into intellectual
apathy. In the long evenings he taught a Kaffir boy to read and write,
while Wilson boozed away the profits of the farm. At the best of times
there was little sympathy between the two men. Often mutual antipathy
manifested itself actively under a thin disguise. The farmer despised
Joyce for a broken-down gentleman unacquainted with any handicraft or
the principles of farming, and Joyce considered his partner a dull sot,
who was letting the farm go to rack and ruin. Still, a habit of life is
a strange help in living. Often Joyce told himself that he must sell
out and try his luck elsewhere. But there was no particular reason for
bringing matters to a crisis on one day more than on another. So the
months wore on.

The work of the harvest knocked him up. He got ague and lay in bed for
three weeks. Wilson cursed the day he ever took him into the place; and
had it not been for the humaneness of their next neighbour, who farmed
more healthy ground some forty miles away, towards the High Veldt,
and carried Joyce off thither one day in an ox-waggon, he might have
speedily followed Noakes. He returned to the farm cured but terribly
gaunt. The lines had deepened in his face, over which the beard grew
straggling, accentuating the hollows of his cheeks. His hands had
whitened and thinned during his illness. Wilson sniffed contemptuously
at them and looked at his own huge glazed and freckled paw.

Winter set in. There was plenty to do--ricks to thatch, buildings
to repair, fields to irrigate. Joyce did not spare himself. Work, if
joyless, was at least an anodyne. It brought on prostrating fatigue,
which in its turn brought long heavy hours of sleep. In that way it was
as good as adulterated whisky.

Some men thrive physically and morally in the wilds. The incessant
conflict with the elemental forces of nature braces nerves and
strengthens the will. And these are exclusive of such as find
satisfaction of primitive instincts only in uncivilised lands--such as
are a reversion to the savage type, and, in the forest or the
desert, live a life truer to their natures than amid the decencies of
civilisation. But the men who thrive are physically and morally adapted
to the struggle--men of energy, ambition, daring, who see in it a means
towards the yet ungained or forfeited place in civilisation. The pioneer
work of new colonies is done by them, and they generally gain their
reward. Joyce had found all the successful men in South Africa belonging
to this type. He had looked at Noakes and himself and groaned inwardly.
They were doomed to perish, it seemed, by natural selection. In the
case of Noakes the foreboding had been fulfilled. Would it be so with
himself? His unfitness for his environment weighed heavier day by day
on his mind: all the more since the loss of the companionship that had
cheered him in dark hours. A habit of brooding silence fell upon him. He
spoke as little as in those awful years of prison. And as his life grew
lonelier and more self-centred, softer memories faded, and those chiefly
remained that had branded themselves in his brain. The gaol came back to
his dreams. Once, in the shed where he had taken up his abode since the
beginning of spring, he awoke in a swearing terror. The disposition
of his bed as regards the window and the height of the latter from the
ground corresponded with the arrangements of his cell. The nightmare
held him paralysed. And this in some form or the other repeated itself
at intervals, so that he was forced to rearrange his room.

He had shifted his quarters owing to the arrival of a fat Boer woman who
claimed connubial relations with Wilson. The suggestion had proceeded
from himself from motives of delicacy and good-nature. At first he had
welcomed her in spite of unprepossessing manners and appearance, and
tried to win her esteem by little acts of civility. But the lady drank;
and one day Wilson, finding her alone in Joyce’s hut, whither she had
come to steal whisky, grew unreasonably jealous and blacked both her
eyes. After which occurrence Joyce and she let each other severely
alone. He relapsed into his sombre apathy.

The life was killing him, brutalizing him. He lost even interest in the
Kaffir boy’s education, which had not been without its light side
of amusement. Hour after hour he would sit, on summer nights, on the
doorstep of his shed, pipe in mouth, elbows on knees, thinking of
nothing, his mind a dull blank. Now and then he thought of Yvonne, but
only in a vague, far-off way. He never wrote or felt urged to write.
What was the good? And he had received no letter from Yvonne since
the one that had accompanied her line to Noakes. Once, several months
afterwards, one of the ox-waggons from the town had been overturned in
a swollen river, and many stores including the mail had been swept away.
The driver told him there had been letters for him. Possibly one from
Yvonne. At the time he regretted it, but his morbid indifferentism had
already begun to darken his mind. He laid conjecture dully aside. The
weeks and months passed and, with all his other longings for sweeter
things, the desire for her letters died. And so the last strand wore
through of the last thread that bound him to England.

As for the novel, he had long since ceased to concern himself about its
fate. Probably it had been lost in transit, either going or returning.
The yellow sheets on which he had written the first draft lay on the
mud floor in the corner of his hut and rotted and grew mildewed with the
damp.

At last, one day, like a bolt from the blue, came the publishers’
letter, offering alternative terms for the book, the usual royalty the
firm paid to unknown authors, or eighty pounds down for the copyright,
to be paid on publication. It aroused him, with a shock, from his
torpor. That night he could not sleep. He got up and wandered about the
veldt through the dewy grasses, under the bright African starlight, his
veins alive with a new excitement. Perhaps he had found a vocation--one
to bring him money, congenial work, the right at last to take his
forfeited place in a civilised land. He returned to the house at
daybreak, worn out with fatigue, but throbbing with wild schemes for the
future. And the following evening, as soon as the toil of the day was
over, he lit his small, smoking lamp, and sat down in feverish haste to
begin a new story, the scheme of which he had half-heartedly worked out
soon after Noakes’s death. The copyright of the other he sold for the
eighty pounds.

And then gradually the longing for England grew more insistent, until at
last it took the form of a settled determination. One day he saddled
a rough farm-pony and rode to the good Samaritan who had taken him in
during his illness. The farmer, a hard-headed Scotchman, shook his head
dubiously when Joyce unfolded his plan.

“Stick to the farm and buy Wilson out You  ’ll mak’ more money, and then
you can retire in a few years.”

“The profits are nearly swallowed up in improvements and transit,” said
Joyce. “It is a bare subsistence.”

“That’s because you don’t go the right way to work. If I had the land,
I’d make it pay soon enough.”

“You are a practical farmer, and I am not,” said Joyce. “Even if I
desired to gain experience, it is precious little I could gain with
Wilson--and I long for home again.”

“That’s all very well--but if you fail with your writing? I have heard
it is a precarious trade.”

“I’m used to failure,” replied Joyce. “That’s what I came into the world
for. You can’t say that I am a conspicuous success as a colonist.”

“Sell out from Wilson, and come here,” said the farmer, “on the metayer
system. I will put you up to a few things.”

Joyce looked round him; they were sitting on the verandah of the
nicely-built house. Everything had the trim appearance of scientific
English farming--the outbuildings solid and clean, the fields high with
grain, the dams in perfect repair, the yard spick and span. A flower
garden lay beneath him. A well-trimmed vine covered the lattice-work
of the verandah. All was a striking contrast to his own ramshackle,
neglected surroundings. A month ago he would have leaped at the offer.
But now he declined it. He distrusted himself, his power of content. If
he once put his hand to the plough, he would not be able to draw back.
And he held ploughs in cordial detestation. He rode back, having thanked
his friend and obtained his consent to act as arbiter, if need were,
between Wilson and himself.

A day or two later, he took advantage of a sober and quasi-friendly
moment, to announce his intention to Wilson, who listened to him
stolidly.

“I hope my sudden withdrawal won’t cause you inconvenience,” said he,
politely. “If it does--”

“My good friend,” replied Wilson, “I am only too damn glad to get rid of
you.”

“Then if you ’ll give me a lump sum down for my share, and lend me
a team, I ’ll leave the infernal place this afternoon,” said Joyce,
nettled.

Wilson went into the house and came out with a roll of greasy notes.

“There,” he said, “will that satisfy you? I ’ve been wanting to part
company for a long time, and I ’ve kept ’em by me.”

Joyce counted the notes, and to his surprise found the sum exceeded that
which he himself calculated to be his due. After half an hour’s joint
examination of their roughly-kept accounts, he found that Wilson was
right.

“You are an honest man,” he said with a smile. “It is a pity you have so
many other failings.”

“I can keep myself out of quod, at any rate,” replied Wilson, “which is
more than some people can say.”

The retort was like a blow in the face. Joyce staggered under it.

“Another time don’t be so devilish smart with your tongue,” said Wilson.
“I ain’t the one to cast a man’s misfortunes in his teeth, but, all the
same, it’s best for a man like you to lie low.”

“What the devil are you talking of?” said Joyce, fiercely.

“What’s the good of bluff? You’ve given yourself away heaps of times.”

“I insist upon knowing what you mean,” said Joyce.

How could this man have learned his history? Noakes could not have
betrayed him. For the honour of his dead comrade he could not let the
matter drop. Wilson tilted back his chair and squirted a stream of
tobacco-juice over the floor, which aroused the indignation of the Boer
woman, who was sitting on some sacks near the door, peeling potatoes.
Her lord was a beastly Englander, and a great many other undesirable
things. Wilson, who had not yet laced his heavy boots, took one off to
throw at her head, but Joyce caught his arm.

“What a brute you are!” he said angrily.

Wilson broke into a laugh.

“You’d better thank Mr. Joyce for saving your beauty from being
damaged,” he said, pulling on the boot again.

“Now,” said Joyce, as soon as domestic peace was restored, “tell me what
you meant just now.”

Wilson rose, went to the door and ostentatiously spat over the Boer
woman’s head; then he turned round to Joyce:--

“Look here,” he said, “I have my hands full enough of quarrelling as it
is. You ’d better trek off with that waggon and a couple of niggers.
And I ’ll give you a piece of advice. When next you shake down alongside
of a man to sleep, just keep from blabbing all your private affairs to
him. And that’s why I wanted to be shut of you. We can do without your
kind hereabouts. No wonder you were surprised to find me honest.”

“I suppose I must beg your pardon,” said Joyce humiliated. “I had no
right to speak to you as I did.”

“If you had held your tongue, I should have held mine, as I have done
for the last year and a half,” replied Wilson.

A few hours later Joyce stood up in the ox-waggon and looked back at the
detested place that had so long been his home. It was just a speck in
the midst of the cheerless plain under the irregular mound, the _kopje_,
behind which poor Noakes lay buried. He drew an envelope from his pocket
and looked at the blade of grass he had picked from the grave. Ashamed
of his sentimentality, he twirled it between his fingers, undecided
whether to throw it away or not He ended by replacing it in his pocket
After all, it symbolised a pure, tender feeling, and he was not carrying
away with him too many.

He smoked in silence through the night, under the clear stars. He was
sore at heart, deeply humiliated. The buoyancy of new hopes which his
little literary success had occasioned during the last few weeks, had
gone. The sense of the ineffaceable stain overpowered him. It was a
fatality. Go where he would, he could not hide it from the knowledge of
men. In his own land, accusing fingers pointed to it at street corners.
In the uttermost ends of the earth he himself proclaimed it aloud.

To have lived for months and months under the silent contempt of this
drunken woman-beating brute, to have been watched narrowly in all his
business dealings--as he knew, from Wilson’s nature, must have been the
case--to have been forced to stand helpless, degraded before this sot,
while he vaunted his one virtue, honesty--it was gall and wormwood and
all things bitter.

The Southern Cross flashed down from the myriad stars in its startling
splendour. The moon shone bright over the vast silent plain, limitless,
broken only by the undulating mounds and the infinitely stretching
clumps of karroo bushes. The camp-fire, just replenished with damp twigs
and shrubs, burned sulkily and the smoke ascended in spirals into the
clear air. The hooded waggon depended helplessly on its shafts. The
Kaffirs, wrapped in blankets, slept beneath. The oxen, outspanned some
distance off, chewed the cud in sharp, rhythmic munches. The universe
was still--awfully still. All gave the sense of the littleness of man
and the immensity of space.

In a strange, imperious need of expansion, Joyce threw himself down on
the wet earth and clutched the grasses and cried aloud:--

“Oh, God! I have suffered enough for my sin. Take this stain and
degradation from my soul.”

After a while he arose, ashamed of his weakness, the futility of his
appeal. Relighting his pipe, he clambered into the waggon, and sitting
on the floor against the back, watched the portion of starry sky framed
by the hood, until the first streaks of dawn announced the hour for
inspanning the oxen again and continuing his journey.



CHAPTER XV--KNIGHT-ERRANT

For all the change about him and within him, the hand of time might
have been put back four years, and the tender might have been nearing
the outward bound ship, instead of the Southampton landing-stage. It was
the same raw mizzling rain as when he had crossed the harbour four years
before; the same wet, shivering crowd of second-class passengers, with
the water streaming from waterproofs, umbrellas and hand luggage on
to the sloppy deck. In his heart was the same mingling of anxiety and
apathy, the same ineradicable sense of pariahdom. He had thought
that the sight of England once more would have brought him a throb of
gladness. It only intensified his depressing fears for the future.

The circumstances reproduced themselves with startling actuality. One of
the men in charge of the tender had a great ugly seam across his face.
Joyce remembered having seen him before, in just the same attitude, with
a coil of rope in his hand. Had he not awakened from a minute’s dream
that had covered an illusory four years of his life? He looked around,
almost expecting to see Noakes, in his ridiculous curly silk hat and old
frieze overcoat.

The tender came alongside the landing-stage, and he stepped ashore with
the dripping crowd. The flurry of the Custom House and the transport of
his meagre baggage to the railway station broke the illusion. He was in
England at last, and it seemed a strange country. During the journey to
London, he had the companionship of some of his fellow-travellers. At
Waterloo they parted. Then he felt terribly lonely.

“Cab, sir?” asked a porter.

He was standing over his luggage, somewhat lost amid the bustle and
tumult of the station. It was the late afternoon, and the platforms were
hurrying with suburban passengers. The incessant movement through
the blue glare of the electric light dazed his unaccustomed eyes. He
declined the porter’s offer. Cabs were a luxury he could ill afford.
Besides, one meagre Gladstone bag contained his whole possessions, and
he could easily carry it. Leaving the station, he took an omnibus for
Victoria, with the idea of seeking his old Pimlico lodgings. If he could
not be taken in there, it would not be difficult to find a room in the
neighbourhood. Still confused by the sudden transition to the midst
of the roar of London, he peered through the glass sides at the wet
pavements glistening in the gaslight, the shop fronts, the eternal
hurrying by of vague forms, and the dash past of vehicles. From
Westminster Bridge the face of Big Ben greeted him. He stared at it
stupidly as long as he could see it. The light on the Clock Tower
announced that the House was sitting. It was all curiously familiar, and
yet he felt like an alien. There was not a soul in London to welcome
his home-coming. His heart sank with the sense of loneliness. He was as
infinitesimal and as isolated a unit in this seething, swarming ant-hill
of humanity as amid the starry solitudes of the African veldt.

As chance willed it, he found the house in Pimlico in the same hands
as before, and his old room in the attics vacant. Nothing had altered,
except that it looked smaller and four years shabbier. The same
discoloured blind hung before the window, the same fly-blown texts
adorned the walls. The same acrid smell of dust and ashes and earth and
the unaired end of all human things met his nostrils. When he went
to sleep that night, it seemed incredible that four years should have
passed since he had last lain there.

In a day or two the strangeness wore off. London is in a Londoner’s
blood. No matter how long his exile, life there comes to him as
naturally as swimming does to a swimmer after years of non-practice. He
remembered how he had yearned for its sights and sounds and stimulating
movement. Now they were his again, and he took a measure of content. His
first care was to provide himself with some clothes; his next, to visit
the publishers. A cordial reception gratified him. The book was bound
to have some success. The manuscript was in the printer’s
hands. Publication was announced for the spring. Joyce went home
lighter-hearted after the interview. It was delightful to be treated
as an intellectual man once more. His prospects too were not so very
gloomy. With the little capital he had brought back from South Africa
and the £80 for his book, he saw himself saved from starvation for two
years, if he lived very, very humbly on a little over a pound a week.
Meanwhile he could earn something by occasional odds and ends of
writing, and also complete his second novel. He arranged his scheme
of life as he walked along. He would leave his lodging punctually at a
certain hour after breakfast, walk to the British Museum, write all day
in the Reading Room, dine, walk home, and write or read in the evenings
until it was time for bed.

Thus, as ever, his sensitive nature reflected the little ray of hope.
But, as usual, it was soon eclipsed by the darkening shadow in his
soul, although he set to work with dogged determination. The prospect of
life-long solitude appalled him. It was the terrible part of his
never-ending punishment. To a nature like his, companionship and
sympathy are essentials of development. Without them it withers like a
parched plant And yet he dreaded making new acquaintances, on account of
the shame that would inevitably follow if his identity and history
leaked out He accepted loneliness as his portion. There were only two
people in England whom, knowing his story, he could trust to shake him
by the hand--Yvonne and the actor McKay. The latter was necessarily lost
in the obscurities of his roving profession. Yvonne was married to his
cousin, moving in the sphere to which beyond all others he was
rigorously denied access. One day, however, when the memory of her sweet
kind face came back to him, and he yearned for its bright sympathy, he
wrote to her at Fulminster.

He felt somewhat cheered after he had despatched the letter. And as
comfortings often come in pairs, he was further cheered by seeing in
an evening paper which he bought home a stand near the pillar-box,
a general article he had sent up two or three days before. It was an
encouraging beginning. At any rate, London streets were more stimulating
to his intellectual powers than the dull, deadening life of the African
farm. He made many good resolutions during these first days in London.
He would win back his lost scholarship, begin to form a humble library.
On his way home he bought out of a fourpenny box an old copy of Plato’s
“Republic.” He sat up halt the night reading it.

To his surprise and disappointment, instead of a letter coming from
Yvonne, his own was returned through the Dead Letter Office. “Left
Fulminster two years ago--present address unknown.” He was puzzled. At
the the Museum he consulted the Clergy List for the year. According to
it, Canon Chisely was still Rector of Fulminster. What had happened to
Yvonne?

“It must be some silly mistake,” he said to himself. He wrote again; but
with the same result. He thought of writing to Everard, but reflected
that he too must be ignorant of Yvonne’s address; also that in any case,
perhaps, he would disregard his letter. There was some mystery. Both
his affection for Yvonne and the novelty of a curiosity outside himself
spurred his interest A day or two afterwards, he noticed on a hoarding
an advertisement of cheap excursion trains to the great provincial town
next to Fulminster. The journey would be very inexpensive. Why should
he not go down and pick up what information he could? The idea of the
little excitement pleased him.

He started the next morning at a very early hour, and arrived at
Fulminster about noon. The place was well known to him. He had often
visited his cousin in days gone by.

Many bitter-sweet associations crowded upon him as he walked up from the
station through the streets.

He went on, without any definite idea as to his course of action. Almost
mechanically he bent his steps toward the old abbey, whose spire rose
above the housetops, at the end of the High Street Soon the great mass
towered above him. He stood for a while looking upwards at the wealth
of tracery, and crocket, and pinnacle, feeling its beauty, and then
wandered idly round. At last his eye fell upon a notice on the board by
the vestry door. It was signed “J. Abdy, Rector”; other notices bore the
same signature. This was a new surprise. Wondering what had occurred, he
left the Abbey Close and proceeded round the familiar path to the front
door of the Rectory. He would take the bull by the horns.

“Is the Rector in?” he asked the servant who opened to him.

“Yes, sir.”

“Could I see him for a moment?”

“What name, sir?”

“Chisely,” said Joyce, instinctively, then he coloured. It was odd that
he should have been taken off his guard.

The servant showed him into the library. A glance proved that Everard
no longer inhabited it. No trace of the dilettante was visible in its
homely comfort. Presently the door opened, and the Rector, a kindly
grey-bearded man, entered the room. Joyce made his apology for
intrusion.

“I came down expecting to find Canon Chisely. I am a distant relation of
his, not long come from abroad.”

“I fear you have come on a vain errand,” said the Rector with a smile.
“He took over his diocese in New Zealand some months ago.”

“His diocese?” repeated Joyce.

“Dear me, have n’t you heard? Canon Chisely accepted the bishopric of
Taroofa at the beginning of the year.”

“How very extraordinary!” said Joyce, nonplussed. But the other took his
remark literally.

“Yes, it is singular. Most people think he has thrown himself away.
A very able man, you know--quite young. He might have had an English
bishopric if he had waited.”

“And Mrs. Chisely?” asked Joyce, interrogatively.

The Rector raised a deprecative hand.

“That’s where the whole trouble came in, apparently. It weighed on his
mind--a very proud man. He took the first chance that offered.”

“Pardon my questioning you,” sud Joyce, “but I am quite in the dark as
to what you are referring to. The last letter, two years back, that I
received from Mrs. Chisely was dated from here. She was happily married
and all that. I am an old friend of hers. What has happened?”

“I can only repeat the gossip, Mr. Chisely. It seems that just about
then some misfortune arose--a first husband of Mrs. Chisely’s, supposed
dead, turned up, and so there was a separation.”

“And where is Mrs. Chisely now?”

“That’s more than I can say. A lady--a great friend of mine--also I
believe a connexion of your own--”

“Mrs. Winstanley?”

“The same. I see you know her. She may be able to inform you. I believe
she has said authoritatively that the late Mrs. Chisely went back to her
former husband.”

“That I can’t believe,” sud Joyce, indignantly.

“I can only give you what I hear,” said the Rector, placidly. “I know
Bishop Chisely went to Paris, where they were supposed to be, before
starting for New Zealand. But Mrs. Winstanley will tell you.”

“I think I know enough,” said Joyce, hurriedly, and rising from his
chair. “I am greatly indebted to you for your kindness, Mr. Abdy.”

“Can I offer you some lunch? It will be on the table in a moment.”

Joyce declined, pleaded a train. He would have liked to sit with this
kind gossipy old man, but he could not accept such hospitality under
false pretences. Perhaps it was well that he acted thus, for later in
the afternoon the Rector described his visitor to Mrs. Winstanley. She
listened for some time, and at last broke out:--

“Why, my dear Mr. Abdy, it could have been no one else than the convict
cousin! He must have come to get money out of Everard.”

“Dear me,” said Mr. Abdy, arresting his hand in a downward stroke of his
beard. “Who would have thought it? He seemed such a gentlemanly fellow.
And I asked him to lunch!”

“I ’ll write and put the dear Bishop on his guard,” said Mr. Winstanley,
virtuously.

Meanwhile, Joyce went away full of wonder and pity. It was an amazing
story. Poor Yvonne! He could not believe that she had returned to
the scamp of a first husband. The thought was repulsive. At any rate
communication between Everard and Yvonne seemed to have been cut off. He
was not very sorry for Everard.

“A little trouble will do him good,” he muttered to himself. And he
found a certain grim amusement in the contemplation of the chastened
Bishop, his cousin. But he felt a great concern for poor fragile little
Yvonne cast adrift again upon the world. “I will find out what has
become of her, at any rate,” he said, digging his stick into the road.

The natural course was to write to Miss Geraldine Vicary, whose address
he fortunately remembered. If she had lost count of Yvonne, he would
set to work to find her some other way. He felt as eager now to recover
Yvonne’s friendship as he had been apathetic before. To lose no time,
while waiting for the early return excursion train, he went into a
post-office and wrote and despatched his letter.

The following morning he resumed his newly schemed out life of literary
work. Three days passed and no reply came from Miss Vicary. On the
fourth morning he received a black-edged envelope bearing the Swansea
postmark. He opened it and read:--

     Dear Sir,--Your letter to Miss Geraldine Vicary was,
     according to instructions, forwarded to me. I regret to
     inform you that my poor sister died three weeks ago, of
     diphtheria. She caught the disease whilst nursing the lady
     concerning whom, I believe, you inquire. Madame Latour had
     been living with her for the past two years. Shortly after
     my poor sister’s death, Madame Latour was removed to St.
     Mary’s Hospital, where, as far as I know, she still lies
     very ill.

     Trusting this sad information may be of service to you,

     I am yours faithfully,

     Henrietta Dasent.


Joyce hurried through his dressing, bolted his breakfast, and rushed
out into the street, with one idea in his head. Yvonne alone and
uncared for, dying in a London hospital--it was incredible. The apparent
heartlessness of the woman who wrote, her calm disclaimer of all
interest in her dead sister’s dying friend, made his blood boil. A
London hospital--an open common ward, with medical students chattering
round--it was a cruel place for the sweet delicate woman he remembered
as Yvonne. Where were all her friends?

In the dismay, excitement, and indignation of the moment, he forgot his
poverty, and jumped into the first hansom-cab he saw.

“St. Mary’s Hospital, quick!”

And the cabman, thinking it a matter of life and death, went at a
breakneck pace.



CHAPTER XVI--LA CIGALE

Seeing Yvonne at that time of the morning was out of the question. But
he penetrated to the landing outside the ward and had a few words with
the sister in charge. She was a fresh, pleasant-faced woman, who, having
fallen in love with Yvonne, felt kindly disposed toward her friends.

Madame Latour was slowly recovering. One of the most lingering of the
sequelae of diphtheria, diphtheritic paralysis, had set in. It was her
larynx and left arm that were affected. At present she was suffering
from general weakness. It would be some time yet before she could be
moved.

“Do you think I could see her?” asked Joyce--“that is to say, if she
would care about it.”

“Certainly,” replied the sister. “It would probably do her good. To-day
is a visiting day--after two o’clock.”

“I wonder whether she would like it,” said Joyce, questioningly.

“I will take her a message,” said the sister.

He scribbled a few words on a scrap of paper and handed it to her. She
retired and presently returned, smiling.

“She will be delighted. I have not seen her look like that since she
has been here. ‘Tell him it will be a joy to see him.’ Those were her
words.”

Joyce thanked her warmly, rased his hat, and departed. It was a fine
crisp morning. The message seemed to bring a breath of something sweet
into the air. He walked along almost buoyantly in spite of the sad
plight of Yvonne. The appalling weight of loneliness was lifted from his
shoulders. The sight of him would be a joy to one living creature. It
was a new conception, and it winged his feet.

*****

On the stroke of two the great doors of the ward opened, and he entered
with a group of visitors, chiefly women of the poorer classes, some
carrying babies. It was bewildering at first--the long double row of
beds, each with its pale, wistful woman’s face. Some of the patients
were sitting up, with shawls or wraps around them; the greater number
lay back on their pillows, turning eyes of languid interest towards the
visitors. Two beds curtained round broke the uniformity of the two white
lines of bedsteads. At the end of the ward, a great open fireplace,
with glowing blocks of coal, struck a note of cheerfulness in the grey
November light, that streamed through the series of high windows. Joyce
felt a man’s shyness in walking among these strange sick women, and
looked helplessly down the ward from the doorway, to try to discover
Yvonne. The sister came to his help from a neighbouring bedside.

“At the very end. The last bed on the left.”

Joyce walked down the druggetted aisle, and as soon as he saw her and
knew himself to be recognised, he quickened his pace.

There she was, half sitting in the bed, propped up by pillows, her wavy
dark hair like a nimbus around her pale free. In honour of the visit she
had done up her hair, with infinite difficulty, poor child, and put on
a pretty white dressing-jacket tied with knots of crimson ribbon. His
heart was smitten with pity. She was so changed, so wasted. Her delicate
features were pinched, her childlike lips blanched. Only the old
Yvonne’s eyes remained--the great, pathetic, winning dark eyes. They
gave him glad and grateful welcome.

“Yvonne.”

It was all he could find in his head to say as he pressed her little
thin hand.

“How good of you to come to see me,” she said.

Joyce was unprepared. It was not Yvonne’s voice--once as sweet in speech
as in singing; but a toneless, distressed sound devoid of quality, like
that of a cracked silver bell. He could not conceal the shadow of dismay
on his face. She was quick to note it.

“I am afraid I speak like a wicked old raven,” she said with a smile;
“but you mustn’t mind.”

“I can’t tell you how grieved I am to see you like this,” he said,
sitting down by the bedside. “You must have been very ill. Poor Yvonne.”

“Yes. Awfully ill. You would have been quite sorry to see how ill I was.
Do you mind moving your chair further down, so that I can look at you?
I can’t turn my head, you know. Is n’t it silly not to be able to turn
one’s head?”

“You must make haste and get well,” he said, after he had complied with
her request “I’m afraid I can’t,” she said, looking at him wistfully.
“They all say it’s going to be a long, long business. But I want to know
how you came here--to England, I mean,” she added more brightly, after
a pause. “It was such a startling surprise when Sister brought me your
note this morning. Why have you left Africa? I ’ve been dying to know all
day.”

Joyce sketched rapidly the events that had led him back--the death of
Noakes, the year of wretched apathy, the purchase of his book by the
publishers, the craving for civilisation.

“So I sold out and came home,” he concluded. “I have been back a
fortnight.”

“You must have been very sad at losing your friend,” said Yvonne. “Death
is an awful, awful thing. Have you ever thought of it? A person is
living and feeling, like you and me, to-day--and to-morrow--gone--out of
the world--for ever and ever.”

Her voice sank to a whisper and she looked at him out of great,
awe-stricken eyes.

“I have lost my dear friend too--just lately. Did you know?”

“Yes,” he replied gently. “I wrote to her for your address and her
sister answered the letter, telling me of her death.”

“Wasn’t it terrible? And she so bright and brave and strong. I never
loved anybody as I loved her. It was only after she was buried that I
knew--and then I wished I had died instead--I who am no good to any one
at all. And I am alive. Isn’t it an awful mystery?”

The man’s eyes fell for a moment beneath the intense, child-like
earnestness of hers. Silence fell upon them. He stretched out his arm
and took her hand that rested outside the coverlet. A man is often
instinctively driven to express his sympathy by touch, where a woman
would find words.

After a while she withdrew her hand gently, as if to break the current
of thoughts.

“I was wondering why you looked different,” she said. “You have grown a
beard.”

“Yes,” he said, with a sudden laugh--the transition was so abrupt. “I
was too slack to shave in South Africa. Don’t you like it?”

“Oh, not at all. It spoils you.”

“I will cut it off at once.”

“Not just to please me?”

“Just to please you. It will be a new sensation.”

“To have it off?”

“No--to please you, Yvonne.”

Her eyes smiled gratefully at him.

“Tell me when I must go,” he said, after a while. “I must n’t tire you.
And you may have other visitors.”

“Don’t go yet. No one else will come.”

“How do you know?”

“You are the only person who has been to see me since I was brought
here,” she replied sadly.

Joyce looked at her for a moment incredulously.

“Do you mean to say you have been quite alone here, among strangers, all
these weeks?”

“Yes,” she said. “But Sister is kind to me, and they allow me all sorts
of little indulgences.”

“But you should be among loving friends, Yvonne,” said Joyce.

“I have so few. And I have told no one that I am here. I couldn’t.
Besides, whom could I tell?”

Joyce could not understand. It was so strange for Yvonne to be
friendless. Delicacy forbade him to question further.

“I have had a lot of trouble, you know,” she said. “It has been nearly
all trouble for over two years. I wrote and told you what had happened.
Then I went to live with Geraldine Vicary, and began to sing again. But
I was always being laid up with my throat and I never knew whether I
could fulfil an engagement when I made it--so I didn’t get on as I used
to. People won’t employ you if they fear you may have to throw them over
at the last moment, will they? And Geraldine used to keep me in a great
deal, for fear I should hurt my voice. But, you see, I had to make some
money. So I went out and sang just before this illness, when I ought
not, and my throat became inflamed and I caught another cold, and it got
worse and worse until diphtheria came on. Then poor Dina caught it and
there was no one to nurse me. You could n’t expect her sister, who did
n’t know me, to do much, could you? And then Dina was just giving up her
flat, and of course I couldn’t keep it on--so the doctor thought I had
better come here. ‘J’y suis, j’y reste. It is not a gay little story, is
it?”

“It is a heart-rending story altogether,” said Joyce, with a concerned
puckering of the forehead. “I wish I could do something to brighten you,
Yvonne.”

“You have done so,” she said with a smile, “by coming to see me. How
good of you to remember--and, you know, by your not writing, I thought
you had quite forgotten.”

“Forgive me, Yvonne--a kind of dull brutishness came over me--I
couldn’t.”

“And I could n’t either, after the one I wrote--about my trouble--at
Fulminster. You never answered it, and I thought--It was n’t because you
despised me, was it?”

“I did n’t get the letter, Yvonne,” he said, unable to disregard this
second reference as he had done the first. “It must have been the one I
heard was lost. I will explain afterwards. I thought you were happy at
Fulminster--so why should I inflict my eternal grumblings on you?”

“Then don’t you know what has happened?” asked Yvonne, with wider eyes
and a little quiver of the lip.

“I learned it a few days ago. I went to Fulminster to find you, as my
letters were returned to me through the Post Office. I was determined to
discover you, but I never dreamed of finding you here. I came as soon I
got the news this morning.”

“I have one friend left,” said Yvonne.

“And you shall always have him, if you will,” said Joyce. “You are the
only one he has.”

“Poor fellow,” said Yvonne.

Though the sweet voice was broken and hard, there was the same tender
pity in the words as when she had uttered them four years back, on their
first re-meeting.

“We are two lonesome bodies, are n’t we?” she added.

“We ’ll do our best to comfort each other,” said Joyce.

The visiting hour was nearly at an end, and the ward was growing silent
again. The sister came down the aisle and stood by Yvonne’s bed and
smoothed her pillows.

“You have had quite enough talking for one day,” she said pleasantly.
“It has given you quite a colour--but we mustn’t overdo it.”

Joyce rose to take his leave.

“I may come again, the next time?” he asked.

“Would you?” said Yvonne, with an eager look.

“I would come to-morrow--every day, if they would let me,” he said with
conviction.

He shook hands with her and walked away. At the end of the ward he
turned, looked back and saw the mass of black against the white pillow
and the specks of crimson that showed Yvonne. He hated leaving her among
strangers and the rough comforts of an open ward in a hospital. An
odd feeling of personal responsibility was mingled with his resentment
against the freaks of fortune--an irrational sense of mean-spiritedness
in letting her lie there.

He went back to his work, cheered and strengthened within; but his
outlook on life was darkened by one more shadow of the inexorable
cruelty of fate. That he should have suffered--well and good. It was
a penalty he was paying. But Yvonne, the sweetest, innocentest soul
alive--why should her head be brought low? And thus the pages that he
wrote grew darker by the shadow.

A fortnight passed, during which he saw her as often as the visiting
hours allowed. He brought her whatever little trifles he could afford,
and she accepted them with the eager gratification of a child. There was
a secondhand bookshop he had come across during his late wanderings,
in Upper Street, Islington, which had a speciality in cheap, tattered
French novels. Thither he tramped one day in order to gratify a desire
she had expressed, and spent an hour turning over the stock. It seemed
hard not to be able to go into a West End shop and order the newest
Paris fiction; but a poor devil must do as best he can and be cheerful.
Yvonne’s delight repaid him for wounded pride. She dipped into them all,
while he was there, turning to the last page to see how they ended. And
then the rakish air their soiled yellow covers gave to the bed, as they
sprawled upon it, amused them both.

They talked of many things. Yvonne interested herself in the patients
and gossiped about their progress and their eccentricities. Often her
artless candour and innate love of laughter gave him details unfit
perhaps for ears masculine. Then she would catch herself up, while a
faint tinge of colour came into her cheek, and with still smiling eyes,
say:

“I always forget that you’re a man. You ought to remind me.”

Joyce, for his part, strove to amuse her with whatever gleams of
brightness he could find in his colonial adventures. Noakes grew to
be the hero of an Arthurian cycle. As for the fat Boer woman, he was
surprised at the amount of grim humour he extracted from her doings.

“I hope you are going to put it in a book,” Yvonne would say, with her
little air of wisdom. “You must n’t waste it all upon me.”

And Joyce, by thus disintegrating incidents from his confused mass of
impressions, found the talks of material benefit as well as a delight.
For a delight they were; the more so, because Yvonne’s gladness at his
visits was so obviously genuine and spontaneous. She told him that she
counted the hours between them. And Yvonne scarcely exaggerated. His
visits were bright spots in a sorrowful, fear-haunted time. When he
came, she summoned up all her strength and courage so as to make the
hour pass pleasantly. Men do not like crying, complaining women, thought
poor Yvonne. Unless she was bright for him, he might grow tired of
coming, and then she would be lonelier than before. So Yvonne told him
little of the anxieties that lay like a dead weight upon her poor little
soul and kept her awake at nights, amid the moans of the sleeping women,
that sounded faint and ghostly in the dim ward.

Her patient acceptance of her lot won Joyce’s admiration. But of her
real position he had no idea. The gentleman in him that had survived
his shame and degradation forbade him to pry into her private affairs.
Besides, he took it for granted that when she recovered, she would live
by herself again, in the old way, and that her drawing-room would be
a haven of rest to him for indefinite years. The question of nursing
alone, he thought, and her incomprehensible friendlessness, had brought
her to the hospital. He longed for her to leave it.

One day, however, he found her lying down in bed, her hair in dark loose
masses over the pillow, her face turned away towards the sister who was
sitting by her side. The latter rose on seeing him, and hurried forward
to meet him in the aisle.

“Be as kind as you can to her,” she said; “she is in great trouble
to-day, poor little thing.”

“What is the matter?” asked Joyce, anxiously.

“Let her speak for herself. I was to send you away when you came. She
was not fit to see you, she said. But I am sure it will comfort her to
talk to a friend.”

The sister moved away, and Joyce approached Yvonne’s bedside with quick
steps. Something serious must have happened.

Yvonne rased a wan, desolate face and eyes heavy with crying, and put
out her hand timidly from beneath the bedclothes. He retained it, as he
sat down upon the chair just vacated by the sister. The few little
cakes he had brought her he placed on the stand near by. She looked too
woe-begone for cakes.

“I have come in spite of your message,” he said. “Why did you want to
send me away?”

“I am too miserable,” murmured Yvonne, in her broken voice.

“What has happened to make you miserable?” he asked very softly. “Tell
me, if it is anything I can hear.”

“It’s my voice that has gone,” cried Yvonne in a sob. “They told me this
morning--the doctor brought a throat specialist--I shall never be able
to sing again--never.”

Before this sudden calamity the man was powerless for comfort.

“My poor little woman!” he said.

“It is worse than losing a limb,” moaned Yvonne. “I have been dreading
it--hoping against hope all along. I wished I had died instead of Dina.
I wish I could die now.” The tears came again. She drew away her hand
and dabbed her eyes with a miserable little wet rag of a handkerchief.

“Don’t,” said Joyce, helplessly. “If you give way you will make yourself
worse. They may be mistaken. Perhaps it will come again after a year or
two.”

He strove to cheer her, brought forward all the arguments he could think
of, all the tender phrases his unaccustomed mind could suggest. At last
the tears ceased for a time.

“But it is my means of livelihood gone,” she said. “When I leave here I
shall starve.”

“Not while I live,” said Joyce, impulsively. Then he reflected. Surely
she could not be entirely without means. He coloured slightly at his
remark, as at an impertinence.

“I shall never get any money any more as long as I live,” said Yvonne.
“I can only go from this hospital into the workhouse. And I won’t go
there. I will pray to die rather.”

“But,” began Joyce, in an embarrassed way,

“I don’t understand. Forgive me for touching upon it--but has not
Everard--?”

“No, oh, no! I refused. I could n’t take his money, if I was not his
wife.”

“That’s absurd,” said Joyce. But his opinion did not alter the facts. He
remained for a moment in thought. “Don’t lose heart,” he said at length.
“Things are never as bad as they seem. I ’ve had awfully bad times and
yet I have pulled through, somehow. You can live quietly for a little on
what you have, and then--”

“But I have n’t a penny, Stephen,” she cried piteously. “Not a penny in
the world. I earned scarcely anything the last year. If it hadn’t been
for Dina, I don’t know what I should have done. I don’t own anything but
a few sticks of furniture and some clothes--”

“Where are they?”

“The porter’s wife at the mansions is keeping them for me, I believe.
They may be sold. I was too ill to trouble.”

“I ’ll see about them for you,” said Joyce. His heart was moved with
great pity for the sweet, helpless little soul. It seemed hard to
realise that, when they had met four years ago, he had looked upon her
as a Lady Bountiful, who had only to stretch out her kind arm to save
him from starvation. Oh, the whirligig of time! And yet the memory of
her help was very precious to him.

“You must let me act for you, Yvonne, will you?”

“You have your own troubles, poor fellow,” said Yvonne.

“Yours will drive mine away, so they will be a blessing in disguise. I
wonder if you could trust me?”

“I have always done so--and I do. Are n’t you the only friend I have?”

“That is what beats me entirely,” he said. “What are all your friends
doing?”

“They have all disappeared gradually,” said Yvonne. “My poor marriage
cut me adrift from my old circle. And at Fulminster--I did n’t make many
real friends.”

“There was a girl you wrote to me about once or twice.”

“Sophia Wilmington? She’s married and gone out to India. I should have
written to her if she had been in England, for she was fond of me.”

“I should have thought that the whole world was fond of you, Yvonne.”

“I don’t know,” she said wistfully. “It seems that I have always been
a kind of waif. I never had any solid kinds of friends, families and so
forth--except your dear mother. I once knew a lot of professionals--but
I saw men mostly--I could never tell why--and they don’t bother about
you much when they’ve lost sight of you, do they? I thought Vandeleur
might have wondered what had become of me.”

“Dear, dear!” said Joyce, reflectively. “I remember Vandeleur from the
long ago.”

“Yes, he’s an old friend. But, you see, it was through Dina. He behaved
badly to her and married Elsie Carnegie--and so they were cuts. I only
saw him once all last year. I heard she was awfully jealous. Is n’t it
silly of a woman? I think, if he knew I was here he’d come. But what
would be the use?”

“Not much, except to say a friendly word to you. But still--while you
were living with Miss Vicary, you must have made some acquaintances. It
seems so extraordinary.”

“We lived so very much alone,” explained Yvonne. “Poor Dina didn’t know
many people--no one liked her. With one exception--and he died long
ago--I think I am the only one in the world who ever loved Dina. No--I
am just a waif--that’s what I am.”

In her simple way she had accounted to him accurately for her life since
her rupture with Everard. At first she had been too sore at heart to
go much into the world. Then Geraldine, whose influence with her
was paramount, continually discouraged her from renewing old
acquaintanceships. Her friends had literally melted away. Had she
so chosen, she might have interested in her misfortunes a score of
professional well-wishers. But Yvonne was proud in many unexpected ways,
and would have died rather than have the shame of sending the hat round
for relief. As for communicating with Fulminster, it was not to be
thought of.

“I don’t care,” she added, after a pause; “I have found you again.”

“Then dry your poor eyes,” he said comfortingly; “and don’t think any
more of the worries. Don’t you remember how happy you made me once, when
I was in desperate straits--when all the world cast me off but you? You
are still the only being who knows me and cares whether I live or die.
You are neither going to starve, Yvonne, nor die in a workhouse. As long
as I have a penny you shall have half of it. Don’t think of anything
more than the immediate future, little woman. We will manage that all
right. Be comforted.”

He spoke earnestly, leaning forward with his arm on the bed. The
precariousness of his own fortunes scarcely occurred to him. He was
deeply moved. At that moment he would have cut off his right hand for
her.

Yvonne thanked him with her eyes, which grew very soft and grateful. His
man’s strength brought her comfort. She trusted him implicitly, as she
had all her life trusted those who were kind to her. She closed her eyes
for a moment with a little sigh of relief. She was so content to yield
to the generous hand that was taking the terrible burden from her
shoulders, felt as if she could go to sleep like a tired child. When she
opened her eyes they were almost smiling.

“I ’ll try to be happy again, so as to thank you, Stephen,” she said.

“Well, here is something for you--what you like--eat one to show me you
are comforted.”

He put the paper bag into her hand, and, tilting back his chair, watched
her pleased expression as she peeped into the mouth and drew out one of
the cakes.

“Oh, how sweet of you!” she said, with a flash of her old sunlight.

Suddenly he rose, and stood, hands in pockets, by the window, frowning
absently at the gathering mist of evening outside. A conviction was
forcing itself on his mind--a cold douche for his quixotic impulses.
Obvious right and common-sense prevailed.

“Yvonne,” he said turning round. “You had no quarrel with Everard, had
you, at parting?”

“Oh, no,” she replied, looking up round-eyed from her paper-bag. “He was
very kind to me.”

“Have you written to him about this?”

“No. We arranged we should not correspond. He sent me word when he
was going out to New Zealand. But I couldn’t let him know--I should
be ashamed. Oh, no, Stephen, I could n’t write to him and say, ‘I am a
beggar now, please give me charity.’ Why should he support me?”

“I hate questioning you,” said Joyce in some embarrassment, “but--is it
repugnant to you to--to think of Everard?”

“Why, of course not, Stephen. It was a time of awful pain and
misery--but if he came to take me back as his wife, I would go to him.
If he ever can, I have promised that I will.”

With all his knowledge of her, Joyce was taken aback by her simple
candour.

“If that is so, why on earth shrink from reconsidering, now, his former
offer?” he asked, exceedingly puzzled at her point of view.

“You tell me what I ought to do, and I will do it,” said Yvonne.

“You must write to Everard.”

“Very well.”

“Then you need not have any fears at all for the future. It will be all
so simple.”

“How can I thank you?” said Yvonne. “Oh, if I could only sing for you!
But nothing will ever give me back my voice--I am a useless little
creature. And you have been so good to me to-day. I shall never forget
it all my life.”

But Joyce’s heart was at ebb-ride again. He rose soon, and took his hat
and stick.

“There is no reason to thank me, Yvonne,” he said, with bitterness.
“What I have done for you has cost me nothing--the cheapest of all
services; I have only given you advice.”

Yvonne looked at him wistfully.

“If you talk like that, you will make me cry again.”

“Forgive me,” said Joyce. “I am a beast.”



CHAPTER XVII--YVONNE PROPOSES

It was night. Yvonne lay wide awake. A suffused sound of breathing
filled the air. Now and then a moan or a smothered cry of pain broke
sharply upon the stillness. The woman in the adjacent bed began to
murmur broken words in her sleep: “For the children’s sake, Joe--my poor
little children--I wish we was all dead.” Some poor tragedy reenacting
itself in slumber. Yvonne listened pityingly. The woman had seemed as
broken down that day with misery as she herself. Then silence again, and
Yvonne fell back upon her own tragedy, which seemed to be working itself
out in the staring wakeful hours.

She had not written to Everard. Pen, ink, and paper had been brought.
The sister had propped her up with pillows in a posture especially
comfortable for writing. But her strength had failed her. To ask him for
money was more than her pride could do.

Instead, she had written a long outpouring to Joyce, which lay unposted
under her pillow.

This pride was a seam of flint in her soft nature. She would have
returned to Everard as his wife, willingly, gratefully, glad to lay her
tired head on his shoulder, and feel his strong protection around, her
once more. But from any one rather than him would she accept charity.
Illogical, irrational, absurd--but a reality none the less in her heart.

Perhaps it was a protest of wounded sex. If Everard had treated her
differently on that disastrous day, the quivering feminine might have
gone unscathed. But in his anger, pain and disillusion he had driven her
wrongs towards him into her flesh, almost like infidelities. She was too
generous to feel resentful. An offer of remarriage would be a natural
acknowledgment of error. To accept his support, apart from him, stung
her to the soul with a sense of being cast off as faithless wife or
dishonest mistress, to whom, however, he was forgivingly and charitably
disposed. And yet what was she to do? Joyce would save her from
immediate want, but she could not look to him for anything but temporary
assistance. More was preposterous.

At last she gave up thinking. Joyce, with his cleverness, would see some
way out of her difficulties. Somewhat comforted, she fell asleep. The
next day was long and intensely dismal. The more clearly she saw that
Joyce’s counsel was the only course to follow, the more hateful it
seemed to her to write the letter. She put it off from hour to hour. And
then the terrible blow that had befallen her weighed upon her mind. She
strove to realise herself moving about the world without a voice. It was
as hard to grasp as the conception of herself as a bodiless shade on the
banks of Acheron. When the elusiveness ceased, and the reality loomed
upon her in all its grimness, she wept bitterly. The consequence was
that, in her still weak state, she broke down with the mental worry,
and, when Joyce next came, he found her in a far worse state than
before. She could scarcely move or speak. Letter-writing was out of the
question. By the merest chance he learned, during the five minutes the
sister allowed him to have with her, that she had not yet written to
Everard.

“But the mail goes to-morrow,” he said. “I have been making enquiries.
If we don’t write now, we shall lose a month. Shall I write to Everard,
seeing that your poor little self is incapable?”

She murmured assent, and sighed as if in grateful relief. Joyce
comforted her as best he could and left her reluctantly. When he
got home, he wrote the letter, a bald statement of facts to which he
appended his signature and the address of his lodgings. He sealed it,
directed it, in his nervous, characteristic handwriting and hurried
out to post it at once. It was a most disagreeable duty over, for to
communicate with his cousin went sorely against the grain. A pleasanter
duty awaited him, as soon as he could settle down to his evening’s work,
the correction of the first batch of proofs from the publishers.

In the course of time, Yvonne recovered her spirits and was on the mend
again. Signs of returning strength showed themselves in her left arm,
which, together with the throat on that side, had been affected by
the disease. Her speaking voice also began to regain some of its old
sweetness, though the surgeons confirmed their statement that the
singing voice was irrevocably gone.

“Do say they are wrong,” said Yvonne casting a pleading look at Joyce.

“Perhaps they are,” said he; “let us hope.”

“Then I may not need Everard’s money, after all.”

“You will for a couple of years, at least,” he said kindly. “But you may
be able to pay it back afterwards.”

This consoled her, and she began to build great schemes. On another
occasion she said to him irrelevantly:--

“Do you think I ought to write to Everard?” She had raised him by this
time to the position of father confessor. A certain feminine weakness in
Joyce’s nature, developing gradually, through his intercourse with
her, into a finer sensitiveness, made it easy for her to give him her
confidence, to speak with him much as she used to speak with Geraldine.
And yet, he being a man, his utterances on such questions, had for her
all their masculine weight.

“It is a matter entirely of your own inclination,” he replied
oracularly.

“But I don’t know what my inclination is,” said Yvonne. “Everard once
told me that it was a much harder thing to know what one’s duty was than
to do it when you know what it is.”

“He was plagiarising from George Eliot,” said Joyce, not ill-pleased at
a malicious hit at the Bishop. And then, teasingly to Yvonne: “And I’m
sure they both put it a little more grammatically.”

“I won’t talk grammar,” cried Yvonne. “I always hated it. It is silly
stuff. You understood perfectly what I meant, did n’t you?”

“Perfectly,” said Joyce.

“Then what’s the good of grammar?” cried Yvonne, triumphantly. “But you
make me forget what I was going to say. It was something quite clever.
Oh yes! Substitute inclination’ for ‘duty,’ and you have my difficulty.
Now do tell me what I am to do.”

“Well, wait until you hear from Everard, and then write him a nice long
letter,” said Joyce.

“That’s just what I wanted to do,” said she; “you are so good to me.”

She was to leave the hospital in January. The time was rapidly
approaching. Much of their time together was spent in the discussion
of plans for the immediate future. Yvonne wanted to sell her furniture,
which Joyce had inspected and found in safe hands. He opposed the idea.
What was the use, when she would want it again, as soon as she was
comfortably situated? In three months she would be in receipt of funds.
Everard might cable her back a remittance long before. In the meantime,
he could advance her a lump sum out of his capital.

“Then you can take unfurnished rooms and put in your own things at once.
It will be much cheaper.”

“But suppose I don’t pay you back,” said Yvonne. “How can you make me?”

“I can suggest nothing but a bill of sale on the furniture,” he replied
laughingly.

“What is that?”

“Well, you sign a paper saying that if the debt is not paid in three
months, at the end of that time I can put in the brokers and sell your
furniture and take all the money.”

“Oh, that would be lovely!” cried Yvonne. “Do let me do it. I should
feel so businesslike. Draw it up now and I ’ll sign it.”

“It will have to be registered,” said Joyce.

“Well, register it then. What’s to prevent you?”

“I was only jesting,” said Joyce.

“But I’m quite serious. Don’t you see how serious I am? Come--to please
me.”

The idea caught her childish fancy, and she spoke quite in her old, gay
mood. She was sitting up now, partially dressed, and, bang able to move
her limbs more freely, reached for writing materials that lay on the
little table by her bed.

“There, draw it up at once, as fearfully legally as you can, with all
kinds of ‘afore-saids’ in it.”

Joyce fell into her humour, and drew up the document in due form, read
it over to her solemnly, and called one of the nurses to witness the
signatures. Then he wrote out a cheque for the amount of the loan, which
she locked up in her despatch-box. He went away with the bill of sale
in his pocket. On his next visit he informed her that it had been
registered and that he would be a merciless creditor. The frivolity of
the proceedings cheered him.

Meanwhile, the real problem of Yvonne’s arrangements presented itself.
The idea of going at once into unfurnished rooms was abandoned. She was
far too weak and helpless as yet for the worries of housekeeping. He
suggested a boarding-house. But Yvonne shrank from the prospect of
living among strangers.

“Besides, you could n’t come and see me as often as I should like,” she
added, with a little air of worldly wisdom. “You haven’t an idea what
scandal is talked in those places.” So Joyce quickly acquiesced in her
taboo of boarding-houses, and found the choice of domicile narrowed down
to furnished apartments.

Yvonne was beginning to be a vital interest in his life. On the days
that the hospital was not open to him, he sent her little notes of his
doings and of such things as might amuse her. In her helpless dependence
she grew to be what Noakes had been to him in his latter days--with
the sweet and subtle difference made by her sex. He had moods almost
of happiness. Yet, like Noakes, Yvonne had not the power of freeing him
from himself, from the awful memories, from the taint that clung to
him. His crime and its punishment was his hair-shirt, for ever next
the sensitive skin, never for the shortest intervals forgotten. Small
incidents were never wanting to bring back the old burning anguish.
Already in the streets he had passed, unrecognised, two old
prison-associates. The sight of them was hateful. Once, in the Strand,
he came face to face with a man, his chief intimate in that fashionable
demi-reputable world which had drawn him to his precipice. The man cut
him dead. On another occasion he met a troop of his cousins from Holland
Park on the terrace of the British Museum. He noticed a girl recognize
him and turn round another way, with a start, as he sprang hurriedly by
through the folding doors. After such encounters, he cowered under the
sense of everlasting disgrace. The old longing that always had lain
dormant within him revived with intense poignancy; the longing to redeem
his self-respect by some wild heroic deed of atonement. Sometimes he
thought of realising all his capital, including the publisher’s eighty
pounds and giving it to Yvonne. But soon she would be beyond the need of
his help and his sacrifice would be merely silly. Common-sense leads us
generally to the most hopeless commonplace. Nor did patient bearing of
his lot appeal to his sensitive fancy as an expiation. The self-respect
that would enable him to free the world’s back with cheerful calm could
only be purchased by some great self-sacrifice. But what chances for
such were offered in his humdrum, poverty-stricken life?

The days passed uneventfully. He wrote from morning to night, either
in the Museum or in his attic, with a fierce determination to earn a
livelihood that braced his powers. His attempts at occasional journalism
were fairly encouraging. The new novel grew daily in gloomy bulk. Often,
on Yvonne-less days, he strolled up to the secondhand bookshop, where he
had bought the French novels, and chatted with the proprietor, with whom
he had struck up an acquaintance. He was a snuffy, rheumy-eyed old man,
Ebenezer Runcle by name, with chronic bronchitis and a deep disdain for
the remnant of the universe outside his bookshop. But for the lumbering,
chaotic, higgledy-piggledy world of volumes within its book-lined walls,
he had a passionate veneration. Joyce found him a mine of extraordinary
and useless information. To sit on a pile of books and listen
to unceasing gossip about Gregory Nazianzene, Sozomen, Evagrius,
Photius--about Aristotle, Averrhoes, Duns Scotus, and the
Schoolmen--about Hakluyt and Purchas--about forgotten historians,
churchmen, poets, dramatists, of all countries in Europe; to turn
over musty old editions of famous printers, the Aldi, Junta, Elzevirs,
Stephani, Allobrandi, Jehans, which the old man shuffled off to procure
from dim recesses of the shelves, was a new intellectual delight It was
a renewal of the keen book-interest of his Oxford days, and a mental
stimulus such as he had not received for many weary years. Gradually it
appeared that Mr. Runde looked forward to his visits; and Joyce, who had
been shy at first of trespassing upon his time, gladly took advantage
of his welcome. Sometimes he helped the old man in the constant work
of rearranging and cataloguing the stock. One afternoon, he found him
wheezing so painfully with his complaint, that he persuaded him to
sit in the little back parlour, while he himself took charge of the
establishment and served customers till closing time. After that he
dropped into the habit of playing salesman. The old man seemed a lonely,
pathetic figure. Joyce’s heart instinctively warmed toward him.

One afternoon, toward the middle of January, he visited Yvonne for the
last time in the hospital. She received him, as on the last two or three
occasions, in the sister’s little sitting-room just outside the ward.
For the first time, however, she was completely dressed, and only
now did Joyce realise how thin and fragile she had become. She looked
absurdly small in the great cane armchair before the fire.

“So I am to call for you on Thursday at twelve and carry you off to your
new abode,” he said.

“Have you settled yet?” asked Yvonne.

“No, not yet. If I can get the place in Elm Park, I shall give up the
other. I shall hear to-morrow.”

Yvonne looked wistfully into the fire, and sighed.

“I shall feel awfully lonesome there, by myself. I am beginning to dread
it. You won’t think me silly, will you? I used not to mind living alone.
But then it was different. You ’ll come and see me very, very often.
Bring your writing, and I ’ll be as quiet as a mouse and won’t disturb
you. You don’t know how frightened and nervous I am. I suppose it’s
because I have been so ill.”

“You poor little thing,” said Joyce, looking down upon her, as he stood
on the hearthrug, “I wish I knew some motherly soul to take care of
you--or that I could take care of you myself,” he added, with a smile.

“Oh, I wish you could,” cried Yvonne, piteously, with an appealing
glance. “Oh, Stephen--could n’t you? I would n’t give you much trouble.”

“Do you mean, Yvonne, that you would like me to get lodgings in the same
house as you?” asked Joyce, with a sudden flash in his eyes.

“Yes,” said Yvonne. “Just at first. Until I feel stronger. I have
been longing to ask you, but I didn’t dare. Don’t think me selfish and
horrid.”

The notion dawned upon him like an inspiration. Why had he not thought
of it before? Why should he not find a garret above her rooms whence he
could look protectingly down upon her, in brotherly affection, instead
of leaving her ill and alone to the dubious mercy of landladies and
lodging-house servants? He was quite bewildered by the charm of her
proposal.

“But, Yvonne, do you know what undreamed of happiness you are offering
me?” he said.

“Then you would like it?” she cried gladly.

“Why, my dear child!” said Joyce; and he walked about the room to
express his feelings.

“I have thought it all out,” said Yvonne, sagely. “We can go to much
cheaper rooms than you intended me to have, so that you can pay the
same for your own lodgings as you pay now. I would n’t lead you into
extravagances for anything in the world.”

“If it comes to that,” said Joyce, “the second floor is vacant where I
lodge now.”

“But that is delightful!” cried Yvonne. “The fates have arranged it
on purpose for us.” They talked for a while over the new plan. Joyce’s
acquiescence, relieving her of much nervous dread of loneliness, raised
her spirits wonderfully.

“You won’t tyrannise over me too much, will you? If I am going out with
tan shoes, you won’t send me indoors to put on black ones? Promise me.”

He laughed. The idea of such an attitude towards her seemed to belong
more to comic opera than to real life. And yet he felt his authority.
She regarded him with the implicit trust of a stray child.

The sister came in and stayed whilst afternoon tea was in progress. She
had built up a lone woman’s romance for these two, and had taken them
both into her friendship. Hence the use of the sitting-room, the tea
and her wise counsels to Joyce as to the proper care of Yvonne. When she
left them alone again, a silence fell upon them, and with it the gloomy
cloud upon Joyce, that no sunshine could dispel for long. He looked
broodingly into the fire, the lines deepening on his face, the old pain
in his eyes.

Was it a right thing that he was about to do--to associate his tarnished
name with hers? It was all very well to dream of the sweetness and light
that daily companionship with her would bring into his life--but was
he fit, socially, morally, spiritually, to live with her? It was taking
advantage of her innocence. His sensitiveness shrank, as if from the
suggestion of a baser disloyalty to her trustingness.

Yvonne, leaning back in her long chair, kept her dark eyes fixed
upon him. At first she wondered at his sudden gloom, and fancied
distressedly that it proceeded from her proposal. But suddenly ah
illumination, such as she had never in her life experienced, lit up
her mind, and caused her a strange little thrill. She called his name
softly. He started, turned, rose at her sign and bent low over her
chair.

“I want to come and live with you more than ever now, Stephen,” she
said; and as she spoke her voice seemed to have regained its musical
softness. “I mean to try and drive away the sad thoughts from you.
Perhaps, after all, though I can’t sing, I may do a little good in the
world.”

Her tenderness touched him. He wished she was a child that he might kiss
her. The temptation to receive this boon the gods were giving him was
too strong. He yielded entirely. And from that hour began Yvonne’s
conscious battle with the powers of darkness in the desolate depths of a
man’s heart.



CHAPTER XVIII--DRIFTWOOD

They lived together four months, Yvonne in her comfortable rooms, Joyce
in his attic overhead. At first she had been helpless, requiring much
aid both from Joyce and from the landlady, over whom she had cast her
accustomed charm; but with the early spring weather she recovered full
use of her limbs, and strength enough to fight her small battles for
herself. To Joyce it had been a time of consolation in many black moods.
He dreaded the arrival of the New Zealand mail, which he calculated
would bring Yvonne her freedom. It was almost a relief when he assured
himself by enquiries that no news had come from the Bishop. He had
another month of Yvonne’s companionship to look forward to. When
that passed, however, and the second mail from New Zealand proved as
fruitless as the first, he was forced to look at matters from a
practical point of view. He had already far exceeded the original
advance he had made to Yvonne. Under the assurance that he would be
reimbursed, he had not scrupled to spend money freely on little luxuries
and comforts. At the present rate of living, therefore, another two
months would see him at the end of his resources, which included money
that he had received in advance for the copyright of his book. His
current income from occasional journalism was ridiculously small. The
new novel was only half-way towards completion. Poverty stared him in
the face.

As a last resource he went to Everard’s bankers, but only to learn that
his cousin had withdrawn his account. He found Yvonne anxiously
awaiting the result of this errand. As he entered, she rose impulsively,
scattering scissors and spool of cotton from her lap. She read his
failure in his free.

“What is to be done?” she asked, when he had finished his report.

“I don’t know,” replied Joyce, truthfully.

He looked at her, puzzled and distressed.

“You must pay yourself out of the furniture and let me go,” said Yvonne.

“Where would you go to?”

“I don’t know,” said Yvonne in her turn.

At the picture of helpless dismay Joyce broke into a laugh.

“Oh, how _can_ you laugh, when I owe you all this money?” she said, with
a choke in her voice.

“Because I am glad, Yvonne, that fate seems to compel me to go on
looking after you.”

“But how can you go on? How can I burden you any further?”

“Don’t talk about burdens,” he said gently. “You repay me twice over for
what little I have given you.”

“But the furniture is not worth all that,” said Yvonne.

“What has the furniture to do with it?”

“Why it is yours, is n’t it?”

“How, mine?”

“The bill of sale,” replied Yvonne seriously.

“Oh, you dear little goose,” cried Joyce, “you don’t suppose I am going
to sell you up!”

“Why not--if you need the money? The furniture is all your own.”

“How can it be when I don’t claim it?”

Yvonne shook her head. Ordinarily the most easily swayed of women, now
and then she was inconvincible. She had got it into her head that the
furniture had lapsed by sheer law of England into his possession, and no
argument could move her. He explained that he could renew the bill. She
dismissed the explanation with a little foreign gesture.

“I own nothing in the world but what I stand up in,” she persisted.

“Then you’re worse off than ever,” said Joyce.

“I am,” she said despondently. “Is n’t it strange to want money! I never
knew what it was before.”

There was an odd pathos in her face that touched him.

“Cheer up, little woman. Nothing is ever so bad as it looks.”

Comforting words were nice, but they did not change the position. Money
had to be obtained. Where was it to come from?

“I suppose I must write to Everard, since your letter has miscarried.”

“Letters don’t miscarry nowadays,” said Joyce. “They don’t even do so in
novels. Still, you had better write. I wish you felt you need n’t.”

“So do I.”

“We shall have to part as soon as he cables a remittance.”

“Oh, I wish we could get along as we are,” said Yvonne. “I have been so
happy here with you.”

“Then let us fight it out between us,” exclaimed Joyce resolutely. “You
 ’ll soon be able to get some singing lessons, and I  ’ll find a situation
as railway porter, or something, and we ’ll rub along somehow till better
times.”

“Oh, you don’t know how much gladder I should be!” cried Yvonne with a
sparkle in her eyes. “If I only could earn something--not be a drag
upon you! Oh, I would sooner lead the life of a poor, poor woman, in the
humblest way, than take Everard’s money--you know that.”

“We can’t go on living here,” said Joyce, gently.

“Of course not. We will go to much cheaper rooms and live like
working-folks. I can do lots of things, lay fires, make pastry--”

“Dumplings will be as far as we can get,” said Joyce.

“Well, then, they ’ll be beautiful dumplings,” said Yvonne.

“And I dare say we can find a way to settle the furniture question,”
 said Joyce. “I shall begin to look about for a cheap place at once.”
 So the trouble fell from Yvonne for a time. Now that she had decided to
make no further appeal to Everard, but to endeavour once more to earn
her livelihood, she felt lighter-hearted. Her attachment to Stephen
had grown so strong that she had contemplated the loss of his
daily protection with dismay. The solitary life frightened her. The
vicissitudes through which she had passed, the loss of her voice
especially, had taken away her nerve. At first, she had been so weak
from her long illness and her helpless arm, that she found Stephen’s
presence an unspeakable comfort, and did not speculate upon any anomaly
in her position. By the time she regained health, their life under the
same roof appeared in the natural order of every-day things. And it
was very pleasant. Besides, with the daily intercourse, came a deeper
comprehension of his shipwreck. She began to realise that the material
dependence on her side was reciprocated by a spiritual dependence on
his. It awoke new and delicious stirrings of pride to feel her influence
over him, to find herself of use to a man. Once she could sing,
amuse--yield her lips with kind passivity to satisfy strange unknown
needs. She had regarded herself with wistful seriousness in her
relations with men, as a poor little instrument for men to play on. They
fingered the stops, extracted what music they could, and then laid the
pipe aside while they devoted themselves to the business of the world.
But Stephen approached her differently from other men. He did not want
her for her voice; he did not throw himself weary into a chair and say,
“Chatter and amuse me;” and he did not look at her with eyes yearning
for her lips. But his needs, quite other than she had known before, were
revealing themselves to her with gradual distinctness. She was learning
his humbled pride, his lacerated self-respect, his ingrained sense of
degradation, his crying need of sympathy and encouragement and ennobling
object in life. The strong man came to her, Yvonne, to be healed and
strengthened; and, from some fresh-discovered fountain within her, she
was finding remedy for maladies and sustaining draughts for weakness.
A new conception of herself was dawning before her, in a great, quiet
happiness; and her nature unconsciously expanded.

Thus a twofold instinct urged her to throw in her lot with Joyce.

He passed a very anxious week. It seemed as if his old bitter and
fruitless search for work was to be repeated. Neither could he find
suitable apartments. “I’m afraid it will have to come to the workhouse,”
 he said in dejected jest.

“Oh, that will never do!” cried Yvonne. “They would separate us.”

She had been more successful. Two or three of the ex-pupils to whom
she had written had replied, promising their recommendation. With a
shrewdness that won Joyce’s admiration she used the address of her
former agents, who willingly forwarded her letters. But the sight of the
familiar office, whither she had gone to beg this favour, had brought
her a bitter pang of regret for the lost voice. She had cried all the
way home and then looked anxiously in the glass, afraid lest Joyce
should perceive the traces of her tears. She strove valiantly to cheer
him in his worries.

At last Joyce went to his friend, the secondhand bookseller in
Islington, whom he had seen less frequently since his life with Yvonne,
and there, to his delighted surprise, found a solution for all his
difficulties. The old man was growing too infirm to carry on the
business single-handed. He wanted an assistant “And where am I to get
one?” he said querulously. “I don’t want a damned fool who does n’t know
an Elzevir from a Catnach.”

“I ’ll come like a shot if you ’ll have me,” said Joyce, eagerly.

“You? Why, you’re a gentleman and a scholar,” said the old man.

“So much the better,” returned Joyce, laughing. “There will be something
mediaeval about the arrangement.”

The bargain was quickly struck. Furthermore, when Joyce explained his
domestic considerations, the old man offered him, at a small rent, three
rooms in the house, above the shop. There they were, he said; they were
not used; he once took in lodgers, but they pestered his life out; so
he had made up his mind not to be worried with them any more. However,
Joyce was an exception. He was quite welcome to them; he himself only
wanted a bedroom and the little back-parlour on the ground-floor.

These reserved quarters, the vacant three rooms and a kitchen with an
adjoining servant’s bedroom, made up the internal arrangements of the
old-fashioned, rather dilapidated house. Joyce went up to inspect. At
first his heart sank. The rooms were only half-furnished, the paper
was mouldy, dirt abounded, the ceilings were low and blackened. However,
many of these drawbacks could be remedied. Mr. Runcle promised a
thorough cleansing and repapering, whereat Joyce’s spirits rose again.
Next to the sitting-room was a fair-sized bedroom for Yvonne; upstairs
a little room for himself. He enquired about attendance. The old man
explained that a woman lived on the premises. She did for him and would
doubtless be glad to do for Joyce also, for a small sum per week.

*****

By the end of a few days they were settled in their new abode. The bits
of furniture, that had been the subject of such dispute, made the place
habitable. Re-papered and whitewashed and hung with curtains and a
few pictures out of Yvonne’s salvage, it looked almost cosy. But the
threadbare carpet and rug, the horsehair sofa, and odd, rickety chairs
and the small-paned, cheaply-painted windows gave it an aspect of
poverty that nothing could efface.

“It’s not a palace,” said Joyce ruefully, looking round him on the day
they took definite possession. “You will miss many comforts, Yvonne.”

“I’m not going to miss anything,” she replied, “except worry and
anxiety. I am going to be perfectly happy here.”

“You don’t know what a sweet incongruity you are among these
surroundings,” he said; “you remind one of a dainty piece of lace sewn
on to corduroys. Oh, I hope this life won’t be too rough for you--we
shall have to practise so many miserable little economies--coals, gas,
food--”

Yvonne broke into a sunny laugh. “Oh, that’s just like a man! Did you
ever hear of a well-regulated woman that did n’t love to economise? When
I was at Fulminster, you have no idea how I cut down expenses!”

She turned to take off her hat before the discoloured gilt mirror over
the mantelpiece, and then threw it quickly on the round centre table and
faced him again.

“I shall be quite as happy here as I was in Fulminster. Perhaps happier,
in a sense. You know, I always felt so small in that big house. This
just suits me.”

Thus began the odd life together of these two waifs, abandoned by
the world. The previous four months had been invested with an air of
transience. Yvonne’s presence beneath the same roof as Joyce had been a
temporary arrangement until supplies should come from the Bishop. They
had not joined in housekeeping. Whenever Joyce went down to Yvonne, he
had done so purely in the character of a visitor. From that state of
things to this life in common was a great step. And yet to each it
seemed natural. Society being unaware of their existence, they felt
no particular need of observing Society’s conventions. To the old
bookseller, to the servant, to each other, they were brother and sister,
and that was enough.

Joyce found his work fairly light. The important part of the business
was carried on by orders through the post. Purchases of “rare and
curious books” at prices per volume from three pounds upwards are rarely
made casually over the counter. Joyce knew this, of course, but he
was nevertheless surprised at the extensiveness of Ebenezer Runcle’s
connection. Every morning there was considerable correspondence to be
got through, parcels of books to be made up and despatched, the slips
for the monthly catalogue to be kept up to date. After that, if no
new stock was brought in, there was little else to do but wait for
customers. The long spells of leisure were invaluable to him for
writing. He found his mind worked smoothly in the quiet, musty
atmosphere of the books. There they were in brilliant rows around the
walls, on bookcases running longitudinally through the shop, piled
in stacks by the doorway, in comers, upon trestles, anywhere. A great
rampart of them cut off the draught of the door. In the small enclosed
space thus formed was a stove, on one side of which he placed his
writing-table, while on the other, in a dilapidated cane armchair, sat
the old man, a bent, wheezing figure, deep in his beloved patristic
literature.

At intervals during the day he saw Yvonne, who was proud and happy in
the superintendence of her humble establishment. Not long after the
move, some welcome singing-lessons came, at a house in Russell Square,
and enabled her to contribute her mite towards the household expenses.
It was a hard problem to make ends meet sometimes, on what Joyce was
able to set apart for housekeeping, and at first, through lack of
experience in close economy, she made dreadful blunders. Then she came
in tearful penitence to Joyce. On one of these occasions, he had arrived
for dinner, and found her gazing piteously upon three meatless bones,
standing like ribs of wreck in a beach of potatoes. She had thought
enough had been left from yesterday for two more meals. He consoled her
as best he could, and tackled the potatoes. But she watched him with
so miserable and remorse-stricken a face that at last he broke out
laughing. And then, Yvonne, who was quick to see the light side of
things, laughed too and forgot her troubles. After a time, no housewife
in the neighbourhood kept a shrewder eye upon the butcher.

The evenings they usually spent together, working or talking. Now and
then, at Joyce’s invitation, the old man would come in, and the trio
would talk literature, the old man vaunting the ancients and Joyce
defending the moderns, until a veritable Battle of the Books was
recontested, while Yvonne sat by, in awed silence, wondering at the
vastness of human learning. Often he wrote or discussed the novel with
her. In this she took the deepest interest. The intellectual processes
involved were a perpetual mystery to her, and caused her to place Joyce
on a pinnacle of genius. But her sympathy and enthusiasm helped him as
few other things could. And gradually her influence made itself felt
in his writing. His sympathies widened, his aspect upon life softened.
Planned to reveal the bitter sordidness of broken lives, and half
written in a grey, hopeless atmosphere, imperceptibly the book lost in
harshness, grew in tenderness and humanity. And this corresponded to the
softening in the nature of the man himself.

Yet now and then incidents occurred that brought back the past in all
its gloom. One in particular weighed for many days afterwards upon his
mind.

It was a sultry night. He had come out for a stroll down Upper Street
and High Street, before going to bed. Outside the Angel, the limit of
his walk, he lingered a moment and was looking with idle interest at
the great block of omnibuses, when he became aware that a poorly-dressed
woman was standing by him, gazing rigidly into his face. He started,
tried to fix her identity.

“Good God! It is you!” said the woman.

Then he remembered. It was Annie Stevens, the girl who had betrayed him
so miserably to the theatrical company years before.

“Won’t you speak to me?” she asked, somewhat humbly, as he remained
silent.

“You recall a very bitter time to me,” said Joyce.

“Do you think it is any sweeter to me?” she asked.

And then, with a quick glance round at an approaching policeman:--

“Walk on a little way with me, will you?”

He hesitated for a moment, but a beseeching look in her eyes touched
him. Her presence at that place, at that hour, spoke of tragedy. She had
never been pretty. Now she had grown thin and hard-featured.

“You need n’t fear I’m going to ask you for anything--you of all people
in the world. Of course, if you don’t want to be seen with me, don’t
come. You can’t hurt me. I’m past that. But I’d like to speak with you
for a minute or two.”

He had moved on with her while she was talking. Then there were a few
moments’ silence.

“Well?” he enquired. “What do you wish to say?”

“God knows--anything--just to ask you, perhaps, whether you’re right
again. I have thought of you enough.”

He glanced at her curiously.

“Why have you come to this?”

“Why did you go to prison?” she retorted.

“I did wrong and was punished for it.”

“So did I. This is my punishment. After you had gone, I could have
torn my heart out I went on the drink--could n’t get engagements--went
downhill. I can’t go much lower, can I? If you want revenge, you ‘ve got
it.”

She tossed her head in her old, defiant way. Joyce, perceiving her
association of himself in her downfall, felt somewhat moved with pity.

“God knows, revenge is the last thing I want On the contrary, I am
distressed to see you come to this. If I could help you, I would do so.
But that, you know as well as I, is out of my power.”

“Yes; the only thing you could do, would be to marry me and make an
honest woman of me, and that is n’t likely,” she said, cynically.

“No, it is n’t likely,” said Joyce. “I can only be deeply sorry for
you.”

“I wonder whether you could tell what it is to me to talk to you even in
this way. Oh, God! if you knew how I longed to see you!”

“Why did you act as you did toward me?” he asked.

“I don’t know. Don’t ask me. Because every woman’s got a tiger in her
somewhere, I suppose. I used to think men were the brutes. Now I know
it’s women. We’re all the same. I hate myself. I wish you would take me
up a back street and kill me. This is a hell of a life. Do you remember
the last words you said to me? ‘Some people are better dead.’ It’s the
truest thing I ’ve ever heard from man or woman.”

“It’s easy enough to get out of the world, if we want to,” said Joyce.
“But perhaps it’s better to fight it out. You must make an effort and
get out of this life--a proud girl like you.”

“I have n’t much pride left.”

“I thought so too. But it takes a lot of killing. I ’ve come out fairly
straight. Why shouldn’t you?”

“I ’ll come out straight, the only way--a corpse. But I’m glad things are
better with you. It relieves me to know it. I thought I had sent you to
the devil, and that’s why I went there myself, I suppose. Well, I won’t
keep you any longer. I know you hate being seen with me.”

“Can’t I do anything for you?” said Joyce, feeling in his pocket.

“Yes--flay me alive by offering me money. You did once--do you
remember?”

She stopped abruptly, took Joyce’s proffered hand, and said in a softer
voice:--

“It’s good of you to shake hands with me. Men are better than women.
Thank God I ’ve seen you at last. Good-bye.”

“Good-bye,” said Joyce, kindly.

They parted, and went their different ways, Annie Stevens to the horror
of her life and Joyce to the home that held Yvonne. The parallel and the
contrast smote him as he walked along the familiar street Both himself
and this girl that had fallen were derelicts, both were expiating the
past, both were carrying within them a degraded self, that with a nobler
self waged cruel and eternal warfare. For the injury she had done him
he cherished no resentment He felt a great pity for her, and judged her
gently.

It was strange how his rudderless course through the last six years had
been influenced by other lonely and drifting craft. Annie Stevens, who
had loved and nearly wrecked him, had been the cause of his linking
fortunes with poor Noakes; and it was through Yvonne--with whom,
sweetest of derelicts, he was now voyaging on unruffled waters--that he
had first drifted towards Annie Stevens. He was pondering over this
one day during an idle hour in the shop with the old bookseller, when a
whimsical fancy seized him.

“You lead a very lonely life, Mr. Runcle,” he said suddenly.

“Yes,” replied the old man. “I suppose I do. Beyond one sister, who has
been dying for many months, I have neither kith nor kin in the world.”



CHAPTER XIX--FERMENT


Is all this true?” asked Yvonne, mournfully.

“Yes, worse luck,” replied Joyce, looking up from his Sunday newspaper.

“It is very dreadful,” said Yvonne.

She was finishing “The Wasters,” Joyce’s lately published novel. It was
not a success. Its cultivated style received recognition everywhere, but
the unrelieved pessimism, powerfully as it was presented, repelled most
readers. He was inclined to be depressed at its reception. To Yvonne,
however, it was a revelation. She closed the book with a sigh, and
remained for some time gazing absently at the cover. Then she rose in
her quick way.

“Let us go out--into the sunshine--or I shall cry. I feel miserable,
Stephen.”

“On account of that wretched book?”

“That and other things. Take me to Regent’s Park--to see the flowers.”

He assented gladly and Yvonne went to put on her things. Shortly
afterwards they were side by side on the garden seat of a westward bound
omnibus.

“I feel better,” said Yvonne, breathing in the summer air. “Don’t you?”

“It is nice,” answered Joyce. “I shall be better pleased when we are
out of these joyless streets. The Pentonville Road on a Sunday is
depressing. I haven’t seen a smile on a human face since we have been
out. What grey lives people lead.”

“But they can’t all be unhappy,” she said.

The ’bus stopped for a moment. Three or four young roughs, in Sunday
clothes, with coarse, animal faces and discordant speech passed by below
on the pavement, and noisily greeted a couple of quiet-looking girls,
evidently acquaintances.

“These seem cheerful enough,” said Yvonne.

Joyce shrugged his shoulders.

“Did it ever occur to you what misery men of that type work in the
world? By the laws of their class they will all marry--and marry young.
Fancy a woman’s life in the hands of any of those fellows.”

The ’bus moved on. Yvonne was silent.

His tone was that of the book she had just been reading. She stole a
side glance at him. His face in repose was always sad and brooding.
To-day she seemed to read more clearly in it the lines that the breaking
of the spirit had caused. She identified him with the characters in the
sordid scenes he had described. Presently she laid her hand lightly on
his arm.

“Do you think we live a very grey life--now?”

“You have a very hard, dull, monotonous life,” he replied.

“I don’t,” said Yvonne stoutly. “I am very pleased and contented. I only
want one thing to make me perfectly happy.”

“So does every one. The one thing just makes the difference. It’s the
one thing we can’t possibly get.”

“It is n’t what you imagine,” said Yvonne. “You are thinking of money
and all that.”

“No. It’s your voice.”

“It is n’t!” cried Yvonne, with a touch of petulant earnestness. “It is
to see you bright and happy--as you used to be long, long ago. You might
have known.”

“It is very dear of you,” he answered, after a pause. “I am selfish--and
can’t understand your sweet spirit. Sometimes I seem to have a stone
heart, like the man in the German story.”

“You have a warm, generous heart, Stephen. What other man would have
done what you have for me?”

“It was pure selfishness on my part,” he replied. “The loneliness was
too appalling. And then, further, I am never quite sure I have acted
rightly by you.”

“I am,” she said. “And I’m the best judge, I think.”

But Joyce was correct in his bitter self-analysis. Now and then his
sensitive fibres vibrated. But generally the weight of the past years
was on his heart, and repressed continuous emotion. To live on these
intimate terms with Yvonne and never consider the possibility of loving
her, after the way of men, was absurd. The chivalrous instincts awakened
by her implicit trust in him, and the double barrier which forbade
a love that could result in marriage, made him dismiss such
considerations. But often, in gloomy introspective moods, his
self-contempt denied these instincts as arrogant pretensions, and
attributed the absence of warmer feelings towards Yvonne to the
petrifaction of all emotional chords. Of late, however, he had ceased to
speculate, taking his insensibility for granted.

When they arrived at the Regent’s Park, they proceeded for some distance
northwards up the great avenue. It was crowded. Joyce looked about him,
with a fidgeted air, at the stream of passers-by.

“Let us get away from the people and sit under a tree,” he said at
length.

Yvonne slipped her hand impulsively through his arm.

“I wish you knew how proud I am of you,” she said.

“It’s for your sake, too, Yvonne, dear,” he replied in a touched voice.

She made one of her magnificent little gestures with the hand holding
her sunshade.

“I have never done anything to be ashamed of yet,” she said proudly, and
glanced from Joyce to a pompous elderly couple with an air of defiance.
Then she brought him abruptly to a stand before a flower-bed bright in
its summer glory.

“Oh, how lovely! Look!”

She broke into little joyous exclamations. Colour affected her like
music. A glow came into her cheek. She became again the thing of
warmth and sunshine that had gladdened him four years before, when his
degradation lay heavy on him.

“It _is_ a beautiful world, Stephen.”

“You are right, dear. It is. And you are the most beautiful thing in
it.”

The glow deepened on her face, and a bright moisture appeared in her
eyes as she glanced upwards.

“That’s very, very foolish. But you said it as if you meant it.”

“I did indeed, Yvonne.”

“Let us go and find a place under the trees,” she said softly.

They left the main avenue and wandered on over the green turf, seeking
for a long time a piece of shade untenanted by sprawling men, or lovers,
or heterogeneous families. At last they found a lonely tree and sat down
beneath it.

“Are you happier here?” she asked.

“Much. It is so peaceful. When I was in South Africa I yearned for
civilisation and men and women. Now I am in London, I am happiest away
from them. Men are funny animals, Yvonne.”

Yvonne looked down at the ground and nervously plucked at the grass.
Then she raised her eyes quickly.

“When are you going to be quite happy, Stephen?”

“I am happy enough now.”

“But when you get home, the black mood may come over you again. Can’t
you forget all the horrid past--the prison--and all that?” It was the
first time she had ever alluded to it directly; her voice quavered on
the word.

“No, I can never forget it,” he replied in a low tone. “If I live to be
a hundred, I shall remember it on my deathbed.”

“You seem to feel it--just like a woman does--who has been on the
streets--as if nothing could wipe it away.”

He was startled. Signs had not been wanting of a change coming over
Yvonne, but he had never heard a saying on her lips of such perceptive
earnestness. It was strange, too, that she had hit upon a parallel that
had been in his mind since the night he had met Annie Stevens.

“Nothing can wipe it away, Yvonne. It is like a woman’s sense of
degradation--just as you say.”

“I would give anything--my voice over again, if I had it--to help you.
You have never told me about it--the dreadful part of it--I want to
know--every bit--tell me now, will you?”

“You would loathe me, as much as I loathe myself, if I told you.”

He was lying on one elbow, by her side. She ventured a gossamer touch
upon his forehead.

“You don’t know much about a woman, although you do write books,” she
said.

The touch and the tone awoke a great need of expansion. He struggled for
a few moments, and at last gave way.

“Yes, I ’ll tell you--from the very beginning.” And there in the
quasi-solitude of their tree--one of innumerable camping-spots for
recumbent figures, that met the eye on all sides--he gave, for the first
time, definite utterance to the horrors that had haunted him for six
years. He told her the old story of the earthenware pot careering down
the stream in company with the brazen vessels; of his debts, staring
ruin, and his yielding to the great temptation; of his trial, his
sentence rendered heavier by the fact that his malversations had brought
misery into other lives. He described to her in lurid detail just what
the prison-life was, what it meant, how its manifold degradation ate
into a man’s flesh, became infused in his blood and ran for ever through
his veins. He spared her nothing of which decency permitted the telling.
Now and then Yvonne shivered a little and drew in a quick breath; but
her great eyes never left his face--save once when he showed her his
hands still scarred by the toil from which delicate fingers never
recover.

He had spoken jerkily, in hard, dry tones; so he ended abruptly. There
was silence. Yvonne’s little gloved hand crept to his and pressed it.
Then, with a common impulse, they rose to their feet.

“Thank you for telling me,” she said, coming near to him and taking his
arm. “I did not know how how terrible it has been--and I never realised
what a brave man you are.”

“I--brave, Yvonne?” he cried with a bitter laugh.

“Yes--to have gone through that and to be the loyal, tender,
true-hearted gentleman that you are.”

He looked down at her and saw her soft eyes filled with tears and her
lips quivering.

“You still feel the same to me, Yvonne, now that you know it all?” he
asked, bending forward on his stick.

“More,” she answered. “Oh,--much more.”

They walked back to the Park gates in a happy silence, drawn very near
to one another, since both hearts were very full. So close together
did they walk, so softened was the man’s face, and so sweetly proud the
woman’s, that they might have been taken for lovers. But if love was
hovering over them, he touched neither with an awakening feather. And so
they passed on their way untroubled.

That day was, in a certain sense, a landmark in their lives. Yvonne
never referred to the prison again, but she learned to know when its
shadow was over him and at such times her nature melted in tenderness
towards him.

The days wore on. The second novel, over whose pages Yvonne had cast
gleams of sunshine, was finished and disposed of to the same publishers.
His source of income from occasional journalism showed signs of becoming
steadier. But all the same, the struggle with poverty continued hard.
Yvonne fell ill again and lost her music-lessons. It took some time
after her recovery to pay off the debts incurred for doctor, medicine,
and invalid necessaries. To obtain funds to take her to the seaside
for a few days, Joyce was forced to ask his publishers for an advance.
However, the trip restored Yvonne to health again, and their uneventful
life pursued its usual course.

One day a strange phenomenon occurred. A visitor was announced. It was
the sister who had tended Yvonne in the hospital. Once before, while
Yvonne was living in the Pimlico lodgings, she had paid a flying visit.
On this occasion she stayed for a couple of hours with Yvonne, who,
happy as she was with Joyce, felt a wonderful relief in talking again
familiarly with one of her own sex. She poured forth the little history
of all that had befallen her since she had left the hospital.

“Do you mean to tell me,” the sister said at last, “that you keep house
together on this romantically Platonic basis?”

Yvonne regarded her, wide-eyed.

“Of course. Why should n’t we?”

The sister was a woman of the world. When she had entered the room and
perceived the unmistakable signs of a man’s general presence, she had
drawn her own conclusions.

That these were erroneous, Yvonne’s innocent candour most clearly
proved. Yet she was astonished, perhaps a little disappointed. The
offending Eve lingers in many women, even after much self-whipping--for
the greater comfort of their lives.

“But how can a man look at you and not fall in love with you?” she asked
downright.

Yvonne laughed, and ran to the kettle that was boiling over on the
gas-stove--she was making tea for her visitor.

“Oh, you can’t think of the number of people who have said those same
words to me! Why, that is why I am so happy with Stephen--he has never
dreamed of making love to me; never once--really. And, do you know, he’s
the only man I ’ve ever had much to do with who has n’t.”

“He looks like a man who has seen a great deal of trouble,” said the
sister.

Yvonne’s laugh faded, and a great seriousness came into her eyes.

“Awful trouble,” she said in a very low and earnest voice.

“Perhaps that makes him different from other men,” said the sister,
taking her hand and smoothing it.

“Perhaps,” replied Yvonne.

It was a new light, quick and clear, flashed upon their relations. Her
woman’s instinct clamoured for confirmation.

“Do you think that if he had not this great trouble, he would
necessarily have fallen in love with me, like the others?”

“It stands to reason,” replied the elder woman gently--“if he’s a man at
all. And he is a man--one, too, that many women could love and be proud
of.”

“Oh, thank you for saying that!” cried Yvonne, impulsively. “I am proud
of him.” An imperceptible smile played over the sister’s plain, pleasant
face. Her calling had brought her a certain knowledge of human nature,
and taught her to judge by suppressions. This side-light on the inner
lives of the two beings whose fortunes had long ago interested her,
quickened her sympathies for them. She determined to keep them in view
for the future--and with this intention she offered Yvonne opportunities
for continuing the friendship.

“So you ’ll come and see me often,” she said at last. “I have n’t very
many friends.”

“And I haven’t any at all,” said Yvonne, smiling. “And oh! you don’t
know what a comfort it would be to have a woman to go to now and then!”

The visit left Yvonne thoughtful and happy. A new feeling towards Joyce
budded in her heart and the process was accompanied by tiny shocks
of tender resentment. So conscious was she of this, that that evening
whilst Joyce was working in the armchair opposite to her, she suddenly
broke into a little musical laugh. He looked up and caught the
reflection of her smile.

“What is amusing you, Yvonne?”

She still smiled, but a deep red flush showed beneath her dark skin.

“My thoughts,” she said, in a tone that admitted of no further question.

Yet she would have liked to tell him. It was so humorous that she should
feel angry because he did not fall in love with her.

Sometimes light moods are delicate indexes to far-away, unknown
commotions. Afterwards, in the serious moments, when the birdlike
inconsequence fled away from her and she realised herself as a grown
woman to whom had come the knowledge of life, this that she had laughed
and blushed over appeared sad and painful. It kept her awake sometimes
at nights. Once she got out of bed, lit her candle, and looked closely
at her face in the glass. But she returned comforted. She was not
getting old and unattractive.

Yet a vague ferment in her nature began to puzzle her sorely. Her mind,
that was once as simple as a child’s and as clear as spring water,
seemed now tangled with many complexities; she saw into it, as in a
glass, darkly. Life, for the first time appeared to her incomplete. She
was weighed down with a sense of failure. The very facts that had caused
the happy possibility of her comradeship with Joyce smote her as proofs
of the inadequacy of her own womanhood. The essential fierce vanity of
sex was touched.

Once only before had she used her sex as a weapon--on that miserable day
at Ostend, to keep Everard by her side. Then she had felt the fire of
shame. Now she was tempted to use it again, and the shame burned deeper.

And Joyce, familiarised with the drily sweetness of her companionship,
did not notice the gradually stealing increase of tenderness in her
ways.



CHAPTER XX--UPHEAVAL

It was late in the afternoon. The old man had gone away to Exeter, to
bury his sister, his only surviving relative. Joyce was alone in the
shop busily sorting a job lot of books that had come in during the
morning. They were stacked in great piles at the further end, forming
a barrier between himself and the doorway, where the falling light
was creeping in upon the neatly-arranged shelves. Above him flared a
gas-jet. It was warm and dusty work, and Joyce had taken off his coat
and collar and rolled up the sleeves of his flannel shirt. Some of the
worthless books he threw on two piles on the floor, to be placed in the
twopenny and fourpenny boxes outside.. Others he priced and catalogued.
Others, again, in good bindings, or otherwise obviously of value, he
dusted with a feather brush and put aside for the old man’s inspection.
Now and again space failed for the assorted lots, and he would carry
great strings of volumes supported under his chin to convenient
stacking-spaces on the shelves. Then he would proceed with his sorting,
cataloguing, and cleansing.

Presently the back-parlour door opened and Yvonne appeared. Joyce
paused, with a grimy volume in his hand, in the midst of a cloud of dust
that rose like incense, and his heart gave a little throb of gladness.
She looked so fresh and sweet as she stood there, daintily aproned, in
the darkness of the doorway, with the light from the gas-jet falling
upon her face.

“Tea’s ready,” she remarked.

“Let me finish this lot,” he said, pointing to a pile, “and then I ’ll
come.”

She nodded, advanced a step and took up a great in-folio black-letter.

“What silly rubbish,” she said, with a superior little grimace, as she
turned over the pages. “Fancy any one wanting to buy this.”

“You had better put it down, if you don’t want to cover yourself with
dirt,” said Joyce.

She dropped the book, looked at her soiled hands with a comic air of
disgust.

“Horrid things! Why did n’t you tell me?”

Joyce laughed for answer. It was so like Yvonne. After she had
withdrawn, with a further reminder about the tea, he went on smiling to
himself.

It was very sweet, this brother and sister life of theirs, in spite of
its isolation. There seemed no reason why it should not continue for
ever. Indeed, he scarcely thought of change. Now that his small earnings
seemed practically assured and Yvonne could contribute from her singing
lessons something to the household expenses, the wolf was kept pretty
far from the door.

He was in one of his lighter moods, when Yvonne’s sunshine “scattered
the ghosts of the past,” and illuminated the dark places in his heart.
He hummed a song, forgetful of the gaol and his pariahdom, and thought
of Yvonne’s face awaiting him at the tea-table, as soon as he had
completed his task.

A hesitating step was heard in the shop. He thought it was the boy
returning from an errand.

“Another time you are sent out round the corner, don’t take a quarter of
an hour,” he cried, without turning round.

An irritated tap of the foot made him realise

Derelicts that it was a customer. He sprang forward with apologies, and,
as it had grown dusk, he seized a taper and quickly lighted the gas in
the shop.

Then he looked at the man and started back in amazement; and the man
looked at him; and for a few seconds they remained staring at one
another. The visitor wore apron and gaiters and a bishop’s hat, and
his dignified presence was that of Everard Chisely. He surveyed Joyce’s
grimy and workaday figure with a curl of disgust on his lip. The glance
stung Joyce like a taunt. He flushed, drew himself up defiantly.

“You are the last person I expected to meet here,” said the Bishop,
haughtily.

“Your lordship is the last person I desired to see,” retorted Joyce.

“Doubtless,” replied the Bishop. “And now we have met, I have only one
thing to say to you. I have traced Madame Latour to this house. Where is
she?”

“She is here--upstairs.”

“In this--” began the Bishop, looking round and seeking for a word
expressive of distaste.

“--hovel?” suggested Joyce. “Yes.”

“Under your protection?”

“Under my protection.”

Then Joyce noticed that his lips twitched, and that the perspiration
beaded on his forehead, and that an agony of questioning was in his
eyes.

“Have you been villain enough--?” he began in a hoarse, trembling voice.

But Joyce checked him with a sudden flash and an angry gesture.

“Stop! She is as pure as the stars. Let there be no doubt about that. I
tell you for her sake, not for yours.”

The Bishop drew a long breath and wiped his forehead. Joyce took his
silence for incredulity.

“If I were a villain,” he continued, “do you think it would matter a
brass button to me whether you knew it? I should say ‘yes,’ and you
would walk away and I should never see you again.”

He thrust his hands in his pockets and faced his cousin. All the
pariah’s bitter hatred arose within him against the man who stood there,
the representative of the caste that had disowned and reviled him;
conscious, too, as he was, of standing for the moment on a higher plane.

“I believe you. Oh--indeed--I believe you,” replied Everard, hurriedly.
“But why is she here? Why has she sunk as low as this?”

“Your lordship should be the last to ask such a question.”

“I don’t understand you.”

“I should have thought it was obvious,” said Joyce, with a shrug of his
shoulders.

The sarcasm sounded in the Bishop’s ears like cynicism.

“Do you mean that you have inveigled Madame Latour into supporting you?”
 he asked in a tone of disgust.

Joyce laughed mirthlessly.

“Listen,” he said. “Let us come to some understanding. I am a member
of the criminal classes, and you are a bishop of the English church.
Perhaps the God you believe in may condescend to judge between us.
The woman who was once your wife appealed to you when she was sick and
penniless, and you disregarded her appeal. I, a poverty-stricken outcast
supported her, gave her a home, and reverenced her as a sacred trust.
‘Whether of them twain did the will of his father?’”

Everard stared at him in wide-eyed agitation. A customer entered with
a book he had selected from the stall outside. Joyce went forward,
received the money and returned to his former position by the Bishop.

“I received no appeal from her,” said the latter.

“You did, through me. She was too ill to write.”

“When was this?”

“Last November, a year ago.”

Everard reflected for a moment and then a sudden memory flashed upon
him, and an expression of deep pain came over his free.

“God forgive me! I threw your letter into the fire unopened.”

“Might I ask your reason?” asked Joyce, feeling a grim joy in his
cousin’s humiliation.

“I had been warned that you had gone to Fulminster on a begging
errand--”

“Did the Rector have the iniquity to write you that?” burst in Joyce
fiercely.

“It was not the Rector.”

“Who, then? I saw no one but him. I was simply seeking Madame Latour.”

“I name no names,” replied the Bishop, stiffly. “I am merely explaining.
The letter, in fact, came by the same mail as yours. Little suspecting
that you could address me on any subject unconnected with yourself, and
keeping to my resolution to hold no further communication with you, I
destroyed, as I say, your letter unopened. Believe me, the apology I
tender to you--”

“Is neither here nor there,” said Joyce, coldly. “I am past feeling
such slights. I suppose your correspondent was that she-devil Emmeline
Winstanley. I congratulate you.” The Bishop made no reply, but paced
backwards and forwards two or three times with bent head, along the
book-lined shelves. Then he stopped and said abruptly:--

“Tell me the facts about Yvonne.”

The conciliatory mention of her by her Christian name thawed Joyce for
the moment He rapidly sketched events, while Everard listened, looking
at him rigidly from under bent brows.

“I would have given the last drop of my blood rather than she should
have suffered so.”

“So would I,” replied Joyce.

“Would to God I had known of it!”

“It was your own doing.”

“You are right My uncharitableness towards you has brought its
punishment.”

“I cannot say I am sorry,” said Joyce, grimly.

There was a short silence, compelled by the struggling emotions in
each man’s heart In Joyce’s there was war, a sense of victory, of the
sweetness of revenge. He felt, too, that now Yvonne would indubitatively
reject the Bishop’s offer of help. He had won the right to support her.

Suddenly her voice was heard from the back-parlour door.

“Do come. The tea is getting quite cold.”

Both men started. A quick flash came into Everard’s eyes and he made a
hasty step forward. But Joyce checked him with a gesture.

“I had better prepare her for the surprise of seeing you.”

The Bishop nodded assent Joyce ran to the street door to see that the
boy had returned to his post, and, satisfied, left the Bishop and went
to join Yvonne in their little sitting-room upstairs.

She had just entered, was lifting a plate of hot toast from the fender.
She held it out threateningly with both hands.

“If it’s all dried up it is not my fault,” she scolded. “And oh! you
know I don’t allow you to sit down in your shirt-sleeves!”

Derelicts

He made no reply, but took the plate mechanically from her and placed it
on the table.

“What is the matter, Stephen?” she asked suddenly, scanning his face.

“Some one has called to see you, Yvonne.”

“Me?”

She looked at him for a puzzled moment. Then something in his face told
her. She caught him by his shirt-sleeve.

“It can’t be Everard?” she cried, agitated.

“Yes. It is Everard.”

She grew deadly pale and her breath came fast.

“How has he managed to find me?”

“I don’t know. Possibly he will explain.”

Yvonne sat down by the table and put her hand to her heart.

“It is so sudden,” she said deprecatingly.

“Perhaps you would rather put off seeing him,” suggested Joyce.

“Oh no, no. I will see him now--if you don’t mind, Stephen, dear. I am
quite strong again. Tell him to come. And don’t be unhappy about me.”

She smiled up at him and held out her hand. He took it in his and kissed
it.

“My own brave, dear Yvonne,” he said impulsively. A flush and a grateful
glance rewarded him.

He found the Bishop scanning the book backs.

“Will you let me show you up to the sitting-room?” said Joyce.

The Bishop bowed and followed. At the foot of the stairs he paused.

“I think it right to tell you,” he said, “that I have received authentic
news of the death of Madame Latour’s first husband. The object of my
sudden visit to England is to take her back with me as my wife.”

The unexpectedness of the announcement smote Joyce like a blast of
icy air. The loftiness of the Bishop’s assurance dwarfed him to
insignificance. As at previous crises of his life, the sudden check
cowed the spirit yet under the prison yoke. His defiance vanished.
He turned with one foot on the stair and one hand on the baluster and
stared stupidly at the Bishop. The latter motioned to him to proceed. He
obeyed mechanically, mounted, turned the handle of the sitting-room door
in silence, and descended again to the shop.

No sooner was he alone than a swift consciousness of his moral rout made
him hot with shame and anger. His heart rose in fierce revolt. Yvonne
was free. Free to marry whom she liked. What right over her had this
man who had cast her off, spent two whole years at the other end of the
world without once troubling to enquire after her welfare? What right
had the man to come and rob him of the one blessing that life held for
him?

The prospect of life alone, without Yvonne, shimmered before him like a
bleak landscape revealed by sheet-lightning. A panic shook him. A second
flash revealed him to himself. This utter dependence upon Yvonne, this
intense need of her that had gone on strengthening, week by week, and
day by day, was love. Use, self-concentration, the mere unconcealed
affection of duly life had kept it dormant as it grew. Now it awakened
under the sudden terror of losing her. A thrill ran through his body.
He loved her. She was free. This other set aside, he could marry her. He
paced among the piles of books in strange excitement.

The boy, who had been rapping his heels against his box-seat by the
door, strolled in to see what was doing. Joyce abruptly ordered him to
put up the shutters and go home.

Meanwhile he made pretence to continue his work of cataloguing. But his
brain was in a whirl. His eyes fell upon the marks of Yvonne’s hands and
arms on the dust of the folio she had been handling. The mute testimony
of their intimacy eloquently moved him. She was part and parcel of his
life. He would not give her up without fierce fighting.

Then, in the midst of the glow came the fresh memory of his collapse.
He sat down by the little deal table, where he was wont to write,
and buried his face in his hands, and shivered. His manhood had gone.
Nothing could ever restore it. Its semblance was liable to be shattered
at any moment by an honest man’s self-assertion. It had perished during
those awful years; not to be revived, even by the pure passion of love
that was throbbing in his veins.

Too restless to sit long, he rose presently and walked about the shop,
among the books. The close, dusty air suffocated him. He longed to go
out, walk the streets, and shake off the burden that was round his neck.
But the feeling that he ought, for Yvonne’s sake, to remain until the
Bishop’s departure kept him an irritable prisoner. The minutes passed
slowly. Outside was the ceaseless hum and hurry of the street: within,
the flare of the gas-jets and the sound of his own purposeless tread.
And so for two hours he waited, running the gamut of his emotions with
maddening iteration. The terror of losing Yvonne brought at times the
perspiration to his forehead. With feverish intensity he argued out his
claim upon her. She could not throw him over to go and live with that
proud, unsympathetic man who must for ever be to her a stranger. Then
his jealous wrath burst forth again, and again came the old hated shiver
of degradation. How dare he match himself against one who, with all his
faults, had yet lived through his life a stainless gentleman?



CHAPTER XXI--A DEMAND IN MARRIAGE

“Yes, he is dead,” said the Bishop, gravely. “You are a free woman.
I have come from the other end of the world to tell you so.” Yvonne,
sitting opposite him, looked into the red coals of the fire, and clasped
her hands nervously. His presence dazed her. She had not yet recovered
from the shock of his sudden embrace. The pressure of his arms was yet
about her shoulders. The change wrought in her life by the loss of her
voice was almost like a change of identity. It was with an effort
that she realised the former closeness of their relations. He seemed
unfamiliar, out of place, to have dropped down from another sphere. The
oddity of his attire struck a note of the unusual. The dignity of his
title invested him with remoteness. His face too, did not correspond
with her remembered impression. It was thinner, more deeply lined. His
hair had grown scantier and greyer.

She had listened, almost in a dream, to the story of his coming. How, to
his bitter regret, he had destroyed Joyce’s letter. How, later, growing
anxious about her, he had written for news of her welfare. How his
letter had been returned to him through the post-office. How, meanwhile,
the detective whom he had employed for the purpose in Paris, had sent
him proofs of Bazouge’s death. How he had been unable to rest until he
had found her, and, impatient of the long weary posts, he had left New
Zealand; and lastly, how he had obtained her present address from the
musical agents, who had informed him of her illness and the loss of her
voice.

“You are free, Yvonne, at last,” repeated the Bishop.

The tidings scarcely affected her. She had counted Amédée so long as
dead, even after his disastrous resurrection, that now she could feel
no shock either of pain or relief. It was not until the after-sound of
Everard’s last words penetrated her consciousness, that she realised
their import. She started quickly from her attitude of bewilderment, and
looked at him with a dawning alarm in her eyes.

“It can make very little difference to me,” she said.

“I thought it might make all the difference in the world to me,” said
Everard. “Do you think I have ever ceased to love you?”

There was the note of pain in his voice which all her life long had
had power to move her simple nature. She trembled a little as she
answered:--

“It is all so long ago, now. We have changed.”

“You have not changed,” he said, with grave tenderness. “You are still
the same sweet flower-like woman that was my wife. And I have not
changed. I have longed for you all through these bitter, lonely years.
Do you know why I left Fulminster?”

“No,” murmured Yvonne.

“Because it grew unbearable--without you. I thought a changed scene and
new responsibilities would fill my thoughts. I was mistaken. And added
to my want of you was remorse for harshness in that terrible hour.”

“I have only thought of your kindness, Everard,” said Yvonne, with
tears in her eyes. His emotion impressed her deeply with a sense of his
suffering.

He rose, came forward and bent over her chair.

“Will you come back with me, Yvonne?”

She would have given worlds to be away; to have, at least, a few hours
to consider her answer. He expected it at once. Feminine instinct
desperately sought evasion.

“I shall be of no use to you. I can’t sing any more. Listen.”

She turned sideways in her chair, and drawing back her head far from
him, began, with a smile, the “Aria” of the Angel in the Elijah. The
grave man drew himself up, shocked to the heart. He had not realised
what the loss of her voice meant. Instead of the pure dove-notes that
had stirred the passion of his manhood, nothing came from her lips but
toneless, wheezing sounds. She stopped, bravely tried to laugh, but the
laugh was choked in a sob and she burst into tears.

“Come back with me, my darling,” he said, bending down again. “I will
love you all the more tenderly.”

Yvonne dried her eyes in her impulsive way.

“I am foolish,” she said. “Crying can’t mend it.”

“I will devote the rest of my life to making compensation,” said the
Bishop. “Come, Yvonne.”

“Oh, give me time to answer you, Everard,” she cried, driven to bay at
last. “It is all so strange and sudden.”

He left her side, with a kind of sigh, and resumed his former seat. He
was somewhat disappointed. He had not contemplated the chance of
her refusal. A glance, however, round the shabby, low-ceilinged room
reassured him. The coarse, not immaculate tablecloth, the homely
crockery, the half-emptied potted-meat tins on the table, the threadbare
hearthrug at his feet--all spoke, if not of poverty, at least of very
narrow means. She could not surely hesitate. But she did.

“Take your time--of course,” he said, crossing his gaitered legs. There
was a short silence. At last she said, with a little quiver of the
lip:--

“I promised you, I know. But things have altered so since then. I
thought I should always be free. But now I am not, you see.”

“What do you mean?” he cried, startled.

“It is Stephen,” Yvonne explained. “He saved me from starvation, gave me
all he had, to make me well again, and has been staying all this time to
support me. You don’t know how nobly he has behaved to me--yes, nobly,
Everard, there is no other word for it. He has rights over me that a
brother or father would have--I could not leave him without his consent.
It would be cruel and ungrateful. Don’t you see that it would be wicked
of me, Everard,” she added earnestly.

His face clouded over. Pride rose in revolt. He crushed it down,
however, and suffered the humiliation.

“It would lift a responsibility from his shoulders,” he said. “I myself
am willing to take him by the hand again, and help him to rise from his
present position.”

“You will let bygones be bygones--quite?”

“With all my heart,” replied Everard.

“He suffers dreadfully still,” said Yvonne. “I will do my best to heal
the wound,” replied the Bishop. “I own I have judged him too harshly
already.”

A flush of pleasure arose in Yvonne’s cheeks, and her eyes thanked him.
Then she reflected, and said somewhat sadly:--

“Perhaps if you help him in that way, he won’t miss me.”

“I will guarantee his prosperity,” he answered, with dignified
conviction. And then, changing his manner, after a pause, and leaning
forward and looking at her hungeringly, “Yvonne,” he said, “you will
come and share my life again--in a new world, where everything is
beautiful--? I have been growing old there, without you. You will make
me young again, and the blessing of God will be upon us. I must have
you with me, Yvonne. I cannot live in peace without your smile and your
happiness around me. My child--”

His voice grew thick with emotion. He stood up and stretched out his
arms to her. Yvonne rose timidly and advanced toward him, drawn by his
pleading. But just as his hands were about to touch her, she hung back.

“You must ask Stephen for me,” she said, in her serious, simple way.

His hands fell to his sides, in a gesture of impatience.

“Impossible. How can I do such a thing? It would be absurd.”

“But I can’t,” she said.

Her tiny figure, the plaintiveness of her upturned face, the wistfulness
of her soft eyes, brought back to him a flood of memories. She was still
the same sweet, innocent soul. The lines about his lips relaxed into a
smile, and he took her, yielding passively, into his arms and kissed her
cheek.

“I will do what you like, dear,” he said, in a low voice. “Anything
in the world to win you again. I will ask him. It will be making
reparation. And then you will marry me?”

“Yes,” murmured Yvonne faintly, “I promised you.”

“Why did you not write to me again?” he asked, still holding her hands.

“I was going to write when the answer came,” she said, looking down.
“But no answer did come. And then, I was content to help Stephen.”

“You could have helped Stephen, all the same.”

“Oh, no!” she cried, with a swift look upwards. “Don’t you understand?”

The Bishop saw the delicacy of the point, and motioned an affirmative.
But he regarded Stephen with mingled feelings. It was intensely
repugnant to him to find his once reprobated cousin a barrier between
himself and Yvonne. An uneasy suspicion passed through his mind. Might
not Stephen be even a more serious rival?

“You are not marrying me merely on account of that promise years ago,
Yvonne?” he asked.

“Oh, no, Everard,” she replied gently. “It is because you want me--and
because it’s right.”

He kissed her good-bye.

“I shall not visit you here again, Yvonne,” he said. “When I receive
the final answer I shall make suitable arrangements. We shall be married
quietly, by special licence. Will that please you?”

“Yes,” said Yvonne. “Thank you.”

At the door he turned for a parting glance. Then he descended the
stairs, with the intention of broaching the matter to Joyce then and
there. But although he found lights burning in the shop, Joyce was
nowhere to be seen. Nor were there any apparent means of ascertaining
his whereabouts. The Bishop bit his lip with annoyance. He did not
wish to procrastinate in this affair. Suddenly his eye fell upon an old
stationery-rack against the wall, in which were visible the paper and
envelopes used for the business. With prompt decision the Bishop took
what was necessary, sought and found pen and ink, and wrote at Joyce’s
table a letter, which he addressed and left in a conspicuous position.
Then he found with some difficulty the street-door of the house and let
himself out.

Joyce, whom a longing for air had at last driven outside, was walking
up and down the pavement, keeping his eye on the door. As soon as he
witnessed Everard’s departure, he entered and went through the passage
into the shop. The letter attracted his attention. He opened it and
read:--

     Dear Stephen,--I wished for a word with you. But as the
     matter is urgent, I write. I should like to express to you
     my sense of the generous chivalry of your conduct toward
     Yvonne. I should also like to hold out to you the hand of
     sincere friendship.

     In earnest of this I approach you, as man to man, with
     reference to one of the most solemn affairs in life. Yvonne,
     gratefully acknowledging the vast obligations under which
     she is bound to you, has made her acceptance of my offer of
     remarriage dependent upon your consent. For this consent,
     therefore, I earnestly beg you.

     For the future, in what way soever my friendship can be of
     use to you, it will most gladly be directed.

     Yours sincerely,

     E. Chisely.

     Burgon’s Hotel, W.


Joyce grew faint as he read. The words swam before his eyes. A
great pain shot through his heart The letter contained one torturing
fact--that of Yvonne’s acquiescence. The Bishop’s acknowledgment of
his uprightness, the courtesy of the formal request, the offer of
friendship--all were meaningless phrases. Yvonne was going to leave
him--of her own free-will. Although his fears had anticipated the blow,
it none the less stunned him. He flung himself down by his table, with
a groan, and buried his face in his arms. The realisation of what Yvonne
was to him flooded him with a mighty rush. She was his hope of salvation
in this world and the next, his guardian angel, his universe. Without
her all was chaos, void and horrible.

Presently Yvonne’s voice was heard calling him from the top of the
stairs:--

“Stephen!”

He raised a haggard free, and with an effort steadied his voice to
reply. Then he rose, turned off the gas, from force of habit, and went
with heavy tread up the stairs.

“Your tea,” said Yvonne, busying herself with a kettle. “I am making you
some afresh.”

“I will go and wash my hands,” he said drearily.

He mounted to his bedroom and cleansed himself from the book-dust and
returned to Yvonne. He drew his chair to the table. She poured him out
his tea, and helped him to butter, according to a habit into which
she had fallen. She deplored the spoilt toast. He said that it did not
matter. But when he tried to eat, the food stuck in his throat. Yvonne
made no pretence at eating, but trifled with her teaspoon, with downcast
eyes. Joyce looked at her anxiously. She seemed to have grown older.
The childlike expression had changed into a sad, womanly seriousness.
Presently she raised her eyes, soft and appealing as ever, and met his.

“Did you see Everard?” she asked.

“No. I was out. But he left a note--that told me everything.”

“He asks for your consent?”

“Yes.”

“And will you give it?” she asked, below her breath.

“It would be worse than folly for me to try to withhold it,” he sud,
bitterly.

“I will stay with you, and go on living this life, if you wish.”

“And yourself?”

“I don’t count,” she said, “I must do as I am told.”

“Would you be happy with Everard?” he asked huskily.

“Yes--of course--I was before,” she replied. But her cheek grew paler.

“And you would stay, if I asked you, and share all this struggle and
poverty with me?”

“How could I refuse? Don’t I owe you my life?”

He looked for a tremulous second into her pure eyes and knew that he was
master of her fate. The condition she had imposed upon Everard was no
graceful act of acknowledgment. It was a serious placing of her future
in his hands. He was silent for a few moments, deep in agitated thought,
trembling with a struggle against a fierce temptation. The hand that
nervously tugged at his moustache was shaking. Yvonne read the anxious
trouble on his face.

“Don’t worry over it now,” she said, gently. “There is time, you know.
Why should people always want to decide things straight off?”

“You are right, Yvonne,” said Stephen. “Let us forget it for a little.”

“Your poor tea,” add Yvonne, with pathetic return to her old manner. “It
will never be drunk. And do eat something, to please me.” But it was
a miserable meal. The tabooed subject filled the heart and thoughts
of each. It was with an effort that they caught the drift of casual
commonplaces uttered from time to time. Now and then, during the long
spells of silence, Yvonne stole a swift feminine glance at his free.
But his sombre expression seemed to tell her nothing of that which she
longed to know. At last the farce ended. They rose from the table and
went to their usual seats by the fireside. Joyce filled his pipe, and
was fumbling in his pockets for a match, when Yvonne came forward with a
spill and stood before him holding it until the pipe was alight He tried
to thank her, but the words would not come. The tender act of intimacy
made his heart swell too painfully. Yvonne rang the bell and the
elderly, slatternly maid-of-all-work, cleared away the tea-things. Sarah
was one of the elements of the establishment that made Joyce hate his
poverty. She drank, was unclean, was a perpetual soil in the atmosphere
that Yvonne breathed. The sight of her was a new factor in the case
against himself.

It was a terrible decision that he was called upon to make. On the
one hand, wealth and ease and social happiness for Yvonne, despair and
misery for himself. On the other, a selfish happiness for himself, and
for Yvonne this squalor and ostracism. He knew that her sweet, gentle
nature would accept the latter portion unmurmuringly. A voice rang
in his ears the certainty that she would marry him, if he pleaded.
To repress the temptation to cast all other thoughts but his yearning
passion to the winds was indescribable torture.

“I wish I could sing to you,” she said, breaking a long silence. “I
don’t know what to do now, when I feel things. Once I could sing them.”

“I should ask you to sing Gounod’s ‘Serenade,’” said Joyce.

“Oh, not that!” she cried quickly. “It was the last thing I ever sang to
you, and it brought us bad luck.”

For a moment he put a lover’s passionate interpretation upon her words.
His heart beat fast. He controlled the wild impulse that seized him,
biting through the amber of his pipe with the nervous effort.

And then he realised that he must be alone to work out this stern
problem, on whose solution depended the happiness of three human lives.
He rose to his feet.

“I am going out, Yvonne,” he said, in a constrained voice. “All this is
rather upsetting--and you had better go to bed early. You look tired.”

“Yes. I have a splitting headache,” said Yvonne.

She tried to smile brightly, as he wished her good-night. But when the
door closed upon him, the smile faded, and her face grew drawn, almost
haggard. A spirit had descended, touched her with magical wings, and
changed at last the child into the woman. Her eyes were set in steadfast
envisaging of the future; and they beheld the responsibilities and
sadnesses of life, no longer as vague terrors and discomforts from which
her light bird-like nature shrank to the nearest refuge, but as dull
realities, commonplace in form and grey in hue.

It was her duty to go back to Everard, Stephen not wanting her; for she
had promised. It was her duty to ask Stephen for his consent. And it was
Stephen’s duty to give it, if he did not want her for more than daily
companionship. She had proved that Stephen did not love her. Never had
she felt so keenly the failure of her womanhood. It had not cleared his
life of haunting cares. If it had, his heart would have been stirred
with needs for closer union. The weapon of her sex was powerless. Newer
knowledge had come to her. He needed her less than Everard. She argued
with desperate logic. And yet there was a lingering, feverish hope--one
that made her now and then draw a sharp convulsive breath, as she sat
staring, with clear vision, at her life.



CHAPTER XXII--SEEKING SALVATION

He could walk no longer through the drizzling rain, in futile struggle
with his soul’s needs. As possible to cut out his heart and fling it at
Everard’s feet as to surrender Yvonne. He called himself a fool.

The glare in front of a cheap music-hall attracted him. He entered,
mounted to the nine-penny balcony, where he stood leaning over the
wooden partition, wedged among a crowd of loungers. The air was filled
with the smoke of cheap tobacco and the fumes of the bar behind. A girl
on the stage was singing a song in the chorus of which the thronged
house roared lustily. Then came a tenor vocalist with drawing-room
ballads. Joyce attended absently, hearing and seeing in a confused
dream. A neighbour asking him for a light aroused him from his reverie.
He wondered why he had come. To-night of all nights, when he might be at
home in the joy of his heart’s desire. Yet he stayed.

A flashing family appeared riding on nondescript cycles. He watched
them with half-shut eyes, caressing a quaint conceit that they were
his thoughts whirling around in concrete form. The bursts of deafening
applause seemed to soothe him. Presently a street-scene cloth was let
down and a battered man appeared and sang a song about drink and twins
and brokers. He threw such humourous gusto into the performance that
Joyce laughed in spite of his preoccupation, and remained in amused
anticipation of his second turn. The bell tinkled. The “comedian” came
on and was greeted with vociferous applause. With music-hall realism
he was dressed in prison-clothes, glengarry, woollen stockings,
and black-arrowed suit all complete. He had made up his face into a
startling brute. Joyce felt sick. He did not catch the first verse; only
the concluding lines of the chorus,

                        “I ‘ve done my bit of time,

               For ’itting of my missus on the chump, chump, chump.”

But then the man began to speak, and Joyce could not help hearing.
A horrible fascination held him. The ignoble figure poured out with
grotesque and voluble cynicism the comic history of the prison-life;
the plank-bed, the skilly, the oakum, the exercise-yard. He sketched
his pals, detailed the sordid tricks for obtaining food, the mean
malingering, the debasing habits. And all with a horrible fidelity. The
audience shrieked with laughter. But Joyce lost sense of the mime. The
man was real, one of the degraded creatures with whom he himself had
once been indistinguishably mingled--a loathsome fact from the past. The
smell of the prison floated over the footlights and filled his nostrils.
All his overwrought nerves quivering with repulsion, he broke through
the crowd hemming him in against the partition, and rushed down into the
street.

*****

How long and whither he walked he did not know. At last he found himself
within familiar latitudes, outside the Angel Tavern. He was wet through
from the fine, penetrating rain, tired, cold, and utterly miserable. The
revulsion of feeling in the music-hall had thrown him back years in his
self-esteem. The soil of the gaol had never seemed so ineffaceable.
In the blaze of light by the tavern door he paused, irresolute. Then,
remembering the disastrous results of an attempt years before to seek
such consolation, he shivered and turned away. It was too dangerous.

About a hundred yards further, a woman passed him, turned, and overtook
him.

“I thought it was you,” she said. He recognised the voice as that of
Annie Stevens. It was not far from the spot where he had first met her,
and where, some short time after, he had met her again. For months,
however, he had lost sight of her. He recognised her voice, but her
appearance was unfamiliar, and her face was half hidden by a Salvation
Army bonnet. The apparent cynicism of her attire revolted him.

“Why are you masquerading like this?” he asked, continuing to walk
onwards.

“It’s not masquerading. It’s real. I recognised you, and thought perhaps
you’d care to know.”

He slackened his pace imperceptibly, and she walked by his side.

“You don’t seem to believe it,” she resumed. “I don’t tell lies. It’s
the truth that has generally cursed me.”

“Then why are you walking up and down here at this time of night?”

“Doing rescue work.”

“Have you rescued any one yet?” asked Joyce, with a touch of sarcasm.

“No. I scarce expect to.”

“Then why are you trying?”

“Because it’s the beastliest thing I could think of doing,” she said,
stopping abruptly, and facing him, as he turned, in the defiant way he
remembered from the theatre days.

“You ‘re an odd girl,” he said.

“You don’t suppose I wear this disgusting bonnet and get hustled by
roughs and blackguarded by women because I like it! I haven’t been
converted, and I don’t shriek out ‘Hallelujah,’ and I won’t,--but I earn
an honest living at the Shelter during the day, and at night I come out
It’s the beastliest thing I can think of doing,” she repeated. “If I
knew of anything beastlier I’d do it. I ’ve had flames inside me since I
gave you away,--I’d have killed myself for you after,--and hell since I
went on the streets,--but I think the other was worse. I ’ve learned what
you felt like; now I’m trying to burn out the fire--”

“Stop for a moment,” he said, with a queer catch in his throat. “Do you
mean you are doing this for your own inner self?”

“Yes,” she replied, her direct intuition divining the implied
alternative. “I don’t know much about Jesus and my immortal soul.
That ’ll come. I want one day to be able to remember that I loved
you--without hating myself and feeling sick with the shame and the
horror of it all. You may think me a silly fool if you like, but that’s
why I’m doing it Let us walk on. We need n’t attract attention.” This
was wise; for more than one passer-by had turned round, struck by the
two intent white faces. Joyce obeyed passively, but continued for some
moments to look down upon her in great wonder. An idea, which he became
dimly aware had been struggling for birth in the dark of his soul for
the past two hours, dawned upon him amid a strange, exulting excitement.
Suddenly he took her by the arm and held it very tightly. She looked up
at him, astonished.

“What is the matter with you?”

“Do you know what you have done tonight?” he said, in a shaking voice.
“You have shown me how to burn out my hell too. You have retrieved any
wrong you have done me. If my forgiveness is worth having, you have it,
from the depths of my soul.”

He was strangely moved. In the impulse of his exaltation, he drew
her quickly into the gloom of a doorway--the pavement was momentarily
deserted--and kissed her. She uttered a little cry and shrank back.

“Is that for forgiveness?”

“Yes,” he cried; and then he broke from her abruptly, and went on along
the pavement with great strides.

He was no longer uncertain. The problem of his life was solved. His mind
was crystal clear. At last the time had come for the great atonement to
his degraded self, the supreme sacrifice that should clear his being of
stain.

At last he could perform that act of renunciation that would give
the strength back into his eyes to meet calmly the scrutiny of his
fellow-man. Renunciation! The word rang in his ears and echoed to his
footsteps.

He did not doubt that it would not be to Yvonne’s lesser happiness to
regain her lost environment of luxury and tender care. On the other
hand, he judged her rightly enough to know that she would have found
compensating pleasures in a life of privation with himself. Had it not
been so, mere manliness would have decided in the Bishop’s favour. In
perfect fairness (he saw now), he could have claimed her. His sacrifice
was made in pure loyalty to his conscience.

And it had been reserved, too, for that ignorant, wayward woman, who had
groped her unguided way thus grotesquely to the Principle, to have led
him thither and revealed its elemental application. He felt a stirring
of shame that strengthened his manhood.

The rain had stopped. The clouds broke and drifted across the heavens,
and a misty moon appeared at intervals, shedding its pale light upon the
unlovely thoroughfare. A fresh breeze sprang up and made Joyce, in his
wet things, shiver with cold. At the nearest tavern he stopped, entered,
called for some hot spirits, this time from no temptation to drown care,
and asked for writing materials. Then, in the midst of the noise of
thick voices and clatter of drinking vessels, he wrote at a corner of
the bar his letter of renunciation.

     Dear Everard,--I accept your letter in the spirit in which
     it was written. I put the sweetest and purest of God’s
     creatures into your keeping. Cherish her.

     Yours sincerely,

     Stephen Joyce.


A few minutes afterwards he dropped it into a pillar-box. The faint
patter of its fall inside struck like a death-note upon his ear, shocked
him with a sense of the irrevocable. Now that the act of renunciation
was accomplished, he felt frightened. The immensity of his sacrifice
began to loom before him. He became conscious of the dull premonitions
of an agony hitherto undreamed of, for all his suffering in the past.

Shiveringly he bent his steps homeward. The gas was burning dimly in the
sitting-room. As was usual on the rare occasions when he had spent the
evening out, Yvonne had brought down his bedroom candle and had laid his
modest supper neatly for him. His slippers were warming by the fire. At
the sight, his pain grew greater. Having taken off his wet boots and lit
his candle--he could eat no supper--he turned off the gas, and went out
of the room. On the landing outside Yvonne’s door were the tiny shoes
she had placed there for Sarah to clean. He looked at them for a second
or two and mounted the stairs hurriedly.

In the shock and excitement of battle a man can bear the amputation of
a mangled limb without great suffering. It is afterwards that the agony
sets in, when the nerves have quieted to responsiveness. So it was with
Joyce on that sleepless night of his great renunciation, and with his
misery was mingled despair lest all should prove to be futile, his
theory of renunciation; a ghastly fallacy. Time was when he would have
mocked at the proposition. Could he even now defend it upon rational
grounds? Had he not cut off his leg to compensate for the loss of an
arm, thereby adding to the gaiety of the high gods? He tossed about in
the bed in anguish, “burning out his hell.”

A man of sensitive, emotional temperament, however, cannot pass through
such an ordeal unchanged. Some fibres must be shrivelled up, whilst
others are toughened. Joyce rose in the morning with aching head and
exhausted nerves, but still with a dull sense of calm. Fallacy or not,
at any rate he had chosen the man’s part. The consciousness of it was an
element of strength. He dressed and went downstairs.

Yvonne was already in the room, neat and dainty as usual, making the
toast for breakfast. She was pale and had the faint rings below the
eyes that ever tell tales on a woman’s face. She looked round at him
anxiously, as she knelt before the fire. He saw her trouble and went and
sat in the armchair beside her and spread out his hands to warm them.

“You have been worrying, my poor little Yvonne,” he said gently. “I was
a selfish beast to let you think I wanted to make up my mind, when
my course was so plain. I wrote to Everard last night. I told him to
cherish the treasure that he has got. You shouldn’t have worried over
it.”

Yvonne turned away her face from him, and remained silent for some
moments, half kneeling, half sitting, the toasting-fork drooping idly
from her hand.

“It was foolish of me,” she replied at last “But it seemed hard to leave
you alone--and I ’ve got so used to this litde place--one gets attached
to places, like a cat--Did you--were you sorry to give me away?”

“Of course,” said Joyce. “I thought we could go on being brother and
sister till the end of all things. Well, all things have an end, and
this is it.”

“You would not prefer me to stay?” asked Yvonne, in her soft voice.

He would have given his soul to have been able to throw his arms round
her, passionately and wildly--she was so near him, so maddeningly
desired. Did she realise, he wondered, what flame was in her words? He
leaned back in the chair, as if to avert the temptation by increasing
the distance between them.

“No,” he said, with a sharp breath, “I could not--it will be a wrench
breaking up the--partnership. But it is all for the best. I know you
will be happy and cared for, and that will be a happiness to me.”

Sarah brought in the breakfast and retired. They sat down to table.
Somehow or other the meal proceeded. Two things had come by post for
Joyce, one a belated but laudatory notice of “The Wasters,” the other
a cheque from the office of a weekly paper. He passed them both to her,
according to custom.

“You mustn’t bother about me at all, Yvonne. I am in a different way of
business altogether from what I was when we first started housekeeping.
The new book will do ever so much better than ‘The Wasters.’ I shall
miss you terribly--at first--but it will all dry straight, Yvonne. I
dare say I shall go on living here. Runcle and I are immense pals, you
know--perhaps I may go into partnership with him and bring some modern
go-ahead ideas into the concern--become a Quaritch or Sotheran--who
knows? Yes, I should n’t like to leave these quaint, dear old rooms,”
 he said, looking round, anywhere but in Yvonne’s face, with an air of
cheerfulness that he felt in his heart must be ghastly. “Something of
you and your dear companionship will linger about them. I shall pretend,
like the ‘Marchioness,’ that you are with me.”

He passed his tea-cup, and, meeting her eyes, tried to smile. The comers
of her lips responded bravely.

“And at last you will come into indisputed possession of your
furniture,” she said.

He had not the heart to protest So they continued to talk in this light
strain of the coming parting, until Joyce, looking at his watch, found
it was time to go down to the shop. At the door, on his way out, he
paused to relight his pipe. Then, without trusting himself to look
round, he left her. But if he had turned he would have seen her grow
suddenly very white, clutch the mantel-piece for support with one hand
while the other pressed her bosom hard, and sway for a second or two
with shut eyes.

Downstairs he resumed his unfinished task of the evening before. He
worked at it doggedly, trying not to think. But it was as futile as
trying to hold one’s breath beyond a certain period.

“Yvonne is going--to marry Everard--going for ever--I shall be
alone--she will lie in his arms--I shall go mad--God help me--if it
is more than I can bear, there is a way out--I can keep up till she
goes--she shall not know--afterwards.” His brain could not work beyond.
The same thoughts throbbed with almost rhythmic recurrence as he priced
and catalogued the books. Once he opened a tattered “Marcus Aurelius”:--

“If pain is an affliction, it must affect either the body or the mind;
if the body is hurt, let it say so; as for the soul, it is in her power
to preserve her serenity and calm, by supposing the accident no evil.”

He laughed to himself mirthlessly, and threw the book on the fourpenny
heap. “Or pretending, like the Marchioness,” he said. He was scarcely in
a mood for “Marcus Aurelius.”

A messenger-boy appeared with a letter for Madame Latour. Joyce sent it
up to her by the shop-boy, who presently brought down a reply note. The
preparations for her departure had begun. Joyce’s heart seemed set in a
vice and he nearly cried aloud with the pun.

The hours wore on; the piles of books were disposed of; nothing to do,
but wait for customers. To keep himself employed he copied untidy pages
of his manuscript. He went up for dinner. Yvonne was more subdued than
at breakfast, and they scarcely spoke. When the meal was over, she told
him quietly of the letter she had received.

“Everard says that he is getting the special licence to-day, and the
marriage will take place to-morrow at St Luke’s, Islington. Considering
the circumstances, he thinks it best that there should be no delay.”

“It is just as well,” he replied. “When changes come, it is best
that they should come swiftly. Has he made any more definite
arrangements--the hour?”

“He will send me a message later.”

“You will have to put up your things. If I can help you, Yvonne--”

“Thanks--no. I have so little. The few odds and ends I shall leave
you--as mementoes. You would like to keep them, would n’t you?”

“Thank you, Yvonne,” he said, turning away. They had spoken in subdued
voices, as folks do when discussing funeral arrangements. Joyce, blinded
and dazed by his misery, was unperceptive of her joylessness. At the
most, he was conscious of a seriousness that, under the circumstances,
was not unnatural. His own pain he hid with anxious effort.

The afternoon hours passed. He lit the gas in the shop, and proceeded
with whatever mechanical employment he could find. It was a relief to be
alone. The old man’s gossip would have jarred upon him, driven him up
to the sitting-room where the ordeal was fiercest, or out into the
hard-featured streets. He would have two or three days of solitude
before Runcle returned from Exeter.

Messages came from the Bishop. One for Yvonne. Another for him,
acknowledging his letter, announcing that the hour of noon had been
fixed upon, shortly before which time a carriage would be sent to convey
Yvonne to the church, and begging him in most courteous terms to assist
at the ceremony and give Yvonne away. An echo of the Salvation
Army girl’s voice came back to him, and he smiled grimly. “It’s the
beastliest thing I can do.”

He scribbled a line of acquiescence and gave it to the writing
messenger-boy. “I had not thought of the dregs,” he said to himself.

That evening they sat drearily in their accustomed places by the
fireside, each knowing it to be their last together. Night after night
they had spent in each other’s society, Yvonne sewing or reading or
dreaming in a lazy, contented way, Joyce writing upon a board laid
across his knees. Sometimes she would come and lean over the back of his
chair and watch the words as they came from his pen, her soft wavy black
hair very near his fair, dose-trimmed head.

“Send me away if I’m worrying you,” she used to say.

Whereupon he would laugh happily and answer:--

“See how beautifully I am writing. I should never have thought of that
remark if you had not been there.”

“I like to play at feeling a guardian angel,” she said once.

“You can feel it without the playing,” he replied, drawing his head
aside and looking round at her. “When your wings are over me like that,
I do work that I could n’t do unaided.”

And she had blushed and felt very happy.

But now, on this last evening, they sat apart--half the world already
between them--and talked constrainedly, with long silences. For the
greater part of the time he shaded his face with his hand, sparing
himself the sight of her hungered-for sweetness and saving her the sight
of the hunger he felt was in his eyes. When at last she rose to bid him
good-night, he nerved himself to meet her gaze calmly. And then for the
first time he was shocked at the change that the night and the day had
wrought in her.

She stood before him, infinitely sweet and simple; but more wan even
than she had been on that day in the hospital when she had learned the
loss of her voice. For the still unvanished pathos of childhood that had
then smoothed her face was gone, and the sterner pathos of the woman’s
experience had taken its place. Yet the interpretation did not come to
him.

“My poor child,” he said. “You are scarcely strong enough yet to bear
such an upheaval as this. Try to have a good sleep.” He held the door
for her to pass out. And then with a great gulp, he continued, “You must
look your best to-morrow.”

He caught her soft cold hand, put it to his lips, and shut the door
quickly. The prison seemed as comfort when compared with this torment.



CHAPTER XXIII--AN END AND A BEGINNING

In the middle of the night he broke down utterly. If he had been a
strong man he would not have yielded to the series of temptations that
had culminated in his crime and his disgrace. Or, passing that, his
spirit would not have been broken during the months of his punishment
If he had been even of slightly robuster fibre, the sense of degradation
would not have palsied his life. He would have gone at once to a new
land and made himself master of his destiny. A strong man would not have
been found by Yvonne, that August morning, sitting, a self-abhorring
outcast before his rich uncle’s door. He would not have lost his wit
and courage, when assailed by his prison companion at Hull. He would not
have joined fortunes with Noakes in their futile African expedition.
A strong man would not have clung for comfort and moral support to the
poor ridiculous creature, his own protection of whom was that of the
woman rather than that of the man. A strong man would not have yielded
to the numbing despair of the after solitude in Africa, nor writhed that
night in agony of spirit upon the lonely star-lit veldt And lastly, a
strong man would not have had that terror of loneliness which had made
him in the first place cling to Yvonne much as a child, afraid of the
dark, clings to the hand of another child weaker than itself.

By the law of evolution the strong survive and the weak die. But in the
eternal struggle between humanity and the pitiless law, conditions are
modified, and the sympathy of the race, that expression of revolt which
we call civilisation, gives surviving power to the weak, so that not
only the strong man has claims to life and love. And when the weak man
strives with all his quivering fibres towards strength, he is doing a
greater deed than the strong wot of.

So Joyce, fool or hero, had performed an act of strength beyond his
nature. The strain of the day had been intense. Every nerve in his body
was stretched to breaking-point. At last, in the middle of the night, as
he was pacing the room, one of them seemed to snap, and he fell forwards
on to the bed and broke into a passion of sobbing. Ashamed he buried
his face in the blankets and bit them with his teeth. But a grown man’s
sobbing is not to be checked, like a child’s. It is a terrible thing,
which comes from the soul’s depths and convulses flesh and spirit to
their foundations; and it is horrible to hear. The shuddering heaves
came into his throat and forced their way in sound through his lips.
And the utterances of pain came from him, inarticulate prayers to God
to help him, and half-stifled cries for his love and for Yvonne. But he
knew that he was wrestling with his spirit for the last time, and that,
after this paroxysm of agony, would come calm and strength to meet his
fate.

And Yvonne, clad in dressing gown and bare-footed, with her hair about
her shoulders, stood trembling outside his door and heard. Although his
room was not immediately above hers, being over the sitting-room, yet in
her sleeplessness she had listened for hours and hours to his movements.
At last, obeying an incontrollable impulse, she had crept up the stairs.
A long time she waited, her hand upon the door, his name upon her lips,
shaking from head to foot with the revelation of the man’s agony. Every
sound was like a stab in her tender flesh. The warm, impulsive old
Yvonne within her would have burst at the first sob into his room,
but the newer womanhood held her back. When all was silent she crept
downstairs again into her bed, and lay there, throbbing and shivering
until the morning.

And Joyce, unconscious that she had been so near to him, that had he but
opened his door, he would have been caught in her arms and been given
for all eternity that which he was renouncing, lay down in his bed
exhausted, and when the morning was near at hand, sank into heavy sleep.
He awoke later than usual. The water that Sarah had put for him was
nearly cold. He drew up the blind and saw a cheerless grey morning--a
fitting dawn for his new life. The minor details of the day before him
presented themselves painfully. The first was the necessity of being
well shaven, groomed and dressed. He drew from the drawer the clothes of
decent life that he could now so seldom afford to wear. The last time
he had put them on was three weeks ago, when he had taken Yvonne to a
ballad concert at St. James’s Hall. He remembered how, in her bright
way, she had said, on their way thither, “You look so handsome and
distinguished, I feel quite proud.”

And now he was to wear them at her wedding with another man. And he was
to give her away.

He had regained his nerve, felt equal to the task. After dressing with
scrupulous care, he slowly went down to breakfast,--his last breakfast
with Yvonne. He contemplated the fact with the fatalistic calmness with
which men condemned to death often face their last meal on earth. Yvonne
had not yet appeared. Sarah had not even brought up the breakfast He sat
down and waited, unfolded his halfpenny morning paper and tried to read.
After a time he became aware that he was studying the advertisements. So
he laid it aside.

Presently he went up to his room to get a handkerchief, and on his
return to the landing he noticed that Yvonne’s bedroom door was ajar.
She was stirring, evidently. He knocked gently and called her name.
There was no reply. Perhaps she was still sleeping, he thought; but it
was odd that her door should be open. He returned to the sitting-room,
wandered about nervously, looked out of the window into the dismal
street. The pavement was wet, people were hurrying by with umbrellas up,
the capes of drivers gleamed miserably in the misty air. He turned away
and put some coals on a sulky fire, and again took up the paper. But
an undefined feeling of uneasiness began to creep over him. It was long
past nine o’clock. He went again and knocked at Yvonne’s door. It opened
a little wider and he saw by the light in the room that the blind had
been drawn up. He called her in loud tones. His voice seemed to fall in
a void. Agitated, he ventured to take a swift glance into the room. The
bed was empty. There was no Yvonne.

He went back and rang the bell violently. After a short interval Sarah
appeared, leisurely bringing in the breakfast-tray.

“Where is Madame Latour?” asked Joyce. “Oh, she went out early, and said
you weren’t to wait breakfast for her.”

“At what time did she go out?”

“Shortly after eight.”

“Thank you,” said Joyce.

“I think she was took ill, and was going to see a doctor,” said Sarah,
unloading the tray noisily.

“Did Madame Latour tell you so?”

“No. But she was looking so bad I was frightened to see her.”

“Very well,” said Joyce, not wishing to show the servant his agitation.
“She will be back soon. Yes, you can leave the breakfast.” Sarah quitted
the room with her heavy, scuffling step. Joyce remained by the fire
tugging at his moustache, his mind filled with nameless anxieties. The
presentiment of ill grew in intensity. Why had Yvonne left the house at
that early hour? Sarah’s suggestion was manifestly absurd. If Yvonne had
been poorly, she would have sent for a doctor. Yet the servant’s last
remark frightened him. He remembered Yvonne’s pallor of the night before.
A dreadful surmise began to dawn upon him. Had he been blind, all the
way through, and condemned her to a fate impossible to bear? Once,
in South Africa, he had seen an innocent man sentenced to death. The
picture of the man’s face in its wistful despair rose before him. It was
terribly like Yvonne’s. Had she, then, pronounced sentence on herself?

He walked to and fro in feverish helplessness, his heart weighed down by
the new load. The cheap American clock on the mantel-piece struck ten.
There came, soon after, a knock at the door. Joyce sprang to open it.
But it was only the boy from the shop wanting to know if any one
was coming down. Joyce put his hand to his forehead. He had entirely
forgotten Mr. Runcle’s absence and his own consequent responsibility.

“You can take the money for any book outside, Tommy,” he said, after
a little reflection. “If a customer wants anything inside, come up and
call me.”

The boy went away, proud at being left in charge. Joyce filled a cup
with the rapidly cooling coffee, and drank it at a draught. The minutes
crept on. If his wild and dreadful fancies were groundless, where could
Yvonne be? She could not have chosen a time before the shops were open
to make any necessary purchases before the ceremony. Or had she gone out
of the house so as to avoid spending a painful morning in his company?
But that was unlike Yvonne. At last he descended, and stood bareheaded
in the raw air, gazing up and down the street.

“I ‘ve taken eightpence already,” said the boy, handing him a pile of
coppers.

Joyce took them from him absently, and put them in his pocket, while
Tommy went back to his seat on the upturned box, and resumed his
occupation of blowing on his chilled fingers. No sign of Yvonne.
Several passers-by turned round and looked at Joyce. In his well-fitting
clothes, and with his refined, thorough-bred air, he seemed an
incongruous figure standing hatless in the doorway of the dingy
secondhand book-shop.

Presently he became aware of an elderly man trying to pass him. He
stepped aside with apologies, and followed the customer.

“Are you serving here?” asked the latter, with some diffidence.

On Joyce’s affirmative, he enquired after two editions of “Berquin,”
 which he had seen in Runcle’s catalogue. Joyce took one from the
shelves,--the original edition. It was priced two guineas. The customer
haggled, then wished to see the other. As this was on the top shelf at
the back part of the shop, Joyce had to mount the ladder and hunt for it
in the dusky light. While thus employed, he felt something sweep against
the foot of the ladder, and, looking down, he saw Yvonne. She shot a
quick upward glance, and hurriedly disappeared.

His heart gave a great bound as he saw her, and he dropped the books he
was holding. He could not seek any more for the “Berquin.” In another
moment he was by the side of the customer.

“We must have sold the other copy. How much will you give for this?”

“Thirty-five shillings.”

“You can have it,” said Joyce.

Never was book tied up at greater speed. He thrust it into the man’s
hand, received the money without looking at it, and left the elderly man
standing in the middle of the shop, greatly astonished at the haste of
the transaction.

Joyce flew up the stairs into the sitting-room.

“Oh, where--” he began.

Then he stopped, dazed and bewildered, for Yvonne, her arms
outstretched, her head thrown back, her lips parted, and a great
yearning light in her eyes, came swiftly to him from where she stood,
uttering a little cry, and in another moment was sobbing in his arms.

“Oh, my love, my dear, dear love!” she cried, “I could not leave
you--take me--for always. I love you--I love you--I could n’t leave
you!”

“Yvonne,” he cried hoarsely, his pulses throbbing like a great engine’s
piston-rod, in the tremendous amazement, as he held her--how tightly he
did not know--and gazed down wildly into her face, “Yvonne, what are
you saying? What is it? Tell me--for God’s sake--the marriage--Everard?”
 Then she threw back her head further against his arm, and their eyes met
and hung upon each other for a breathless space. And there was that in
Yvonne’s eyes--“the light that never was on sea or land”--that no man
yet had seen or dreamed of seeing there. The straining, passionate love
too deep for smiling, glorified her pure face.

“There will be no marriage,” she murmured faintly, still holding him
with her eyes, “I went to Everard this morning.”

She raised her lips almost unconsciously toward him, and then the man’s
whole existence was drowned in the kiss.

For many moments they scarcely spoke. Passion plays its part in swift
burning utterances and tumultuous silences. At last, she freed herself
gently and moved towards the fire. But only to be taken once again into
his clasp.

“Oh, my darling, my darling, is this joy madness, or is it real?”

“It is real,” said Yvonne. “Nothing can ever part us, until we die.”

He helped her off with her hat and jacket and led her to the great
armchair by the fire and knelt down by her side.

“Oh, Stephen dear,” she said in piteous happiness, “it has been such
suffering.”

“My poor child,” he said tenderly.

“I did n’t know that you cared about me--in this way--until last night.
I tried to make you tell me--Stephen darling, why didn’t you? I was
bound to go to Everard--I had promised, and he wanted me--and what could
I tell him? I could n’t say to him, dear, that I would go on for ever
living on your dear charity, a burden upon you--yes, in a sense I must
be one--rather than keep my promise and marry him, could I, dear?
I could only refer him to you--and when you said I must go, it was
miserable, for I hungered all the time to stay. And I knew you were sad,
it was natural--but I thought you found you did not love me enough to
want me as a wife and felt it your duty to give me up. Why did you give
me up when you loved me so?”

“I will tell you all, some day, dear, not now,” said Joyce. “But one
thing--I did not know either that you loved me--like this. When did you
begin to love me, Yvonne?”

“I think I must have begun in the years and years ago--but I only knew
it last night--knew it as I do now,” she added, with a tremor in her
voice.

She closed her eyes, gave herself up for a flooded moment to the
lingering sense of the first great kiss she had ever given. And before
she opened them, the memory had melted into actuality as she felt his
lips again meet hers.

“Thank God, I have got you, my own dear love,” she murmured. “It has
been a hard battle for you--this morning. I went out as soon as I
dared--to go to him. I seemed to be going to do an awful thing--to
give him that pain for our sakes. He told me I had not treated him
wickedly--but I felt as if I had been committing murder, until I saw
your face at the door. I told him all--all that I knew about my own
feelings and yours. I said that you did not know I loved you--that your
noble-heartedness was making the sacrifice--that I would marry him and
leave you and never see you again, and be a devoted wife to him, if he
wished it, but that my love was given to you. And he looked all the
time at me with an iron-grey face, and scarcely spoke a word. Tell me,
Stephen dear, does it pain you to hear?”

“No,” said Joyce, softly. “Your heart has been bursting with it. It is
best for us to share it, as we shall share all things, joy and pain, to
the far end.”

“I shall feel lighter for telling you. It was so terrible to see
him--oh, Stephen, if I had not loved you, I couldn’t have borne it--he
seemed stricken. Oh, why is there all this pain in the world? And to
think that I--Yvonne--should have had to inflict it--either on him,
who has been good and kind to me, or on you, whom I love better than
I thought I could love anything in the world! And when I had ended,
he said, ‘He is young, and I am old; he has had all the sufferings and
despair of life, and my lot has been cast in pleasant places; he has
come out of the furnace with love and charity in his heart, and I have
pampered my pride and uncharitableness. Go back to him--and I pray God
to bless you both.’ He spoke as if each word was a knife driven into
him--and his face--I shall never forget it--it seemed to grow old, and
ashen, and hardened.”

She covered her face with her hands for a moment, and then, suddenly,
the memory of the night flashing through her, she dashed them away with
a woman’s fierceness and clasped his head.

“But your need was greater, a million times greater than his,” she cried
in ringing tones, “and your sufferings greater, and your heart nobler,
and I should have died if I had not come to you--you are my king, my
lord, my God, my everything.”

*****

In the formally appointed hotel sitting-room, where Yvonne had twice
parted from him, sat Everard Chisely, with grey, withered face. The blow
had fallen heavily. He had hungered for her of late years with a poor,
human, unidealising passion. The pitifulness of it had galled his pride,
and he had striven to put her out of his thoughts. He had lived an
austere life, seeking in an unfamiliar asceticism to conquer the
inherited, unregenerate cravings for a fuller aesthetic and emotional
existence. Yet he had longed intensely for the death of the man who
stood between himself and Yvonne. Twice a year his agent in Paris had
reported news of Amédée Bazouge. Such communications he had opened with
trembling fingers: the man was still alive; he prayed passionate prayers
that the murder in his heart might not be counted to him as a sin. At
last, in the New Zealand spring, came the news of Bazouge’s death. His
blood tingled like the working sap in the trees. He could not wait. He
came and found Yvonne.

For thirty-six hours he had become a young man again, treading on air,
hurrying on events with a lover’s impatience. And now the crash had
come. He was an old man. He sat by his untasted breakfast, and covered
his face in his hands. His life rose up before him, self-complacent,
dignified, immaculate. Yet, somehow, he felt like a Pharisee. He was a
Churchman first, a Christian afterwards. His religion had given him very
little comfort. It had taken Yvonne from him once, at a time when
he might have won her to him forever, and it had brought him no
consolation. A man does not often get a glimpse at his own soul; when he
does, he finds it rather a pitiable sight. The Bishop saw in its depths
poignant regret that he then had not loved the woman enough to sin for
her sake. And there, too, was revealed to him miserably that outraged
pride, disillusion, the traditions of social morality, the authority of
the Church’s ordinances--all externals--had been the leading factors of
his life’s undoing. A great wish rose amid the bitterness of his heart
that he had been, like Stephen, one of the publicans and sinners, upon
whom could shine the Light of the World.

*****

Joyce and Yvonne were married one morning quietly at a registrar’s,
and came back to continue the day’s routine. The old bookseller did
not appear astonished when Joyce informed him of the unusual change of
relationship.

“You have both had your troubles,” he said, shrewdly, looking up over
his spectacles, and keeping his thumb in the volume of Origen he was
reading. “Any one can see that. You would n’t be here otherwise. And
I’m not enquiring into them. But I hope they’re ended. And now,” he
continued, rising with an old man’s stiffness, “I ’ve got some old
Madeira that I bought thirty years ago with a job-lot of things out of a
gentleman’s chambers, and I’d like to open a bottle in your honour.”

Joyce brought Yvonne down to the back-parlour. The wine came out of
the dirt-en-crusted bottle like sunshine breaking through a cloud, and
gladdened their hearts. And that was their marriage feast. Thus began
the wedded life of these two. Years of struggle, poverty, and ostracism
lay before them. They faced it all fearlessly. To each of them the
long-denied love had come, at last, new and vivifying, changing the
meaning of existence. Yet the final word of mutual revelation awaited
the loosening touch. It came with tragic unexpectedness.

One evening, not long after their marriage, Joyce, looking through the
shop copy of “The Islington Gazette,” caught the head-line, “Salvation
lassie commits suicide in New River.” A presentiment of what would
follow flashed upon him. It was true. Annie Stevens had killed herself.

“Good God!” he said involuntarily.

Yvonne looked up from her sewing, and grew alarmed at the distress on
his face.

“What is it?”

He was silent for a few moments. To tell her would involve long
explanations. Yvonne knew of Annie Stevens in connection with his
disgrace on the tour of “The Diamond Door,” but he had not spoken of
after meetings. Yvonne put her work aside, in her quick way, and came
and sat down on the footstool by his feet As he bent and kissed her, she
drew his arm round her neck, holding his hand.

“What has pained you?”

And then he told her the whole of the girl’s miserable story, her love
for him, her degradation and downfall, and her wild idea of atonement.

“And this is the end,” he said, showing her the paragraph.

“Poor girl!” said Yvonne, deeply touched. “It was so pathetically
impossible, was n’t it?”

“Yes, dear,” Joyce answered. “I, too, know that.”

“What?”

“The tragic futility of such self-crucifixion. I have never told you the
history of that night--why I gave you up--and the part this poor dead
girl played in it.”

In a low voice, he went over the old ground of degradation and his
longing for atonement, and briefly laid before her the facts of his
renunciation.

“I know now,” he concluded, “that it could only add misery to misery.
Nothing that a man or a woman alone can do can restore lost honour and
self-reverence. No fasting or penance or sacrifice is of any use.”

Yvonne drew her face away from him, so as to see him better. Pain was in
her eyes. Her lips quivered.

“Then--Stephen--dear--is it still the same with you about the
prison--the old horror and shame?”

“My dearest,” he said tenderly, “I said man alone was powerless. It is
the touch of your lips that has wiped away all stain for ever.”

They looked deep into each other’s eyes for a long, speechless moment
And then Yvonne, like a foolish woman, fell a-sobbing on his knees.

“Oh, thank God, my dear, thank God!” she said.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Derelicts" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home