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Title: Adrian Savage - A Novel
Author: Malet, Lucas
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[Frontispiece: "YOU HAVE MADE ME ONCE MORE IN LOVE WITH THE GOODNESS OF
GOD, IN LOVE WITH LIFE" See page 325]



  Adrian
  Savage

  A Novel


  BY LUCAS MALET

  AUTHOR OF
  "SIR RICHARD CALMADY"



  HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS
  NEW YORK AND LONDON
  MCMXI



[Illustration: Title page]



  COPYRIGHT, 1911, BY HARPER & BROTHERS

  PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
  PUBLISHED OCTOBER, 1911



  TO

  GABRIELLE FRANCESCA LILIAN MARY

  THIS BOOK IS DEDICATED. UPON
  HER BIRTHDAY. AS A LOVE-TOKEN

  BY
  LUCAS MALET

  THE ORCHARD, EVERSLEY   AUGUST 28, 1911



CONTENTS


I

CONCERNING THE DEAD AND THE LIVING

CHAP.

I. In which the Reader is Invited to Make the Acquaintance of the Hero
of this Book

II. Wherein a Very Modern Young Man Tells a Time-Honored Tale with but
Small Encouragement

III. Telling How René Dax Cooked a Savory Omelette, and Why Gabrielle
St. Leger Looked Out of an Open Window at Past Midnight

IV. Climbing the Ladder

V. Passages from Joanna Smyrthwaite's Locked Book

VI. Some Consequences of Putting New Wine into Old Bottles

VII. In which Adrian Helps to Throw Earth into an Open Grave

VIII. A Modern Antigone


II

THE DRAWINGS UPON THE WALL

I. A Waster

II. The Return of the Native

III. A Straining of Friendship

IV. In which Adrian Sets Forth in Pursuit of the Further Reason

V. With Deborah, under an Oak in the Parc Monceau

VI. Recording the Vigil of a Scarlet Homunculus and Aristides the Just


III

THE OTHER SIDE

I. Recording a Brave Man's Effort to Cultivate His Private Garden

II. A Strategic Movement which Secures Victory while Simulating Retreat

III. In which Euterpe is Called Upon to Play the Part of Interpreter

IV. Some Passages from Joanna Smyrthwaite's Locked Book

V. In which Adrian's Knowledge of Some Inhabitants of the Tower House
is Sensibly Increased

VI. Which Plays Seesaw between a Game of Lawn Tennis and a Prodigal Son

VII. Pistols or Politeness--For Two

VIII. "Nuit de Mai"


IV

THE FOLLY OF THE WISE

I. Re-enter a Wayfaring Gossip

II. In the Track of the Brain-storm

III. In which the Storm Breaks

IV. On the Heights

V. De Profundis


V

THE LIVING AND THE DEAD

I. Some Passages from Joanna Smyrthwaite's Locked Book

II. Recording a Sisterly Effort to Let in Light

III. In which Joanna Embraces a Phantom Bliss

IV. "Come Unto These Yellow Sands"

V. In which Adrian Makes Disquieting Acquaintance with the Long Arm of
Coincidence

VI. Concerning a Curse, and the Manner of Its Going Home to Roost

VII. Some Passages from Joanna Smyrthwaite's Locked Book

VIII. In which a Strong Man Adopts a Very Simple Method of Clearing His
Own Path of Thorns

IX. Wherein Adrian Savage Succeeds in Awakening La Belle au Bois Dormant



PREFATORY NOTE

I will ask my readers kindly to understand that this book is altogether
a work of fiction.  The characters it portrays, their circumstances and
the episodes in which they play a part, are my own invention.

Every sincere and scientific student of human nature and the social
scene must, of necessity, depend upon direct observation of life for
his general types--the said types being the composite photographs with
which study and observation have supplied him.  But, for the shaping of
individual characters out of the said types, he should, in my opinion,
rely exclusively upon his imagination and his sense of dramatic
coherence.  Exactly in proportion as he does this can he claim to be a
true artist.  Since the novel, to be a work of art, must be impersonal,
neither autobiographical nor biographical.--I am not, of course,
speaking of the historical novel, whether the history involved be
ancient or contemporary, nor am I speaking of an admitted satire.

I wish further to assure my readers that the names of my characters
have been selected at random; and belong, certainly in sequence of
Christian and surname, to no persons with whom I am, or ever have been,
acquainted.  I may also add that although I have often visited
_Stourmouth_ and its neighborhood--of which I am very fond--my
knowledge of the social life of the district is of the smallest, while
my knowledge of its municipal and commercial life is _nil_.

Finally, the lamented disappearance of _La Gioconda_, from the _Salon
Carré_ of the Louvre, took place when the whole of my manuscript was
already in the hands of the printers.  May I express a pious hope that
this most seductive of women will be safely restored to her former
dwelling-place before any copies of my novel are in the hands of the
public?

LUCAS MALET.

_August_ 28, 1911



I

CONCERNING THE DEAD AND THE LIVING



ADRIAN SAVAGE



CHAPTER I

  IN WHICH THE READER IS INVITED TO MAKE THE
  ACQUAINTANCE OF THE HERO OF THIS BOOK

Adrian Savage--a noticeably distinct, well-groomed, and well-set-up
figure, showing dark in the harsh light of the winter afternoon against
the pallor of the asphalt--walked rapidly across the Pont des Arts,
and, about half-way along the _Quai Malaquais_, turned in under the
archway of a cavernous _porte-cochère_.  The bare, spindly planes and
poplars, in the center of the courtyard to which this gave access,
shivered visibly.  Doubtless the lightly clad, lichen-stained nymph to
whom they acted as body-guard would have shivered likewise had her
stony substance permitted, for icicles fringed the lip of her tilted
pitcher and caked the edge of the shell-shaped basin into which, under
normal conditions, its waters dripped with a not unmusical tinkle.  Yet
the atmosphere of the courtyard struck the young man as almost mild
compared with that of the quay outside, along which the northeasterly
wind scourged bitingly.  Upon the farther bank of the turgid,
gray-green river the buildings of the Louvre stood out pale and stark
against a sullen backing of snow-cloud.  For the past week Paris had
cowered, sunless, in the grip of a black frost.  If those leaden
heavens would only elect to unload themselves of their burden the
weather might take up!  To Adrian Savage, in excellent health and
prosperous circumstances, the cold in itself mattered nothing--would,
indeed, rather have acted as a stimulus to his chronic appreciation of
the joy of living but for the fact that he had to-day been suddenly and
unexpectedly called upon to leave Paris and bid farewell to one of its
inhabitants eminently and even perplexingly dear to him.  Having, for
all his young masculine optimism, the artist's exaggerated sensibility
to the aspects of outward things, and equally exaggerated capacity for
conceiving--highly improbable--disaster, it troubled him to make his
adieux under such forbidding meteorologic conditions.  His regrets and
alarms would, he felt, have been decidedly lessened had kindly sunshine
set a golden frame about his parting impressions.

Nevertheless, as--raising his hat gallantly to the concierge, seated in
her glass-fronted lodge, swathed mummy-like in shawls and mufflers--he
turned shortly to the left along the backs of the tall, gray houses, a
high expectation, at once delightful and disturbing, took possession of
him to the exclusion of all other sensations.  For the past eighteen
months--ever since, indeed, the distressingly sudden death of his old
friend, the popular painter Horace St. Leger--he had made this selfsame
little pilgrimage as frequently as respectful discretion permitted.
And invariably, at the selfsame spot--it was where, as he noted
amusedly, between the third and fourth of the heavily barred
ground-floor windows a square leaden water-pipe, running the height of
the house wall from the parapet of the steep slated roof, reached the
grating in the pavement--this quickening of his whole being came upon
him, however occupied his thoughts might previously have been with his
literary work, or with the conduct of the bi-monthly review of which he
was at once assistant editor and part proprietor.  This quickening
remained with him, moreover, as he entered a doorway set in the near
corner of the courtyard and ran up the flights of waxed wooden stairs
to the third story.  In no country of the civilized world, it may be
confidently asserted, do affairs of the heart, even when virtuous,
command more indulgent sympathy than in France.  It followed that
Adrian entertained his own emotions with the same eager and friendly
amenity which he would have extended to those of another man in like
case.  He was not in the least contemptuous or suspicious of them.  He
permitted cynicism no smallest word in the matter.  On the contrary, he
hailed the present ebullience of his affections as among those
captivating surprises of earthly existence upon which one should warmly
congratulate oneself, having liveliest cause for rejoicing.

To-day, as usual, there was a brief pause before the door of the
vestibule opened.  A space of delicious anxiety---carrying him back to
the poignant hopes and despairs of childhood, when the fate of some
anticipated treat hangs in the balance--while he inquired of the trim
waiting-maid whether her mistress was or was not receiving.  Followed
by that other moment, childlike, too, in its deliciously troubled
emotion and vision, when, passing from the corridor into the warm,
vaguely fragrant atmosphere of the long, pale, rose-red and
canvas-colored drawing-room, he once again beheld the lady of his
desires and of his heart.

From the foregoing it may be deduced, and rightly, that Adrian Savage
was of a romantic temperament, and that he was very much in love.  Let
it be immediately added, however, that he was a young gentleman whose
head, to employ a vulgarism, was most emphatically screwed on the right
way.  Only child of an eminent English physician of good family, long
resident in Paris, and of a French mother--a woman of great personal
charm and some distinction as a poetess--he had inherited, along with a
comfortable little income of about eighteen hundred pounds a year, a
certain sagacity and decision in dealing with men and with affairs, as
well as quick sensibility in relation to beauty and to drama.  Artist
and practical man of the world went, for the most part, very happily
hand and hand in him.  At moments, however, they quarreled, to the
production of complications.

The death of both his parents occurred during his tenth year, leaving
him to the guardianship of a devoted French grandmother.  Under the
terms of Doctor Savage's will one-third of his income was to be applied
to the boy's maintenance and education until his majority, the
remaining two-thirds being set aside to accumulate until his
twenty-third birthday.  "At that age," so the document in question
stated, "I apprehend that my son will have discovered in what direction
his talents and aptitudes lie.  I do not wish to fetter his choice of a
profession; still I do most earnestly request him not to squander the
considerable sum of money into possession of which he will then come,
but to spend it judiciously, in the service of those talents and
aptitudes, with the purpose of securing for himself an honorable and
distinguished career."  This idea that something definite, something
notable even in the matter of achievement was demanded from him, clung
to the boy through school and college, acting--since he was healthy,
high-spirited, and confident--as a wholesome incentive to effort.  Even
before fulfilling his term of military service, Adrian had decided what
his career should be.  Letters called him with no uncertain voice.  He
would be a writer--dramatist, novelist, an artist in psychology, in
touch at all points with the inexhaustible riches of the human scene.
His father's science, his mother's poetic gift, should combine, so he
believed, to produce in him a very special vocation.  His ambitions at
this period were colossal.  The raw material of his selected art
appeared to him nothing less than the fee-simple of creation.  He
planned literary undertakings beside which the numerically formidable
volumes of Balzac or Zola shriveled to positive next-to-nothingness.
Fortunately fuller knowledge begot a juster sense of proportion, while
his native shrewdness lent a hand to knocking extravagant conceptions
on the head.  By the time he came into possession of the comfortable
sum of money that had accumulated during his minority and he was free
to follow his bent, Adrian found himself contented with quite modest
first steps in authorship.  For a couple of years he traveled, resolved
to broaden his acquaintance with men and things, to get some clear
first-hand impressions both of the ancient, deep-rooted civilizations
of the East and the amazing mushroom growths of America.  On his return
to Paris, it so happened that a leading bi-monthly review, which had
shown hospitality to his maiden literary productions, stood badly in
need of financial support.  Adrian bought a preponderating interest in
it; and by the time in question--namely, the winter of 190- and the
dawn of his thirtieth year--had contrived to make it not only a
powerful factor in contemporary criticism and literary output, but a
solid commercial success.

To be nine-and-twenty, the owner of a well-favored person, of admitted
talent and business capacity, and to be honestly in love, is surely to
be as happily circumstanced as mortal man can reasonably ask to be.
That the course of true love should not run quite smooth, that the
beloved one should prove elusive, difficult of access, that obstacles
should encumber the path of achievement, that mists of doubt and
uncertainty should drift across the face of the situation, obscuring
its issues, only served in Adrian's case to heighten interest and whet
appetite.  The last thing he asked was that the affair should move on
fashionable, conventional lines, a matter for newspaper paragraphs and
social gossip.  The justifying charm of it, to his thinking, resided in
precisely those elements of uncertainty and difficulty.  If, in the
twentieth century, a man is to subscribe to the constraints of marriage
at all, let it at least be in some sort marriage by capture!  And, as
he told himself, what man worth the name, let alone what artist, what
poet--vowed by his calling to confession of the transcendental, the
eternally mystic and sacred in this apparently most primitive, even
savage, of human relations--would choose to capture his exquisite prey
amid the blatant materialism, the vulgar noise and chaffer of the
modern social highway; rather than pursue it through the shifting
lights and shadows of mysterious woodland places, the dread of its
final escape always upon him, till his feet were weary with running,
and his hands with dividing the thick, leafy branches, his ears, all
the while, tormented by the baffling, piercing sweetness of the
half-heard Pipes of Pan?

Not infrequently Adrian would draw himself up short in the midst of
such rhapsodizings, humorously conscious that the artistic side of his
nature had got the bit, so to speak, very much between its teeth and
was running away altogether too violently with its soberer, more
practical, stable companion.  For, as he frankly admitted, to the
ordinary observer it must seem a rather ludicrously far cry from Madame
St. Leger's pleasant, well-found flat, in the center of cosmopolitan
twentieth-century Paris, to the arcana of pagan myth and legend!  Yet,
speaking quite soberly and truthfully, it was of such ancient, secret,
and symbolic things he instinctively thought when looking into
Gabrielle St. Leger's golden-brown eyes and noting the ironic
loveliness of her smiling lips.  That was just the delight, just the
provocation, just what differentiated her from all other women of his
acquaintance, from any other woman who, so far, had touched his heart
or stirred his senses.  Her recondite beauty--to quote the phrase of
this analytical lover--challenged his imagination with the excitement
of something hidden; though whether hidden by intentional and delicate
malice, or merely by lack of opportunity for self-declaration, he was
at a loss to determine.  Daughter, wife, mother, widow--young though
she still was, she had sounded the gamut of woman's most vital
experiences.  Yet, it seemed to him, although she had fulfilled, and
was fulfilling, the obligations incident to each of these several
conditions in so gracious and irreproachable a manner, her soul had
never been effectively snared in the meshes of any net.  Good Catholic,
good housewife, sympathetic hostess, intelligent and discriminating
critic, still--he might be a fool for his pains, but what artist
doesn't know better than to under-rate the fine uses of folly?--he
believed her to be, either by fate or by choice, essentially a _Belle
au Bois Dormant_; and further believed himself, thanks to the workings
of constitutional masculine vanity, to be the princely adventurer
designed by providence for the far from disagreeable duty of waking her
up.  Only just now providence, to put it roughly, appeared to have
quite other fish for him to fry.  And it was under compulsion of such
prospective fish-frying that he sought her apartment overlooking the
_Quai Malaquais_, this afternoon, reluctantly to bid her farewell.



CHAPTER II

  WHEREIN A VERY MODERN YOUNG MAN TELLS A
  TIME-HONORED TALE WITH BUT SMALL ENCOURAGEMENT

Disappointment awaited him.  Madame St. Leger was receiving; but, to
his chagrin, another visitor had forestalled his advent--witness a
woman's fur-lined wrap lying across the lid of the painted Venetian
chest in the corridor.  Adrian bestowed a glance of veritable hatred
upon the garment.  Then, recognizing it, felt a little better.  For it
belonged to Anastasia Beauchamp, an old friend, not unsympathetic, as
he believed, to his suit.

Sympathy, however, was hardly the note struck on his entrance.  Miss
Beauchamp and Madame St. Leger stood in the vacant rose-red carpeted
space at the far end of the long room, in front of the open fire.  Both
were silent; yet Adrian was aware somehow they had only that moment
ceased speaking, and that their conversation had been momentous in
character.  The high tension of it held them to the point of their
permitting him to walk the whole length of the room before turning to
acknowledge his presence.  This was damping for Adrian, who, like most
agreeable young men, thought himself entitled to and well worth a
welcome.  But not a bit of it!  The elder woman--high-shouldered,
short-waisted, an admittedly liberal sixty, her arms disproportionate
in their length and thinness to her low stature--continued to hold her
hostess's right hand in both hers and look at her intently, as though
enforcing some request or admonition.

Miss Beauchamp, it may be noted in passing, affected a certain
juvenility of apparel.  To-day she wore a short purple serge
walking-suit.  A velvet toque of the same color, trimmed with sable and
blush-roses, perched itself on her elaborately dressed hair, which, in
obedience to the then prevailing fashion, showed not gray but a full
coppery red.  Her eyebrows and eyelids were darkly penciled, and powder
essayed to mask wrinkles and sallowness of complexion.  Yet the very
frankness of these artifices tended to rob them of offense; or, in any
serious degree--the first surprise of them over--to mar the genial
promise of her quick blue-gray eyes and her thin, witty, strongly
marked, rather masculine countenance.  Adrian usually accepted her
superficial bedizenments without criticism, as just part of her
excellent, if somewhat bizarre, personality.  But to-day--his temper
being slightly ruffled--under the cold, diffused light of the range of
tall windows, they started, to his seeing, into quite unpardonable
prominence--a prominence punctuated by the grace and the proudly
youthful aspect of the woman beside her.

Madame St. Leger was clothed in unrelieved black, from the frill, high
about her long throat, to the hem of her trailing cling skirts.  Over
her head she had thrown a black gauze scarf, soberly framing her
heart-shaped face in fine semi-transparent folds, and obscuring the
burnished lights in her brown hair, which stood away in soft, dense
ridges on either side the parting and was gathered into a loose knot at
the back of her head.  Her white skin was very clear, a faint scarlet
tinge showing through it in the round of either cheek.  But just now
she was pale.  And this, along with the framing black gauze scarf,
developed the subtle likeness which--as Adrian held--she bore, in the
proportions of her face and molding of it, to Leonardo's world-famous
"Mona Lisa" in Salon Carré of the Louvre.  The strange recondite
quality of her beauty, and the challenge it offered, were peculiarly in
evidence; thereby making, as he reflected, cruel, though unconscious,
havoc of the juvenile pretensions of poor Anastasia.  And this was
painful to him.  So that in wishing--as he incontestably did--the said
Anastasia absent, his wish may have been dictated almost as much by
chivalry as by selfishness.

All of which conflicting perceptions and emotions tended to rob him of
his habitual and happy self-assurance.  His voice took on quite
plaintive tones, and his gay brown eyes a quite pathetic and orphaned
expression, as he exclaimed:

"Ah!  I see that I disturb you.  I am in the way.  My visit is
inconvenient to you!"

The faint tinge of scarlet leaped into Madame St. Leger's cheeks, and
an engaging dimple indicated itself at the left corner of her closed
and smiling mouth.  Meanwhile Anastasia Beauchamp broke forth
impetuously:

"No, no!  On the contrary, it is I who am in the way, though our dear,
exquisite friend is too amiable to tell me so.  I have victimized her
far too long already.  I have bored her distractingly."

"Indeed, it is impossible you should ever bore me," the younger woman
put in quietly.

"Then I have done worse.  I have just a little bit angered you," Miss
Beauchamp declared.  "Oh!  I know I have been richly irritating,
preaching antiquated doctrines of moderation in thought and conduct.
But '_les vérités bêtes_' remain '_les vérités vraies_,' now as ever.
With that I go.  _Ma toute chère et belle_, I leave you.  And," she
added, turning to Adrian, "I leave you, you lucky young man, in
possession.  Retrieve my failures!  Be as amusing as I have been
intolerable.--But see, one moment, since the opportunity offers.  Tell
me, you are going to accept those articles on the Stage in the
Eighteenth Century, by my poor little protégé, Lewis Byewater, for
publication in the Review?"

"Am I not always ready to attempt the impossible for your sake, dear
Mademoiselle?" Adrian inquired gallantly.

"Hum--hum--is it as bad as that, then?  Are his articles so impossible?
Byewater has soaked himself in his subject.  He has been tremendously
conscientious.  He has taken immense trouble over them."

"He has taken immensely too much; that is just the worry.  His
conscience protrudes at every sentence.  It prods, it positively
impales you!"  The speaker raised his neat black eyebrows and broad
shoulders in delicate apology.  "Alas!  he is pompous, pedantic, I
grieve to report; he is heavy, very heavy, your little Byewater.  The
eighteenth-century stage was many things which it had, no doubt, much
better not have been, but was it heavy?  Assuredly not."

"Ah! poor child, he is young.  He is nervous.  He has not command of
his style yet.  You should be lenient.  Give him opportunity and
encouragement, and he will find himself, will rise to the possibilities
of his own talent.  After all," she added, "every writer must begin
some time and somewhere!"

"But not necessarily in the pages of my Review," Adrian protested.
"With every desire to be philanthropic, I dare not convert it into a
_crèche_, a foundling hospital, for the maintenance of ponderous
literary infants.  My subscribers might, not unreasonably, object."

"You floated René Dax."

"But he is a genius," Madame St. Leger remarked quietly.

"Yes," Adrian asserted, "there could be no doubt about his value from
the first.  He is extraordinary."

"He is extraordinarily perverted," cried Miss Beauchamp.

"I am much attached to M. René Dax."  Madame St. Leger spoke
deliberately; and a little silence followed, as when people listen,
almost anxiously, to the sound of a pebble dropped into a well, trying
to hear it touch bottom.  Miss Beauchamp was the first to break it.
She did so laughing.

"In that case, _ma toute belle_, you also are perverse, though I trust
not yet perverted.  It amounts to this, then," she continued, pulling
her long gloves up her thin arms: "I am to dispose of poor Byewater,
shatter his hopes, crush his ambitions, tell him, in short, that he
won't do.  Just Heaven, you who have arrived, how soon you become
cruel!"  She looked from the handsome black-bearded young man to the
beautiful enigmatic young woman, and her witty, accentuated face bore a
singular expression.  "Good-by, charming Gabrielle," she said.
"Forgive me if I have been tedious, for truly I am devotedly fond of
you.  And good-by to you, Mr. Savage.  Yes!  I go to dispose of the
ill-fated Byewater.  But ah! ah! if you only knew all I have done this
afternoon, or tried to do, to serve you!"

Whereupon Adrian, smitten by sudden apprehension of deep and possibly
dangerous issues, followed her to the door, crying eagerly:

"Wait, I implore you, dear Mademoiselle.  Do not be too precipitate in
disposing of Byewater.  I may have underrated the worth of his
articles.  I will re-read, I will reconsider.  Nothing presses.  I have
to leave Paris for a week or two.  Let the matter rest till my return.
I may find it possible, after all, to accept them."

Then, the door closed, he came back and stood on the vacant space of
rose-red carpet in the pleasant glow of the fire.

"She is a clever woman," he said, reflectively.  "She has cornered me,
and that is not quite fair--on the Review.  For they constitute a
veritable atrocity of dullness, those articles by her miserable little
Byewater."

"It is part of her code of friendship--it holds true all round.  If she
helps others--"

Madame St. Leger left her sentence unfinished and, glancing with a hint
of veiled mockery at her guest, sat down in a carven, high-backed,
rose-cushioned chair at right angles to the fireplace, and picked up a
bundle of white needlework from the little table beside it.

"You mean that Miss Beauchamp does her best for me, too?" Adrian
inquired, tentatively.

But the lady was too busy unfolding her work, finding needle and
thimble to make answer.

"I foresee that I shall be compelled to print the wretched little
Byewater in the end," he murmured, still tentatively.

"Did you not tell Miss Beauchamp you were going away?" Gabrielle asked.
She had no desire to continue the conversation on this particular note.

"Yes, I leave Paris to-night.  That is my excuse for asking to see you
this afternoon.  But I feel that my visit is ill-timed.  I observed
directly I came in that you looked a little fatigued.  I fear you are
suffering.  Ought you to undertake the exertion of receiving visitors?
I doubt it.  Yet I should have been desolated had you refused me.  For
I leave, as I say, to-night in response to a sudden call to England
upon business--that of certain members of my father's family.  I am
barely acquainted with them.  But they claim my assistance, and I
cannot refuse it.  I could not do otherwise than tell you of this
unexpected journey, could I?  It distresses me to find you suffering."

Gabrielle had looked at him smiling, her lips closed, the little dimple
again showing in her left cheek.  His eagerness and volubility were
diverting to her.  They enabled her to think of him as still very
young; and she quite earnestly wished thus to think of him.  To do so
made for security.  At this period Madame St. Leger put a very high
value upon security.

"But, indeed," she said, "I am quite well.  The corridor is chilly, and
I have been going to and fro preparing a little _fête_ for Bette.  She
has her friends, our neighbor Madame Bernard's two little girls, from
the floor below, to spend the afternoon with her.  My mother is now
kindly guarding the small flock.  But I could not burden her with
preliminaries.--I am quite well, and, for the moment, I am quite at
leisure.  Bring a chair.  Sit down.  It is for me to condole with you
rather than for you to condole with me," she went on, in her quiet
voice, "for this is far from the moment one would select for a
cross-Channel journey!  But then you are more English than French in
all that.  Hereditary instincts assert themselves in you.  You have the
islander's inborn sense of being cramped by the modest proportions of
his island, and craving to step off the edge of it into space."

The young man placed his hat on the floor, opened the fronts of his
overcoat, and drew a chair up to the near side of the low work-table
whence he commanded an uninterrupted view of his hostess's charming
person.

"That is right," she said.  "Now tell me about this sudden journey.  Is
it for long?  When may we expect you back?"

"What do I know?" he replied, spreading out his hands quickly.  "It may
be a matter of days.  It may be a matter of weeks.  I am ignorant of
the amount of business entailed.  The whole thing has come upon me as
so complete a surprise.  What induced my venerable cousin to select me
as his executor remains inexplicable.  I remember seeing him when, as a
child, I visited England with my parents.  I remember, also, that he
filled me with alarm and melancholy.  He lived in a big, solemn house
on the outskirts of a great, noisy, dirty, manufacturing town in
Yorkshire.  It was impressed upon me that I must behave in his presence
with eminent circumspection, since he was very religious, very
intellectual.  I fear I was an impertinent little boy.  He appeared to
me to worship a most odious deity, who permitted no amusements, no
holidays, no laughter; while his conversation--my cousin's, I mean, not
that of the Almighty--struck me as quite the dullest I had ever
listened to.  I cried, very loud and very often, to the consternation
of the whole establishment, and demanded to be taken home to Paris at
once.  I never saw him again until three years ago, when he spent a few
days here, on a return journey from Carlsbad.  As in duty bound, I did
what I could to render their stay agreeable to him and his companions."
Adrian's expression became at once apologetic and merry.  "My efforts
were not, as I supposed, crowned with at all flattering success.  My
venerable cousin still filled me with melancholy and alarm.  In face of
his immense seriousness I appeared to myself as some capering
harlequin.  Therefore it is, as you will readily understand, with
unqualified amazement that I learn he has intrusted the administration
of his very considerable estate to my care.  Really, his faith in me
constitutes a vastly embarrassing compliment.  I wish to heaven he had
formed a less exalted estimate of my probity and business acumen and
looked elsewhere for an executor!"

"He had no children, poor man?" Madame St. Leger inquired,
sympathetically.

"On the contrary, he leaves twin daughters.  And it is in conjunction
with the--briefly--elder of these two ladies that I am required to act."

Gabrielle moved slightly in her chair.  Her eyelids were half-closed.
She looked at the young man sideways without turning her head.  Her
resemblance to the Mona Lisa was startling just then; but it was Mona
Lisa in a most mischievous humor.

"In many ways you cannot fail to find that interesting," she said.
"You are a professional psychologist, a student of character.  And
then, too, it is your nature to be untiring in kindness and helpfulness
to women."

"To women of flesh and blood, yes, possibly, if they are amiable enough
to accept my services," Adrian returned, somewhat warmly, a lover's
resentment of any ascription of benevolence toward the sex, merely as
such, all agog in him.  "But are these ladies really of flesh and
blood?  They affected me, when I last saw them, rather as shadowy and
harassed abstractions.  I gazed at them in wonder.  They are not old.
But have they ever been young?  I doubt it, with so aggressively
ethical and educative a father.  I was at a loss how to approach them;
they were so silent, so restrained, so apparently bankrupt in the small
change of social intercourse.  If they did not add sensibly to my alarm
they most unquestionably contributed to my melancholy--the humiliating,
disintegrating melancholy of harlequin, capering in conscious fatuity
before an audience morally and physically incapable of laughter.  All
this was bad enough when our connection was but superficial and
transitory.  It will be ten thousand times worse when we are forced
into a position of unnatural intimacy."

During this tirade, Gabrielle had shaken out the thin folds of her
needlework and begun setting quick stitches methodically.  Her hands
were strong, square in the palm and the finger-tips, finely modeled,
finely capable--more fitted, as it might seem, to hold maul-stick and
palate, or even wield mallet and chisel, than to put rows of small,
even, snippety stitches in a child's lawn frock.  If the fifteenth
century and the voluptuous humanism of the Italian Renaissance found
subtle reflection in her face, the twentieth century and its awakening
militant feminism found expression in her firm hands and their promise
of fearless and ready strength.

"I believe you do both yourself and those two ladies an injustice," she
said, her head bent over her stitching.  "It will not be the very least
in the character of harlequin that they receive you, but rather in that
of a savior, a liberator.  For you will be delightful to them--ah!  I
see it all quite clearly--tactful, considerate, reassuring.  That is
your _rôle_, and you will play it to perfection.  How can you do
otherwise, since not only your sense of dramatic necessity but your
goodness of heart will be engaged?  And, take it from me, the enjoyment
will not be exclusively on their side.  For you will find it
increasingly inspiring to act providence to those two shadowy old-young
ladies as you see age vanish and youth return.  I envy you.  Think what
an admirable mission you are about to fulfil!"

She glanced up suddenly, her eyes and the turn of her mouth conveying
to unhappy Adrian a distracting combination of friendliness--detestable
sentiment, since it went no further!--and of raillery.  Then, her face
positively brilliant with mischief, she gave him a final dig.

"What a thousand pities, though, that there are two of these
abstractions whom it is your office to materialize!  Had there been but
one, how far simpler the problem of your position!"

The young man literally bounded on to his feet, his expression eloquent
of the liveliest repudiation and reproach.  But Madame St. Leger's head
was bent over her needlework again.  She stitched, stitched, in the
calmest manner imaginable, talking, meanwhile, in a quiet, even voice.

"Did I not tell you we are _en fête_?  Bette has her friends, the
little Bernards, to spend the afternoon with her.  It is an excuse for
keeping her indoors.  The modern craze for sending children out in all
weathers does not appeal to me.  I do not believe in a system of
hardening."

"Indeed?" Adrian commented, with meaning.

"For little girls?" she inquired.  "Oh no, decidedly not.  For grown-up
people, especially for men when they are young and in good health, it
may, of course, have excellent results."

"Ah!" he said, resentfully.

"They--the children, I mean--are busy in the dining-room making rather
terrible culinary experiments with a new doll's cooking stove.  Shall
we go and see how they are getting on?  I ought, perhaps, to just take
a look at them and assure myself they are not tiring my mother too
much.  And then they will be distressed, my mother and Bette, if they
do not have an opportunity to bid you good-by before your journey."

For once Adrian was guilty of ignoring his hostess's suggestions.  He
stood leaning one elbow upon the chimneypiece, and--above the
powder-blue Chinese jars and ivory godlings adorning it--scrutinizing
his own image in the looking-glass.  He had just suffered a sharp and,
to his thinking, most uncalled-for rebuff.  He smarted under it, unable
for the moment to recover his equanimity.  But, contemplating the image
held by the mirror, his soul received a sensible measure of comfort.
The smooth, opaque, colorless complexion; the pointed black beard, so
close cut as in no degree to hide the forcible line of the jaw or
distort the excellent proportions of the mask; the thick, well-trimmed
mustache, standing upward from the lip and leaving the curved mouth
free; the straight square-tipped nose, with its suggestion of
pugnacity; let alone the last word of contemporary fashion in collar
and tie and heavy box-cloth overcoat, the cut of which lent itself to
the values of a tall, well-set-up figure--all these went to form a far
from discouraging picture.  Yes! surely he was a good-looking fellow
enough!  One, moreover, with the promise of plenty of fight in him;
daring, constitutionally obstinate, not in the least likely tamely to
take "No" for an answer once his mind was made up.

Then, in thought, he made a rapid survey of the mental, social, moral,
and financial qualifications of those who had formed the circle of poor
Horace St. Leger's friends, and who, during the years of his marriage,
had been permitted the _entrée_ of his house.  A varied and remarkable
company when one came to review it--savants, artists, politicians, men
of letters, musicians, journalists, from octogenarian M. de Cubières,
Member of the Senate, Member of the Academy, and Chevalier of the
Legion of Honor, to that most disconcerting sport of wayward genius,
vitriolic caricaturist and elegant minor poet, René Dax, whose immense
domed head and neat little toy of a body had won him at school the
nickname of _le tetard_--the tadpole--an appellation as descriptive as
it was unflattering, and which--rather cruelly--had stuck to him ever
since.  Adrian marshaled all these, examined their possible claims, and
pronounced each, in turn, ineligible.  Some, thank Heaven! were
securely married already.  Others, though untrammeled by the bonds of
holy matrimony, were trammeled by bonds in no wise holy, yet scarcely
less prohibitive.  Some were too old, others too young or too poor.
Some, as, for example, René Dax, were altogether too eccentric.  True,
Madame St. Leger had just now declared herself warmly attached to him.
But wasn't that the best proof of the absence of danger?  A woman
doesn't openly affirm her regard for a man unless that regard is of
purely platonic and innocuous character.  And then, after
all--excellent thought!--was it not he, Adrian Savage, who had been
admitted even during the tragic hours of poor Horace's agony; who had
watched by the corpse through a stifling summer night, a night too hot
for sleep, restless with the continual sound of footsteps and voices,
the smell of the asphalt and of the river?  And, since then, was it not
to him Gabrielle and her mother, Madame Vernois, had repeatedly turned
for advice in matters of business?

Fortified by which reflections, stimulated, though stung, by her
teasing, defiant of all other possible and impossible lovers, the young
man wheeled round and stood directly in front of Gabrielle St. Leger.

"Listen, _très chère Madame et amie_, listen one little minute," he
said, "I implore you.  It is true that I go to-night, and for how long
a time I am ignorant, to arrange the worldly affairs of my alarming old
relative, Montagu Smyrthwaite, and, incidentally, to adjust those of
his two dessicated daughters.  But it is equally true--for I vehemently
refuse such a solution of the problem of my relation to either of those
ladies as your words seem to prefigure--I repeat, it is equally true
that I shall return at the very earliest opportunity.  And return in
precisely the same attitude of mind as I go--namely, wholly convinced,
wholly faithful, incapable of any attachment, indifferent to any
sentiment save one."

The corners of his mouth quivered and his gay brown eyes were misty
with tears.

"I do not permit myself to enlarge upon the nature of that sentiment
to-day.  To do so might seem intrusive, even wanting in delicacy.  But
I do permit myself--your own words have procured me the
opportunity--both to declare its existence and to assert my profound
assurance of its permanence.  You may not smile upon it, dear Madame.
You may even regard it as an impertinence, a nuisance.  Yet it is
there--there."  Adrian drummed with his closed fist upon the region of
his heart.  "It has been there for a longer period than I care to
mention.  And it declines to be eradicated.  While life remains, it
remains, unalterable.  It is idle, absolutely idle, believe me, to
invite it to lessen or to depart."

Madame St. Leger had risen, too, laying her work down on the little
table.  Her face was grave to the point of displeasure.  The tinge of
scarlet had died out in the round of her cheeks.  She was about to
speak, but the young man spread out his hands with an almost violent
gesture.

"No--no," he cried.  "Do not say anything.  Do not, I entreat, attempt
to answer me.  When I came here this afternoon I had no thought of
making this avowal.  It has been forced from me, and may well appear to
you premature.  Therefore I entreat you for the moment ignore it.  Let
everything between us remain as before.  That is so easy, you see,
since I am going away.  Only," he added, more lightly, "I think, if you
will excuse me, I will not join that interesting conference of amateur
chefs in the dining-room.  My mind, I confess, at this moment is
slightly preoccupied, and I might prove a but clumsy and distracted
assistant.  May I ask you, therefore, kindly to express to your mother,
Madame Vernois, and to the ravishing Mademoiselle Bette my regret at
being unable to make my farewells in person?"

He picked up his hat, buttoned his overcoat, and, without attempting to
take his hostess's hand, backed away from her.

"With your permission I shall write at intervals during my unwilling
exile," he said.  "But merely to recount my adventures--nothing beyond
my adventures, rest assured.  These are likely to possess a certain
piquancy, I imagine, and may serve to amuse you."

Something of his habitual happy self-confidence had returned to him.
His air was high-spirited, courteous, instinct with the splendid
optimism of his vigorous young manhood, as he paused, hat in hand, for
a last word in the doorway.

"_Au revoir, très chère Madame_," he cried.  "I go to a land of
penetrating fogs and a household of pensive abstractions, but I shall
come back unaffected by either, since I carry a certain memory, a
certain aspiration in my heart.  _Au revoir_.  God keep you.  Ah! very
surely, and with what a quite infinite gladness I shall come back!"



CHAPTER III

  TELLING HOW RENÉ DAX COOKED A SAVORY OMELETTE,
  AND WHY GABRIELLE ST. LEGER LOOKED OUT OF
  AN OPEN WINDOW AT PAST MIDNIGHT

Wrapped in a wadded silk dressing-gown, with frilled muslin cape and
under-sleeves to it, Gabrielle St. Leger had made her nightly round.
Had seen that lights were switched off, fires safe, shutters bolted,
and the maids duly retired to their bedchamber.  Had embraced her
mother, and looked into details of night-light and spirit-lamp, lest
the excessive cold should render some hot beverage advisable for the
elder lady in the course of the night.  Had visited Bette in the little
room adjoining her own, and found the child snuggled down in her cot
profoundly and deliciously asleep.  Then, being at last free of further
obligation to house or household, she turned the key in the lock of her
bedroom door and sat down to think.

Until the day's work, its courtesies as well as its duties, was fully
done she had agreed with herself not to think.  For even startling
events and agitating experiences should, in her opinion, be dealt with
methodically in their proper season and order, without fear and without
haste.  Only so could you be both just and clear-sighted in respect of
them.  All of which---had she known it--went to prove a theory of
Adrian's--namely, that in her case, as in that of so many modern women
between the ages of eighteen and, say, eight and twenty, the reasoning,
the intellectual, rather than the sensuous and emotional elements are
in the ascendant.

And, indeed, Gabrielle honestly regretted that which had to-day
happened by the conversion of a valued friend into a declared lover.
It was tiresome, really tiresome to a degree!  Nor was her vexation
lessened by the fact that she could not excuse herself of blame.  The
catastrophe had been precipitated by her fatal habit of teasing.  How
constantly she resolved to be staid and serious in the presence of
mankind!  And then, all uninvited, a sprickety, mischievous humor would
take her, making it irresistible delicately to poke fun at those large,
self-confident, masculine creatures, to plague and trick them, placing
them at a disadvantage; and, by so doing, to lower, for a moment at
least, the crest of their over-weening self-complacency.  Only this
afternoon, as she ruefully admitted, she had gone unwisely far, letting
malice tread hard on the heels of mere mischief.  This was what vexed
her most.  For why should malice find entrance in this particular
connection?  Gabrielle would gladly have shirked the question.  But it
stood out in capital letters right in front of her, with a portly note
of interrogation at the end of the sentence, asking, almost audibly,
"Why?  Why?  Why?"

With a movement of her hands, at once impatient and deprecatory, the
young woman lay back in her long chair.  In part it was Anastasia
Beauchamp's fault.  Anastasia had come rather close, venturing to
criticize and to warn.  Anastasia was anti-feministe, distrustful of
modern tendencies, of independence, of woman's life and outlook in and
for itself.  This genial unbeliever preached orthodoxy; this unmarried
woman--with a legend, for there were those who reported events in the
far past--preached matrimony.  "In the end," she said, "in the end
independence proved a mistake."  And not improbably she was right in as
far as her own generation was concerned.  But now the world had moved
forward a big piece.  The conditions were different.  And in this,
Gabrielle's generation, how, save by experiment, could you possibly
prove that independence mightn't very much pay?  Whereupon her thought
began to march down alluring avenues of speculation guarded by vague,
masterful theories of feminine supremacy.

The crimson shades of the electric lights above her dressing-table, the
crimson silk coverlet of her bed, gave an effect of warmth and comfort
to the otherwise cool-colored room, its carved, white furniture and
blue-green carpet, curtains, and walls.  Formerly this had been a
guest-chamber.  But, since her husband's death, Gabrielle had taken it
for her own.  Her former room was too peopled with experiences and
memories for solitude.  And, like all strong and self-realized natures,
Gabrielle demanded solitude at times--a place not only for rest, but
for those intimate unwitnessed battles which necessarily beset the
strong.


Just now, however, the desired solitude was almost too complete.
Presently her attention began to be occupied by it to the exclusion of
all other things.  In the stillness of the sleeping house she heard the
wind crying along the steep house-roofs and hissing against the
windows.  There was a note of homelessness, even of desolation, in the
sound.  Involuntarily her thought returned upon Adrian Savage.  She saw
the mail steamer thrashing out from Calais harbor into the black welter
of blizzard and winter sea.  Saw, too, the young man's momentarily
tremulous lips and tearful eyes as he declared his love.  And the
subsequent fine recovery of his natural gladness of aspect, as,
standing hat in hand in the doorway, a notably gallant and handsome
figure, he had asserted his speedy return rather than bade her good-by.

For quite an appreciable space of time she gazed at this visualized
recollection of him.  Then, shutting her eyes, she turned her back on
it, and lay sideways in the long chair.  She determined to be rid of
it.  Almost fiercely she told it to go.  For it was useless to deny
that it both charmed and moved her.  And she didn't want that and all
which it involved and stood for.  Earnestly, honestly, she didn't want
it!--Ah! what misguided temerity to have teased!  For she wanted--yes
she did, Anastasia Beauchamp's middle-aged wisdom notwithstanding--to
retain her but lately acquired freedom; not only the repose, but the
stimulating clarity of mind and obligation, the conscious development
of personality and broadening of thought which went along with that
freedom.  She had passed straight from the obedience of young girlhood
to the obedience of young wifehood.  Now she wanted to belong wholly
and exclusively to herself, not to be the property of any man, however
devoted, talented, charming--not ever--not certainly for a long while
yet.

This craving for the conservation of her freedom took its rise neither
in the fact that the memory of her husband was hateful to her, nor that
it was so dear as to render the thought of a second marriage a
desecration, shocking to the heart.  She remembered Horace St. Leger
with affection, in many respects with gratitude.  He had been
considerate, watchfully protective of her beauty and her youth.  As the
mother of his child he had yielded her a worship touched by an immense
tenderness.  He had been irreproachably loyal and indulgent.  All this
she admitted and valued.  Wasn't it, indeed, very much?--The
circumstances of her marriage, moreover, had not been without their
romantic aspect.  Madame Vernois, after the death of her husband, who
held a professorship at the Collège de France, both from motives of
economy and the wish to be near her own family, had retired to her
native Chambéry, in the _Haute Savoie_.  It was in this strangely
picturesque town, rich in remarkable buildings and in traditions both
literary and historic, guarded by fantastic mountains and traversed by
unruly torrents, that Gabrielle Vernois passed her childhood--mixing in
a society both refined and devout though somewhat prejudiced and
circumscribed of outlook, the members of it being more distinguished
for the magnitude of their united ages and the multitude of their
quarterings, than for the length of their purses or their acquaintance
with the world as it now actually is.

And it was here, too--she being barely nineteen, he little short of
fifty--that Horace St. Leger had met her; had been captivated by her
singular type of beauty and the delicious combination of her innocence
and ready wit.  He was something of a connoisseur in women.  Now he
surely discovered a unique specimen!  Naturally he wished to acquire
that specimen for himself.  The years of his apprenticeship were over.
He had made a name; had, within the limits of his capacity, evolved his
style and mastered the exacting technique of his art.  He was young for
his age, too; well-preserved, in the plentitude of his popularity.  He
had made money and he had spent money, but he had never, to all
appearance, been more secure of continuing to make.  He could well
afford to indulge his tastes, even when they took the expensive form of
a serious establishment and a seductive wife.  He hastened back to
Paris, put a final and satisfactory termination to a connection which
had long lost its pristine ardors and begun to pall upon him, and then
returned to Chambéry, officially to offer this enchanting child of
nineteen the sum total of his life's achievement in respect of fame,
fortune, social opportunity, along with that suavity of temper and
outlook which result from the successful cultivation of a facile talent
untroubled by the torments and dislocations of genius.

The young girl's dowry was of the slenderest.  The marriage offered not
only a secure and agreeable future for herself; but--and this
influenced her decision at least equally--relief to her mother from
straitened means and their attendant deprivations and anxieties.  The
subtle unrest, the haunting ambitions and curiosities of her awakening
womanhood stirred in her, while the disparity of age between herself
and her suitor seemed, to her inexperience, a matter of indifference.
The marriage took place in due course, and ostensibly all went well.
Yet, looking back upon it now, sitting here alone in her bedchamber
while the wind cried along the house-roofs and Paris cowered in the
grip of the bitter frost, Gabrielle St. Leger knew that she had learned
life, the actualities both of human nature and civilized society, in a
hard enough school.

For indisputably the thirty years' difference in age between herself
and her husband, which, before marriage, had seemed so negligible a
quantity, entailed consequences that intruded themselves at every turn.
St. Leger's character and opinions were fixed, crystallized,
insusceptible of change, while her own were still, if not in the
actually fluid, yet in the distinctly malleable stage.  This rendered
any equality of intercourse impossible.  Her husband treated her as a
child, whose ignorance one finds exquisitely entertaining, and
enlightens with high, if indulgent, amusement--his attitude toward her
quasi-paternal in its serene assumption of omniscience.  Yet, being
quick-witted and observant, she soon perceived that assumption did not
receive, by any means, universal indorsement.  Among the younger
generation of the artistic and literary brotherhood it became evident
to her that, though the man was held in affection, the painter was
regarded as a bit of a charlatan, destitute of illumination and
sincerity of method--as one who had never possessed the courage or the
capacity to attempt any lifting the veil of Isis and penetration of the
mysteries it conceals.  Nor was she slow to learn, hearing the witty
talk and covert allusions of the dinner-table and studio--although her
guests made honest and honorable effort to restrain their tongues in
her presence--that the rule of faith and morals which had been so
earnestly enjoined upon her in her childhood was very much of a dead
letter to the average man and woman of the world.  The general scheme
of existence was a far more complicated affair than she had been taught
to suppose.  The dividing line between the sheep and the goats was by
no means always easy of recognition.  Delightful people did very shady,
not to say very outrageous and abominable, things.  She suffered
moments of cruel perspicacity and consequent disgust, during which she
was tempted to accuse even her dearly loved mother of having purposely
misled and lied to her.  For was it not idle to suppose that her
husband differed from other men?  Or that his passion for her was
unique, without predecessors?  Was it not very much more reasonable to
see, in the perfection of tactful delicacy with which he treated her,
proof positive of a large and varied emotional experience?

Then followed a further discovery.  In this marriage she had looked
confidently for a brilliant future.  But, in plain truth, what future
remained?  St. Leger had reached the zenith of his career.  He was well
on in middle life.  The only possible future for him lay in the
direction of decline and decay.  She recognized that her mission,
therefore, was not to share a brightening glory, but to maintain a
fondly cherished illusion, to soften the asperities of his declension
and mask the approach of age and lessening powers by the stimulus of
her own radiant youth.

One by one these revelations came upon her with the shock of detected
and abiding deceptions.  Her pride suffered.  Her jealous respect for
her own intelligence and personality was rudely shaken.  But she kept
her own counsel, making neither complaint nor outcry.  Silently, after
a struggle which left its impress in the irony of her smiling eyes and
lips, she faced each discovery in turn and reckoned with it.  Then she
ranged herself, dismissing once and for all, as she believed,
high-flown heroic conceptions of love between man and woman, accepting
human nature and human relations as they actually are and
forgiving--though it shrewdly taxed her longanimity--all those pious
frauds which, from time immemorial, civilized parents and teachers have
supposed it their duty to practise upon the children whom they at once
adore and betray.

It remained to her credit, however, that, even in the most searching
hours of disillusionment, Gabrielle did not lose her sense of justice
or fail to discriminate, to the best of her ability, between that for
which the society in which he moved and that for which her husband,
personally, should be held responsible.  So doing she admitted, and
gladly, that any legitimate cause of quarrel with him was of the
smallest.  Taking all the circumstances of the case into account, he
had behaved well, even admirably, by her.  The way of the world, its
habits and standards, the constitution of human nature, rather than
Horace St. Leger, was in fault.  And it was precisely on that finding,
as she told herself now, having reasoned it out sitting here alone in
her bedchamber, that she deprecated any change of estate, the
contraction of any fresh and intimate relation.  If she had not known
it might have been different--and there she paused a little wistfully,
sorrowfully.  But she did know, and therefore she could not consent to
part with her freedom, with the repose of mind and the large liberty of
thought and action her freedom permitted her.  Her body was her own.
Her soul, her emotions were her own.  Almost fiercely she protested
they should remain so.  Hence it was useless, useless, that Anastasia
should warn, or that the image of Adrian Savage should solicit her,
standing there handsome, devoted, and how maddeningly self-confident!
She could not listen.  She would not listen.  No, no, simply she would
not.

Having thus analyzed the position, summed up and delivered judgment
upon it, clearly it was the part of common-sense to go to bed and to
sleep.  Gabrielle stretched out her hand for the crystal and silver
rosary lying, along with her missal and certain books of devotion, on a
whatnot beside her chair.  She fingered it, making an effort to
concentrate and compose her thoughts.  But they refused to be composed,
darting hither and thither like a flight of startled birds.
Restlessness still possessed her, making recitation of the hallowed
invocations which mark each separate bead trench perilously on
profanity.  She let the rosary drop and pressed her hands over her
eyes.  Certain words, over and above the disturbing ones spoken by
Adrian Savage, haunted her.  For the agitations of the afternoon had
not ended with his declaration and exit.  A subsequent episode had
contributed, in no small degree, to produce her existing state of
perturbation.

It had happened thus.  A few minutes after Adrian left her, going out
on to the gallery, which runs the length of the flat from the vestibule
and studio at one end to the dining-room and offices at the other, she
had been struck by the strangely cold, haggard light filling it.  The
ceiling stared, while details of pictures and china upon the walls, the
graceful statuette of a slim, unclad boy carrying a hooded hawk on his
wrist, and, farther on, a portrait bust of Horace St. Leger--each set
on an antique porphyry column--started into peculiar and shadowless
prominence.  The windows of the gallery gave on to the courtyard.
Gabrielle held aside one of the vitrine curtains and looked out.

Snow was falling.  Countless thin, fine flakes circled and eddied,
drifted earthward, and swept up again caught in some local draught.
Through the lace work of black, quivering branches the backs of the
houses across the courtyard showed pallid and gaunt.  Far below, on the
frost-bitten grass-plat, the lichen-stained nymph tilted her ice-bound
pitcher above the frozen basin.  The familiar scene in its present
aspect was indescribably dreary, provocative of doubting, distrustful
thoughts.  With a movement of impatience, her expression hard, her
charming lips compressed, the young woman turned away, conscious of
being foolishly, unreasonably out of conceit with most things.  Doing
so, the bust of her husband confronted her, seeming to watch her from
out the blank cavities in the eyeballs which so uncomfortably travesty
sight.  An expression of amused, slightly cynical inquiry rested upon
the sculptured face.  This, in her present somewhat irritable and
over-sensitized condition, she resented, finding it singularly
unpleasant.  She moved rapidly away along the gallery.  Then stopped
dead.

From the dining-room came a joyful racket.  But, to her astonishment,
cutting through the rippling staccato of children's talk and laughter,
came the grave tones of a man's voice.  Hearing which, steady of nerve
and strong though she was, Gabrielle turned faint.  The blood left her
heart.  She made for the nearest window-seat and sank down on
it.--Horace was there, in the dining-room, playing with Bette and her
little friends as he so dearly loved to play.  The fact of her
widowhood, the past eighteen months of freedom, became as though they
were not.  In attitude and sentiment she found herself relegated to an
earlier period, against which her whole nature rose in rebellion.  She
realized how quite horribly little she wanted to see Horace again, or
renew his and her former relation.  Realized her jealousy of him in
respect of her child.  Realized, indeed, that, notwithstanding his many
attractive qualities and invariable kindness, his resurrection must
represent to her something trenching upon despair.

Yet it was cruel, she knew, heartless, to feel thus.  She glanced in
positive mental torment at the marble bust.  It still watched her,
through the haggard clarity of the snow-glare, with the same effect of
cynically questioning criticism and amusement, almost, so she thought,
as one should say: "My dear, be consoled.  Even had I the will, I am
powerless to return and to claim you.  Follow your own fancy.  Make
yourself perfectly easy.  Have no fear but that I am very effectually
wiped out of your life."

The blood rushed back to her heart.  Her face flamed.  She felt
humiliated, as though detected in a secret villainy, in an act of
detestable meanness.  It is an ugly thing to pillage the dead.  But she
was also very angry, for she understood what had happened.  Not
Horace--poor, undesired Horace--but Adrian Savage was there in the
dining-room.  He had changed his mind after all; and, in the hope of
somehow working upon her, had stayed to bid grandmother and grandchild
good-by.  This was a plot, a plant, and she was furious, her sense of
justice suffering violent eclipse.  For was it not abominable of him to
have placed her in so unworthy and mortifying a position in respect of
her dead husband, and, incidentally, to have given her such a dreadful
fright?  Regardless of reason she piled his offenses mountain-high.
However, this simplified matters in a way, disposing of a certain
question forever.  Marry him?  She'd as soon marry a ragpicker, a
scavenger!  She hoped devoutly he would have an atrocious crossing when
he did at last seek foreign shores.

Thereupon she rose and swept onward, in the stateliest manner
imaginable, with trailing, somber skirts, over the polished, shining
floor.

As she threw open the dining-room door a slender, white-frocked,
black-silk-legged figure rushed upon her and clasped her about the hips
with ecstatic cries.

"Ah! mamma," it piped.  "At last you have come!  I am so excited.  We
have waited and listened.  But it was a secret.  He forbade us to tell
you he was here.  It was to be a great surprise.  Now you may look, but
you must promise not to interrupt with conversation.  That is very
important, you understand, because the next few moments are critical.
M. Dax is cooking an omelette in my tiny, weeny frying-pan for our
dolls and Teddy-bears."

And so, once again upon this day of self-revelations, Madame St. Leger
had to revise her position and own herself in the wrong.  Yet the
relief of finding neither resuscitated husband nor importunate lover,
but simply M. René Dax, in possession was so great that she greeted
that eccentric and gifted young man with warm cordiality--wholly
ignoring his affectations and the rumors current regarding his moral
aberrations, remembering only the irreproachable correctness of his
dress and manners, and the quaintly pathetic effect of his small, tired
face, great domed head and bulging forehead--like those of a
hydrocephalic baby--and the ingeniously fascinating qualities he
displayed as self-elected playfellow of Bette and her little friends.

Yes, she told herself, she really had a great regard for René Dax.  He
touched her.  And now she, undoubtedly, passed a wholly delightful
three-quarters of an hour in his and the little girls' company, Madame
Vernois looking on, meanwhile, sympathetic yet slightly perplexed.  For
Gabrielle, in her reaction of feeling, forgetful of her black dress and
twenty-seven years, and the rather tedious restraints and dignities of
her matronhood, was taken with the sprightliest humor.  She remembered
that three-quarters of an hour now with a degree of regret.  If only it
could have stopped at that!  But, unfortunately, things went further.

For, at parting, she had lingered in the gallery, where the haggard
whiteness of the snow-glare struggled with the deepening twilight,
thanking René Dax for his kindness to the children and for the happy
afternoon he had given them.  The sense of holiday, of playtime, was
still upon her and she spoke with unaccustomed gaiety and intimacy of
tone.

The young man looked up at her attentively, queerly--the top of his
head barely level with her shoulder--and answered, a certain harshness
observable in his carefully modulated voice:

"Do not spoil it all by accusing me of a good action.  In accusing me
of that you do my intelligence a gross injustice.  My conduct has been
dictated, as always, by calculated selfishness."

And, when she smilingly protested, he went on:

"I have many faults, no doubt.  But I am guiltless of the weakness of
altruism--contemptible word, under which the modern mind tries to
conceal its cowardice and absence of all sound philosophy.  I am an
egoist, dear Madame, believe me, an egoist pure and simple."

He paused, looking down with an effect of the utmost gravity at his
very small and exquisitely shod feet.

"It happened, for reasons with which it is superfluous to trouble you,
that to-day I required a change of atmosphere.  I needed to bathe
myself in innocence.  I cast about for the easiest method of performing
such ablutions, and my thought traveled to Mademoiselle Bette.  The
weather being odious, it was probable I should find her in the house.
My plan succeeded to admiration.  Have no delusions under that head.
It is invariably the altruist, not the egoist, whose plans miscarry or
are foiled!"

He took a long breath, stretching his puny person.

"I am better.  I am cleansed," he said.  "For the moment at least I am
restored, renewed.  And for this restoration the reason is at once
simple and profound.  You must understand," he went on, in a soft
conversational manner, as one stating the most obvious common-place,
"my soul when it first entered my body was already old, immeasurably
old.  It had traversed countless cycles of human history.  It had heard
things no man may repeat and live.  It had fed on gilded and splendid
corruptions.  It had embraced the forbidden and hugged nameless
abominations to its heart.  It had gazed on the naked face of the
Ultimate Self-Existent Terror whose breath drives the ever-turning
Wheel of Being.  It had galloped back, appalled, through the blank,
shouting nothingness, and clothed itself in the flesh of an unborn,
unquickened infant, thus for a brief space obtaining unconsciousness
and repose."

René Dax looked up at her again, his little, tired face very solemn,
his eyes glowing as though a red lamp burned behind them.

"Has it ever occurred to you why we worship our mothers?" he asked.
"It is not because they bring us into life, but because for nine sacred
months they procure us blessed illusion of non-living.  How can we ever
thank them sufficiently for this?  And that," he added, "is why at
times, as to-day, I am driven to seek the society of young children.
It rests and refreshes me to be near them, because they have still gone
but a few steps along the horrible, perpetually retrodden pathway.
They have not begun to recognize the landmarks.  They have not yet
begun to remember.  They fancy they are here for the first time.  Past
and future are alike unrealized by them.  The aroma of the enchanted
narcotic of non-living, which still exhales from their speech and
laughter, renders their neighborhood infinitely soothing to a soul like
mine, staggering beneath the paralyzing burden of a knowledge of
accumulated lives."

Whether the young man had spoken sincerely, giving voice to a creed he
actually, however mistakenly, held, or whether his utterances were
merely a pose, the outcome of a perverse and morbid effort at
singularity, Madame St. Leger was uncertain.  Still it was undeniable
that those utterances--whether honest or not--and the somber visions
evoked by them remained, distressing and perplexing her with a dreary
horror of non-progression, of perpetual and futile spinning in a
vicious circle, of perpetual and futile actual sameness throughout
perpetual apparent change.

So far all the essentials of the Faith in which she had been born and
educated remained to her.  Yet, too often now, as she sorrowfully
admitted, her declaration of that Faith found expression in the
disciple's cry, "Lord, I believe; help Thou my unbelief."  For
unbelief, reasoned not merely scoffing, had, during these years of
intercourse with the literary and artistic world of Paris, become by no
means inconceivable to her.  More than half the people she met smiled
at, if they might not openly repudiate, Christianity.  It followed that
she no longer figured the Faith to herself as a "fair land and large"
wherein she could dwell in happy security, but rather as a fortress set
on an island of somewhat friable rock, against which winds and waves
beat remorselessly.  And truly, at moments--cruel moments, which she
dreaded--the onslaught of modern ideas, of the modern attitude in its
contempt of tradition and defiance of authority--flinging back
questions long since judged and conclusions long established into the
seething pot of individual speculation--seemed to threaten final
undermining of that rock and consequent toppling of the fortress of
Faith surmounting it into the waters of a laughing, envious,
all-swallowing sea.  This troubled her the more because certain modern
ideas--notably that of emancipated and self-sustained
womanhood--appealed to and attracted her.  Was there no middle way?
Was no marriage between the old Faith and the new science, the new
democracy, possible?  If you accepted the latter, did negations and
denials logically follow, compelling you to let the former go?

And so it came about that to-night, she alone waking in the sleeping
house, the gloomy pictures called up by René Dax's strange talk held
her painfully.  They stood between her and sleep, between her and
prayer, heightening her restlessness and suggesting thoughts very
subversive of Christian theology and Christian ethics.

Gabrielle rose from her chair and moved to and fro, her hands clasped
behind her.  She never remembered to have felt like this before.  The
room seemed too narrow, too neat, its appointments too finicking and
orderly, to contain her erratic and overflowing mental activity.  The
abiding mystery which not only surrounds each individual life, but
permeates each individual nature, the impassable gulf which divides
even the nearest and most unselfishly loved--even she herself and her
own darling little Bette--from one another, presented itself oppressive
and distressing as a nightmare.  Just now it appeared to her
inconceivable that to-morrow she would rise just as usual, satisfied to
accept conventions, subscribe to compromises, take things in general at
their face value, while contentedly expending her energies of brain and
body upon trivialities of clothes, housekeeping, gossip, the thousand
and one ephemeral interests and occupations of a sheltered, highly
civilized woman's daily existence.  The inadequacy, the amazing
futility of it all!

Then, half afraid of the great stillness, she stood perfectly quiet,
listening to the desolate cry of the wind along the house-roofs and its
hissing against the window-panes.

"'My soul has gazed on the Ultimate Self-Existent Terror whose breath
drives the ever-turning Wheel of Being,'" she murmured as she listened.
"'It galloped back, appalled, through the blank, shouting
nothingness'"--

Yes, that was dreadful conception of human fate!  But what if it were
true?  Millions believed it, or something very closely akin to it, away
in the East, in those frightening lands of yellow sunrise and yellow,
expressionless peoples of whom it always alarmed her to think!  Swiftly
her mind made a return upon the three men, living and dead, who to-day
had so deeply affected her, breaking up her practised calm and
self-restraint.  She ranged them side by side, and, in her present
state of exaltation, they severally and equally--though for very
different reasons--appeared to her as enemies against whom she was
called upon to fight.  Seemed to her as tyrants, either of whom to
sustain his own insolent, masculine supremacy schemed to enslave her,
to rob her of her intellectual and physical freedom, of her so
jealously cherished ownership of herself.

"'It galloped back through the blank, shouting nothingness,'" she
repeated.  But there came the sharpest sting of the situation.  For to
what covert?  Where could her soul take sanctuary since friendship and
marriage proved so full of pitfalls, and her fortress of Faith was just
now, as she feared, shaken to the base?

Then, the homeless cry of the wind finding echo in her homelessness of
spirit, a sort of anger upon her, blind anger against things as they
are, she moved over to the window, drew back the curtains and opened
the locked casements.  The cold clutched her by the throat, making her
gasp for breath, making her flesh sting and ache.  Yet the apprehension
of a Presence, steadying and fortifying in its great simplicity of
strength, compelled her to remain.  She knelt upon the window-seat and
leaned out between the inward opening casements, planting her elbows on
the window-ledge and covering her mouth with her hands to protect her
lips from the blistering chill.

Outside was the wonder of an unknown Paris, a vacant, frozen, voiceless
Paris, wrapped in a winding-sheet of newly fallen snow.  Under the
lamps, along the quay immediately below, that winding-sheet glittered
in myriad diamond points, a uniform surface as yet unbroken by wheel
tracks or footprints--misery, pleasure, business, alike in hiding from
the bitter frost.  Elsewhere it spread in a heavy, muffling
bleachedness, from the bosom of which walls, buildings, bridges reared
themselves strangely unsubstantial, every ledge and projection enameled
in white.  Beneath the _Pont des Arts_ on the right and the _Pont des
Saints Pères_ on the left--each very distinct with glistening roadway
and double row of lamps--the river ran black as ink.  The trees
bordering the quays were black, a spidery black, in their agitated,
wind-tormented bareness.  And the sky was black, too, impenetrable,
starless, low and flat, engulfing the many domes, monuments, and towers
of Paris, engulfing even the roofs and pavilions of the Louvre along
the opposite bank of the Seine, inclosing and curiously isolating the
scene.  This effect of an earth so much paler and, for the most part,
so much less solid than the sky above it, this effect of buildings
rising from that pallor to lose themselves in duskiness, was unnatural
and disquieting in a high degree.  The sentiment of this desert,
voiceless Paris was more disquieting still.  For Gabrielle retained
something of the provincial's persistent distrust of the siren
personality of _la ville lumière_.  The wonderful and brilliant city
had enthralled her imagination, but had never quite conquered her
affections.  Now, leaning out of the high-set window, she gazed as far
as sight carried, east, west, and north, while a vague, deep-seated
excitement possessed her.  It was as though she touched the verge of
some extraordinary revelation, some tremendous crisis of the cosmic
drama.  Had universal paralysis seized the heart of things, she asked
herself, of which this desert, voiceless Paris was the symbol?  Had the
ever-turning Wheel of Being ceased to turn, struck into immobility, as
the world-famous city appeared to be, by some miracle of incalculable
frost?

The cry of the wind answered.  So the wind, at least, was alive and
awake yet, as were the black seaward-flowing waters of the river.

Then suddenly, unexpectedly, along with that homeless cry of the wind
hailing from she knew not what immense desolation of polar spaces, came
a small, plaintive, human cry close at hand.

Hearing which last the young woman sprang down from her kneeling place,
locked the gaping casements together, and ran lightly and swiftly into
the adjoining room.  There in the warm dimness, her hands outstretched
grasping the rail of her cot on either side, slim little Bette sat
woefully straight up on end.

"Mamma, mamma," she wailed, "come and hold me tight, very tight!  I
have had a bad dream.  I am frightened.  M. René Dax touched all my
toys, all my darling, tiny saucepans and kettles, all my dolls and
Teddy-bears with his little walking-cane.  And it was terrifying.  They
all came alive and chased me.  Hold me tight.  I am so frightened.
They rushed along.  They chased me and chased me.  They panted.  Their
mouths were open.  I could see their red tongues.  And they yelped as
the little pet dogs do in the public gardens when they try to catch the
sparrows.  I called and called to you, but you were not there.  You did
not come.  I tried very hard to run away, but my feet stuck to the
floor.  They were so very heavy I could not lift them.  It is not true?
Tell me it is not true.  He cannot touch all my toys with his little
cane and make them come alive?  I think I shall be afraid ever to play
with them any more.  They were so dreadfully unkind.  Tell me it is not
true!"

"No, no, my angel," Gabrielle declared, soothingly.  "It is not true,
not in the very least true.  It is only a silly dream.  All the poor
toys are quite good.  You will find them obedient and loving, asking
ever so prettily to be played with again to-morrow morning."

She took the slender, soft, warm body up in her arms--it was sweet with
the flower-like sweetness of perfect cleanliness and health--and held
it close against her.  And for the moment perplexities, far-reaching
speculations and questionings were obliterated in a passion of
tenderness for this innocent life, this innocent body, which was the
fruit of her own life and her own body.  All else fell away from her,
leaving her motherhood triumphant and supreme.


The child, making good the opportunity, began to wheedle and coax.

"I think it is really very cold in my bed," she said.  "I am sure it
would be far warmer in yours.  And I may dream M. Dax came back and
touched my toys with his little walking-cane and made them naughty if I
remain here by myself.  Do not you think it would be rather dangerous
to leave me here alone?  I might wake grandmamma if I were to be
terrified again and to scream.  I like your big bed so very much best."

The consequence of all of which was that Gabrielle St. Leger said her
rosary that night fingering the beads with one hand while the other
clasped the sleeping child, whose pretty head lay on her bosom.  Her
mind grew calm.  The fortress of Faith stood firm again, as she
thankfully believed, upon its foundation of rock.  She recovered her
justness of attitude toward departed husband and absent lover.  But she
determined to reduce her intercourse with M. René Dax to a minimum,
since the tricks he played with his little walking-cane seemed liable
to be of so revolutionary and disintegrating a character.



CHAPTER IV

CLIMBING THE LADDER

The snow had been cleared away from the drive and carriage sweep, but
still lay in thick billowy masses upon the branches of the fir and pine
trees and upon the banks of laurel and rhododendron below.  At sunset
the sky had cleared somewhat, and a scarlet glow touched the under side
of the vast perspective of pale, folded cloud, and blazed on the upper
south westward-facing windows of the Tower House as with a dazzle of
fierce flame.  Joseph Challoner, however, was unaware of these rather
superb impressionist effects as, with his heavy, lunging step, he came
out of the house on to the drive.  The drawing-room had been hot, and
he had gone through a somewhat emotional interview.  A man at once hard
and sentimental, just now sentiment was, so to speak, on the top.  His
upright face and head were decidedly flushed.  He felt warm.  He also
felt excited, perceiving perspectives quite other than those presented
by the folded clouds and the afterglow.

Usually Joseph Challoner affected a country-gentleman style of
dress--tweeds of British manufacture, noted for their wear and
wet-resisting qualities, symbolic of those sturdy, manly, no-nonsense
sort of virtues, of which he reckoned himself so conspicuous an
exponent, and which have, as we all know, gone to make England what she
is.  But to-day out of respect for his late client, Montagu
Smyrthwaite, he had put on garments of ceremony, black braid-edged coat
and waistcoat, pepper-and-salt-mixture overcoat with black-velvet
collar, striped dove-gray and black trousers--which had served at a
recent local wedding--and top hat.  This costume tended to make an
awkwardness of gait and action which belonged to him the more
observable.  Over six feet in height, he was commonly described by his
admirers--mostly women--as "a splendid-looking man."  Others, doubtless
envious of his success with the fair sex and of his inches, compared
him, with his straight, thick, up-and-down figure, as broad across the
loins as at the shoulders, his large paw-like hands and feet and
flattened, slightly Mongolian caste of countenance, to a colossal
infant.  His opinion of his own appearance, concerning which he was in
a chronic state of anxiety, fluctuated between these two extremes, with
hopeful leanings toward the former.  At the present moment, for private
reasons, he hoped fervently that he was "a splendid-looking man."

That he was a moist and hot one was undeniable.  He took off his hat
and passed his hand over his straight, shiny, reddish hair--carefully
brushed across impending calvities--and sucked the ends of his rather
ragged mustache nervously into the corners of his mouth.

He was touched, very much touched.  He had not felt so upset for years.
He admired his own sensibility.  Yes, most distinctly he trusted that
he was "a splendid-looking man"--and that she so regarded him.  Then,
coming along the drive toward him, between the snow-patched banks of
evergreen, he caught sight of the short, well-bred, well-dressed, busy,
not to say fussy, little figure of that cherished institution of the
best Stourmouth society, Colonel Rentoul Haig.  This diverted his
thoughts into another channel, or, to be perfectly accurate, set a
second stream running alongside the first.  Both, it may be added,
tended in the direction of personal self-aggrandizement.

"Good-day to you, Challoner.  Glad to meet you," Colonel Haig said, a
hint of patronage in his tone.  "I heard the sad news from Woodward at
the club at luncheon-time, and I took the tram up as far as the County
Gates as soon as I could get away.  We had a committee meeting at
two-thirty.  I felt it would be only proper to come and inquire."

"Yes," the other answered, in a suitably black-edged manner, "our poor
friend passed away early this morning.  I was sent for immediately."

Having a keen sense of the value of phrases, Colonel Haig pricked up
his ears, so to speak.  His attitude of mind was far from democratic,
and "our poor friend" from a local solicitor struck him as a trifle
familiar.  He looked up sharply at the speaker.  He felt very much
tempted to teach the man his place.  But there was such a lot he wanted
to hear which only this man could tell him.  And so, the inquisitive
nose and puckered, gossipy mouth getting the better of the commanding
military eye, he decided to postpone the snubbing of Challoner to a
more convenient season.

"I came round this afternoon chiefly to see Miss Margaret," the latter
continued.  "She was terribly distressed and felt unequal to seeing me
this morning.  She is very sensitive, very sensitive and feminine.  Her
father's death came as a great shock to her.  And then owing to some
mistake or neglect she was not present at the last.  As she told me,
she feels that very much indeed."  The speaker's voice took a severe
tone.  He shifted his weight from one massive foot to the other, rather
after the manner of a dancing bear.  "Her grief was painful to witness.
And I think you'll agree with me, Colonel, it was just one of the
neglects which ought not to have occurred."

"A pity, a pity!" the other admitted.  "But on such occasions people
will lose their heads.  It's unavoidable.  Look here, Challoner, I must
go on and leave cards.  But I sha'n't be more than five minutes.  I
shall not ask to see either of the ladies to-day.  So if you'll wait
I'll walk as far as the County Gates with you, supposing you're going
in my direction."

The Mongolian caste of countenance is conveniently non-committal,
lending itself to no compromising play of expression.  Challoner was
more than willing to wait.  He had certain things to say, a favor,
indeed, to ask.  And it always looked well, moreover--conferred a sort
of patent of social solvency upon you--to be seen in public with
Colonel Haig.  He wished the weather had been less inclement so that
more people might be about!  But he betrayed no eagerness.  Took out
his watch, even, and noted the hour before answering.

"Yes, I think I may allow myself the pleasure," he said.  "I have been
too much engaged here to get down to my office to-day, and there will
be a mass of business waiting for me at home--no taking it easy in my
profession if you're to do your duty by your clients--but, yes, I shall
be happy to wait for you."

Then, left alone in the still, clear cold, he became absorbed in
thought again.

When Joseph Challoner, the elder, settled at Stourmouth in the early
sixties of the last century, that famous health-resort had consisted of
a single street of small shops, stationed along a level space about
half a mile up the fir and pine clad valley from the sea, plus some
dozen unattractive lodging-houses perched on the top of the West Cliff.
The beginnings of business had been meager.  Now Stourmouth and the
outlying residential districts to which it acts as center--among them
the great stretch of pine-land known as the Baughurst Park
Estate--covers the whole thirteen miles, in an almost unbroken series
of shops, boarding-houses, hotels, villas, and places of amusement,
from the ancient abbey-town of Marychurch at the junction of the rivers
Wilmer and Arn, on the east, to Barryport, the old sea-faring town,
formerly of somewhat sinister reputation, set beside a wide, shallow,
island-dotted, land-locked harbor to the west.  Along with the
development of Stourmouth the elder Challoner's fortunes developed.  So
that when, as an old man, he died in the last of the eighties, his son,
the younger Joseph, succeeded to a by no means contemptible patrimony.

As business increased other members came into the firm, which now
figured as that of Challoner, Greatrex & Pewsey.  But, and that not in
virtue of his senior partnership alone, Joseph Challoner's interest
remained the largely predominant one.  He was indefatigable, quick to
spot a good thing, and, so some said, more clever than scrupulous in
his pursuit of it.  He came to possess the reputation of a man who it
is safer to have for your friend than your enemy.  So much for the hard
side of his character.

As to the sentimental side.  When a youth of twenty he had fallen head
over ears in love with the daughter of a local retail chemist, a
pretty, delicate girl, with the marks of phthisis already upon her.
She brought him a few hundred pounds.  They married.  And he was quite
a good husband to her--as English husbands go.  Still this marriage had
been, he came to see, a mistake.  The money, after all, was but a
modest sum, while her ill-health proved decidedly costly.  And then he
had grown to know more of the world, grown harder and stronger, grown
to perceive among other things that connection with a shop is a
handicap.  The smell of it sticks.  There's no ridding yourself of it.
Joseph Challoner may be acquitted of being more addicted to peerage or
money worship, to being a greater snob, in short, than the average
self-respecting Anglo-Saxon; yet it would be idle to deny that when an
all-wise and merciful providence permitted his poor, pretty young
wife--after several unsuccessful attempts at the production of infant
Challoners--to die of consumption, her husband felt there were
compensations.  He recognized her death as a call, socially speaking,
to come up higher.  He set himself to obey that call, but he did not
hurry.  For close upon thirteen years now, though of an amorous and
domestic disposition, he had remained a widower.  And this of set
purpose, for he proposed that the last whiff of the shop should have
time to evaporate.  By the period immediately in question he had reason
to believe it really had done so.  Privately he expended a considerable
sum in procuring his father-in-law a promising business near London.
Stourmouth knew that retail chemist no more.  And so it followed that
the dead wife's compromising origin was, practically, forgotten; only
admiration of the constancy of the bereaved husband remained.  To
complete the divorce between past and present, Challoner, some few
years previously, had let the "upper part" over the firm's offices, at
the corner where the Old Marychurch Road opens upon the public gardens
and The Square in the center of Stourmouth, to his junior partner, Mr.
Pewsey, and removed to Heatherleigh, a fair-sized villa on the
Baughurst Park Estate, which he bought at bargain price owing to the
insolvency of its owner.  Here, with a married couple at the head of
his household, as butler and cook-housekeeper, he lived in solid
British comfort--so-called--giving tea and tennis parties at intervals
during the summer months, and somewhat heavy dinners during the winter
ones, followed by bridge and billiards.

Granted the man and his natural tendencies, it was impossible that the
thirteen years which had elapsed since the death of his wife should
have been altogether free from sentimental complications.  These had,
in point of fact, been numerous.  Upon several of them he could not
look back with self-congratulation.  Still the main thing was that he
had escaped, always managing to sheer off in time to avoid being "had,"
being run down and legally appropriated.  The retreat may not have been
graceful, might not, to a scrupulous conscience, even figure as
strictly honorable, but it had been accomplished.  And for
that--standing here, now, to-day, on the snow-powdered carriage sweep
of the Tower House--with a movement of unsuspected cynicism and
profanity he gave thanks, sober, heartfelt, deliberate thanks to God
his Maker.  For his chance had come, the chance of a lifetime!  He
turned fiercely, grimly angry at the bare notion that any turn of
events might have rendered him not free to embrace it.  And his anger,
as anger will, fixed itself vindictively upon a concrete object, upon a
particular person.

But, at this point, his meditations were broken in upon by the sound of
Colonel Haig's slightly patronizing speech and the ring of his brisk
returning footsteps over the hard gravel.

"Very obliging of you to wait for me, Challoner," he said.  "There are
several things which I should be glad to hear, in confidence, about all
this matter.  Since their father's death I feel a certain
responsibility toward the Miss Smyrthwaites.  They have only
acquaintances here in the south of England--no old friends, no
relatives.  I really stand nearest to them, though we are but distantly
connected."

"I was not aware of even a distant connection," Challoner returned.

"Probably not.  I suppose hardly any one here is aware of it.  In a
watering-place like Stourmouth, a place that has come up like a
mushroom in a night, as you may say, only a very small and exclusive
circle do know who is who.  That is one of the things one has to put up
with, though I confess I find it annoying at times.  Well, you see, my
grandmother and poor Smyrthwaite's mother were first cousins once
removed--both Savages, the Yorkshire, not the Irish, branch of the
family.  I have reason to believe there was a good deal of opposition
to Mrs. Smyrthwaite's marriage.  She was not a Roman Catholic, like
most of her people.  But they all were--and all are, I am thankful to
say--people of very solid standing, landed gentry, soldiers, and so on.
Naturally they objected to a marriage with a manufacturer and a
Non-conformist.  I am quite prepared to admit Unitarians have more
breeding than most dissenters, but still it isn't pleasant, it isn't
quite the thing, you know.  Prejudice?  Perhaps.  But gentle-people are
naturally prejudiced in favor of their own class.  And, upon my word, I
am inclined to believe it is very happy for the community at large they
should be so."

The two men reached the gate opening from the grounds of the Tower
House on to the public road--a broad, straight avenue, the foot-paths
on either side divided from the carriage-way by a double line of Scotch
firs rising from an undergrowth of rhododendron and laurel.  At
intervals the roofs, gables, and turrets of other jealously secluded
villas--in widely differing styles and no-styles of architecture--were
visible.  But these struck the eye as accidental.  The somber,
far-stretching fir and pine woods were that which held the attention.
They, and the great quiet of them; in which the cracking of a branch
over-weighted with snow, the distant barking of a dog, or the
twittering of a company of blue-tits foraging from tree-stem to
tree-stem where the red scaling bark gave promise of insect provender,
amounted to an arresting event.

After a moment of just perceptible hesitation Joseph Challoner pushed
open the heavy gate for the elder man and let him pass out first.
Several points in Colonel Haig's discourse pleased him exceedingly
little, but, in dealing with men as with affairs, he never permitted
minor issues to obscure his judgment regarding major ones.  If the old
lad chose to be a bit impertinent and showy, never mind.  Let him amuse
himself that way if he wanted to.  Challoner had a use for him just
now, and could be patient till he had used him--used him right up, in
fine, and no longer had any use left for him.  It followed that as,
side by side, the two turned north-eastward up The Avenue he answered
in a noticeably conciliatory tone:

"I really am indebted to you, Colonel, for telling me this.  I own my
position looked awkward in some respects.  I foresaw I might want to
consult some one, unofficially, you understand, about the Miss
Smyrthwaites' affairs; and, as you truly say, they've nothing beyond
acquaintances here.  I recognized there really wasn't a soul to whom I
should feel at liberty to speak.  But now that I know of your
connection with and the interest you take in the family, I feel I have
some one to turn to if I should need advice.  It is a great relief."

Colonel Haig's self-importance was agreeably tickled.

"I am very happy to have the opportunity of being of service to you,
Challoner," he said, graciously, "particularly in connection with my
cousin's affairs."  Then he became eminently businesslike.  "The
disposition of the property is intricate?" he asked.

"No, not exactly.  The provisions of the will--I drew it--are simple
enough--in a way.  But there is such a large amount of property to deal
with."

"Yes, yes, Smyrthwaite was very close, of course, very reticent.  Still
I have always supposed there was a good deal of money.  Now, what about
is the amount, approximately, I mean--if you are free to tell me?"

"Under the circumstances I see no reason why I should not tell you--in
strict confidence, of course."

"That is understood, my dear Challoner.  Whatever you may feel it
advisable, in the interests of these ladies, to say to me goes no
farther, absolutely no farther."

This from one whose face was irradiated with the joy of prospective
gossipings struck his hearer as a trifle simple-minded.  Never mind.
The said hearer had the game well in hand.

"I take that for granted, Colonel," he answered.  "Professional
instinct made me allude to it.  One gets so much into the habit of
insisting on silence regarding confidential communications that one
insists when, as in the present case, there's not the slightest
necessity for doing so.  A form of words--nothing more.  With you I
know I'm safe.  Well, the estate stands at about two hundred thousand,
rather more than less, with a considerable yearly income from the mills
at Leeds in addition."

Haig stopped short.  He went very red in the face.

"Yes, it makes a very tidy heiress of each of the ladies," Challoner
said, parenthetically.

"It all goes to them?"

"Practically all of it."

"I doubt if women should be left so much money," Colonel Haig
exclaimed, explosively.  Remembrance of his own eight or nine hundred a
year disgusted him.  What a miserable pittance!  He moved forward
again, still red from mingled surprise and disgust, his neat, frizzly,
gray mustache positively bristling.  "Yes, I doubt, I very much doubt,"
he repeated, "whether it is doing any woman a kindness, an unmarried
woman, in particular, to leave her so much money.  It opens the door to
all sorts of risks.  Women have no idea of money.  It's not in them.
The position of an heiress is a most unfortunate one, in my opinion.
It places her at the mercy of every description of rascally,
unscrupulous fortune hunter."

"You're perfectly right, Colonel--I agree," Challoner said.  "It does."

His face was unmoved, but his voice shook, gurgling in his throat like
that of a man on the edge of a boisterous horse-laugh.  For a few steps
the two walked in silence, then he added: "And that is why I am so
relieved at having you to turn to, Colonel.  Unscrupulous fortune
hunters are just the sort of dirty gentry we shall have to protect the
two ladies against."

"You may be sure of me, Challoner," Colonel Haig said, with much
seriousness.  "We must work together."

"Yes, we must work together, Colonel--in a good cause--that's it."  And
again his voice shook.

"Are you executor?" the other inquired, after a pause.

"No, and, between ourselves, I am glad of it.  I shall be able to
safeguard the Miss Smyrthwaites' interests better since I am not
dealing directly with the property.  Miss Joanna and a distant relative
are the executors.  I think the second appointment a bad one, and
ventured to say as much to Mr. Smyrthwaite when I drew this new will
for him about two years ago."

"A new will?"

"Yes; a name occurred in the earlier one which he wished to have cut
out."

The speaker paused, and the other man rose, metaphorically speaking, as
a fish at a neatly cast fly.

"Ah! his son's, I suppose.  Poor Bibby's--William, I mean, William
Smyrthwaite.  Everybody knew him as Bibby."

"Yes," Challoner said, "his son, William Smyrthwaite.  Of course I am
aware something went wrong there, but, to tell you the truth, Colonel,
I have never got fairly at the story."

"Well you may take it from me the story is a disgraceful one.  I am a
man of the world, Challoner, and not squeamish.  I can make excuses,
but, you may take it from me, young Smyrthwaite was a hopelessly bad
lot.  A low, vicious, ill-conditioned young fellow--degenerate, that is
the only word, I am sorry to say.  He was several years younger than
his sisters.  I heard all about it at the time through friends.  There
were nasty rumors about him at Rugby, and he was expelled--quite
properly.  His father put him into the business.  Then things happened
at Leeds--gambling, chorus girls, drink.  I need not go into
particulars.  There was some question, too, of embezzlement, and young
Smyrthwaite had to disappear.  It was a terrible blow to his father.
He decided to leave Leeds.  He came south, bought the Tower House and
settled here.  I think he was quite right.  The position was a very
humiliating one, especially for his wife and daughters."

Joseph Challoner listened carefully.

"And what became of the boy?"

"Oh, dead--fortunately for everybody concerned, dead."

"Dead?  Very fortunate.  But a proven case of death or only an accepted
one?"

"Oh, proven, I take it.  Yes, unquestionably proven.  I never heard
there was the slightest doubt about that."

"What a chattering fool the old bird is!" Challoner said to himself
irreverently, adding, aloud: "Apparently, then, we may leave Master
Bibby out of our count.  That's a good thing, anyhow.  I am extremely
obliged to you for giving me such a clear account of the whole matter,
Colonel.  It explains a great deal.  Really I can't be sufficiently
glad that I happened to run across you this afternoon.  I may call it
providential.  But now to go back to another young gentleman, Miss
Joanna's coexecutor, who is not in the very least dead."

"Yes?" Haig inquired, with avidity.  "Speak without reserve, Challoner.
Ask me anything you are in any difficulty about."

"I don't want to abuse your good nature.  And I don't forget you have
seen a lot more of the world than I have.  Your point of view may be
different.  I shall be only too glad if you can reassure me.  For I
tell you, Colonel, it makes me uneasy.  England's good enough for me,
England and Englishmen.  I may be narrow-minded and insular, but I can
do without the foreigner."

"Yes, and I'm not sure you are not right in that," the other said,
rising at another clever cast.  "Yes?"

"I am glad you agree.  Well, this coexecutor whom we have to look after
is, to all intents and purposes, a foreigner, that is to say, born
abroad--a Parisian and a journalist.  Ah, exactly!  I am not sorry to
see it strikes you as it did me, Colonel, when poor Mr. Smyrthwaite
first broached the subject.  Doesn't sound very substantial, does it?
And when you remember the amount of money that will pass through his
hands!  Still you may be able to reassure me.  By the way, I suppose he
must be a relative of yours.  His name is Adrian Savage."

"Never heard of him in my life," Haig exclaimed, irritably.  Then,
afraid he had altogether too roundly given away his ignorance, he went
on:

"But wait a moment, wait!  Yes, now I come to think, I do recollect
that one of the Savages, a younger son, went into the medical
profession.  I never saw anything of him.  There was a strong feeling
in the family about it.  Like marriage with a dissenter, they felt
doctoring wasn't exactly the thing for a Savage.  So he was advised, if
he must follow the medical profession, to follow it at a distance.  I
remember I heard he settled in Paris and married there.  This
journalist fellow may be a son of his."  The speaker cleared his
throat.  He was put about, uncertain what line it would be best to
take.  "At one time I used to be over there often.  As a young man I
knew my Paris well enough--"

"I'll be bound you did, Colonel," Challoner put in, with a flattering
suggestiveness.  "Silly old goat!" he said to himself.

"Yes, I do not deny I have amused myself there a little in the past,"
the other acknowledged.  "But somehow I never looked Doctor Savage up.
It was unfriendly, perhaps, but--well--in point of fact I never did."

"Had neater and sweeter things to look up, eh, Colonel?" Challoner put
in again.  "I believe you.  Wish I'd ever had your luck."

Here resisted laughter got the better of him, jarring the quiet of the
woods with a coarseness of quality startling even to his own ears.
Nothing betrays lack of breeding more than a laugh.  He knew this, and
it galled him.  He felt angry, and hastened in so far as he might to
recover himself.

"Seriously, though, joking apart, I very much wish, as things turn out,
you had kept in touch with the doctor," he said.  "Then you would have
been in a position to give me your views on this son of his.  Mr.
Smyrthwaite seems to have taken an awful fancy to him.  But I don't
attach much importance to that.  He was ill and crotchety, just in the
state of health to take unreasoning likes and dislikes.  And I can't
help being anxious, I tell you, Colonel.  It does not affect my pocket
in any way--I'm not thinking of myself.  And I am no sentimentalist.
My line of business leaves neither time nor room for that.  Still I
tell you candidly it goes tremendously against the grain with me to
think of some irresponsible, long-haired, foreign, Bohemian chap being
mixed up with the affairs of two refined English gentlewomen like the
Miss Smyrthwaites.  Of course he may turn out a less shadowy individual
than I anticipate.  Nothing would please me better than that he should.
But, in any case, I mean to keep my eye upon him.  He's not going to
play hanky-panky with the ladies' money if Joseph Challoner can prevent
it.  I hold myself responsible to you, as well as to them and to my own
conscience, Colonel, to keep things straight."

"I am confident you will do your best," the other replied, graciously.
"And I trust you to consult me whenever you think fit.  Don't hesitate
to make use of me."

"I won't, Colonel.  Make yourself easy on that point.  I am greatly
indebted to you.  I won't."

The end of the long avenue had come into sight, where, between high
stone gate-posts--surmounted by just-lighted gas-lamps--it opens upon
the main road and tram-line running from Stourmouth to Barryport.
After the silence and solitude of the woods the street appeared full of
movement.  A row of shop-fronts, across the roadway, threw a yellow
glare over the pavement and on to the snow-heaps piled in the gutter.
The overhead wires hummed in the frosty air.  A gang of boys snowballed
one another in the middle of the street, scattering before some passing
cart, and rushed back, shouting, to renew the fight.  Groups of
home-going workmen tramped along the pavement, their breath and the
smoke of their pipes making a mist about their heads in the cold winter
dusk.

Challoner held out a paw-like hand.

"You'll excuse me if I leave you, Colonel?" he said.  "I have outstayed
my time already.  I am afraid I must be getting home--a lot of work
waiting for me.  Good-night."

He turned away.  Then, just inside the gates, a sudden thought
apparently striking him, he hesitated and came back.

"By the way," he said, "I had been meaning to write a line to you
to-day, but this sad business at the Tower House put it clean out of my
head.  I may just as well ask you by word of mouth.  It'll save you the
bother of a note.  Woodford has nominated me for election at the club.
Your name, as one of the oldest and most influential members, of
course, carries much weight.  If you second me you'll do me a great
kindness."

Here the towering, well-lighted tram from Barryport sailed majestically
up, with a long-drawn growl, ending in a heavy clang and thin shriek as
the powerful brakes gripped, bringing it to a stop.

"All right.  I may take it for settled, then.  I have your promise.
Really I am awfully obliged to you.  Don't let me make you miss your
tram, though.  Hi! conductor, steady a minute.  Colonel Haig's going
with you.--Thanks, Colonel, good-night," Challoner cried, all in a
breath, without giving the hustled, harried, almost apoplectic
ex-warrior time to utter a syllable good or bad.

"Had him neatly," he said to himself, as he turned once more into the
stillness and twilight of the woods.  "He can't back out--daren't back
out.  Their swagger, aristocratic, d-----your-impudence Stourmouth Club
taken by assault!"

And again he laughed, but this time the coarse quality of the sound
failed to jar him.  On the contrary, he rather relished its stridency.
He was winning all along the line, so he could afford--for a little
while here alone under the snow-laden fir-trees in the deepening
dusk--to be himself.

In the hall at Heatherleigh his man-servant--a thin, yellowish, gentle,
anxious-looking person, who played the part of shuttlecock to the
battledores of his strong master and of a commanding wife, ten years
his senior--met him.

"Mr. Pewsey is waiting for you in the smoke-room, sir," he said, while
helping Challoner off with the pepper-and-salt-mixture overcoat.  "And
Mrs. Spencer, sir, called to leave this note.  She said there was no
answer, but I was to be sure and give it to you directly you came in."

Challoner took the note, and stopped for a minute under the hanging,
colored-glass gas-lantern to read it.  It was written in a large,
showy, yet tentative hand, on highly scented mauve paper with a white
border to it, and ran thus:

"B. gone to Mary church to dine and sleep.  Alone.  Come round if you
can after dinner.  Want you.  Quite safe.  Love.  GWYNNIE."

Challoner rolled the small scented sheet into a ball and tossed it
viciously on to the fire, watching till the flame licked it up.

"No, there's no answer.  Quite true, Mrs. Gwynnie--even even less
answer than you suppose or will in the least bit like," he said,
between his teeth.

Then he opened the door and passed into the smoking-room to join his
junior partner, with a quite expressionless face.



CHAPTER V

PASSAGES FROM JOANNA SMYRTHWAITE'S LOCKED BOOK

"You won't go sitting up writing to-night, Miss Joanna?  You should get
right into bed, for you are properly worn out."

"It would be useless for me to attempt to sleep yet, Isherwood, but I
shall not sit up late."

This, between two women standing on the gallery of the spacious,
heavily carpeted stair-head.  Save for the feeble light of their
glass-shaded candles the place was in darkness.  The atmosphere,
oppressive from the heat given off by radiators in the hall below and
upon the landing itself, was permeated by the clinging odor of some
disinfectant.  They spoke in subdued voices, covered and whispering as
those of reverent-minded persons unwillingly compelled to hold
conversation in church.  The northeasterly wind--which, at this same
hour, cried homeless along the steep house-roofs of the _Quai
Malaquais_ to the disturbance of Gabrielle St. Leger's meditations upon
the deceptions of modern marriage--raked the thick-set fir and pine
trees bordering the carriage-drive outside, and shattered against the
elaborately leaded panes of the high staircase windows, making the
thick velvet curtains which covered them sway and quiver in the draught.

"You had better let me wait and brush your hair as usual, Miss Joanna.
It might soothe your nerves," the elder of the two women said.  She was
a comely, vigilant-eyed person, a touch of mustache on her long upper
lip and a ruddiness upon her high cheek-bones as of sun-ripened fruit.
Though well on in the sixties, her carriage was upright, and her hair,
looped window-curtain fashion over her ears and plaited in a round at
the back of her head, still showed as black as her close-fitted black
silk dress.  First nurse in the Smyrthwaite family, now for many years
lady's maid and housekeeper, capable, prejudiced, caustic of speech,
untiring in faithful devotion to those--the very few--whom she loved,
Mrs. Isherwood, virgin and spinster, represented a domestic type
becoming all too rapidly extinct.

The younger woman made no immediate answer.  Her bearing and attitude
bespoke a great lassitude as she stood resting her right hand on the
ball of the newel-post.  The light of the candle she carried was thrown
upward, showing a face making but small claim to beauty.  A thick,
pasty complexion, straight, heavy, yellowish auburn hair turned back
over a pad from the high, square forehead.  No sufficient softening of
the pale, anxious, blue-gray eyes by eyelash or eyebrow.  An acquiline
nose with upcut winged nostrils, and a mouth, which, but for the
compression of the lips, might have argued a certain coarseness of
nature.  A face, in fine, almost painful in its effect of studied
self-repression, patient as it was unsatisfied, an arrested,
consciously resisted violence of feeling perceptible in every line of
it.

"I could hardly bear having my hair brushed to-night, I am afraid,
Isherwood," she said, presently.  "I am really only fit to be alone.
You say Margaret is quite composed now?  You think she will sleep?"

"Oh! dear me, yes, Miss Joanna, Miss Margaret will sleep.  She drank a
full tumbler of hot milk and fairly settled off before I left her.  I
wish I was half as easy about your night's rest as I am about hers."

"My good Isherwood," Miss Smyrthwaite said, softly, as she moved away
across the landing.  Suddenly she paused and came hurriedly back.

"Isherwood, Isherwood," she called under her breath, "the smell of that
disinfectant seems so very strong.  You're sure the door of--of papa's
room is shut and locked?"

"Dear me, yes, Miss Joanna.  I have the key here in my pocket.  Mr.
Smallbridge and I went in the last thing before I came up, and I locked
the door myself.  You've got the smell of that nasty stuff in your
nose.  Anybody would, the amount those nurses used of it!  Now you
promise you'll ring, Miss Joanna, if you should feel nervous or poorly
in the night?  You know it never troubles me the least to get up."

"My good Isherwood!" the younger woman said again.

From the age of fourteen Joanna Smyrthwaite had been encouraged to keep
a diary.  For the diary was an acknowledged part of the system of
feminine education--"forming the character," it used euphemistically to
be called--that obtained so largely among serious-minded persons of
leisure during the earlier half of the Victorian Era.  Thoughtfulness,
reserve, methodical habits, the saving of time, hands never unemployed,
the conforming of one's own conduct to and testing of the conduct of
others by certain wholly arbitrary and conventional standards--these
nominal rather than real virtues were perpetually pressed home upon the
minds and consciences of the "well-brought-up" female child.
Inevitable reaction carried the majority of _fin-de-siècle_ female
children notably far in the quite opposite direction.  But in some
instances the older system survived its appointed span--that of the
Smyrthwaite family may be cited as a case in point.  The consequences
were of doubtful benefit; since conditions have changed, and
adaptability to environment is a necessity of mental as well as of
physical health.

Joanna Smyrthwaite was now in her twenty-ninth year.  She still kept a
diary.  Written in a very small, neat, scholarly hand, it filled many
octavo volumes, bound in dark-purple leather, each with a clasp and
lock to it, her initials and the date stamped in gold lettering on the
back.  She was a diarist absolutely innocent of any thought or wish of
eventual print.  A fierce modesty, indeed, overlay the whole matter of
her diary.  That it should be secret, unseen by any eyes save her own,
gave it its value.  She regarded it with a singular jealousy of
possession.  As nothing else belonging to her, her diaries were
exclusively, inviolably her own.  It may almost be asserted that she
took refuge in them, as weaker women, under stress of unsatisfied
passion, will take refuge in a drug.

And so to-night, without waiting to make any change in her dress,
feverishly, as one at last set free from unwelcome observation, she
pushed back the cylinder of the handsome satinwood bureau in her
bedroom, set lighted candles upon the flat desk of it, took the current
volume of the diary out of one of the pigeon-holes, and sat down, her
thin hands trembling with mingled fatigue and excitement, to write.


"_Wednesday, Jan. 12, 190-_

"It has been impossible to put down anything for some days.  The strain
of nursing and the demands upon my time have been incessant and too
great.  I do not know that I am justified in writing to-night.
Isherwood begged me not to do so, but it is a relief.  It will quiet
me, and bring me into a more normal relation to myself and to my own
thought.  For days I have been a mere beast of burden, bearing the
anxieties of the sick-room and of the household upon my back.  My
intellectual life has been at a standstill.  I have read nothing, not
even the newspapers--The Times or last week's Spectator.  There has
been perpetual friction between the servants and the nurses which I
have had to adjust.  Margaret could not be looked to for help in this.
She is too easily influenced, being disposed always to take sides with
the person who last spoke to her.  Mr. Savage cannot arrive before
to-morrow afternoon.  I am glad of this breathing space, for the
thought of his coming is oppressive to me.  He appeared so lively and
so much a man of society, when we met him in Paris, that I felt shy and
awkward in talking to him.  But it is useless to dwell upon this.  He
is coming.  I must accept the fact.  My head aches.  I keep on fancying
there are strange sounds in the house.  But, as Isherwood says, I am
overtired.  I meant to state quite simply what has occurred since I
last wrote; but I find it difficult to concentrate my attention.

"Papa died just before five o'clock this morning.  It was snowing and
the wind was high.  Isherwood and I were in the room, with the
night-nurse.  Margaret had gone to lie down and I did not call her.
She has reproached me for this since and will probably continue to do
so.  Perhaps I acted wrongly in not calling her, but I was dazed.
Everything appeared unreal, and I did not grasp what was occurring
until they told me.  We had watched so long that I had grown dull and
unresponsive.  I was sitting upon the ottoman--in which mamma's evening
gowns used to be kept--at the foot of the bed, when Isherwood came
close to me and said, 'Miss Joanna, Mr. Smyrthwaite's going.'  I said,
'Where?' not understanding what she meant.  'You had better be quick,'
the night-nurse said.  Her manner has never been respectful.  I got up
and went to the side of the bed.  Papa's eyes were open.  They seemed
to stare at something which made him angry.  He used to look thus at
poor Bibby.  I felt a spirit of opposition arise in me.  This I now
regret, for it was not a proper state of mind.  Presently the
night-nurse felt his pulse and held a hand-mirror to his mouth.  I saw
that the surface of it remained unblurred.  She looked across at
Isherwood and nodded familiarly.  'I thought so,' she said.  Then I
understood that papa was dead; and I felt sorry for him, both because I
knew how much he disliked the idea of dying, and also because I should
never be afraid of him any more.

"The night-nurse said, quite out loud--her offhand way of speaking has
struck me, all along, as objectionable--'There is no reason Miss
Smyrthwaite should stop any longer.  I always prefer to do the
laying-out by myself.  I get through with it so much quicker.'

"'Isherwood will remain,' I said.  I felt it right to assert my
authority, and I so dread the upper servants being annoyed.  It makes
everything so difficult to manage.

"'That is quite unnecessary,' she answered.  'If I require assistance
for lifting I can call Nurse Bagot.  She will be coming on duty anyhow
in another hour, and as the case is over I should not mind disturbing
her.  She can finish her rest later.'

"But I wish Mrs. Isherwood to remain,' I repeated.

"'Of course I shall stay, Miss Joanna,' Isherwood said.  'It is my
place to do so.  It is not suitable or likely I should leave the
laying-out to strangers.  Besides, I do not take orders from anybody in
this house but you or Miss Margaret.'

"To have a wrangle just then was painful; but I think both Isherwood
and I spoke under great provocation.

"Afterward I went to Margaret.  It was still dark, and I heard the wind
and snow driving against the passage windows.  I found Margaret
difficult to awaken.  When I told her, she became hysterical and said I
ought to have spoken less suddenly.  But Margaret cries readily.  I
believe it is a relief to her and enables her to get over trouble more
easily.  I have had no disposition to cry so far, yet I have been much
more of a companion to papa than Margaret ever has.  Latterly, in
particular, she avoided being with him on the plea that was too
exhausting for her.  Sometimes I have thought her selfish.  When I
asked her to sit with him she was so ready with excuses.  Still he
cared for her more than for me.  She is pretty and I am not--less than
ever now, my eyes look so tired and have red rims to them--and then
Margaret never opposed him.  She has a way of slipping out of things
without expressing a direct opinion.  I did oppose him during the
terrible troubles about poor Bibby, and when he spoke harshly or
sarcastically before mamma.  And I kept him at Carlsbad, away from
mamma, during the last days of her illness, by telegraphing false
reports to him.  That is nearly eight years ago.  He never actually
knew that I had deceived him, unless Margaret has hinted at it, and I
hardly think she would dare do so--she is not very courageous--but he
suspected something, and he never forgave me, although he gradually
grew more and more dependent upon me.  I have examined my conscience
strictly, and it is clear in relation to him.  Yet he looked angry this
morning when he was dead.  I suppose I shall always think of him as
looking angry.  But I think I do not care.  How extraordinary it is to
feel that--to feel that I have ceased to mind, to be afraid.

"I sent round quite early to Heatherleigh for Mr. Challoner.  He came
at once.  He strongly expressed the wish to do all he can to help me,
and inquired more than once for Margaret.  He said that, directly he
heard of papa's death, he thought of Margaret, as he feared she would
be prostrated by the shock.  He said she impressed him as so fragile
and so sensitive.  The words struck me because it had never occurred to
me that Margaret was fragile.  She has better health than I have.  She
is more excitable than I am, and easily gets into a fuss, but I do not
think her particularly sensitive.  Probably it was just Mr. Challoner's
way of expressing himself, but I cannot think the terms are
particularly applicable.  I am afraid Mr. Challoner is vexed at papa
having appointed Mr. Savage my coexecutor.  He intimated that Margaret
had been slighted by the arrangement.  I may do him an injustice, but I
fancy he is disappointed at not being executor himself.  In this I am
not to blame.  As I told him, I should have preferred to act with him
rather than with Mr. Savage, as he knows so much about the property.  I
told him I urged papa, in as far as I could, to give up the idea of
appointing Mr. Savage.  I think this pleased him.  He kindly sent off
the telegram to Mr. Savage for me and the obituary notices for the
newspapers himself.  He said he would call later in the day to inquire
for Margaret, and to see if there was anything further he could do for
us.  I told Margaret this.  She became more composed when she knew he
was coming, and ceased reproaching me for not having called her when
papa was dying.  She said she should be glad to see Mr. Challoner.  She
has always liked him better than I have.  He is clever, but
uncultivated.  But Margaret has never really cared about culture.  I
know mamma feared she might become frivolous and worldly if she was not
under intellectual influences.  If mamma had only lived till now!--I
dare not develop all I mean in saying that.  I foresee difficulties
with Margaret.  I earnestly hope she will not take up the idea she has
been slighted.  I do not want to put myself forward, yet it is my duty
not only to carry out papa's instructions, but, in as far as I know
them, mamma's wishes also.

"I tried to word the obituary notices as papa would have liked.
Perhaps I should have inserted the words _Liberal_ and _Unitarian_, so
as to define his political and religious position.  Yet he differed
from the main body of Unitarians on so many points and condemned so
many modern Liberal tendencies and measures that I did not feel
justified in employing those terms.  They are generic, and, as it
appeared to me, committed him to views he had long ceased actually to
hold.  I should have consulted Margaret, but she was very fretful just
then; and it was useless to ask Mr. Challoner, as he would not
appreciate fine distinctions, I fancy.  So I simply put 'At his
residence, the Tower House, Baughurst Park Estate, Stourmouth, Hants,
Montagu Priestly Smyrthwaite, formerly of the Priestly Mills and of
Highdene, Leeds, aged seventy-six.  No flowers, by special request.'  I
suppose Andrew Merriman and others from the mills will attend the
funeral.  I dread seeing Andrew Merriman again.  It will bring back all
the terrible trouble about poor Bibby.  And I cannot think how Mr.
Savage will get on with the people from the mills.  It would have been
simpler to have Mr. Challoner act officially in the capacity of host.
I dare not think much about the funeral.

"After luncheon I filled in their papers and dismissed the nurses.  I
think they expected some present, but I did not feel it necessary to
give them any.  They had only done what they were well paid to do; and
I liked neither of them, though Nurse Bagot was the least patronizing
and interfering.  Their refusing to take their meals in the
housekeeper's room and the upper servants' objection to waiting upon
them made arrangements very trying.  I sympathized with the servants,
but I had to consider the nurses, lest they should be quarrelsome and
make everybody even more uncomfortable.  I am thankful we had no
professional nurses when mamma was ill, and that Isherwood and I nursed
her.  But this case was different.  We could not have done without
professional help even had we wished to do so.

"I went to papa's room this afternoon, when the undertakers had
finished taking measurements for the coffin.  I thought it my duty to
go.  I supposed Margaret would have accompanied me, but she refused,
saying it would only upset her again just as she was expecting Mr.
Challoner.  I told her I feared the servants might think it unnatural
and unfeeling if she did not go into the room at all.  She said if she
felt better to-morrow she would make an effort to go then.  I hope she
will.  I should not like her to expose herself to criticism, even
though unspoken, on the part of the servants.  One of our first duties,
now we are alone, is to set an example to the household.  I think she
is wrong in putting off going.  It will not be any less painful
to-morrow than to-day.  And if I can bear it, she should be able to
bear it.  We are different, but I do not pretend to be Margaret's
superior in any way.

"The room was very cold.  I suppose I remarked this particularly
because of the high temperature which has been kept up in it for so
many weeks.  The upper sashes of all the windows were open behind the
drawn blinds, which the air alternately inflated and sucked outward.
This made an unpleasant dragging sound.  I was foolish to mind it, but
I am tired.  There was a sheet over the bed, which was quite proper;
but there were sheets over the toilet-glass, the cheval-glass, and the
mirror above the chimneypiece also.  This must have been Isherwood's
doing.  It placed me in a difficulty.  I did not want to hurt her
feelings, but I know papa would have disapproved.  He was so intolerant
of all superstition, that the ignorant notion any one might see the
dead person's face reflected in a looking-glass in the death-chamber,
and that it would bring misfortune, would have made him extremely
angry.  He was contemptuous of uneducated people and of their ideas.  I
had begun taking the sheet off the cheval-glass when I saw that
Margaret's gray Persian cat was in the room.  I suppose it must have
slipped in beside me without my noticing it.  The light was very dim
and I was thinking only of my own feelings.  I called it, in a whisper,
but it ran away from me mewing.  It went twice right round the bed,
squeezing in between the head of it and the wall.  It stood upon its
hind-legs, and then crouched, preparing to spring up over the
footboard.  I drove it away, but it kept on mewing.  It hid under the
bed and I could not dislodge it.  I was afraid to go across and ring
the bell lest it should attempt to spring up again.  The room grew
dark.  It was weak of me, but I felt helpless and nervous.  I seemed to
see a movement upon the bed, as though some one was trying to crawl
from underneath the sheet and had not sufficient strength to do so.  No
doubt this was the result of my brain being so exhausted by
sleeplessness and anxiety, but I could not reason with myself just
then.  It seemed quite real and it terrified me.  I was afraid I should
scream.  At last Isherwood came.  She had missed me and came to look
for me.  I could not explain at first, but when she understood, she
called Sarah, the second housemaid, of whom the cat is fond.  Sarah was
frightened at entering the room, and Isherwood had to speak sharply to
her.  It was all very dreadful.  At last Sarah coaxed the cat from
under the bed.  Isherwood knelt down and pushed it behind with a broom.
When Sarah had taken it away, I lost my self-control and was quite
overcome.  I felt and spoke bitterly about the maids' and Margaret's
carelessness.  During the whole of papa's illness the cat has been kept
out of the south wing, and it would have been so easy to exercise care
a little longer.  I said it appeared things were intentionally
neglected now that papa's authority is withdrawn, and that those who
formerly cringed to him now took pleasure in defying his orders and
wishes.  This was an exaggerated statement; but the incident brought
home to me how little any person, even the most important and
autocratic, matters as soon as he or she is dead.  Death does more than
level, it obliterates.

"Moreover, I could not rid my mind of the thought of those feeble,
ineffectual movements beneath the sheet.  This added to my distress and
nervousness.  I asked Isherwood to uncover the bed so that I might
assure myself the body remained in the same position.  I looked closely
at it, though it was extremely painful to me to do so.  The eyes were
now closed, but the face was still severe, expressive of disapproval.
Why, and for what?  Obviously it is useless to disapprove of whatever
may follow death--if, indeed, anything does, sensibly, follow it.
Papa's belief in the survival of consciousness and individuality was of
the slightest.  So is mine.  The so-called 'future life' is, I fear,
but a 'fond thing vainly imagined.'  The extinction of myriads of
intelligent, highly organized and highly gifted beings after a few
years--few, as against the vast stretch of astral or geologic
periods--of earthly struggle, suffering, and attainment appears
incredibly wasteful.  But that constitutes no valid argument against
extinction--at least, in my opinion, it would be weakly optimistic to
accept it as a valid one.  A very superficial study of biology
convinces one of the supreme indifference of Nature to waste.  As far
as sentient living creatures, other than man, are concerned, Nature is
certainly no economist.  She destroys as lavishly as she creates.
Therefore it is safer to eliminate all hope of restitution or reward
from one's outlook, and accustom oneself to the thought of extinction.
I have long tried to school myself to this, but I find it difficult.  I
must try harder.

"Recalling the scene of this afternoon, I feel grateful to Isherwood.
I was childishly unreasonable and passionate, and she was very patient
with me.  She is always kind to me; but I must not permit myself to
lean too much upon her.  She is an uneducated woman, and has the
prejudices and superstitions of her class.  To lean upon her might
prove enfeebling to my character and judgment.

"I have not yet spoken to Margaret about the cat; for, when I was
sufficiently composed to go down-stairs, Mr. Challoner had just left
and she began talking about his visit, which seemed to have pleased and
excited her.  She praised his thoughtfulness and sympathy.  No doubt he
has valuable qualities, but I own something in his manner and way of
expressing himself jars upon me.  He is not quite gentleman-like in
mind or appearance.  Margaret called me proud and fastidious, and added
that I took pleasure in depreciating those who showed her attention.
That is neither true nor just, but I will be more careful what I say
about people before her.  It is unwise to be betrayed into discussions
since she so often misunderstands me and so easily takes offense.
Later on she spoke about our mourning.  I had not given the subject a
thought, I admit, since there has been so very much else to occupy me.
I took for granted Madame Pell would make it for us, in Stourmouth, as
she has done all our dressmaking lately.  But Margaret said Madame
Pell's things were always rather old-fashioned and that she wished to
have our mourning from Grays'.  I pointed out that it would be
inconvenient and unsuitable for either of us to go up to London, for a
day, just now.  She replied that Grays' would send some one down with a
selection for us to choose from.  I mentioned expense.  Margaret said
that need not be considered, adding:

"'Mr. Challoner tells me we shall both be rich.  For years papa Has
lived very much below his income and has saved a great deal of money.
All the property is left to you and me.  We shall each have a large
fortune.'

"I was annoyed by her tone, which struck me as both exultant and
unfeeling.  I cannot forget that the greater proportion of papa's
property would have been Bibby's, and it is dreadful to me that
Margaret and I should profit by our brother's disgrace and death.--If
he is dead!  To the last mamma believed he was still alive, in hiding
somewhere.  I still believe it, and hope he may come back--poor,
darling Bibby!  Margaret, I am convinced, neither wishes nor hopes
this.  She has said more than once, lately, that if people do wrong it
is better to put them out of one's life altogether, and I know she was
thinking of Bibby.  I could never put him out of my life, even if I
wished to do so.  I had the greatest difficulty to-day in not speaking
of him when she talked about our large fortunes, but I controlled
myself.  I was still shaken by the scene with her cat, and feared I
might exhibit temper.  I did reason with her about having our mourning
from Grays', as it seems to me ostentatious.  But she became fretful
and inclined to cry again, accusing me of always wanting my own way and
of trying to deny her every little interest and amusement, so I thought
it best to give in to her.

"I promised Isherwood I would not sit up, so I must stop writing.  The
smell of the disinfectant pursues and disgusts me, and I go on fancying
that I hear strange noises in the house.  I wish I could feel sorrow
for papa's death.  It would be more natural.  But I feel none.  I only
feel resentment against mamma's suffering and Bibby's disgrace.  How
cruel and purposeless the past seems!  And I feel alarm in thinking of
the future.  I cannot picture Margaret's and my life alone together.
Will it be cruel and purposeless, too?  I shall not sleep, but I must
not break my word to Isherwood.  I will stop writing and go to bed."


Two o'clock had struck before Joanna Smyrthwaite closed and locked her
diary and replaced it in the pigeon-hole of the satin wood bureau.  At
the same hour, away in Paris, Gabrielle St. Leger, answering little
Bette's cry, gathered the child's soft, warm body in her arms and found
the solution of many perplexities in the God-ordered discipline of
mother-love.  The less fortunate Englishwoman also received comfort--of
a kind.  Her hands were stiff with cold.  The small, neat writing on
the last page of the diary showed cramped and almost illegible.  She
was faint from the long vigil.  Yet the fever of her spirit was
somewhat appeased.  For, in thus visualizing and recording her
emotions, in thus setting the picture of her life outside her, she had,
in a measure, lightened the strain of it.  The drug from which she had
sought relief acted, so to speak, allaying the ache of her loveless,
unsatisfied heart.



CHAPTER VI

SOME CONSEQUENCES OF PUTTING NEW WINE INTO OLD BOTTLES

The next entry in Joanna Smyrthwaite's diary dates several days later.
The handwriting, though quite clear, is less neat and studied than
usual.


"I have a sense of crowding and confusion, of incapacity to realize and
deal with that which is happening around me and in my own thought.
Hence I have delayed writing.  I hoped to attain composure and
lucidity; but, since these seem as far off as ever, it is useless to
wait any longer.  Possibly the act of writing may help me.

"Mr. Savage arrived on Thursday, immediately after luncheon.  We had
not expected him until the evening, and I felt unprepared.  I am afraid
my reception of him was awkward and ungracious, but his quick speech
and brilliant manner made me nervous.  He spoke at once of his respect
for papa, and expressed sympathy for us in our bereavement, adding that
he 'placed himself entirely at our disposition.'  I found it difficult
to make a suitable reply.  I do not know whether he noticed
this--probably he put it down to my grief--and I am not grieved.  I am
hard and cold, and, I am afraid, resentful.  All of which is wrong.  I
do not attempt to justify my state of mind, but it would be dishonest
to pretend, even to myself, about it.

"To return to Mr. Savage.  He speaks English fluently, but employs
words and frames his sentences in a peculiar manner.  This helps to
give vivacity and point to all which he says, but it might also give
rise to misunderstandings.  I trust it will not do so when he and Mr.
Challoner and Andrew Merriman discuss business.  Smallbridge valets
him, not Edwin.  I was uncertain whether Smallbridge would like to do
so, but he said he preferred it.  I think Mr. Savage has made a good
impression upon the servants.  I am glad of this.  He is certainly very
courteous to them.  After Margaret and I came up-stairs, the first
evening he was here, she remarked that he was very handsome.  She has
repeated this frequently since.  I suppose it is true.  Margaret is
always very much occupied about personal appearance.  Mr. Savage is,
undoubtedly, very kind, and seems most anxious to save us trouble and
take care of us.  Margaret evidently likes this.  I am unaccustomed to
being taken care of.  I find it embarrassing.  It adds to my
nervousness.

"I feel dissatisfied with myself, and anxious lest I should not behave
with the dignity which my position, as head of the household, demands;
but I am tired and so many new duties and new ideas crowd in on me.  I
seem to have lost my identity.  Ever since I can remember, papa has
occupied the central place in my thoughts and plans.  His will and
wishes supplied the pivot on which all our lives turned, and I cannot
accustom myself to the absence of his authority.  I am pursued by a
fear that I am forgetting some order of his, or neglecting some duty
toward him, for which omission I shall presently be called to account.
He represented Fate, Nemesis to me.  As I see now, I had never
questioned but that his power, or right to use that power, was
absolute.  Even through all the trouble about poor Bibby, though I
protested against his action, I never doubted his right to act as he
saw fit.  Now I cannot help reasoning about our relation to him, and
asking myself whether--in the general scheme of things--it can be
intended that one human being should exercise such complete and
arbitrary control over the minds and consciences of others.  I know
that I was greatly his inferior in ability and knowledge, let alone
that I am a woman and that, as his daughter, I owed him obedience.
Still I cannot help feeling that I may have been rendered unnecessarily
stupid and diffident through subjection to him.  Something which Mr.
Savage said to-day at luncheon about Individualism--though I do not
think he meant it to apply to papa--suggested to me that there are
other forms of cannibalism besides that practised by the degraded
savages who cook and eat the dead bodies of their captives.  In
civilized communities a more subtle, but more cruel, kind of
cannibalism is neither impossible nor infrequent--a feeding upon the
intelligence, the energies and personality of those about you, which,
though it does not actually kill, leaves its victims sterile and
helpless.  I suppose this idea would be called morbid, and should not
be encouraged.  But my will is weak just now, and I cannot put it away
from me.  I am haunted by remembrance of the classic legend of Saturn
devouring his own children.  It is monstrous and shocking, yet it does
haunt me.  If papa had been less stern and exacting with Bibby, the
latter might not have fallen into bad habits, or, at all events, might
have had strength to recover from them.  But papa's dominating
personality made him hopeless and helpless, depriving him of
self-respect and initiative.  With me it has been the same, though in a
lesser degree; and I am aware of this, especially when talking to Mr.
Savage.  Then I feel how dull I am, like some blighted, half-dead thing
incapable of self-expression and spontaneity.  And I cannot help
knowing that he perceives this and pities me--not merely on account of
our present trouble, but for something inalienably wanting in myself.
This fills me with resentment toward the past, as though, by my
education and home circumstances, I had been wronged and deprived of a
power of happiness which was my natural right.  Our lives were
devoured--mamma's, Bibby's, mine--by papa's love of power and pursuit
of self-exaltation.  Only Margaret, in virtue of her slighter nature,
escaped.  It was so.  I see it clearly.  But I must not dwell on this.
I have said it once now.  I must let that suffice.  To enlarge upon it
is useless and would further embitter me.

"To go back to every-day matters.  I asked Mr. Challoner to dine the
night before last, so that he and Mr. Savage might make further
acquaintance.  I am afraid Mr. Savage found it a tedious dinner, after
the brilliant society he has been accustomed to in Paris.  I know I
have little conversation, and Margaret, though she looked unusually
animated, never really has very much to say.  Mr. Challoner did not
show to advantage.  He is not at his ease with Mr. Savage.  He is heavy
and crude in speech and in appearance beside him.  I thought he showed
bad taste in his remarks about foreigners and his insistence on the
superiority of everything English.  I do not think Margaret remarked
this, but it made me hot and nervous.  Mr. Savage behaved with great
courtesy, for which I was grateful to him.  I am afraid I was a poor
hostess, but we have entertained so little since we left Highdene, and
then papa always led the conversation.  We were merely listeners.  The
cooking was satisfactory with the exception of the cheese _soufflé_,
the top of which was slightly burnt.  I spoke to Rossiter about it this
morning and begged her to be more careful in future.

"A young woman came from Grays' yesterday, bringing a profusion of
dresses and millinery.  Margaret seemed amused and interested, trying
everything on, asking the young woman's advice and talking freely with
her.  I tried to be interested, too, but I did not find it easy.  The
styles seemed to me exaggerated and showy, and the prices exorbitant.
I should prefer what is simpler for such deep mourning, but Margaret
did not agree with me.  It would not do for us to be differently
dressed, and when I suggested modifications the young woman, supported
by Margaret, overruled me.  Margaret is fond of elaborate styles, and
the young woman said that a good deal of fullness and trimming was
necessary for me as I have so little figure.  It was foolish to attach
importance to the remarks of a person in her position, yet what she
said hurt me.  She admired Margaret's figure, or affected to do so, and
paid her a number of compliments.  I looked at myself in the long glass
in my room last night, after Margaret left me, and I see that I am very
thin.  My cheeks have fallen in and there are lines across my forehead
and at the corners of my mouth.  My face can give no pleasure to those
who see it--the features are not good, and the expression is anxious.
I look several years older than Margaret.  I do not know why I should
mind this.  Long ago I accepted the fact that I was not pretty.  But
last night I was depressed by the realization of it.  For the first
time since papa's death I felt inclined to cry.  When Isherwood came to
undress me I made an excuse and sent her away.  I did not want her to
see me cry.  I feared she might ask questions; and I had no reason for
crying--at least no fresh reason, none certainly that I could explain
to Isherwood.  I am ashamed, remembering my state of mind last night.
I could not write, neither could I sleep.  I sat for a long while in
front of the glass, looking at myself and crying.  I seemed rarely to
have seen a less pleasing woman.  I have always valued intellect and
talent more highly than beauty, but last night I doubted.  My strongest
convictions seemed to be slipping away from me.  I suppose this is
partly the result of physical strain.  I must try not to give way thus
to useless emotion.

"Mrs. Paull and the Woodfords called yesterday to inquire.  So did Mrs.
Spencer and Marion Chase.  I was surprised at Mrs. Spencer calling.  We
have met her at garden-parties and at-homes, but we have never
exchanged visits.  No doubt her intention in calling was kind, but I
should not care to be intimate with her.  Neither she nor her sister
appear to me very ladylike.  I hope Margaret will not want to make
friends with her now.  She strikes me as a frivolous person, whose
influence might be the reverse of desirable.  Margaret saw Marion,
saying she wished to consult her about some details of our mourning.  I
did not see her.  She and Margaret spent more than an hour together in
the blue sitting-room.  The Pottingers and Mrs. Norbiton sent around
cards of inquiry by a servant to-day.  I think every one wishes to be
kind.  Papa was very much respected, though perhaps he was not liked.
He was more highly educated and more intellectual than any one here,
and that helped to make him unpopular.  His conversation and manner
tended to make others aware of their mental inferiority, which they
resented.  This was only natural, yet it increased our isolation.

"Colonel Rentoul Haig called on the day of papa's death.  He has
written since, very civilly, asking if he can be of any help to us.  He
appears anxious to make Mr. Savage's acquaintance, but I do not want to
ask any one here until after the funeral.  Colonel Haig assumes the
tone of a near relation.  This pleased Margaret, and she is annoyed at
my unwillingness to invite him until after the funeral.  I think she is
flattered by his expression of interest in our affairs.

"I am worried about Margaret.  Mr. Challoner is here constantly, and I
cannot help observing how much attention he pays her.  He refers to her
on every occasion and insists upon asking her opinion.  It is almost as
though he placed her and himself in opposition to Mr. Savage and me;
this causes delays in business, and unnecessary discussions which are
very tiresome.  His tone in speaking of or to Margaret is protective,
as though he thought she was not being well treated.  Perhaps I am
unjust toward him, but he and Margaret are so frequently together.  He
asks for her and goes up to the blue sitting-room to see her.  I am
sure Mr. Savage observes this.  I feel very anxious lest any wrong
impression should gain ground among the servants or others.  I dread
anything approaching gossip just now.  Since we left Highdene we have
always kept ourselves free of that.  Ever since we came here people
have known little or nothing of our doings and affairs, and it would
humiliate me that they should be canvassed now.  I wish Margaret would
be more careful of appearances.  Then, too, although I do not like her,
it is our duty to consider Mrs. Spencer.  Her name has been so freely
associated with that of Mr. Challoner.  Every one has taken it for
granted they will eventually marry.  I ought to remind Margaret of
this, since she seems to ignore it, and I have not the moral courage to
do so.  I am afraid of her tears and reproaches.  When the funeral is
over, Mr. Challoner will have less excuse for coming so often.  I think
I will wait.  Things may arrange themselves, and I may be spared the
unpleasantness of speaking.

"Something happened this evening which threw me into a strange
excitement.  I hardly know whether to set it down or not.  I thought
the impression would pass away, but I have been writing for more than
an hour and it is still strongly upon me.  My state of mind is
exaggerated.  Perhaps if I set it down I shall become more composed.
When I bade Mr. Savage good-night in the hall--Margaret had gone on and
was half-way up-stairs, she was not in a good temper--he spoke kindly
about the responsibilities which have fallen upon me, and the amount I
have had to do lately.  He said he admired my business capacity and my
high sense of duty.  He addressed me as 'my dear cousin,' and kissed my
right hand.  This surprised and affected me.  No one ever kissed my
hand before.  The tones of his voice are very varied.  They caused me
unexpected emotion.  All was said and done very lightly and gracefully,
almost playfully, but I cannot forget it.  When I came up-stairs I
locked the door of my room, and walked up and down in the firelight,
looking at my hand, for a long while before I recovered sufficient
self-control to light the candles and sit down and write.  I have a
strange feeling toward my own hand.  It seems to have gained an
intrinsic beauty and value, as of something quite apart from myself.  I
look at it with a sense of admiration.  I enjoy touching it with my
other hand.  And yet I am doubtful whether to write this down.  Only
these sensations are so new to me that, when they are past, I shall be
glad, I think, to have some record of them.  I wrote about other things
first, to-night, to test whether the impression was fugitive or not.
It is still with me, though I am quite composed now.  I am composed,
but I still look at my hand with emotion.  I will not write any more.
I think I shall sleep to-night."



CHAPTER VII

IN WHICH ADRIAN HELPS TO THROW EARTH INTO AN OPEN GRAVE

Adrian Savage, meanwhile, his native buoyancy of spirit
notwithstanding, became increasingly sensible of the depressing moral
atmosphere surrounding him.  He was impatient of it.  For did they not
really take things rather ridiculously hard, these excellent English
people?  Had they no sense of proportion?  Had they no power of
averaging, no little consolations of good-tempered philosophy?  He went
so far, in moments of levity, as to accuse _le bon Dieu_ of
reprehensible squandering by thus bestowing the eminently good gift of
life upon persons so deplorably incapable of profiting by it.  To him
they appeared thankless, cowardly, and quite unpardonably clumsy in
their handling of opportunity.  Moreover, while curiously clannish,
ready on the slightest provocation to stand back to back against the
world, they waged internecine war, being permanently suspicious of, and
unamiable toward, one another.  If this represented a fair sample of
the much-vaunted English home and the English character--well, for his
part, Adrian was of opinion they did these things quite as well, if not
a great deal better, in France!

He shrugged his shoulders, elevated his black eyebrows, stroked his
neat beard, trying at once to overcome his sense of depression and
stifle his sense of humor.  The atmosphere would, he told himself, no
doubt become more exhilarating when poor Montagu Smyrthwaite's body had
been removed from that rather terrible best bedroom--apparently "turned
up," as the maids have it, for spring cleaning--and finally consigned
to the tomb.  Never had he seen a dead fellow-creature treated with
such meager tribute, either in language or symbol, of human pity or
eternal hope!  It shocked his sensibility that the corpse should lie
there, locked away by itself in a cold, dismal twilight of drawn
blinds, without any orderly setting-out of the death-chamber, without
watchers, or prayer offered, or lighted candles, or flowers, or other
suggestion either of tenderness or of religious obligation.
Observances of this sort, he was given to understand by Joseph
Challoner, were discredited in highly intellectual circles, such as
that in which the Smyrthwaites moved, as savoring of antiquated and
unscientific superstitions.  The result, to Adrian's thinking,
presented an effect at once so abjectly domestic, and so miserably
deficient in any appreciation of the eternal mystery of human fate,
that the crudest death-rites of the most degraded aborigines would have
been preferable.

And then, by a singular inversion of sentiment, it was held necessary
as a testimony of respect to keep the poor, disagreeable old
gentleman's body waiting such a quite inordinately long time for
interment!  During a, to Adrian, positively endless week did it remain
there, amid a doleful array of dusting-sheets and disinfectants!  So
that, what with the dark, snow-patched fir woods without, and the dark,
neutral-tinted house within; what with conventionally hushed footsteps
and lowered voices, plus an all-pervasive odor of iodiform tainting the
close, heated air, the young man found the present among quite the most
trying and distasteful of all his personal experiences.

Yet, as the interminable days went by--while Joseph Challoner, jealous
alike of his own position and of the newcomer's breeding and ability,
alternately bluffed, snarled and flattered, and pompous, little Colonel
Haig fell headlong from attempted patronage to a certain fulsomeness of
conciliation--against this dismal background the figure of Joanna
Smyrthwaite came to stand out, to Adrian's seeing, with an intensity of
moral effort and sustained determination of duty both impressive and
admirable.  Beneath the bloodless surface, behind the anxious, unlovely
countenance and coldly nervous manner, he began to divine a remarkable
character.  He had been mistaken in calling her a shadow.  She was a
distinct entity, but she was also, to him, quite arrestingly
unattractive.  And, just on that account, the chivalry both of the man
and the artist grew alert to be very gentle to her, to omit no smallest
offering of friendliness or courtesy.  The very reason and purpose of
woman's existence being charm and beauty--his thought turned with a
great yearning to remembrance of a certain enigmatic fair lady, the
windows of whose rose-red and canvas-colored drawing-room overlooked
the heart of Paris from above the _Quai Malaquais_--it was pitiful in
the extreme to see any woman thus disfranchised.

The inherent tragedy of that disfranchisement was brought home to him,
with peculiar force, on the evening following Montagu Smyrthwaite's
funeral.  For eventually, almost to Adrian's surprise, the poor lonely
corpse really did get itself buried!  Then, at the Tower House, the
blinds were drawn up, and the mourners, local and official, returning
thither, discarding the appointed countenance assumed as due to the
mournful character of the rites lately accomplished and resuming that
common to them under ordinary conditions, prepared almost jovially to
do justice to an excellent luncheon.  The Miss Smyrthwaites excused
themselves from attendance, no other ladies being there, so it fell to
Adrian's lot to preside at the banquet.  He was amused to note the fact
that they had left all which was mortal of the late owner of the house
in the new West Stourmouth cemetery--which, with its pale monuments,
roads and pathways, showed as a gigantic scar upon the face of the
dusky moorland--in no perceptible degree impaired the healthy appetite
of any member of the company.  To eat offers agreeably convincing
testimony that one is as yet well within the pale of the living; and
none of the eighteen or twenty gentlemen present, whatever their
diversities of profession or of social standing, entertained the
faintest desire to follow Montagu Smyrthwaite--their neighbor, kinsman,
patron, or employer--to the grave in any sense save a strictly
complimentary one.  That final civility being now duly paid in respect
of him, it was in the spirit of those who receive well-earned reward
for well-performed labor that they sat down to feed.

In Adrian, both the Latin and the Catholic were still somewhat in
revolt against this scant tenderness shown toward death.  The whole
matter from start to finish had been, as he reflected, notably of the
earth-to-earth order.  The alacrity, displayed by the assistants, in
the direction of food and drink, was of the earth earthy, too.  It,
however, had at least the merit of being very human.  Therefore, to
him, it came as a rather humorous relief.  Since his childhood his
visits to England had been infrequent.  With London and London society
he was fairly well acquainted, but of provincial life and its social
conditions he knew next to nothing.  It followed that, in their racial
and psychological aspects, the members of the present company were
interesting to him.  He tried to forget the poor, unloved corpse lying
beneath the rattling snow-sodden gravel of the moorland and absorb
himself in observation of the men seated on either side the
dinner-table; to where, at the opposite end of it, the hard-featured,
taciturn, sagacious, Yorkshire manufacturer, Andrew Merriman, manager
and part proprietor of the Priestly woolen mills, faced him.  This man
had not taken off the appointed countenance, for the very good reason
that he had never put it on, his nature being of a type which disdains
conventional manifestations, either of joy or woe.  Throughout the day,
in this as in other particulars, Merriman's personality had struck
Adrian as distinct, standing away from the rest of the company,
silently declaring itself as possessed of unusual vigor and
independence.  He tried to enter into conversation, but invariably
Joseph Challoner contrived to intervene; and it was not till evening,
shortly before Merriman and the rest of the Yorkshire contingent were
due to depart to Stourmouth on their return journey by the night mail
to Leeds, that he succeeded in getting private speech of him.

Then, after some brief mention of certain business details, Merriman
said to him, gruffly, and as though grudgingly:

"I own I am more satisfied now I have met you, Mr. Savage.  I did not
much care about your appointment as executor.  But I might have trusted
Mr. Smyrthwaite's judgment.  I have seldom known him wrong in his
estimate of a man."

"You wish me to understand that you believe me to be quite fairly
honest and competent?" Adrian returned, in mingled annoyance and
pleasure.  The intention was complimentary, but the address so
singularly blunt!  "I venture to agree with you, my dear sir.  Without
vanity, I have reason to believe I really am both."

"So much the better," Merriman answered, sardonically.  "I have no wish
to offend you.  But an uncommon amount of property, in which I am
interested, is changing hands; and honest, trustworthy persons are
pretty scarce."  He glanced from under penthouse eyebrows across the
room to where Challoner, shifting his weight uneasily from one foot to
the other, dancing-bear fashion, stood talking to Colonel Haig.  "At
least in my experience they are, Mr. Savage.  When a family is dying
out you generally find the males are debilitated specimens and the
females the strongest.  In this family, if Miss Smyrthwaite had been
born a boy it would have been better for the name and for the business.
Only, then, you and I shouldn't have met here to-day, because Mr.
Smyrthwaite would never have left Highdene, and I should never have
been manager at the mills."

"Which would have been a misfortune--for me, in any case," Adrian
returned, suavely.

"Maybe," the other said.  "But I can tell you Joanna Smyrthwaite's all
right.  She has sound commercial instincts if she's allowed to use
them.  It is an all-fired pity she's a woman."

An idea occurred to Adrian.

"She should have married," he said.  This bluntness of statement became
lamentably infectious!  "Every woman should marry.  Then her abilities
find their natural expression and development."

"Quite right, sir.  And it is on the cards, I am thinking, Joanna would
have married if a man had not been too much afraid of her father to ask
her.  Mind," he added, "I have no quarrel with our late head.  My
father was a national schoolmaster.  My grandfather was a mill-hand.  I
should not be where I am but for Mr. Smyrthwaite.  He fancied my looks
when I was quite a little nipper, picked me out and gave me my start.
And I'm not boasting, any more than you were just now, if I say I know
he never had reason to regret doing that."

The speaker straightened up his heavy figure, looking Adrian steadily
in the eyes.

"I told you he was a sure judge of men.  But women, except to bring him
children, and mind his house, and put up with his tempers, and fetch
and carry for him, didn't enter into his calculations at all.  He was a
bit of a Grand Turk was Mr. Smyrthwaite.  And Joanna, from quite a
little mite, made herself useful as his amanuensis and reader and so
on.  He looked upon her as his private property, and kept her busy, I
promise you; so that the man who wanted to take her away from him
didn't have a fighting chance."

"But now the Grand Turk is finally removed," Adrian declared.  "Haven't
we just concluded all that?"

"And now a man is afraid of her money, I'm thinking," the big
Yorkshireman returned, slowly, a grim smile pulling at the corners of
his mouth.  "Joanna was always the plain one of the two girls.  And she
has aged lately.  You can't seem to picture her with a healthy baby on
her lap.  And so, nobody would believe--the man, though he wished it
ever so, would hardly believe himself--it was the woman he wanted, the
woman he was after, and not just her wealth."

He stood silent a moment, his jaw set, and then held out a large, hard,
but not unkindly hand to Adrian.

"I reckon our time's about up," he said.  "Write or wire me to come if
I am needed, Mr. Savage.  And, when you leave, I should be obliged if
you'll remind Joanna I'm always at her service.  I shall look after the
girls' interest at the mills right enough, but I can get away down here
for twenty-four hours almost any time at a push.  Good-day to you, sir.
I am glad we've met.  Now I must round up my lads and take 'em back
home to work."

This conversation, in its crude sincerity of language and statement,
remained by Adrian, and was still present to his mind next morning when
he rose.  Early in his stay at the Tower House he had petitioned
Smallbridge to bring him rolls and coffee when calling him, since a
solid breakfast at nine, followed by a solid luncheon at one-thirty,
proved too serious an undertaking for the comfort of the Latin stomach.
By the above arrangement he secured two or three hours to himself
either for writing or for exercise.  This morning he went out soon
after eight and walked down the wide avenue, past large, jealously
secluded villas, each standing in its acre or half acre of thickly
planted grounds, to where the mouth of the long, dark wooded valley
opens between striated gray and orange sand-cliffs, as through a giant
gateway, upon the sea.  Thin, primrose-yellow sunlight glinted on the
backs of the steel-blue waves.  A great flight of gulls, driven inshore
by stress of weather, swept, and dropped, and lifted again, with wild,
yelping laughter, above the flowing tide.  Fringing the cliff edge the
purple boles, red trunks, and black, ragged heads of a line of
wind-tormented Scotch firs, detached themselves, from foot to crown,
against the colorless winter sky.

The thirty or forty yards of level sand, stretching from the turn of
the road in the valley bottom to the dark windrows of sea-wrack marking
the tide-line, were pocketed by footsteps.  But, at this hour, the
place was wholly deserted, it being too early in the day, and too early
in the season, for invasion by any advance guard of the mighty army of
tourists and trippers which infests the coast from Marychurch and
Stourmouth, westward to Barryport, during the summer and autumn months.
Adrian found himself solitary, in a silent wilderness, save for the
murmur of the pines, the plunge and hush of the waves, and harsh
laughter of the strong-winged gulls.  From where he stood, looking
inland, the surface of the vast, somber amphitheater of blue-black fir
forest, variegated here and there by the purple-brown of a grove of
bare, deciduous trees, or the pallor of a snow-dusted space of
tussock-grass and heather, was unbroken by house-roof or other sign of
human habitation.  Looking seaward no shipping was visible.  To Adrian
the scene appeared arrestingly northern in character, the spirit of it
questioning, introspective, coldly complex, yet primitive and elfin,
reminding him of Grieg's Occasional Music to the haunting parable-poem
of Peer Gynt.  Then, as he paced the harder sand to the seaward side of
the tide-mark, the chill breeze pushing against him and the keen smell
of the brine in his nostrils, his thought carried back vividly to his
conversation of last night with Andrew Merriman.

For, now that he came to think of it, might not Joanna, the main
subject of that conversation, in all her feminine leanness and
overstrained mentality, have stepped straight out of one of those plays
of Ibsen's which, heretofore, had so perplexed him by their distance
from any moral and racial conditions with which he was familiar?
Northern, joyless, uncertain in faith, burdened by scruples, prey to a
misplaced intellectualism, yet clear-headed and able in practical
matters, could not her prototype be found again and again in the
Norwegian playwright's penetrating and disheartening pages?  And, if it
came to that, in the relentless common-sense of the big Yorkshireman's
cruelly sagacious estimate of his own attitude toward her was there not
an Ibsenish element, too?  For that Andrew Merriman was, himself, "the
man" of whom he had spoken, Adrian entertained no doubt.

So he paced the sand, absorbed in analysis and in apprehension, while
ripples of spent waves slipped, in foam-outlined curves, near and
nearer to his feet.  It seemed to him he touched something new here in
human tendencies and human development; something which, in the coming
social order, might very widely obtain, especially among Protestant
English-speaking peoples.--A democratic, scientific, unsparing
self-knowledge, physical and mental, on the one hand, and a narrow,
sectarian, self-sufficiency, on the other; a morbidly cold-blooded
acknowledgment of fact and application of means to ends, in which
neither poetry nor religion had any determining part.  The artist in
him protested hotly.  For really a world so ordered did not look
enticing in the very least!

Then, his thought fixing itself again exclusively on Joanna, played
around the everlastingly baffling problem of woman's mind, woman's
outlook, in itself, divorced from her relation to man.  It was not the
first time his imagination had been held up by this problem, nor was he
conceited enough to suppose it would be the last.  Woman in her
relation to man was a stale enough, obvious enough, story.  But in her
relation to her fellow-woman, in her relation to herself--had not this
tripped even the cleverest novelists and dramatists of his own sex?
Wasn't it, after all, easier for a woman rightly to imagine the life a
man lives among men, than for a man to conceive woman's life with his
own great self left out of it?  He feared so, though the admission was
far from flattering to masculine perspicacity.  He resented his own
inability to negotiate those moral and emotional lines of cleavage
which do, so very actually, divide the sexes.  To think, for example,
that Joanna Smyrthwaite and Gabrielle St. Leger--their radical
differences of circumstances, endowment, and experience
notwithstanding--were still essentially nearer to each other, more
capable of mutual sympathy and understanding in the deep places of
their nature, than he, with all his acute sensibility and dramatic
insight, could ever be to either of them!

But there the young man stopped and fairly laughed outright.  For to
class Gabrielle St. Leger, the devoutly worshiped and desired, and poor
Joanna Smyrthwaite together, even in passing, was a little too
outrageously far-fetched.  Here, indeed, the study of psychology ran
frankly and, in a sense, almost profanely mad.

He looked away, through the shifting cloud of screaming gulls, over the
steel-blue levels of the Channel toward far-distant France, and a
strong nostalgia took him for the delightful, quick-witted land of his
birth.  It seemed a thousand years since he left Paris.  What were they
all doing over there, the dear people whose friendship spelled for him
more than half the joy of living?  Save for one brief note, in the
response to the announcement of his arrival, Madame St. Leger had given
no sign.  And he, in face of his last interview with her, wanted to
know--wanted so very badly to know.  He wanted to look at her.  He
wanted to hear her voice.--Whereupon he turned positively vindictive.
Oh! most consoling doctrine of purgatory!--Might Montagu Smyrthwaite
very thoroughly suffer the depleting pains of it as punishment for this
fiendishly tiresome legacy of an executorship!  Why couldn't he have
left Adrian free to pursue his delicious love campaign, and appointed
somebody else--the unpleasant, heavy-weight Challoner, say, or the
worldly, feather-weight Haig?  Either of them would have reveled in the
brief authority it conferred, while to him it constituted an
intolerable waste of time.  He was sick to death, interesting racial
and psychological researches notwithstanding, sick to death of the
whole _corvée_.

And then he skipped aside with quite undignified haste, for an incoming
wave threatened his long-toed French boots with total immersion.



CHAPTER VIII

A MODERN ANTIGONE

His retina still holding that northern elfin landscape and seascape,
his ears the voices of the forest and of the wildly yelping gulls, his
mind still working on the thought of that new moral and social order
now coming into being, his heart and his manhood crying out for the
woman he loved, Adrian--the keen freshness of the winter morning
pouring in through the open door along with him--entered the hall of
the Tower House.  And down the broad staircase, over the thick,
sound-muffling carpet, the wan light streaming in through the blurred,
leaded glass of the great staircase windows falling upon her meager,
flat-bosomed, crape-clad figure, yellowish-auburn hair and strained,
anxious countenance, came the other woman, the Ibsen woman, concerning
whose nature and attributes he had just indulged in so much analytic
speculation.

Joanna held up the front of her crape dress.  Her feet showed as she
stepped down the shallow treads.  And Adrian, standing below, looking
up at her, hat in hand, saw--though he didn't in the least want to
see--that she wore black velvet slippers with square toes and no heels
to them, and that both her feet and hands, though comparatively small,
were lacking in individuality and in that sharpness of outline which is
the mark of fineness of breeding.  They might have been just anybody's
hands and feet; and so--he felt amusedly ashamed of himself for
admitting it--they were exactly the hands and feet one would expect
Joanna Smyrthwaite to possess.

Taking himself to task for this involuntary cruelty of observation, his
manner the more persuasive and gallant because he felt himself to
blame, the young man advanced through the dull reds and browns of the
spacious hall to the foot of the staircase.

"Ah! you are here!  Good-morning, _chère cousine_," he said.  "I rose
early and have already been out walking in your great woods and down on
the shore.  It is all a poem of the first days of creation, before man
intruded his perplexing presence upon the earth.  I felt quite
rampantly decadent in this overcivilized twentieth-century costume,
under obligation to offer the humblest apologies to the hairy mammoths
and pterodactyls, which, at every turn of the road, I instinctively
braced my courage to meet.  But really it is rather wonderful how 'the
desert and the sown' jostle one another here in England.  The contrasts
are so unexpected, so violent, so complete!"

Adrian talked on rather at random, smiling, his head thrown back, the
expression of his handsome face gay yet subtlely apologetic; the
general effect of him pleasantly healthy, self-secure, finished, and on
excellently good terms both with fortune and with himself.  And Joanna,
looking down at him, faltered, stopped in her descent, let slip the
folds of her crape skirt, while she laid one hand hurriedly upon the
baluster-rail and pressed the other nervously against her left side
over her heart.

"I am afraid," she said, "you get up and go out so early on our
account--I mean so that you may devote all the rest of the day to us."

"Oh no," Adrian returned, still smiling.  "It is an old habit, one of
my very few good habits, that of early rising.  You see, I am quite a
busy man in my own small way, what with my Review, my friends, my
literary work--"

"I realize that, and so I am very much distressed at the demands which
we are making upon your valuable time.  I cannot justify or excuse it
to myself.  I do not think it was proper that papa should have
appointed you as my coexecutor without consulting you and asking your
permission first."

She spoke with a suppressed violence of feeling which caused Adrian to
gulp down his complete agreement in these sentiments, and reply in
soothing tones:

"But, dear cousin, surely at this time of day it is superfluous to vex
yourself about that!  Believe me, you are too scrupulous, too
considerate.  I assure you, as I have so often assured you before, that
I am touched by the confidence your father showed me in thus
temporarily intrusting not only his affairs, but yourself and your
sister, to my care.  My sole desire is worthily to fulfil that trust.
To do so constitutes, in as far as my time is concerned, an
all-sufficient reward.  And then, after all," he added, gaily, "ten
days, a fortnight even, should I have to go north to Leeds for a brief
visit, will see all imperative business through and so put a term to
our joint labors."

There he paused, looking discreetly aside as he unbuttoned his
overcoat, since he was aware that the gladness of coming freedom might
declare itself with unflattering distinctness.  For in imagination he
sprinted once again, three steps at a time, up the three flights of
stairs to the top story of the tall, gray house overlooking the _Quai
Malaquais_, while high expectation, at once delicious and disturbing,
circulated through every fiber of his being.  How adorable it would
be--how richly, poignantly enchanting!  But just then, though by no
means easily open to hypnotic or mesmeric influences, he became
conscious that Joanna Smyrthwaite's eyes--those tenacious, prominent,
faded-blue eyes, with red-rimmed lids to them, which, to his seeing, so
perpetually gave away the inward tempest of feeling to which the
compressed lips refused utterance--were fixed upon him with an
extraordinary intensity of questioning scrutiny.  For a moment the
young man felt frankly embarrassed, uncertain how to comport himself.
For he had no answer whatever to give to that questioning scrutiny.  He
suddenly grew wary, fearing demand might create supply--of a fraudulent
sort--courtesy betraying him into return glances dishonestly
sympathetic in character.  But, to his relief, the sound of an opening
door, followed by that of two chattering feminine voices--high-pitched,
unmusical in tone, one indeed peevish and complaining--coming from the
gallery above created a diversion.  He felt, rather than saw, Joanna
Smyrthwaite start and look impatiently upward.  Thus the awkward minute
passed, resolving itself; and the situation--if the little episode
deserved so high-sounding a title--was saved.  Adrian backed away and
slipped off his overcoat, doubling it together across his arm.

Joanna, her expression and manner agitated, descending the remaining
treads of the staircase hastily, followed and stood close by him.

"That is Margaret," she said, in a hurried undertone.  "Marion Chase is
with her as usual.  And Mr. Challoner comes here at half-past eleven.
It was his own proposition.  I had a note from him early this morning.
I should have been glad to put aside legal business just for to-day,
but Margaret expressed unwillingness that I should refuse to receive
him.  There is something I feel I must explain to you, Cousin Adrian,
before I see him.  But I cannot speak of it before Margaret, still less
before Marion Chase.  Would it trouble you too much to come into the
library with me?  We should be alone.  Margaret would hardly attempt to
bring Marion in there, I should think."

The young man assented readily, though the invitation was not very much
to his taste.  Of all the rooms in this finely proportioned yet gloomy
house, that distinctly masculine apartment, the library aforesaid, was,
to his thinking, the most depressing.  Facing north and east, its
windows were darkened by the rough corrugated trunks and scraggy lower
branches of a grove of Weymouth pines, spared when the rest of the site
had been cleared for building.  These, at close quarters and when old,
are doleful trees, lifeless and unchanging in aspect, telling of sour
soil and barren, unprofitable spaces.  Two sides of the room were
lined, to within a couple of feet of the ceiling, with mahogany
bookcases, the contents of which, in Adrian's opinion, only too
thoroughly harmonized in spirit with the doleful grove outside.  They
consisted of ranges of well-bound volumes upon such juiceless subjects
as commercial and municipal law, ethics of citizenship and political
economy, together with an extensive collection of pamphlets embodying
the controversies of the last fifty years--social, political,
ecclesiastical, and religious--neatly indexed and bound.  Not only did
the complete works of Adam Smith, David Hume, Dugald Stewart, and the
two Mills--elder and younger--decorate the shelves; but portrait prints
of these authors, along with those of certain liberal statesmen and
Nonconformist divines, solidly framed and glazed, decorated the
remaining wall spaces.  The carpet and curtains were of a dull brown,
patterned in dusky blues and greens.  A writing-table of huge
dimensions, fitted with many drawers; dark leather-covered chairs,
various mechanical devices in the form of reading-desks and leg-rests,
and an elaborate adjustable invalid couch constituted the other
appointments of the room.

Following Joanna's crape-clad figure into this severely educational
sanctuary, Adrian could not but think of the long joyless hours she
must have spent there reading to or writing for that imperious old
gentleman, the late lamented Montagu.  And this thought softened his
attitude toward her, reawakening sentiments of chivalrous pity.  For,
though rich, highly educated, and clever, had not she, poor girl, every
bit as much as her cautious, halting lover, been denied the very barest
fighting chance?

"You are tired, _chère cousine_," he said, consolingly.  "Is it any
wonder after the painful fatigues of yesterday?  See, I place this
chair comfortably near the fire for you.  Sit down, and, while resting,
tell me at your leisure what it is that you wish to explain."

And Joanna not only sat down obediently, but, rather to his
consternation, bowed her lean person together and pressed a fine,
black-bordered pocket-handkerchief--insisted upon by the stylish young
person from Grays' as a necessary part of her mourning
equipment--against her faded eyes and wept.  Ah! poor thing! poor
thing! she was a pitiful spectacle, a pitiful creature, inciting all
the young man's goodness of heart, sense of personal success, delight
in living, physical soundness and well-being, to claim sympathy and
forbearance toward her!

"Yes, yes," he declared, almost tenderly.  "I comprehend and associate
myself with your grief.  The trial has been so prolonged.  You cannot
expect to throw off painful impressions and adjust yourself to new
conditions immediately.  But that adjustment will come, dear cousin,
believe me.  It is merely a question of time, for you are young, and in
youth our recuperative power is immense.  So do not fight against your
tears.  If they relieve you, shed them freely."

For a while Joanna remained bowed together, then she threw herself back
in her chair almost convulsively.

"You must not be too kind to me," she cried.  "I enjoy it, but it
encourages my want of self-control."

"Don't you good English people set an exaggerated value upon
self-control, perhaps?" Adrian asked, gently, argumentatively.  "Why
waste so much energy in the effort to maintain an appearance of Red
Indian stoicism and impassivity?  Why fear to be human?  Sensibility is
a grace rather than a fault, especially in a woman--"

He moved away and stood by one of the eastern windows looking out into
the pine grove.  A draught of air, round the corner of the house, shook
the stiff branches.  He felt sorry for her, quite horribly sorry.  But,
just Heaven, how plain she was, with that tear-blotched face and those
quivering lips and nostrils!  Andrew Merriman's appraisement of her
appearance and the consequences entailed by it in respect of a possible
suitor were not overstated.  Adrian waited, giving not only her, but
himself, time to recover, and, approaching her again, did so smiling.

"Ah! that is well, dear cousin," he said.  "Already you feel better,
you regain your serenity.  Well then, let us talk quietly about this
matter which you wish to explain to me."

"It was about our wills--Margaret's and mine, I mean; about the
disposition of our property."  As she spoke she clenched her right
hand, working it against the palm of her left, like a ball working in a
socket.  "Mr. Challoner has mentioned this subject to Margaret,
impressing upon her that we ought to attend to it without delay."

"Our good Challoner is a little disposed to magnify his office," Adrian
put in, lightly.

"So I have thought--sometimes," Joanna agreed, a trace of eagerness in
her flat, colorless voice, produced--as always--from the top of an
empty lung.  "But he has great influence over Margaret.  I do not want
to be unjust, but I think the ideas he suggests to her are not always
suitable.  They tend to create difficulties between us.  From what
Margaret tells me I gather that he has discussed this subject very
freely with her.  She refers to it and quotes him continually when we
are alone.  I gather that he thinks I ought to make a will exclusively
in Margaret's favor, so that in the event of my death the estate may
pass to papa's direct descendants.  He tells Margaret, as I gather,
that papa wished this although he left no written instructions
regarding it.  And he--he--Mr. Challoner, I mean--appears to take for
granted that while Margaret will almost certainly marry now, it is
improbable I shall ever marry."

"But," Adrian cried, indignantly, though against his convictions and
his better judgment, "in even hinting at such a thing Challoner is
guilty of a very great impertinence!  He takes for granted that which
is no concern of his, and takes it for granted altogether prematurely,
thereby laying himself open to a well-deserved and very extensive
snubbing."

Joanna's breath caught in her throat.  Again the young man felt her
eyes fix on him with an extraordinary intensity of gaze.

"Cousin Adrian," she said, hurriedly, "has any one ever told you--do
you know--I think you ought to know--about our brother William--about
Bibby?"

This time Adrian met her gaze steadily.  He felt it imperative to do
so.  To his relief, after a momentary fluttering, the red-rimmed
eyelids were lowered.

"I have heard a little about him, poor boy," he answered, gently and
respectfully.  "I have heard that he caused those who loved him anxiety
and trouble."

"And humiliation and disgrace," Joanna whispered.

"But what would you have, dear cousin?  It must be so at times.  Life
is a tremendous, a dangerous, though, in my opinion, a very splendid
experiment.  We all start as amateurs, in ignorance of the laws which
govern it.  Is it not, therefore, inevitable that some should get off
the true lines, and make mistakes injurious to themselves and
lamentable to others?"

"But papa did not permit mistakes.  He never forgave them."

"Pardon me, but in not forgiving them did he not himself, perhaps,
commit the very gravest of all mistakes?" Adrian could not resist
asking, though he feared the question trenched on levity.

"I wish I could believe that."  She spoke bitterly.  "It would simplify
so much for me.  I should be so thankful to believe it.  It would help
to excuse Bibby.  I know he was weak in character; but he was so
nervous and delicate as a child.  Papa alarmed him.  He demanded too
much of him, and was stern and sarcastic because Bibby could not meet
that demand.  My brother did not go to a preparatory school, but at
thirteen he was sent to Rugby.  It was papa's old school, and he
believed the traditions and atmosphere of it were calculated to induce
the serious sense of moral and intellectual responsibility in which he
thought Bibby deficient."

"Poor child!" Adrian murmured.

"Yes," she said; "I am thankful you understand and pity him.  I know
papa's purpose was Bibby's good, the improvement and development of his
character; but the treatment was too severe.  It did not brace him, but
only broke his spirit.  He was unaccustomed to associate with other
boys.  They frightened and bullied him.  He was so miserable that at
the beginning of his second term he ran away."

She waited a moment, struggling against rising emotion, her hands
working again ball-and-socket fashion.

"It was all very dreadful.  For nearly a week he was lost.  We knew he
could have very little money, for his allowance was small.  Papa held
economy to be a duty for the young.  I think, next to mamma, I suffered
most, for I always loved Bibby best--better than I did Margaret.  I
shall never forget that week.  I suppose papa suffered, too, in his own
way.  He was very silent, and looked angry.  Andrew Merriman traced
Bibby to London and brought him home.  Mamma pleaded to keep him for a
time, but he was sent straight back to school.  About six months later
papa received a request to remove him.  He was accused of taking money
from another boy's locker.  Nothing was actually proved, but suspicion
clung to him, and as his general conduct was reported unsatisfactory,
the authorities thought it better he should leave.  Papa sent him
abroad to a private school at Lausanne.  He remained there three years,
until he was seventeen.  Papa refused to let him spend the holidays at
home, so during the whole of that time we only saw him twice, when we
were traveling."

The monotonous, colorless voice, the monotonous story of well-meaning,
cold-blooded tyranny it narrated, got upon the listener's nerves.  With
difficulty he restrained explosive comment reflecting far from politely
upon the so recently buried dead.  He really could not sit still under
the indignation it provoked in him.  He got up, moved away and stood
leaning his shoulder against the dark, polished woodwork of the eastern
window, his back to the light.  He thought it well the narrator should
not see his expression too clearly.

"It is almost inconceivable," he said.

"I am not exaggerating, Cousin Adrian," Joanna returned, straining her
eyes in the effort to fix them upon his face.  "All these events in
their consecutive order are stamped indelibly upon my memory."

"I am convinced you are not exaggerating, my dear cousin, and just on
that very account it is the more inconceivable," Adrian declared.

"But in your present relation to us--to me--I feel you ought to know
all about poor Bibby, all about our--my--family history.  My duty is to
place the facts before you.  I should be guilty of great
self-indulgence if I concealed anything from you in that connection,"
Joanna protested, with growing agitation.  "I should do very wrong if,
to spare myself pain, I deceived you."

And again that sensation of embarrassment, of uncertainty how to
comport himself, returned upon Adrian.

"But, dear cousin," he said, in a mildly argumentative manner, "don't
you emphasize the obligation of truth-telling unnecessarily?  I am here
to be of help to you, to shield you, in so far as possible, from that
which is distressing.  In thus reviving painful memories do you not
defeat the very object of my presence?"

"Oh no, no," Joanna cried.  "Surely you realize how bitterly I might
have cause to upbraid myself--later--if I now left anything untold
which it was right you should have heard?  It is incumbent upon me, a
matter of--of honor, to be perfectly explicit."

Adrian raised his eyebrows the least bit.  How providential he stood
with his back to the light!  He passed his left hand down over his neat
black beard, and his lips parted silently.  Poor, dear young woman,
what in the name of wonder did--And then he came near laughing.  The
idea was too preposterous, and, worse still--shame filled him at even
momentary entertainment of it--too fatuous!  He gave it unqualified
dismissal.

"No," she repeated, with a veiled and somber violence, "I should do
very wrong by permitting you to remain in ignorance.  I should deserve
any after suffering which might come to me.  For I have a duty to
fulfil to Bibby as well--that is what I wanted to explain to you before
giving instructions to Mr. Challoner about drafting my will.  Some day
my duty to Bibby may appear to clash with another duty; and therefore
it is necessary you should know clearly beforehand."

Joanna flung herself back in her chair.

"Whatever it may cost me now or--or--in the future, I must tell you the
rest, Adrian."

More mystified than ever, startled by the use of his Christian name
without any qualifying prefix, at once affected and repelled by her
excitement, the young man moved from his station at the window and
stood near her, leaning his hands upon the head of the ungainly
adjustable, couch.

"Pray tell me any and everything which may help to procure you relief,"
he said, kindly.

And Joanna, lying back, looked up at him, an immense appeal, a
something desperate and unsatiable in her faded blue eyes, which made
him consciously shrink.  The Ibsen woman--the Ibsen woman in another
manifestation!--It was not pleasant.  He didn't like it in the very
least.--Then, as if at the touch of a spring, she sat bolt upright,
looking past him out of the window at the dark, wind-shaken branches of
the pines.

"When my brother returned from Lausanne," she began again in that
colorless, monotonous voice, "he was put into Andrew Merriman's office
at the mills.  Mamma and I were glad at first.  We trusted Andrew
Merriman.  He had always been tactful and kind about Bibby.  But papa
decided he--my brother--should live at home so that he might exert a
direct personal authority over him.  And the two had nothing, nothing
in common.  You can judge from the contents of this library what papa's
tastes and pursuits were.  My brother did not care anything about
politics, or social reform, or that class of subject.  He was
pleasure-loving, and I do not think his long stay abroad improved him
in that respect.  Papa supposed the discipline at M. Leonard's school
to be rigid.  Among the elder boys I have reason to fear it was
decidedly lax."

Adrian made a slight movement of comprehension.  He could picture the
_régime_, and could well imagine the nice little games these exiled
young gentlemen had been at!

"Papa was stern; Bibby inattentive, sullen, and nervous.  At dinner
we--mamma and I--used constantly to be in dread of collisions.  We were
in perpetual anxiety as to what Bibby might inadvertently say, or not
say, which might provoke papa's sarcasm.  Then mamma's health began to
give way.  We went to Torquay for the winter, taking the servants, and
Highdene was shut up.  Bibby went into lodgings near to Andrew
Merriman, in the suburb of Leeds, in which the mills are situated.
Papa wishing to train him in habits of economy, only allowed him the
salary of a junior clerk.  But every one there knew we were rich, so
the tradespeople were only too ready to give Bibby credit, while
unscrupulous persons borrowed of him.  He was naturally generous, and
easily imposed upon, and he enjoyed the society of those who flattered
and made much of him.  It was said he frequented low company, that he
gambled at cards and got intoxicated.  I I do not know how far this was
true, but he did get deeply into debt.  More than once Andrew Merriman
helped him, but he could not afford to be responsible for Bibby's
continued extravagance.  And then--then--my brother manipulated certain
accounts and embezzled a large sum of money.  Andrew Merriman
discovered this.  He tried to shield him, and interceded with papa for
him--"

The speaker broke off, pausing for breath, bending down as though
crushed by the weight of her recollections.

"It was very, very dreadful," she said.  "Papa paid my brother's debts,
but he forbade him all intercourse with us.  He cut Bibby out of our
family life, as a surgeon might cut out some malignant growth.  He
regarded him thus, I think--indeed, he said so once--as a diseased part
the excision of which was imperative if the moral health of the family
was to be preserved.  He gave Andrew Merriman a capital sum, which was
to be remitted to Bibby in small quarterly instalments.  When that sum
was exhausted he was to receive nothing further.  We never saw him
again.  Papa bought this house, and we moved here.  He would not remain
at Highdene.  The scandal had been too great.  He could not forgive,
nor could he endure pity.  He made the business into a company, and
retired.  Mamma had become a complete invalid.  The doctors thought
this climate might benefit her; and then this place is far away from
our former friends and associations.  We knew no one here."

Joanna raised herself, looking, not at Adrian Savage, but past him, out
at the dusky pines.  She wiped her lips with her black-bordered
handkerchief.

"That is all, Cousin Adrian," she said.

But, when the young man would have spoken she held up one hand
restrainingly, and he saw that she shivered.

"Except--except this," she went on.  "Papa ordered that Bibby should be
considered as dead.  Later Andrew ceased to hear from him, and rumors
came that he was actually dead--that he had died at Buenos Ayres, where
he had gone as a member of some theatrical troupe.  But mamma and I
never credited those rumors.  Nor did Andrew Merriman.  He does not
credit them now."

She turned her head, looking full at Adrian with that same desperation
of appeal.

"I asked him yesterday," she said.  "It was dreadful to speak to him on
the subject, but I felt it my duty to do so.  I felt I ought to know
where I stood in regard to my fortune, because--because of the future.
Andrew believes my brother is still alive.  And that is why I must
refuse to make a will in Margaret's favor.  If, as you say, papa made
the gravest of all mistakes in never pardoning mistakes, clearly my
duty to his memory is to redress the mistake he made in the case of my
brother in as far as it is possible for me to do so.  Margaret will
have ample means of her own.  I cannot be ruled by Mr. Challoner's
opinion."

Joanna rose and walked over to the window, standing exactly where
Adrian had stood some ten minutes before.  There seemed a definite
purpose in her selection of the exact spot, both in the placing of her
feet and the leaning of her shoulder against the window-frame.  Her
back was to the light.  Adrian could not see the expression of her face
distinctly.  He was glad of this.  He did not want to see it, for again
he was conscious of shrinking from her.

"After all, Mr. Challoner may be wrong--as you yourself just now said,
Cousin Adrian--in taking for granted I shall never marry.  I may marry.
But, whatever happens, I shall not leave any part of my fortune to
Margaret.  I shall leave two-thirds of it to Bibby, and the rest--"

Smallbridge threw open the library door.

"Mr. Challoner, ma'am," he said; and the Stourmouth solicitor, his
Mongolian countenance quite strikingly devoid of all expression,
ponderously entered the room.



II

THE DRAWINGS UPON THE WALL



CHAPTER I

A WASTER

It was still cold, but the skies were clear.  The snow had been carted
away and Paris was herself again; the note of her exhilarating,
seductive, vibrant--a note at once curiously fiercer and more feminine
than that of London.

René Dax, crossing the _Place du Carrousel_, stood for a moment
listening to that vibrant note, sensible of its charm and challenge;
looking westward, meanwhile, across the Tuileries Gardens and _Place de
la Concorde_ to the ascending perspective of the _Champs-Élysées_.  The
superb _ensemble_ and detail of the scene, softened by lavender mist at
the ground levels, was crowned by the blood-red and gold of a
wide-flung frosty sunset--a city of fire, as the young man told
himself, built on foundations of dreams!

He had just come away from the press view of a one-man show of his own
drawings.  The rooms were crowded to suffocation.  The success of the
exhibition was already assured, promising to be prodigious, to amount
to a veritable sensation.  He was aware of this, yet his mood remained
an unhappy one.  As usual the critics showed themselves a herd of
imbeciles.  They praised the wrong things, or, more exasperating still,
praising the right ones praised them wrongly, extolling their weak
points rather than their fine ones, misinterpreting their message and
inner meaning.  Had Adrian Savage been there--unluckily he was still in
England--some sense might have been spoken.  Adrian was an austere
critic, but always an intelligent and discriminating one.  As for the
rest of the confraternity--René gazed mournfully at the flaming sunset
splendor--they got upon his nerves, they nauseated him.

And it all went deeper than that.  For those many square yards of wall,
plastered with his mordant verdict upon the human species, got upon his
nerves, too, and nauseated him.  He recoiled, as he had often recoiled
before--taking it thus wholesale--from his own merciless exposure of
the follies, vulgarities, the mental and physical deformities and
distortions of his fellow-creatures; recoiled from the reek of his own
Rabelaisian humor, of his own extravagant ribaldry and ingenious
grossness.  It was his vocation, as that of other and more famous
satirists, to wreak a vindictive vengeance thus upon humanity.  Only,
in his care, reaction invariably followed.  The devil of unsanctified
laughter for the time satiated and cast out of him, he wandered--as
this evening--a very sad and plaintive little being, firmly
resolving--as how often before!--once and for all to throw away his
rather horrible pencil, and betake himself exclusively to the
construction of those delicate lyrics and rondels from which, whatever
minor perversions of sentiment they might exhibit, the witty bestiality
common to his caricatures was conspicuously absent.

He wanted to forget the hot, close rooms, packed with admirers, male,
and, though happily in a minority, female also.  By René Dax that
minority was held in particularly small respect.  The woman who
relished, or affected to relish, his art ought to be ashamed of
herself--such at least was his opinion.  His art was meant for men, not
for women; and the women who couldn't arrive at that conclusion by
instinct, unaided, were women for whom, especially in his existing
mood, he had no use whatever, didn't want in the very least.  That
which he did want, under the head of things feminine, was something
conspicuously different--a far-removed, stately, inaccessible type of
womanhood.  And, still more, he wanted the child who should grow into
such womanhood--a tender, elusive, sprite-like, spotlessly innocent and
unsoiled creature, to whom moral and physical ugliness were equally
unknown and equally, saving the paradox, abhorrent.

Well, were not the tall, old-fashioned houses of the _Quai Malaquais_
across the river there just opposite, and was it not still early enough
to pay a visit?  But then, as he rather fretfully remembered, Madame
St. Leger had been pertinaciously invisible of late.  He had called
several times, only to be told she was not receiving or that she was
out.  He had never succeeded in seeing her and little Bette; never, now
that he came to think of it, since the day of the great snow, the day
when Adrian, whose absence he had just been deploring, left for England.

The bringing of these two facts into any relation of cause and effect
had not previously occurred to him.  It did not do so seriously even
now.  Yet unquestionably the names of Madame St. Leger and Adrian
Savage took up a position side by side in his mind, thereby subtly
coloring his reflections.  He had no friend upon whom he depended and
who, in his capricious exacting fashion, he loved as he did Adrian.
The friendship had remained practically unbroken since the time when
Adrian, the healthier, happier-natured boy, protected him, the queer
little Tadpole, from tormentors at school.  This friendship had been
among the wholesomest influences of his life, and, amid many
aberrations and perversities of thought and conduct, he clung to it.
But it followed on his self-absorption and selfishness, natural and
assumed, that his friend's interests and concerns, save in so far as
they bore direct relation to his own, were a matter of indifference to
him.  He had never troubled himself as to the possible state or
direction of Adrian's affections, and perhaps consequently, this sudden
juxtaposition of names came to him as a surprise, and an irritating one.

Slipping in and out between private cars, taxis, and humbler,
horse-drawn vehicles, he crossed the roadway to the _Pont des Saints
Pères_.  The sunset glories faded, while avenues of living white and
glow-worm green lights sprang into being.  Still, here and there, red
splashes, as of blood, stained the livid, swirling surface of the
Seine, which, in half flood, fed by the melted snow, hissed and gurgled
under the arches and against the masonry of the bridge.

As it happened, just then, a lull occurred in the cross-river traffic,
a break in the quick-moving throng of foot-passengers, so that in front
of René Dax the pale arc of the right-hand pavement showed empty in the
whole of its length, save for a single tall, slouching, shabby figure,
clothed in a blue-serge suit unmistakably English in cut and in
pattern.  As René advanced, his mind still working around those two
names set in such irritating juxtaposition, he saw the man in the
English-made suit first glance sharply to right and left, then bend
down, grasping the outer edge of the parapet, while slowly and, as it
seemed, furtively, drawing one knee up on to the flat of the coping.

--Was it possible that Madame St. Leger's repeated refusals to receive
him were other than accidental?  Was it possible they had some
connection with Adrian's absence?  Was it conceivable his friend had
turned traitor, had interfered, saying or hinting at that which might,
socially, justify such denial of admission?  Suspicion, resentment,
self-pity, a lively sense of personal injury invaded him.--

The shabby, slouching loafer's right knee was fairly upon the coping
now.  He threw up both arms, threw back his head, his mouth opened wide
as one letting loose a great cry.  René Dax saw his extended arms, his
bare head, his profile with that wide-open mouth, dark against a pale
background of buildings and cold, translucent sky.  The effect was of
the strangest, the more so that no sound came from the apparently
loud-crying mouth.  Suddenly his chin dropped on his breast.  His hands
were lowered, clutching at the edge of the parapet again, and he
remained thus for a few seconds, immobile, crouched together, his left
foot, in a well-cut but bulging hole-riddled boot, still resting upon
the pavement.

Then in a flash, awakening from contemplation of his own lately
discovered woes, René realized what was about to occur.  His height and
reach were insufficient, encumbered as he was, moreover, by a thick
fur-lined overcoat, for him to get his arms round the crouching figure.
So he just clutched whatever came handiest, the back of the fellow's
jacket, the slack of the seat of his trousers.  Exerting all his
strength, René hauled and jerked at these well-worn garments.  The
attack, though neither very forcible nor very scientific, was
completely unexpected.  The man's grip relaxed.  His knee slipped and
he fell back, an amorphous indigo and sandy-red heap, upon the pallid
asphalt.

René pulled a scented pocket-handkerchief out of the breast-pocket of
his coat and proceeded delicately to wipe the fingers and palms of his
gray _suède_ gloves.  He was unaccustomed to such exertion.  His heart
thumped against his ribs.  His sight was blurred.  He felt slightly
faint and light-headed and was grateful for the cold back-draught of
air off the rapidly flowing river.  It was his pride, part of his pose,
in fact, never to display emotion; and he now found himself excited and
shaken, by no means fully self-possessed.  He needed a space of quiet
in which to regain his accustomed affectations of bearing and manner.
He was aware, too, that those shabby garments were decidedly unpleasant
to touch.  Therefore he stood still, breathing rather hard through his
nostrils, and daintily wiping the neat, little gray suede gloves
incasing his quick, clever little fingers.

"I must express regret for my violence," he said, with the utmost
civility, to the heap on the pavement, as soon as he judged his voice
sufficiently steady for speech.  "I must apologize to you for such
absence of ceremony, but really, my dear sir, it appeared to me no time
should be lost.  You had, unconsciously of course, placed yourself in a
highly ridiculous position from which it was clearly incumbent upon me,
as an amiable and sympathetic person, immediately to remove you.  At
times one is compelled to act with decision rather than politeness.
This was a case in point.  Doubtless you are at present annoyed with
me.  But a few moments' reflection will, I feel sure, commend my action
to you.  You will recognize how right, even to the point of an apparent
sacrifice of personal dignity, I was."

The man by now had got upon all fours, looking like some unsightly,
shambling animal.  Limply he rose to his feet and, supporting himself
against the balustrade, turned upon his savior a dissipated boyish
countenance, down which tears dribbled miserably.

"Why the devil couldn't you leave me alone?" he asked, petulantly, in
English.  "What earthly concern is it of yours?  Aren't I my own
master?"

His voice rose to a wail.

"I've been trying to--to do it all day, but there have been too many
people about.  They stared at me.  They suspected and followed me.  I
could not dodge them.  Now I thought the opportunity had come.  I was
rid of them at last.  I never saw you, curse you, you're so short.
After all, one doesn't think of looking on the ground, except for
vermin.  And I'd just pulled myself together.  I mayn't have the nerve
to try again.  I've lost my chance," he wailed, childishly, his weak,
loose-lipped mouth twisted by the wretchedness of crying.  "I've lost
my chance through you, you beast.  And you've torn my coat, too.  It's
the only one I have left; and I did want to look decent, when they
found me, when I was dead."

He flung away passionately, pressing his face down on his folded arms
upon the parapet, while his angular shoulders heaved and his body
shuddered under the ragged blue-serge jacket.

"I shall not have the pluck again.  I know myself, and I sha'n't have
it.  By now I should have been out of the whole accursed tangle.  The
whole show would have been over--over--I should know nothing more.  I
should be quit of my misery.  I should be dead--ah! my God,
dead--dead--"

But René Dax continued to wipe his neat, little gray _suède_ gloves.
For his mood had changed.  The taunt regarding his smallness of stature
had turned him wicked, so that the exquisite minor poet, yearning for
the companionship of things pure, lovely, and of good report, fled
away.  The injured friend fled away likewise.  And the satirist, the
caricaturist, impure and unsimple, greedy of human ugliness and
degradation, malignant, mercilessly scoffing, reigned in their stead.
And here, in this loose-limbed, blue-eyed, tawny-headed foreign
youth--whose voice and speech, coarseness of expression
notwithstanding, witnessed to education and gentle blood--vainly
essaying to drown himself under the dying sunset skies of the city of
fire built on foundations of dreams, was a subject, surely made to the
satirist's hand, a subject of great price!  The despotism of his art
came upon René Dax, that necessity for vengeance upon humanity; and
this time, for him, the edge of vengeance was sharpened by personal
insult.  For this was no common vagabond wastrel, thrown up from the
foul underlying dregs of the population, but a person of condition,
once his social equal, whose insolence therefore touched his honor as
that of a man of the people could not.

"You are offensive, my young friend," he said, in careful, slightly
over-pronounced, but fluent English.  "You are also remarkably
unattractive and wanting in intelligence.  But I, being happily none of
these things--offensive, I would say, unattractive or wanting in
intelligence--can afford to be magnanimous.  Learn, then, that had I
not intervened--at much inconvenience to myself--to prevent your
projecting your unsavory carcass into the river, but permitted you to
carry out your thrice-idiotic purpose, it would not, as you say, have
been all over by now and you quit of your misery, not one bit of it!
Were you less crude in idea, less bestially ignorant, you would be
aware that the principle of life is indestructible.  Choking and
struggling in the black water there you would have suffered abominable
discomfort.  But, even when the process of asphyxiation was complete,
you yourself would have been still alive, still conscious, and would
have discovered, to your infinite chagrin, that you had merely
exchanged one state of being for an other and more odious one."

René rested his elbows upon the top of the balustrade, and, putting his
little, tired baby face close, spoke with incisive clearness of
enunciation into the young man's ear.

"Be under no delusion," he said.  "Once alive, always alive.  There is
no breaking out of that prison.  It is too cleverly constructed.  You
cannot get away.  Your sentence is for life; and there is no term to
living--none, absolutely none, forever and forever.  You might have
killed your present very unpleasing body, I grant, but this would not
have advanced matters.  For your essential self, the Me, the ego, would
have remained and would have been compelled by incalculable and
indomitable natural forces to surround itself with another body, in
which to endure the shame of birth, the agonizing sorrows of childhood,
and all that which, from childhood, has rendered existence intolerable
to you, over again.  Or you might, very probably, have come to rebirth
lower down in the scale of creation--as a beetle to be crushed under
foot, a dog to be pinned out on the vivisector's table, a lamb to be
flayed at the abattoir, a worm to writhe on the fisherman's hook, a
formless grub to bloat itself with carrion."

Here the wretched youth raised his head and stared at his
self-constituted mentor.  Tearful wretchedness had given place to an
expression of moral terror, almost trenching on insanity--terror of
immeasurable possibilities, of conceptions monstrous and unnatural.

"Who are you, what are you," he cried, "you mincing little devil?
Isn't it all horrible enough already without you trying to scare me?  I
hate you.  And you haven't been dead.  How can you know?"

"Ah! you begin to take notice, to listen.  And although you continue
offensive, that you should listen is satisfactory, as it assures me my
amiable attentions and instructive conversation are not altogether
wasted.  Learn then, my cherished pupil," René added, in a soft, easy,
small-talk tone, "that you are still in error, since I--I who so
patiently reason with you--have unquestionably been dead scores,
hundreds, probably thousands of times.  I have sampled many different
incarnations, just as you, doubtless, under less indigent
circumstances, have sampled dinners at many different restaurants; with
this distinction, however, that whereas, in Paris at all events, you
must have eaten a number of quite passable dinners, I have never yet
experienced an incarnation which was not in the main detestable, a
flagrant outrage on sensibility and good taste.  Hence, you see, I do
not speak at random, but from a wide basis of fact.  I know all about
it.  And, therefore, I just emphasize this point once more.  Engrave it
upon the tablets of your memory.  It is well worth remembering,
particularly in reckless and exaggerated moments.  Life is
indestructible.  To end it is merely to begin it under slightly altered
material conditions, with a prelude of acute mental and physical
discomfort thrown in; hideous disappointment, moreover, waiting to
transfix you when your higher faculties are--like mine--sufficiently
developed for you to have acquired the power of looking backward and
visualizing the premutations of your past."

The speaker turned sideways, leaning on one elbow.  He took his
handkerchief neatly from his breast-pocket again and held it to his
nose.

"Really, you do need washing rather badly, my young friend!" he said.
"But not down there, not in the but dubiously cleanly waters of our
beloved Seine.  A Turkish bath, and a vigorous shampoo afterward, and,
subsequently, a change of linen.--However, that, for the moment, must
wait.  To return to our little lesson in practical philosophy.--I have
rescued you from the disaster of premature reincarnation.  I have also
striven to improve your mind, to enlighten you, and that at
considerable discomfort to myself, for I find it very cold standing and
instructing you in the fundamental principles of being, here on this
remarkably draughty bridge.  I risk double pneumonia in your service.
Be grateful, then, and make suitable acknowledgment of the immense
charity I have shown you."

"You are a devil, and I hate you.  Why can't you go away?" the young
man answered in a terrified sulkiness.

"Truly you are mistaken," René returned, imperturbably.  "My charity is
too great to permit me to go away until you, my pupil, are provided
for.  You have so much which it would be to your advantage to learn!  I
am not a devil.  No--but I admit that I am, to-day, one of the
most-talked-about persons in Paris.  I must therefore entreat you to
adopt a more respectful tone and less accentuated manner.  We have
ceased to be alone.  Many people are crossing the bridge.  Among them
must be those to whom my appearance is familiar; and, if I am remarked
pleading thus with a debauched, would-be suicide, I shall certainly
read in the morning papers that M. René Dax has discovered a new method
of self-advertisement, a catchy puff for his picture-show.  This would
be disagreeable to me.  My work is big enough to stand on its own
merits.  Self-advertisement, in my case, is as superfluous as it is
vulgar.  Compose yourself.  Cease to be ridiculous.  And above all do
not call me rude names in the hearing of the public.  Ah!
excellent!--There is an empty cab."

He hailed a passing taxi, and, as the chauffeur drew up to the curb,
put his arm within that of his companion, persuasively, even
affectionately.

"Come, then, my child," he said.  "See, my charity is really
inexhaustible!  I will take you home with me, though I confess you are
a far from fragrant fellow-traveler, pending that so desirable Turkish
bath.  And, listen--I will take you home, I will also feed you.  And I
will draw little pictures of you, several little pictures, because I
find in you a singularly edifying example of a singularly degraded
type.  After I have drawn as many little pictures as pleases me, I will
have you washed, I will give you clothes, I will give you money, and
then I will send you away without asking any questions, without so much
as inquiring your name."

He moved toward the waiting car, the door of which the chauffeur held
open.  But the young man showed a disposition to struggle and hang back.

"Get in, dirty animal, or I call the police," René Dax ordered,
sharply, "and recount to them your recent exploit.  They will not give
you money or clothes, nor will they abstain from asking inconvenient
questions.  Ah! you decide to accompany me?  That is well."

And, with a roughly helping hand from the chauffeur, he projected the
limp, wretched figure into the cab.

"A good tip, my son, and drive smartly," he added, after giving an
address in the _Boulevard du Mont Parnasse_.



CHAPTER II

THE RETURN OF THE NATIVE

"Yes, I have returned.  I am here, veritably here, _chère Madame et
amie_.  At last I have effected my escape from the Land of Egypt and
the House of Bondage--and such a bondage!  Ah! it is an incredibly
happy thing to be back!"

Adrian permitted himself to hold his hostess's hand some seconds longer
than is demanded by strict etiquette.  His face was as glad as a spring
morning.  Tender gallantry lurked in his eyes.  His voice had a ring of
joy irrepressible.  His aspect was at once that of suppliant and of
conqueror.  And this whole brilliant effect was infectious, finding
readier and more sympathetic reflection in Madame St. Leger's
expression and humor than she at all intended or bargained for.  For
the moment, indeed, the charm and the rush of it came near sweeping her
off her feet.  She ceased to subscribe to theory, ceased to reason,
yielded to spontaneous feeling, practice claiming her--the secular and
delightful practice of he being man, she woman, and of both being
fearless, high-spirited, beautifully human, and beautifully young.

"In any case the House of Bondage has not disagreed with you," she
said, gaily.  "For I have never seen you looking more admirably well."

"Ah! you must not put that down to the credit of the House of Bondage,
but to the fact of my entrancing escape from it, to the fact that once
more I am here--here--with you."  As he spoke Adrian glanced round the
dear rose-red-and-canvas-colored room.  He wished to make sure that, in
every detail, he found it precisely as he had left it, every article of
furniture, every picture, every ornament in its accustomed position.
He felt jealous of the minutest change of object or of place.  "No,
nothing is altered, nothing," he said, answering his own thought aloud
in the greatness of his content.

Gabrielle abstained from comment.  She owned herself moved, excited,
uplifted, by the joyful atmosphere which his presence exhaled.  Indeed,
that presence affected her far more deeply than she had anticipated,
catching her imagination and emotions as in the dazzling meshes of a
golden net.  Some men are gross, some absurd, some unspeakably tedious
when in love.  Adrian was very certainly neither of these objectionable
things.  He struck, indeed, an almost perfect note.  And that was just
where the danger came in, just why she dared not let this interview
continue at the enthusiastic level.  She might suffer the charm of it
too comprehensively, and--for already she began to reason again--that
would entail regret, and, only too likely, worse than regret.

So, steeling herself against the insidious charm which so worked on and
quickened her, she moved away from the vacant place before the fire,
where she had been standing with Adrian Savage, sat down in her
high-backed, rose-cushioned chair and picked up the bundle of white
lawn and lace lying on the little table beside it.  She needed
protection--whether from him or from herself she did not quite care to
inquire--and reckoned it wiser to put a barrier of actual space and
barrier of sobering employment between herself and this inconveniently
moving returned guest and lover.  She refused to be taken by storm.

But Adrian's buoyancy of spirit was not so easily to be crushed.

"Ah! only that was needed," he declared, "to complete my
satisfaction--that you should place yourself thus and shake out your
pretty needlework.  It procures me the welcome belief that no time has
really been lost or wasted; it almost convinces me that I have not been
away at all.  You cannot conceive what pleasure, what happiness it
gives me, to be here, to see you again.  But now that I am able to
observe you calmly, _chère Madame_--"

"Yes, calmly, calmly," she put in, without raising her eyes from her
stitching.  "How I value, how I appreciate calm!"

"Do you not appear a little tired, a little pale?"

"Very possibly," she answered.  "I have been troubled about my mother
recently.  The extreme cold affected her circulation.  For some days we
were in grave anxiety.  Her vitality is low.  Indeed, I have passed
through some trying hours."

"And I was ignorant of her illness, ignorant of your anxiety!  Why did
you not write and tell me?"

"Does not the difficulty of answering letters one has never received
occur to you?" Gabrielle inquired, mildly.  "And it was not I, you
know, who volunteered to write."

The young man had drawn a chair up to the near side of the little
table.  Now he leaned forward, his elbows on his knees, both hands
extended, as one who offers a petition.

"Do not reproach me with my silence or I shall be broken-hearted," he
said.  "My inclination was to write reams to you, volumes.  I did, in
fact, begin many letters.  But I restrained myself.  I destroyed them.
To have sent them would have been selfish and indiscreet.  I was bound,
by my promise to you at parting, not to allude to the subject which
most vitally touches my happiness.  And I found over there so much
which was perplexing and sad.  I asked myself what right I had to
inflict upon you a recital of melancholy impressions and events.  I
came to the conclusion that I really had none."

Madame St. Leger looked at him sideways from between half-closed
eyelids.  The dimple showed in her cheek, but her smile was distinctly
ironic.

"Why not admit that I was right in foretelling that you would find
those shadowy ladies, and your mission to them, of absorbing interest?
It occupied your time and thoughts to the exclusion of all else--now,
was it not so?  Was I not right?"

"Yes and no, _chère Madame_," he answered, presently, slowly and with
so perceptible a change of tone that his hearer was startled to the
point of finding it difficult to go on with her needlework.

Adrian sat silently watching her.  The singular character of her
beauty, both in its subtlety and suggestion of a reserve of moral
force, had never been more evident to him.  More than ever, in each
gesture, in the long, suave lines of her body and limbs shrouded in
clinging black, in the gleam of her furrowed hair as she turned or bent
her charming head, in the abiding provocation and mystery of her eyes
and lips, did she appear to him unique and infinitely desirable.
Watching her, he inclined to become lyrical and cry aloud his worship
in heroic fashion, careless of twentieth-century decorum and restraint.
But if her room, the material frame and setting of that beauty, to his
immense content remained unchanged in every particular, her attitude of
mind, to his immense discontent, evidently remained unchanged likewise.
In the first surprise of his arrival she had yielded somewhat, catching
alight from his flame.  But with a determined hand she shut down those
sympathetic fires, becoming obdurate as before.  He could feel her will
sensibly stiffening against his own; and this at once hurt him shrewdly
and whipped up passion, preaching a reckless war of conquest, bidding
him disregard promises, bidding him speak and thunder down opposition
by sheer law of the strongest.  In every man worth the name temptation
must arise, at moments, to beat the defiant beloved object into an
obedient and docile jelly--the defiant beloved object, it may
confidently be added, would regard any man as unworthy of serious
consideration did it not.  But, in Adrian's case, sitting watching her
now, though such temptation did very really arise, its duration was
brief.  Less primitive counsels prevailed.  She was far from kind and
he was hotly in love; but he was also the child of his age, and a fine
gentleman at that, to whom, given time for reflection, berserker
methods must inevitably present themselves as both unworthy and
ludicrous.  So, if she condemned him to play a waiting game, he would
bow to her ruling and play it.  He had considerable capital of
self-confidence to draw upon.  In as far as the ultimate issues were
concerned he wasn't a bit afraid--as yet.  He could afford, so he
believed, to wait.  Only, since tormenting was about, all the fun of
that amiable pastime shouldn't be on her side.  And to this end now he
would make her speak first.

He remained silent, therefore, still observing her, until the color
deepened in the round of her cheeks, and the stitches were set less
regularly in the white work, while uneasiness gained on her causing her
presently to look up.

"Yes and no?" she said, "yes and no?  That is nothing of an answer.  I
am all attention.  I am curious to hear your explanation.  And
then--yes and no--what next?"

"This," he replied, "that on nearer acquaintance the two ladies proved
anything but shadowy.  They proved, in some respects, even a little
tremendous.  Far from being absorbed in them, I came alarmingly near
being absorbed by them--which is a very different matter."

"Ah, that is interesting.  You did not like them?"

"I really cannot say.  They both--but particularly the elder sister, my
cousin Joanna--were new to my experience.  I do not feel that I have
even yet placed them in my mind.  The members of all nations above a
certain social level can meet on common ground.  It is below that level
national tendencies and eccentricities actually declare themselves.  I
went over, strong in the conceit of ignorance.  I supposed I knew all
about it and should find myself quite at home.  I was colossally
mistaken.  The manners and mental attitude of the provincial
middle-class English were a revelation to me of the blighting effects
of a sea frontier and a Puritan descent.  The men have but three
subjects of conversation--politics, games, and their own importance.
The women"--Adrian paused, looking full at Madame St. Leger--"I am
very, very sorry for the women.  Ah! dear Madame," he added, "let us
return devout thanks that we were born on this side, the humane, the
amiable, the artistic side of the Channel, you and I.  For they are
really a very uncomfortable people those middle-class Anglo-Saxons.
Until I spent this age-long three weeks among them I had no conception
what a convinced Catholic--in sentiment, if not, to my shame,
altogether in practice--and thorough-paced Latin I was!"

During the above harangue Gabrielle's hands remained idle.  He was
really very good, meeting her thus half-way in the suppression of the
personal and amatory note.  She was obliged to him, of course; yet, in
honest truth, was she so very much pleased by his readiness to take the
hint?  She could not but ask herself that--and then hurry away, so to
speak, from the answer, her fingers in her pretty ears.  His cue was an
intelligent exchange of ideas then?  An excellent one!--She stopped her
ears more resolutely.--She, too, would be intelligent.

"Increased faith and increased patriotism as the result of your
journey!  How admirable!  Clearly it is highly beneficial to one's
morale to cross the Channel.  Were it rather later in the year, and
were the weather less inclement, I should be disposed to take the
little cure, without delay, myself."

"It would not suit you in the least," Adrian asserted.  "You would
dislike it all quite enormously."

Gabrielle St. Leger at the Tower House!  The idea produced in him a
violent unreasoning repulsion, as though she ran some actual physical
danger.  Heaven forbid!

"I should not go with any purpose of enjoyment, but rather as a
penance, hoping the dislike of what I found over there might heighten
my appreciation of all my blessings here at home."

Whereupon Adrian, careless of diplomacy, clutched at his chance.

"Then you are not so entirely satisfied, _chère Madame et amie_," he
cried, laughing a little in his eagerness, "not so utterly happy and
content!"

"Is one ever as devout, ever as patriotic, as one ought to be?" she
asked, gravely.

"Or as sincere?" he returned, with corresponding gravity.

The hot color deepened in the young woman's face, and she picked up her
needlework again quickly.

"I--insincere?" she asked.  "Is not that precisely why you find me
slightly vexatious, my dear Mr. Savage, that I am only too sincere, a
veritable model of sincerity?"

And she rose, gracious, smiling, to receive another guest.

"Ah! _ma toute belle_, how are you, and how is the poor, darling
mother?  Better?  Thank God for that!  But still in her room?  Dear!
dear!  Yet, after all, what can one expect?  In such weather
convalescence must necessarily be protracted.  I am forced to come and
ask for news in person since you refuse to have a telephone.  Just
consider the many annoying intrusions, such as the present, which that
useful instrument would spare you!"

Anastasia Beauchamp, overdressed and genial as ever, interspersed these
remarks with the unwinding of voluminous fox furs, all heads and tails
and feebly dangling paws, the kissing of her hostess on either cheek,
and finally a hand-shake to Adrian.

"So you are restored to us, my dear Savage," she continued.  "I am more
than delighted to see you, though at this moment I am well aware that
delight is not reciprocated.--There, there, it is superfluous to
perjure yourself by a denial.--And you are back just in time to write a
scathing criticism of your _protégé_ M. Dax's exhibition, in the
Review.  Here is matter for sincere congratulation, for, believe me,
very plain speaking is demanded.  The newspapers are afraid of him.
They cringe.  Their pusillanimity is disgusting.  Really this time he
has broken his own record!  It is just these things which create a
wrong impression and bring France into bad odor with other nations.  He
is a traitor to the best traditions of the art of this country.  I
deplore it from that point of view.  His exhibition is a scandal.  The
correctional police should step in."

"You have yourself visited the exhibition, dear Anastasia?" Madame St.
Leger inquired, demurely.

"Naturally, I have been to see it.  Don't I see everything which is
going?  Isn't that my acknowledged little hobby, my dear?  Then, too,
where does the benefit of increasing age come in unless you claim the
privileges of indiscretion conferred by it?  Still, even in senile
indiscretion, one should observe a decent limit.  I went alone,
absolutely alone, to inspect those abominable productions.  I wore a
thick veil, too, and--I blushed behind it.  Needless to relate, I now
and then quivered with laughter.  One is but human after all, and to be
human is also to be diverted by impropriety.  But I could have whipped
myself for laughing, even though quite alone and behind the veil.  Go
and judge for yourself whether I am not justified in my disgust, my
dear Savage.  And as for you, _ma toute belle_, do not, I implore you,
go at all--unless you have had the misfortune to do so already--even
though going would effectually cure you of any kindness you may
entertain toward the artist--an end, in my poor opinion, greatly to be
desired."

"I have not seen M. Dax's exhibition, nor have I seen M. Dax himself
for some length of time," Gabrielle remarked, quietly.

"You have dropped him?  I rejoice to hear it.  A man of so villainous
an imagination is unfit to approach you."

"I will not say that I have dropped him."  As she spoke she was aware
that Adrian looked keenly, inquiringly at her.  And this displeased
her, as an intrusion upon her liberty of action.  "M. Dax has a
charming devotion to my little Bette," she continued.  "No one whom I
know is so perfect a playfellow to children.  His sympathy with them is
extraordinary.  He understands their tastes and pleasures, and is
unwearied in his kindness to them.  Only, perhaps, his games are a
little overstimulating, overexciting.  After his last visit my poor
Bette suffered from agitating dreams and awoke in the night frightened
and crying.  I had difficulty in soothing her."

"Praiseworthy babe, how profoundly right are her instincts!" Miss
Beauchamp declared, fervently.  "But, Heaven help us, what's this!" she
added, under her breath.  "Perfidious infant, how these praiseworthy
babies can fool one!"

She nodded and beckoned to Adrian, still speaking under her breath.

"As you value my friendship, don't go, on no account go, my dear
Savage.  Come and sit here by me and tell me about your time in
England.  Like the chivalrous young man you are, stick to me.  Supply
me with a valid excuse for remaining.  For, manners or no manners, I am
resolved not to leave her alone with that depraved little horror.  I am
resolved to outstay him."



CHAPTER III

A STRAINING OF FRIENDSHIP

Bette, light-footed, sprightly, in beaver cap, pelisse, and muff, brown
cloth gaiters and boots to match, her face pink from air and exercise,
her eyes wide and bright with consciousness of temerity, spricketed
toward her mother, leading René Dax by the hand.

"I found him outside in the courtyard as I returned from my walk with
my little friends," she piped, the words tumbling over one another in
her pretty haste.  "He told me that he wished so much to see us, but
that he never found us at home now.  And he looked unhappy.  You have
always instructed me that it is our duty to console the unhappy.  So I
informed him that I knew you were at home to-day, because you would not
leave my grandmother, and I assured him that, speaking in your name, it
would give us much pleasure to receive him.  And then I invited him to
come up-stairs with me.  And that was all quite proper, wasn't it,
mamma, because we do not like him to be unhappy, and it does give us
pleasure to receive M. Dax, does it not?"

"Assuredly it gives us pleasure to receive M. Dax," Gabrielle said, her
head carried high and a just perceptible ring of defiance in her voice.

She smiled graciously upon the young man, and for an instant the three
stood hand in hand--René Dax, the Tadpole, offering the very strangest
of connecting links between the beautiful mother and delicious little
girl.

Miss Beauchamp uttered a sharp exclamation, which she vainly attempted
to mask by a cough.  Adrian Savage looked, saw, and turned his back.
He stared blindly out of window at Paris beneath, sparkling in the
keen-edged February sunshine.  The sweat broke out on his forehead.  He
had received an agonizing, a hateful impression, amounting, sound and
self-confident though he was, to acute physical pain.  "No, not that,
not that," he cried to himself.  "Of all conceivable combinations, not
that one.  It is hideous, unbearable, out of nature!"

Miss Beauchamp touched him on the arm.  Her face spoke volumes.

"Talk to me, my dear Savage," she said, urgently.  "I can imagine what
you feel.  But talk.  Create some, any excuse for staying, and take
_It_, that depraved little horror, away with you when you go.  Rally
your resources, my dear friend.  Play up, I entreat you, play up."

Then louder.

"You had a deplorable crossing--fog, coming into Calais?  Yes, February
is among the most odious months of the year.  But I go over so seldom
now, you know, since my poor brother's death.  Nearly all my friends
are on this side; and, after all, one only has to wait.  Everybody who
is anybody must pass through Paris sooner or later.--Talk, my dear
Savage, talk.  Support me.--Ah yes, in London you observed many
changes?  I hear a mania has taken the authorities lately for
improvements.  You did not stay in town?  Ah no, of course not.
Stourmouth?--Yes, I remember the place vaguely.  Interminable black
fir-trees and interminable, perambulating pink-and-white
consumptives--I like neither.  Yes, talk--talk--my own remarks are
abysmal in their fatuity.  But no matter.  It's all in a good cause.
Let us keep on."

René, meanwhile, successfully affected ignorance of any human presences
save those of his hostess and his little guide.

"Why have you refused me?  Why have you never let me see you?" he
asked, gazing mournfully at Madame St. Leger.

"I have not been receiving," she replied.  "My mother has been ailing,
and my time has been devoted to her."

"But to see me, even to be aware that I was near her, would have done
her good," he returned.  "She has a great regard for me; and, in the
case of a sensitive organization, the proximity of a person to whom one
is attached acts as a restorative.  It was on that account I have
needed to come here.  I, too, have been ailing.  My exhibition is a
howling success.  Being a person of refinement, this naturally has
disagreed with me, inducing repeated fits of the spleen, flooring me
with a dumb rage of melancholy.  As a corrective I required the
soothing society of Madame, your mother, and of Mademoiselle Bette.  I
required also to be with you, Madame, to look at you.  This I believed
would prove beneficial to my nerves, lacerated by frenzied public
admiration.  By excluding me, you have not only wounded my
susceptibilities, but prolonged my ill health.  As I have already
proved to you, Madame Vernois's regrettable illness is no sufficient
reason for that exclusion.  There must have been some further reason."

"There was a further reason," Gabrielle replied, quietly.

René gazed up at her, a point of flame in his somber eyes.  All of a
sudden, with an amazingly quick, very vulgar, street-boy gesture and a
wicked grimace, tipping his thumb over his shoulder, he indicated the
other two guests holding uneasy converse at the other side of the room.
The thing was done in a twinkling, and he regained his accustomed
plaintive solemnity of aspect.

"What further reason, that he, the janitor, otherwise Adrian the
Magnificent, was away?"

"You are impertinent," Madame St. Leger said, sternly.  At first her
anger concentrated itself upon René Dax.  Then, quite arbitrarily and
unjustly, it took a wider sweep.  She called Bette to her; and,
kneeling down, the train of her dress trailing out across the rosy
carpet, her head bowed, began undoing the frogs of the child's fur
pelisse.

"Pray understand," she said, still sternly, "Mr. Savage's presence or
absence is a matter which in no degree affects my actions."

While in the pause which followed Adrian's voice, harsh from his effort
to make it sound quite disengaged and natural, asserted itself forcibly.

"Yes," he was saying, "Colonel Rentoul Haig.--You cannot surely have
been so heartless as to have forgotten his existence, dear Miss
Beauchamp, when he retains such enthusiastic memories of you and of the
brilliancy of your conversation?"

"Rentoul Haig?  Rentoul Haig?  Ah! to be sure!  I have it at last.
Yes, certainly, in the early eighties, at my cousin Delamere
Beauchamp's place in Midlandshire.  Of course, of course--a neat,
little, tea-party subaltern, out in camp with some militia regiment, in
general request for answering questions and running messages, and so
on; qualifying, even then, as a walking hand-book of the English landed
and titled gentry."

"He has continued in that line until his genealogical learning has
reached truly monumental proportions," Adrian returned, in the same
harsh voice.  "It possesses and obsesses him, keeping him in a
perpetual ferment of apprehension lest he should be called upon to
associate with persons of no family in particular.  In this connection
my arrival, I fear, caused him cruel searchings of heart.  His mother
and my father were hundredth cousins.  Hence, alarms.  Should I prove
presentable to the funny old gentlemen at the local club, or should I
compromise him?  He has hardly marched with the times, and pictured
me--this I learned from his own ingenuous lips--as some long-haired,
threadbare, starveling Bohemian, straight out of the pages of Henri
Mürger or Eugène Sue.  My personal appearance did, I rejoice to say,
reassure him to a certain extent.  But your name, and recollections
both of your cousin's fine place and of your own conversational powers,
did much more toward allaying the torment of his social sense.  He
ended, indeed, by conveying to me that, my beloved mother's alien
nationality and my beloved father's profession notwithstanding, I was
really quite a credit to the united houses of Savage and Haig."

"Are you going again to exclude me, are you going to shut the door on
me, because I have been that which you qualify by the word
'impertinent'?" René Dax asked, softly and sadly, as Madame St.
Leger--the little girl's coat removed and her frilled white skirts
straightened out--rose proudly to her feet.

"You richly deserve that I should do so," she replied.

"Ah! _pardon_--but just consider.  For to be cross with me, to
repudiate me, is so conspicuously useless.  It only serves to
accentuate my faults--always supposing I really have any.  I am
controlled, I am led, by kindness, and I possess most engaging
qualities.  In the interests of all concerned you should encourage the
display of those qualities."

"Pray do not be severe with M. Dax any more," little Bette put in,
prettily and busily.  "You have, perhaps, dear mamma, been so on my
account, therefore it is for me to plead with you."

Madame St. Leger's expression softened.  The Tadpole, his big
overdeveloped brain and puny body, touched the springs of maternal
compassion in her, somehow.  She glanced at him.  Surely she had
exaggerated the disturbing influences which could be exercised by so
quaint and relatively insignificant a creature?  Then, stooping down,
she took little Bette up in her arms, smiling, her figure finely
poised, both in lifting and bearing the weight of that graceful burden.
In an ecstasy of affection the child snuggled against her, cheek to
cheek.

"I am no longer afraid of his little walking-cane," Bette murmured, in
a confidential whisper.  "That was a silly dream.  I assure you I shall
not allow it to trouble me, should it repeat itself.  So I entreat you,
mamma, tell M. Dax he may come here again and play with me and my
little friends as he used to do."

Gabrielle's smile sweetened to a tender merriment.  With her child
pressed close against her, thus, she felt so satisfied, so secure in
the strong, pure joys of her motherhood, that she gave caution the
slip.  So safeguarded, what, she asked herself, could disquiet her soul
or harm her?  René Dax was right, moreover, in saying he possessed
engaging qualities--though it mightn't be the best taste in the world
that he, himself, should announce the fact.  What a good work, then, to
nurture those qualities, and, by keeping them in play, strengthen and
redeem all that was best in the young man's complex and wayward nature!
A quite missionary spirit, toward the singular Tadpole, arose in her.
And something further--though this she did not willingly
acknowledge--namely, a hot desire to assert the completeness of her
personal liberty before witnesses just now present.  She would conserve
her freedom, and demonstrate unequivocally to present company that she
intended so doing.

"Good, most precious one," she said, returning the child's fluttering
kisses.  Then: "Since my little daughter wishes it, the door shall
remain open, M. Dax."

But here Adrian Savage, partially overhearing the conversation,
partially divining that purpose of demonstration, smitten, moreover, by
Madame St. Leger's resolved and exalted aspect, was overcome by alarm
and distress altogether too acute for further concealment.  Miss
Beauchamp might wave her long, thin arms, and pour forth cascades of
transparently artificial conversation in the effort to delay his
departure, but he could bear the position no longer.  She, after all,
was actuated by motives of social expediency and of friendship only,
was merely an onlooker at this drama, while he was a principal actor in
it, all his dearest hopes, all his future happiness at stake.  He had
reached the limits of moral and emotional endurance.  His handsome face
was drawn and blanched to an unnatural pallor as against his black,
pointed beard, black eyebrows, and dark, close-cropped hair.  A few
moments more and he felt he might be guilty of some irretrievable
breach of good manners, might make a scene, commit some unpardonable
folly of speech and action, or that just simply he might collapse,
might faint.  So, then and there, he bounded tiger-like, so to speak,
into the open space before the fire where his hostess still stood,
addressing her rapidly, imperatively, wholly ignoring her companion,
René Dax.

"Pardon me, Madame, that I interrupt you, but I have already, as I
fear, greatly outstayed your patience and will delay no further to bid
you good-by.  My excuse, both for coming to-day and for remaining so
long, must be that I am here, in Paris, probably for but a few days on
the business of the Review.  I may be recalled to England at any
moment, and it is conceivable in the press of work which demands my
attention that I may not have another opportunity of presenting myself
to you before I go."

"Behold Vesuvius in full eruption," René murmured, gazing pensively at
his hostess.

The latter had stood little Bette down on the seat of the
rose-cushioned chair.  She still held the child close, one arm round
her waist.  The unaccustomed tones of Adrian's voice, his vehemence,
and air of unmistakable suffering, agitated her.  Was it the price of
her independence to hurt a faithful friend so sorely as all this?

"I was unaware you were likely to leave Paris again so soon," she said.
"I supposed you had returned for good; and there is so much that I
wished to hear, so much that I had promised myself the entertainment of
having you recount to me."

"Unfortunately the claims of my venerable cousin's affairs are
inexorable," Adrian replied, with a not very successful attempt at
lightness, looking her in the eyes while his lips perceptibly shook.
"In death, as in life, he has proved himself an unscrupulously
devouring old tyrant.  Indeed, I am quite unable to forecast, as yet,
when I shall escape out of the house of bondage for good."

"Mamma, dearest," little Bette whispered, politely, "I like it of
course, but you will excuse me if I mention that you are squeezing me
so very tight?"

And thereupon, somehow, Gabrielle's gentler mood evaporated.  She
ceased to be touched by the young man's troubled aspect, or to regret
her share in the production of that trouble.  She felt angry, though
not very certainly with innocent Bette.  Mockery supplanted concern in
the expression of her beautiful face as she gave her hand to her
unhappy lover.

"In time the arrangement of even the richest succession must be
terminated.  When that termination is reached we shall hope to welcome
you back, Mr. Savage--unless, of course, you have any thought of
forming ties which will necessitate your settling permanently in
England?"

And, before Adrian had either time or heart to parry this cruel thrust,
René intervened, patting him delicately on the back.

"So you are going, _mon vieux_?  See, I will accompany you.  No,
no--indeed, I gladly go with you, leaving Mademoiselle Beauchamp--who
detests me--as she so earnestly desires, in possession of the field of
battle.  Why should I not go, my dear fellow?  You do not hurry my
departure in the least.  I have accomplished the object of my visit.  I
am restored, soothed comforted.  I have got all--all that, for the
moment, I want."

As the door closed behind the two young men Anastasia advanced.  She
re-adjusted her frisky hat, pulled her long gloves up at the elbow,
cast the heads and tails and feebly dangling paws of her fox furs about
her neck and shoulders.

"_Ma toute belle_, at the risk of your being angry and requesting me to
mind my own business, I am constrained to tell you that I fear you are
committing a very grave folly," she said.

But Madame St. Leger was engaged in caressing little Bette.

CHAPTER IV

  IN WHICH ADRIAN SETS FORTH IN PURSUIT OF THE
  FURTHER REASON

Coming from under the _porte-cochère_ into the street, Adrian, pleading
a business appointment as excuse, shook off his companion somewhat
unceremoniously, and hailing the first empty motor-cab, sped away to
the office, his Review, in the _rue Druoi_.  The rush across the center
of Paris, through the thick of the afternoon traffic, with its lively
chances of smashing or being smashed, served to steady him.  Yet he was
still under the empire of considerable emotion when he entered his
private room at the office, and Emile Konski, his secretary, a
roundabout, pink-cheeked, gray-headed, alert little man of fifty, arose
bowing and beaming to relieve him of hat, coat, and umbrella.

"Thanks, thanks, my good Konski," he said.  "And now just arrange the
copy I have to revise, will you kindly, and take your own work into the
outer office.  I am rather hurried.  I will call through to you should
I want you."

"Perfectly, sir," the good Konski returned, obediently; but he beamed
no more.  His employer was also the god of his ingenuous idolatry, and
to leave the private room for the outer office was to leave the
Sanctuary for the Court of the Gentiles.  Opportunities of devotion had
been limited lately, hence banishment became the more grievous.

Once alone, Adrian sat down before his writing-table.  The fortnightly
_chronique_ of home and foreign politics awaited his revision, so did
literary and art notices.  Among the latter a _critique_ of René Dax's
picture-show remained to be written, Adrian having expressed an
intention of dealing with it himself.  He meant to have passed an hour
in the galleries after calling upon Madame St. Leger this afternoon,
but had relinquished his purpose.  For he desired rightly to divide the
word of truth regarding René's eccentric performances; and just now,
for reasons quite independent of their inherent merits or demerits, he
feared they might stink in his nostrils to a degree subversive of any
just exercise of the critical faculty.

He made an honest effort to settle to work and absorb himself in the
affairs of Morocco, the last new books, the last debates in the
Chamber.  But the neatly typed words and sentences proved singularly
lacking in interest or meaning.  He read them over and over again, only
to find them crumble into purposeless units, like so much dry sand,
incapable of cohesion.  For what mattered--so, in a crisis, is even the
cleverest of us dominated by personal feeling--what mattered the future
of Morocco, for instance, though involving possibilities of war to all
Europe, as against the future of himself, Adrian Savage?

And that future did, unquestionably, present itself just now as
lamentably parlous.  That he might fail, that Madame St. Leger might
eventually and finally refuse to marry him, had never really seriously
entered his head before.  That he might have to diplomatize, to lay
long and patient siege to the enchanting and enchanted beleaguered city
before it fell he had long ago accepted; but that, in the end, it would
most assuredly fall and he rapturously claim it by right of conquest,
in his triumphant masculine optimism he had never, till this afternoon,
doubted.  Now the doubt did very really present itself and proved a
staggering one.  Nor was this all.  For, save during those first few
delicious moments of greeting he had been sensible of a sinister
element battling against him, painfully affecting him, yet which he
failed to define or to grasp.

Adrian stared at the copy outspread on his blotting-pad, and its blank,
unmeaning sentences.  Never before had he realized what a terrible,
imprisoning, stultifying thing it may be to love!  Morocco?  Morocco?
What, in the name of all which makes a man's life worth living, did he
care about the fate of that forbidding North African coast?  Let it
stew in its own barbarous juice!  All the same, his inability to
concentrate his attention upon the subject of that disagreeable country
served to increase his perturbation and distress.  Thanks to admirable
physical health, he was accustomed to have his faculties thoroughly and
immediately at command, and this refusal of his brain to work to order
fairly infuriated him.

There was the _critique_ of René Dax's picture-show to be written, too!

Adrian rose from the table and walked restlessly, almost distractedly,
about the room.  For where exactly, in respect of the resistance of
that beloved beleaguered city, did René come in?  Oh! that Tadpole of
perverted genius, that perniciously clever Tadpole, who from childhood
he had protected and befriended, whose fortunes he had so assiduously
pushed!  And again now, as when staring forth blindly from the high-set
windows of _la belle_ Gabrielle's thrice-sacred drawing-room at Paris,
glittering in the sharp-edged sunshine, Adrian's whole being cried
aloud against the blasphemy of a certain conceivable, yet
inconceivable, combination in a passionate, agonized "God forbid!"

But verbal protest against that combination, however loud-voiced and
vehement, ranging ineffectually within the narrow confines of his
office, was a transparently inadequate mode of self-expression.  His
native impetuosity rendered uncertainty and suspense intolerable to
him.  He must act, must make a reconnaissance, must discover some means
of ascertaining whether anything had occurred during his absence which
served to explain the apparently existing situation.  But, here, the
intrinsic delicacy of the said situation asserted itself; since
precisely those questions to which an answer is most urgently needed
are the questions which a person of fine feeling cannot ask.  Good
breeding, sensibility, a chivalrous regard for the feelings of others
are, as he reflected, at times a quite abominable handicap.

He sat down once again at the writing-table.  What should he do?  At
his elbow stood the ebonized upright of the telephone, the long, green,
silk-covered wire of it trailing away across the parquet floor to the
plug in the wainscot.  From a man he could not ask advice or
information.  But from a woman--surely it was different, permissible?
Adrian left off pulling the ends of his upturned mustache and
meditated.  Distraction slightly lifted and lessened.  He looked up an
address in the directory; and, after an at first polite then slightly
acrimonious parley with the operator at the exchange, got into
communication with the person wanted.  Would she be at home to-night
after dinner, say about eight forty-five?  Might he call?  And, with
multiplied apologies, might he depend upon finding her alone?  To these
questions the replies proved satisfactory, so that, in a degree
solaced, his thirst for immediate action in a measure appeased and his
scattered wits consequently once more fairly at command, Adrian
resolutely turned his attention to the affairs of neglected Morocco.

As to René Dax's exhibition?  Well, till to-morrow, at all events, it
must wait.

Ever since he could remember, Miss Beauchamp had occupied the same
handsome, second-floor flat in a quiet street just off the _Parc
Monceau_.  Adrian recalled a visit, in company with his mother, made to
her there at a period when he still wore white frilled drawers and
long-waisted holland tunics.  Later, during his early school-days, he
vaguely recollected a period during which his grandmother rarely
mentioned Anastasia, and then with a suggestive pursing up of the lips
and lift of the eyebrows.  Afterward he came to know how, for some
years, Miss Beauchamp's name had been rather conspicuously associated
with that of a certain famous Hungarian composer resident in Paris.
But the said composer had long since gone the way of all flesh, and the
question as to whether his and Anastasia's friendship was, or was not,
strictly platonic in character had long since ceased to interest
society.  Other stars rose and set in the musical firmament.  Other
scandals, real or imaginary, offered food for discussion to those
greedy of such fly-blown provender.  Miss Beauchamp, meanwhile, had
become an institution; was received--as the phrase goes--everywhere.
Report declared her rich.  Her generosity to young musicians, artists,
and _literati_ was, unquestionably, large to the verge of prodigality.

The aspect of her domicile, when he entered it this evening, struck
Adrian as much the same now as on that long-ago visit with his mother.
The suite of living-rooms was lofty, having coved and painted ceilings,
captivating to his childish fancy.  The rooms opened one from another
in a sequence of three.  The two first, both somewhat encumbered with
furniture, pictures, and bric-à-brac--of very varying value and
merit--were dimly lighted and vacant, places of silence and shadows,
the atmosphere of them impregnated with a scent of cedar and sandal
wood.  From the third, the doorway of which was masked by thick
curtains of Oriental embroidery, came the sound of a grand piano,
played, and in masterly fashion, by a man's hands.

Adrian stopped abruptly, turning to the elderly maid.

"Miss Beauchamp informed me she would be alone," he said.

"Mademoiselle is alone," the maid answered.  "She gave instructions no
one was to be admitted save monsieur."

"Thanks--I will not detain you.  I will announce myself," Adrian said.

He crossed the second and larger room, threading his way in and out of
a perfect archipelago of furniture; and held one curtain partially
aside, while the purpose of his visit and the smart of his own
distractions alike were merged in a sensation of curiosity and surprise.

Miss Beauchamp sat at a grand piano, placed in the middle of the bare
polished floor at right angles to the doorway.  Adrian saw her face and
high-shouldered, high-waisted figure in profile.  She wore a
cinnamon-colored tea-gown, opening over an under-dress of copper
sequin-sewn net.  A veritable pagoda of fiery curls crowned her head.
Yet, though thin and bony, hers were the man's hands which compelled
such rich, forcible music from the piano, making it speak, declaim,
sing, plead, touch tragedy, triumphantly affirm, in this so very
convincing a manner.  The method and mind of the player, in their
largeness of conception and fearless security of execution, held the
young man captive, raising his whole attitude and outlook to a nobler
plane.  The music, indeed, carried his imagination up to regions
heroic.  He was in no haste to have it cease.  He waited, therefore.

When the final chords were struck Anastasia Beauchamp, raising her
hands from the keyboard, rested the tips of her fingers upon the edge
of the empty music-desk, and sat motionless, absorbed in thought.
Then, as the seconds passed, Adrian's position became, in his opinion,
equivocal, courtesy demanding that he should either make his presence
known or withdraw.  He chose the former alternative and, taking a step
forward, let the curtain fall into place behind him.  Imperiously, with
a lift of the chin, Miss Beauchamp turned her head and looked full at
him; and, for a moment, the young man was fairly taken aback.  For,
setting of flaming pagoda and frisky tea-gown notwithstanding, he
beheld a countenance no longer bizarre, that of an accredited jester,
but sibylline, that of a woman who, in respect of certain departments
of human knowledge, has touched ultimate wisdom, so that, in respect of
those departments, life has no further secrets to reveal.  Here was
something outpacing the province of Adrian's self-confident, young
masculine attainment; and it was to his credit that he instantly
recognized this, accepting it with quick-witted and intuitive sympathy.

"Forgive me if I have presumed upon your indulgence, dear lady," he
said, advancing with a disarming air of admiration and modesty, "by
remaining here unannounced.  I could not permit any interruption of
your wonderful playing.  It would have amounted to profanity.  Your art
is sublime, is so altogether impressively great.  But oh! why," he
added, as the sibylline countenance softened somewhat, "have you
elected to let me, to let your many friends, remain in ignorance?  Why
have you deprived us all of the joy of your superb musical gift?"

"Because that gift served its turn very fully many years ago, when you,
my dear Savage, were little more than a baby," she answered.  "Since
then I have felt at liberty to regard my playing as a trifle of private
property which I might keep to and for myself."

As she spoke Miss Beauchamp rose from her seat at the piano, and began
replacing a multiplicity of bracelets and rings, laid aside during the
performance.

"As we grow older we, most of us, are disposed to practise such
reservations, I suppose, whether openly acknowledged or not," she
continued.  "They may take their rise in inclinations of a sentimental,
avaricious, or penitential nature; but, however divergent their cause,
their object is identical--namely, to keep intact one's individuality,
menaced by the disintegrating wear and tear of outward things.  The
tendency of the modern world is to render one invertebrate, to pound
one's character and opinions into a pulp.  In self-defense one is
forced to reserve and to cultivate some hidden garden, wherein one's
poor, battered individual me may walk in assuaging solitude and
recollection.  Especially"--she looked bravely at Adrian through the
shaded light, while her long-armed, ungainly, rusty-gold figure, and
strangely wise face surmounted by that flaming top-knot, appeared to
him more than ever impressive--"especially, perhaps, is this the case
if that garden once represented--as my music possibly once did--a
Garden of Paradise in which one did not walk altogether solitary.  But,
come.  You want to speak to me.  Let us go into the drawing-room and
have our talk there."

"Let us talk, by all means," Adrian put in, quickly, "but let it be
here, please.  This room is sympathetic--full of splendid echoes good
for the soul."

Anastasia's expression softened yet more.

"That is charmingly said.  We will stay here, since you wish it.  The
sofa?  Yes, this is my corner--thanks.  And now, to be quite frank with
you, understand that I had lost count of time and you were inordinately
punctual, or you wouldn't have caught me making music.  And understand,
further, that had I not been unusually moved, by something which
occurred this afternoon, I should not have made music at all.  I rarely
walk in the hidden garden now.  As one grows older one has to economize
one's emotions.  They are too tiring, liable to endanger one's sleep
afterward.  But this evening circumstances, associations, were too
strong for me.  The garden called to me and--I walked."



CHAPTER V

WITH DEBORAH, UNDER AN OAK IN THE PARC MONCEAU

Miss Beauchamp leaned back against the piled-up sofa cushions shading
her eyes with her left hand; and that hand must have been a little
unsteady, since Adrian heard the bracelets upon her wrist rattle and
clink.

"Shall I tell you what the something was which so moved me?" she asked.
"Unless I am greatly mistaken it is the main cause of our present
interview, so that to speak of it may help to make that interview
easier for us both."

"Pray tell me."  Adrian felt curious as to what should follow; but his
curiosity was tempered by deepening respect.

"It comes to this, then, my dear young man, I think," she said.  "For
those who have once been acquainted with true love--I am not speaking
of mere sexual passion, still less of silly flirtations or wanton
amorettes--those who have once known that uniquely beautiful and
illuminating condition can neither forget nor mistake it.  They carry
an infallible touchstone in their own eyes, and ears, and hearts.  It
is my privilege to carry such a touchstone; and this afternoon--there,
there, don't wince; quite, quite reverently and gently I put my finger
on the fact--I beheld true love again; but true love tormented and far
from happy.  Wasn't it so?"

"Yes," Adrian replied, with a touch of bitterness, "it was."

"And that brought certain events and experiences--your dear mother's
sympathy and friendship among them--so vividly before me that I could
only come home here, to this practically deserted room, and make music,
as long ago, when another man, another true lover, sat where you now
sit.  Do you follow me?"

Adrian's heart was somewhat full.  He bowed his head in silent assent.

"The ice is satisfactorily broken then?  I am an old woman now.  Many
people, I don't doubt, describe me as a flighty, prankish old spinster,
who apes departed youth in a highly ridiculous manner."

She no longer shaded her eyes with her hand, but looked full at Adrian,
through the quiet light, smiling--half sibyl, half jester, but, as he
felt, wholly wise, wholly kind.

"Such criticisms matter to me rather less than nothing," she continued,
"since the hidden garden knows the why and wherefore of all that, and
more besides.  And now, my dear boy, I have said enough, I think, to
show you that you can unburden yourself without reserve or hesitation.
You will not speak to me of an undiscovered country."

But just then Adrian felt it difficult to speak.  Coming to this woman,
he had found so much more than he had asked for or expected--namely, a
finding of high romance, of almost reckless generosity, which made him
feel humble, feel indeed quite quaintly ignorant and inexperienced.  It
followed that, when he did speak, he did so in child-like fashion,
protesting his innocence as though needing to disarm censure.

"Believe me, I have not acted unworthily," he said.  "From the first I
was charmed, I was enthralled, but I made every effort to restrain
myself.  Even in thought I was loyal to poor St. Leger.  I did my best
to conceal my admiration--I kept away, as much as I could without
discourtesy.  You see, her very perfection is, in a sense, her
safeguard, for how inconceivably vile to endanger the peace of mind of
so adorable a creature by any hint, any suggestion!  It is only since
St. Leger's death that I--"

"Yes, yes, I take all that for granted," Anastasia broke in.  "Doesn't
it stand to reason, since we are talking of true love?"

And Adrian could not forbear to smile, notwithstanding his humbled
condition; the touch was so deliciously feminine in its assumption and
non-logic.  Unless, by chance, she was laughing at him out of her
larger wisdom?  Possibly she was.  Well, she could do nothing but
right, anyhow--so he didn't care!  Whereupon he proceeded to pour forth
the history of his affection in all its phases, from its first
inception to the existing moment, with dramatic fervor, spreading
abroad his hands descriptively, while the sentences galloped with
increasing velocity and the mellow, baritone voice rose and fell.

"Ah! and can you not conceive it?  After that dismal time in England,
burying the dead, contending with all manner of tiresomenesses, with
narrow-minded, over-strenuous, over-educated women and men--ye gods,
such men!--to come back, to see her, was like coming from some
underground cavern into the sunshine.  She received me exquisitely.  I
tasted ecstasy.  I was transported by hope.  Then, abruptly, her manner
changed; and that change did not appear to me spontaneous, but
calculated--as though, in obedience to some alien influence, she
unwillingly put a constraint upon herself.  Since then I have
reconstituted the scene repeatedly--"

"My poor dear boy!" Anastasia murmured.

"Yes, repeatedly, repeatedly.  I try to convince myself that her change
of manner was unwilling, not the result of caprice."

"Madame St. Leger is not capricious."

"I am sure of it.  Her nature, at bottom, is serious.  She reasons and
obeys reason.  But in this case what reason?  Not dislike of me?  No,
no, my mind refuses such an explanation of her conduct.  It would be
too horrible, too desolating."

"Isn't there another rather obvious explanation of Madame St. Leger's
attitude--the fear of liking you a little too much?"

"But why should she fear to like me?" poor Adrian cried.  "I am no
devouring monster!  I have some talent, sufficient means, and no
concealed vices."

And there the thought of René Dax invaded him, scorching him with
positively rampant jealousy and repulsion.  For could this, which he
had just asserted regarding himself, be asserted with equal truth
regarding the Tadpole of genius?  He knew very well it could not.
Still, even so, he shrank from the _rôle_ of treacherous friend or
detractor.

"She can be gracious enough to others," he contented himself by saying,
gazing at his hostess meanwhile, his expression altogether orphaned and
pathetic.

"Dangerously gracious.  And that is why I did all in my power to delay
your departure this afternoon, although I knew perfectly well you were
on the rack."

"But, dear God in heaven!" he broke out, incoherently, burying his face
in both hands, "you cannot imply, you cannot intend to convey to me
your belief--"

"That Gabrielle St. Leger contemplates marrying that libelous little
horror, M. Dax?  Never in life!"

Adrian got up and walked unsteadily--for indeed the floor seemed to
shift and lurch beneath his feet--across the room.  Without the
faintest conception of what he was looking at, he minutely examined a
landscape hanging upon the opposite wall.  He also blew his nose and
wiped his eyes.  While Anastasia Beauchamp, her jaw set, leaning back
against the sofa cushions, very actually and poignantly walked in that
hidden garden of hers--once a Garden of Eden, and not an Adamless
one--wrapped about by remembrance.

After a time the young man came back and sat down beside her.  His face
was white and his eyes were luminous.

"Most dear and kind friend, forgive me," he said, very gently.  "I have
climbed giddy pinnacles of rapture, and tumbled off them--plop--into
blackest morasses of despair to-day, and my nerves have suffered."

"Ah! it has got you!" she returned.  "I'm not a bit sorry for you.  On
the contrary, I congratulate you.  For you are very handsomely and
hopelessly in love."

Adrian nodded assent, pushing up the ends of his mustache with a twist
of his fingers and smiling.

"Yes, yes, indeed I know," he said.  "It is a thing for which to be
immeasurably thankful.  Yet, all the same, it has its little hours of
inconvenience, as I have to-day discovered.  It can hold the field to
the exclusion of all else; and that with a quite demoralizing
intensity, making one feel murderous toward one's oldest friends and,
in respect of one's work, no better than a driveling idiot."

"Such are inevitable symptoms of the blessed state.  I still
congratulate you."

"But you admit, at least, that they are practically extremely impeding?
And so, dear Mademoiselle, you whom my mother loved and who loved my
mother, you who have done so much to help and comfort me in the last
half-hour--will you do something more?"

"I suppose I shall," Anastasia answered, with a laugh which was against
herself rather than against him.  "I seem to be pretty thoroughly
committed to this business for--well, for two people's sakes, perhaps."

"Yes, for her sake also--for hers as well as mine," Adrian cried,
impetuously.  "Those few words are beautifully full of encouragement.
For see here," he went on, "in some ways I am just simply an obstinate,
pig-headed Englishman.  You permit me to speak quite freely?  Loosing
her, I cannot console myself elsewhere.  It is not merely a wife that I
want; having reached the age when a man should range himself a
well-bred, healthy, and generally unexceptionable mother for his
children!  Don't imagine that I would not like to make my subscription
to humanity in the form of charming babies.  Of course I should.  Still
those small people, however beguiling, are not to the point in this
connection.  I am not in pursuit of a suitable marriage, but of--"

"_La belle Gabrielle_--only and solely _la belle Gabrielle_--that must
be conspicuously evident to the meanest intelligence," Anastasia put
in, merrily.  "But there, unfortunately, we run up against the crux of
the whole situation.  For, it is only fair to tell you, our exquisite
young woman is even less in pursuit of a suitable marriage than you
yourself are.  We have had some intimate conversations, she and I.
Don't imagine for an instant your name, or any other name, has been
hinted at, much less mentioned.  But she has been good enough to bestow
her confidence upon me, in as far as she bestows it upon any one.
Fundamentally she is a mysterious creature, and that's exactly why, I
suppose, one finds her so endlessly interesting.  And, from those
conversations, I gather her mind is set on things quite other than
marriage."

"Ah! just Heaven--and what things, then?" poor Adrian exclaimed,
distraction again threatening him.

"She would, I think, have very great difficulty in telling you."

Here distraction did more than threaten.  It jumped on him, so that in
his agitation he positively bounced, ball-like, upon the seat of the
sofa.

"I knew it," he cried.  "I was sure of it.  Almost immediately I
detected an alien and inimical influence intrude itself between us, as
I have already told you, and battle against me.  And this was the more
detestable to me because I felt powerless to combat it, being ignorant
whence it came and what its nature actually was."

Miss Beauchamp looked at him indulgently.  And he, distraction
notwithstanding, perceived that her countenance once more had grown
sibylline.  This served sensibly to quiet and steady him.

"I fancy that influence comes from very deep and very far," she said.
"A woman of so much temperament and so much intelligence as Gabrielle
St. Leger must, of necessity, be the child of the age in which she
lives, in touch with the spirit of it.  Her eyes are turned toward the
future, and the strange unrestful wind, the wind of Modernity, which
blows from out the future, is upon her face.  This is the influence you
have to battle against, my dear young man, I am afraid, nothing less
than the Spirit of the Age, the spirit of Modernity.  You have your
work cut out for you!  To combat it successfully will be--to put it
vulgarly--a mighty tough job."

"Like King David of old, I'd rather fall into the hands of God than
into those of man," Adrian returned, with rather rueful humor.

"Is one so very sure they are the hands of the Almighty?  Too often one
has reason to suspect they belong to exactly the opposite person--the
inspirer--namely, of so many of your friend M. René Dax's unpardonable
caricatures.  But there," she added, "I don't want to give place to
prejudice; though whether Modernity is veritably the highroad to the
state of human earthly felicity its exponents so confidently--and
truculently--predict, or not rather to some appalling and final
catastrophe, some Armageddon, and Twilight of the Gods, appears to me,
in the existing stage of its evolution, open to the liveliest question.
Fortunately, at my time of life one is free to stand aside and look on,
passively awaiting the event without taking part in the production of
it.  But with Madame St. Leger, as with yourself, it is different.  You
are on the active list.  Whether you like or not, you are bound to
participate in the production of the event--and she, at least, is by no
means unwilling to do so."

"But how, _chère Mademoiselle_, but how?" Adrian questioned.

"After a fashion you can hardly be expected to indorse
enthusiastically."

Miss Beauchamp shaded her eyes with her left hand again, while the many
bracelets slipping up her thin wrist clinked and rattled.

"See here, my dear Savage," she said, "among all the destructions and
reconstructions, the changes--many of them nominal rather than real,
and, consequently, superfluous--of which Modernity is made up, one
change is very real and has, I sincerely believe, come to stay.  I mean
the widespread change in thought and attitude of my sex toward yours."

"Feminism, in short."

"In short, Feminism."

A little silence followed.  Then: "You take the dose very nicely,"
Anastasia said.

"Perhaps I take it so nicely because I am convinced it is innocuous.
On the other hand, perhaps I don't take it at all.  Really, I am not
certain which."

He shifted his position, planting his elbows on his knees and his chin
in the hollow of his hands.

"The deuce, the deuce!" he said, softly, tapping one long-toed boot
meditatively upon the floor.

Miss Beauchamp watched him, amused, observant, making no comment.

"I am sorry," he went on, presently.  "It's all moonshine, of course.
Nature's too strong for them.  In the end they must come into line."

"Moonshine has often proved a very dangerous, because so very
intangible an enemy.  And the end promises to be far off."

"Yes, I am sorry," Adrian repeated, "very sorry, we were over in
England I could understand.  Women there have an excuse for revolt.
All Englishmen are pedants, even in their games, even in their sport.
They have been called a nation of shopkeepers.  They might with equal
truth be called a nation of schoolmasters; not because they desire to
impart knowledge, but because they crave to exercise power and prove,
to themselves, their innate superiority by the chastisement of others.
Ah!  I have witnessed plenty of that in the last month!  Truly, they
are very disagreeable sons, husbands, and fathers, those middle-class
Britons, the schoolmaster, so to speak, permanently on top.  And there
are not even enough of them to go round!  Numerically they are
inferior; and this helps to feed their arrogance and inflame their
conceit.  But even if there were enough, they wouldn't--if I may so
express myself--go round.  On the contrary, they would go in the
opposite direction, to their own selfish pleasures, their clubs, their
playing-fields, their interminable football, and cricket, and golf."

"Hum--hum!  What about the British flag you waved so vigorously five
minutes ago?"

"Did I?  Forget it, then.  It was a passing aberration.  I repent and
wrap myself once more in the folds of the tricolor.  Most distinctly
that is the flag under which a lover of your adorable sex should fight!"

"With the Gallic cock set symbolic at the top of the flag-staff?"

"And why not?  Why not?  Who can do otherwise than behold with approval
that smart, well-groomed, abundantly amatory, I grant you, but also
abundantly chivalrous fowl?  His absence is, in a sense, precisely that
with which I quarrel on the other side of the Channel.  It goes to make
the revolt of the Englishwoman comprehensible.  Her countrymen's
relation to her is so inartistic, so utilitarian, so without delicate
humor.  We hear of her freedom from annoyance, her personal security.
But in what do these take their rise?  Simply in her countrymen's
indifference to her--to her emotions, her mentality, her thousand and
one delicate needs, elusive and charming necessities.  If he thinks
about her at all, it is with the schoolmaster's odious design of
correcting her faults, of improving her.  The blatant conceit of the
animal!  As if she could be improved, as if she were not perfect
already!  But stay.  There I pause to correct myself.  The Englishwoman
is susceptible of improvement.  And how?  By being snubbed, depressed,
depreciated, grumbled at, scolded, made to think meanly of herself?
Never a bit.--She has suffered generations of that treatment already.
By being admired, reverenced, playfully delighted in, appreciated,
encouraged."

Adrian spread abroad his hands with the most amiably persuasive
expression and gesture.

"Ah! believe me, dear friend," he cried, "when Luther, the burly
renegade German monk; Calvin, the parchment-dry, middle-class Picard
lawyer, and English 'King Hal,' of grossest memory, conspired to depose
Our Blessed Lady from her rightful throne in heaven, they,
incidentally, went far to depose woman from her rightful throne here
upon earth.  So that, small wonder, having no eternal, universal
Mother, whose aid and patronage she can invoke in hours of perplexity
and distress, the modern, non-Catholic woman is constrained to rush
around in prison-vans, or any other unlovely public vehicle which may
come handy, invoking the aid of parliamentary suffrage and kindred
dreary mechanical forms of protection against the tedious tyrannies of
arrogant, sullen, selfish, slow-witted, birch-rod-wielding, pedagogic
man.  Yes, truly, as over there, I understand, I sympathize.  But here,
where, though we may have tolerated, even invented, Revolution, we have
at least withstood that most time-serving and inartistic compromise,
Reformation--with an impudent capital letter--here, in the patrimony of
Chantecler, enveloped in the folds of the gallant tricolor, surely such
revolt is unreasonable, is out of place!  For here are we not all
Feminists, every man-jack of us?  _Chère Mademoiselle_, you know that
we are.  What more, then, have the members of your adored sex to ask?"

And, for the moment, Anastasia Beauchamp's usually ready tongue played
her false.  The whirl of words had been somewhat overpowering, while,
through the whirl, his good faith was so transparently apparent, his
argument suggested rather than aggressively pressed home, so evidently
to himself conclusive, that a cogent answer was far from easy to frame.

"What more have they to ask?" she said, presently, smiling at him.
"Well, just those alluring, because new, untried and intangible
satisfactions which the Spirit of the Age promises so largely, and
which you, my dear Savage, if you'll pardon my saying, don't and can't
promise at all."

"The Spirit of the Age now, as so often in history, will prove a false
prophet, a charlatan and juggler, making large promises which he will
fail to redeem," Adrian declared.  "See, do not art, nature, the
cumulative result of human experience, combine to discredit his methods
and condemn his objects?"

"Convince Gabrielle St. Leger of that, and my thanks and applause will
not be wanting."

"I will convince her," Adrian cried, with growing exaltation.  "I will
convince her.  I devote my life to that purpose, to that end."

And thereupon a certain solemnity seemed to descend upon and diffuse
itself through the quiet, lofty room, affecting both speaker and
listener, causing them to sit silent, as though in hushed suspense,
awaiting the sensible ratification of some serious engagement entered
into, some binding oath taken.  In the stillness faint, fugitive echoes
reached them of the palpitating life and movement of the city outside.
The effect was arresting.  To Adrian it seemed as though he stood on
the extreme edge, the crumbling, treacherous verge, of some momentous
episode in which he was foredoomed to play a part, but a part alien to
his desires and defiant of his control.  While--and this touched him
with intimate, though half-ashamed, shrinking and repudiation--not
Gabrielle St. Leger, but Joanna Smyrthwaite appeared to stand beside
him imploring rescue and safety upon that treacherously crumbling
verge.  His sense of her presence was so acute, so overmastering in its
intensity, that he felt in an instant more he should hear her flat,
colorless voice and be compelled--how unwillingly!--to meet the fixed
scrutiny of her pale, insatiable eyes.

Then, startling in its suddenness as the ping of a rifle-bullet, came a
very different sound to that of Joanna's toneless voice close at hand.
For, with a wrenching twang and thin, piercing, long-drawn vibration
which shuddered through the air, shuddered through every object in the
room, strangely setting in motion that pervasive scent of cedar and
sandalwood, a string of the piano broke.

Miss Beauchamp uttered an angry, yet smothered, cry, as one who
receives and resents an unexpected hurt.  And Adrian, alarmed,
agitated, hardly understanding what had actually occurred, turning to
her, perceived that her countenance again had changed.  Now it was that
neither of sibyl nor of jester, but vivid, keen with fight.  Yet, even
as he looked, it grew gray, grief-smitten, immeasurably, frighteningly
old.

Natural pity, and some inherited instinct of healing, made the young
man lean toward her and take her hand in his, holding and chafing it,
while his finger-tips sought and found the little space between the
sinews of the wrist where the tides of life ebb and flow.  Her pulse
was barely perceptible, intermittent, weak as a thread.

Adrian took the other passive hand, and, chafing both, used this
contact as a conduit along which to transmit some of his own fine
vitality.  His act of willing this transmission was conscious,
determined, his concentration of purpose great; so that presently,
while he watched her, the grayness lifted, her lips regained their
normal color, her pulse steadied and strengthened, and her face filled
out, resuming its natural contours.  Then as she moved sat upright,
smiling, an unusual softness in her expression.

"Don't attempt to speak yet," he said, still busy with and somewhat
excited by his work of restoration.  "Rest a little.  I have been a
shameless egoist this evening.  I have talked too much, have made too
heavy a demand upon your sympathies, and so have exhausted you."

"Whatever you may have taken, you have more than paid back," she
answered.  She was touched--a nostalgia being upon her for things no
longer possible, for youth and all the glory and sweetness of youth.
"It is not for nothing that you are the son of a famous physician and
of a woman of remarkable imaginative gifts," she went on.  "You have
_la main heureuse_, life-giving both to body and spirit.  This is a
power and a great one.  But now that, thanks to you, my weakness is
passed we will not remain in this room.  You said it was full of
splendid echoes, good for the soul.  It is rather too full of them,
since one's soul is still weighted with a body.  I find them oppressive
in their suggestion and demand.  Frankly, I dare not expose myself to
their influence any longer."

Helped by Adrian, she rose and, taking his arm, moved slowly toward the
doorway.

"Sometimes, unexpectedly, the merciful dimness which holds our eyes is
broken up, giving place to momentary clear-seeing of all which lies
beyond and around the commonplace and conventional medium in which we
live.  Unless one is rather abnormally constituted that clear-seeing is
liable to blind rather than to illuminate.  Flesh and blood aren't
quite equal to it.  And so with the snapping of the piano string.
Doubtless the causes were simple enough--some peculiar atmospheric
conditions, along with the fact that the instrument has been unused for
many months.  Still in me it produced one of those fateful instants of
clairvoyance.  I knew it for the signing of a death-warrant.  Not my
own.  Thanks to the kindly ministrations of _la main heureuse_ the
signature of that particular warrant is postponed for a while yet.  Nor
yours either, of that I am convinced.  I cannot say whose.  The
clear-seeing was too rapidly obscured by failing bodily strength.  I am
not talking nonsense.  This has happened twice before.  The second time
a string broke my brother's death followed within the year."

"And the first time?" Adrian felt impelled to ask.  His recent
expenditure of will-power had left his nerves in a state of slightly
unstable equilibrium which rendered him highly impressionable.

"The first time?" Miss Beauchamp repeated, lifting her hand from his
arm.  "The death of that other true lover, who listened here to my
playing, of the friend who walked with me in the hidden garden,
followed the breaking of the first string."

Adrian stepped forward and held aside the embroidered curtain, letting
her pass into the drawing-room.  Here the air was lighter, the moral
and emotional atmosphere, as it seemed to him, lighter likewise.  He
was aware of a relaxation of mental tension and a deadening of
sensation which he at once welcomed and regretted.  He waited a few
seconds until he was sure that in his own case, too, any disquieting
tendency to clairvoyance was over and the conventional and commonplace
had fairly come back.

Miss Beauchamp passed on into the first room of the suite.  Here the
lights were turned on and he found her seated at a little supper-table,
vivacious, accentuated in aspect and manner, flaming pagoda of curls
and frisky cinnamon-colored, sequin-sewn tea-gown once again very much
in evidence.  But these things no longer jarred on him.  He could view
them in their true perspective, as the masquerade make-up with which a
proud woman elected--in self-defense--to disguise too deep a knowledge,
too sensitive a nature, and too passionate a heart.

"Yes, sit down, my dear Savage," she cried, "sit down.  Eat and drink.
For really it is about time we both indulged in what are vulgarly
called 'light refreshments.'  We have been surprisingly clever, you and
I, and have rubbed our wits together to the emission of many sparks!  I
am not a bit above restoring wasted tissue in this practical
manner--nor, I trust, are you.  Moreover, our lengthy discourse
notwithstanding, I have still five words to say to you.  For, see, very
soon Madame St. Leger's period of mourning will be over.  She will
begin to go into society again."

"Alas! yes."  Adrian sighed.

"You don't like it?  Probably not.  You would prefer keeping her, like
blessed St. Barbara, shut up on the top of her tower, I dare say.  But
doesn't it occur to you that there are as insidious dangers on the
tower top as in the world below--visits from the little horror, M. René
Dax, for example?  Anyhow, she will shortly very certainly descend from
the tower.  For we are neither of us, I suppose, under the delusion she
has buried all her joy of living in poor Horace St. Leger's grave."

"I have no violent objection to her not having done so," Adrian said,
with becoming gravity.

"That first descent after her long seclusion will be critical.  She
will need protection and advice."

"Her mother, Madame Vernois, is at hand," Adrian remarked, perhaps
rather tentatively.

"Yes, a sweet person and a devoted mother; but a little conspicuously
with the outlook and moral standards of a past generation.  She is at
once too charitable and too humble-minded to be a judge of
character--one born to follow rather than to lead--and, though a woman
of breeding and position, always a provincial.  She followed Professor
Vernois as long as he was here to follow.  Then she followed her noble
and needy relations away in Chambéry.  Now she follows her beautiful
daughter.  And the daughter, in the near future, is going to be a mark
for the archers--male and female.  Already I have reason to believe
that archery practice has begun.  The sweet, timid mother, though
perplexed and anxious, hasn't a notion how to turn those arrows aside."

Miss Beauchamp gazed into the shallow depths of her wine-glass.

"It's an unsavory subject," she continued, "and, I agree with you,
Feminism has next to no legitimate excuse for existence here.  That is
just why, I imagine, it has allied itself with ideas and practices not
precisely legitimate.  It makes its appeal to by no means the most
exalted elements of our very mixed human nature."

"Ah! but," Adrian broke out in a white heat of anger, "it is not
possible!  Such persons would never presume--"

"They have already presumed.  Zélie de Gand, helped by I don't quite
know who, though I have my suspicions, has approached Madame St. Leger.
She is crazy to recover lost ground, to get herself and her clique
reinstated.  Madame St. Leger's beauty, brains, and her reputation--so
absolutely unsullied and above suspicion--represent an immense asset to
any cause she may embrace."

"But need she embrace any cause?"

"My dear young man," Miss Beauchamp returned, smiling rather broadly,
"you had better take it for said, once and for all, that a beautiful
young woman of seven and twenty, who is beginning the world afresh
after being relieved of a not entirely satisfactory marriage, is
perfectly certain to embrace--well--well--Something, if she doesn't
embrace Somebody."

Presently, after a silence, Anastasia spoke again, gently and seriously.

"I am altogether on your side," she said.  "But I cannot pretend it is
plain sailing for you.  There is a reserve of enthusiasm in her nature,
an heroic strain pushing her toward great enterprises.  It may be she
will suffer before she arrives, will be led astray, will follow
delusions.  Her mind is critical rather than creative.  She is disposed
to distrust her instincts and to reason where she had ten thousand
times better only feel.  And, as I tell you, she looks toward the
future; the restless wind of it is upon her face, alluring, exciting
her.  No--no--it is not plain sailing for you, my dear young man.  But,
for Heaven's sake, don't let true love be your undoing, seducing you
from work, from personal achievement in your own admirable world of
letters.  For remember, the greater your own success the more you have
to offer.  And the modern woman asks that.  She requires not merely
Somebody to whom to give herself, but Something which shall so satisfy
her brain and her ambitions as to make that supreme act of giving worth
while."

Anastasia smiled wistfully, sadly.

"Yes, indeed, times have changed and the fashion of them!  Man's
supremacy is very quaintly threatened.  For the first time in the
history of the human race he finds sex at a discount.--But now
good-night, my dear Savage.  Whenever you think I can help you, come.
You will always be welcome.  And--this last word at parting--do your
possible to keep that little horror away from her.  In him Modernity
finds a most malign embodiment.  Farewell."



CHAPTER VI

  RECORDING THE VIGIL OF A SCARLET HOMUNCULUS AND
  ARISTIDES THE JUST

The gray lemur sat before the fire in a baby's scarlet-painted cane
chair.  He kept his knees well apart, so that the comfortable warmth,
given off by the burning logs and bed of glowing ashes, might reach his
furry concave stomach and the inside of his furry thighs.  His long,
ringed tail, slipped neatly under the arm of the little scarlet chair,
lay, like a thick gray note of interrogation, upon the surface of the
black Aubusson carpet.  Now and again he leaned his slender,
small-waisted body forward, grasping the chair-arms with his two
hands--which resembled a baby's leather gloves with fur backs to
them--and advanced a sensitive, inquisitive, pointed muzzle toward the
blaze, his nose being cold.  His movements were attractive in their
composure and restraint.  For this quadrumanous exile from sub-tropic
Madagascan forests was a dignified little personage, not in the least
addicted, as the vulgar phrase has it, to giving himself away.

At first sight the lemur, sitting thus before the fire, appeared to be
the sole inhabitant of the bare white-walled studio.  Then, as the eye
became accustomed to the dusky light, shed by hanging electric lamps
with dark smoked-glass shades to them, other queer living creatures
disclosed their presence.

At the end of the great room farthest from the door, where it narrowed
in two oblique angles under high, shelving skylights, in a glass
tank--some five feet by three and about two feet deep--set on a square
of mosaic pavement, goldfish swam lazily to and fro.  In the center of
the tank, about the rockwork built up around the jet of a little
tinkling fountain, small, dull-hued tortoises with skinny necks and
slimy carapaces and black-blotched, orange-bellied, crested tritons
crawled.  While all round the room, forming a sort of dado to the
height of above five feet, ran an arabesque of scenes and figures, some
life-size, some even colossal, some minute and exquisitely finished,
some blurred and half obliterated, in places superimposed, sketched one
over the other to the production of madly nightmarish effects of heads,
limbs, trunks, and features attached, divided, flung broadcast, heaped
together in horrible promiscuosity.  All were drawn boldly, showing an
astonishing vivacity of line and mastery of attitude and expression, in
charcoal or red and black chalk, or were washed in with the brush in
Indian ink and light red.  In the dusky lamplight and scintillating
firelight this amazing decoration seemed endowed with life and
movement, so that shamelessly, in unholy mirth, hideousness, and
depravity it stalked and pranced, beckoned, squirmed, and flaunted upon
those austerely snow-white walls.

For the rest, chairs, tables, easels, even the model's movable
platform, were, like the carpet, dead black.  Two low, wide divans
upholstered in black brocade stood on either side of the deep
outstanding chimney-breast; and upon the farther one, masked by a
red-lacquer folding screen, amid a huddle of soft, black pillows, flat
on its back, a human form reposed--but whether of living man or of
cleverly disposed lay figure remained debatable, since it was shrouded
from head to heel in a black silk _resai_, even the face being covered,
and its immobility complete.

On taking leave of Anastasia Beauchamp, Adrian Savage had found himself
in no humor either for work or for sleep.  His search for the further
reason had led him a longer journey than he anticipated.  And in some
of its stages that journey offered disquieting episodes.  He admitted
he was still puzzled, still anxious; more than ever determined as to
the final result, yet hardly more clear as to how the result in
question might be obtained.  There were points which needed thinking
out, but to think them out profitably he must regain his normal
attitude of mind and self-possession.  So, reckoning it useless to go
home to his well-found bachelor apartments in the _rue de
l'Université_, he decided to walk till such time as physical exercise
had regulated both his bodily and mental circulation.

It happened to be the moment of the turn-out of theaters and other
places of entertainment, and, as the young man made his way down toward
the _Place de l'Opéra_, the aspect of the town struck him as
conspicuously animated and brilliant.  His eyes, still focused to the
quiet English atmosphere and landscape, were quick to note the contrast
to these presented by his existing surroundings.  He invited
impressions, looking at the scene sympathetically, yet idly, as at the
pages of a picture-book.  Strong effects of light and color held the
ground plan, above which the tall, many-windowed houses rose as some
pale striated cliff-face toward the strip of infinitely remote,
star-pierced sky.  It was sharply cold, and through the exciting tumult
of the streets he could detect a shrill singing of wind in telegraph
and telephone wires and amid the branches of the leafless trees.  In
like manner, passing from the material to the moral plane, through the
accentuated vivacity of the amusement-seeking crowd, he seemed to
detect, as so often in Paris--is not that, indeed, half the secret of
her magic and her charm?--a certain instability and menace, a shrill
singing of possible social upheaval, of Revolution always there close
at hand awaiting her surely recurrent hour of opportunity.

To Adrian, after precedent-ridden, firmly planted, middle-class England
and the English, that effect of instability, that shrill singing of
social upheaval, proved stimulating.  He breathed it in with conscious
enjoyment while negotiating thickly peopled pavements or madly tram-
and- motor-rushed crossings.  For these dear Parisians, as he told
himself, alike in mind and in appearance, are both individual and
individualists with a positive vengeance, possessing not only the
courage of their physical types--and making, for beauty or the reverse,
the very most of them--and the courage of their convictions; but the
courage of their emotions likewise.  And how refreshingly many are
those emotions, how variegated, how incalculable, how explosive!  How
articulate, too, ready at a moment's notice to justify their existence
by the discharge of salvos of impassioned rhetoric!  If the English
might fairly be called a nation of pedants, these might, with at least
equal fairness, be called a nation of comedians; not in the sense of
pretending, of intentionally playing a part--to that affectation the
English were far more addicted--but in the sense of regarding
themselves and life from a permanently dramatic standpoint.  Wasn't it
worth while to have been away for a time, since absence had so
heightened his appreciation of racial contrasts and power of
recognizing them?

And there he paused in his pæan.  For on second thoughts, were these
psychologic determinations so well worth the practical cost of them?
Is gain of the abstract ever worth loss in the concrete?  His thought
turned with impatience to Stourmouth, to the Tower House and its
inhabitants, and to the loss of precious time which devotion to their
affairs had, in point of fact, caused him.  Resultant appreciation of
psychologic phenomena seemed but a meager recompense for such
expenditure.  For this absence had made him lose ground in relation to
Madame St. Leger.  Miss Beauchamp intimated as much; intimated, too,
that while he lost ground others had gained it, had done their best to
jump his claim, so to speak, and had, in a measure at least,
succeeded--take Mademoiselle Zélie de Gand, for example.

Whereupon Adrian ceased to take any interest, philosophic or otherwise,
in the wonderful midnight streets and midnight people; becoming himself
actively, even aggressively, individualist, as he brushed his way
through the throng, his expression the reverse of urbane and his pace
almost headlong.

For who, in the devil's name, had dared give that much-discussed,
plausible, very astute and clever, also very much discredited arrivist
and novelist--Zélie de Gand--an introduction to Madame St. Leger?  Miss
Beauchamp owned to a suspicion.  And then, yes, of course he remembered
last year meeting the great Zélie at René Dax's studio!  Remembered,
too, how René had pressed a short story of hers upon him for
publication in the Review; and had sulked for a week afterward
when--not without laughter--he had pronounced the said story quite
clearly unprintable.  Did René, after all, represent the further
reason, not as aspirant to _la belle Gabrielle's_ thrice-sacred hand
indeed; but as her mental director, inciting her to throw in her lot
with agitators and extremists, Feminists, Futurists, and such-like
pestilent persons--enemies of marriage and of the family, of moral and
spiritual authority, of all sane canons of art, music and literature,
reckless anarchists in thought and purpose if not, through defective
courage, in actual deed?  Was this what Anastasia Beauchamp hinted at?
Was it against risk of such abominable stabling of swine in his own
particular Holy of Holies--for the young man's anger and alarm, now
thoroughly aroused, tended to express themselves in no measured
language--she did her best to warn him?

Again, as earlier that day, a necessity for immediate and practical
action laid hold on him.  Delay became not only intolerable, but
unpardonable.  He must know, and he must also prevent this campaign of
defilement and outrage going further.  Wherefore he bolted into the
first empty cab, had himself whirled to the _Boulevard du
Montparnasse_, and projected himself, bomb-like, bursting with protest
and indignation, into René Dax's great, dusky, white-walled studio; to
find, in the stillness, nothing more pertinent to the matter in hand
than the gentle, gray lemur sitting in its scarlet-painted baby's chair
before the fire, the orange-and-black blotched newts and small ancient
tortoises crawling upon the rock-work of the little fountain, while in
the glass tank the gleaming fishes swam lazily to and fro.  Of the
owner of this quaint menagerie no signs were visible.

But neither René's absence nor the presence of his queer associates
held Adrian's attention more than a few seconds; for, upon an easel
facing him as he entered, placed where the light of the hanging lamps
fell strongest, was a drawing in red chalk, which at once fed his anger
by its subject and commanded his unqualified admiration by its
consummate beauty and art.

Nearly half life-size, the figure poised, the head slightly inclined,
proudly yet lovingly, toward the delicious child she carried on her
arm, Gabrielle St. Leger stepped toward him, as on air, from off the
tall panel of ivory-tinted cartridge paper.  The attitude was precisely
that in which he had seen her this afternoon, when she told René Dax
the "door should remain open since little Bette wished it."  The two
figures were rendered with a suavity, yet precision, of treatment, a
noble assurance of line and faithfulness of detail, little short of
miraculous considering the time in which the drawing must have been
executed.--Yes, it was _la belle Gabrielle_ to the life; and alive--how
wonderfully alive!  The tears came into the young man's eyes, so deeply
did this counterfeit presentment of her move him, and so very deeply
did he love her.  He noted, in growing amazement, little details, even
little blemishes, dear to his heart as a lover, since these
differentiated her beauty from that of other beautiful women, giving
the original, the intimate and finely personal note.

And then anger shook him more sharply than ever, for how dare any man,
save himself, note these infinitely precious, because exclusively
personal, touches?  How dare René observe, still more how dare he
record them?  His offense was rank; since to do so constituted an
unpardonable liberty, a gross intrusion upon her individuality.  René
knew too much, quite too much, and, for the moment, Adrian was assailed
by a very simple and comprehensive desire to kill him.

But now a wave of humiliation, salt and bitter, submerged this unhappy
lover.  For not only was that little devil of a Tadpole's drawing a
masterpiece in its realization of the outward aspect of Gabrielle St.
Leger, but of insight into the present workings of her mind and heart.
Had not he apprehended and set forth here, with the clarity and force
of undeniable genius, just all that which Anastasia Beauchamp had tried
to tell him--Adrian Savage--about her?  What he, Adrian,
notwithstanding the greatness of his devotion, fumbled over and
misinterpreted, René grasped unaided, and thus superbly chronicled!
For, here indeed, to quote Anastasia, Gabrielle's eyes were turned
toward the future and the strange unrestful wind--the wind of
Modernity--which blows from out the future, was upon her face; with the
result that her expression and bearing were exalted, a noble going
forth to meet fate in them, she herself as one consecrated, at once the
embodiment and exponent of some compelling idea, the leader of some
momentous movement, the elect spokeswoman of a new and tremendous age.

Beholding all which, poor Adrian's spirits descended with most
disintegrating velocity into his boots, and miserably camped at that
abject level.  For though he might declare, and very honestly believe,
the idea in question, the movement in question, to be so much
moonshine, and the Spirit of the Age a rank impostor, how did he
propose to convince Madame St. Leger of that?  The inquiry brought him
up as against a brick wall.  Yes, Miss Beauchamp had been rather
cruelly right when she told him his work was cut out for him and would
prove a mighty tough job.  For what, calmly considered, had he, after
all, to offer as against those alluring and immense
perspectives?--Really, when he came to ask himself, it made him
blush.--Only an agreeable, fairly talented and well-conditioned young
man--that was all; and marriage--marriage, an old story to Gabrielle, a
commonplace affair about which she already knew everything that there
is to know.  Of course she didn't know everything about it, he went on,
plucking up a little spirit again.  Hers had been a marriage of
convenience; a marriage of reason.  Poor Horace was by a whole
generation her senior.  Whereas, in the present case, it all would be
so different--a great and exclusive passion, et cetera, et cetera.  He
would have liked to wax eloquent, descanting upon that difference and
its resultant illuminating values.  But his eloquence stuck in his
throat somehow.  Himself as a husband--humor compelled him to own, with
a pretty sharp stab of mortification, this a rather stale and meager
programme as alternative to cloudy splendors of self-consecration to
the mighty purposes of Modernity and the Spirit of the Age.

"She is very beautiful, is she not, my Madonna of the Future?"

René Dax asked the question in soft, confidential accents.  He stood at
Adrian's elbow, clothed in a scarlet Japanese silk smoking-suit.  Upon
his neat bare feet he wore a pair of black Afghan sandals.  Uttering
little loving, crooning cries, the gray lemur balanced itself upon his
shoulders, clasping his great domed head with thin furry arms and
furry-backed, black-palmed hands, the finger-tips of which just met
upon the center of his forehead.

"I have been watching, from behind the screen, the effect she produced
on you.  I have given up going to bed, you see.  I wrap myself in
blankets and quilts and sleep here--when I do sleep--upon one of the
divans.  It is more artistic.  It is simpler.  The bed, when you come
to consider it, is, like the umbrella, the mark of the bourgeois, of
the bourgeoise and of all their infected progeny.  It represents, as
you may say, the battle-cry of middle-class civilization.  The domestic
hearth?  No, no.  The domestic bed.  How far more scientific and
philosophic a definition!  Therefore I abjure it.--So I was lying there
on the divan in meditation.  I am preparing illustrations for an
_édition de luxe of Les Contes Drolatiques_.  It is not designed for
family reading.  It will probably be printed in Belgium and sold at
Port Said.  I lie on my back.  I cover my face, thus isolating myself
from contemplation of surrounding objects, so that my imagination may
play freely around those agreeable tales.  In the midst of my
meditation I heard you burst in.  At first I felt annoyed.  Then I
arose silently and watched the effect this portrait produced on you.  I
was rewarded; for it knocked the bluster pretty effectually out of you,
eh, _mon vieux_?  I saw you droop, grow dejected, pull your beard, wipe
your eyes, eh?  And you deserved all that, for your manner was
offensive this afternoon.  You treated me disrespectfully.  Have you
now come to apologize?  It would be only decent you should do so.  But
I do not press the point.  I can afford to be magnanimous, since, in
any case, I am even with you.  My Madonna is my revenge."

"I did not come to apologize, but to demand explanation," Adrian began,
hotly.  Then his tone changed.  Truly he was very unhappy, very heavy
of heart.  "You are right," he added.  "This drawing is your revenge."

"You do not like my drawing."

"On the contrary, I find it glorious, wonderful."

"And it hurts you?"

"Yes, it hurts me," he answered hoarsely, backing away.  "I hate it."

"I am so glad," René said, sweetly.  He put his hand behind his scarlet
back, and tweaked the tip of the lemur's long furry tail affectionately.

"You hear, you rejoice with me, oh, venerable Aristides!" he murmured.

To which the little creature replied by clasping his head more tightly
and making strange, coaxing noises.

"But there,--for the moment my Madonna has done precisely what I asked
of her, so now let us talk about something else, _mon vieux_, something
less controversial.  Why not?  For here, after all, she is fixed, my
Madonna.  She can't run away, happily.  We can always return and,
though she is mine, I will permit you to take another look at her.
So--well--do you remark how I have changed my decorative scheme since
you last visited me?  Is it original, startling, eh?  That is what I
intended.  Again I felt the need to simplify.  I called for plasterers,
painters, upholsterers.  When they will be paid I haven't a conception;
but that is a contemptible detail.  I rushed them.  I harried them.  I
drove them before me like a flock of geese, a troop of asses.  'Work,'
I screamed, 'work.  Delay is suffocation to my imagination.  This
transformation must be effected instantly.'  For suddenly color
sickened me.  I comprehended what a fraud, what a subterfuge and
inanity it is.  Form alone matters, alone is permanent and essential.
Color bears to form the same relation which emotion bears to reason,
which sensation bears to intellect.  It represents an attitude rather
than an entity.  I recognized it as adventitious, accidental,
unscientific, hysterical.  So I had them all washed out, ripped off,
obliterated, my tender, tearful blues and greens, my caressing pinks,
my luscious mauves and purples, my rapturously bilious, sugar-sweet
yellows, all my adorably morbid florescence of putrifaction in
neutral-tinted semi-tones, and limited my scheme to this harshly
symbolic triad.  See everywhere, everywhere, black, white, red--these
three always and only--beating upon my brain, feeding my eyes with
thoughts of darkness, night, death, the bottomless pit, despair,
iniquity; of light, day, snow, the colorless ether, virtue, the child's
blank soul, immaculate sterility.  And then red--red, the horrid
whipper-in and huntsman of us all, meaning life, fire, lust, pain,
carnage, sex, revolution and war, scarlet-lipped scorn and mockery--the
raw, gaping, ever-bleeding, ever-breeding wound, in short, upon the
body of the Cosmos which we call Humanity."

The young man's affectation of imperturbability for once deserted him.
He was shaken by the force of his own speech.  His voice rose,
vibrating with passion, taking on, indeed, an almost maniacal quality,
highly distressing to Adrian and altogether terrifying to the lemur,
which moaned audibly and shivered as it clutched at his forehead.

"Get down, Aristides," he cried with sudden childish petulance.
"Unclasp your hands.  You scratch.  You hurt me.  Go back to your
little chair.  I am tired.  I have worked too hard.  The back of my
head stabs with pain.  I suffer, I suffer so badly."

He came close to Adrian, who, his nerves too very much on edge, still
stood before the noble drawing of Gabrielle St. Leger.

"I am not well," he said, plaintively.  "Certainly I have overworked,
and it is all your fault.  Yet listen, _mon vieux_.  Your affection is
necessary to me.  Therefore do not let us quarrel.  I own you enraged
me this afternoon.  I did not want you just then."

"Nor I you," Adrian returned, with some asperity.

"And your manner was at once insufferably brusque and insufferably
possessive.  I could not let it pass.  I felt it incumbent upon me to
administer correction.  But I would not descend to anything commonplace
in the way of chastisement.  I would lay an ingenious trap for you.  I
came straight home.  I seated myself here.  I set up this panel, and I
drew, and drew, and drew, without pause, without food, in a tense
frenzy of concentration, of recollection, till I had completed this
portrait.  I was possessed, inspired.  Never have I worked with such
fury, such torment and ecstasy.  For I had, at once, to assure myself
of your sentiments toward the subject of that picture, and to read you
a lesson.  I had to prove to you that I, too, amount to something which
has to be reckoned with; that I, too, have power."

"You have commanding power," Adrian answered, bitterly.  "The power of
genius."

"Then, then," René Dax cried, "since you acknowledge my power, will you
consent to leave my Madonna alone?  Will you consent not to make any
further attempt to interfere between her and me, to pay court to and
marry her?"

The attack in its directness proved, for the moment, staggering.
Adrian stood, his eyes staring, his mouth half open, actually
recovering his breath, which seemed fairly knocked out of him by the
amazing impudence of this proposition.  Yet wasn't it perfectly in the
part?  Wasn't it just exactly the egregious Tadpole all over?  His mind
swung back instinctively to scenes of years ago in play-ground,
class-room, dormitory, when--while though himself exasperated--he had
intervened to protect René, a boy brilliant as he was infuriating, from
the consequences of some colossal impertinence in word or deed.  And
that swing back to recollection of their school-days produced in Adrian
a salutary lessening of nervous excitement, restoring his
self-confidence, focusing his outlook, both on events and persons to a
normal perspective.

"So that I may leave the stage conveniently clear for you, _mon
petit_?" he inquired, quite good-temperedly.  "No, I am sorry, but I'm
afraid I cannot consent to do anything of the kind."

And then he moved away across the studio, leaving the egregious Tadpole
to digest his refusal.  For he did not want to quarrel, either.  Far
from it.  That instinctive throw-back into their school-boy friendship
brought home to him how very much attached to this wayward being he
actually was.  So that, of all things, he wanted to avoid a quarrel, if
such avoidance were consonant with restraint of René's influence in a
certain dear direction and development of his own.

"Nothing will turn me from my purpose, _mon petit_," he said, gently,
even gaily, over his shoulder.  "Nothing--make sure of that--nothing,
nobody, past, present, or to come."

He proceeded, with slightly ostentatious composure, to study the dado
of pictured figures rioting along the surface of the white distempered
walls.  He had delivered his ultimatum.  Very soon he meant to depart,
for it was no use attempting to hold further intercourse with René
to-night.  Once you brought him up short, like this, for a greater or
lesser period he was certain to sulk.  It was wisest to let him have
his sulk out.  And--his eyes growing accustomed to the dusky
light--good heavens, how superbly clever, how grossly humorous those
pictured figures were!  Was there any draftsman living who could
compare with René Dax?  No, decidedly he didn't want to quarrel with
the creature.  He only wanted to prevent his confusing certain issues
and doing harm.  Yet, as he passed from group to group, from one
outrageous witticism to another, the difficulty of maintaining an
equable attitude increased upon him.  For it was hateful to remember
that the same hand and brain which had projected that heroic portrait
of Madame St. Leger was responsible for these indecencies as well.
Looking at some of these, thinking of that, he could have found it in
his heart, he feared, to take Master René by the throat and put an end
to his drawing for ever, so atrocious a profanity did such coexistence,
such, in a sense, correlation appear.

And then, moving on again, he started and drew back in absolute
consternation.  For there, right in front of him, covering the wall for
a space of two yards or more, he came on a series of sketches--some
dashed in in charcoal, some carefully finished in red and black
chalk--of Joanna Smyrthwaite.--Joanna, arrayed in man's clothing, a
slovenly, ragged jacket suit, sagging from her thin limbs and angular
shoulders; she bareheaded, moreover, her hair cropped, her face telling
of drink and dissipation, loose-lipped, repulsive to the point of
disgust in its weakness and profligate misery, her attitudes degraded,
almost bestial as she cringed on all fours or lay heaped together like
so much shot rubbish.

Adrian put his hands over his eyes.  Looked again.  Turned indignantly
to demand an answer to this hideous riddle.  But his host had
disappeared.  Only the gray lemur sat in its scarlet-painted baby's
chair before the fire; and from off the tall white panel Gabrielle St.
Leger, carrying her child on her arm, stepped forth to meet the Future,
while the unrestful wind which blows from out the Future--the fateful
wind of Modernity--played upon her beloved face.



III

THE OTHER SIDE



CHAPTER I

  RECORDING A BRAVE MAN'S EFFORT TO CULTIVATE HIS
  PRIVATE GARDEN

Joseph Challoner telephoned up to Heatherleigh from his office in
Stourmouth that, being detained by business, he should dine in town
to-night.  This seemed to him the safest way to manage it, since you
never could be quite sure how far your servants didn't shadow you.

He had put off dealing with the matter in question from day to day, and
week to week, because, in plain English, he funked it.  True, this was
not his first experience of the kind; but, looking back upon
other--never mind about the exact number of them--other experiences of
like nature, this struck him as very much the most unpleasant of the
lot.  His own moral and social standpoint had changed; there
perhaps--he hoped so--was the reason.  In more senses than one he had
"come up higher," so that anything even distantly approaching scandal
was actively alarming to him, giving him--as he expressed it--"the
goose-skin all over."  Yet, funk or no funk, the thing had to be seen
to.  Further shilly-shallying was not permissible.  The by-election for
the Baughurst Park Ward, vacant through the impending retirement of Mr.
Pottinger, was imminent.  Challoner had offered himself as a candidate.
The seat was well worth gaining, since the Baughurst Park Ward was the
richest and, in many respects, most influential in the borough.  To
represent it was, with a little adroit manipulation, to control a very
large amount of capital available for public purposes.  Moreover, in a
year or so it must inevitably lead to the mayoralty; and Joseph
Challoner fully intended one of these days to be Mayor of Stourmouth.
Not only did the mayoralty, in itself, confer much authority and local
distinction, but it offered collateral opportunities of
self-advancement.  Upon these Challoner had long fixed his thoughts, so
that already he had fully considered what course of action, in the
present, promised the most profitable line of investment in view of
that coveted future.

Should he push the construction of the new under-cliff drive, for
instance?  But, as he argued, at most you could invite a Duke or
Field-Marshal to perform the opening ceremony--the latter for choice,
since it gives legitimate excuse for the military display, always
productive of enthusiasm in a conspicuously non-combatant population
such as that of Stourmouth.  Unfortunately Dukes and Field-Marshals,
though very useful when, socially speaking, you could not get anything
better, were not altogether up to Challoner's requirements.  He
aspired, he in fact languished, to entertain Royalty.  But under-cliff
drives were no use in that connection, only justifying a little
patriotic beating of drums to the tune of coast defense, and incidental
trotting-out of the hard-worked German invasion bogey.  The first came
too near party politics, the second too near family relationships, to
be acceptable to the highest in the land.  No, as he very well saw, you
must sail on some other tack, cloaking your designs with the
much-covering mantle of charity if you proposed successfully to exploit
princes.

And, after all, what simpler?  Was not Stourmouth renowned as a health
resort, and are not hospitals the accredited highroad to royal favor?
A hospital, evidently; and, since it is always safest to
specialize--that enables you to make play with scare-inducing
statistics and impressive scientific formulæ, flavoring them here and
there with the sentimental anecdotal note--clearly a hospital for the
cure of tuberculosis--nothing just now more fashionable, nothing more
popular!  Really, it suited him to a tee, for had not his own poor
little wife fallen a victim to the fell disease in question?  And had
not he--here Challoner just managed not to put his tongue in his
cheek--had not he remained, through all these long, long years,
affectingly faithful to her memory?  Therefore, not only upon the
platform, but during the private pocket-pickings he projected among the
wealthy residents of the Baughurst Park Ward, he could give a personal
turn to his appeal by alluding feelingly to the cutting short of his
own early married happiness, to the pathetic wreck of "love's young
dream" all through the operation of that terrible scourge, consumption.
Yes, quite undoubtedly, tuberculosis was, as he put it, "the ticket."

He remembered, with a movement of active gratitude toward his Maker--or
was it perhaps toward that quite other deity, the God of Chance, so
ardently worshiped by all arrivists?--the big stretch of common, Wytch
Heath, just beyond the new West Stourmouth Cemetery, recently thrown on
the market and certain to go at a low figure.  Lying so high and dry,
the air up there must be remarkably bracing--fit to cut you in two,
indeed, when the wind was northerly.  Clearly it was a crying shame to
waste so much salubrity upon the dead!  True, Stourmouth already
bristled with sanatoria of sorts.  But these were, for the most part,
defective in construction or obsolete in equipment; whereas his,
Challoner's, new Royal Hospital should be absolutely up to date,
furnished, regardless of expense, in accordance with the latest costly
fad of the latest pathological faddist.  No extravagance should be
debarred, while, incidentally, handsome measure of commissions and
perquisites should be winked at so as to keep the staff, both above and
below stairs, in good humor.  Salaries must be on the same extensive
scale as the rest.  Later, when a certain personal end had been gained,
it would be plenty time enough to placate protesting subscribers by
discovering reprehensible waste, and preaching reform and retrenchment.

Finally, Royalty should be humbly prayed to declare the record-breaking
institution open, during his, Challoner's, tenure of office.  He licked
his lips, not figuratively but literally, thinking of it.  "Our
public-spirited and philanthropic Mayor, to whose generous expenditure
of both time and money, combined with his untiring zeal in the service
of his suffering fellow-creatures, we are mainly indebted for the
inception and completion of this truly magnificent charity," et cetera,
et cetera.  Let them pile on the butter, bless them--he could put up
with any amount of that kind of basting--until Royalty, impressed alike
by the magnitude of his altruistic labors and touched by the tragedy of
his early sorrow--for the sentimental personal chord should here be
struck again softly--would feel constrained to bestow honors on so
deeply tried and meritorious a subject.  "Sir Joseph Challoner."--He
turned the delicious phrase over in his mouth, as a small boy turns a
succulent lollipop, to get the full value and sweetness out of it.  He
amplified the luscious morsel, almost blushingly.  "Sir Joseph and Lady
Challoner"--not the poor little first wife, well understood, with the
fatal stamp of disease and still more fatal stamp of her father's shop
upon her, reminiscences of whose premature demise had contributed so
tactfully to the realization of his present splendor; but the second,
the coming wife, in the serious courting of whom he thirsted to embark
immediately, since she offered such conspicuous contrast to the said
poor little first one both in solid fortune and social opportunity.

Only, unluckily, before these bright unworldly dreams could even
approximately be translated into fact, there was a nasty awkward bit of
rooting up and clearing out to be done in, so to speak, Challoner's own
private back garden.  And it was with a view to effecting such
clearance, quietly, unobserved and undisturbed, that he elected
to-night to eat a third-rate dinner at an obscure commercial tavern in
Stourmouth, where recognition was improbable, rather than a first-rate
one in his own comfortable dining-room at Heatherleigh.

After the consummation of that unattractive meal, he took a tram up
from The Square to the top of Hill Street, where this joins the
Barryport Road about three-quarters of a mile short of Baughurst Park
and the County Gates.  Here, alighting, he turned into the maze of
roads, bordered by villas and small lodging-houses interspersed with
undeveloped plots of building land, which extends from the left of the
Barryport Road to the edge of the West Cliff.  The late March evening
was fine and keen, and Challoner, whose large frame cried out for
exercise after a long day of sedentary employment, would have relished
the walk in the moist salt air had it not been for that disagreeable
bit of back-garden clearing work looming up as the ultimate purpose of
it.

In the recesses of his mind, moreover, lurked an uneasy suspicion that
he would really be very much less of a cur if he felt a good deal more
of one.  This made him savage, since it appeared a reflection upon the
purity of his motives and the solid worth of his character.  He stated
the case to himself, as he had stated it any number of times already,
and found it a convincingly clear one.  Still that irritating suspicion
of insufficient self-disgust continued to haunt him.  He ran through
the well-worn arguments again, pleading the justice of his own cause to
his own conscience.  For, when all is said and done, how can any man
possessing an average allowance of susceptibility resist a pretty,
showy woman if she throws herself at his head?  And Mrs. Gwynnie had
very much thrown herself at his head, pertinaciously coaxed, admired
and flattered him.  Whatever had taken place was more than half her
doing--before God it was.  He might have been weak, might have been a
confounded fool even; but then, hadn't every man, worth the name, a
soft side to him?  Take all your famous heroes of history--weren't
there funny little tales about every one of them, from the Royal
Psalmist downward?  If he, Challoner, had been a fool, he could quote
plenty of examples of that particular style of folly among the most
aristocratic company.  And, looking at the actual facts, wasn't the
woman most to blame?  Hadn't she run after him just all she knew how?
Hadn't she subjected him to a veritable persecution?

But now Challoner found himself at the turn into Silver Chine Road, the
long, yellow-gray web of which meandered away through the twilight,
small detached houses set in little gardens ranged on either side of it
shoulder to shoulder, the walls of them shrouded by creepers, and their
lower windows--where lights glowed faintly through muslin curtains and
drawn blinds--masked by luxuriant growth of arbutus, escallonia,
euonymus, myrtle and bay.  Now and again a solitary Scotch fir, relic
of the former moorland, raised its dense crown, velvet black, against
the sulphur-stained crystal of the western sky.  Stourmouth is nothing
if not well-groomed and neat, so that roads, fences, lawns and houses
looked brushed up, polished and dusted as some show-case exhibit.  Only
a misanthropic imagination could suppose questionable doings or
primitive passions sheltering behind those tidy, clean-pinafored,
self-respecting gray and red house-fronts, in their setting of trim
turf, beds of just-opening snowdrops and crocuses, and fragrant
glossy-leaved shrubs.

Joseph Challoner drew up and stood, in large vexation and worry,
contemplating the pleasant, well-to-do prospect.  The alert calm of an
early spring evening held the whole scene.  Faintly, in the distance,
he could hear a long-drawn murmur of wind in the Baughurst woods and
the rhythmic plunge of the sea.  And he was aware that--still to employ
his own not very graceful vernacular--he funked the business in hand,
consciously and very thoroughly funked it.  He had all the mind in the
world to retrace his steps, board the tram again and get home to
Heatherleigh.  He took off his hat, hoping the chill, moist air might
cool his tall brick-dust-red face and bare head, while he fenced thus
grimly with indecision.  For it had come to that--he had grown so
ignominiously chicken-livered--had he the pluck to go on or should he
throw up the game?  Let the whole show slide, in short--Baughurst Park
Ward, record-breaking hospital, probable mayoralty, possible
knighthood, wealthy second wife, whose standing and ample fortune would
lift him to the top of the best society Stourmouth could offer--and all
for the very inadequate reason that a flimsy, flirtatious, impecunious
little Anglo-Indian widow had elected to throw her bonnet over the
windmills for his sake?  To Challoner it seemed hard, beastly hard, he
should be placed in such a fix.  How could he be certain, moreover,
that it was for his sake, and not mainly for her own, she had sent that
precious bit of millinery flying?  What assurance had he that it wasn't
a put-up job to entangle and land him, not for love of him himself, of
what he was, but for love of what he'd got?

Challoner dragged his handkerchief out of his shirt-cuff and wiped his
forehead.  Of all his amatory experiences this one did, without
question, "take the cake" for all-round inconvenience and exasperation!

Of course, he went on again, picking up the thread of the argument, if
he could be convinced, could believe in the sincerity of her affection,
be certain it was he, himself, whom she really loved and wanted, not
just Heatherleigh and a decent income, that would make just all the
difference, put matters on an absolutely different footing and
radically alter his feeling toward her.

And then, with a horse-laugh, he spat on the ground, regardless of the
Stourmouth Borough Council's by-law prohibiting "expectoration in a
public place under penalty of a fine not exceeding twenty shillings."
The lie was so transparent, the hypocrisy so glaring, that, although no
stickler for truth where the truth told against him, he was obliged to
rid himself of this particular violation of it in some open and
practical manner.  For he knew perfectly well that her love, whether
for the man or merely for his possessions, in no appreciable degree
affected the question.  Not doubt as to the quality or object of Mrs.
Gwynnie's affections, but rank personal cowardice in face of the
situation, kept him standing here in this contemptible attitude of
indecision amid the chill sweetness of the spring dusk.

Yet that coarse outward repudiation of inward deceit, if failing to
make him a better man morally, had emotionally, and even physically, a
beneficial effect.  It braced him somehow, so that he squared his
shoulders, while his native bullying pluck, his capacity of cynically
measuring himself against fact and taking the risks of the duel,
revived in him.

For this shilly-shallying didn't pay.  And it wasn't like him.  Every
man has a soft side to him--granted; but he'd be hung if he was going
to let himself turn a softie all over!  The smart of his own gibes
stimulated him wonderfully, so that in the pride of his recovered
strength of mind, and consciousness of his brawny strength of body, he
found himself growing almost sentimentally sorry for the fate of his
puny adversary.  Poor little soul, perhaps she really was in love with
him!--Challoner wiped his face again with a flourish.  Well, plenty of
people did call him "a splendid-looking man"!  All the same, she'd got
to go under.  She must be rooted up and cleared out.  He was sorry, for
it's always a nasty thing for a woman to be made to understand she is
only a side-show in a man's life.  Only if he meant to stand for the
Baughurst Park Ward--and unquestionably he did now mean to do so--his
address to the electors must be printed and distributed and his canvass
started within the week.  Yes, no doubt very, very sorry for her, still
he was bound to make short work with this rooting up and clearing out
of poor Mrs. Gwynnie.

Nor did his election supply the only reason against further
shilly-shally.  Here Challoner cleared his throat, while the brick-dust
of his complexion deepened to crimson.  It was funny how shy the
thought of Margaret Smyrthwaite always turned him!  But when once the
winding up of old Montagu Smyrthwaite's estate was completed, he would
no longer have a legitimate excuse for dropping in at the Tower House
at odd hours, indulging in nice confidential little chats with Margaret
in the blue sitting-room or taking a _tête-à-tête_ stroll with her
around the gardens and through the conservatories.  Miss Joanna did not
like him, he was sure of that.  She certainly wouldn't give him
encouragement.  So time pressed, for the completion of the winding up
of the estate could not be delayed much longer.  Montagu Smyrthwaite
had left his affairs in quite vexatiously good order, from Challoner's
point of view, thereby obliging the latter to expend much ingenuity in
the invention of obstacles to the completion of business.  His object
was to keep Adrian Savage out of England and away from his cousins as
long as possible.  But the young man--with how much heartiness
Challoner consigned him and all his works and ways to regions
infernal!--might grow suspicious and run over from Paris just to hasten
matters.  That would not suit Challoner's little game in the least.  He
must make certain of his standing with Margaret before that most
unwelcome descent of the enemy.

For the whole matter of Adrian Savage had become to him as the
proverbial red rag to a bull.  By its irritating associations it acted
very sensibly upon him now, causing him to charge down the road
headlong, with his heavy, lunging tread.  Had Adrian proved a bad man
of business, ignorant, careless, or bungling, Challoner felt his
superiority in other departments might have been more easily stomached.
But to find this highly polished man of the world as smart a business
man as his somewhat unpolished and provincial self rubbed him very
shrewdly on the raw.  When, with an eye to a not impossible future, he
essayed so to jockey affairs as to secure some advantage to Margaret
Smyrthwaite, in the disposition of her father's property, Adrian
invariably detected the attempted small swindle and promptly, though
politely, checkmated it.

Such encounters had occurred more than once; and both his own failure
and Adrian's adroitness in disposing of them rankled so much still that
Challoner walked nearly half the length of Silver Chine Road absorbed
in disagreeable remembrance.  Then the name on a gate-post, which
happened to catch his eye, acquainted him with the hardly less
disagreeable fact that he neared the end of his journey.

Ferndale--and he went on repeating the names of the houses as he passed
them, mostly by rote, occasionally refreshing his memory where the
light permitted by a glance at gate or gate-post.  Ferndale, then
Ambleside, The Hollies, St. Miguel, Killarney, followed by Castlebar,
The Moorings, Peshawar, Mon Repos, Clovelly.  And next, after crossing
the end of St. Cuthbert's Road, Leicester Lodge, Fairlawn, Chatsworth,
Ben Nevis, Santander.  Less than a year ago these same names had been
to him as mile-stones on love's pilgrimage, each one of which brought
him a few steps nearer to a hotly coveted goal.  Now he waxed sarcastic
at the expense of their far-fetched, high-flown titles.  Take
Chatsworth, for instance--a forty-five-pound-a-year house, rates and
taxes included, with, at the outside, an eighth of an acre of garden to
it--could snobbish silliness go much farther?

But here was Robin's Rest, capping the climax, in respect of its title,
by vulgar folly.

Challoner's large, stiff-jointed hands came down roughly on the top bar
of the little white gate.  He waited a few seconds, breathing rather
stertorously.

"Robin's Rest--why not Joseph's Coat?" he snarled, "a coat of many
colors.  Convenient, that, when you happen to want to turn it, perhaps!
Now, no more squish-squash.  Straight ahead--go in and win, and my best
wishes to you, Sir Joseph Turncoat."

With that he swung the gate open and tramped up the path to the front
door, a certain bullying swagger in the carriage of his big person and
tall, upright head.



CHAPTER II

  A STRATEGIC MOVEMENT WHICH SECURES VICTORY
  WHILE SIMULATING RETREAT

Mrs. Spencer, the train of her mauve, cotton-back satin tea-gown thrown
negligently over her arm, held aside the strings of the beaded chick,
letting her guest pass into the inner hall.  As she moved across to the
open door of the much be-frilled and be-palmed little drawing-room,
they rippled back into place behind her with a rattle of cane and
tinkle of glass.  The familiar sound gave Challoner, who, heavily
deliberate, deposited gloves and hat on the hall table, a catch in his
throat.  He found the first sight of Mrs. Gwynnie in her flimsy satin,
cream lace, and rather tired turquoise-blue ribbons, upsetting.  She
was a straw-colored, insignificant-featured, fairly tall, fairly plump,
fairly graceful, uncomfortably small-waisted woman; looking, at a
distance, five-and-twenty, at close quarters, nearer five-and-thirty,
cheaply pretty and effective, though slightly washed out.  And this
latter quality, or absence of quality, in her appearance took hold of
Challoner now with an appeal of pathos which he resented and made an
effort to ignore.  It did not tend to the improvement of his manners or
of his temper.

"Since when have you taken to answering the front door yourself?" he
inquired, in tones of heavy banter.  "Been having the periodic rumpus
with the maids again?"

"Oh no; the maids are quite good, thank you," she answered, punctuating
her speech with a little meaningless, neighing laugh habitual to her.
"I'm on excellent terms with both of them, for a wonder.  But it's the
cook's evening out, and I gave Esther leave to go with her.  I didn't
think we should have any particular use for them."  Again she laughed.
"But didn't you get my note?"

"Yes, I got it right enough," Challoner said.  He had followed her into
the drawing-room and stood with his hands behind him and his back to
the hissing gas-fire, looking down at his seal-brown frieze trousers.
The suit was almost new, yet the knees showed signs of bagging already.
This vexed him.  "That is why I am here.  You said you wanted to see
me.  So I stayed and dined in town to save time, and came on just as I
was."

"So I perceive," she put in with meaning.

Challoner continued to contemplate the knees of his trousers.  Yet he
was well aware that her eyes were fixed on another item of his
costume--namely, his waistcoat, crocheted in red and white quarter-inch
squares, and finished with a gray cloth border and flat white horn
buttons.  Mrs. Spencer had worked it for him last year as a Christmas
present.  He wished to goodness he had not happened to be wearing it
to-night!

"Yes," he repeated, without looking up, "I got your note right enough.
But, do you know, I begin to think I get rather too many of those
notes.  You've fallen into the habit of writing too frequently.
Between ourselves, it worries me a lot."

"Why?" she asked.

He shifted his weight from one foot to the other.

"Why?  Because I have some regard for your reputation, I imagine.  I
don't care a twopenny damn on my own account, of course.  My back's
broad enough to bear the consequences of my own actions, even if they
are disagreeable.  But it is quite another matter for you; and I must
say you're getting very reckless.  That's not fair by me.  I've been
awfully careful from the first.  But where's the use of my taking
extensive precautions to shield you if you go and invite gossip like
this?"

"Don't be cross and scold me," Mrs. Spencer said, archly.

She had placed herself on the sofa at right angles to the fireplace,
drawing the train of her tea-gown aside so as to leave room for a
second occupant of this, the most solid seat in the room.  The rest of
the furniture ran to wicker chairs, colored Madras muslin veiling their
original cretonne coverings, and tables, whatnots, cabinets, and
flower-pot stands with mottled brown-and-biscuit bamboo frames and
plaited straw tops, brackets, and shelves to them.

"I won't write so often if you really think it is dangerous," she added.

"It is dangerous," Challoner asserted, ignoring the invitation to share
the sofa.  "Think for yourself.  At Heatherleigh there are my servants.
At the office there are my clerks.  Do you suppose they haven't tongues
in their mouths or eyes in their heads?  If that does not constitute
danger, I'll thank you to tell me what does."

"But you forbid me to telephone, so how am I to communicate with you
unless I write?  You call so seldom.  I hardly ever see you now."

"Oh! come," he remonstrated, "I was here Sunday week."

"But that's Beattie's afternoon at home.  You know I always give it up
to her friends.  And a whole crowd of them was here Sunday week--Fred
Lawley, and the Busbridge boys, and Marion Chase.  I didn't get three
words with you."

Challoner glanced at her in sharp anxiety.

"Fred Lawley come up to the scratch yet?" he asked.

"If you mean has he proposed, I am sure I can't tell you.  I don't know
myself.  I suppose if he had, Bee would have told me.  He seems
tremendously gone on her.  But you never can be sure of a man till your
engagement has been publicly announced."

It was Challoner who laughed a little this time.

"Not quite invariably even then," he said.

His chin settled into the V of the turned-back corners of his high
shirt-collar, while his eyes returned to contemplation of those
vexatiously baggy trousers.  Mrs. Spencer began to speak, but he hulled
down her voice by asking, rather loudly:

"By the way, where is Miss Beattie?"

"Oh, she's gone over to Marychurch to the Quartermains.  They asked her
to stop the night because the Progressive Whist Club meets at their
house.  I think those club parties awfully slow, but Bee wouldn't miss
one on any account.  They don't play for money, only prizes."

"China lucky pigs or a black velvet cat, home-made, with a pink ribbon
around its neck--I know the style," Challoner returned.  "Fred Lawley's
the attraction, I imagine, rather than those high-class works of art."

"I don't think he'll be there.  Bee said something about his having
gone to Southampton to join his ship.  You seem very interested in Fred
Lawley.  But I told you in my note Bee was away to-night?"

"Very likely you did--I really don't remember," he replied, hastily.

For he detected, or fancied he detected, a suggestion in her tone and
words eminently unwelcome and embarrassing.  He felt the brick-dust red
of his face and neck deepening to crimson; and this both angered and
alarmed him.  Notwithstanding repudiation of sentiment, was the soft
side still uppermost?  That would not do.  He must buckram himself more
resolutely against poor Mrs. Gwynnie's fascinations, and bring matters
to a head at once.

"But that reminds me--speaking of Beattie, I mean--what do you want
done about the lease of this house?  It will be up at the end of the
half quarter."

So far Mrs. Spencer had lolled in attitudes of studied ease upon the
sofa.  Now she sat bolt upright, clasping her small waist with both
hands and advancing her bust.  The little neighing laugh preceded,
instead of punctuating, her speech.  Challoner observed a nervous ring
in the quality of it.

"Oh! well that rests more with you than with me, doesn't it?  Of course
I hadn't forgotten the lease is nearly up.  It was
partly--partly"--with emphasis--"about the house I wanted to see you
to-night, and I think it awfully sweet of you to ask what I want done--"

She paused, while her auditor, in growing uneasiness, again shifted his
weight, dancing-bear fashion, from one to the other foot.

"Yes, it's awfully sweet of you to put it that way," she repeated.
"And I quite know I ought to make up my mind.  I suppose, on the whole,
I had better ask you to renew the lease for a year, or six months,
unless--unless--"

"Unless what?" Challoner snapped.

He could have bitten his tongue out immediately after, perceiving how
woefully he had blundered.  For, although he carefully abstained from
looking at her, he knew that the light leaped into Mrs. Spencer's eyes
and the pink into her cheek, while even her straw-colored hair, through
the intricate convolutions of which a wisp of turquoise chiffon was
twisted, took on a livelier tint.  She blossomed, in short; her faded,
crumpled, played-out prettiness of person and manner transformed into
the younger, smarter, more convinced, and consequently more convincing,
prettiness which had raised an evil spirit of covetousness in him when
he first met her, and continued to provoke that covetousness
until--well, until something very much more profitable, socially and
financially, in the shape of possibly obtainable womanhood had risen
above his horizon.  The moment was a very nasty one for Joseph
Challoner; since it could not but occur to him that, while responsible
for much existing damage, he was about to render himself liable for far
heavier damages in the near future.  This taxed his courage.  Again,
consciously, he "funked it"; so that for some few seconds Gwynneth
Spencer's fate hung in the balance.  But only for a few seconds did her
fate so hang.  Ambition, and a brute obstinacy in face of attempted
coercion, a certain animal necessity to prove to himself the fact of
his own strength, carried the day.  Challoner turned his coat once and
for all, in as far as poor light-weight Gwynnie Spencer was concerned,
letting the underlying element of cruelty and cunning in his nature
have free play.

"Unless what?" she echoed, laughing thinly.  "Why, unless you have any
other plan to propose, Joe; any arrangement which you'd like better and
which I should like better than just sticking on here indefinitely at
Robin's Rest."

Challoner had moved away to a rickety little bamboo table, set out with
cheap flower-vases and knick-knacks.  Absently he picked up a
photograph, in dilapidated silver frame, from among these treasures and
stood fingering it.  The coat of many colors was fairly turned; yet at
the sound of his pet name Challoner started, letting the object he held
fall to the ground, where, to his relief, silver, leather, glass,
cardboard and portrait incontinently parted company.

"I need not put it more plainly, need I?" she quavered, an upward break
in her voice.  "But, of course, if you have any other plan to propose
there would be no occasion to bother about the renewal of the lease."

Challoner knelt on one knee, his large hands groping over the carpet as
he gathered up the _débris_.

"Bless me!" he said, "the wretched thing's smashed.  What a nuisance!
I hope you haven't any special affection for it.  I am awfully sorry.
Can't imagine how I came to drop it!  Stupid of me, wasn't it?  I must
get you a new one.  I saw some uncommonly tasty silver frames in a shop
in the Marychurch Road to-day.  I'll go in and buy you one the first
time I pass.  Tell your girl to be careful when she sweeps in the
morning, though, for the glass has splintered all over the place."

He rose ponderously to his feet, and for the first time since his
arrival looked full at her.

"Peuh!" he went on, blowing out his breath and laying one hand across
the small of his back.  "It strikes me I'm growing confoundedly stiff.
Old age comes on apace, eh, Mrs. Gwynnie?  Not in your case, I don't
mean.  You are one of the sort that wears well.  I haven't seen you in
better looks for months.  Some other plan to propose, did you say?
Yes, I have, otherwise I mightn't have been quite so ready to eat a
beastly bad dinner down-town, so as to be free to come on here early to
see you."

His manner had become almost boisterously jocose.  Casting out the last
remnant of pity, he cast out the last remnant of fear of her even in
her present heightened prettiness.  He came round behind the sofa and
perched himself on the back of it, sitting sideways, looking down at
her flushed, expectant, unimportant little face, and quite jauntily
swinging his leg.

"You'll not forget to tell them about the broken glass?" he queried,
parenthetically, "or you'll have somebody getting badly cut.  As to my
alternative plan now, Mrs. Gwynnie, I have been thinking things over
too; and I feel, like you, they can't very well continue as they are.
This Robin's Rest arrangement, which served its purpose well enough at
first, is pretty thoroughly played out.  We may regret that, but it is.
And, to tell you the truth, Mrs. Gwyn, I have been troubled by some
little qualms of conscience lately.  Beattie's affairs have been on my
mind a lot."

"Beattie, Beattie?" she broke in, shrilly.  "What on earth has Bee to
do with it?"

"The question is not so much what Beattie has to do with it"--laying
stress on the last word--"as what it has to do with Beattie," Challoner
returned, in a benevolent, heavy-father tone.  "In my opinion she has
been a mighty good little sister to you, and she must be mortally tired
of keeping her eyes shut and playing gooseberry by this time.  I see no
reason why her prospects should be sacrificed.  She's a perfect right
to a look in of her own, poor girl."

The answer to the above might appear obvious.  But Challoner gauged the
mental caliber of the person he dealt with.  Mrs. Spencer's shallow,
trivial, fair-weather nature was ill-adapted to meet any great crisis.
Her small brain worked slowly, and with a permanent inclination toward
the irrelevant and indirect.  He counted upon these defects of
perception and logic, and he was not disappointed.

"But--but, when I marry," she said, essaying not very successfully to
practise her little laugh, "I always meant to make it a condition that
Bee should share my home."

"Very nice and thoughtful.  Quite right of you," Challoner replied,
still benevolently jocose.  "Only I was talking about Beattie's
matrimonial projects just now, not about yours, you see.  And you are
to blame, Mrs. Gwyn.  You have been careless.  I don't want to pile on
the agony, but you have been most awfully careless.  There is ever so
much gossip going round.  I am afraid people are beginning to look just
a little askance.  And what reflects on you reflects on your sister.  I
have taken the trouble to make inquiries, and, from all I hear, Fred
Lawley is a very decent young fellow and will come into some money when
his grandfather dies.  He is second officer now, and stands well for
promotion.  The pay is above the average, too, on that Cape line.  His
people are in a good position; quite gentlefolk, a solid old clerical
family--one of his uncles a canon of some cathedral or other, I forget
which.  It would be a first-class marriage for Beattie.  But you cannot
expect people like that to be best pleased at his taking up with a girl
out of such a queer stable as--well, as this one, Mrs. Gwyn.  Therefore
I do not think I should be acting in your sister's interests if I
renewed the lease of this house for you."

"I see that," she said, her aspect brightening.  "I see what you are
coming round to.  How you have thought it all out!  I see--of
course--go on."

"I shall not renew the lease of this house," he repeated, slowly, "but
I propose you and Miss Beattie shall move, bag and baggage, to
Marychurch, where--"

"Marychurch?  Why?  I thought you meant Heatherleigh!  Why?  Do you
want to get rid of us?  Oh!" she gasped, "oh!"

"Yes," Challoner said, jocosity waning somewhat.  "Exactly, Mrs.
Gwynnie.  How quick you are!  I do want to get rid of you, for your own
good, and my good, and Beattie's good as well--principally for hers.
This gossip must be stopped.  I cannot have it.  It is unpleasant for
me, but for you it is disastrous.  At Marychurch Beattie has the
Quartermains and plenty of other friends.  It will be handy for her
young man, too, when his vessel is at Southampton.  You would see ever
so much more society there than you do here.  And I can give you an
uncommonly nice house, very superior in every respect to this
one--Sunnyside, the white house with a veranda, opposite the new
Borough Recreation Ground in Wilmer Road.  Nominally it belongs to old
Manby, but actually it belongs to me.  It has been standing empty since
Christmas, and Manby will think himself only too lucky to let it to any
client of mine at a low rent--which I pay, of course.  No one need know
anything about that."

Challoner talked on, swinging his leg jauntily, though every nerve in
his big body was strained with the effort to apprehend and follow the
workings of his hearer's mind.  So far, save for that passing outbreak,
she had received his admonitions and propositions more reasonably than
he had anticipated.  So he must exercise patience, must not rush her;
but give the idea time to sink in.

"Manby's property is mortgaged up to the hilt," he went on, "and he is
more than half a year behind with the interest.  If he doesn't come
into my terms I shall threaten to foreclose.  He knows I have got him
between my finger and thumb, poor old chap, and he goes in terror of
the time I may begin to squeeze.  I admit it does seem rather rough on
him, for he is in this hole through no fault of his own.  His family
has owned the property for three generations.  But his business has
dwindled to nothing, and that compelled him to raise money.  The
co-operative stores at Stourmouth and Southampton are crushing him and
old-fashioned, jog-along, retail tradesmen like him out of existence.
The same thing is happening all over the country.  Men of his type have
neither enterprise nor capital to compete with those large company
concerns."

She sat so still, listening with such apparent docility, that Challoner
judged it safe to quit generalities.

"Sunnyside shall be properly done up and the sanitation inspected," he
said.  "I am willing to spend from seventy to a hundred on the place.
It is bound to be my own sooner or later, so any money I lay out on it
will come back to me in the end.  Too, I want to do the thing
handsomely for you, Mrs. Gwyn.  You and Beattie could go out by tram
to-morrow, or next day, and have a look at the place.  I'll advise
Manby by telephone to-morrow, first thing, I have found him a very
desirable tenant, so that he may open the house.  Better make a list of
any little odds and ends you may think need doing.  If you like, you
can choose the wall-papers yourself."

"That's awfully sweet of you.  But supposing I don't like the house
when I see it?  I know I am rather fanciful and particular," she put
in, with her little neighing laugh.

"I'll guarantee you'll like it," he returned.  "It's just the sort of
house to appeal to your taste.  Really high class, nothing cheap or
tawdry about it, built somewhere in the early seventies, tip-top style
in its own line, quite a gentlewoman's house."

Mrs. Spencer fingered the lace and ribbons of her tea-gown negligently,
advanced her left foot, studied the pointed toe of her beaded slipper,
then looked up archly in Challoner's face.

"But supposing," she said, "I really don't want a house at Marychurch
at all--what then?  Supposing I really prefer to remain at Stourmouth?
Supposing I am really determined to stay on here at our dear old
Robin's Rest?"

Challoner's expression darkened.  He descended from his graceful perch
and stood behind the sofa, towering above her.

"Very sorry, Mrs. Gwyn," he replied, "but I regret to say it can't be
done.  It doesn't suit me to have you stay on at Robin's Rest."

"But why?" she insisted.

Challoner hesitated for an instant, decided to make exact truth
subservient to expediency, and spoke.

"Why?  Well, if you press the point, not only for the very good reasons
which I have already given you at some length, but because I want the
house for another tenant.  Pewsey, my junior partner, has asked for it
for his mother.  I am anxious to oblige Pewsey.  I have promised him
possession some time in the June quarter."

"You have let Robin's Rest, let our house, Joe, our own dear little
house, without ever telling me?  Let it over my head?"

Looking at her upturned face, pretty, scared, brainless, Challoner's
memory played a queer trick on him, harking back to scenes of long ago,
at which, as a schoolboy, he had more than once--to his
shame--assisted, on the Fairmead at Marychurch, the great, flat,
fifty-acre grass meadow which lies on the outskirts of the little town
between the River Wilmer and the Castle Moat.  He saw, with startling
vividness of detail, the agonized leaping rush of the shrill-squealing
rabbits, wire-netting barrier in front of them and red-jawed,
hot-breathing dogs behind.  Even then he had turned somewhat sick at
the hellish pastime, although excitement, and a natural disposition to
bully all creatures weaker than himself, made him yell and curse and
urge on the dogs with the roughest of the crowd.  He sickened now,
watching this hapless, foolish, bewildered woman double and turn in
desperate effort to elude pursuing, self-created Fate, only to find
herself brought up short against the irrefragable logic of the
situation as demonstrated by his own relentless common-sense.  Yet,
even while he sickened, excitement gained on him, and his bullying
instinct began to find satisfaction in the inhuman sport.

"Yes, Mrs. Gwynnie," he said, "I own I have done just that--let Robin's
Rest over your head.  I saw it was the kindest thing, both by you and
by your sister, though it might strike you as a bit arbitrary at first.
My duty is to stop this infernal gossip at all costs.  If you won't
take proper care of your own reputation I must take care of it for
you--isn't that as clear as mud?"

"But I don't want to go away," she cried, again missing the point.  "I
refuse to be sent away.  You have no right to interfere.  It isn't your
place.  You can't order me about and push me aside like that.  I am a
lady, and I refuse to put up with such treatment.  It is very rude of
you and quite unsuitable.  Everybody would feel that.  I shall appeal
to my friends.  I shall tell every one I know about it."

"Oh! as you please, of course.  But just what will you tell them?"
Challoner asked.

"Why, the whole story--the whole truth."

"As you please," he repeated.  "Only I'm afraid it's not a story
likely, when told, to enlarge your local visiting-list."

Challoner perched on the back of the sofa again, domineering,
masterful, leaning down and looking her straight in the eyes.

"See here, Gwynnie," he said.  "You're in a tight place.  Listen to
reason.  Don't be a fool and throw away your last chance in a pet."

"I mean to expose you.  I will tell everybody, everybody," she cried.

"No," Challoner said, "you won't.  I give you credit for more worldly
wisdom, more self-respect, more good feeling, than that.  The injury
you might do me, by publishing this little love-passage of ours, would
not be a patch upon the injury you would do yourself.  You don't want
to commit social suicide, do you, and find every door shut in your
face?  Tell any of these friends of yours, the Woodfords, Mrs. Paull,
Marion Chase, and they'd avoid you as they would a leper, drop you like
a hot potato, cut you dead, whether they believed your charming little
tale or not.  You are fond of company, Mrs. Gwynnie--a gregarious
being.  You would not the least enjoy being left out in the cold all by
yourself.  And there is another point.  I am perfectly willing to pay
for my pleasure honestly, as a man should, but it is not wise to tax my
good nature too far.  Doing your best to blast my reputation is not
exactly the way to make me feel kindly or act generously toward you.
There would be no more nice houses, rent free, Mrs. Gwyn, rates and
taxes paid; no more quarterly allowance, I am afraid.  I should cut off
supplies, my dear.  Your widow's pension is paid in rupees, remember,
not in sterling; and the value of the rupee is hardly likely to go up.
So you had better look at the question all round before you take the
neighborhood into your confidence.  Listen here, I will give you a
hundred a year and the Marychurch house--"

"But if I tell everybody how you have treated me, public opinion will
force you to marry me," she cried, with an air of announcing an
annihilating truth.

Challoner swung his big body from side to side contemptuously.

"Faugh!" he said.  "Public opinion will do nothing of the sort.  You
forget it is a case of my word against yours, and that, considering our
relative positions, my word will count a jolly sight most."

"But you dare not deny--"

"Oh, indeed yes, I dare," Challoner broke out.  "I can deny and shall
deny--or rather should, for it won't ever come to the test--that your
accusations have any foundation whatsoever in fact.  If a woman is mad
enough to incriminate herself she must do so.  But a man always denies,
at least every man of honor and proper feeling does.  No, no; be
sensible.  Think of Beattie.  Think of yourself.  Don't put all your
eggs in one basket.  You are a taking woman still, Mrs. Gwyn.  Give
yourself another chance.  For remember, you haven't a shred of evidence
to offer in support of your attack.  You have bombarded me with notes,
but, except as lawyer to client, I have never written you two lines in
my life."  He paused.  "No, thank goodness! even at my hottest I kept
my head screwed on sufficiently the right way to avoid the old
letter-writing trap."

"Then from the first, the very first," she gasped, "did you never mean
to marry me?"

Challoner had the grace to hesitate, look down at the floor, and lower
his voice as he answered.

"No, my dear girl, never--from the day I found I could get what I
wanted at the cheaper rate."

Gwynneth Spencer stared blankly in front of her.  Then, as her small,
slow-working brain began to take in the measure of her own disgrace,
while the poor house of cards in which she trusted toppled and tumbled
flat, her silly, little, neighing laugh rose to a shriek.  Beating the
air with both hands, she flung herself at full length on the sofa, her
body convulsed from head to foot and her throat torn by hysterical
cries and sobs.  Challoner turned his back, put his hands over his
ears.  The squealing of the mangled rabbits, on the Fairmead, had been
a lullaby compared with this!  But he found it useless to try and shut
out the sounds.  Piercing, discordant, rasping, they echoed through the
room.  They must be heard next door.  Heard out in the road.  Heard, so
it seemed to Challoner, through the length and breadth of Stourmouth.
Must resound, startling the high respectabilities of the Baughurst Park
Ward.  Must break in upon the dignified seclusion of the Tower House
itself, searing his name with infamy.

He turned round, leaned down over the back of the sofa.  He felt the
greatest reluctance to touch the shrieking, struggling woman, but the
noise was unendurable.  He caught both her wrists, in one hand, and
pinned them down among the ribbons and laces at her waist.  The other
hand he laid upon her open and distorted mouth.

"Hush," he said.  "Be quiet.  Hush, you fool!  Gwynnie, be a good girl.
Hush, Gwyn.  For God's sake, don't go on like this!  Hush--pull
yourself together.  Try to control yourself.  My dear little
woman--curse you, leave off your caterwauling, you damned hell-cat.  Do
you hear, hold your infernal row!  Gwynnie love, darling, chummy little
sweetheart!  Leave off, will you, or you'll make me smother you.  Leave
off.--Ah! my God! that's better.--Oh!  Oh!--ouf!"

The next thing Challoner knew clearly was that he stood in the little
dining-room.  Upon the dinner-table, under the dim light of the
turned-down-gas-jets, a square spirit decanter, a syphon of soda, and a
couple of glasses were set out on a round red-lacquer tray.  He
remembered often to have seen them set out thus.  But, for the moment,
he could not recall why he was there or what he came for.  He felt very
tired.  His hands shook, the veins stood out on his forehead, and great
drops of perspiration ran down his face.  He would be uncommonly glad
of some brandy.  Then he started with a sudden movement of disgust.  He
might be brutal, cynical, callous, but there were depths to which he
could not descend.  Never again could he eat or drink in this house.

He remembered what he came for.  A sound away in the offices arrested
his attention.  The maids had come in, he supposed.  He was glad of
that.  He poured some brandy into a glass, and, crossing the hall, went
back into the drawing-room, shutting the door softly behind him.  Mrs.
Spencer lay quite still, the fit of hysteric violence spent.  Her face
was clay-colored.  Her lips blue.  Her eyes closed.  Her body limp and
inert.  She cried a little weakly and quietly.

Challoner knelt down beside the sofa, slipped one hand under the back
of her head, with its elaborately dressed hair and wisp of turquoise
chiffon, and held the glass to her lips.

"Drink this," he said, in a thick whisper.  "It will help to bring you
round.  It will do you good."

Then, as she sipped it, drawing away now and then and spluttering a
little as the raw spirit burned her tongue and throat, he went on:

"You are going to be sensible and not throw away your chance?"

"No--I mean yes," she said.

"You will take Beattie over to Marychurch to look at the house?"

"Yes--oh! yes."

"I'll give you a hundred and fifty a year--fifty more than I promised.
You can do quite nicely on that?"

"Yes--thank you--yes."

"And as long as you keep your part of the bargain I'll keep mine.  If
you play me false and talk--"

"I sha'n't talk," she said, feebly and fretfully.  "Why should I talk
now it's no use?"

"Ah," Challoner returned, "I am very glad you have come to your senses,
Mrs. Gwyn.  I believed, give it a little thought, you'd see it all in a
reasonable light.  That's right."

He rose and went out into the hall again, carrying the glass; put it
down, took up his gloves and hat, crossed to the door leading to the
offices, opened it and called.

A young woman, in a trim black serge coat and skirt and pink sailor
hat, appeared in the kitchen doorway with a knowing and slightly
disconcerting smirk.

"Look here, Esther," Challoner said, "Mrs. Spencer has been extremely
unwell.  It was most fortunate I happened to call in to-night.  If I
hadn't, I don't quite know what would have become of her.  She ought
not to be left alone in the house.  Next time Miss Beattie is away,
mind both of you do not go out.  It is not safe."

He felt among the loose coins in his trousers pocket; laid hold of a
sovereign, considered that it was too much--might have the flavor of a
bribe about it.  Found a couple of half-crowns, drew them out and put
them into the young woman's hand.

"You understand what I say?  Never let your mistress be alone in the
house."

Once outside in the road, Challoner took off his hat, walking slowly.
He was grateful for the freshness and the soothing half-dark.  He had
gone about fifty yards when the blond road seemed to lurch.  That
horrible shrieking laughter was in his ears--or was it only the
squealing of the tortured rabbits?  He turned giddy, laid hold of the
top of some garden palings for support.  A spasm contracted his throat.
He retched, vomited.  And then passed onward, homeward, through the
chill, moist fragrance of the spring night.



CHAPTER III

  IN WHICH EUTERPE IS CALLED UPON TO PLAY THE PART
  OF INTERPRETER

The concert was over.  Coming out of the Rotunda--a domed and pinnacled
building of glass and iron, half conservatory, half theater, set on the
hillside against a crown of evergreen-trees--the audience poured in a
dark stream down the steep garden walks to where, flanked by red and
yellow wooden kiosks, the turnstiles and entrance gates open on to the
public road.

Joanna Smyrthwaite was among the last to leave the auditorium.  She did
so in a dazed and almost sleep-walking condition, exhausted and
enervated by the tumult of her own sensations.  But that enervation was
singularly pleasant to her, since, by reducing the claims of her
overdeveloped intellectual and moral nature, it left the emotional
element in undisputed ascendancy.  She was, indeed, jealous of any
interruption or curtailment of this condition.  Therefore she lingered,
unwilling to leave the place where so much inward felicity had been
procured her, and fearing to meet any of her acquaintance.  Dr. and
Mrs. Norbiton and Mrs. Paull had, she believed, occupied stalls a
couple of rows behind her.  She wished to avoid conversation with them,
and still more to avoid offering--her carriage was waiting at the
entrance gates--to drive them to their respective homes.  Their
comments upon the performance, however intelligent and appreciative,
must, she knew, jar upon her in her present frame of mind.  Felicity
would be extinguished in irritation, and for such deplorable downfall
she should, she knew, hold her good neighbors responsible.  It was
wiser to avoid occasion of offense since she so wanted, so really
needed, to be alone.

Her sister Margaret's musical requirements went no further than the
modern English ballad.  For preference of the description in which
roses, personal pronouns, cheap erotic sentiment, endearing
diminutives, and tags of melody appropriated--without
acknowledgment--from the works of early masters go to make up so
remarkably meritricious a whole.  Of this Joanna, while duly deploring
Margaret's artistic limitations, was really very glad.  It enabled her
to attend the weekly Wednesday and Friday classical concerts, at the
Rotunda, by herself.  She had always wished to attend these concerts,
but only since her father's demise had she felt free to gratify her
wishes in respect of them.  Since that event, they had become first a
permitted pleasure, then an indulgence crying aloud for gratification,
and finally a duty of a semi-religious character on no account to be
omitted.  To-day the religious sentiment was conspicuously present, as
the programme consisted of excerpts from Wagner's operas.  Reared in a
creed which sublimates the deity to an inoperative abstraction,
Joanna's thought reacted just now toward an exaggerated
anthropomorphism.  In her mind, as in those of many persons deficient
in the finer and more catholic musical instinct, the titanic quality of
so much of the great composer's work excited feelings of astonishment
and awe which resulted in an attitude closely akin to worship.  The
elevation of primitive human passions--desire, remorse, anger, revenge,
blood-hunger--to regions of portent and prodigy, so that they stalk,
altogether phantasmal and gigantic clothed in rent garments of amazing
and tormented harmonies across the world stage, their heads threatening
the integrity of the constellations while their feet are made of, and
squarely planted upon, very common clay, is, undoubtedly, a spectacle
calculated at once to flatter human pride and provoke a species of
idolatry.  For some reason, moreover, lust is less readily conceivable
in the neighborhood of the pole than in that of the equator; so that
the bleak Northern atmosphere, in which the Wagnerian dramas move,
procures for them an effect of austerity, not to say of chastity,
almost amusingly misleading.

Humor, however, is indispensable to the recognition of the above little
truths, and Joanna's composition was innocent of the smallest admixture
of that merrily nose-pulling ingredient.  She took her emotions quite
seriously; not only nursing them when present, but finding in them
later assurance of the reality of certain fond dreams, vehement hopes
and longings, which possessed her.  Therefore, standing under the
glazed marquise of the Rotunda she watched, with strained face and
pale, anxious eyes, until the little company of her acquaintance--she
could distinguish Dr. Norbiton by his height and the green felt hat,
cleft in the crown, which he wore--reached the turnstiles and passed
out toward the animated open space of The Square.

This last, like the flat of the valley, lay in shadow; faint pearl-gray
mist veiling the modest stream whence Stourmouth derives its name, and
the lawns and borders--now gay with spring flowers--of the well-kept
ornamental grounds through which it flows.  But, across the valley, the
fir plantation upon the opposite slope, and the houses and big
hotels--the streaming flags of which supplied a welcome note of crude
color in the landscape--rising behind the dark bar of it, along with
the upward curve of shops and offices in Marychurch Road, and the three
tall church spires--two of buff-gray stone, the third red-tiled and
elegantly slender--were flooded with steady sunshine.  Thrushes sang
loud in the grove at the back of the Rotunda.  Perched on the
outstanding ironwork of the dome, starlings creaked and whistled.  A
grind of tram wheels, hooting of motor horns, barking of dogs, and
sound of voices, borne on the easterly breeze, arose from The Square.
The bell of an Anglican church called to evensong.  From the bandstand,
situated at the far end of the public gardens, came the strains of a
popular march; while with these, in a soft undertone, mingled the
murmur of the many trees and hush of the sea.

Seeing and hearing all of which, in her present highly sensitized
condition, realization of the inherent beauty of things, the inherent
wonder and delight of Being, pierced Joanna Smyrthwaite's understanding
and heart.  Her whole nature was fused by the fires of a limitless
tenderness and sympathy.  And, being thus delivered from the tyranny of
words and empty phrases, from the false standards of thought and
conduct engendered by her upbringing, and from ever-present
consciousness of her own circumscribed and discordant personality, for
the first time in her experience she tasted the strong wine of life,
pure and undiluted.  During a few splendid moments she knew the joy of
genius' sixth sense--becoming one with the soul and purpose of all that
which she looked upon.  Hot tears rose to her eyes.  She was broken by
a mute ecstasy of thanksgiving.

But it was impossible this happy state should continue.  The malady of
introspection was too deeply ingrained in her.  Tormenting fears and
scruples again arose.  Innate pessimism laid its paralyzing influence
upon her.  She felt as one in whose hands a gift of great value has
been placed; but whose muscles being too weak to grasp it, the precious
lovely thing falls to the ground and is shattered.  Whereat tears of
enraptured sensibility turned to tears of bitter humiliation.  Drawing
a black-bordered handkerchief from the silver-mounted bag hanging at
her waist, she pressed it against her wet, yet burning, face and
hurried down the hill.

At the gates the well-appointed barouche and pair of fine brown horses
awaited her--Johnson, the coachman, rotund and respectful, in his black
livery, upon the box; Edwin the footman, elongated and respectful, her
rugs and wraps over his arm, at the carriage door.  The spring evenings
still grew chill toward sundown; and Joanna's circulation was never of
the best.  She stood silent and abstracted while Edwin put her cloak--a
costly garment of Persian lamb lined with ermine--about her thin
shoulders; nor, until she was seated in the carriage, the fur rug
warmly tucked round her, had her agitation subsided sufficiently for
her to speak.  She would not go the short way home by Barryport Road.
She disliked the traffic.  The trams made her nervous.  She would go by
the new drive along the West Cliff, and across Tantivy Common.

Obediently the carriage turned to the left through the shadow, up the
steep hill behind the Rotunda.  The horses climbed, straining at the
collar.  Then, the top of the ascent being reached, they bowled along
the broad, even road, snorting in the sparkle of the upland air and
recovered sunshine.  Joanna sat stiffly upright, shivering a little and
blinking in the strong light.  She still held her handkerchief in her
hand, and it was through a blur of again up-welling tears that she saw
the uninviting red and gray terraces and large, straggling
boarding-houses, set in a sparse fringe of fir-trees, on either side
the road.  This quarter of Stourmouth, declining from fashion, is given
over to cheap _pensions_, nursing-homes, and schools.  The footwalks
were infested by hospital nurses and bath-chairs, while long files of
girls, marching two and two, meandered home and seaward.  Some of these
maidens stared enviously at the young lady, wrapped in furs, driving
along in her smart carriage, and sighed for the glorious days when
mistresses and lessons would have no more dominion over them.  But
Joanna remained unconscious of the interest she excited.  Her thoughts
had returned upon a subject which now constantly and all too
exclusively occupied them--a subject to which even the admirable
playing of the Rotunda orchestra and noble singing of the young
dramatic soprano--though she had listened to both in a fervor of
reverential emotion--supplied, after all, little more than a humble
accompaniment.

In the silver-mounted velvet bag hanging at her waist, neatly filed and
dated, encircled by elastic bands to keep them perfectly flat and
prevent their edges from crumpling, were all the letters she had
received from Adrian Savage.  Even the thin French envelopes,
cross-hatched with blue inside to secure opacity, had been carefully
preserved.  Even the telegram she had received from Adrian, in response
to the announcement of her father's death, found a place there.  The
letters in question were discreet, even ceremonious epistles, dealing
with business and plans, expressing regret at the delays in his return
to England caused by "our good Challoner's" slowness in preparing
documents and accounts, and making civil inquiries as to Joanna and her
sister's health and well-being.  Quaint turns of phrase and vivacity of
diction gave these letters a flavor of originality; but, taken as a
whole, less intimate or more uncompromising effusions it would be
difficult to conceive.  By this fact, however, Joanna was in no wise
daunted.  As all his many friends agreed, Adrian Savage was a dear,
delightful, and very clever fellow, who would assuredly make a name for
himself.  But Joanna went far beyond that, endowing him with enough
virtues, graces, and talents to people this naughty old earth with
sages and stock all heaven with saints.  Consequently in the graceful
lightness and polite restraint of his letters, alike, she found food
for admiration and security of hope--namely, consideration for the
difficulties of her unprotected position, delicacy in face of her
recent bereavement, a high-minded determination in no way to hurry her
to a decision.

At night Joanna placed the slender packet in a Russia-leather wallet
beneath her pillow.  By day she carried it in the bag at her waist.
Often, when alone, she drew it forth from its hiding-place and fondled
it tremulously.  She had done so this afternoon during the concert more
than once.  It was unnecessary for her to re-read the letters.  She
knew their contents by heart.  Adrian had touched them.  He thought of
her when writing them, when folding the thin sheets of paper, when
stamping and addressing the envelopes.  Thus they constituted a direct
material, as well as mental, link between herself and him.  Perpetually
she dwelt on this fact, finding in it a pleasure almost painful in its
intensity.  Only for a few minutes at a time, indeed, could she dare to
hold or look at the packet.  Then, replacing it in the wallet or bag,
she struggled to regain her composure, merely to take it out at the
first favorable opportunity, and repeat the whole process again.

In the same way, although longing for the young man's return, to the
point of passion, she hailed each obstacle which postponed that return.
To see him, to hear his voice and footsteps, meet his gallant and
kindly eyes, to watch him come and go about the house, to listen to his
clever and sympathetic talk, would constitute rapture, but a rapture
from which she shrank in terror.  She felt that she could hardly endure
his presence.  It would drain her of vitality.

Now, sitting upright in the carriage, while the horses carried her
forward at a spanking pace through the sea and moorland freshness and
the delights of the spring sunshine, a new form of these fears tortured
her.  Adrian's love, constant association with him, participation in
the varied interests and activities of his daily life and in that of
the brilliant society in which he moved--this, and nothing less than
this, in sum and in detail, constituted the lovely precious gift placed
in her, till now, so sad and empty hands by a strange turn of Fortune's
wheel.  Were those poor hungry hands strong enough to close upon and
hold it?  Or would they, weakly faltering and failing, let it fall to
the ground and be shattered?  The shame of such prospective failure
agonized her.  To renounce a crown may be heroic, but to have it
incontinently tumble off, when you are straining every nerve, exerting
every faculty, to keep it safely balanced on your head, is feeble, as
she felt, to the point of ignominy.

At last the schools, _pensions_, nursing-homes, and lodging-houses were
left behind.  The carriage reached the open common.  Tracts of gorse,
thick-set with apricot-yellow blossom, broke up the silvery brown
expanse of heather.  In sharply green, grass-grown hollows ancient
hawthorns, their tops clipped by the sea wind into quaint shapes,
compact and ruddy, were dusted over by opening leaf-buds.  High in air
screaming gulls circled.  The shadows were long, for the sun drew down
toward its setting.  Then, as once before to-day, the happy appeal of
outward things--in which, as in glass, man may, if he will, catch some
faint reflection of God's glory--made its voice heard, awakening Joanna
Smyrthwaite from the fever-dreams of her almost maniacal egoism.

Obeying a sudden impulse, she stopped the carriage, alighted, and
walked out on to the little promontory the neck of which the road
crosses.  Here the sand cliffs, dyed all shades from deepest rusty
orange to palest lemon-yellow and glistening white, descend, almost
perpendicularly in narrow water-worn shelves and ledges to the beach
nearly a hundred feet below.  Looking eastward, up the wind, the sea
horizon, Stourmouth, its many buildings and its pier, and all the
curving coastline away to Stonehorse Head--the dark mass of which
guards the entrance to Marychurch Haven--showed through a film of fine
gray mist.  Westward, the colors of both land and sea, though opaque,
were warmer.  Across the golden gorse of the common in the immediate
foreground Joanna saw the great amphitheater of the Baughurst Park
Woods extending far inland, the rich blue-purple of the pines and firs
pierced here and there by the living sunlight of a larch plantation.
Beyond Barryport Harbor, only the farthest coves and inlets of whose
gleaming waters were visible, the quiet, rounded outlines of the Slepe
Hills pushed seaward in blunt-nosed headland after headland, softening
from heliotrope to ethereal lavender in the extreme distance, under a
sky resembling the tint and texture of a pink pearl.

Joanna, her fur cloak gathered closely about her, stood a lonely black
figure amid the splendor of the scented gorse.  There is an exciting
quality in the east wind.  The harsh tang of it galvanized her into an
unusual physical well-being, making her chest expand and her blood
circulate more rapidly.

A new thought came to her.  To doubt her power of meeting the demands
of Adrian's affection and of rising to his level was really to doubt
the vivifying power of that affection, to doubt his ability to raise
her to his own level.  Her doubt of her own worthiness was, in point of
fact, an accusation against his intelligence and his judgment.

Joanna slipped one hand inside the velvet bag under her cloak and
clasped the thin packet of letters.  With the other she momentarily
covered her eyes, as though in apology and penitence.

"Ah! how miserably faithless I am," she murmured in her flat, toneless
voice.  "How wickedly ungrateful it is not to trust him.  As though he
were not capable of supplying all that is wanting in me--as though he
did not know so far, far best!"



CHAPTER IV

SOME PASSAGES FROM JOANNA SYMRTHWAITE'S LOCKED BOOK

That evening Joanna went to her room early.  She permitted Mrs.
Isherwood to help her off with her evening dress and on with a purple
lamb's-wool kimono, the color and cut of which were singularly
ill-suited to her pasty complexion and narrow-chested figure.  She then
rather summarily dismissed the good woman, who retired accompanied by
black silk rustlings indicative of respectful displeasure and protest.
These Joanna refused to let affect her.  The experiences of the day had
aroused an inherited, though until now latent, arrogance.  She regarded
herself as sealed to that altogether-otherwise-engaged young gentleman,
Adrian Savage, and set apart.  Yet ingrained habits of obedience and
self-repression still stirred within her, making her timid in the
presence of any sort of established authority, even in that of her old
nurse.  She needed solitude to enable her to enjoy the luxury of such
"sealing" to the full.  Therefore, when the door shut upon those
remonstrant rustlings, she followed almost stealthily and locked it,
stood for a moment listening to make sure of Isherwood's final
departure, then extended both arms with a voiceless cry of
satisfaction, crossed to her satinwood bureau, opened it and took the
current volume of her diary from a pigeon-hole, fetched lighted candles
and the silver-mounted bag containing Adrian's letters from off her
dressing-table, and sat down to write.


"_April 20, 190-_

"I have neglected my diary for many weeks.  But I have feared I might
set down that which I should afterward regret.  Indeed, all my
accustomed occupations and employments have been neglected.  They have
appeared to me tedious and trivial.  My mind has been strangely
disordered.  But to-night I feel this state is passed.  I see my duty
clearly, and shall not allow anything to interfere with it or deflect
me from the pursuit of it.  I owe this to the person who has so
wonderfully chosen me."


At this point the small, neat, scholarly writing became irregular and
almost illegible.  Joanna rose and paced the room, pressing her hands
against her high forehead.  Presently she returned and sat down again.


"It is unwise to dwell too much on this.  As yet I am unequal to any
adequate expression of my feelings.  When rearranging the books in
library last week I happened to open a volume of Mrs. Browning's poems
containing her 'Sonnets from the Portuguese.'  They appeared to me
singularly appropriate to my own case.  I have, indeed, been weakly
jealous that any other woman should have felt, and so exactly
expressed, my own thoughts and emotions.  Yet I read and re-read the
sonnets daily.  They speak for me not only more eloquently, but more
truthfully, than I can speak for myself.  But, unhappily, I have less,
terribly less, to offer in return than the poetess had.  This has
racked me with distress, annihilating my peace of mind, and in great
measure dimming my gratitude, until to-day.  I see how very wrong this
has been.  It has its root in pride.  For, as I now understand,
distrust of myself is nothing less than distrust of him.  I am resolved
to exterminate my pride and submit to be nothing, so that he may give
everything.  Already I feel relief and a growing repose of mind from
this resolve.  Already I feel my pride yielding.  Soon, I believe, I
shall almost rejoice in my own absence of gifts and attractions, since
it enlarges his opportunity for generosity."


The chatter of young women upon the gallery, accompanied by smothered
laughter, not to say giggling.  Joanna ceased writing, blotted the
page, and returned the diary to its pigeonhole.  She moved into the
center of the room and stood anxiously listening.  But to her relief no
knock came at the door.  The two voices grew faint along the corridor,
and ceased.  Joanna could not, however, immediately settle to her diary
again.  The giggling had brought her down, from high poetic regions to
common earth, with a bump.  Pride, cast out in one direction, pranced
in another unrestrained--as is pride's wont.  When Joanna resumed her
writing subject and treatment alike were changed.


"Marion Chase is staying here, as usual," she wrote.  "In some ways I
am glad of this.  It relieves me of any obligation to be constantly
with Margaret.  To be constantly with her would be very irksome to me.
I no longer pretend that she and I have much in common.  Since papa's
authority has been removed the radical divergence between Margaret's
character and mine becomes more and more evident.  Marion Chase has no
intellectual life.  Her pleasures are active and practical.  These
Margaret appears increasingly to enjoy sharing.  To-day she and Marion
have been to Southampton and back in a new motor-car Margaret has on
trial.  Mr. Challoner selected it for her in London.  It came down
yesterday.  Margaret is very much excited about it.  She is, of course,
at liberty to buy a motor-car if she pleases, though I think it would
have been better taste to wait until the business connected with our
inheritance was finally settled before making any such costly purchase.
I prefer Johnson and the horses.  Motoring would, I feel sure, cause me
nervousness.  Mr. Challoner, I heard this evening, met them in
Stourmouth, and, under plea of seeing how the car worked before
advising Margaret to keep it, accompanied them to Southampton and back.
This appears to me quite unnecessary.  I could not make out from Marion
whether his going was by previous arrangement or merely the result of a
sudden thought and invitation.  In either case I cannot but disapprove
of his joining the party.  He is still here very frequently, and
Margaret quotes his opinions on every occasion.  Those opinions are
prejudiced and insular, as one might expect from a man who has enjoyed
few social and educational advantages.  Papa used to say the worst
enemies of patriotism were patriots.  This is certainly true in the
case of Mr. Challoner in as far as the effect of his conversation upon
me is concerned.  He knows nothing of foreign countries and foreign
politics, and yet speaks contemptuously of whatever and whoever is not
English.  Margaret has taken to echoing him until I grow weary and
irritable.  Surely it might occur to her that reiterated depreciation
of everything foreign must be displeasing to me.  But Margaret has no
perception.  Argument is lost upon her, so I am constrained to remain
silent.  Yet I cannot disguise from myself that her constant
association with Mr. Challoner and the influence he undoubtedly has
obtained over her may lead to great difficulties in the
future--particularly in the event of my own marriage."


Here, once again, the neat writing became erratic.  Emotion gained upon
Joanna, compelling her to lay down her pen, rise, and pace the room.

"My own marriage--my own marriage," she repeated, her head thrown back,
her eyes shut, her arms hanging straight at her sides, while her hands
worked, opening and closing in nervous, purposeless clutchings.

Presently she walked back to the bureau and took Adrian's letters out
of the velvet bag.  Resting her left hand, her fingers outstretched,
upon the flat slab of the bureau for support, she held the letters in
her right.  Their contact made her wince and shrink, as though she held
white-hot metal instead of innocent bluey-white note-paper.  Only by
degrees could she muster sufficient composure to look at the slim
little packet upon which encircling elastic bands conferred a
distinctly prosaic and even bill-like appearance.

  "'And yet because thou overcomest so,
  Because thou art more noble and like a king,
  Thou canst prevail against my fears and fling
  Thy purple round me, till my heart--'"

Her voice failed, dying in her throat, leaving the quotation
incomplete.  Hastily she pushed the packet of letters back into the
bag, snapped to the silver catch, and, again pressing her hands to her
forehead, paced the room till such time as her agitation had
sufficiently subsided for her to resume her writing.


"I must resist the temptation to dwell upon a certain subject, save in
silence.  To refer to it in words moves me too deeply.  That subject is
the life of my life.  Of this I am so utterly sure, so utterly
convinced, that I can surely afford to keep silence.  Just in
proportion as I know that my heart is beating, it becomes unnecessary
to count the heart-beats.  I had better write of practical things.  To
do so has lessened the worry they too often caused me in the past.  I
trust it may do so again.  I mean this specially in connection with the
anxiety Margaret's association with Mr. Challoner occasions me.  I fear
Margaret is disingenuous.  Mamma used to deplore a tendency to deceit
in her, deceit in little things, even when she was a child.  Margaret
enjoys concealment.  It amuses her and gives her an idea of her own
astuteness and superiority.  I do not wish to be unjust, but I cannot
help fearing this tendency to slyness is increased by her intercourse
with Mr. Challoner and with Marion.

"In addition to the fact of Mr. Challoner's drive with them to
Southampton something else came out at dinner, to-night, which
disturbed me.  On my way home to-day, after crossing Tantivy Common,
Johnson turned along Silver Chine Road.  A pantechnicon van stood
before one of the small houses which I recognized as that which
Margaret once pointed out to me as belonging to Mrs. Spencer.  As the
carriage passed, I saw Mrs. Spencer herself and her young sister, Miss
Beatrice Stacey, directing the men who were carrying out the furniture.
I thought they both looked hard at me, but I did not bow.  I sent cards
to Mrs. Spencer, as to every one else who called here to inquire after
papa's death, but I do not desire her acquaintance.  On the few
occasions when I have met her she appeared to me a frivolous, dressy
person, whose influence upon Margaret would not be for good.  I do not
wish to be uncharitable, but her manners struck me as unladylike.  At
dinner I mentioned the circumstances under which I saw her this
afternoon.  Marion glanced at Margaret with a singular expression of
face.

"'I heard Mrs. Spencer and Bee were leaving soon,' she said.  'I
believe they have taken a house at Marychurch.'

"I observed Margaret flushed, but she did not speak.

"'Of course I don't believe there is any real harm in her,' Marion
added, again looking at Margaret, 'or I should not have gone there so
often.  But I do think whatever talk there has been is entirely her own
fault.'

"Then Margaret began to speak of the car, and Mr. Challoner's advice to
her about buying it, in a rather loud tone.  She hardly spoke to me
during the rest of the evening.  I certainly had no intention of
annoying her by mentioning Mrs. Spencer, but she was evidently very
angry with me.  I cannot help being anxious--yet I know my own great
happiness should make me patient and tolerant, even when vulgar and
trivial matters are pressed upon my attention.  I am very weak.  I
ought to rise above all such things and rest calmly in the one
wonderful thought that I am no longer alone, that I no longer belong to
myself."


Joanna put her hand over her eyes.

"'Thou canst prevail against my fears and fling thy purple round me,'"
she again quoted half aloud.  Then once more she wrote.


"I am glad that I am rich.  I have never felt glad of this till to-day.
We have always been rich, and, though papa inculcated economy as a
duty, I have taken riches for granted as a natural part of my own
position.  Now I recognize their value.  I have at least that to
give--I mean, a not despicable amount of wealth, and the dignified ease
which wealth obtains.  In this respect at least I can make some slight
return.  Since there has been time to look into affairs, we find papa's
estate considerably larger than we supposed.  Margaret and I shall each
have between seven and eight thousand a year.  Yes, I am very, very
glad.  At least I do not go to him an empty-handed beggar in material
things."


She sat awhile looking up, both hands resting on the edge of the slab.
Her mouth was half open, her eyes fixed, her face irradiated by an
expression of ecstasy painful in its strained intensity.  A little more
and ecstasy might decline to idiocy.  Joanna doted; and always--though
particularly under such circumstances as Joanna's--it is a mistake to
dote.



CHAPTER V

  IN WHICH ADRIAN'S KNOWLEDGE OF SOME INHABITANTS
  OF THE TOWER HOUSE IS SENSIBLY INCREASED

A week of the burning mid-May weather, such as often comes in the fir
and heather country.  The Baughurst woods and all the coast-line from
Marychurch to Barryport basked in the strong, still heat.  Over open
spaces the heat became visible, dancing and swirling like the vapors
off a lime-kiln as it baked all residue of moisture out of the light
surface soil.  Aromatic scents given off by the lush foliage and lately
risen sap filled the air.  The furze-pods crackled and snapped.
Fir-cones fell, softly thudding, on to the deep, dry beds of
fir-needles, and films of bark scaling off the red upper branches made
small, ticking noises in the sun-scorch.  All day long in the heart of
the woodland turtle doves repeated their cozy, crooning lament.
Wandering cuckoos called.  In the gardens blackbirds and thrushes,
though silent at mid-day, sang early and late.  Great blue and green
dragonflies hawked over the lawns, darting back and forth from the warm
dappled shade of the fir plantations, where their enameled bodies and
transparent wings glinted across long slanting shafts of sunlight.  In
the shrubberies rhododendrons, azaleas, pink thorns, and crab-trees
were in flower.  Lilac and syringa blossom was about to break.  The
sky, high and unclouded, showed a deep, hot blue above the dark-plumed
pines and fir-trees and against the red-tiled roofs and sextagonal
red-brick tower--surmounted by a gilt weather-vane--of the Tower House
from sunrise to sunset.

Adrian Savage lay back in a long cane chair set upon the veranda,
around the fluted terra-cotta pillars of which trumpet-flowered
honeysuckle, jasmine, and climbing roses flourished.  He found the
English heat heavy and somewhat enervating, clear though the atmosphere
was.  It made him lazy, inclined to dream and disinclined to act or
think.  He laid The Times down on the wicker table beside him, put his
Panama hat on the top of it, returned a small illustrated French
newspaper, of questionable modesty, to the breast-pocket of his jacket,
stretched, stifled a yawn, and lighted his third cigarette.  Then,
reclining in the chair again, he contemplated the perspective of his
own person--clad in a suit of white flannel with a faint four-thread
black stripe--to where the said perspective ended in a pair of tan
boots.  He had bought the boots in London.  He knew they represented
the last word of the right thing.  So he ought to like them.--He
crossed and re-crossed his feet.--But he wasn't sure he did like them.
On the whole he thought not.  Therefore he sighed meditatively, pulled
the tip of his close-cut black beard and pushed up the rather fly-away
ends of his mustache.  Stared sadly at the tan boots, raised his
eyebrows and shoulders just perceptibly, and mournfully shook his
close-cropped black head.  Sighed again, and then looked away, across
the gravel terrace and flower-beds immediately below it crowded with
pink, mauve, and pale-yellow tulips, to where, on the sunk court at the
far end of the long, wide lawn, four agile, ruddy-faced, white-clothed
young people very vigorously played tennis.

In the last three months Adrian had lost weight.  _La belle Gabrielle_
had not been kind; not at all kind.  More than ever did she appear
elusive and baffling.  More than ever was the mysterious element of her
complex and enchanting personality in evidence.  She frequented
drawing-room meetings at which Feminists, male as well as female, held
forth.  She received Zélie de Gand and other such vermin--the term is
Adrian's--at her thrice-sacred flat.  Finally, her attitude was
altogether too maternal and beneficent toward M. René Dax.  These
things caused Adrian rage and unhappiness.  He lost flesh.  In his eyes
was a permanently pathetic and orphaned look.  Happily, his nose
retained its native pugnacity of outline, testifying to the fact that,
although he might voluminously sigh as a lover, as a high-spirited and
perfectly healthy young gentleman he could still very handsomely spoil
for a fight.

But no legitimate fight presented itself--that was exactly where, from
Adrian's point of view, the worry came in.  He might haunt _la belle
Gabrielle's_ staircase, spend hours in consultation with wise and witty
Anastasia Beauchamp, exert all his ingenuity to achieve persuasion or
excision of René Dax, but without practicable result.  About as useful
to try to bottle a shadow, play leap-frog with an echo, tie up the wind
in a sack!  Really he felt quite glad to go away to England for a time,
out of the vexatiously profitless wear and tear of it all.

The sun, sloping westward, slanted in under the round-headed
terra-cotta arches supporting the roof of the veranda.  Adrian drew his
feet back out of the scorch, and in so doing sat more upright, thereby
gaining a fuller view of the tennis players.

Marion Chase happened to be serving.  She interested him as a type
produced by current English methods of mental and physical culture
practically unknown in France.  She stood--so she informed him with the
utmost frankness--five feet ten in her stockings, took eight and a half
in shoes, measured forty inches round the chest and twenty-nine and
three-quarters round the waist.  To these communicated details he could
add from personal observation that she had the complexion of a Channel
pilot, owned a sensible, good-tempered, very managing face, and spoke
in a full barytone voice.  He accredited her with being very fairly
honorable, irreproachably virtuous, and conspicuously devoid of either
the religious or artistic sense--though she frequented concerts,
picture galleries, and church services with praiseworthy regularity and
persistence.  He liked her rather, and wondered at her much--being
unaccustomed to the society of such large-boned, athletic, and sexless
persons, petticoated, yet conspicuously deficient in haunches and busts.

Miss Chase, he further remarked, was permanently in waiting upon
Margaret Smyrthwaite, while a tail of youths and maidens was almost as
permanently in waiting upon Miss Chase.  Their relation to her was
gregarious rather than sentimental, a mere herding of children who
follow a leader at play.  The said tail to-day consisted of the
Busbridge boys and Amy Woodford--the former two lanky, sandy-headed,
quite innocuous young fellows in immaculate flannels, their nether
garments sustained by green and orange silk handkerchiefs
knotted--Adrian trusted securely--about their waists; the latter a
rather stout, dark-haired young lady, arrayed in white linen, who would
have been very passably pretty had not her mouth been too small, her
nose too long, and her bright, boot-button-black eyes set
insufficiently far apart.

Idly he watched the quartette as the members of it ran, leaped, backed,
called, stood breathing after a long rally, with, apparently, as little
soul or mind in their active young bodies as a mob of colts and
fillies.  Then his eyes traveled to Margaret Smyrthwaite sitting
outside the larch-built, heather-thatched tennis pavilion beyond the
court in the shade of a grove of tall fir and beech trees.

If Marion Chase caused him wonder, Margaret caused him very much more,
though from a different angle.  Her development in the last three
months struck him as phenomenal--a startling example of the
adaptability to environment inherent in the feminine nature.  From a
rather negative and invertebrate being, with little to say and a manner
alternately peevish and silly, she had grown into a self-possessed
young woman, capable of making her presence, pleasure, and displeasure,
definitely felt.  The likeness and the unlikeness she bore to Joanna
had from the first appeared to Adrian both pathetic and singular.  Now,
on seeing the twin sisters again, this likeness and unlikeness passed
the bounds of pathos and became, to his eyes, quite actively cruel.
For they bore to each other--it was thus he put it--the same relation
that the _édition de luxe_ of a book bears to its original rough
copy--Joanna, naturally, representing the rough copy.  All the
ungracious and ungrateful aspects of Joanna's appearance were nicely
corrected in her sister, fined down or filled out--heavy, yellowish
auburn hair, improved to crisp copper; a pasty complexion giving place
to a fair though freckled skin and bright color; blue eyes no longer
prominent or anxious, but clear, self-content, and possibly a trifle
sly.

At forty Adrian could imagine her fat and a little coarse-looking, but
now her figure was graceful, and she dressed well, though with perhaps
too great elaboration for impeccable taste.  Adrian trembled as to the
flights of decorative fancy which might present themselves when her
period of mourning was passed!  To-day she wore a black muslin dress
and a wide-brimmed, black chip hat, trimmed with four enormous black
silk and gauze roses, the whole of rather studied candor of effect.
Yes, she was quite an agreeable object to look upon; but Joanna, oh!
poor, poor Joanna!

Adrian lit a fourth cigarette, stretched himself in his chair again,
crossing his legs and gazing up at the roof rafters.  Joanna afforded
him an uncomfortable subject of thought, and one which he tried to
avoid in so far as possible.  He respected her.  More than ever he felt
a chivalrous pity toward her.  But he did not like her, somehow.
Ridiculous though it might sound, he was a wee bit afraid of her,
conscious of self-protective instincts, of an inclination to erect
small barricades and throw up small earthworks behind which to shelter
when alone with her.  He was ashamed of his own sensations, but--and
more particularly since he had seen those degraded drawings upon the
wall of René's studio which so dreadfully resembled her--she, to use a
childish expression, gave him the creeps.

Then, suddenly penetrated by a conviction that her pale eyes were at
that very moment fixed upon him, Adrian whipped out of his chair and
wheeled round, very alert and upright in his tan boots and light
flannel suit.

"Ah! my dear cousin, it is you!  I thought so," he said, quickly.  "At
last you come out to enjoy this ideal afternoon.  That is well.  Is it
not ravishing?"

For quite a perceptible space of time Joanna made no reply.  She stood
on the stone step of one of the large French windows opening on to the
veranda.  Her lips were parted and upon her face was a singular
expression, midway--so it struck Adrian--between driveling folly and
rapture.  This recalled to him with such vividness those evil drawings
upon the studio wall that had the likeness been completed by her
sporting masculine attire it would hardly have surprised him.  She, in
point of fact, however, wore nothing more peculiar than a modest,
slightly limp, black alpaca coat and skirt.  Adrian was aware of
developing an unreasoning detestation of that innocent and very
serviceable material.

"I am so sorry," she said, at last, in a sort of hurried whisper.  "I
ought not to have come out unexpectedly thus, by the window.  I have
disturbed you.  It was thoughtless of me and inconsiderate."

"But--no--no--not in the least," he assured her.  "I was doing
absolutely nothing.  The hot weather disposes one to idleness.  I tried
to read The Times.  I found it a monument of dullness.  I looked into a
little French paper I have here."  He patted the breast-pocket of his
jacket.  "I found it quite too lively."

The corners of his mouth gave slightly; for oh! how very far away from
poor Joanna's was the outlook upon things in general of that naughty
little print!

"Have no fear," he added.  "It shall remain safely stowed away.  It is
not, I admit, exactly designed for what you call family
reading--unsuited, for example, to the ingenuous minds of those
excellent young tennis players!  Ah, the energy they display!  It puts
me to shame."

Joanna came forward slowly, touching chairs, flower-stands, tables, in
passing, as though blindly feeling her way.

"I have wanted so much to speak to you alone," she said.

"Yes--yes?" Adrian answered inquiringly, with a hasty mental looking
around for suitable barricade-building material.

"Ever since you told me you had lately suffered anxiety and trouble,"
she continued.

"Ah! my dear cousin, you are too sympathetic, too kind.  Who among us
is free from anxieties and troubles--_des ennuis_?  One accepts them as
an integral part of one's existence upon this astonishing planet.  One
even cherishes a certain affection for them, perhaps one's own dear
little personal _ennuis_."

Joanna sank into a chair.  Her lips worked with emotion.

"I wish I could feel as you do," she said.  "But I am weak.  I rebel
against that which pains me or causes me anxiety.  I have no large
tolerance of philosophy.  But, therefore, all the more do I admire it
in you.  Now, when I allude to your trouble you try to put the matter
aside gracefully out of consideration for me.  Indeed, I appreciate
that consideration, but while it causes me gratitude, it increases my
regret.--You will not think me officious or intrusive?  But I cannot
tell you how it distresses me that you should endure any mental
suffering, that you should have troubles or anxieties.  I had never
thought of the possibility of anything unhappy in your life or
circumstances.  Since you told me I think of it continually.  Forgive
me if I appear presumptuous, but you have done so incalculably much
for--for us--Margaret, I mean, and me--especially, I know"--her voice
faded to a mere thread--"I know, of course, for me--that I have
wondered whether there was not anything in which I could be of some
slight use to you, in which I could help you, in return?"

Adrian had subsided into his long chair again.  He leaned sideways, his
legs crossed, his right arm extended to its full length across the arm
of the chair, holding his cigarette between his first and second
fingers, as far from his companion as possible lest the smoke of it
should be unpleasant to her.  His lean, shapely hand and wrist showed
brown against the hard white of his shirt-cuff, and the blue smoke from
the smoldering cigarette curled delicately upward in the hot, fragrant
air.  And Joanna watched his every movement; watched with the fixed
intentness, the beatified idiocy, of those who dote.

Outwardly the young man remained charmingly debonair.  Inwardly he
labored at the erection of barricades and the strengthening of
earthworks with positive frenzy, distractedly apprehensive of what
might be coming next.

"Sympathy so generously given as yours can never be otherwise than
helpful, dear cousin," he said.  "Believe me, I am deeply touched by
the interest you take in me.  But the trouble I have on my mind--and
which it was foolish and selfish of me ever to allude to--"

"Oh no," Joanna interrupted, breathlessly.  "Do not say that.  Pray
don't.  It was entirely my doing.  Both Margaret and I observed that
you--you looked sad, that you had grown thinner.  I questioned you.
Perhaps it was intrusive of me to do so.  Yet how could I remain silent
when all which affects you necessarily concerns me so profoundly?"

Notwithstanding the high temperature, Adrian felt something queerly
like a trickle of iced water down the length of his spine.  He just
managed not to change his position, but remained leaning sideways
toward her.

"You are more than kind to me, dear cousin," he said.  "Really, more
than kind and good.  But I am sure your ready sympathy will make you
comprehend there is a stage of most _ennuis_, private worries and
bothers, when it is only discreet, only, indeed, honorable, to maintain
silence.  Yet, believe me, I shall never forget your amiable solicitude
for my happiness.  Some day in the future it may become possible for me
to explain--"

"Yes--oh! yes--in the future--thank you--I know--in the future," Joanna
whispered, pressing her hands over her eyes.

And Adrian shrank away from her.  He couldn't help it.  Mercifully, she
wasn't looking.  He uncrossed his legs, sat upright.  Then, leaning
forward with bent head, he stared at the red and purple quarries of the
pavement, resting his wrists upon his knees.  He was about to reply,
but Joanna's toneless speech rushed onward.

"Pray, pray do not suppose that I wish to cross-question you or force
myself into your confidence.  Nothing could be further from my
intention than that.  I am so sure you know far best what to tell and
what to withhold from me.  I could never question your judgment for an
instant.  In this, as in everything--yes, everything--I am ready and
contented to wait.  Only sometimes there are practical ways of being
helpful.  I have lived among business people all my life, and I could
not help thinking that if there was any scheme--connected with your
Review, for instance--forgive me if I am presumptuous--but any business
affair in which you were interested and which might require capital,
might need financing--"

Adrian raised his head slightly.  His face was drawn and very pale.
His nostrils quivered.  He had sufficient self-control to keep his eyes
steadily upon the white, capering forms of the tennis players there on
the other side of the sunny lawn.  Was it conceivable that she,
Joanna--of all created women--was trying to buy him?  The degradation,
the infinite disgust of it!--But no, that really was too vile a
thought.  With all the cleanness, all the chivalry of his nature,
Adrian thrust it aside, refusing to dishonor her so much.  Again he
nerved himself to speak, and again her speech rushed onward like--so it
seemed to him--some toneless hissing of wind over a barren, treeless,
seedless waste.

"Pray, pray do not be displeased with me," she pleaded.  "I may be
acting unconventionally in touching thus upon matters apparently
outside my province.  But, as I think you will admit, I am at most only
forestalling the right, the privilege rather--for to me no privilege
could be greater--which will be mine later on, in the future of which
you just now spoke.  Please think of it thus.  And if my action is
premature, a little unbecoming or unusual, you--who understand
everything--will most surely forgive.  No--Cousin Adrian, do not answer
me, I implore you--not just yet.  I have longed so earnestly for this
opportunity of talking alone with you.  Give me time.  Let me finish.
I know I do not express myself well.  But be patient with me.  When we
are together I am only conscious of your presence.  I become miserably
deficient in courage and resource.  Words fail me.  I am so sensible of
my own shortcomings.  Therefore I cannot consent to lose this
opportunity.  There is something I so intensely need to tell you,
because I cannot help hoping it may lighten the anxieties which have
been troubling you--"

During this extraordinary address Adrian held himself rigidly still,
his head again bent, while he stared at the red and purple quarries.
He could not trust himself to move by so much as an inch lest he should
betray the repulsion with which she inspired him.  Meanwhile his mind
worked like some high-powered engine at full pressure, for, indeed, the
situation was extravagant in its unpleasantness.  How to say anything
conclusive without assuming too much passed human wit.  Yet what more
fatuous, what more execrably bad taste than to assume just that too
much?  He wanted to spare the poor woman, and act toward her with as
perfect charity, as perfect good breeding, as he might.

"This is what I have so wanted to tell you, Adrian," Joanna went on.
"Lately I have felt quite differently about my unfortunate brother,
about poor Bibby, of whose unhappy career I spoke to you when you were
here before.  I have learned to think differently upon many subjects in
the last three months--"

Joanna paused, pressing her hands against her forehead.

"Yes--upon many, many subjects," she said.  "That is natural,
inevitable, with the wonderful prospect which lies before me."

The young man braced himself, each muscle growing taut, as a man braces
himself for a life-and-death fight.  But he did not alter his position.

"When we talked of my brother before, I told you--I thought it right to
do so--that I proposed to put aside the larger portion of my fortune
for his benefit.  I believed it my duty to do my utmost to make amends
for papa's harshness toward him.  But since then I have come to see the
matter in a different light.  I no longer feel that my brother has the
first claim upon me.  I no longer believe my first duty is to Bibby.
It is to some one else.  And I have ceased to believe he is still
living.  A strange and deepening conviction has grown upon me that he
is dead."

Adrian's muscles relaxed.  He threw back his head and looked into the
sky, into the strong, steady sunlight.  For hearing Joanna's last
words, he hailed salvation--salvation coming, be it added, from the
very queerest and most unexpected quarter.

"Consequently I have decided to alter my will," Joanna continued.  "I
scrutinized my own motives carefully.  I have earnestly tried not to be
unduly influenced by my own inclinations, but to do what is just and
right.  I have not yet spoken to Margaret about it, but I intend to
make a redistribution of my property, devoting that portion of it which
I held in reserve for my brother to another person--I mean another
purpose.  Under my altered circumstances I feel not only that I am
justified in doing this, but that it has become an imperative
obligation.  Were my poor brother still living the news of papa's death
must have reached him by this time and he would have communicated
either with Andrew Merriman or with me.  As he has not communicated
with either of us, I am free to assume the fact of his death.  You
agree with me, Adrian?  I am at liberty to make this redistribution of
my property?  You--you assent?"

"Since you are good enough to ask my advice, dear cousin," Adrian said,
looking upon the ground and speaking quietly and distinctly, "I am
compelled to answer you truthfully.  You are not free at the present
time, in my opinion, to make any alteration in your will which affects
your bequest to your brother."

"But," Joanna protested, with a smoldering violence, "but if I am
certain, morally certain, that my unfortunate brother is dead?"

Putting a strong force upon himself, Adrian leaned sideways in his
chair, again crossing his legs, turning his face toward Joanna, and
looking gravely and kindly at her.

"Dear cousin," he said, "perhaps I should have acted more wisely had I
written or spoken to you before now of a certain discovery which I
happened, accidentally, to make immediately after my return to France.
I hesitated after the exhausting experiences you had recently passed
through to subject you to further anxiety and suspense or to raise
hopes which might be fated to disappointment.  But I possess
evidence--to myself conclusive--that your brother was living as lately
as three months ago; that in February last he was in Paris.  Yes, I
know, I sympathize--I readily comprehend," he went on, feelingly, "how
greatly this information is calculated to surprise you.  On that
account I have withheld it, and I grieve it is not possible to soften
the shock of it by giving a happy account of your brother's state of
mind or of his circumstances."

Here the speaker stopped, for Joanna raised her hand with an almost
menacing gesture.

"Wait, Adrian," she cried, "wait!  I cannot bear any more at present.
I must accustom myself to this idea.  It means so much, so dreadfully
much.  I must have time to think."



CHAPTER VI

  WHICH PLAYS SEESAW BETWEEN A GAME OF
  LAWN-TENNIS AND A PRODIGAL SON

Coming in by the wicket gate from the carriage-drive, Challoner
sauntered with a deliberate and even proprietary tread along the
shrubbery path skirting the eastern side of the lawn.  He was clothed,
with a view to sports and pastimes, in a loosely fitting gray Norfolk
jacket, white trousers, and a hard, white straw hat, the low crown of
it encircled by a band of purple-and-scarlet-striped ribbon.  The said
hat, set on the top of his tall, upright head and neck, and straight,
solid figure, gave him--in outline--an appearance remarkably suggestive
of a large medicine bottle with the cork rammed well in.  Over his
shoulder he carried a racket, from which dangled a pair of by no means
diminutive tennis shoes.

Only recently had Challoner received invitations to the Tower House of
this purely social character.  They gave him the warmest satisfaction,
as marking progress toward the goal of his ambitions.  He had been
elected to the Baughurst Park Ward; by a narrow majority, it is true,
still he had been elected--and that was the main thing, since it
supplied a secure basis from which to manoeuver.  Before the next
election, if all went well--and he would compel all, never fear, to go
well--he would be in a position to ride rough-shod over the Baughurst
Park Ward, herding its voters to the poll like so many obedient sheep.
His wits and professional standing plus Margaret Smyrthwaite's fortune
and social standing would make him master not only of the Baughurst
Park Ward, but of all Stourmouth.  Yes, Sir Joseph and Lady Challoner,
sons, perhaps, at Eton, daughters presented at Court and marrying into
the peerage!  Such beatific visions floated before him, and Challoner
felt then, indeed, he would not have lived in vain.  The job of
uprooting and deporting Mrs. Gwynnie had been a nasty one.  It hit him
very hard at the time.  There were moments of it he didn't care to
remember very clearly even now.  But, as he sauntered slowly in the
still afternoon heat through the aromatic atmosphere of the radiant
garden, and glanced up at the imposing mass of the big red house, its
gilt weather-vane cutting into the blazing blue, he thanked Almighty
God from his heart, piously, that he had had the pluck, and
forethought, and resolution to go through with that nasty job of
uprooting and deportation.  Only weak men let women wreck them; and,
thank God, he, Joseph Challoner, wasn't weak.  Meanwhile--here piety
had the grace to walk out and let honest cynicism walk in,
winking--meanwhile Margaret Smyrthwaite grew better-looking and more
accessible every day.  Yes, unquestionably Providence is on the side of
the clear-headed, helping those who help themselves, who know the
chance of their lives when it comes along and don't allow sentimental
scruples to prevent their fixing right on to it.  Only the unfit go
under--such, for instance, as that flimsy little baggage, Mrs. Gwynnie.
And, if you look at things all round calmly and scientifically, how
very much better for everybody concerned, public morals included, that
under such very unfit little feminine baggages should very completely
and finally go!

Chewing the cud of which philosophic reflections, Challoner pursued his
prosperous and contented way.  From the tennis court the players waved
and called their greetings as he approached them.  Margaret
Smyrthwaite, leaving her seat in front of the pavilion, came forward to
meet him, her smart black figure and enormous hat backed by a bank of
crimson and pink rhododendron in full blossom.  She moved with the
rather studied grace of a girl who expects, and is altogether ready, to
be admired.  Challoner had no quarrel with this.  For his taste she
could not be too ornate.  He appraised her appearance, her costume, the
general effect of her, as he might a fine piece of plate for his table.
Well, didn't he propose she should be, in a sense, just that--his
domestic and social centerpiece?  The more glory to him, then, the more
expensive she looked!  And she could afford to look expensive, thank
God!--here piety stepped in again momentarily.--And he could afford to
let her look so; for once that handsome fortune of hers in his keeping,
be d----d if he would not double or treble it.

He raised his hat and stood with it in his hand.  His eyes covered her
covetously.  If she wanted admiration, it was hers to order.  He could
supply a perfectly genuine article in unlimited quantity.  And, though
his countenance was not an expressive one, he contrived to convey the
above information to her quite clearly.  The young lady responded.  She
talked of the weather, the heat, the game, and such-like inanities; but
she displayed her fine plumage and trailed her wings all the while.
Challoner began to think of a game of tennis as a wholesome corrective.
The temperature became high in more senses than the meteorologic one.
Presently she made a gesture calling his attention to her sister and
Adrian Savage sitting on the veranda; smiled slyly, looking up at him,
and then turned and sauntered a few steps beside him back along the
path.

Witnessing all which suggestive pantomime from his distant station,
Adrian had much ado to maintain an attitude of circumspection and
restraint.  For was it conceivable that those two--Margaret and
Challoner--in any degree shared, or affected to share, poor Joanna's
infatuated delusion?  Was ever man landed in so false a position!  An
atmosphere of intrigue surrounded him.  He felt as though walking among
treacherous quicksands, where every step spells danger of being sucked
under and engulfed.  Inwardly he tore and plunged, cursing against the
hateful, the dishonoring silence imposed upon him by circumstance.  He
was tempted to rush out on to the sun-bathed lawn, regardless of all
mercy, of all decorum, and shout to the four winds of heaven his
unique, inextinguishable devotion to Gabrielle St. Leger, his sole
desire and love!  Only by some such public loud-tongued demonstration
did he feel he could regain safe foothold and cleanse his honor from
the detestable and insidious duplicity fathered upon him through no act
or lapse of his.

But here Joanna's voice once more claimed his attention.  It still
hissed and whispered, causing him shrinking and repulsion.  Yet he
detected a change in the spirit of it.  Some finer, more wholesome
chord had been struck.  She no longer cringed.

"I am ready now, Cousin Adrian," she said, "to hear that which you have
to tell me about my brother."

And the young man, finding relief to his pent-up feelings in voluminous
and rapid speech, told her how, calling late one night upon an old
school-fellow, a widely known draftsman and caricaturist, he had seen
certain drawings--here Adrian picked his phrases a little--representing
a young man of six or seven and twenty--"Who," he said, "bore such a
striking resemblance to you, my dear cousin, and to Margaret, that I
was transfixed with veritable amazement.  I do not disguise from you
that I was also pained, that for the moment I was furious.  For these
pictures were objectionable in character, in many respects odious.  It
appeared to me my friend had been guilty of an outrage for which it was
my duty to administer sharp chastisement.  But I could demand no
immediate satisfaction, because he and I had already quarreled that
evening, and he concealed himself from me, thereby rendering it
impracticable that I should question him.  This, perhaps, was as well,
since I was heated and it gave me space for reflection.  I realized the
extreme improbability of his ever having seen either you or your
sister--the absolute impossibility of his having done so recently, as
you had been at home in England for some years.  Then I recalled the
pathetic history of your brother which you had confided to me.  I
grasped the situation.  I understood.  I called upon my friend next
day.  Still he was rancorous.  He flew into a passion and refused to
admit me.  I restrained my resentment.  I wrote to him explaining the
gravity and urgency of the case.  I appealed to his better nature,
entreated him to be reasonable and to give me information.  Indeed, I
conducted myself with praiseworthy reticence, while he remained
obstinate to the point of exasperation.  Upon more than one count, I
fear, I should have derived the very warmest satisfaction from wringing
his neck."

Adrian's handsome eyes danced and glittered.  His teeth showed white
and wicked under his fly-away mustache.

"Yes, I, on my side, also possibly harbored a trifle of rancor," he
said.  "But I suppressed my legitimate annoyance.  I ignored his
provocations.  I insisted.  At last I elicited this much."

"That was very noble of you; still it distresses me that, indirectly, I
should have caused you this trouble.  Though I am grateful--some day I
may find words in which to tell you how grateful," Joanna whispered,
leaning forward and working her hands together nervously in her black
alpaca lap.

All of which served to bring Adrian, who had grown quite comparatively
at ease and happy in his subjective belaborings of The Unspeakable
Tadpole, back to the entanglements and distractions of the immediate
present, with a bounce.

"Upon my word, my dear Joanna," he replied almost brusquely, "I am
afraid it very much remains to be proved whether I deserve your
gratitude or not.  I labor under the ungracious necessity of
communicating much to you that is painful, that is sad.  Yet, having
gone thus far it becomes imperative, for many reasons, that I should
put you in possession of all the facts.  Then it will be for you to
decide what further steps are to be taken next."

"You will know best--far best," she murmured.

The young man set his teeth.  Never before had he come so near being
cruel to a woman.  Instinctively he crossed himself.  _Sancta Maria,
Mater Dei_, in mercy preserve him from the guilt of so dastardly a sin!
He turned to Joanna and spoke, dealing out his words slowly, so that
the full meaning of them might reach her beclouded, love-sick brain.

"My friend, René Dax, found this young man, whose likeness to you and
your sister is so indisputable, so intimate, in the act of attempting
his life."

"Ah!  Bibby, Bibby!" Joanna cried harshly, throwing back her head.

"Yes," Adrian continued, pursuing his advantage, "unnerved by the
horror of his friendless and destitute condition, the unhappy boy was
about to throw himself from one of the bridges into the Seine.  At his
age one must have suffered very greatly to take refuge in that!  But
from the drawings of which I have spoken one can form only too forcible
a conception of his desperation.  They supply a human document of a
deplorably convincing order.  René, who, notwithstanding his
eccentricity, possesses admirable instincts, struggled with him and
succeeded in preventing the accomplishment of his fatal design.  Then,
forcing him into a passing cab--kidnapping him, in short--carried him
off with him home."

"Oh, wait, wait!" Joanna broke in.  "This is all so very dreadful.  It
is so remote from my experience, from all I am accustomed to, from all
the habits and purposes of my life.  I do not wish to be self-indulgent
and shirk my duty.  I wish to hear the whole, Cousin Adrian; but I must
pause.  I must recover and collect myself, if I am to follow your
narrative intelligently."

Just then Joseph Challoner, having laid aside hat and jacket and put on
tennis shoes, came out of the pavilion and joined the group, gathered
around Margaret Smyrthwaite, on the terraced grass bank of the court.
Challoner had the reputation of being a formidable player, his height,
and reach, and sureness of eye more than counterbalancing any lack of
agility.  It may be added that, along with a losing game, he had the
reputation of too often mislaying his manners and losing his temper.
But this afternoon no question presented itself of losing either game
or temper.  He had practised regularly lately.  He felt in fine form.
He felt in high good humor.  While both sense and senses called for
strong physical exercise as a wholesome outlet to emotion.

Amid discussion and laughter, Marion Chase tossed for partners.  The
elder of the Busbridge boys fell to her lot, the younger to
Challoner's, and the set began.  Margaret returned to her chair, and
Amy Woodford lolled on the pavilion step, in the shadow close beside
her, fanning a very pink face with a large palm-leaf fan.  As the game
progressed the two girls commented and applauded, with clapping of
hands and derisive or encouraging titterings and cries.  Against this
gaily explosive feminine duet, the rapid thud of balls, and sharp
calling of the score, Joanna's voice asserted itself, with--to her
hearer--a consuming dreariness of interminable and fruitless moral
effort, a grayness of perpetual non-arrival, perpetual frustration,
misconception and mistake.

"I am composed now, Adrian," she said.  "My will again controls my
feelings.  Please tell me the rest."

"I am afraid there is disappointingly little more to tell," he replied.
"For two days the unfortunate boy remained with my friend as his guest.
René clothed him properly, fed and cared for him, and paid him
liberally for his services as a model.  But on the third morning, under
plea of requiring to obtain some particular drug from a neighboring
pharmacy, the young man left my friend's studio.  He did not return."

"Where did he go?"

"That is what I have asked myself a thousand times, and made every
effort to discover.  I have friends at the Prefecture of Police.  I
consulted them.  They were generous in their readiness to put their
knowledge at my disposal and aid me in my research.  Unluckily I could
only give them a verbal description of the missing man, for René
refused me all assistance, refused to allow any police agent to view
the drawings, refused even to allow photographs of them to be taken.
To do so, he declared, would constitute an unpardonable act of
treachery, a violation of hospitality and crime against his own good
faith.  The unhappy fellow had trusted him on the understanding that no
inquiry would be made regarding his family or his name.  Now the
episode was closed.  René did not want it reopened.  He had other
things to think about.  Rather than have the drawings employed for
purposes of identification, he would destroy them, obliterate them with
a coat of paint.  When it became evident, however, the young man had
disappeared for good René's valet, less scrupulous than his master,
carefully examined the wretched clothes he had left behind.  Between
the lining and stuff of the jacket he found a small photograph.  It
must have worked through from a rent in the breast-pocket.  Though
creased and defaced, the subject of it was still in a degree
distinguishable.  I did not wish to agitate you, my dear cousin, by
communicating this matter to you until I had made further efforts to
discover the truth.  I sent the photograph to Mr. Merriman.  He tells
me it represents the garden front of your old house, Highdene, near
Leeds."

Joanna neither moved nor spoke, though her breath sighed and caught.
The sounds from the tennis court, meanwhile, increased both in volume
and in animation, causing Adrian to look up.

Challoner stood as near to the net as is permissible, volleying or
smashing down ball after ball, until his opponents began to lose heart
and science and grow harried and spent.  And Adrian, watching, found
himself, though unwillingly, impressed by and admiring the force, not
only the great brute strength but determination of the man, which
bestowed a certain dignity upon the game, raising it from the level of
a mere amusement to that of a serious duel.  And across the intervening
space Challoner became sensible of that unwilling admiration--the
admiration of a quasi-enemy, curiously supplementing another admiration
of which he was also conscious--namely, that of Margaret Smyrthwaite,
of the woman who craves to be justified, by public exhibition of his
skill and prowess, of the man to whom she meditates intrusting her
person and her fate.  This excited Challoner, flattering his pride,
stimulating his ambition and belief in himself.--Yes, he would show
them all what he was made of, show them all what he could do, what he
was worth!  So that now he no longer played simply to win a set at
tennis from a harmless, lanky Busbridge boy and amazon-like Marion
Chase; but to revenge himself for Adrian Savage's past distrust of him,
detection and prevention of his shady little business tricks, played to
revenge himself for the younger man's superiority in breeding,
knowledge of the world, culture, talents, charm of manner and of looks.
He gave himself to the paying off of old scores in that game of tennis,
all his bullying instinct, his necessity to beat down and trample
Opposition under foot, actively militant.  Yet since Margaret
Smyrthwaite's approval, not to mention her goodly fortune, came into
reckoning, the bullying instinct made him deadly cool and cunning
rather than headlong or reckless in his play.

Presently Joanna silently motioned Adrian once again to take up his
sordid story.  And with a feeling of rather hopeless weariness he
obeyed, recounting his scouring of Paris, accompanied by a private
detective.  Told her of clues found, or apparently found, only again to
be lost.  Told her, incidentally, a little about the haunts of
vagabondage and crime and vice, of the seething, foul-smelling,
festering under-world which there, as in every great city, lies below
the genial surface of things, ready to drag down and absorb the
friendless and the weak.  So doing--while he still watched Challoner,
and divined much of the human drama--finding expression in his
masterful manipulation of racket and ball--Adrian's imagination took
fire.  He forgot his companion, gave reign to his natural eloquence and
described certain scenes, certain episodes, with only too telling
effect.

"But you must have been exposed to great danger," she broke in
breathlessly at last.

"Ah! like that!" he cried, shrugging his shoulders and laughing a
little fiercely.  "Danger is, after all, an excellent sauce to meat.  I
had entire confidence in the loyalty and discretion of my companion,
and we were armed."

Joanna got up, pushing away her chair, which scrooped upon the quarries.

"And you did all this for me--for my sake, because Bibby is my
brother!" she exclaimed.  "You risked contracting some illness,
receiving some injury!  For me, because of Bibby's relation to me, you
endangered your life!"

"But in point of fact, I didn't suffer in the least, my dear Joanna,"
he replied, rising also.  "I enlarged my acquaintance with a city of
which I am quite incorrigibly fond; which, even at her dirtiest and
naughtiest, I very heartily love.  And here I am, as you see, in
excellent health, perfectly intact, ready to start on my voyage of
discovery again to-morrow, if there should seem any reasonable hope of
its being crowned with success.  Common humanity demands that much of
me.  One cannot let a fellow-creature, especially one who has the claim
of kinship, perish in degradation and misery without making every
rational effort to rescue and rehabilitate him."

Joanna hardly appeared to listen.  She moved to and fro, her arms
hanging straight at her sides, her hands opening and closing in
nervous, purposeless clutchings.

"No," she declared violently, "no!  When I think of the risks which you
have exposed yourself, and the shocking and cruel things which might
have happened to you, I cannot control my indignation.  When I think
that Bibby might have been the cause of your death no vestige of
affection for him is left in me.  None--none--I cast him out of my
heart.  Yes, it is dreadful.  Looking back, all the anguish of which my
brother has been the cause is present to me--the constant anxiety which
his conduct gave rise to, the concealments mamma and I had to practise
to shield him from papa's anger, the atmosphere of nervousness and
unrest which, owing to him, embittered my girlhood.  He was the cause
of estrangement between my parents; between papa and myself.  He was
the cause of the break-up of our home at Leeds, of the severing of old
friendships and associations, of the sense of disgrace which for so
many years lay upon our whole establishment.  It destroyed my mother's
health.  It emphasized the unsympathetic tendencies of my father's
character.  And now, now, when so much has happened to redress the
unhappiness of the past, to glorify and enlarge my life, when my future
is so inexpressibly full of hope and promise, it is too much, too much,
that my brother should reappear, that he should intervene between us,
Adrian, between you and me--endangering your actual existence.  And he
will come back--I know it, I feel it," she added wildly.  "I believed
him dead because I wished him dead.  I still wish it.  But that is
useless--useless."

And, as though in ironic applause of Joanna's passionate denunciation,
the two young ladies watching the game of tennis broke into
enthusiastic hand-clapping.

"Well played--good--good--splendid--played indeed!" they cried, their
voices ringing out through the still, hot air.

Marion Chase flung herself down on the terraced grass-bank.

"You're out of sight too strong for us," she gasped, laughingly.  "We
didn't have the ghost of a chance."

Challoner stood wiping his face and neck with his handkerchief.  He was
puffed up with pride, almost boisterously exultant.  Ah! yes, let the
hen-bird display her fine plumage and trail her wings ever so prettily,
when it came to a fight the cock-bird had his innings, and could show
he wasn't lacking in virility or spunk!  He'd given them all a taste of
his metal this afternoon, he flattered himself; taught them Joseph
Challoner was something more than a common low-caste, office-bred,
country attorney, half sharper, half lick-spittle sneak!

"The gray mare isn't the better horse yet awhile, eh, Miss Marion, your
friends the suffragettes notwithstanding?" he said, jocosely.  "All the
same, I congratulate you.  You and your partner made a plucky stand."

The elder Busbridge boy lay on his back, panting and tightening the
supporting silk handkerchief about his lean young waist.

"My hat! that last rally was a breather though," he grunted.  "I got
regularly fed up with the way you kept me bargeing from side to side of
that back court, Challoner.  Double-demon, all-round champion
terrifier--that's about the name to suit you, my good chap."

Joanna had come close to Adrian.  Her prominent eyes were strained and
clouded.  Seam-like lines showed in her forehead and cheeks.  Her poor
mouth looked bruised, the outline of her lips frayed and discolored.
Her likeness to the drawings upon the wall was phenomenal just then.
It shocked Adrian, and it caused him to think.

"They have finished playing," she said.  "They will come in to tea
directly.  I cannot remain and meet them.  I must show some respect for
my own dignity.  They are all Margaret's friends.  I do not care for
them.  I cannot expose myself to their observation.  She must entertain
them herself.  I will go to my room.  I must be alone until I have had
time to regain my composure, until I know my own thought about this
cruel, cruel event; until I have recovered in some degree from the
shock I have suffered, and begin to see what my duty is."



CHAPTER VII

PISTOLS OR POLITENESS--FOR TWO

"This is the last of the documents, Mr. Challoner?"

"Yes, that is the last of the lot.  You noted the contents of Schedule
D, covering the period from the end of the December quarter to the date
of Mr. Smyrthwaite's death, among the Priestly Mills statement of
accounts?  The typed one--quite right.  Yes, that's the lot."

"We may consider the whole of our business concluded?"

"That is so," Challoner said.

He stood in an easy attitude resting his elbow on the shelf of the red
porphyry-mantelpiece of the smoking-room at Heatherleigh--a heavily
furnished apartment, the walls hung with chocolate-colored imitation
leather, in a raised self-colored pattern of lozenge-shaped medallions,
each centered with a Tudor rose.  The successes of the afternoon still
inflated him.  In addition to his triumphs in sports and pastimes, he
had managed to say five words to Margaret Smyrthwaite.  And, though the
crucial question had neither been asked nor answered, he felt sure of
her at last.  His humor was hilarious and expansive--of the sort which
chucks young women under the chin, digs old gentlemen in the ribs or
slaps them familiarly upon the back.  There was a covert sneer in the
tail of Challoner's eye and a braggart tang in his talk.  He swaggered,
every inch of his big body pleased with living, almost brutally
self-congratulatory and content.

"I am really under considerable obligation to you for giving up your
evening to me, and letting me finish our business after office-hours
thus.  It will enable me to catch the night cross-Channel boat from
Dover to-morrow.  I shall be particularly glad to do so."

As he spoke, Adrian swung round the revolving chair, in which he sat
before the large writing-table--loaded with bundles of folded papers,
and legal documents engrossed on vellum tied round with pink tape.  In
turning, the light from the shaded incandescent gas-lamp, hanging
directly above the table, brought his black hair and beard and white
face into the high relief of some Rembrandt portrait.

"What's up with young Master Highty Tighty?" Challoner asked himself.
"Looks off color, somehow, as if he'd had an uncommon nasty blow below
the belt."

The windows and glass door stood open on to the garden, and the pungent
scents of the great fir woods drawn forth by the day's sunshine mingled
with that of Challoner's cigar and Adrian's cigarette.

"Oh! so you're off at once then, are you?" the former said.  "That's
something new, isn't it?  I understood from the ladies you thought of
stopping on here a bit.  And when may we hope for the pleasure of
seeing you again on this side of the silver strip?"

Adrian leaned back in his chair, stretching out his legs and crossing
his feet.

"At the present time I really have no idea," he replied.

Challoner could hardly conceal his glee.  For an instant he debated.
Concluded he would venture on a reconnaissance.  Flicked the end off
his cigar into the fireplace.

"Miss Joanna will be sorry," he said.

"Both my cousins have been perfect in their amiability, in their
hospitality, in their generous appreciation of any small services it
has been in my power to render them," Adrian declared, rolling his r's
and speaking with the hint of a foreign accent common to him when tired
or vexed.  "My cousins know that they can command my co-operation at a
moment's notice should they require counsel or advice.  But my own
affairs, as they kindly and readily comprehend, cannot be too long
neglected.  My interests and my work are necessarily abroad--in France.
It becomes imperative that I should return to my work."

"Not a doubt about it," Challoner said.  "Work stands first.  Though I
own I'm glad my work doesn't oblige me to expatriate myself.  I
shouldn't relish that.  Not a bit.  Poor old England's good enough for
me."

"Precisely--your interests and your work are here."

Challoner fitted the toe of his boot into the pattern of the
hearth-rug, looking down and permitting himself a quiet laugh.

"Oh!  Lord, yes," he said, "to be sure.  My work and my interests are
here right enough--very much here.  I'm not ashamed of the word
'local,' or of the word 'provincial' either, Mr. Savage.  My father
invented Stourmouth, as you may say, and I've patented his invention.
Stourmouth owes a good deal to the two Joseph Challoners, father and
son; and I propose it should owe a long sight more, one way and
another, before I join my poor old daddy 'under the churchyard sod.'"

"It is an act of piety to devote one's talents and energies to the
welfare of one's native place," Adrian returned.

And therewith, judging he had made sufficient concession to the
exigencies of the position in the matter of general conversation, he
rose to depart.  But Challoner stopped him.

"Just half a minute, will you please, Mr. Savage," he said.  "It occurs
to me if we're not likely to meet for some time there's one matter I
ought to mention to you.  I don't exactly care to take the whole onus
of the thing upon my own shoulders.  Of course, if you're cognizant of
it, there's the beginning and end of the story as far as my
responsibility goes.  I may have my own opinion as to the wisdom,
and--not to mince matters--the honesty of the arrangement.  But, if you
are aware of it and approve, my mouth, of course, is shut.  Has Miss
Smyrthwaite told you of the alteration she proposes making in her will?"

"Yes, she spoke of it to-day; and I dissuaded her from making it."

Challoner sucked in his breath with a soft whistle.

"Indeed?" he said.  "That's a self-denying ordinance."

Adrian held himself extremely erect.  His eyebrows were raised and the
tip of his pugnacious nose was very much in the air.

"Pardon me, but I do not quite follow you," he said.

"Miss Smyrthwaite didn't explain the nature of the alterations very
fully then, I take it?"

"My cousin informed me that she proposed to revoke certain gifts and
bequests she had made to her brother, William Smyrthwaite--supposing
him still to be living.  Of this I disapproved.  I told her so, giving
her the reasons for my disapproval."

Challoner looked down and fitted the toe of his boot into the
hearth-rug pattern once more.

"You hold the property should remain in the family--go to the direct
heirs, the next of kin?  A very sound principle; but one, if you'll
excuse my saying so, few persons stick to where their personal
advantage is involved."

"I repeat, I fail to follow you," Adrian returned, shrugging his
shoulders and spreading out his hands with an impatient movement.

"Perhaps Miss Smyrthwaite omitted to explain that this redistribution
of her property was exclusively in your favor; all she mulcted her
precious specimen of a brother of was to go not to her direct heir--her
sister--but to yourself."

Whereupon, it must be conceded, the younger man's bearing became not a
little insolent.

"Preposterous, my dear Challoner, utterly preposterous!" he cried.
"For once your professional acumen must have quite scandalously
deserted you, or you could not have so misunderstood my cousin's
instructions."

It was not Challoner's cue to lose his temper.  He had too many causes
for self-congratulation to-night.  And then, whether Adrian was
bluffing or not, he believed--though it was annoying to find the young
man so unmercenary--this repudiation of the proffered inheritance to be
sincere.

"Joanna--Miss Smyrthwaite, I mean, I beg her pardon--is too good a
woman of business to trust to verbal instructions.  I have got the
whole thing on paper, in black and white, there"--he pointed to the
table.  "I can lay my hand on it in half a minute.  Possibly you'd like
to look at it yourself, as you appear to doubt my word."

But for the moment Adrian was incapable of reply.  This was what Joanna
had meant!  It was even worse than he had feared.  He felt humiliated,
hot with shame.  And then, in spirit, he clasped those infamous
drawings upon the wall and the subject of them, Bibby, the miserable
wastrel Bibby, to his breast.

"Do you wish to look at Miss Smyrthwaite's instructions as to the
transfer of her property, Mr. Savage?" Challoner repeated, a sneer in
his voice.

But the young man had recovered his native adroitness.

"Clearly it would be superfluous for me to do so; because, as I have
already informed you, Miss Smyrthwaite, recognizing the validity of my
arguments, decides to cancel those instructions, to make no alteration
in the disposition of her property.  Happily I was in a position to
convince her that it is premature to assume the fact of her brother's
death.  I have comparatively recent news of him."

Challoner's jaw dropped.

"The devil you have," he said, under his breath.

"Yes--'the devil,' quite possibly--as you so delicately put it," Adrian
returned, lightly.  "I have been tempted, at moments, to put it myself
so, my dear Mr. Challoner.  At others I have seemed to trace a really
providential element in this strange affair.  Directly the facts of
William Smyrthwaite's reappearance came to my knowledge I placed Mr.
Andrew Merriman in full possession of them."

"Oh, you did, did you?" Challoner commented.

"Yes.  I considered this the correct course to pursue.  Mr. Merriman
was formerly employed by Mr. Smyrthwaite as the channel of
communication between himself and his son."

"Graceless young hound!" Challoner snarled, caution swamped by anger
and chagrin.  It made him mad to think Adrian Savage had had this
eminently disconcerting piece of information up his sleeve all along!
Once more he'd been checkmated.

"Mr. Merriman generously accepts all responsibility in the conduct of
this matter," Adrian went on.  "And, I am sure you will feel with me,
that his long and intimate connection with my cousins' family renders
him quite the most suitable person to deal with it.  Therefore, until
further developments declare themselves--I beg your pardon?  You
express a pious hope further developments never will declare
themselves?  Possibly that might save trouble; but I fear the saving of
trouble is hardly the main point in the present case.  Therefore, until
they do declare themselves, you will, I feel sure, agree that it is
most undesirable this subject should be spoken about.  Discussion of it
can only cause my cousins agitation and heighten their suspense.  This
I am naturally most anxious they should be spared.  Nothing, meanwhile,
will be neglected.  I shall do my part.  Mr. Merriman will do his.  I
will ask you therefore to consider this conversation as strictly
confidential."

"Oh! you needn't be afraid I shall blab," Challoner said.  "Poor girl,"
he went on presently, pronouncing that dangerous catch-word as though
it rhymed with _curl_--"poor girl, poor Miss Margaret!  It'll be an
awful blow to her.  She is so sensitive.  She's given me to
understand--indirectly, of course--when we've been talking over
business, what an out-and-out rotter this precious brother of hers was.
To my mind, you know, Mr. Savage, it's not a nice thing to turn such
vermin as young Smyrthwaite loose on two defenseless women.  I don't
like it.  Honestly I don't.  So you needn't be afraid of my blabbing.
My whole object, out of respect for the ladies and for poor old
Smyrthwaite's memory, will be to keep matters dark.  At the same time I
note what you say about Merriman; which, I take it, is equivalent to
telling me to keep my hands off.  Very good, Mr. Savage.  What I have
just said proves I think that I am more than willing to keep my hands
very much off this very dirty job.  Still, there is one question which,
even so, I imagine I am at liberty to ask.  Are you sure of your facts?"

To Adrian Savage it appeared only two alternatives were open to
him--namely, to treat his host with studied politeness or call him out.
And England, perhaps unfortunately, is no longer a dueling country.
Adrian's manner became elaborately sweet.

"As far as they go," he said, "I am, dear Mr. Challoner, absolutely
sure of my facts."

"As far as they go?  Well, there's room for hope they mayn't go very
far, then--may be something of the nature of a scare, in short.  And,
if I may be allowed one question more, has this very edifying piece of
family news been communicated to Margaret?"

"To--to whom?" Adrian said, with a civil interrogatory face, raised
eyebrows, and a slightly elongated neck.

"Sorry I didn't speak plainly enough," Challoner snarled back.
"Communicated to your cousin, Mr. Savage, Miss Margaret Smyrthwaite?"

"Not by me," the other returned, smiling affably.  "And now, my dear
Mr. Challoner," he went on, "since these labors in which we have been
associated are at an end, let me thank you warmly for your able
concurrence and for the priceless assistance you have given me in the
administration of Mr. Smyrthwaite's estate.  Accept, also, my thanks
for your courtesy in permitting me to come here to your charming house
to-night."

Adrian glanced around the forbidding apartment.

"I carry away with me so many interesting and instructive impressions,"
he said.  "But now I really must trespass upon your time and indulgence
no longer.  Again thanks--and, since I leave at a comparatively early
hour to-morrow, good-by, Mr. Challoner--good-by, good-night."



CHAPTER VIII

"NUIT DE MAI"

Some half-hour later Adrian turned into the garden of the Tower House
by the wicket gate opening off the carriage-drive.  And so doing, the
tranquil beauty of the night made itself felt.  During his walk from
Heatherleigh his preoccupation had been too great to admit of the
bestowal of intelligent attention upon outward things, however poetic
their aspect.  He possessed the comfortable assurance, it is true, of
having worsted the animal Challoner in the only way possible, swords
and pistols being forbidden.  He also possessed the comfortable
assurance of having scrupulously and successfully regulated the
_affaire_ Smyrthwaite, in as far as business was concerned, and taken
his discharge in respect of it.  But the events of the afternoon had
proved to him, beyond all shadow of doubt and denial, the existence of
a second _affaire_ Smyrthwaite, compared with which regulation of
hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of property was, from his
personal standpoint, but the veriest bagatelle!  Now the question of
how to deal with this second _affaire_, alike scrupulously and
successfully, racked his brain, usually so direct in decision, so
prompt in honorable instinct and thought.  And it was to the young
man's credit that, while fully measuring the abominable nature of the
hole in which the unhappy Joanna had put him, he remained just and
temperate in his judgment of Joanna herself.  The more to his credit,
because, as a native of a country where certain subjects are treated in
a spirit of merry common-sense--which, if it makes in some degree for
license, also makes for absence of hypocrisy and much wholesome delight
in life--Joanna's attitude offered an obscure problem.  Were she a
vicious woman his position would be a comparatively simple one.  But
Joanna and vice were, he felt, far as the poles asunder.  Even that
ugly matter of "trying to buy him"--as in his first overwhelming
disgust he had defined it--proved, on calmer inspection, innocent of
any intention of offense.  She didn't know, poor, dear woman, she
didn't know.  In her virtuous ignorance of certain fundamental
tendencies of human nature, of the correlative action of body and
spirit, she had not a conception of the atrocities she was in process
of committing!  For she was essentially high-minded, deep-hearted,
sincere; a positive slave to the demands of her own overdeveloped moral
sense.  But, heavens and earth, if only those responsible for her
education had taught her a little more about the nature of the _genus
homo_--male and female--and the physiology of her own emotions, and a
little less about quite supererogatory theoretic ethics!  The burning,
though veiled, passion from which he recoiled was, he believed, in
great measure the result of the narrow intellectualism on which she had
been nurtured working upon a naturally ardent temperament.  What she
must have suffered!  What she would suffer in the coming days!

For it was that last which hit Adrian hardest, in all this distracting
imbroglio, giving him that "uncommon nasty blow below the belt" the
effects of which Joseph Challoner had noted.  The more he analyzed,
and, analyzing, excused, Joanna's attitude the more odiously
distasteful did his own position become.  In how far was he to blame?
What had he done, by word, act, or look, to provoke or to foster
Joanna's most lamentable infatuation?  He explored his memory, and, to
his rather bitter amusement, found it an absolute blank.  He had not
flirted with her, even within the most restrained of the limits
sanctioned by ordinary social intercourse.  For this he did not commend
himself.  On the contrary, he felt almost penitent; since--there hadn't
been any temptation to flirt.  Positively not any--though Adrian knew
himself to be by no means insensible to feminine influence.  He loved
Madame St. Leger.  She constituted, so to speak, the religion of his
heart.  But he found dozens of other women charming, and did not
scruple to--as good as--tell them so.--Why not?  Are not such tellings
the delightful and perfectly legitimate small change of a gallant man's
affections?  And out of the farthings and half-farthings, the very
fractions of half-farthings, indeed--of such small change, Joanna had
constructed a great and serious romance terminating in matrimony!  The
young man could have beat his breast, torn his hair, poured ashes upon
his thus forcibly denuded scalp, and rent his up-to-date and
particularly well-tailored garments.  He, Adrian Savage, the husband of
Joanna!--From this his lively Gallic imagination galloped away,
blushing in humorous horror, utterly refusing to contemplate the
picture.  At the same time his pity for her was immense.  And how, oh!
how, without gross and really sickening cruelty, to dispel her
disastrous delusion?

With the above question upon his lips, Adrian turned by the wicket gate
into the garden, where the tranquil beauty surrounding him compelled
his observation.

High above the dark-feathered crests of the firs, the moon, two days
short of the full, rode in the south-eastern sky, obliterating all
stars in the vicinity of her pathway.  She showed to-night not as a
flat disk plastered against the solid vault, but as a mammoth,
delicately tarnished silver ball, traveling in stateliest fashion the
steel-blue fields of space.  The roofs and façade of the house, its
multiplicity of glinting window-panes, the lawns and shrubberies, and
all-encircling woodland, were alike overlaid with the searching
whiteness of her light.  The air was dry and very mellow, rich with a
blending of forest and garden scents.  Faintly to northward Adrian's
ear could detect the rattle and grind of a belated tram on the
Barryport Road, and, southward, the continuous wistful murmur of the
mile-distant sea!

Now, as often before, he was sensible of the subtle charm produced by
this conjunction of a highly finished, material civilization with
gently savage and unsubjugated Nature.  England is, in so great
measure, a sylvan country even yet; a country of close-coming,
abounding, and invading trees.  And when, as now, just upon midnight,
its transitory human populations--which in silly pride suppose
themselves proprietors of the soil and all that grows upon it--are
herded safe indoors, abed and asleep, the trees resume their primitive
sovereignty, making their presence proudly evident.  They had no voice
to-night, it is true.  They stood becalmed and silent.  Yet the genius
of them, both in their woodland unity and endless individual diversity
of form and growth, declared itself nevertheless.  For this last the
infiltration of moonlight was partly accountable, since it lent each
stem, branch, and twig, each differing species of foliage--the large
leaves of laurel and rhododendron, the semi-transparent, fringed and
fluted leaves of the beech, the finely spiked tufts of fir-needles--a
definiteness and separateness such as hoar-frost might.  Each tree and
bush stood apart from its fellows in charming completeness and relief,
challenging the eye by a certain sprightly independence of mien and
aspect.  Had they moved from their fixed places, the big trees mingling
in some stately procession or dance, while the shrubs and bushes
frisked upon the greensward, Adrian would hardly have been surprised.
A spirit of phantasy was abroad--here in the Baughurst Park Ward, local
municipal government notwithstanding--entrancing to his poetic sense.

Therefore he lingered, walking slowly along the path leading to the
garden entrance of the house, here shaded by a broken line of tall
Scotch firs, their smooth stems rising like pillars, bare of branches
for some twenty or thirty feet.  Now and again he stopped, held captive
by the tranquil yet disquieting beauty of the scene.  It reminded him
strangely of Gabrielle St. Leger's beauty, and the something elusive,
delicately malicious and ironic, in the character of it.  Her smiling,
unclosed lips, the dimple in her left cheek; those mysterious oblique
glances from beneath her long-shaped, half-closed eyelids, full at once
of invitation and reserve; the untamed, deliciously tricksy spirit he
apprehended in her; and a something majestic, too, as of those vast,
calm, steel-blue fields of space,--these, all and severally, he,
lover-like, found mirrored in the loveliness of this May night.

On his left the lawns, flooded by moonlight, stretched away to the
tennis court and the terrace walk in front of the pavilion.  On his
right, backed by the line of Scotch firs aforesaid, a thick wall of
deciduous shrubs--allspice, lilac, syringa, hydrangea, sweetbrier, and
laburnum--shut out the carriage-drive.  The quaint leathery flowers of
the allspice gave off a powerful and luscious sweetness as of
sun-ripened fruit.  Adrian paused, inhaling it, gazing meanwhile in
fond imagination into _la belle Gabrielle's_ golden-brown eyes,
refreshingly forgetful of the distracting perplexities of the _affaire_
Smyrthwaite No. 2.

It was a good moment, at once chaste and voluptuous, wherein the very
finest flame of ideal love burned upon his heart's altar.  But it was
broken up by an arresting apparition.  For a white owl swept,
phantom-like, out of the plantation behind the pavilion and beat over
the moonlit turf in swift and absolutely noiseless flight.  A soft
thistle-down could hardly have passed more lightly or silently than the
great wide-winged bird.  Beneath it, its shadow, skimming the close-cut
surface of the grass, seemed as much alive and more substantial than
itself.  Twice, while Adrian watched, moved and a little startled, it
quartered the lawn in search of prey; then flung itself up, high in
air, vanishing among the tree-tops, with a long-drawn hoo-hoo-hooing of
hollow laughter.  And in the space of a few seconds, from the recesses
of the woodland, its mate answered with a far-off elfin echo of its
sinister note.  Then Adrian heard a window open.  And, on to the far
end of the red-balustraded balcony--extending along the first floor of
the house, in the recess above the veranda--a woman came.

She was dressed in a white _négligé_ of some soft, woolen material,
which hung straight in knife-edge pleatings from her shoulders to her
feet, covering them--as the young man could see between the wide-spaced
balusters--and lying outspread for some inches around her upon the
floor.  Over this she wore a black cloak, straight-hanging too, made of
some fine and supple fur.  The fronts of it, which were thrown open,
leaving her arms free, appeared to be lined with ermine.  Her peculiar
garb and the perceptible angularity of her form and action suggested
some crabbed medieval figure of church wood-carving or memorial brass.

The woman looked so tall standing there as in a mural pulpit, high
against the house-front, that at first sight Adrian, took her to be
Marion Chase.  But medieval and ecclesiastical associations were a
little too glaringly out of place in connection with that remarkably
healthy young amazon and athlete.  Adrian dismissed them, with a
sensible sinking of the heart.  Instinctively he moved aside, seeking
the deepest of the shadows cast by the fir-trees, pressing himself back
among the bushes of sweet-flowered allspice.  Of two evils one must
choose the least.  Concealment was repugnant to him; but, to go forward
meant to be recognized and compelled to speak.  And, to play the part
of hero in some grim travesty of the Garden Scene from "Romeo and
Juliet," was of the two vastly the more repugnant.

Becoming aware of a movement in the garden below, the woman leaned
forward and gazed fixedly in his direction, showing in the bleaching
moonlight Joanna Smyrthwaite's heavy, upturned hair, strained,
prominent eyes and almost terrible face, so ravaged was it by emotion.

The night traffics in exaggerations; and Adrian's senses and
sensibilities were already somewhat over-stimulated.  Perhaps,
therefore, it followed that, looking up at Joanna, she appeared to him
clothed in hieratic garments as the elect exponent and high-priestess
of all lovelorn, unmated, childless womanhood throughout the world.  To
him, just then, her aspect gathered up and embodied the fiercely
disguised sufferings of all the barren, the ugly, the ungifted, the
undesired and unsought; of that disfranchised multitude of women whose
ears have never listened to recitation of a certain Song of Songs.  Her
youth--she was as young as he--her wealth, the ease, leisure, solid
luxury which surrounded her, her possession of those material
advantages which make for gaiety and security, for pleasant vanities,
for participation in all the light-hearted activities of modern life,
only deepened the tragedy.  Denied by man and--since she was without
religion--denying God, she did indeed offer a piteous spectacle.  The
more so, that he apprehended a toughness of fiber in her, arguing a
power of protracted and obstinate resistance.  Happier for her, surely,
had she been made of weaker stuff, like her wretched brother of the
vile drawings upon René Dax's studio wall!

Adrian's own personal share in this second and tragic _affaire_
Smyrthwaite came home to him with added poignancy as he stood thus, in
hiding, amid the luscious sweetness of the flowering allspice.  For one
intolerable moment he questioned whether he could, whether he should,
sacrifice himself, transmuting Joanna's besotted delusion into fact and
truth.  But reason, honor, love, the demands of his own rich vitality,
his keen value of life and of the delights of living, his poetic and
his artistic sense, the splendid call of all the coming years, his
shrewdness, his caution, his English humor and his Gallic wit, arose in
hot and clamorous rebellion, shouting refusal final and absolute.  He
couldn't do it.  Death itself would be preferable.  It came very simply
to this--he could not.

Just then he saw Joanna draw her costly cloak about her neck and
shoulders, as though struck by sudden and sharp cold.  Again the
sinister note of the owls in greeting and in answer came from the
recesses of the great woodland.  And again Joanna, leaning forward,
scrutinized the shadows of the garden path with pale, strained eyes.
Then raising both hands and pressing them against her forehead as
though in physical pain, she turned and went indoors, closing the
window behind her.

Both pity and policy kept the young man for another, far from
agreeable, five minutes in the shelter of the allspice bushes before
venturing into the open.  Upon the veranda he waited again, conscious
of intense reluctance to enter the house.  He knew his decision to be
sane and right, the only one possible, in respect of Joanna; yet he
felt like a criminal, a betrayer, a profligate trader in women's
affections.  He called himself hard names, knowing them all the while
to be inapplicable and unjust; but his sympathies were excited, his
imagination horror-struck by that lately witnessed vision of feminine
disfranchisement and distress.

At his request the men-servants had left the door opening from the
veranda unlocked.  Passing along the corridor into the hall, he became
very sensible of the silence and suspended animation of the sleeping
house.  The curtains of the five-light, twenty-foot staircase window
were drawn back.  Through the leaded panes of thickened clouded glass
moonlight filtered, stamping misty diaper-work upon walls and floor,
painting polished edges and surfaces of woodwork with lines and patches
of shining white.  On a small table at the foot of the stairs decanters
and glasses, a cut-glass jug of iced water, a box of cigars, silver
candlestick and matchbox had been placed against his return.  But the
young man was in no humor just now for superfluous drinks or
superfluous lights.  He felt apprehensive, childishly distrustful of
the quiet reigning in the house, as though, behind it, some evil lay in
wait to leap upon and capture him He felt nervous.  This at once
annoyed him and made him keenly observant and alert.  He stood a moment
listening, then ran up the wide, shallow tread of the stairs lightly,
three steps at a time.  On the level of the half-flight, under the
great window, he paused.  The air was hot and heavy.  His heart beat.
A door opened from the right on to the gallery above.  Some one came
forward, with a soft dragging of draperies over the thick carpet,
through the dim checkerings of the moonlight.

"Adrian," Joanna called, whisperingly, "Adrian, is that you?"

The young man took a long breath.  His nerves grew steady.  He came
calmly up the remaining half-flight, his head carried high, his face
serious, his eyes a little hard and very bright.  Childish fears,
exaggerations of self-condemnation, left him at the sound of Joanna's
voice; but he was sorry, very sorry, both for her and--for himself.

"Yes, Cousin Joanna," he answered, and his speech, to his own hearing,
had a somewhat metallic ring in it.

If there must be an interview at this highly indiscreet hour of the
night it should at least be open and above-board, conducted in tones
which the entire household could, if it chose, hear plainly enough.
Both for his own honor and Joanna's this was best.

"I have just come back from Heatherleigh," he continued.  "You will be
glad to know that Mr. Challoner and I have finished the business
connected with your father's property.  All outstanding accounts and
all duties upon the estate are now paid.  All documents are signed,
receipted, and in order."

Joanna made an impatient gesture as though thrusting aside some foolish
obstruction.

"Yes," she said, "no doubt; but it is not about the property I need to
speak to you, Adrian.  My mind is quite at ease about that.  It is
about something else.  It is about myself."

"Ah, yes?" the young man inquired, gravely.

"I did not come down to dinner to-night.  I felt sure you would
understand and excuse me.  I could not.  I could not have borne to be
with Margaret and Marion Chase and to listen to their trivial talk in
your presence, after our conversation of this afternoon.  I had to be
alone that I might think, that I might bring my temper into subjection
to my will.  Isherwood told me you had gone out after dinner.  But I
felt I could not rest without seeing you again to-night.  I felt I must
speak to you, must ask your forgiveness, must try to explain.  So I
waited up.  The owls startled me, and I went on to the balcony.  I
fancied you were in the garden.  But I could not see you.  Later I
heard your footsteps"--Joanna paused breathlessly--"your footsteps,"
she repeated, "upon the pavement of the veranda.  My courage failed.  I
felt ashamed to meet you.  But it would be so very dreadful to have you
think harshly of me--so, so I came."

Owing to the vague quality of the light Adrian failed to see her face
distinctly, and for this he was thankful.  But he knew that her arms
hung straight at her sides, and that, under cover of her costly cloak,
her poor hands clutched and clutched against the white knife-pleatings
of her dress.

"Dear cousin," he said, "I have no cause to think harshly of you.
Indeed, my thought has been occupied with sympathy for the trials that
you have already undergone, and with regret that I should be
instrumental in recalling distressing events to your mind."

"Ah!  I deserve no sympathy," she declared, vehemently, turning aside
and moving restlessly to and fro.  "I do not deserve that excuses
should be made for me.  This afternoon I showed my character in a
shocking light.  Perhaps it was the true light.  Perhaps my character
is objectionable.  I both felt and said what was cruel and intemperate.
I was selfish.  I only considered my own happiness.  I repudiated my
duty toward my brother.  I wished him dead, because his return, and all
the anxiety and thought the probability of that return necessarily
occasions, interfered with my own plans, with my own beautiful
prospects and hopes."

She came close, standing before the young man, her hands clasped, her
body visibly shuddering beneath her hieratic garments.

"Now I have come to myself, Adrian.  I realize--indeed I realize--the
enormity of my own callousness, my own selfishness.  I realize, too,
the dreadful impression of my nature which you must have received.  If
you repudiated me I should have no valid cause for complaint.  My
reason forces me to acknowledge that I deserve your censure; that if
you turn from me--dreadful, dreadful as it would be--I shall have
brought that misery upon myself.  Dreadful, dreadful," she moaned, "too
dreadful to contemplate--yet deserved, invited by the exhibition of my
own ungovernable temper--deserved--there is the sting of it."

"But--but, my dear Joanna," Adrian broke forth, carried out of himself
by the spectacle of her grief, "you are fighting with shadows.  You are
torturing yourself with non-existent iniquities.  Calm yourself, dear
cousin.  Look at things quietly and in a reasonable spirit.  Your
brother is, unfortunately, unsatisfactory and troublesome, a difficult
person to deal with.  His errors of conduct have caused his family
grave inconvenience and sorrow.  Let us be honest.  Let us freely admit
all that.  He is not a young man to be proud of.  What more natural
then than that you should recoil from the idea of his return?  That, in
the first shock of the idea being presented to you, you should strongly
express your alarm, your distaste?  It is only human.  Who but a
hypocrite or pedant would condemn you for that!  Calm yourself, dear
cousin.  Be just to yourself.  I could not permit you to revoke your
gifts to your brother.  My own honor was a little involved there
perhaps--"

Adrian smiled at her reassuringly, putting some force upon himself.

"Let us be sensible," he continued.  "Let us be moderate.  At the
present time we have no reliable information as to where your brother
is.  We may not discover him.  He may never come back.  Meanwhile, I
implore you, dismiss this painful subject from your mind.  Be merciful
to your own nerves, dear Joanna.  Remember Andrew Merriman and I engage
to do our best, to exercise all care, all delicacy, in the prosecution
of our inquiries.  When necessary we will consult with you"--he spread
out his hands, his head a little on one side, consolatory, debonair,
charming.--"Ah! dear cousin, be advised--do not agitate yourself
further.  Leave it all at that."

Joanna sighed once or twice.  Put up her hands, pressing them against
her forehead.  Her body swayed slightly as she stood.  Her hands
dropped at her side again.  She looked fixedly, intently, at Adrian
Savage.  Her mouth was a little open.  The ecstatic expression, so
nearly touching upon idiocy, had come back.

"Then nothing is changed--nothing is altered between us?" she whispered.

The young man took her hand, and bowing low over it, kissed it.  As he
raised himself he looked her full in the face.

"No, nothing, my dear cousin," he said.

There were tears in his eyes, and his voice shook.  He was filled with
apology, with immeasurable concern and regret, with an immeasurable
craving for her forgiveness, in that he spoke actual and literal truth.
For nothing was changed--no, nothing.--He never had loved, he did not
love, he never could love Joanna Smyrthwaite.

He stayed for no further word or look.  Practically he ran away.  But
there is just one thing, on the face of the earth, from which a brave
man may run without smallest accusation of cowardice--namely, a woman
who loves him and whom he does not love!  Once in his room Adrian
bolted the door on the inside as well as locking it, and began to pack.
He would take the mid-day rather than the night cross-Channel boat
to-morrow.  Then, with relief, he remembered that it was already
to-morrow.  In a few hours the servants would be about.

Twice before dawn he fancied he heard footsteps and a soft dragging of
draperies over the carpet of the corridor.  He opened the windows wide,
and let in the singing of birds greeting the morning from the woodland.
For the sound of those footsteps and softly dragging draperies cut him
to the heart with sorrow for womanhood unfulfilled--womanhood denied by
man, and, not having religion, denying God.



IV

THE FOLLY OF THE WISE



CHAPTER I

RE-ENTER A WAYFARING GOSSIP

The last of Miss Beauchamp's receptions for the season drew to a
vivacious close.  Sunday would witness the running of the _Grand Prix_.
Then the world would begin to scatter, leaving Paris to the inquiring
foreigner, the staggering sunshine, some few millions of the governing
classes--new style--the smells, the sparrows, and the dust.

As a woman consciously looking threescore and ten in the face Anastasia
felt very tired.  Her throat was husky and her back ached.  But, as a
hostess, she felt elate, gratified, even touched.  For everybody had
come.  Had worn their smartest new summer clothes.  Had been animated,
complimentary, appreciative.  Had drunk China tea or iced coffee; eaten
strawberries and cream, sweetmeats, ices, and wonderful little cakes,
and declared "Mademoiselle Beauchamp's ravishing 'five-o'clock'" to be
entirely different from and superior to any other "five-o'clock" of the
whole of their united and separate experience.

Art and letters were, of course, fully represented; but politics and
diplomacy made a fair show as well.  Anastasia greeted three members of
the Chamber, two of the Senate, a Cabinet Minister, and a contingent
from the personnel of both the English and the Italian embassies.  The
coveted red ribbon was conspicuous by its presence.  And all these
delightful people had the good sense to arrive in relays; so that the
rooms--the furniture of them disposed against the walls--had never
throughout the afternoon been too crowded for circulation, had never
been too hot.

Delicious Nanny Legrenzi, of the _Opéra Comique_, sang--and
looked--like an impudent angel.  Ludovico Müller played like a
whirlwind, a zephyr, a lost soul, a quite rampantly saved soul--what
you will!  And every one talked.  Heavenly powers, how they had
talked!--their voices rising from a gentle adagio, through a tripping
capriccioso, to the magnificently sustained fortissimo so welcome, so
indescribably satisfying, to the ear of the practised hostess.  Yes,
all had gone well, excellently well, and now they were in act of
departing.

Anastasia, weary, but genial and amused, on capital terms with her
fellow-creatures and with herself, stood in the embrasure of one of the
windows in the second room of the suite.  Behind her red and pink
rambler roses and ferns, in pots, formed a living screen against the
glass, pleasantly tempering the light.  Ludovico Müller had just made
his bow and exit, leaving the music-room empty; while in the first and
largest room Madame St. Leger, who helped her to receive to-day, bade
farewell to the guests as they passed on into the cool, lofty hall.

"I have entertained him the best I know, Miss Beauchamp," Lewis
Byewater said.  "But he did not appear keen to converse on general
topics.  Seemed to need to specialize.  Wanted to have me tell him just
who every one present was."

"His talent always lay in the direction of biographical
research--modern biography, well understood.  And so, like a dear, kind
young man, you told him who everybody was?"

"Within the limits of my own acquaintance, I did so.  But, you see, in
this crowd quite a number of persons were unknown to me," Byewater--a
clean, fair, ingenuous and slightly unfinished-looking youth, with a
candid, shining forehead, carefully tooled and gilded teeth, a meager
allowance of hair, a permanent pince-nez, and a pronounced
transatlantic accent--explained conscientiously.  "I did my best, and
when I got through with my facts I started out to invent.  I believe I
thickened up the ranks of the French aristocracy to a perfectly
scandalous extent.  But the Colonel appeared thirsty on titles."

"A form of thirst entirely unknown to your side of the Atlantic!"
Anastasia retorted.  "Never mind.  If you have done violence to the
purity of your republican principles by a promiscuous ennobling of my
guests you have sinned in the cause of friendship, my dear Byewater,
and I am infinitely obliged to you.  But where is Colonel Haig now?"

"In the outer parlor, I believe, watching Madame St. Leger wish the
rear-guard good-day.  He proposes to remain to the bitter end of this
reception, Miss Beauchamp.  He confided as much to me.  He is sensible
of having the time of his life _re_ Parisian society people, so he
proposes to stick.  But you must be pretty well through with any wish
for entertaining by this," the kindly fellow went on--"so you just tell
me truly if you would prefer to have me go off right now, or have me
wait awhile till the Colonel shows signs of getting more satiated and
take him along too?  I intended proposing to dine him somewhere,
anyway, to-night."

"You are the very nicest of all nice young men, and unquestionably I
shall meet you in heaven," Anastasia asserted, heartily.  "And as I
shall arrive there so long before you, you may count on my saying all
manner of handsome things to St. Peter about you.  Oh yes, stay, my
dear boy, and carry the title-thirsty Colonel away with you.  By all
manner of means, stay."

Byewater flushed up to the top of his shining forehead.  He looked at
her shyly out of his clear, guileless eyes.

"I do not feel to worry any wearing amount over the Apostle, Miss
Beauchamp," he said, slowly.  "I believe it is more Mr. Adrian Savage
at the present who stands to break up my rest.  If you could say some
favorable things about me to him, I own it would be a let up.  He
accepted my articles upon the Eighteenth-Century Stage; but I do not
seem any forwarder with getting them positively published.  I suppose
he is holding them over for the dead season.  Well, I presume there is
appropriateness in that; for, seeing the time it has lain in his
office, the manuscript must be very fairly moth-eaten by this."

"Oh, trust me!" Anastasia cried, genially.  "I'll jog his memory
directly I see him--which I shall do as soon as he returns from
England.  Never fear, I'll hustle him to some purpose if you'll stay
now and deliver me from this military genealogical incubus.  Look--how
precious a contrast!--here they come."

Madame St. Leger entered the room, talking, smiling, while Rentoul
Haig, short, but valiantly making the most of his inches, his chest
well forward, neat as a new pin, his countenance rosy, furiously
pleased and furiously busy, with something between a marching and a
dancing step, paraded proudly beside her.

_La belle Gabrielle_ had discarded black garments, and blossomed
delicately into oyster-gray chiffon and a silk netted tunic to match,
finished with self-colored silk embroideries and deep, sweeping knotted
fringe.  The crown of her wide-brimmed gray hat was massed with soft,
drooping ostrich plumes of the same reposeful tint, which lifted a
little, waving slightly as she advanced.  A scarlet tinge showed in the
round of her charming cheeks.  Mischief looked out of her eyes and
tipped the corners of her smiling mouth.  She was, indeed, much
diverted by the small and pompous British warrior strutting at her
side.  He offered example of a type hitherto unknown to her.  She
relished him greatly.  She also relished the afternoon's experiences.
They were exhilarating.  She felt deliciously mistress of herself and
deliciously light-hearted.  It is comparatively easy to despise the
world when you are out of it.  But now, the seclusion of her mourning
being over, returning to the world, she could not but admit it a vastly
pleasant place.  This afternoon it had broadly smiled upon her; and she
found herself smiling back without any mental reservation in respect of
ideas and causes.  At seven and twenty, though you may hesitate to
circumscribe your personal liberty by marriage with one man, the homage
of many men--if respectfully offered--is by no manner of means a thing
to be sneezed at.  Gabrielle St. Leger did not sneeze at it.  On the
contrary she gathered admiring looks, nicely turned compliments,
emulous attentions, veiled ardors of manner and of speech, into a
bouquet, so to speak, to tuck gaily into her waistband.  The sense of
her own beauty, and of the power conferred by that beauty, was joyful
to her.  Under the stimulus of success her tongue waxed merry, so that
she came off with flying colors from more than one battle of wit.  And,
for some reason, all this went to make her think with unusual
kindliness of her absent lover.  In this vivacious, mundane atmosphere,
Adrian Savage would be so eminently at home and in place!  His
presence, moreover, would give just that touch of romance, that touch
of sentiment, to the sparkling present which--and there Gabrielle
thought it safest to stop.

"Ah! it has been so very, very agreeable, your party, most dear
friend," she said in her pretty careful English, taking her hostess's
hand in both hers.  "I find myself quite sorrowful that it should be at
an end.  I could say 'and please how soon may we begin all over again'
like my little Bette when she too is happy."

"Dear child, dear child," Anastasia returned affectionately, almost
wistfully, for nostalgia of youth is great in those who, though bravely
acquiescent, are no longer young.

Gray hair happened to be the fashion in Paris this season.  About a
week previously Miss Beauchamp had mysteriously closed her door to all
comers.  To-day she emerged gray-headed.  This transformation at once
perplexed and pleased her many friends.  If it admitted her age, and by
lessening the eccentricity of her appearance made her less conspicuous,
it gave her an added dignity, strangely softening and refining the
expression of her large-featured, slightly masculine face.  Just now,
in a highly ornate black lace and white silk gown, and suite of ruby
ornaments set in diamonds--whereby hung a tale not unknown to a certain
hidden garden--Anastasia Beauchamp, in the younger woman's opinion,
showed not only as an impressive but as a noble figure.

"Ah yes, and you should know, Colonel 'Aig," the latter continued, the
aspirate going under badly in her eagerness, "since you have not for so
long a time seen her, that it is always thus with Mademoiselle
Beauchamp at her parties.  She produces a mutual sympathy between her
guests so that, while in her presence, they adore one another.  It is
her secret.  She makes all of us at our happiest, at our best.  We
laugh, but we are also gentle-hearted.  We desire to do good."

"That is so," Byewater put in nasally.  "I indorse your sentiments,
Madame St. Leger.  When I came over I believed I should find I had left
the finest specimens of modern woman behind in America.  But I was
mistaken.  Miss Beauchamp is positively great."

"And--and me, Mr. Byewater?" Gabrielle asked with a naughty mouth.

"Oh! well, you--Madame St. Leger," the poor youth faltered, turning
away modestly, his countenance flaming very bright red.

"I require no assurances regarding our hostess's brilliant social
gifts," Rentoul Haig declared, mouthing his words so as to make himself
intelligible to this foreign, or semi-foreign, audience.  "My memory
carries me back to--"

"The year one, my dear Colonel, the year one," Anastasia
interrupted--"the old days at Beauchamp Sulgrave.  Great changes there,
alas, since my poor brother's death.  Between Death Duties and Land
Taxes, my cousin can't afford to keep the place up, or thinks he can't,
which amounts to much the same thing.  He is trying to sell a lot of
the farms at Beauchamp St. Anne's hear.

"England is being ruined by those iniquitous Land Taxes, I give you my
word, Miss Beauchamp, simply ruined.  Take Beauchamp Sulgrave, for
instance.  Perfect example of an English country-house, amply large
enough yet not too large for comfort, and really lovely grounds.  Just
the type of place that always has appealed to me.  I remember every
stick and stone of it.  I give you my word, I find it difficult to
speak with moderation of these Radical nobodies, whose thieving
propensities endanger the preservation of such places on the old
hospitable and stately basis.  I remember my regiment was in camp at
Beauchamp St. Anne's--I am afraid it was in the seventies--and your
party from Sulgrave used kindly to drive over to tea, regimental
sports, and impromptu gymkhanas.  Charming summer!  How it all comes
back to me, Miss Beauchamp!"

He cleared his throat, pursing up his lips and nodding his head quite
sentimentally.

"Really, I cannot say what a resuscitation of pleasant memories it gave
me, when our mutual friend Savage mentioned your name one day at my
cousin, the Smyrthwaites' house, at Stourmouth, this winter.  Directly
my doctor ordered me to Aix-les-Bains.--A touch of gout, nothing more
serious.  My health is, and always has been, excellent, I am thankful
to say.--I determined to remain a few days in Paris on my way out, in
the hope of renewing our acquaintance.  Savage told me--"

Gabrielle had dropped her friend's hand.

"Ah! these climbing roses, are they not ravishing?" she exclaimed,
advancing her nose to the pink clusters daintily.  "See then, M.
Byewater, if you please, can you tell me the name of them?  I think I
will buy some to decorate my own drawing-room.  The colors would
sympathize--'armonize--is it that, yes?--so prettily with my
carpet.--You recall the tone of my carpet?--And of my curtains.  Though
whether it is worth while, since I so soon leave Paris!"

"Is that so, Madame St. Leger?" Byewater asked rather blankly.

"Savage is a delightful fellow, a really delightful fellow," Rentoul
Haig asserted largely.

"For the summer, oh yes," _la belle Gabrielle_ almost gabbled.  "I take
my mother and my little girl to the--how do you say?--to the
sea-bathings.  On the Norman coast I have rented a _chalet_.  The
climate is invigorating.  It will benefit my mother, whose health
causes me anxieties.  And my little girl will enjoy the society of some
little friends, whose parents rent for this season a neighboring villa."

"Ah! precisely that is what I want to talk to you about.  Come and sit
down, Colonel Haig."

Anastasia raised her voice slightly.

"Here--yes--on the settee.  And now about Adrian Savage.  I confess I
begin to look upon this executorship as an imposition.  It is not quite
fair on him, poor dear fellow.  It occupies time and thought which
would be expended much more profitably elsewhere.  He is as good as
gold about it all, but I know he feels it a most inconvenient tie.  It
interferes with his literary work, which is serious, and with his
social life here--with his friendships."

"Yes, I do not usually go to the coast.  I accompany my mother to her
native province--to Savoy"--Madame St. Leger's voice had also risen.
"To Chambéry, where we have relations.  You are not acquainted with
Chambéry, M. Byewater?  Ah! but you make a mistake.  You should be.  It
is quite the old France, very original, quite of the past ages.  I love
it; but this year--"

"In my opinion it is quite time Savage was set free."  Anastasia's tone
waxed increasingly emphatic.  "You must forgive my saying the
Smyrthwaite ladies are very exacting, Colonel Haig.  They appear to
trade upon his chivalry and forbearance to a remarkable extent.
Doesn't it occur to them that a young man, in his position, has affairs
of his own in plenty to attend to?"

"This year the sea-bathing will certainly be more efficacious.  No
doubt the mountain air in Savoy is also invigorating; but the changes
of climate are so rapid, so injurious--"

"Perhaps there are other attractions, of a not strictly business
character.  One cannot help hearing rumors, you know.  And recently I
have been a good deal at the Miss Smyrthwaites' myself.  As a
connection of their mother's, in their rather unprotected condition, I
have felt it incumbent upon me to keep my eye on matters."

Rentoul Haig settled himself comfortably upon the settee beside his
hostess, inclining sideways, a little toward her.  He spoke low,
confidentially, as one communicating state secrets, his nose
inquisitive, his mouth puckered, his whole dapper person irradiated by
a positive rapture of gossip.  He simmered, he bubbled, he only just
managed not to boil over, in his luxury of enjoyment.  Anastasia
listened, now fanning herself, now punctuating his discourse with
incredulous ejaculations and gestures descriptive of the liveliest
dissent.

"Incredible! my dear Colonel," she cried.  "You must be misinformed.
Savage is regarded as a most desirable _parti_ here in Paris.  He can
marry whom he pleases.  Impossible!  I know better."

"Then do you tell me it is unhappily quite true that M. René Dax is
ill, M. Byewater?" Gabrielle St. Leger inquired in unnecessarily loud,
clear accents.

"Well, I would hesitate to make you feel too badly about him, Madame
St. Leger," the conscientious youth returned cautiously.  "I cannot
speak from first-hand knowledge, since I would not presume to give
myself out as among M. Dax's intimates.  He has been a made man this
long time, while I am only now starting out on schemes for arriving at
fame myself way off in the far by and by."

"Never in life!" Anastasia cried, in response to further confidential
bubblings.  "You misread our friend Savage altogether if you suppose
his heart could be influenced by the lady's wealth.  He is the least
mercenary person I know.  The modern fortune-hunting madness has not
touched him, I am delighted to say.  Then, he is really quite
comfortably off already.  He has every reasonable prospect of being
rich eventually.  He is very shrewd in money matters; and he has
friends whom, I can undertake to say, will not forget him when the
final disposition of their worldly goods is in question.  He is a man
of sensibility, of deep feeling, capable of a profound and lasting
attachment."

She paused, glancing at _la belle Gabrielle_.

"I would not like to have you think I underrate Mr. Dax's talent."
This from Byewater.  "I recognize he is just as clever as anything.
But I am from a country where the standards are different, and much of
Mr. Dax's art is way over the curve of the world where my sympathy
fails to follow.  This being so, I have never made any special effort
to get into direct personal contact--"

"You may take it from me, my dear Colonel, that profound and lasting
attachment is already in existence."

"But I was lunching with Lenty B. Stacpole, our leading black-and-white
artist, yesterday.  Maybe you are not acquainted with his work, Madame
St. Leger?  Most of the time he puts it right on the American market,
and does not show here.  And, Lenty told me Mr. Dax is so badly broken
up with neurasthenia that if he does not quit work and exercise more,
and cultivate normal habits generally, he risks soon being just as sick
a man as any but a coroner's jury can have use for."

"It is a matter of fact, I may almost say of common knowledge"--fatigue
and huskiness notwithstanding, Anastasia's voice rang out in a
veritable war-cry.  "All his friends are aware that for years he has
been devoted--honorably and honestly devoted--to a most lovely woman,
here, in Paris."

She paused, again looking the bubbling little warrior hard in the eye.

"Here," she repeated.

"But that pains me so much"--Gabrielle also spoke for the benefit of
all and any hearers.  "Without doubt I did know that M. René Dax was
ailing; but that he was so very ill--no--no."

Miss Beauchamp laid her fan lightly upon Colonel Haig's coat-cuff,
silently drawing his attention to the somewhat unfinished American
youth and the perfectly finished young Frenchwoman, standing together
in the embrasure of the window backed by the trellis of red and pink
rambler roses.  Again she looked him hard in the eye.

"Now does it occur to you why any other affair of the heart, in Mr.
Savage's case, is preposterous and unthinkable?" she inquired.  He
swallowed, nodded: "Upon my word--indeed!  Most interesting."

"And most convincing?"

"My dear lady, is it necessary to ask that question, in face of such
remarkable charm and beauty?  Enviable fellow!  Upon my word, is it
convincing?"

But here _la belle Gabrielle_, conscious alike of their scrutiny and
the purport of their partly heard conversation, advanced from the
window.  The ostrich plumes upon her hat lifted and waved as she moved.
The scarlet tinge in her cheeks had deepened, and her eyes were at once
troubled and daring.

Rentoul Haig got upon his feet in a twinkling.

"Enviable fellow!" he repeated feelingly.  Then added, "I--I am at
liberty to mention this very interesting piece of information, Miss
Beauchamp?"

"Cry it aloud from the housetops if you will.  I vouch for the truth of
it," Anastasia replied, rising also.  "All her friends wish him
success.  I say advisedly friends.  In such a case, as you can readily
imagine, there are others"--she turned to Madame St. Leger.  "Why, _ma
toute belle_, is anything wrong?  You appear a little disturbed,
disquieted."

"M. Byewater has just communicated a very unhappy news to me," she
replied.

"Heartless young man!  As punishment let us send him packing instantly."

Anastasia smiled at the perplexed youth in the kindest and most
encouraging fashion.

"I am ever so mortified to have caused Madame St. Leger to feel badly,"
he said.

"Oh!  She will get over it.  In time she will forgive you.  Leave her
to me!  I will reason with her.  You must be going, too, Colonel Haig?"
Anastasia held out her hand, cheerfully enforcing farewell.  "Ah! well,
it has been very nice, very nice indeed, to see you and talk over old
times and so on.  Don't fail to look me up whenever you pass through
Paris.  I give you a standing invitation.  You're sure to find me.  I
am as much a fixture as the _Bois_ or the river."

As the two men passed from the outer room into the hall Anastasia sank
down on the settee again.

"Just Heaven!" she said, "but I expire with fatigue, simply expire."

Gabrielle looked at her mutinously.  Then, sitting down beside her, she
kissed her lightly on the cheek.

"You are malicious," she said; "you are very obstinate.  Perhaps I too
am obstinate.  You will not succeed in driving me into--into marriage."

"Never a bit!  I trust your own heart, dearest child, to do the
driving."

"Ah! my heart--have I any left?  Save where my mother and Bette are
concerned, I sometimes wonder!"

"You don't give your heart the chance to speak.  You are afraid of it,
because you know beforehand what it would say, what it is already
saying."

Madame St. Leger rose, shaking her head, big hat, waving plumes and
all, with captivating petulance.

"How can I tell, how can I tell?" she exclaimed.  "Is not marriage for
me ancient history?  Did I not read it all years ago, when I was still
but an infant?"

"That is exactly the reason why you should read it again, now that you
are no longer an infant--conceivably."

"But I do not care to read again that which I have already read.  I
have learned all the lessons that particular ancient history has to
teach."  Her tone and expression were not without a point of
bitterness.  "I want to go forward, to learn a new science, rather than
to repeat discredited fables."

Anastasia sighed, raising her shoulders, smiling keenly and sadly.

"Ah! you are still a baby," she said; "very much a baby, stretching out
soft, eager fingers toward any and every untried thing which sparkles,
or jiggets, or rattles.  Poor enough stuff, my dear, for the most part,
when you do contrive to grasp it!  Not new at all, either, save for the
high-sounding modern names with which it is labeled--only old clothes
made over to ape new fashions!  Believe me, the love of a clever and
handsome young man is a thousand times more satisfying, more
entertaining, than any such sartorial reconstructions from the
world-old rag-bag of social experiment.  Ah! vastly more entertaining,"
she added, placing her fan against her lips, and looking at the younger
woman over the top of it with meaning.

"M. Byewater informs me that M. René Dax is really, really ill,"
Gabrielle remarked rather hastily, her eyes turned upon the roses.

"Umph--and pray what, my dear, has that precious piece of information
to do with it?"

"He may perhaps even die."

"I, for one, should survive his loss with conspicuous resignation and
fortitude."

"But for the past week he has written to me almost daily."

"An impertinence which makes me the more resigned to his speedy demise."

"Yes--piteous, eloquent little letters, telling me how he suffers.  And
I have not answered."

"I take that for granted, _ma toute belle_."

"I did not reply because--I am sorry now--I did not quite believe him.
His eloquence was affecting.  But it was also misleading.  I thought it
improbable any person would write so very well if he were so very ill.
I lament my suspicions.  I have added to his sufferings.  He implores
me, in each letter, since it is impossible he should at present visit
me, that I should go, if only for a few moments, to see him."

"Out of all question--a monstrous and infamous proposal!"

"So I myself thought at first.  But if it is true that he may die?
Listen, dear friend, tell me--"

With a rapid, sweeping movement Gabrielle again sat down beside her
friend.  Again kissed her lightly on the cheek, manoeuvering the
wide-brimmed hat skilfully, so as to avoid scrapings and collisions.

"Listen," she repeated coaxingly--"for really I find myself in a
dilemma.  I cannot consult my mother.  She is timid and diffident
before questions such as these, of what is and is not socially
permissible.  Her charity, dear, sainted being, is limitless.  It
conflicts with her natural timidity.  Between the two she becomes
incapable of exercising clear judgment.  She does not comprehend modern
life."

"Few of us do," Anastasia commented.

"And her health is, alas, still far from being re-established.  I
desire to spare her all physical as well as all moral exertion.
Therefore I cannot propose that she should accompany me to visit M.
René Dax.  That would render my position comparatively simple; but the
excitement and fatigue of such a proceeding are practically prohibitive
for her."

"Am I then to understand," Anastasia inquired somewhat grimly, "that
you kindly propose I should play duenna, and call on that singularly
objectionable young man in company with you?"

"Ah! if it only could be arranged!  But I fear he might not improbably
refuse to receive you."

"Execrable taste on his part, of course.  Yet I thank him, for it
disposes of the matter, since you cannot go alone."

"But if he should be dying?  Ah, forgive me," she cried, with charming
penitence.  "I weary, I even annoy you, most dear Anastasia, most
cherished, most valued friend.  It is unconscionable to do so after you
have given me the enjoyment of so charming, so inspiriting, an
afternoon.  You should rest.  I will ask nothing more of you.  I will
go."

"But not to call on M. René Dax--" she caught _la belle Gabrielle's_
two hands in hers.  "My darling child, you must surely perceive the
impropriety, the scandal, of such a _démarche_ on your part--at your
age, with your attractions, well known as you are--and, putting
prejudice aside, with his reputation, whether deserved or not, for
libertinism, for grossness of ideas, for reckless indiscretion--"

Madame St. Leger had risen.  The elder woman still held her hands
imprisoned.  She stood looking down, the brim of her hat forming a gray
halo about her abundant burnished hair, and pale, grave, heart-shaped
face.

"I perceive all that," she answered quietly.  "I have thought carefully
of it.  I did so while I yet was doubtful of the actuality of his
illness.  But now that I am no longer doubtful, that I am assured he is
practising no deceit upon me, I ask myself whether I--who embrace the
nobler and larger conceptions of the office of woman--am not thereby
committed to disregard such conventions.  Whether it is not of the
essence of the reforms, the ideals for which we work that we should,
each one of us, have the courage, when occasion arises, to defy
tradition.  Only to talk, is silly.  To make a protest of action gives
the true measure of our faith, our sincerity.  The making of such a
protest against current usages cannot be agreeable.  I do not make it
light-heartedly, with any satisfaction in my own audacity.  To gratify
myself, to obtain amusement or frivolous pleasure, I would never risk
outraging the accepted code of conduct, the accepted proprieties.  But
for the sake of one who suffers, of one to whom--without vanity--I
believe my friendship to have been helpful--for the sake of one whose
attitude toward me has been irreproachable, and who, though so gifted,
is in many ways so greatly to be pitied--"

She bent her head and kissed her hostess.

"Farewell," she said gently.  "I shall not in any case go to-day.  It
is now too late.  But, beyond that, I make no promises for fear I may
perjure myself.  Yes, I have been so happy, so happy this afternoon.
For this, most dear friend, all my thanks."

Regardless of aching back and aching throat, Anastasia Beauchamp went
to the telephone.  First she told the operator, at the exchange, to
ring up the number of Adrian's bachelor flat in the _rue de
l'Université_.  From thence no response was obtainable.  Nothing
daunted, Anastasia requested to be put into communication with the
office in the _rue Druot_.  Here with polite alacrity the good Konski's
amiable voice answered her.

"Alas, no!  To the desolation of his colleagues M. Savage had not yet
returned.  But in a few days he would without doubt do so.  The conduct
of the Review compelled it.  Without him, the machine refused any
longer to work.  His presence became imperative.  Madame would write?
Precisely.  Her letter should receive his," the good Konski's, "most
eager attention.  Let Madame repose entire confidence in his assiduity,
resting assured that not an instant's delay should occur in the
delivery of her distinguished communication."



CHAPTER II

IN THE TRACK OF THE BRAIN-STORM

"At last you have arrived.  Through an interminable progression of
hours I have waited, the days and nights mixing themselves into one
abominable salad of expectation, disappointment, rage against those
whom I pictured as interfering to detain you; and, as dressing and
sauce to the whole infernal compound, a yearning for the assuaging
repose of your presence which gnawed, like the undying worm, at my
entrails."

This address, although delivered in the young man's accustomed
unemotional manner, with studied, carefully modulated utterance, was
hardly calculated to allay the embarrassment or disquietude aroused by
the uncompromising stare of the concierge, and very evident, though
more deferential, curiosity of Giovanni, the bright-eyed, velvet-spoken
Italian man-servant who admitted her.

Nor were other sources of discomfort lacking.  Madame St. Leger, like
all persons of temperament, in whom mind and body, the soul and senses,
are constantly and actively interpenetrative, instinctively responded
to the spiritual influences which reside in places and even in material
objects.  Now, coming directly into it from the glitter and movement,
the thousand and one very articulate activities of the sun-bathed city,
the vivid foliage of whose many trees tossed in the crisp freshness of
the summer wind, René Dax's studio struck her as the strangest and,
perhaps, most repellant human habitation she had ever yet set foot in.
Struck her, too, as belonging to a section of that exclusively man's
world, in which woman's part is at once fugitive and not a little
suspect.

The black hangings and furniture stared at, the bare immaculately white
walls bluffed, her.  Only a mournful travesty of the splendid daylight,
reigning out of doors, filtered down through the gathered black-stuff
blinds drawn across the great, sloping skylights, and contended
languidly against the harsh clarity of a couple of electric
lights--with flat smoked-glass shades to them--hanging, spider-like, at
the end of long black cords from the beam supporting the central span
of the arched ceiling.  Notwithstanding the height of the room and its
largeness of area, the atmosphere was stagnant, listless, and dead.
This constituted Madame St. Leger's initial impression.  This, and a
singular persuasion--returning upon her stealthily, persistently,
though she strove honestly to cast it out--that the studio, although
apparently so bare and empty, was, in point of fact, crowded by forms
and conceptions the reverse of wholesome or ennobling, which pushed
upon and jostled her, while, by their number and grossness, they
further exhausted the already lifeless air.

The sense of suffocation, thus produced, so oppressed her that her
heart beat nervously and her pulse fluttered.  Though unwilling to
discard the modest shelter it afforded and gain closer acquaintance
with the details of her surroundings, Gabrielle untwisted the flowing
gray veil which she wore over her hat and around her throat, and threw
it back from her face.  Then, for a while, all else was forgotten in
the thought of, the sight of, René Dax.  And, although that thought and
seeing was in itself painful, it tended to restore both her outward
serenity and her inward assurance and strength.

"Ah! my poor friend," she said, soothingly, "had I understood how
suffering you were, how greatly in need of sympathy, I would have put
aside obstacles and come to you sooner; though--though you will still
remember, it is no small concession that I should come at all."

"Only by concessions is life rendered supportable," he answered.  "I
too have made concessions.  If you defy conventional decorum for my
sake, I, on the other hand, have sacrificed to it for your sake very
royally.  I have destroyed the labor of months, have obliterated
priceless records to safeguard your delicacy, to insure you
immunity--should you at last visit me--from all offense."

And _la belle Gabrielle_, listening, was moved and touched.  But she
asked no explanation--shrank from it, indeed, divining the sacrifice in
question bore vital relation to that unseen yet jostling, unwholesome
and ignoble crowd.  She therefore rallied the mothering, ministering
spirit within her, resolving to let speech, action and feeling be
inspired and controlled by this, and this alone.

For one thing was indisputable--namely, that René Dax, caricaturist and
poet, was, as the cleanly young American yesterday told her, just as
sick a man as any man need be.  His puny person had wasted.  He looked
all head--all brain, rather, since his tired little face seemed to also
have dwindled and to occupy the most restricted space permissible in
proportion to the whole.  The full, black linen painting-blouse, which
he wore in place of a coat, produced, along with his lowness of
stature, a queerly youthful and even childish effect.  To stand on
ceremony with this small, sad human being, still more to go in fear of
it, to regard it as possibly dangerous, its poor little neighborhood as
in any degree compromising, was to Gabrielle St. Leger altogether
absurd and unworthy.  Let the overpunctilious or overworldly say what
they pleased, she congratulated herself.  She was glad to have
disregarded opposition, glad to have come.  Where custom and humanity
conflict--so she told herself--let it be custom which goes to the wall.

Therewith she drew herself up proudly, and, carrying her charming head
high, looked bravely around the strange and somewhat sinister place.
Noted the wide divans on either side the fireplace and the diminutive
scarlet cane chair set on the hearth-rug; the five-fold red lacquer
screen; the trophy of arms--swords, rapiers, simitars, daggers, and
other such uncomfortably cutting, ripping, and stabbing tools--upon the
chimney-breast above the mantelpiece.  Noted, not without a shudder of
disgust, the glass tank and its slimy swimming and crawling population;
the tables loaded with books, materials and implements of the
draftsman's craft; the model's platform; the array of portfolios,
canvases, drawing-boards--surely the place had been very scrupulously
swept and garnished against her coming!  It was minutely, even rigidly,
clean and neat.  This pleased her as a pretty tribute of respect.
Finally, her eyes sought the nearly life-size red-chalk drawing set on
an easel in the center of the studio immediately beneath the electric
light.

René Dax stood beside her.  She tall, noticeably elegant in her
short-waisted, long-coated, pale-gray, braided walking-dress.  He
reserved and weary in bearing, but very watchful and very intent.

"You observe my drawing?" he inquired softly.  "I have been waiting for
that--waiting for you to grasp the fact that there is nothing new,
nothing extraordinary in your being here with me--you, and Mademoiselle
Bette.  For months now you are my companions all day and all
night--yes, then very sensibly also.  Look, I lie there upon the divan.
I fold the red screen back--it is loot from the Imperial Palace at
Peking, that screen.  Grotesquely sanguinary scenes figure upon it.
But I forget them and the entertainment they afford me.--I fold the
screen back, I turn upon my side among the cushions and I look at you.
I look until, on those nights when my will is active and yours in
abeyance, or perhaps a little weak, you step off the paper and cross
the room, there--between the platform and the long table--always
carrying Mademoiselle Bette on your arm; and, coming close, you bend
down over me.  You never speak, neither do you touch me.  But I cease
to suffer.  The tension of my nerves is relaxed.  The hideous pain at
the base of my skull, where the brain and spinal-cord form their
junction, no longer tortures me.  I am inexpressibly soothed.  I become
calm.  I sleep."

Gabrielle St. Leger had grown very serious.  For this small, sad human
being to whom she proposed to minister and to mother had
disconcertingly original and even consternating ways with it.  Should
she resent the said ways, soundly snubbing him?  Or, making allowance
for his ill-health and acknowledged eccentricity, parley with and humor
him?  To steer a wise course was difficult.

"I willingly believe your intention in making this drawing was not
disloyal," she said, quietly.  "Yet I cannot but be displeased.  Before
making it you should have asked my approval and obtained my consent."

"Which you would have refused?--No, I knew better than that.  But
dismiss the idea of disloyalty.  Rise above paltry considerations of
expediency and etiquette.  You can do so if you choose.  Accept the
position in its gravity, in its permanent consequences both to me and
to yourself.  In making this drawing I thought not merely of the ease
and relief I might obtain through it.  I thought of you also.  For I
perceived the perversion which threatened you.  I decided to intervene,
to rescue you.  I decided to co-operate with destiny, to interest
myself in the evolution of your highest good.  So now it amounts to no
less than this--that your future and mine are inextricably conjoined,
intermingled, incapable of separation henceforth."

"Gently, gently, my poor friend," Gabrielle said.

"Are you not then sorry for me?" he asked quickly, with very disarming
and child-like pathos.  "Is it a fraud, a heartless experiment, coming
to-day to see me thus?  Have you no real desire to console or bring me
hope?"

"From my heart I pity and commiserate you," Gabrielle said.

"Then where is your logic, where is your reason?  For I--I--René
Dax--I, and my recovery, my welfare, constitute your highest good.  I
am your destiny.  Your being here to-day regardless of etiquette, your
stepping off the paper there upon the easel, crossing the room and
bending over me at night, carrying the little maiden child, the flower
of innocence, in your arms, these are at least a tacit admission of the
truth of that."

A point of fear came into Madame St. Leger's eyes.  Outward serenity,
inward assurance, were not easy of maintenance.  The more so, that
again she was very sensible of the unseen crowd of ignoble forms and
conceptions peopling the room, tainting and exhausting the air of it,
pressing upon and--as she felt--deriding her.

"You speak foolishly and extravagantly," she said, steadying her voice
with effort.  "I pardon that because I know that you are suffering and
not altogether master of yourself.  But I do not enjoy this
conversation.  I beg you to talk more becomingly, or I shall be unable
to remain.  I shall feel compelled to leave you."

For an instant René Dax looked up at her with a positively diabolic
expression of resentment.  Then his face was distorted by a sudden
spasm.

"It is only too true that I suffer," he cried bitterly.  "My head
aches--there at the base of my brain.  It is like the grinding of iron
knuckles.  I become distracted.  Very probably I speak extravagantly.
My sensations are extravagant, and my talk matches them.  But do not
leave me.  I will not offend you.  I will be altogether good,
altogether mild and amiable.  Only remain.  Place yourself here in this
chair.  Your presence comforts and pacifies me--but only if you are in
sympathy with me.  Let your sympathy flow out then.  Do not restrain
it.  Let it surround and support me, buoying me up, so that I float
upon the surface of it as upon some divine river of peace.  Ah, Madame,
pity me.  I am so tired of pain."

Reluctantly, out of her charity and against her better, her mundane
judgment, Gabrielle St. Leger yielded.  She sat down in the large,
black brocade-covered chair indicated.  Her back was toward the drawing
upon the easel.  She was glad not to see it, glad that the electric
light no longer glared in her eyes.  She clasped her hands lightly in
her lap, trying to subdue all inward agitation, to maintain a perfectly
sane and normal outlook, thereby infusing something of her own health
and sweetness as a disinfectant into this morbid atmosphere.

The young man sat down, too, upon the edge of the divan just opposite
to her.  He set his elbows upon his knees, his big head projected
forward, his eyes closed, his chin resting in the hollow of his hard,
clever little hands.  For a time there was silence, save for the
dripping of the fountain in the glass tank, and the ticking of a clock.
Presently, very softly, he began to speak.

"My art is killing me--killing me--and only you and Mademoiselle Bette
can save me," he said.  "And I am worth saving; for, not only am I the
most accomplished draftsman of the century, but my knowledge of the
human animal is unsurpassed.  Moreover, that I should die is so
inconceivably purposeless.  Death is such a stupidity, such an outrage
on intelligence and common-sense."

Gabrielle remained passive.  To reason with him would, she felt, be
useless as yet.  She would wait her opportunity.

"Yes, my art is killing me," he went on.  "It asks too much.  More than
once I have tried to sever myself from it; but it is the stronger.  It
refuses amputation.  Long ago, when, as a child--unhappy, devoured by
fancies, by curiosity about myself, about other children, about
everything which I saw--I found that I possessed this talent, I was
both shy and enchanted.  It gave me power.  Everything that I looked at
belonged to me.  I could reproduce it in beauty or the reverse.  I
could cover with ridicule those who annoyed me.  By means of my talent
I could torment.  I played with it as naughty little boys play
together, ingenious in provocation, in malice, in dirty monkey tricks.
Then as I grew older I enjoyed my talent languorously.  I spent long
days of dreams, long nights of love with it.  That was a period when my
heart was still soft.  I believed.  The trivial vices of the little boy
were left behind.  The full-blooded vices of manhood were untried as
yet.  Later ambition took me.  I would study.  I would know.  I would
train my eye and my hand to perfect mastery in observation and in
execution.  My own mechanical skill, my power of memorizing, of
visualizing, intoxicated me.  I reviewed the work of famous draftsmen.
I recognized that I was on the highroad to surpass it, both in
effrontery of conception and perfection of technique.  I refused my art
nothing, shrank from nothing.  I had loved my art as a companion in
childish mischief; then as a youth loves his first mistress.  Now I
loved it as a man loves his career, loves that which raises him above
his contemporaries.  I stood above others, alone.  I was filled with an
immense scorn of them.  I unveiled their deceit, their hypocrisy, their
ignorance, their vileness, the degradation of their minds and habits.
I whipped them till the blood came.  No one could escape.  I jeered.  I
laughed.  I made them laugh too.  Between the cuts of the lash, even
while the blood flowed, they laughed.  How could they help doing so?
My wit was irresistible.  They cursed me, yet shouted to me to lay on
to them again."

For a minute or more silence, save for the dripping fountain, the
ticking clock, and a bubbling, sucking sound as one of the
black-and-orange blotched newts dived from the rockwork down to the
sandy, pebbly floor of the glass tank.  Madame St. Leger leaned back in
her chair.  She pressed her handkerchief against her lips.  She felt as
one who witnesses some terrible drama upon the stage which holds the
attention captive.  She could not have gone away and left René Dax
until the scene was concluded, even if she would.

"That was the period of my apotheosis, when I appeared to myself as a
god,--last year, the year before last, even this winter," he said,
presently, "before the pain came and while still I myself was greater
than my art.  But now, now, to-day, I do not laugh any more, nor can I
make others laugh.  My art is greater than I.  It has grown unruly,
arrogant.  I am unequal to its demands.  It asks of me what I am no
longer able to give.  It hounds me along.  It storms at me--'Go further
yet, imagine the unimaginable, pass all known limits.  You are too
squeamish, too fastidious, too modest, too nice.  There yet remain
sanctities to be defiled, shames to be depicted, agonies to be stewed
in the vitriol juice of sarcasm.  Go forward.  You are lazy.  Exert
yourself.  Discover fresh subjects.  Invent new profanities.  Turn the
spit on which you have impaled humanity faster and faster.  Draw
better--you grow lethargic, indolent--draw better and better yet.'--But
I cannot, I cannot," René Dax said, the corners of his mouth drooping
like those of a tired baby.  "We have changed places, my art and I.  It
is greater than me.  It masters me instead of my mastering it.  Like
some huge brazen Moloch, with burning, brazen arms it presses me
against its burning, brazen breast, scorching me to a cinder.  It has
squeezed me dry--dry--I am no longer able to collect my ideas, to
memorize that which I see.  My imagination is sterile.  My hand refuses
to obey my brain.  My line, my beloved, my unexampled line, wavers, is
broken, uncertain, loses itself.  I scrabble unmeaning nonsense upon
the paper."

He unbuttoned the wristband of his blouse and stripped up the sleeve of
it.

"See," he went on, "how my muscles have deteriorated.  My arm resembles
some withered, sapless twig.  Soon I shall not possess sufficient
strength to hold a pencil or a bit of charcoal.  Yes, yes, I know what
you would say.  Others have already said it.  Travel, try change of
scene, rest, consult doctors.  But pah!  Butchers, carrion-feeders,
what can they tell me which I do not know already?  For--for--"

He rose, came nearer to Gabrielle St. Leger, pointing to the inner
corner of the great room in a line with the door.

"There," he said, with a singular sly gleefulness, "there--you see,
Madame, behind the port folio-wagon?  Yes?--It has its lair there, its
retreat in which it conceals itself.  It always says one thing, and it
always tells the truth.  It has once been a man; now it has no skin.
You can observe all the muscles and sinews in action, which is
extremely instructive.  But naturally it is red--red all over.  And it
is highly varnished, otherwise, of course, it would feel the cold too
much.  It places its red hands on the edges of the
portfolios--thus--and it vaults into the room.  It is astonishingly
agile.  I think it may formerly have been, by profession, an acrobat,
it runs so very swiftly.  Its contortions are infinite.  It avoids the
pieces of furniture with extraordinary dexterity.  Sometimes it leaps
over them.  The rapidity of its movements excites me.  The pain--here
at the base of my skull--always increases when I see it.  I cannot
restrain myself.  I pursue it with frenzy.  I hurl books, pictures,
firewood, anything I can lay hands upon, at it--even my precious
daggers and javelins from off the wall.  But it sustains no injury.
They--these objects which I throw--pass clean through it; yet they
leave no aperture, no mark.  My servant afterward finds them scattered
upon the ground quite clean and free from moisture.  And, as it runs,
it screams to me, over its red shoulder, in a rasping voice like the
cutting of stone with a saw, 'You are going mad, René Dax.  You are
going mad--mad.'"

Madame St. Leger raised both hands in mute horror, pity, protest.  Her
lips trembled.  The tears ran down her cheeks.  The young man watched
her for some seconds, the strangest expression of triumph upon his
solemn little face.  Then, with a great sigh, he backed away and sat
down on the divan once more.

"Ah!  Ah!" he said, quite calmly and gently.  "It is so adorable to see
you weep!  Better even than that you should step down off the easel, as
you sometimes do at night, and, crossing the room, bend over me and
give me sleep.  Still the red man speaks truth, Madame, accurate,
unassailable truth.  It comes just to this.  Very soon now the final
act of this infernal comedy will be reached.  I shall be mad--unless--"



CHAPTER III

IN WHICH THE STORM BREAKS

"Unless--unless--what?"

Gabrielle St. Leger asked the question not because she wished to ask
it, but because outward things forced her.

All disease is actually infecting, if not actively infectious, since
contact with it disturbs the emotional and functional equilibrium,
maintenance of which constitutes perfect health.  Such disturbance is
most readily and injuriously produced in persons of fine sensibility.
Just now Madame St. Leger's faculties and feelings alike were in
disarray.  René Dax, his genius and the neurosis from which he
suffered, his strange dwelling-place, all that which had happened in
and--morally--adhered to it, combined to put compulsion upon her.  In a
sense, she knew the world.  She was not inexperienced.  But the
amenities of a polished and highly civilized society, whose principal
business it is to veil and mitigate the asperities of fact, had stood
between her and direct acquaintance with the fundamental brutalities of
life.  Now she consciously met the shock of those brutalities, and met
it single-handed.  This exclusively man's world, the gates of which she
had forced with wilful self-confidence, produced in her humiliation and
helplessness, a sense of having projected herself into regions where
accustomed laws are inoperative and direction-posts--for guidance of
wandering feminine footsteps--agitatingly non-existent.  Under this
stress of circumstance her initiative deserted her.  The vein of
irony--running like a steel ribbon through her mentality--became
suddenly and queerly worked out.  She could not detach herself from the
immediate position, stand aside, review it as a whole, and deal with
it.  That which made for individuality had gone under.  Only her
womanhood as womanhood--a womanhood sheltered, petted, moving ever in a
gracefully artificial atmosphere--was left.  She had come, intending to
console, to minister, sagely to advise.  It looked quite anxiously much
as though, tyrannized by rude, unfamiliar forces, she would remain to
yield and to obey.  Thus, taking up the tag-end of René Dax's speech,
she asked, unwillingly, almost fearfully:

"Unless--unless what?"

"Unless you consent to save me, Madame," he replied, with insinuating
gravity and sweetness.  "Unless you consecrate yourself to the work of
my recovery, you and the delicious Mademoiselle Bette."

"But, my poor friend," she reasoned, "how is it possible for me to do
that?"

"In a way very obvious and simple, wholly consonant to the most exalted
aspirations of your nature," he returned.  "I have planned it all out.
No serious difficulties present themselves.  Good will, Madame, on your
part, some forethought on mine, and all is satisfactorily arranged.  As
to Mademoiselle Bette, she will find herself in a veritable paradise.
You know her affection for me?  And, putting aside my own gifts as a
comrade, I have most pleasing little animals for her to play with.  You
have seen those in the aquarium?  There is also Aristides.  To my
anguish I struck him last night with a hearth-brush during my pursuit
of the red man, and Giovanni has charge of him in hospital to-day.  The
affair was purely accidental.  I am convinced that he bears me no
malice, poor cherished little cabbage; yet it cuts me to the quick to
see his empty chair.  But to return to your coming, Madame.  For it is
thus that you will save me--by coming here to remain permanently, by
devoting yourself to me unremittingly, exclusively--by coming
here--here to live."

The color rushed into Madame St. Leger's face and neck.  Then ebbed,
leaving her white to the lips, deathly white as against the black
brocade of the chair-back.  Here was a direction-post, at last, with
information written upon it of--as it seemed to her--the very plainest
and ugliest sort; the road which it signalized leading to well-known
and wholly undesirable places, though trodden, only too frequently, by
wandering feminine feet!  For the moment she doubted his good faith;
doubted whether he was not playing some infamous trick upon her;
doubted whether his illness was not, after all, a treacherous
fabrication.  Her mouth and throat went dry as a lime-kiln.  She could
barely articulate.

"Monsieur," she said sternly, "I fear it is already too late to save
you.  In making such a proposition you show only too convincingly that
you are already mad."

But the young man's expression lost nothing of its triumph or his
manner of its sweetness.

"Madame, that is a very cruel speech," he said.

"You deserve it should be cruel," she answered.

"Indeed," René replied, looking calmly at her.  "Indeed, I do not.  You
rush too hastily to injurious conclusions.  It is an error to do so.
You cause yourself unnecessary annoyance.  You, also, cause me a waste
of tissue, which, in my existing condition of health, I can ill afford.
It is irrevocably decided that you come here to live.  Evidently it has
to be.  I make no disloyal proposition to you.  As I have told you, I
earnestly consider your good.  It is to rescue you from threatening
perversions of office and of instinct, from declension to a lower
emotional level, that I invite you, require you, to make your home with
me.  For I crave your presence not as other men crave for association
with so beautiful a person--that is, sensually, for gratification of
the beast within them--but spiritually, as an object of faith, an
object of worship, as a healing and purifying aura, a divine emanation
efficacious to the exorcism of that devouring devil, my art.
Mistress--wife--pah!--Madame, my art has been all that to me, and more
than that--not to mention those more active amatory excursions, common
to generous youth, in which I do not deny participation.  But my art
has never been to me that thing so far more sacred, more human--a
mother."

René Dax leaned toward her, both arms wide extended, his somber eyes
glowing as though a red lamp shone behind them, his features contracted
by spasms of pain.

"This," he pursued, "is what I ask, what in the depths and heights, in
the utmost sincerity of my being, I need and must have.--The Madonna of
the Future, the perfect woman, whose experience as woman is at once
passionless and complete, human yet spiritual--the ever-lasting mother.
A mother, moreover, such as in the entire course of the uncounted ages
no man has ever yet possessed; still young, young as himself, unsoiled,
untired, still in the spring-time of her charm, yet mysterious, in a
sense awful, so that she is hedged about with inviolable reverence and
respect, the intimate wonders of whose beauty never fully disclose
themselves, but continue adorably unknown and remote.  This is what I
need; and this you only can give.  It is your unique and commanding
destiny.  You must, rallying your fortitude and virtue, rise to it."

He stood up, his head thrown back, his arms still extended, as he
indicated the extent and appointments of the studio with large,
sweeping gestures.

"See," he cried, in increasing excitement, "here is the temple prepared
for your worship!  I had decorated the walls of it with obscenities
which have caused rapture to the most emancipated intellects in Paris.
To spare you offense, when I decided that you should come to me, I sent
for plasterers, for whitewashes, who, even while they worked, rocked
with laughter at the masterpieces of humor they were in process of
destroying.  The more intelligent of them mutinied, declaring it
vandalism to obliterate such expressions of genius.  I seized a brush.
I myself worked, hailing invectives upon them.  I never rested till my
purpose was achieved.  Then, when the temple was cleansed, I wrote to
you."

He sank down, squatting on the carpet, a queer black lump amid the
surrounding blackness, his shoulders resting against the front of the
divan, his hands clasped behind and supporting his pale, unwieldy head.

"Ah, ah!" he cried plaintively; "the pain, the pain--again it pierces
me!  It becomes extravagant.  Surely, Madame, I need not explain to you
any further?  You witness my sufferings.  Terminate them.  It is in
your power to do so.  You cannot refuse a request so wholly reasonable
and natural!  You consent to remain with me?--There need be no delay.
Giovanni, my servant, is a good fellow, trustworthy and intelligent.
He will take a motor-cab and proceed immediately to the _Quai
Malaquais_.  After informing Madame, your mother, that you remain here
permanently, he will return accompanied by Mademoiselle Bette.  Within
the course of half an hour the thing is done; it becomes an
accomplished fact.  Your welfare is assured; and I, Madame, I am
rescued from the bottomless pit, from a hell of unspeakable
disgust.--The pain ceases.  The brazen Moloch no longer presses me to
his burning breast.  I am recreated.  My childhood is given back to
me--but a childhood of such peace, such innocent gaiety as no child
ever yet experienced.  I sleep in exquisite content.  I wake, not
merely to find and pray for help from your image reflected there upon
paper, but to find you yourself my guest and my savior, you here moving
to and fro among my possessions, breathing, speaking, smiling, making
day and night alike fragrant by your presence, distilling the healing
virtue of a deified maternity, of an enshrined and consecrated life."

As he finished speaking the young man rose to his feet.  He came near
to Gabrielle, and stood looking down at her, solemn, imploring, yet
with a strange, flickering impishness in his manner and his face.  He
clasped his hard little hands, turning the palms of them outward,
alternately bowing over her and rising on tiptoe, holding himself
stiffly erect.

"Can you hesitate, Madame?" softly and sweetly he asked.
"No--assuredly--it is inconceivable that you should hesitate!"

Gabrielle had stripped off her gloves, thrown back the fronts of her
coat.  Her bosom rose and fell with an abrupt irregular motion under
the lace and chiffon of her blouse.  More than ever was the air dead,
the atmosphere suffocating.  More than ever did those depraved forms
and conceptions, defying expulsion by plaster and whitewash, crowd in
upon and oppress her.  Supernatural, moral, and physical terror,
joining hands, created a very evil magic circle around her, isolating
her, cutting her off from all familiar, amusing, pleasant, tender and
gracious every-day matters dear to her social and domestic sense.  She
no longer entertained any doubt about the young man's mental condition.
Shut away with him here, alone, behind closed doors, beneath
black-muffled skylights, with only clay-cold fish and reptiles as
witnesses, the situation began to appear alarming in the extreme.  How
to effect her escape?  How to temporize until rescue should in some
form come to her?  Her circumstances were so incredible, so nightmarish
in their improbability, their merciless reality, their insane logic,
that her brain reeled under the strain.  Wordlessly but passionately
she prayed for strength, guidance, help.

"It is inconceivable, Madame, that you still hesitate," René repeated,
insinuatingly.

Making a supreme effort, Gabrielle rose from her chair.  She felt
braver, more mistress of herself standing up.  With an assumption of
ease and indifference she buttoned her coat and began drawing on her
long gloves.

"You are right," she replied, but without looking at him.  "I no longer
hesitate.  You have made your meaning clear.  You have also said many
affecting and poetic things to me.  But, as you will be the first to
admit, there are certain filial obligations I am bound to discharge,
and to discharge personally.  My beloved mother has been my companion
and my constant care for so long, that it is imperative I should go
with Giovanni; and, in a few words, tell her myself of the decision we
have arrived at.  To commit the communication of such news to a
servant, however excellent, who is also a stranger, would be both cruel
and impertinent.  You, who reverence motherhood so deeply, will
sympathize with this mother from whom you propose to take away those
dearest to her."

The sobs rose in Gabrielle's throat.  But she swallowed them
courageously.  If she once gave way, once lost her head--well--

"Moreover," she continued, "unless I myself go, unless I myself claim
her, my mother will, and rightly, refuse to part with my little Bette."

A pause followed, during which the young man appeared immersed in
thought.  During that pause a faint sound of footsteps seemed to reach
Gabrielle's fear-quickened hearing; but whether from the common
stairway, the flat underneath, or here, nearer at hand, she could not
determine.  She prayed with all the fervor of her spirit, while deftly,
daintily smoothing out the wrinkles in the wrists of her long gloves.

"You appreciate the force of that which I say regarding my mother and
my little Bette?" she asked, glancing at him.

"I do--most incontestably, I do."

The answer came so spontaneously and in so perfectly natural a tone
that Gabrielle's glance steadied upon the speaker in swift inquiry and
hope.  Had the cloud lifted, leaving his mind clear, permitting an
interval of lucidity, of reason and normal thought?

"Ah, my poor friend, then all is well?" she cried, a great thankfulness
irradiating her face.

"Perhaps, yes," he returned, in the same quiet and natural manner.
"Personally I should have preferred the other plan.  To relinquish it
disappoints me.  All promised so well.  But I put it aside, for toward
Madame, your mother, I am, believe me, incapable of an unsympathetic or
discourteous act."

Gabrielle continued her little preparations for departure.  She began
to arrange her veil.  Raising both hands, she drew the edge of it
forward over the crown of her hat.  Later, reaction would set in.  Safe
in her own home, she would break down, paying in physical and mental
exhaustion the price of this very terrible act of charity.  But just
now she felt strong and elate in her thankfulness for answered prayer
and prospect of release.  Never had family affection, the love of
friends, all the wholesome sentiments of human intercourse, appeared to
her so delightful or so good.  Delicate color tinged her cheeks.
Kindness and pity softened her golden-brown eyes.  Standing there, with
upraised hands and gently smiling lips, her beauty was very noble, full
of soul as well as of victorious health and youth.

For some seconds René Dax gazed at her, as though fascinated, studying
every detail of her appearance.  Then, once more, a flickering
impishness crossed his sad little face.  He went down on one knee, laid
hold of the hem of her dress, and, bowing his great head to the ground,
kissed and again kissed it.

"Accept my worship, my homage, oh!  Madonna--Madonna of the Future!" he
said.

He sprang upright, clasping his little hands again, the palms turned
outward.

"Yes," he went on reflectively, "honestly, I prefer the other plan.
Yet this one, as I increasingly perceive, possesses merits.  Let us
dwell upon them.  They will console us.  For, after all, what I am
about to carry out is, also, a masterpiece--daring, voluptuous,
merciless, at once lovely and hideous--and conclusive.  Yes, amazingly
conclusive.  Unmitigated--just that.  It will set the public
imagination on fire.  All Paris will seethe with it.  All Paris which
can gain admittance will rush, fight, trample, to obtain a look at it.
It will represent the most scathing of my revenges upon the
unfathomable stupidity of mankind.  But it will do more than that.  It
will constitute my supreme revenge upon my art.  Thus I sterilize the
brazen Moloch, rendering him voiceless, eyeless, handless, denying him
all means of self-expression.  In myself dying, I make him worse than
dead--though he still exists.  Art, being eternal, necessarily still
exists.  Yet what an existence!  I, who have so long parted company
with laughter, could almost laugh!  Yes, veritably I draw his teeth.
By depriving him of my assistance as interpreter, by depriving him of
the vehicle of my unrivaled technique, I annihilate his power.  Blind,
deaf, maimed, impotent, yes--yes--is it not beyond all words
magnificent?  Let us hasten, Madame, to accomplish this."

René had delivered himself of his harangue with growing indications of
excitement, his voice rising finally to a scream.  Throughout the
nerve-shattering jar and rush of it, Madame St. Leger, in deepening
terror, listened for any sound of delivering footsteps--listened and
prayed.  Now his manner changed, became cool, matter-of-fact, rather
horribly busy and business-like.

"See, Madame," he said, "the divan on the left will certainly be the
most suitable.  You will place yourself at the farther end of it.
There are plenty of cushions.--When Giovanni has filled the large
bronze bowl--you see which I mean--there upon the ebony pedestal?"

He pointed with one hand.  With the other he laid hold of Madame St.
Leger's wrist, the hard, short fingers closing down like the teeth of a
steel trap.  To struggle was useless.  Might God in his mercy hear and
send help!

"When Giovanni, I repeat, has filled the bowl with warm water--warm,
not too hot--and set it upon the center of the divan--thus--I will
instruct him to draw the screen across, concealing us.  You understand,
we shall place ourselves on either side of the bowl, plunging our arms
as far as the elbow into it.  The warmth of the water at once soothes
the nerves and accelerates the flow of blood.--Ah, do not draw back
from me!" he pleaded.  "Do not render my task more difficult.  Obey
your highest instincts.  Be perfect in grace and in beneficence to the
close.  The pain racks my head.  Do not by opposition or reluctance
oblige me to concentrate my brain upon further explanation or
thought.--Consider only that from which I save you.  The degradation of
marriage, of the embraces of a lover--of Adrian, my old
schoolfellow--the impious assumption of the beast!--of Adrian
Savage.--From the shame of old age, too--from the anguish of tears shed
beside the bedside of, possibly, your child, your little Bette--of,
certainly, Madame, your mother!  And, as against all these tragedies,
to what does the other amount?  I give you my word it will not hurt.
You will barely be sensible of that which is occurring.--The merest
scratch.--In my student days I obtained bodies from the hospitals.
With minute and faithful accuracy I dissected them out.  I know
precisely where to cut, what portion of the arteries and sinews to
sever.--And we shall sit here alone--alone--you and I, behind the red
screen, while our veins empty themselves of their red liquor, and
slowly, serenely life ebbs, our vision growing dim and yet more--

"Help!" Gabrielle called aloud.  "Help!"

For truly the sound of voices and of footsteps came at last.  The
studio door was thrown open.  A man entered.  Who he was she did not
know; but, with a strength born of despair and of hope, she wrenched
herself free from René Dax's grasp, ran across the big room, flung her
arms round the man's neck, her beautiful head crushing down upon his
breast, while her breath rushed out in great strangled, panting cries:
"Ah!"  And again, "Ah!  Ah!"



CHAPTER IV

ON THE HEIGHTS

Adrian stood on the edge of the pavement beside his well-appointed,
blue-black automobile, the door of which the chauffeur held open.  The
hinged top of the limousine was folded back, and the sunshine, slanting
down over the roofs of the high, white houses on the right, brought the
pale, gray-clad figure of its occupant into charming relief as against
the oatmeal-colored upholstering of the inside of the car in tones at
once blending and standing finely apart.  An itinerant flower-seller,
bareheaded, short-skirted, trimly shod, her flat, wicker tray heaped up
with vivid blossoms, held out a graceful bunch of crimson and yellow
roses, with the smiling suggestion that--"Monsieur should assuredly
present them to Madame, who could not fail to revel in their ravishing
odor."  Monsieur, however, showed himself unflatteringly ignorant of
her presence, while Martin, the chauffeur, dissembling his natural
inclination toward every member of the sex, motioned her away with, so
to speak, a front of adamant.

Adrian put one foot on the step of the car, and there paused,
hesitating.  At last, with a point of eagerness piercing his
constraint, he said:

"Instead of going directly to the _Quai Malaquais_, will you permit me
to take you for a short, a quiet drive, Madame?  The air may refresh
you."

"I shall be grateful," Gabrielle replied, briefly and hoarsely.

Adrian delivered himself of rapid, emphatic directions to his
chauffeur, swung into the car, and placed himself beside her, arranging
the thin dust-rug carefully over the skirt of her dress.  Then, his
nostrils quivering slightly, his face noticeably drawn and set, he
leaned back in his corner of the luxurious vehicle.  Martin slipped in
behind the steering-wheel; and with a preliminary snarl and rattling
vibration, gaining silence and smoothness as it made the pace, the car
headed up the glittering perspective of the wide, tree-bordered street.

Somewhere in the back of his consciousness, when he had bought this car
a few weeks prior to his last visit to Stourmouth, there floated
entrancing visions of circumstances such as the present.  At that time
his affair of the heart promised lamentably ill, and realization of
such visions appeared both highly improbable and most wearifully
distant.  Now a wholly unexpected turn of events had converted them
into actual fact.  Through the delight of the brilliant summer
afternoon, the caressing wind, and clear, brave sunlight he bore
Gabrielle St. Leger away whither he would.  Verily he had his desire,
but leanness withal in his soul.  For, God in heaven! what a question
squatted there upon the biscuit-colored seat, interposing its hateful
presence between them, poisoning his mind with an anguish of suspense
and doubt!

He was still, even physically, under the dominion of the almost
incredible scene in which he had recently taken part.  He had carried
rather than led Madame St. Leger down the five flights of stairs from
René Dax's flat, and had just only not required the help of the
chauffeur to lift her into the waiting car.  His heart still thumped,
sledge-hammer fashion, against his ribs.  Every muscle was strained and
taut.  Not his eyes only, but the whole temper and spirit of him, were
still hot with desire of vengeance.  That loud, hardly human cry of
Gabrielle's as, lost to all dignity, lost almost to all modesty, she
flung herself upon him still rang in his ears.  The primitive savagery
of it coming from the lips of so fastidious, elusive, quick-witted a
creature, from those of so artistic a product of our complicated modern
civilization, at once horrified and filled him with vicarious shame.
In that wild moment of impact the dormant violence of the young man's
passion had been aroused.  Yet a gross and cynical query was scrawled
across his remembrance of it all.  For what could, in point of fact,
have happened previous to his arrival to produce so amazing a result?

And to Adrian not the least cruel part of this business was the duty,
so clearly laid upon him, of rigid self-restraint, of maintaining, for
her protection, as sparing and shielding her, his ordinary air of
courteous, unaccentuated and friendly intercourse.  Good breeding and
fine feeling alike condemned him to behave just as usual, not assuming
by so much as a hair's breadth that closer intimacy which the events of
the last half-hour might very reasonably justify.  Unless she herself
chose to speak, this whole astounding episode must remain as though it
never had been and was not.--And here his lover's and artist's
imagination crimped him, projecting torments of unsatisfied conjecture
extending throughout the unending cycles of eternity.  Yet in
uncomplaining endurance of such torment, as he perceived, must the
perfection of his attitude toward her declare itself, must the
perfection of his loyalty come in.

Meanwhile as the car hummed along the upward-trending avenues toward
the southern heights, leaving the more fashionable and populous
districts of the city behind, the air grew lighter and the breeze more
lively.  Adrian, still sitting tight in his corner, trusted himself to
look at his companion.  Through the fluttering gray veil, as through
some tenuous, drifting mist, he saw her proud, delicate profile.  Saw
also that though she remained apparently passive and strove to hold all
outward signs of emotion in check, the tears ran slowly down her cheek,
while the rounded corner of her usually enigmatic, smiling mouth
trembled nervously and drooped.

Presently, as he still watched, she slipped the chain of her gold and
gray vanity-bag off her wrist and essayed to open it.  But her fingers
fumbled ineffectually with the gilt snap.  The beautiful, capable hands
he so fondly loved shook, having suddenly grown weak.  Tears came into
Adrian's eyes also.  To him the helplessness of those dear hands stood
for so very much.  Silently he took the little bag, opened and held it,
while she pulled out a lace-bordered handkerchief, and, pushing it
beneath the fluttering veil, wiped her wet eyes and wet cheeks.  He
kept the bag open, waiting for her to put the handkerchief back.  But,
without speaking, Gabrielle shook her head slightly, in token that
further drying operations might not improbably shortly be required.
Adrian obediently snapped to the gold catch; yet, since he really shut
up such a very big slice of his own heart within it, was it not, after
all, but natural and legitimate that he should retain possession of the
little bag?

This trifle of service rendered and accepted bore fruit, bringing the
two into a more normal relation and lessening the tension of their
mutual constraint.  After a while Gabrielle spoke, but low and
hoarsely, her throat still strained by those hardly human cries.
Adrian found himself obliged to draw nearer to her if he would catch
her words amid the clatter of the street and humming of the engines of
the car.

"There is that, I feel, I should without delay make you know," she
said, speaking in English; for it comes easier, sometimes, to clothe
the telling of ugly and difficult things with the circumscriptions of a
foreign language.

"Yes?" Adrian put in, as she paused.

"You should know that he is insane.  Possibly my visiting him
contributed to precipitate the crisis.  I do not know.  But he is now
no longer responsible.  Therefore truly I commiserate rather than feel
anger toward him."

Again the handkerchief went up under the fluttering veil.  Again, when
it was withdrawn, Adrian saw, as through thin, drifting mist, the
proud, delicate profile.

"I should make you know," she went on, resolutely, "it was my
life--yes, my life--but my honor, no--never--which was in jeopardy."

"Thank God! thank God for that!" the young man almost groaned, bowing
himself together, while his grasp tightened upon the pretty little gold
and gray bag almost mercilessly.

He sat upright, took a deep breath, staring with unseeing eyes at the
bright, variegated prospect of shops, houses, trees, traffic, people
scampering past on either side the rushing car.  Only now did he begin
to gauge the vital character of his recent misery, and the tremendous
force of the love which in so happily constituted and circumstanced a
man as himself could render such a misery possible.  Until to-day,
until, indeed, this thrice-blessed minute when he learned from her own
lips that no shame sullied her, he had never really gauged the depth of
his love for Gabrielle St. Leger, or quite realized how all the many
ambitions, interests, satisfactions of his very agreeable existence
were as so much dust, froth, garbage, burnt-out cinder in comparison to
that love.  He had told Anastasia Beauchamp, in the course of a certain
memorable conversation, he would devote his life to that love.  But, he
now discovered, it was quite unnecessary that he should take active
steps toward the production or maintenance of it, since his life was
already almost alarmingly devoted, leaving room, in truth, as he now
perceived, for nothing outside that same love.  And thereupon--the
balance essaying to right itself, as in sane, healthy natures it
instinctively must and will--poor Joanna Smyrthwaite's face, and its
expression of semi-idiot ecstasy, as he had seen it only two nights ago
at the Tower House on the gallery in the checkered moonlight, arose
before him.  Adrian was conscious of pulling himself together
sharply.--Love--if you will--and with all the strength, all the vigor
of his nature.  But to dote?  Devil take the notion--no thank you!
Never, if he knew it, would he dote.

Wherefore, it followed that his wits were very thoroughly, if very
tenderly, about him when next Gabrielle St. Leger spoke.

"I see now," she said, "the method by which he proposed we--he and
myself--should die amounted to an absurdity, since it involved the
concurrence of his servant."

Covered by the noise of the car, Adrian permitted himself the relief of
cursing a little quietly under his breath.

"But at the time I could not reason.  I found myself too confused and
terrified by the extraordinary and horrible things he told me--things
in themselves demented, extravagant, yet as he told them so apparently
sensible.  His poor, disordered brain was so fertile in expedients that
from moment to moment I could not foresee what fresh unnatural demand
he might make on me, what new scheme he might not devise for my
destruction."

"Alone with a maniac no degree of fear can be excessive," Adrian
asserted, warmly.

For he perceived her pride was touched, so that her self-esteem called
for support and encouragement.  To his hearing her words conveyed a
rather pathetic hint of apology, both to herself and to him, for that
moment of wild self-abandonment.

"It doesn't require much imagination," he went on, "to understand the
danger you ran was appalling--in every way appalling--simply that.
And, good heavens!  why didn't I know?" he broke out, slapping his two
hands down on his knees in sudden fury.  "Why didn't my instinct warn
me, thick-headed fool that I am?  Why didn't I get to that hateful
carrion-bird's roost of a studio an hour, half an hour earlier?  Pardon
me, dear Madame," he added, moderating his transports, "if I shock you
by my violence.  But when I consider what you must have endured, when I
picture what might have happened, I confess I am almost beside myself
with rage and distress."

_La belle Gabrielle_ had turned her head.  She looked straight at him.
The timid ghost of her mysterious, finely malicious smile visited her
lips.  Yet seen through the mist of her fluttering veil her eyes were
singularly soft and lovely, wistful--so, at least, it seemed to
Adrian--with the dawning of a sentiment other than that of bare
friendship.  Whereupon the young man's heart began to thump against his
ribs again, while the engines of the car broke into a most marvelous
sweet singing.

"I am not sure," she commenced, speaking with engaging hesitation,
"whether, perhaps, since I am, thanks to _le bon Dieu_, here in safety
and about to return unhurt to my child and my mother, it is not well I
should have had this trial.  For you did come in time--yes, mercifully
in time.  I doubt if I could have endured much longer.  There were
other things," she went on, hurriedly, "besides those which I
consciously heard or saw which combined to disgust and terrify me.
You, too, believe, do you not, that thoughts may acquire a separate
existence--thoughts, purposes, imaginations--and that they may inhabit
particular places?  I cannot explain, but by such things I believe
myself to be surrounded.  I felt they might break through whatever
restraining medium withheld them, and become visible.  A little longer
and my reason, too, might have given way--"  She paused.  "But you
came--you came--"

"Yes, I came," Adrian repeated quietly.

"And, that being so--I being mercifully spared the worst, being unhurt,
I mean--"

"Yes, precisely--unhurt," he repeated with praiseworthy docility.

"This experience may be of value.  It may help to make me revise some
mistaken ideas"--she turned away, and, though her head was held high,
tears, as Adrian noted, were again somewhat in evidence--"some perhaps
foolishly self-willed and--how shall I say?--conceited opinions."

In the last few minutes the car had traversed one of those unkempt and,
in a sense, nomadic districts common to the fringe of all great cities.
Spaces of waste land, littered with nondescript rubbish and materials
for new buildings in course of noisy construction, alternated with rows
of low-class houses, off the walls of which the plaster cracked and
scaled; with long lines of hoardings displaying liberal assortment of
flaming posters; wine-shops at once shabby and showy, crude reds,
greens, and yellows adorning their wooden balconies and striped,
flapping awnings; gaudy-fronted dancing-booths and shooting-galleries
tailing away at the back into neglected weed-grown gardens.  All these,
with a sparse population, male and female, very much to match; while
here and there some solitary shuttered dwelling standing back from the
wide avenue in an inclosed plot of ground betrayed a countenance
suggestive of disquieting adventures.

As Madame St. Leger finished making her, to Adrian, very touching
confession, the automobile, quitting these doubtful purlieus--which,
however, thanks to a charm of early summer foliage and generous breadth
of sunshine, took on an air of jovial devil-may-care vagabondage,
inspiriting rather than objectionable--headed eastward, along the
boulevard skirting the grass-grown slopes and mounds of the dismantled
fortifications, and drew up opposite the entrance to the _Parc de
Montsouris_.  Here, Adrian proposed they should alight and stroll in
the tree-shaded alleys, as a relief from the dust and noise of the
streets.

But once on her feet, Gabrielle discovered how very tired she still
was, weak-kneed and tremulous to the point of gladly accepting the
support of her companion's arm.  This renewed contact, though of a
comparatively perfunctory and unofficial character, proved by no means
displeasing to Adrian.  In truth it gave him such a lively sense of
happiness, that to his dying day he will cherish a romantic affection
for those remote and unfashionable pleasure-grounds upon the southern
heights.  Happiness is really the simplest of God's creatures--easily
gratified, large in charity, hospitable to all the minor poetry of
life.  Whence it came about that this critical, traveled, shrewd, and
smart young gentleman had never, surely, beheld trees so green,
flower-borders so radiant, walks so smooth and well-swept, statues so
noble, cascades so musical, lakes so limpid and so truthfully mirroring
the limpid heavens above.  Even the rococo and slightly ridiculous
reproduction of the Palace of the Bey of Tunis, now used as an
observatory, which crowns the highest ground, its domes, cupolas,
somberly painted mural surfaces, peacock-blue encaustic tiles, and rows
of horseshoe-headed Moorish arches--looking in its modern Western
surroundings about as congruous as a camel in a
cabbage-patch--presented itself to his happy eyes with all the
allurements of some genii-and-gem-built palace from out the immortal
pages of the _Arabian Nights_.  Gabrielle St. Leger's hand rested upon
his arm, her feet kept step with his feet.  The folds of her dainty
gown swept lightly against him as he walked.  Past and future fell out
of the reckoning.  Nothing obtained save the beatified present, while
his heart and his senses were, at once, sharply hungry and exquisitely
at peace.

The grounds were practically deserted.  Only a few employees from the
observatory, blue-habited gardeners, a batch of Cook's
tourists--English and American--weary with sight-seeing, and some
respectable French fathers of families, imparting, _al fresco_,
instruction in local natural science, topography and art, to their
progeny, were at hand to greet the passing couple with starings,
sympathetic, self-consicous, or envious, as the case might be.  Among
the first ranked the French fathers of families, who paused in frank
admiration and interest.

"For was not the lady arrestingly elegant?--_Sapristi!_ if ever a young
man had luck!  Yet, after all, why not?  For he, too, repaid
observation.  Truly a handsome fellow, and of a type of male beauty
eminently Gallic--refined yet virile; perfectly distinguished,
moreover, in manner and in dress.  She appeared languid.  Well, what
more easily comprehensible, since--a marriage of inclination, without
doubt--"

Whereupon, in the intervals of anxiously retrieving some strayed all
too adventurous Mimi or Toto, the fond parental being beheld, in
prophetic vision, Adrian the Magnificent also shepherding a delicious
little human flock.

"How did you know, or was it by chance that you came?" Gabrielle
presently inquired.

And, in reply, Adrian explained that, the affairs of the Smyrthwaite
inheritance being completed sooner than he anticipated, he had advanced
his return--Ah! shade, accusing shade, of Joanna!  But with _la belle
Gabrielle's_ hand resting confidingly upon his arm, he could hardly be
expected to turn aside to appease that unhappy phantom.

"Unfortunately I missed the connection in London, and failed to catch
the midday Channel boat.  Consequently I only reached Paris early this
morning.  I had passed two practically sleepless nights"--again
accusing shade of Joanna, sound of footsteps, and dragging of draperies
upon the corridor outside his bedroom door!--"To my shame," he
continued, "I made up for my broken rest to-day.  It was already past
three o'clock when I went to my office.  I had omitted to warn my
people there of my return.  Picture then, _chère Madame_, my emotion
when my secretary handed me a letter from our friend Miss Beauchamp!"

"So it was Anastasia," Madame St. Leger murmured; but whether
resentfully or gratefully her hearer failed to determine.

"I flung myself into the automobile--and--_enfin_--you know the rest."

"Yes," she agreed, "I know the rest."

And, thereupon, she gave a little cry of astonishment.

For, turning the eastern side of the would-be Moorish palace and
passing on to the terrace in front of it, the whole of Paris was
disclosed to view outspread below along the valley of the Seine.  In
intermingling, finely gradated tones, blond and silver, the immense
panorama presented itself; squares, gardens, monuments, world-famous
streets and world-famous buildings seen in the splendid clarity of the
sun-penetrated atmosphere, purple-stained here and there by the shadows
of detached high-sailing clouds.  Upon the opposite height, crowning
Montmartre, the Church of the _Sacré Coeur_ rose ivory-white, its dome
and clock-tower seeming strangely adjacent to the vast blue arch of the
summer sky; while, in the extreme distance both to right and left,
beyond the precincts of the laughing city, a gray, angular grimness of
outlying forts struck the vibrant and masculine note of the peril of
war.

For quite a sensible period of time Gabrielle St. Leger gazed at the
scene in silence.  Then she took her hand from Adrian's arm and moved a
step away.  But he could not quarrel with this, since she put up her
veil and looked frankly yet wistfully at him, a great sweetness in her
charming face.

"Ah!" she said, stretching out her hand with a gesture of welcome to
the noble view, "this is a thing to do one good, to renew one's
courage, one's sanity and hope.  I am grateful to you.  It was both
wise and kind of you to bring me here and show me this.  By so doing
you have washed my mind of dark and sinister impressions.  You have
made me once more in love with the goodness of God, in love with life.
But come," she added, quickly, almost shyly, "I must ask you to take me
home to the _Quai Malaquais_.  I can meet my mother and child now
without betraying emotion--without letting them suspect the grave and
terrible trial through which I have passed."

And upon this speech Adrian Savage, being an astute and politic lover,
offered no comment.  He had gained so much to-day that he could afford
to be patient, making no attempt to press his point.  Restraining his
natural impetuosity, he rested in the happiness of the present and
spoke no word of love.  Only his eyes, perhaps, gave him away just a
little; and, undoubtedly, on the return journey in the merrily singing
car he permitted himself to sit a little closer to _la belle Gabrielle_
than on the journey out.

At the foot of the shining, waxed, wooden staircase within the doorway
at the corner of the courtyard, where, backed by her bodyguard of
spindly planes and poplars, the lichen-stained nymph still poured the
contents of her tilted pitcher into the shell-shaped basin below,
Adrian left Madame St. Leger.

"No, I will not come farther, _chère Madame et amie_," he said, his air
at once gallant and tender, standing before her, hat in hand.  "It will
perhaps be easier, in face of the pious fraud you propose to practise
upon Madame, your mother, that you should meet her alone."

He backed away.  It was safer.  Farewells are treacherous.  All had
been perfect so far.  He would give himself no chance of occasion for
regret.

"Mount the stairs slowly, though, dear Madame," he called after her,
moved by sudden anxiety.  "Remember your recent fatigue--they are
steep."

Then, the beloved gray gown and floating gray veil having passed upward
out of sight, he turned and went.

"And now for that poor, unhappy little devil of a Tadpole," he said.



CHAPTER V

DE PROFUNDIS

"Just now he is quieter.  I have a hope that he sleeps.  But, _per
Bacco_, Monsieur, what a month, what a six weeks since I had the honor
of speaking with you last!  My poor master all the while going from bad
to worse, becoming more exacting, more eccentric in his habits, showing
tendencies toward cruelty quite foreign to his nature.  And to-day,
what a scene after you left!  I had been on the alert all the
afternoon, since he displayed signs of febrile excitement.  I remained
here, in the passage, not far from the door, prepared, notwithstanding
his violent prohibition, to enter the studio should any sound of a
disturbing character reach me.  But his voice appeared calm.  I trusted
the visit of the Signora--ah, _Dio mio!_ what charm, what divine
grace!--was producing a beneficial effect, soothing and pacifying my
poor master.  Upon my honor, I declare to you it was only at the actual
moment of my admitting you those heartrending cries for help arose.
Then, afterward, pouring forth words which made even my ears tingle,
hardened old reprobate--the saints forgive me!--though I am, he rushed
upon the drawing of the Signora, which has been a glorious adornment of
our studio for so long, tore it from the easel and reduced it to a
thousand fragments, which--since I have not yet dared to remove
them--Monsieur will still find scattered upon the carpet.  This work of
destruction had the effect of appeasing his fury.  He flung himself
among the pillows of the divan, and has remained there ever since in a
silence which justifies the hope that he sleeps."

The spare, bright-eyed, velvet-spoken Giovanni folded his hands as in
prayer.

"Monsieur will take command, he will intervene to help us?  Otherwise a
catastrophe may ensue, and the unrivaled genius of my poor master may
be lost to the world."

As Adrian crossed the dusky studio in the now fading light René Dax
moved among the cushions and raised himself on his elbow.

"_Mon vieux_, is that you?" he asked feebly.  "They told me--they--it
does not matter who--some one told me you had come back.  I am glad,
for I need attention.  I apprehend some lesion of the brain.  My memory
plays me false.  This causes inconveniences.  Something here, at the
base of my skull, seems to have given way, to have snapped.  I think it
would be well that I should leave Paris for a time, and take a cure of
some description.  It is not pretty"--he looked up at Adrian with a
child-like candor wholly disarming--"no, very certainly it is a far
from pretty request, but I shall be indebted to you if you will make it
your business to discover a private hospital for the insane--a
civilized one, mind you--where I can be accommodated with a comfortable
suite of rooms.  I have money enough.  My illustrations to the _Contes
Drolatiques_ will pay for this agreeable little jaunt.  But civilized,
I repeat, where no objection will be made to receiving well-conducted
domestic animals, since I shall require to take both Giovanni with me
and Aristides the Just."

Adrian sat down upon the divan.  His speech was somewhat thick and
broken as he answered.

"Yes, _mon petit_.  Rest content that I will do my very best to find
you such a place as you want."

"And you will come often to visit me?"

"Indeed, I will come very constantly to visit you," Adrian said.

René Dax raised himself higher and looked long and searchingly at his
friend from head to foot.  The red lamp began to glow behind his somber
eyes again.

"You do not possess one-tenth of my talent," he declared; "but you
possess ten times my physique.  Therefore you will obtain.  You will
prosper.  You will lie soft.  From the most fastidious to the vilest
all women are the same.  The Moslems are right.  Women have neither
soul nor intellect, only bodies, bodies, bodies.  All they want in a
man is physique."

His tone changed to a wheedling one.  He crawled over the soft, black
silk cushions and put his arm coaxingly about Adrian's neck.

"See, _mon vieux_, see, be amiable!  Do not loiter.  Come at once.  Let
us search together diligently every corner, every nook.  To recover it
would fill me with rapture; and there is still time before the
school-bell rings for class.  Come.  Help me to find my lost laughter,"
he said.

And at that moment, with a startling emotion of hope and of relief,
Adrian observed, for the first time, that the infamous drawings upon
the walls had been painted out, leaving the whole, from floor to
ceiling, white.



V

THE LIVING AND THE DEAD



CHAPTER I

  SOME PASSAGES FROM JOANNA SMYRTHWAITE's
  LOCKED BOOK

The drought was slow in breaking.  Day after day ragged-headed thunder
pillars boiled up along the southeastern horizon; and, drifting
northward, inland, in portentous procession as the afternoon advanced,
massed themselves as a mighty mountain range against the sulky blue of
the upper sky.  About their flanks, later, sheet lightning streaked and
quivered, making the hot night unrestful, as with the winking of
malevolent and monstrous eyes.

Owing to the lie of the land and the encircling trees, this aerial
drama was not visible from the Tower House.  But the atmospheric
pressure, and nervous tension produced by it, very sensibly invaded the
great woodland.  The French window of Joanna Smyrthwaite's bedroom
stood wide open on to the balcony.  She had drawn an easy-chair close
up to it, and, dressed in her white woolen _négligé_, sat there in the
half-dark.  She left the _négligé_ unfastened at the neck, it being an
unsuitably warm garment to wear on so hot a night.  She was aware it
caused her discomfort; despite which she wore it.  The pristine
freshness of it was passed.  It was slightly soiled, and the
knife-pleatings, losing their sharpness of edge, sagged irregularly in
places, like the bellows of an old concertina.  More than once Mrs.
Isherwood had declared, "Miss Joanna ought to buy herself a new
wrapper, or at any rate let this poor old object go to the cleaners'."
But Joanna refused, almost angrily, to part with it even for a week.
She gave no reason for her refusal, but locked the insulted garment
away in a drawer of her wardrobe, whence she extracted it with jealous
tenderness after Isherwood had left her at night.  Then she wore it, if
but for half an hour; and, wearing it, she brooded, fondling her right
hand, which, upon two occasions, Adrian Savage had kissed.

At the opposite end of the lawn, in front of the tennis pavilion,
figures sauntered to and fro and voices were raised in desultory talk.
Amy Woodford giggled.  The elder Busbridge boy whistled "Yip-i-addy,"
and, losing his breath, coughed.  The odor of cigarettes mingled with
that of the trumpet-honeysuckle and jasmine encircling the pillars of
the veranda below the window.  Joanna neither looked at nor listened to
the others.  Her eyes were fixed upon the circle of fir-trees, where
the dense plumed darkness of their topmost branches met the only less
dense darkness of the sky.  And she brooded.  Once she kissed the hand
which Adrian Savage had kissed.

But the figures and voices came nearer.  Amy Woodford, her Oxford
undergraduate brother, and the two Busbridge boys were saying
good-night.  Their feet tapped and scraped on the quarries of the
veranda.  Somebody ran into a chair, toppled it over, gave a yelp, and
the whole company laughed.  These playful goings-on came between Joanna
and her brooding.  She rose impatiently, crossed the room to her
bureau, lighted the candles, and sat down to write.


"_August 21, 190-_

"We are never alone.  I try not to be irritable, but this constant
entertaining wears me out.  It is contrary to all the traditions of our
home life.  I cannot help thinking how strongly papa would have
condemned it.  Even mamma would have disapproved.  I fear I am wanting
in moral courage and firmness in not expressing disapproval more often
myself; but Margaret always imputes wrong motives to me and inverts the
meaning of that which I say.  She cannot be brought to see that I
object on principle, and accuses me of a selfish attempt to shirk
exertion.  She says I am inhospitable and elusive.  She even accuses me
of being niggardly and grudging my share in the increased household
expenditure.  This is unjust, and I cannot help resenting it.
Yesterday I remonstrated with her, and our discussion degenerated to a
wrangle, which was painful and unbecoming.  To-day she has avoided
speaking to me unless positively obliged to do so.  I feel I have
failed in regard to Margaret, and that I ought to have kept up a higher
standard since papa died and I became, virtually, the head of the
house.  Margaret is entirely occupied with amusement and with dress.
This must be, in part, my fault, though dear mamma always feared
frivolous inclinations in Margaret.  It is all very trying.  I doubt
whether Marion Chase's influence is good for her.  I am sure Mr.
Challoner's is not.  Marion is fairly well educated, but is without
cultivated tastes.  Mr. Challoner is not even well educated.  They both
flatter her and defer to her wishes far too much.  Other people flatter
her too, even serious persons, such as the Norbitons and Mrs. Paull.  I
do not think I am jealous of Margaret, but I will scrutinize my own
feelings more closely upon this point.

"I am afraid the servants observe that she and I are not on happy
terms.  This worries me.  I dread the household taking sides.
Isherwood and Johnson, and, I believe, Smallbridge are quite faithful
to me.  So is Rossiter, though I cannot help attributing that mainly to
her dislike of the increased work in the kitchen.  But Margaret's new
maid and her chauffeur--whose manner I consider much too
familiar--create a fresh element in our establishment.  They both are
showy, and I mistrust the effect of their companionship upon the
younger servants.  I no longer really feel mistress in my own house.
My position is rendered undignified.  Sometimes I regret the old days
at Highdene, or here, before papa's death.  But that is weak of me,
even hypocritical, since it is dread of responsibility rather than
affection for the past which dictates the wish.  I must school myself
to indifference, and try more earnestly to rise superior to these
worries.  I must look forward rather than look back."


Joanna laid down her pen, held up her right hand, kissed the back of it
just above the ridge of the knuckles, thrust it within the open neck of
her _négligé_ and, placing her left hand over it, pressed it against
her meager bosom.

"I must look forward," she said half aloud.  "'Nothing is changed
between us.'  He told me so himself the night before he left.  I must
rest in that."

She got up and paced the length of the room for a while, repeating--"I
must rest in that, must rest in that."

A sound of voices still rose from the garden, now a man's and a woman's
in low and evidently intimate talk.  Joanna stood still.  The note of
intimacy excited subconscious, unacknowledged envy within her.  She did
not distinguish, nor did she attempt to distinguish, the words said.
The tones were enough.  It got upon her nerves to hear a man and woman
speak thus.  A little longer and she felt she should be unable to bear
it--she must command them to stop.

She went back to her bureau again.  Here, at a distance from the
window, the voices were less audible.  She sat down and forced herself
to write.


"This is the second dinner-party we have given, or, rather, which
Margaret has given, within a week.  I absented myself, pleading
neuralgia, and remained up-stairs in the blue sitting-room.  With the
exception of Marion and Mr. Challoner, it was a boy-and-girl party.  I
do not feel at my ease in such company.  I fail to see the point of
their slang expressions and their jokes, and I do not understand the
technical terms regarding games which they so constantly employ.  No
doubt my dining up-stairs will be a cause of offense, but I cannot help
it.  If Margaret invites her own friends here so often she must at
least contrive sometimes to entertain them without my assistance.  I
will try to dismiss this subject from my mind.  To dwell upon it only
irritates me.

"I really needed to be alone to-night.  I live stupidly, from day to
day.  I feel that I ought to have a more definite routine of reading
and of self-culture.  I ought to spend the present interval in
educating myself more thoroughly for my future occupations and duties.
I will draw up some general scheme of study.  And I will keep my diary
more regularly.  I so seldom write now, yet I know it is good for me.
Writing obliges me to be clear in my intentions and in my thought.  I
am self-indulgent and allow myself to be too indefinite and vague, to
let my mind drift.  Papa always warned me against that.  He used to say
no woman was ever a sufficiently close thinker.  The inherent
inferiority of the feminine intelligence was, he held, proved by this
cardinal defect.  I know my inclination has always been toward too
great introspection, and I regret now that I have not striven more
consistently after mental directness and grasp.  I have been reading
the _Révue de Deux Mondes_ lately, feeling it a duty to acquaint myself
with modern French literature.  The luminous objectivity of the French
mind impresses me very strongly--an objectivity which is neither
superficial nor unduly materialistic.  When listening to Adrian I was
often struck by this quality--"


Joanna laid down her pen once more.  She sat still, her hands resting
upon the flat space of the desk on either side the blotting-pad, her
head thrown back and her eyes closed.  The voices in the garden had
ceased, and the silence, save for the shutting of a door in a distant
part of the house and the faint grinding of wheels and bell of a
tram-car on the Barryport Road, was complete.  For some minutes she
remained in the same position, her body inert, her inward activity
intense.  At last she raised her hands as though in protest, and,
bending down, fell to work upon her diary again with a smothered
violence.


"I have resisted the temptation to write about it till now.  I have
been afraid of myself, afraid for myself.  But to-night I feel
differently.  I feel a necessity to refer to it--to set it down in
words, and to relieve myself of the burden of the 'thing unspoken.'  On
former occasions when I have been greatly harassed and troubled I have
found alleviation in so doing.

"I want to make it quite clear to myself that I have never doubted
consideration for me, a desire to spare me distress and agitation,
dictated Adrian's silence regarding his sudden and unexpected
departure.  He knew how painful it would be to me to part with him,
particularly after our conversation regarding Bibby.  Seeing how
overwrought I had been by that conversation, he wished to put no
further strain upon me.  I want to make it quite clear to myself that
the letter he left for us with Smallbridge was all that good taste and
courtesy demanded.  Yet it hurt me.  It hurts me still.  He took pains
to thank us for our hospitality and to express his pleasure in having
helped us through all the business connected with our succession to
papa's property.  He said a number of kind and friendly things.  Few
persons could have written a more graceful or cousinly letter.  I know
all this.  I entertain no doubt of his sincerity.  Still the letter did
hurt me.  Margaret appropriated it.  It was addressed to her as well as
to me, so, I suppose, she believed herself to have a right to take
possession of it.  And I am not sure I wished to keep it.  I could not
have put it with his other letters, since it only belonged to me in
part.  Yet I often wonder what Margaret has done with it--thrown it
into the waste-paper basket most likely!  And it is very dreadful to
think any letter of his has been thrown away or burned.  Just because
it was only half mine I feel so bitterly about it.  I am afraid I have
allowed this bitterness to affect my attitude toward Margaret; but it
is very painful that she should share, in any degree, the
correspondence which is of such infinite value to me.  I do accept the
fact that he acted in good faith, without an idea how deeply so
apparently simple a thing would wound me.  I excuse him of the most
remote wish to wound me.  But I was, and am, wounded; and his letters
since then--there are five of them--have failed to heal the wound.

"It is dreadful to write all this down; but it is far more dreadful to
let it remain on my mind, corroding all my thought of him.  Not that it
really does so.  In my agitation I overstate.  'Nothing is changed
between us.'  No, nothing, Adrian--believe me, nothing.  Yet in those
last five letters I do detect a change.  They have not the playful
frankness of the earlier ones.  I detect effort in them.  They are very
interesting and very kind, I know; still there is something lacking
which I can only describe as the personal note.  They are written as a
duty, they lack spontaneity.  He tells me he has been detained in
Paris, all the summer, by the illness--nervous breakdown--of a former
schoolfellow.  He tells me of his continued efforts to trace Bibby.
But these are outside things, of which he might write to any
acquaintance.  I read and re-read these letters in the hope of
discovering some word, some message, actual or implied, addressed to me
as me, the woman he has so wonderfully chosen.  But I do not find it,
so the wound remains unhealed.

"Yet how ungrateful I am to complain!  To do so shows me my own nature
in a dreadful light--grasping, impatient, suspicious.  Innumerable
duties and occupations may so readily interfere to prevent his writing
more frequently or more fully!  Why cannot I trust him more?  Is it not
the very height of ingratitude thus to cavil and to doubt?"


Overcome by emotion, Joanna left the bureau and paced the room once
more, her arms hanging straight at her sides, her hands plucking at the
pleatings of her _négligé_.  The heat seemed to her to have increased
to an almost unbearable extent, notwithstanding which she clung to her
woolen garment.  Crossing to the washing-stand, she dipped a
handkerchief in the water and, folding it into a bandage, held it
across her forehead.  She blew out the candles and, returning to the
open window, sank into the easy-chair.  The sky remained unclouded, but
in the last hour had so thickened with thunder haze that it was
difficult to distinguish the tree-tops from it.  Joanna gazed fixedly
at this hardly determinable line of junction.  Presently she began to
talk to herself in short, hurried sentences.

"I know I told him I would wait.  I believed I had strength sufficient
for entire submission.  But I am weaker than I supposed.  I despise
myself for that weakness.  But I cannot wait.  He is my life.  Without
him I have no life--none that is coherent and progressive.  My
loneliness and emptiness, apart from my relation to him, are dreadful.
And lately jealousy has grown shockingly upon me.  I think of nothing
else.  I am jealous of every person whom he sees, of every object which
he touches, of his literary work because it interests him--jealous of
the old schoolfellow whom he is nursing; jealous of Bibby, for whom he
searches; jealous of the very air he breathes and ground on which he
treads.  All these come between him and me, stealing from me that which
should be mine, since they are close to him and engage his attention
and thought."

Joanna stopped, breathless, and, closing her eyes, lay back in the
chair, while drops oozing from the wet bandage trickled downward and
dripped upon her thin neck and breast.

"Now at last I am honest with myself," she whispered.  "I have spoken
the truth--the hateful truth, since it lays bare to me the inner
meanness of my own nature.  I no longer palliate my own repulsive
qualities or attempt to excuse myself to myself.  I admit my many
faults.  I call them by their real names.  Now, possibly, I shall
become calmer and more resigned.  The completeness of my faith in him
will come back.  And then, some day in the future, when I tell him how
I repent of my suspicions and rebellious doubts, he will forgive me and
help me to eradicate my faults and make me more worthy of the wonderful
gift of his love."

Then she lay still, exhausted by her paroxysm of self-accusation.

"Here you are at last!  You do take an unconscionably long time saying
good-night!  I nearly gave up and went indoors to bed."

This chaffingly, from the terrace outside the veranda, in Marion
Chase's hearty barytone.

"I imagine people in our situation usually have a good deal to say to
each other."

Rustlings of silk and creakings followed, occasioned by the descent of
a well-cushioned feminine body into a wicker chair.

"And pray, how far did you go with him?" still chaffingly.

"Only to the end of the carriage-drive, and then into the road for a
minute to see the lightning.  Really, it's too odd--quite creepy.
Looking toward the County Gates, the sky seems to open and shut like
the lid of a box."

"I shouldn't mind its opening wider and giving us some rain.  It's too
stuffy for words to-night.  And then he proceeded to walk back with
you, I suppose?"

"No, he didn't, because I dismissed him.  I can be firm when I choose,
you know; and I am sure it is wisest to begin as I mean to go on.  I
intend to be my own mistress--"

"And his master?"

"Doesn't that follow as a matter of course--a 'necessary corollary,' as
Joanna would say?  Too, I didn't want to run the risk of meeting any of
the servants coming in.  He is liable to be a little demonstrative when
we are alone, don't you know."

"Margaret!"

"Well, why not?  I take demonstrations quite calmly so long as they are
made in private.  It would be silly to do otherwise.  They're just, of
course, part of the--"

"Whole show?"

"Yes, if you like to be vulgar, Marion, and quote the Busbridge boys--I
limit my quotations to Joanna--of the whole show."

After a short pause.

"Maggie, did you settle any dates to-night?  I thought he seemed
preoccupied, as if he meant business of some sort.  You don't mind my
asking?"

"Not in the least.  He says he is bothered because his position is an
equivocal one."

"So it is."  This very sensibly from Marion Chase.  "People begin to
think you are simply mean to keep him dangling."

"Do they?  How amusing!"

"Not for him, poor beast."  And both young women laughed.

"He is wild to have the announcement made at once."

"In the papers, do you mean?"

"Yes, The Times and Morning Post, of course, and two local ones.  He
suggests the Stourmouth and Marychurch Chronicle and the Barryport
Gazette.  I should have thought the Courier ranked higher, but he says
it's not nearly so widely read as the Chronicle.  Then we ought to put
it in a Yorkshire paper as well, I think."

"How awfully thrilling!"

At first to Joanna, at the open window above, still laboring with the
aftermath of her gloomy outbreaks of passion, this conversation had
been but as a chirping of birds or squeaking of bats.  Such slipshod
telegraphic chatterings between the two young ladies, obnoxious alike
to her taste and scholarship, were her daily portion.  Joanna had
scornfully trained herself to ignore them.  She could not prevent their
assailing her ears; but she could, and as a rule did, successfully
prevent their reaching her understanding.

To-night, however, strained and on edge as she was, her will proved
incapable of prolonged effort, and indifference was unsustainable.
Gradually the manner of the speakers and significance of that which
they said mastered her unwilling attention.  Surprise followed on
surprise.  She knew how the two friends talked in her presence.  Was
this how they talked in her absence, disclosing--especially in the case
of her sister--an attitude of mind, let alone definite purposes and
actions, of which she had been in total ignorance?  And--to carry the
question a step farther--did this connote corresponding ignorance on
her part in other directions?  Was she, Joanna, living in worlds very
much unrealized, where all manner of things of primary importance
remained unknown to or misinterpreted by her?

The thought opened up vistas packed with agitation and alarm.
Self-defense admits few scruples; and it appeared to poor Joanna just
then that every man's hand was against her.  Living in the midst of
deceptions, what weapon except deceit--and in this case deceit was
tacit only--remained to her?  Her sense of honor, and along with it the
self-respect in which the roots of honor are set, went overboard.
Instead of leaving the window and refusing to hear more, Joanna stayed.
A morbid desire to know, to learn all that which was being kept from
her, to get at the truth of these lives lived so close to her own, to
get at the truth of their opinion of her, seized upon her.

She took the moist handkerchief off her forehead, and, slipping
noiselessly out of her chair, knelt upon the rug laid along the inner
side of the window-sill, craning her neck forward so that no word of
the conversation might escape her.

"Personally, as I told him, I was in no particular hurry."

"Pleasant news for him!" Marion Chase returned.

"But I'm not.  There are several good reasons for waiting--our mourning
for one thing.  And then the question of a house.  Heatherleigh's not
large enough, or smart enough--all very well for a bachelor
establishment, I dare say.  What I should like is this house; but I
doubt whether Joanna would give it up, though it really is altogether
too extensive a place for her alone.  I don't mean that she could not
afford to keep it up.  She could afford to; but it would be
ostentatious, ridiculously out of proportion for an unmarried woman."

Joanna's indignation nearly flamed into speech.  She moved impatiently,
causing the chair behind her to scrape on its casters.

"What was that?" from Marion Chase.

"A fir-cone falling probably.  It's hotter than ever.--No, I haven't
the smallest intention of not going through with this business; but I'm
in no hurry.  Things are quite amusing as they are."

"I believe you enjoy taking people in, you wicked old thing."

"If keeping quiet about my own affairs is taking people in, I suppose I
do enjoy it.  And then, of course, you see I am bound to tell Joanna
first.  There's no help for that--"

"Magsie, you know her windows are open?  You don't think we can be
overheard?"

"No; it's all right.  I looked when I came back.  There's no light.
Either she's still in the blue sitting-room or she's gone to bed.  Too,
I must do her the justice to say Joanna is not the sort of person who
listens.  She would consider it wrong."

Joanna drew back and was on the point of rising.  Again the chair
scraped.

"And then she would never condescend to listen to anything I might
happen to be saying.  There is a compensating freedom in being beneath
notice!"

Joanna remained on her knees at the open window.

"I own I most cordially dislike the idea of telling her," Margaret
continued.  "I know she will be unreasonable and say things which will
lead to all sorts of disputes and disagreeables between us."

"Oh! but she must know perfectly well already, only she means to make
you speak first," the other returned.  "It's too absurd to suppose she
hasn't spotted what's been going on.  Why, his state of mind has been
patent for ages.  She can't be off seeing."

"I don't believe for a single moment she does see.  She's so
frightfully self-absorbed and self-occupied.  You know yourself,
Marion, how extraordinarily obtuse she can be.  She lives in the most
hopeless state of dream--"

Joanna swayed a little as she knelt and laid hold of the folds of the
striped tabaret window-curtain for support.

"I know she always has been inclined to dream; but recently it has
grown upon her.  For me to say anything to her about it is worse than
useless.  She only sits upon me, and then we 'have words,' as Isherwood
says.  At bottom Joanna is awfully obstinate.  In many ways she reminds
me very much of papa; only, being a woman, unfortunately one can't get
round her as one could round him.  People are beginning to notice what
an odd, moody state she is in.  Mrs. Norbiton said something about it
when they dined here on Monday.  She said Joanna seemed so
absent-minded, and asked whether I thought she wasn't well.  And
Colonel Haig mentioned it to me the afternoon we had tea with him at
the golf club.  That really led to his telling me what he had heard in
Paris."

"Telling you--oh, I remember!  What he had heard about Mr. Savage?"
Marion Chase remarked.

Joanna got on to her feet, went out on to the balcony, and hung over
the red balustrade into the hot, thick darkness.

"Margaret!" she called.  "Margaret, I must speak to you.  Please come
to my room.  It is something urgent.  Come at once."



CHAPTER II

RECORDING A SISTERLY EFFORT TO LET IN LIGHT

When Margaret Smyrthwaite entered her sister's bedchamber she brought
the atmosphere of a perfumer's shop along with her.  Under the elder
and sterner reign scent-sprays and scent-caskets were unknown at the
Tower House, Montagu Smyrthwaite holding such adjuncts to the feminine
toilet in hardly less abhorrence than powder or paint itself.  A modest
whiff of aromatic vinegar or of eau-de-Cologne touched the high-water
mark of permitted indulgence.  But in the use of perfumes, as in other
matters, Margaret--so Mrs. Isherwood put it--"had broke out sadly since
the poor old gentleman went."  The intellectual streak common to the
Smyrthwaite family had from the first been absent in the young lady's
composition; while the morbid streak, also common in the family, was
now cauterized, if not actually eliminated, by the sunshine of her
seven thousand a year.  A North-country grit, a rather foxy astuteness
and a toughness of fiber--also inherited--remained, however, very much
to the fore in her, with the result that she would travel--was, indeed,
already traveling--the grand trunk road of modern life without
hesitation, or apology, or any of those anxious questionings of why,
wherefrom, and whither which beset persons of nobler spiritual caliber.

In the past few months she had shed the last uncertainties of girlhood.
She had filled out and was in act of blossoming into that which
gentlemen of the Challoner order, in moments of expansion, not without
a cocking of the eye and moistening of the lip, are tempted to describe
as a "d--d fine woman."  Now the light of the candle she carried showed
the rounded smoothness of her handsome neck and arms, through the
transparent yoke and sleeves of her black evening blouse, touched the
folds and curls of bright auburn hair upon her forehead, and brought
the hard bright blue of her eyes into conspicuous evidence.  A
deficiency of eyelash and eyebrow caused her permanent vexation.  This
defect she intended to remedy--some day.  Not just at present, however,
as both Joanna and Isherwood were too loyally wedded to the aromatic
vinegar and eau-de-Cologne régime for such facial reconstructions to
pass without prejudiced and aggravating comment.

Advancing up the room, all of a piece and somewhat solid in tread, she
offered a notable contrast to Joanna, who awaited her palpitating and
angular, ravaged by agonies and aspirations, indignantly trembling
within the sagged knife-pleatings of her soiled white _négligé_.  The
rough copy and _édition de luxe_, as Adrian had dubbed them, just then
very forcibly presented their likeness and unlikeness; yet, possibly,
to a discerning eye, the rough copy, though superficially so
conspicuously lacking in charm, might commend itself as the essentially
nobler of these two human documents.

"What is the matter, Joanna?" the _édition de luxe_ inquired.  "Why
couldn't you send Isherwood to say you wanted to speak to me?  It's
fortunate Marion's and my nerves are steady, for your calling out gave
us both an awful start."

"I did listen," the other returned, in a breathlessness of strong
emotion.  "I was sitting at the window in the dark when you began
talking.  At first I paid no heed; but, as your conversation went on, I
found it bore reference to matters which you are keeping from me and
with which I ought to be acquainted.  I found it concerned me--myself.
I offer no apology.  I acted in self-protection.  I listened
deliberately."

Margaret laid the magazines and illustrated fashion papers, she carried
under her arm, upon the slab of the open bureau.  She set down her flat
candlestick beside them, thus creating a triad of lighted
candles--unlucky omen!

"Then, Nannie," she said, coolly, "you did something which was not at
all nice."

The word stung Joanna by its grotesque inadequacy either to the depth
of her sufferings or of her transgression against the laws of honor.
To range at the tragic level, in relation to both, would have afforded
her consolation and support.  Margaret denied such consolation by
taking her own stand squarely upon the conventional and commonplace.
Joanna's transgression began to show merely vulgar.  This compelled her
to descend from tragic heights.

"Am I to understand that you really are engaged to Mr. Challoner?" she
therefore asked, without further preamble.

"If you listened you must have gathered as much, I imagine," Margaret
said.

"I did--I did, but I refused to believe it.  I thought I must be
mistaken.  I was unprepared for such news.  It came to me as such a
shock, such a distressing surprise."

"Really, it's quite your own fault, Joanna," Margaret returned.  "What
did you suppose he'd been coming here for constantly?"

"Not for that--"

"Thank you!" Margaret said.

"You know I have always objected to his being here so much.  I tried to
prevent it.  I feared it might lead to gossip.  I felt you did not
consider that seriously enough.  It is so dreadful that what we do or
say should be commented upon.  Until the business connected with the
property was settled I recognized a necessity for Mr. Challoner's
frequent visits, but not since then, not for the last three months.  I
am quite willing to admit his good points.  I quite believe he has
served us faithfully in business.--Pray do not suppose I underrate his
services in that respect.  But I never supposed he could presume to
propose to you, Margaret."

"I don't see anything presumptuous in his proposing.  He admires me
very much.  Is it such an unheard-of thing that he should wish me to
marry him?"

"No--no--but that you should give him encouragement.--For you must have
encouraged him--"

"And"--with disconcerting composure from the _édition de luxe_--"why
not?"

Joanna began to pace the room restlessly in her trailing draperies.

"Because--because"--she said--"your own instinct must tell you what an
unsuitable marriage this would be for you--for our parents' daughter,
for my sister.  I don't want to be selfish, Margaret, but I have a
right to consider my own future to some extent; and Mr. Challoner--I
dislike to seem to deprecate him--it is invidious to do so--indeed, it
is intensely distasteful to me to point out his peculiarities--but when
I think of him as a brother-in-law--his antecedents, his standard of
manners and conversation strike me as so different to those to which we
have always been accustomed.  I cannot avoid seeing this.  It is so
very palpable.  Others must see it too--members of our family, I mean,
with whom we are, or may in the future be, intimately associated."

In her excitement clearness of statement failed somewhat.  Margaret
stood listening, calmly obstinate, her head a little bent, while she
straightened the magazines and picture papers lying on the slab of the
bureau with her finger-tips.

"I didn't for one moment imagine you would be pleased at my
engagement--that's why I have not told you sooner.  I was sure you'd be
disagreeable about it.  And you are disagreeable, Joanna, very
disagreeable indeed.  Like most people who plume themselves on being
very high-minded, you end by being very vulgar-minded and worldly.  I
quite expected this tone from you; and so I put off telling you as long
as possible.  Even now, you must remember, you have surprised my
confidence.  I have not given it voluntarily.  Useless discussions,
such as this, bore me."

"Useless?" Joanna interrupted.

"Quite useless, unless I happen to change my mind, which I shall not
do.  I have considered things all round.  I have talked everything over
with Marion.  You must make what you like of it, Joanna; but I am going
to marry Challoner."

The scriptural Christian name annoyed her as suggesting possibilities
of humorous retrospect.  The "mister" under existing romantic
circumstances savored of underbred, middle-class ceremony.  So she
struck for the surname, pure and simple, thereby conferring, in some
sort, the noble conciseness of a title upon her admirer.

"I don't share your very exalted opinions of our position and
importance," she continued.  "Papa was a successful Yorkshire mill
owner.  Challoner is the head of a firm of successful South-country
solicitors.  You talk of his antecedents.  His father was a very
enterprising man, who built up the business here which he has carried
on and developed.  Everybody in this part of England knows who
Challoner, Greatrex & Pewsey are.  The firm's reputation is above
suspicion.  They opened a branch office four years ago at Southampton,
and one last year at Weymouth.  Really, I can't see what you have to
object to on the score of position, Joanna?  Andrew Merriman's
grandfather was only a mill-hand."

"You need not have alluded to that," the other cried, sharply.  Then,
fighting for self-control, she added, "You know quite well it is a
marriage you would never have thought of making while papa was living."

"And you know equally well, Nannie, it was utterly hopeless to think of
any marriage whatever when papa was alive.  We hardly ever saw a man.
Papa snubbed every one who came near us.  No one dared propose, even if
they wished to do so.  Remember all the Andrew Merriman business?"

"Pray don't refer to that again," Joanna said.

"I only wanted to give you an instance--Nannie, would you mind sitting
down?  It makes me so dreadfully hot to watch you roaming about in that
way.  We could talk ever so much better if you would only keep
still.--And there is a great deal which has to be talked over some
time.  As we have begun to-night, we may as well go on and get through
with it.  The heat makes me fidgety.  I'm not inclined to go to bed."

Thus admonished, Joanna sank into the easy-chair once more.  She
doubled herself together, working her hands nervously, ball-and-socket
fashion, in her lap.  The perception that this was a new Margaret, a
Margaret wholly unreckoned with, grew upon her.  And along with that
perception an apprehension of fronting things unknown yet of vital
significance, things which, when known, must inevitably color all her
future outlook, grew upon her likewise.  As yet the screen of
ignorance, dense though impalpable as the dense thunder-thickened sky
there outside, interposed between her and those fateful things veiling
them.  But Margaret, the new, composed, practical, highly perfumed
Margaret, was in act of drawing that screen aside.  Then what would
she, Joanna, see?  What concourse of cruel verities lurked behind,
waiting to jump on her?--Asking herself this, she shivered,
notwithstanding the heat of the atmosphere and of her woolen gown, with
premonition of coming chill--chill of loneliness, chill of disaster, of
which such loneliness was at once the bitter flower and the root.

Her sister had followed her to the window, and stood just within it,
nonchalant and comely, fanning herself with a little fan hanging by a
ribbon from her waistband.  The silver spangles upon the black gauze
sparkled sharply in the candle-light, and the ebony sticks ticked as
she waved it to and fro.

"I do so wish you wouldn't make a tragedy of all this, Nannie," she
said.  "But of course I knew you would, because you always think it
your duty to get into a wild state of mind over everything I say or do.
It would be so much more comfortable for both of us if you could get it
into your head once and for all that you're not responsible for me in
any way.  We are equals.  We're the same age--you always seem to forget
that--and I'm quite as competent to manage my affairs as you are to
manage yours.  You have no authority over me of any description, legal
or moral, none whatsoever, you know."

"I am only too well aware that I have failed to influence you,
Margaret," Joanna returned, while waves of scented air, set in motion
by the black and silver fan, played upon her face.  "I had been
thinking of that to-night, before I overheard your and Marion's
conversation.  I had been reproaching myself.  I know we are the same
age; but our dispositions are different, and I have always occupied an
elder sister's position toward you.  It is very distressing to me to
realize how entirely I have failed to influence you.  This contemplated
marriage of yours gives the measure of my non-success."

"Oh! dear me!  Influence--failure--really, you know, Nannie, you are
most awfully provoking!" the other exclaimed.  "I don't want to lose my
temper and be cross, but I am so frightfully sick of this whole
responsibility mania.  It's been the bugbear of our lives ever since we
were children.  Papa and mamma sacrificed themselves and sacrificed us
to it, with the result that we've always been in an unnatural attitude,
like dogs trying to walk on their hind legs."

"Margaret, Margaret!" Joanna protested, scandalized by the filial
profanity of the suggested picture.

"So we have, Nannie.  And in what has this everlasting preaching of
responsibility ended?  Why, simply in making papa believe he was doing
right by being rude and arrogant and dreadfully disagreeable over
trifles.  In making mamma a hopeless invalid.  In ruining Bibby, body
and soul, making him untruthful and dishonest, and inclined to do all
sorts of horrid, ungentlemanly things.  Hush?  No, I am not going to
hush, Joanna.  You asked me to come here, and you asked me a question.
Now you really must listen till I have said all I have to say in
answer.  I want to get it over.  It's far too unpleasant to go through
twice.  And this mania about responsibility has been disastrous for you
too--you know that perfectly well.  It has spoiled your life by keeping
you in a perpetual state of fuss and worry, and of dissatisfaction with
your own conduct and everybody else's.  As for me, it made me
hysterical and fretful, and deceitful too.  How could one help being
deceitful when one was always dodging some silly trumped-up
fault-finding or bother?  I believe it would have broken up my nerves
altogether if it had gone on much longer.  And what on earth does it
all mean?  What were we responsible for?  Who were we responsible to?"
she went on contemptuously.  "I don't know.  And I don't believe you
know either, Joanna, if you would only use your common-sense and give
up worshiping words and phrases.  The whole thing is nonsense, and
rather lying nonsense--just a pretending to oneself that one is better
and cleverer than other people.  When you come to think of it, this
craze for superiority is so frightfully conceited!  For who cares, or
ever has cared, whether we Smyrthwaites were intellectual, and
high-minded, and cultured, and well-read, and all the rest of it, or
not?  In my opinion the system on which our parents brought us up, and
on which their parents brought them up, is nothing but an excuse for
self-adulation and pharisaism.  I am sick to death of the whole thing,
and I mean to break away from it.  And the simplest way to do so is to
marry Challoner.  He's about as far away from it all as anybody well
can be--just a modern, practical man, who cares for real things, not
for advanced thought, and reform, and political economy, and questions
of morals, and so on.  He isn't a bit intellectual.  He only reads the
newspapers, or an occasional novel in the train when he's traveling, I
am thankful to say.  And, I am awfully glad he belongs to the Church of
England, for I mean to break with the Unitarian Connection, Joanna.  I
don't care about doctrine one way or another; but I can see how
narrow-minded and exclusive it makes people when they belong to a small
sect.  Unitarians are always so frightfully pleased with themselves
because they believe less than other people.  They're always living up
to their own cleverness in not believing; and it does make them awfully
hind-leggy and boring.--And then, of course, being a Nonconformist cuts
one out of a lot.  Socially it is no end of a disadvantage to one.  It
didn't signify so much in the North, but here it has stood horridly in
our way.  Lots of nice people would have called on us when we first
came if we hadn't been dissenters.  And, please understand, I mean to
know everybody now and be popular.  I should enjoy giving away prizes
and opening bazaars, and entertaining on a big scale, and taking part
in all that goes on here.  It would amuse me.  I can give large
subscriptions, and I mean to give them.  As I say, I intend to be
popular and to be talked about.  I intend to make myself a power in the
place.  And then, Joanna, there's something more--I dare say you'll
think it necessary to be scandalized--but there's this--"

She stopped fanning herself, and looked out into the hot darkness,
smiling, a certain luster upon her smooth skin and a fullness about her
bosom and her lips.  Her voice took on richer tones when she spoke.

"I want to marry, and I mean to marry.  I am nine and twenty, and I'm
tired of not knowing exactly what marriage is.  So I'm not going to
wait, and hawk myself and my fortune about on the chance of a smarter
match.  I have decided to be sensible and make the best of what I
have--namely, Challoner.  I don't pretend he is perfect.  I take him as
he stands.  After all, he is only just forty and he is in excellent
health.  I care about that, for I dislike sickly people, especially
men.  They're always horridly selfish and fanciful.  Either they
oughtn't to marry at all or ought to marry hospital nurses.--Then
Challoner is making a good income.  We've talked quite frankly over the
money question.  And then--then--"

For the first time she showed signs of slight embarrassment, laughing a
little, pursing up her lips and fanning herself again lightly.

"Then," she repeated, "he is desperately in love with me, and I enjoy
that.  I want more of it.  It interests and amuses me.  It is exciting
to find one can twist a great, hard-headed fellow like Challoner round
one's little finger; make him go hot and cold, grow nervous and all of
a tremor just by a word or a look.  He is like so much dough in my
hands.  I can shape him as I like.  There's nothing he wouldn't do to
please me.  Oh! yes, he is desperately in love with me!"

This drawing back of the interposing screen and exhibition of the
Smyrthwaite tradition and system, stripped to the skin, stripped,
indeed, to an almost primordial nothingness, had been richly
distressing to poor Joanna.  For was not she intrinsically the product
and exponent of the said tradition and system?  Did it not stand for
the loom upon which the whole pattern of her character and conduct was
woven?  In thus stripping the system, she was painfully conscious that
Margaret stripped her also to a like miserable nakedness and
nothingness.  For, admitting the laws which she had been brought up to
reverence, and to obey which she had trained herself with such
unsparing diligence, were nugatory, what remained to her for guidance
or inspiration?  Admitting her strenuously acquired mental attitude and
habit to be but senseless posturing, as of dancing dogs, how deplorably
she had wasted herself upon that which profiteth not!  If the formative
processes of her education and culture represented nothing better than
laborious subscription to exploded fallacy, must she not make a return,
with all possible speed, upon whatever remnant of unalloyed instinct
and spontaneous purpose might still be left in her?  But how to make
such a return?  How to reform, to recreate, her attitude and outlook?

These questions assailed Joanna, bewildering alike in their
multiplicity and intricacy.  The wheels of her over-taxed brain whizzed
and whirred.  For the curse of the system-ridden, of the pedant, of the
doctrinaire, is loss of clear-seeing simplicity, of initiative, of that
power of direct and unaided action which is the reward of simplicity.
Stripped of encompassing precept and precedent, deprived of sustaining
prejudice, Joanna found herself naked and helpless indeed.  She ran
wildly in search of fresh precept and precedent in which to clothe
herself.  And found them, after a fashion normal and natural enough had
they happened to be grounded in fact instead of in most pitiful
illusion.

For as, distressedly watching her sister's rather cynical exposure of
the family tradition, she asked herself--in face of the said
exposure--what to her, personally, remained, she answered that Adrian
Savage remained.  And thereupon proceeded with all the intensity and
pent-up passion of her morbidly introspective nature to fling herself
upon the thought of that delightful young man and his matrimonial
intentions.  Hounding out doubts, furiously repressing misgivings, she
grappled herself to belief in Adrian with hooks of iron, chained
herself to it with links of steel, drank from the well of splendid
promise which it offered to the verge of inebriety.  In him she hailed
her savior.  Adrian would make good the wasted years.  Adrian would
teach her where she had been mistaken, and where her intelligence had
gone astray.  Adrian would instruct and counsel her, would supply her
with a rule of living at once just and distinguished.  Adrian would be
gentle to her errors--had he not shown himself so already on more than
one occasion?--would be sympathetic, playful and charming even in
merited rebuke.  She heard his voice once again.  Saw him, in his habit
as he lived, gallant, courteous, eager yet debonair; and seeing, her
poor heart spilled itself upon the ground like water at his conquering
feet.

Joanna could sit still no longer.  Her agitation was too vital, too
overmastering.  She left the chair by the window and began to roam to
and fro, her hands plucking at the pleatings of her dress, her pale,
prominent eyes staring fixedly, her lips parted, her expression rapt.

"'Because thou art more noble and like a king,'" she quoted, silently,
turning to the sonnets from the Portuguese for adequate expression of
her emotion.  "'Thou canst prevail against my fears and fling thy
purple round me.'"

The consequence of all of which was that she paid scant attention to
the concluding portion of her sister's comprehensive argument in favor
of her projected espousal of Joseph Challoner, and only awoke from the
state of trance induced by her access of Adrian-worship when the
repetition of Margaret's assertion of the violent character of
Challoner's affection and the slightly ambiguous laugh following that
assertion struck her ear.  Then she turned upon the speaker with the
righteous wrath of one who hears sacred words put to unworthy uses.

"Desperately in love?" she said harshly.  "And do you intend me to
understand, Margaret, that you are desperately in love with Mr.
Challoner in return?"

"Oh dear, no!" the lady addressed replied calmly enough.  "Though if I
were, I see no occasion for your scolding me about it, Nannie.--What
does make you so restless and cross to-night?  However, if you're
determined to be uncomfortable, I'm not--so I shall sit down here in
your chair.  Did you see the lightning then?  No, I'm not the least
silly about Challoner; but then I should be very sorry to be silly
about any man.  I don't think it dignified for a woman to be in a wild
state of mind about her _fiancé_.  It's not nice.  I like Challoner
well enough to marry him, and well enough not to mind his making love
to me.  That's quite sufficient, I think."

Jealous curiosity pricked Joanna.  She stopped in her agitated walk and
stood stretching out her right hand and gazing abstractedly at it.

"What--what precisely do you mean when you speak of his making love to
you, Margaret?" she said, in a thin, urgent whisper.

"Really, for a person who plumes herself upon being particularly
refined you do say the most singular things, Joanna!" the other
exclaimed, laughing.  "You can hardly expect me to go into details.
Making love is making love."

"Kissing your hand--do you mean?" Joanna gasped, in awestruck accents,
a dry sob rising in her throat.

"One's hand?  Why, anybody might kiss one's hand.  Challoner's
proceedings, I'm afraid, are considerably more unrestrained than that.
But I positively can't go into details.  How extraordinary you are,
Nannie!  Doesn't it occur to you there are questions which one doesn't
ask?"

Streaks of pain shot across the back of Joanna's right hand, as though
it were struck again and again with a rod.  Moaning, just audibly, she
thrust it within the open bosom of her white _négligé_, and laid her
left hand upon it, fondling it as one striving to soothe some sorely
wounded creature.

Margaret leaned back in the easy-chair, fingering her little fan, a
sleekness, a suggestion of almost animal content in her expression and
attitude.

"No, really I can't explain any further," she said, laughing a little.
"I'm quite hot enough as it is, and refuse to make myself any hotter.
You must wait till somebody makes love to you, I'm afraid, Nannie, if
you want to know exactly what the process consists in.  An
object-lesson would be necessary, and I am hardly equal to supplying
that."

Joanna's roamings had taken her as far as the door leading on to the
gallery.  She waited, leaning against it.  The back of Margaret's chair
was toward her, so that she was safe from observation.  For this she
was not sorry, as the pain in her hand was acute, particularly upon the
spot where Adrian's lips had once touched it.  There it throbbed and
smarted, as though a live coal were pressing into the flesh.  Her face
was drawn with suffering.  She dreaded to have her sister ask what
ailed her.  But that young lady's thoughts were quite otherwise
engaged.  She spoke presently, over her shoulder.  Her voice sounded
curiously cozy.

"This evening, when he said good-by to me, Challoner lifted me right
off my feet when he was kissing me.  He had never done so before.  I
liked it.  It showed how strong he is.  I felt a wee bit nervous, but I
enjoyed it too.  I revel in his strength.  My ribs ache still.--There,
Nannie, is that little sample of love-making illuminating enough?"

And, leaning against the polished surface of the door, Joanna shivered,
nursing and fondling her burning hand.



CHAPTER III

IN WHICH JOANNA EMBRACES A PHANTOM BLISS

The obscure psychological relation existing between twins necessarily
produces either peculiar sympathy or peculiar opposition of tastes and
sentiment.  The record of these twin sisters was of the discordant
sort.  Unspoken rivalry and jealousy had divided them.  Unconsciously,
yet unremittingly, they had struggled for pre-eminence.  At the present
moment, in Joanna's case these feelings combined to produce a sensation
approaching active hatred.  As she leaned shivering against her bedroom
door, in the oppressive warmth of the summer night, all her petty
griefs and grudges against her more attractive and popular sister
complained in chorus.  As a child Margaret had been pretty and taking.
At school, though lazy and by no means clever, she had been petted and
admired.  Such affection as Montagu Smyrthwaite was capable of
displaying he had displayed toward her.  "Margaret was sensitive,
Margaret was delicate"--which meant that Margaret knew just when to cry
loud enough to excite pity; just when to announce tiredness or a
headache, so as to escape unwelcome exertion.  She had, in short,
reduced the practice of selfishness--so Joanna thought--to a fine art.

And now, finally, to-night, not timidly with disarming apology, but
with flaunting assurance, Margaret dared to infringe
her--Joanna's--copyright in the wonder-story of a man's love, thereby
capping the climax of offense.  Her transcript of the said story might
be of the grosser sort; yet on that very account it showed the more
convincing.  No misgivings, no agonized suspense, no tremulously
anxious reading between the lines, were demanded.  It was printed in
large type, and in language coarsely vigorous as Joseph Challoner
himself!  Morally it repelled Joanna, although inflaming her
imagination with vague drivings of desire.  Her whole poor being,
indeed, was swept by conflicting and but half-comprehended passions,
from amid the tempest of which this one thing declared itself in a
rising scale of furious insistence--namely, that Margaret should not
once again best her; that no marriage Margaret might elect to make
should endanger her own marriage with Adrian Savage; that by some
means, any means fair or foul, Margaret must be prevented tasting the
fullness of man's love--never mind how poor an edition of love this
might be, how unpoetic, bow vulgar--as long as she, Joanna, was denied
love's fullness.  Yet so deeply were tradition and system ingrained in
her that, even at this pass, she paid homage to their ruling, since
instead of making a direct attack, and owning anger as the cause of it,
she tricked herself with a fiction of moral obligation.

"Margaret," she began presently from her station at the door, speaking
with such self-command as she could muster, "I dislike alluding to the
subject very much.  No doubt you will be annoyed and will accuse me of
interference; still there is something I feel I ought to say to you.
If I do not say it now, there may not be a suitable opportunity later."

"Then pray say it now.  As I have told you, I want to get the whole
thing thoroughly thrashed out to-night, so that we may avoid odious
discussions in the future.  What is it, Joanna?"

"I can't help observing that it is only since papa's death Mr.
Challoner has paid you so much attention.  Before then--"

Margaret rose and faced round upon the speaker.  Her manner remained
composed, but her blue eyes held the light of battle.

"You mean it is not me, but my fortune, Challoner is in love with?  I
quite expected you would tell me that, Joanna, sooner or later; but I
am bound to say it is not a very elegant compliment either to him or to
me."

"I did not intend to bring such an accusation against him," Joanna
protested.  "It would be very dreadful to suppose any one's affection,
any one's choice, could be seriously influenced by the fact we have
money."

"I'm afraid my views are less romantic than yours.  It seems to me
quite natural money should prove an attraction--particularly in cases
where other attractions are rather wanting."

For some reason Joanna felt the stroke of a rod across her hand again.
The pain excited her.  She came forward a step or two.

"You do not give me time to explain myself, Margaret.  Before papa's
death Mr. Challoner's name was very freely associated with that of Mrs.
Spencer.  Both you and Marion Chase spoke of an engagement between them
as certain.  Others spoke of it also.  The probability of a marriage
was accepted.  I cannot forget this."

Margaret laughed.

"Really, it's too funny that you of all people should champion wretched
little Mrs. Spencer!  Why, Joanna, you invariably intimated she was
quite beneath your notice, and have lost no opportunity of snubbing
her.  I've had to be nice, more than once, simply because I felt so
awfully ashamed of your rudeness to her."

"I do not like her.  She is unladylike.  Still I think Mr. Challoner's
change of attitude requires explanation."

"Do you?" Margaret retorted.  "Here is the explanation then.  Simply
that Challoner is too kind-hearted to save himself at the expense of a
woman, even when she has treated him badly.  He told me all about her
months ago.  He felt I had better hear it from him, but he did his best
to excuse her.  He showed wonderfully nice feeling about it all.  I was
not prepared for his being so scrupulous, and it made me admire him.
For she is the sort of person who spends her time in extracting money
and presents from every man she can get hold of.  Challoner admits he
was taken in by her at first, and was foolishly weak with her.  She
pretended to be almost penniless, and worked upon his feelings so much
that he let her live in that house of his in Silver Chine Road, rent
free, for nearly two years.  And when her demands became too
extortionate, and she persecuted him so disgracefully that he was
compelled in self-defense to get rid of her, he found her another house
at Marychurch, and, I believe, pays half the rent of it for her still.
I know he gave her sister, Beattie Stacey--who is engaged to an officer
on one of the Cape liners--a beautifully fitted traveling-bag as a
wedding present.  Marion saw it only last week.--Those are the facts,
Joanna.  I hope now your conscience is easy."

She stood looking down, pressing back an upturned corner of the rug,
upon which Joanna had knelt earlier in the evening, with the pointed
toe of her beaded slipper.

"Of course I sha'n't receive her," she said.  "I told Challoner my
magnanimity wouldn't carry me as far as that after the abominable way
in which she's exploited him.  All the same, I'm rather grateful to the
wretched little woman.  But for her I mightn't have known how generous
Challoner could be.  I really believe the satisfaction of rescuing him
from her clutches is among my chief reasons for accepting him--that,
and then, of course, Cousin Adrian Savage."

With a sort of rush Joanna came close--the violence of some
half-starved creature in her pale eyes, her drawn face and her parted
lips.

"Adrian?" she cried.  "Adrian?  What possible connection can there be
between Cousin Adrian and your engagement to Mr. Challoner?"

For some seconds Margaret Smyrthwaite looked hard and thoughtfully at
her sister.  Then, holding the skirt of her dress aside, she pressed
the upturned corner of the rug into place again with the pointed toe of
her slipper.

"I shall be so thankful," she said, "when you give up wearing that
frightful old dressing-gown, Nannie.  Decidedly, it is not as clean as
it might be, and it looks so horridly stuffy.  I never have understood
your craze for hoarding--"

"But--but--Adrian?" Joanna insisted.

"Adrian?  Surely you must have seen, Nannie?  It's just one of those
things which aren't easy to put into words, but which I should have
thought even you must have grasped, though you are so different to most
people.  I sometimes have wondered lately, though, whether you really
are so different to other people, or whether you're only
extraordinarily secretive.--But, naturally having a young man like
Cousin Adrian staying so long in the house this winter, put ideas into
one's head and made one think a good deal about marriage, and so on.  I
took for granted papa had some notion of that kind when he appointed
Adrian his executor.  He had a great opinion of him, and would have
liked him as a son-in-law--or fancied he would.  Of course he wanted to
bring us together--that was the object of the appointment."

"You think so?" Joanna questioned.  Joy, anxious but great, arose in
her.

"I haven't a doubt about it.  All the same I couldn't, out of respect
for papa's wishes, make advances to a young man who showed quite
clearly he didn't care a row of pins about me."

"He was always kind and civil to you, Margaret," Joanna interrupted
restrainingly.  Jealousy folded its beating wings, betaking itself to
most unaccustomed repose.

"Civil and kind, I dare say.  But--well, of course there are signs one
can't mistake, unless one blinds oneself wilfully to their meaning."

She tossed her head, her eyes hard and bright.  Joanna's expression
meanwhile became increasingly ecstatic.

"Yes, there are signs one cannot mistake--signs which it would be weak
and faithless to mistake," she whispered.

"I don't deny I felt rather enraged," Margaret continued, too busy with
her own vexation to remark the other's singular aspect.  "I could have
been very much upset about it all if I had let myself go."

"I am sorry," Joanna murmured, touched by unexpected pity.  "Indeed,
Margaret, I am sorry."

"Oh, you weren't to blame in any way, Nannie.  And, you see, I didn't
let myself go.  I just turned my attention to Challoner.  There is
nothing ambiguous about his admiration.  And now"--she glanced
curiously at her sister--"now," she continued, "as things have turned
out, I'm most uncommonly glad I didn't allow myself to get into a state
of mind about Adrian."

"As things have turned out?--I understand.  I am pleased you do not
blame me, Margaret.  Yes, as things have turned out!" Joanna repeated
excitedly.

For here, as she saw it, was the hour of her triumph, of assured and
splendid victory.  The room seemed too small to hold her rapture.
Hardly aware of that which she did, she brushed past her sister--still
standing, fan in hand, beside the chair at the window--and went out on
to the balcony.

She required to be alone, so as to savor to the full the heady
sweetness of her own emotion.  She wanted to forget every one,
everything, save that only.  She wanted to abandon herself without
reserve to the thought of Adrian Savage; to gloat over every incident
of her intercourse with him, and project her imagination onward to the
closer, the continuous and exclusive intercourse of the future.  For
had not Margaret's confession--the more persuasive because reluctantly
made--amounted to an admission that Adrian's affection belonged to her,
and to her only?  Did it not supply reasonable confirmation of her
sorely tried faith in him, and ratify all her hopes by setting the seal
of witness upon the fact of his love for her?

Such was the meaning she read into the recent conversation, piecing
evidence together into a coherent whole.  Never before had she been
absolutely certain.  Now, as she told herself, she was certain--could
safely be so, in that Margaret had admitted the fact, if not in so many
words, yet implicitly.  Her father's wish and purpose had been that the
young man should marry one of his two daughters--Margaret had perceived
this.  And she, Joanna, was the one he had chosen, thereby justifying
all her past efforts and labors, and rehabilitating the poor, cynically
denuded family system into the bargain.  Was not the whole habit and
conduct of her life vindicated, inasmuch as it led to this superb
result?  The years had not been wasted, but were, on the contrary, the
patient seed-time of this welcome harvest.  She had been right from the
first, right in every particular, so that not upon her or her methods,
but upon those who differed from, undervalued, or slighted her rested
the onus of proof.  And here the intellectual and moral arrogance
latent in Joanna Smyrthwaite's nature upheaved itself mightily and
stood aggressively erect.  Overweening self-esteem, as on giant wings,
sustained her.  For to such disastrous inflations of pride are
introspective persons liable when they fail--as they do so frequently
fail--to discriminate between deeds and emotions, between the barren
power to feel and the fertile, the life-giving power to act!  Of all
traps set by Satan for the catching of souls, the trap of "feelings" is
perhaps the wiliest and the worst.  And into this trap poor Joanna
walked, head in air, careless of consequence.  She felt deified, lifted
above the crawling, common ways of common men, defiant of all
opposition, all criticism; since, being the chosen and desired of him
whom she so dotingly worshiped, she became an object worthy of worship
in and to herself.

And the night--playing into the devil's hands somewhat, as at times the
aspects of Nature will--in its windless silence and opaque, hot
darkness, appeared queerly reflective of and sympathetic to Joanna's
mood of portentous self-exaltation.  The planes rather than the forms
of all which composed the scene were perceptible.  Joanna's eyes
detected the slope of the veranda roof immediately beneath the balcony,
the flat outspread of the gardens and lawns, and the vertical palisade
of lofty trees encircling them; but no single object detached
itself--all were fused by and soaked in that thick broth of
thunder-smoke.  And this heated obscurity she welcomed, because it
ministered to the sense of solitude and of aloofness which she craved.
Nothing visible interfered to distract her attention from herself and
the thought of her high destiny.  Only once or twice the sky opened,
for the distant storm had moved westward, striking the black canopies
of the firs, their stems and many branches, into vivid and
instantaneous relief, while behind and above them, midway to the
zenith, lightning licked and flickered like some miracle of soundless,
sardonic laughter playing over the livid features of a corpse nine days
dead.

It was in the moment of one such disquieting celestial display that
Margaret Smyrthwaite, stifling an audible yawn, strolled on to the
balcony.  She had gathered up her magazines and papers again, and
tucked them under her arm.

"If you don't intend to come in and talk any more, Nannie," she said,
rather irritably, "I may as well go.  I'm getting frightfully sleepy,
and I've promised Challoner to motor him over to Weymouth to-morrow.
We make an early start.  Too, Marion's sure to be waiting to hear how
my talk with you has gone off, and I've a conscience about keeping her
up any longer.--Now, you do quite understand, don't you, that I am
going to marry Challoner, and that opposition is absolutely no good?
It would look ever so much better, and be so very much more comfortable
for every one concerned, if you could only make up your mind to be nice
about it.  You're always saying how you hate people talking over our
affairs.  Why give them occasion to talk then by being disagreeable and
contrary about a thing which is really no business of yours, and which
you are quite powerless to prevent?"

Contemptuously Joanna turned from contemplation of that strangely
flickering sky and contemplation of her own--subjective--glory.  She
resented the intrusion of Margaret, with her perfumes and fashion
papers, her complacent utilitarianism, her motor-car and underbred
lover; but resented it half-pityingly, as the weakness of an inferior
being behaving according to the manner of its kind.

"I may be powerless to prevent your marriage," she said, "still I most
deeply object to it.  I cannot do otherwise.  I consider it unsuitable
and most unfortunate.  I cannot disguise from myself that it will stand
between us in the future and render intercourse difficult.  There can
be little sympathy between two persons whose aims and interests are as
far apart as yours and mine must inevitably be.  I feel it my duty to
mention this to you, Margaret, although I know that I have ceased to
exercise any influence over you.  It is all very sad.  It is painful to
me that you should repudiate our parents' teaching, all the more
painful because I never understood as fully as I now do how noble that
teaching is, and how much it has done to form my character and tastes,
thus preparing me for the position and duties to which I am called."

She drew her breath sharply, raising her hands to her forehead, greatly
moved by the thought of that high calling.

"This for us is the parting of the ways, Margaret," she added, a
singular effect of dramatic tension in her manner, her pale ungracious
face and figure against the red-brick background of the house-front,
momentarily illuminated by a swift amazement of lightning rippling and
shuddering behind the fir-trees in the west.  "The parting of the
ways," she repeated.  "You go yours, I mine.  I deplore your choice.
Can I do otherwise, seeing how different my own prospects are?  But as,
after due consideration, you have made that choice, all further
argument must, I fear, be wasted upon you."

"Very well, then--there's an end of the matter."

As she spoke Margaret crossed the balcony, and, leaning upon the
balustrade, looked down into the gloom-shrouded garden.  The
candle-light streaming outward through the open window touched her
shapely back and shoulders, and her bright, curled and folded, auburn
hair.

"There's an end of it, then," she repeated coldly, rather bitterly.
"We agree to part.  You might easily have been kinder and nicer to me;
but I bear you no ill-will.  I suppose you can't help being
disagreeable.  Certainly it's nothing new.--Only, Nannie, though I
don't want to upset you or make a quarrel, there is something I should
like to be quite clear about, because, I own, I've been half afraid
lately that you were getting yourself into a silly state over Adrian
Savage."

She stood upright, looking full at Joanna.

"I know you've corresponded with him a good deal, so, of course, you
may know already.  Colonel Haig told me.  He met her in Paris, on his
way to Carlsbad, and was awfully smitten with her.  Has Cousin Adrian
ever spoken to you about Madame St. Leger?"

Silence followed.  A distinct menace was perceptible in Joanna's tone
when she at last answered.

"I have never attempted to force myself into Adrian's confidence.  To
do so would be the worst possible taste under existing circumstances.
I should never dream of asking him questions regarding his--his former
friends."

"Then you don't know about Madame St. Leger, Nannie?"

"I do not know, nor have I the least wish to hear anything respecting
any acquaintance of Adrian's, except what he himself may choose to tell
me."

Joanna spoke violently, her back against the wall, both in the literal
and figurative sense.

"That's all very proper, but I really think you ought to hear this.  In
the end it may save everybody a lot of misunderstanding and worry.  I'm
pretty sure Colonel Haig meant me to pass the information on to you.
That was why he told me."

Joanna stretched her arms out on either side, the palms of her hands
toward the wall.  As her fingers worked, opening and closing, her nails
gritted upon the rough surface of the brick.

"I do not wish to hear anything, Margaret, not anything," she repeated
vehemently.

"But evidently there's no secret about this whatever.  Every one, so
Haig says, knows the whole story in Paris.  The affair has been going
on for ever so long; only until Madame St. Leger's husband died, of
course, there couldn't be any question of marriage.  I don't mean to
imply the smallest harm.  Haig says there never has been the slightest
scandal.  But her husband was years and years her senior, and she is
very beautiful--Haig raves about her.  I have never heard him so
enthusiastic over any one.  And he was told Adrian has been in--"

"I refuse to hear anything more.  I will not, Margaret--no--no--I will
not.  This is a wicked fabrication.  I do not believe it.  It is not
true, I tell you--it is not true," Joanna panted, her finger-nails
tearing at the brickwork.

"But what possible object could Haig have in repeating the story if it
wasn't true?  I'm awfully sorry to put you in such a fuss, Nannie, but
Haig believes it implicitly himself.  There isn't the least doubt of
that.  And when one comes to think, it does explain Adrian's behavior
when he was with us.  One sees, of course, how improbable it is that a
young man like him should not have some attachment which--"

Joanna quitted the sheltering wall, and came toward the speaker,
holding up her hands--the finger-tips frayed and reddened--with a
threatening gesture.

"Go away, Margaret!" she cried passionately.  "Go away!  Leave me
alone--you had much better.  This story is false--it is false, I tell
you.  And I forbid you to repeat it.  I will not listen.  I will not
have it said.  Go--or I may do something dreadful to you.  Go--and
never speak to me again about this--never dare to do
so--never--never--do you hear?"

"Really, you ought to be ashamed of yourself, Nannie," the other
protested, half angry, half frightened.  "I'm positively astonished at
your making such an exhibition of yourself--"

But Joanna laid hold of her by the shoulders, and pushed her back
forcibly through the open window, into the center of the quiet, softly
lighted room.

"Take your candle and go," she said, and her face was terrible,
forbidding argument or rebuke.  "This is a wicked falsehood, concocted
by some jealous person who is trying to alienate Adrian's affection
from me.  Who that person is I do not know.  I had better not know.  It
is all very cruel, very dreadful; but I want no explanations, or
questions, or advice.  Above all I want no sympathy.  I only want to be
alone.--And I warn you, Margaret, if you ever betray what has happened
here to-night I will take my own life.  I shall be certain to find you
out sooner or later, and I will not survive betrayal, so my death will
lie at your door.  Remember that, if you are tempted to gossip about me
with Mr. Challoner or Marion Chase.--And now, pray, go away, and leave
me to myself.  That is all I ask of you.  Don't call Isherwood and send
her to me.  I want nothing--nobody.  If she came I should not let her
in.  Go away--here is your candle--go away and leave me alone!"

Joanna locked the door behind her sister, came back to the middle of
the room and stood there motionless, her arms stiffly extended.  She
had no words, no thoughts, but an ache through mind and body of blank
misery, at once incomprehensible and deadening from its very
completeness.  Presently she blew out the lights.  They irritated her
as showing her definite objects, her own reflection in the cheval glass
beside the dressing-table, her diary and silver writing-set upon the
slab of the open bureau, all the ornaments and fittings of her bedroom.
She called on the darkness to cover her, and to cover these things
also, blotting remembrance of them out.  She needed to make her
loneliness more lonely, her solitude more unmitigated and absolute.

An intolerable restlessness seized on her.  She began to range blindly,
aimlessly, to and fro.  More than once she knocked against some angle
or outstanding piece of furniture, bruising herself; but she was hardly
sensible of pain.  At last, treading upon the trailing fronts of her
pleated _négligé_, she stumbled, fell her length, face downward, and
lay exhausted for a time; then slowly dragging herself into a sitting
position, she remained there, massed together stupidly, upon the
floor--while, through the large, well-ordered, soberly luxurious house,
the clocks chimed the hours and half-hours, to be answered by the chime
of the stable clock out of doors.

As the night drew toward morning the lightning became faint and
infrequent behind the fir-trees in the west, for the drought still held
and the refreshment of rain would not be yet.  But in the gray of the
dawn a cool breathing of wind came up from the sea.  Then, for a minute
or so, the great woodland stirred, finding its lost voice; and the
tree-tops swayed, singing together to hail the sun-rising and the
coming day.

The cool draught of air sweeping in at the still open window aroused
Joanna somewhat from her stupor.  In the broadening light she looked
about her.  The room was in disorder--chairs pushed aside, a table
thrown down, well-bound books, fragments of a gold and glass bowl,
sprigs of lemon verbena and fading roses, the wallet in which she kept
Adrian Savage's letters lying open, alongside its contents, scattered
broadcast upon the ground.

Joanna stared at these treasured possessions apathetically.  She put up
her hands to push back her hair, which hung down in heavy strands over
her face and shoulders.  Her fingers felt sticky.  They pricked and
smarted.  She examined them.  The nails were nicked and jagged, in
places the tips were raw.

"I will wait until they have healed," she said half aloud in her thin,
toneless voice, "then I will write to Adrian and ask him if it is true.
But I must wait till they are healed, I think.  Now I had better sleep.
There is nothing else left for me to do."

She staggered to her feet, walked unsteadily across the intervening
space and threw herself, unkempt and half-dressed as she was, upon the
fine embroidered linen sheets and delicate lace coverlet of the
satinwood bed.



CHAPTER IV

"COME UNTO THESE YELLOW SANDS"

"A thousand times welcome, my dear Savage!" Anastasia Beauchamp cried,
taking Adrian's hand in both hers and looking up at him affectionately
from beneath a broad-brimmed brown hat crowned by a positive vineyard
of purple and white glass grapes and autumn foliage, the whole
inwrapped cloudily in a streaming blue gauze veil.  "You have played
the good Samaritan quite long enough in my opinion, and it's high time
you bestowed some attention upon the rest of us, though we are neither
insane nor conspicuously immoral.  And here we all are, that's to say,
all of us who matter, in this really quite tidy, comfortable hotel,
plus the amiable family Bernard, my devoted, despised little Byewater
and his compatriot Lenty B. Stacpole--note the inevitable transatlantic
initial, I beseech you!  Clever, excellent fellows both of them, though
a trifle slight temperamentally.  And here, to complete our circle, you
arrive as the God in the Car."

Anastasia's smile bore effective testimony to her appreciation of
Adrian's handsome looks and gallant bearing.

"Yes, very much the God in the Car, my dear boy," she repeated.  "You
are the picture of health.  Playing the good Samaritan, it must be
conceded, hasn't damaged you.--And I honestly believe, though I won't
swear to it for fear of committing an indiscretion, that every one,
every one, mind you--save possibly our excellent Americans, to whom
your near neighborhood may reveal their own temperamental
deficiencies--will be as genuinely happy to see you as I am myself."

"Kindest and most sympathetic of friends," Adrian returned, touched
both by her words and warmth of manner, "how inexpressibly good you are
to me!"

"I only pay an old debt.  Your mother was good to me once--well--"  She
caught at an end of her streaming veil and brought it to anchor under
her chin.  "Well--when I stood in need of a wise and sweet counselor
very badly.  And I never forget.  Gratitude can be--mind, I don't say
it always is, but it can be--a very delightful sentiment to
entertain.--But now you are expiring for a detailed account of a
certain dear lady.  At this moment she is down on the beach with the
rest of our company.  They will be back shortly for tea.  So come here
with me on to the piazza, while we wait for them, and I'll give you all
the news I can."

Adrian, the brave song of the engines still in his ears, his eyes still
dazzled by the seventy-mile rush along the white roads of the rich and
pleasant Norman country, followed Miss Beauchamp and her somewhat
Bacchanalian headgear from the large, light-colored hotel saloon into
the arcade, found her a comfortable seat, and stationed himself beside
her.

From thence he commanded a comprehensive view of the opposite side of
the shallow valley, dotted with modest green-shuttered villas and
rustic chalets set in ledges of roughly terraced garden.  Of the rutted
road, bordered by elms and sycamores, leading down from the fertile
uplands through the straggling gray village of Ste. Marie to the shore.
Of the high chalk cliffs forming the headland, which closed the view
westward, and the quarter-mile-wide sweep of grass running up the back
of it, stunted, bronzed oak and thorn thickets filling in the rounded
hollows.  Of the curving beach, its rows of gaily painted wooden
bathing-cabins, and chairs arranged in friendly groups along the
fore-shore occupied by women in airy summer costumes,--their docile
men-kind, assisted in some cases by white-capped nurses, dealing
meanwhile with a slightly turbulent infant population upon the near
shingle and the dark mussel and seaweed covered reef of rocks just
below.

Upon that same friendly grouping of chairs Adrian's glance directed
itself eagerly, seeking a feminine presence acutely interesting to him,
but without result.  Open parasols and hats of brobdingnagian
proportions rendered their charming owners practically invisible.
Wistfully he relinquished the search.  Then, looking at the scene as a
whole, his poetic sense was fired by the spaciousness and freedom of
the expanse of gleaming sands for which Ste. Marie is celebrated.
Furrowed in places and edged by rare traceries of blue shadow,
traversed by sparkling blue-green waterways, interspersed with broad,
smooth lagoons--where the rather overdefined forms of pink-armed,
pink-legged bathers, clad in abbreviated garments, swam, splashed, and
floated--the sands ranged out under a translucent clearness of early
afternoon sunshine to the first glinting ripples of the gently
inflowing tide.  Farther still, along the horizon, the solid blue of
the intervening belt of deep sea melted, by imperceptible gradations,
into low-lying tracts of furrowed, semi-transparent opaline cloud.

Those gold and silver shimmering levels, washed by and rimmed with
heavenly blue, commanded Adrian's imagination.  He found the strong air
sweet to breathe, the keen scent of the brine pleasant to his nostrils.
Disease, age, death, and kindred ugly concomitants of human experience
lost their vraisemblance and meaning.  Only glad and gracious things
were credible.  These in multitude innumerable; and along with them,
making audible the note of pathos without which even perfect beauty
still lacks perfection, the haunting solicitation of the Beyond and of
the Unattained, forever beckoning the feet of man onward with the
promise of stranger and more noble joys hidden from him as yet within
the womb of the coming years.

Whereupon Anastasia Beauchamp, divining in some sort the trend of her
companion's meditations, proceeded to pat him genially upon the arm.

"My dear young god, 'come down off that roof right away,' as little
Byewater would put it, and listen to my recital of sordid domestic woes
recently suffered by our _belle Gabrielle_."

Adrian became practical, his nose at once pugnacious and furiously
busy, on the instant.

"Great heavens!" he exclaimed, "who has dared to offer her annoyance?"

"Mice, my dear Savage, beetles, and, to be quite plain with you,
drains.  Yes, you may well make a grimace.  That mild-looking little
chalet yonder across the valley--the one with the parterre of
marigolds--which she had rented without preliminary inspection, proved
a veritable pest-house.  When I arrived in July--mainly with a view to
safeguarding your interests, since frankly I hold most seaside places
in abhorrence--"

"How can I ever be sufficiently grateful to you!" the young man
murmured fervently.

"I have no child--and--perhaps, at my age, even the ghost, even the
fiction, of motherhood is better than nothing.--But this is a
digression--sentimental or scientific, which?  To return.  I found
Madame Vernois nervous and debilitated, little Bette with a temperature
and sore throat, the indispensable maid Henriette drowned in tears and
sulks, and our poor, beautiful Gabrielle in a most admired distraction."

Harrowed by which description, her hearer gave way to smothered
imprecations.

"Exactly.  At the time I too made little remarks.  Then I sniffed
once--twice.  Twice was quite sufficient.  Better sacrifice a month's
rent than be poisoned.  Without ceremony I bundled them over here, bag
and baggage, since when, dear creatures, they flourish.  The Bernards,
who had taken the villa next door to the pest-house, also had cause for
dissatisfaction.  They joined us.  This addition to our party I could
have dispensed with.  I entertain the highest respect for M. Bernard's
acquirements, only I could wish he had learned early in life that
imparting information and making conversation are by no means
synonymous.  Never am I alone with him for over five minutes but he
positively lapidates me with the remains of the architectural past.
Conversation should be interchange of opinions, ideas, experiences, not
a bombardment with facts which one is perfectly competent to read up
for oneself if one's a mind to.  Should you ever be tempted to start a
hobby--we none of us know what we may come to!--avoid archæology, my
dear Savage, I implore you, out of retrospective tenderness for my
sufferings during the last few weeks!  Yes--and then I must record one
truly alarming episode.  The great Zélie and a horde of her nauseating
adherents threatened a descent upon Madame St. Leger.  Promptly I
engaged all the vacant rooms in the hotel--fortunately they weren't
very numerous--until the peril was over-past."

"You are not only the kindest and the most superb of friends, but you
are a great general.  You should command armies," Adrian declared.
"Forever shall archæology be anathema to me!"

"Saving the proposed raid of the objectionable Zélie, our history has
been of the simplest," Anastasia continued.  "People, pleasant and
unpleasant, have come and gone; we remain--and there's the sum total of
it.  Now tell me about yourself.  How long do we keep you?"

"Alas, only until this evening.  I must go back to Rouen, where my
letters await me.  We have been moving daily from place to place, as
inclination suggested.  To-morrow I must rejoin René Dax--for a few
days, a week probably, to observe how the new treatment prospers.  It
is decided that he shall remain in the country-house, near Caen, of an
intelligent young doctor who has been in attendance upon him during our
touring.  His man-servant, of course, is with him.  And there he can
also have his pet animals."

"Will he recover?"

Adrian raised his shoulders and spread out his hands.

"God knows!" he answered.  "He is quite gentle, quite tractable.  At
moments he is irresistibly entertaining.  On his good days he composes
little poems of an exquisite fancifulness and fragility--iridescent
flowers as of spun glass.  But whether he will ever draw or paint again
is an open question."

"It is pathetic," Miss Beauchamp put in musingly.  "What a sequel to
his extravagant popularity!"

And both lapsed into silence, looking out across the immense expanse of
gleaming sands.  Adrian was the first to speak.  He did so with
uncertain hesitation.

"You said it was high time I came, _tres chère Mademoiselle_.  Does
that imply that I have stayed away too long?  I feared to be
precipitate, lest I might appear to take unfair advantage of the--"

"The studio escapade--precisely."

"And employ it to further my own interests.  On that account I have
resolutely effaced myself.  To do so has constituted a severe penance;
but to do otherwise would, in my opinion, have shown an odious lack of
imagination and of delicacy."

"I venture to doubt whether in affairs of the heart delicacy has not
more miscarriages of happiness to answer for than precipitancy!  The
word too much, as between man and woman, is more easily forgiven than
the word too little."

"It is inconceivable," Adrian broke out hotly, all of a fume and a
fluster, "that Madame St. Leger should mistake my motives."

"Take it from me, my dear Savage," Anastasia replied, with a finely
humorous smile, "that exactly in proportion as a woman is indifferent
is she just and clear-sighted.  Let her care for one of you tiresome
male creatures ever, yes, ever so little, and those praiseworthy
qualities suffer instant suspension.  Reason and probability pick up
their petticoats and scuttle.  She develops a positively inordinate
ingenuity in misconstruction and mistake."

Adrian turned an eagerly inquiring countenance upon the speaker, his
whole soul in his eyes.

"But, dearest, most deeply valued friend, tell me, tell me, may I
believe that she does then care?"

And asking it he bared his head, instinctively doing homage to that
most lovely idea.  Miss Beauchamp's smile changed in character,
softening to a sweetness which held something of relinquishment and
farewell.

"Ah! the good years, the good years," she said, "when love and all the
world is young!--May you believe that she cares, my dear boy?  Well,
without its being the least unnatural, she very well might care, I
fancy.  But you really must find that out for yourself.  Listen--the
chirruping of the children.  Here they all come."

She rose and went forward; and Adrian, an odd tingling sensation in his
blood, went forward too and stood beside her under the central arch of
the arcade watching the little procession winding its way by the rough
path up the broken grass slope from the beach.

First, slender-legged, short-kilted, fresh as flowers, frisking
lambkin-like and chattering in high-pitched, clear little voices, came
Bette and her two little friends.  Next M. Bernard, dignified, serious,
robust, wearing light-brown tweeds, Panama in hand, decidedly warm,
expounding, recounting, archæologically dilating to Madame
Vernois--refined, fragile, dressed in black--who leaned upon his arm.
At a little distance Madame Bernard, small, fair-haired, neat-featured,
pretty, inclining to stoutness, her person rigorously controlled by the
last word in corsets and clothed in the last word of mauve linen
costumes and mauve and white hats.  She was not an ardent pedestrian,
and mounted laboriously with the help of a long-handled parasol,
uttering reproachful little ejaculations and complaints the while for
the benefit of the two young Americans, who, good-naturedly loaded up
with the ladies' folding chairs, rugs and cushions, followed close
behind.

And there, apparently, was an end of the procession.  Whereupon Adrian
turned to Anastasia with a deeply injured countenance and a quite
lamentably orphaned look in his handsome eyes.

"Madame St. Leger is not with them?  What can have occurred?  Where
then can she be?" he demanded, in tones of child-like disappointment
and distress.

"There--there!" Anastasia returned, merrily.  "See, no ill-chance has
befallen your goddess, my dear distracted young god.  Look--look--near
the cliff edge, to the right."

Then noting the change which came over Adrian's expression and bearing
as his eyes followed her pointing hand, Miss Beauchamp's broadly amused
smile faded.  She shook her head, sighed, turned away, while the witty,
large-featured face grew gray, aged, sibylline beneath the shadow of
her broad-brimmed, vine-crowned, slightly rampageous hat.

"Like to like," she murmured.  "However, others before now have gone
through that enchanted and perilous gate!  Only may the Almighty permit
these two not to cram their romance into one flimsy, purple-patched,
paper-bound yellow-back, but print it openly and honestly in three
good, stout volumes, of which all save the first twenty or thirty pages
deal with the married state."



CHAPTER V

  IN WHICH ADRIAN MAKES DISQUIETING ACQUAINTANCE
  WITH THE LONG ARM OF COINCIDENCE

Adrian sat well back in the car.  The tires ate up the long
perspectives of white road, while the brave music of the engines made
accompaniment to the lyrics of his thought.  On either side the lines
of poplars galloped, and behind them the great gold, green and
rusty-red squares of the crops, marked only by the nature of their
respective growths, innocent of dividing fence or hedge-row, swished
back, half the circle, as on a turn-table.  In the valleys herds of
oxen and stout-built, white-bellied, tortoise-shell cows moved
leisurely through the rich meadow-grass.  Prosperous gray homesteads,
flanked by mellow wide-ranging barns and sheds, orchards of reddening
apples, and yards containing a cheerfully garrulous population of
poultry, calves, and pigs, came into view only to vanish backward along
with the rest.  In places, tracts of forest, the trees crowded and for
the most part very tall and slight, as is the habit of northern French
woodlands, made a dark stain amid the gilded brightness, casting long
shadows across the downward-sloping pastures at their foot.  A note of
pastel blue in farmers' and peasants' clothing, now and again of
lustrous dappled gray in the barrel or buttocks of some well-shaped
draught-horse, of orange or rose in a child's frock or walled garden
close, of white in airing linen, struck momentarily into observation.
But dominant was the gilt of the level sunlight, the gold of the
harvest, and the silver powdering dust of the highway.  All these found
sublimated repetition in the iridescence of a sunset modulated to rare
half-tones by the near neighborhood of the sea.  And Adrian sat well
back in the car, restful yet keen, affected sensuously and passively
rather than consciously and actively by the fair, fruitful landscape
fleeting to right and left of him, revising his impressions of the past
day.

Those impressions were, as he told himself, in a high degree both
stimulating and poetic.  He had been happy, very happy; but his
happiness was of the traveling rather than the stationary order.  No
touch of satiety showed in it; rather much haunting solicitation of the
Unattained and the Beyond.  From Pisgah height he had beheld the Land
of Promise, for the first time reasonably secure of entrance into that
ardently coveted and most delectable country.  But the waters of Jordan
still rolled between; and whether these would pile themselves politely
apart, bidding him cross dry-shod, or whether a pretty smart bit of
swimming would be required before he touched the opposite bank, he was
as yet by no means sure.  _Enfin_--he could swim for it, if all came to
all, and would swim for it gaily and strongly enough!

As that afternoon he first caught sight of Gabrielle St. Leger
standing, tall and svelte in her light summer dress, upon a grass-grown
mound on the turn of the slope, her strong yet pliant figure detaching
itself in high relief against the immense expanse of Ste. Marie's blue
lagoons and gleaming sands, Adrian apprehended that she too suffered
those solicitations of the Unattained and the Beyond.  Her attitude,
indeed, was eloquent of questioning expectation.  It recalled to him
the superb and ill-fated drawing of her, uplifted amid the cruel and
witty obscenities of poor René Dax's studio--the exalted Madonna of the
Future, her child upon her arm, going forth from things habitual and
familiar in obedience to the call of Modernity, of the new and
tremendous age.  Resemblance was there; yet as he looked a difference
in her to-day's attitude soon disclosed itself to this analytic though
ardent lover.  For, assuredly, the sentiment of this second and living
picture of her was less abstract, more warm and directly human?  Not
devotion to a Cause, to an impersonal ideal or idea, inspired that
outlooking of questioning expectation across the shimmering levels to
the freedom of the open sea, but some stirring of the heart, some
demand of her sweet flesh for those natural joys which were its
rightful portion.  This difference--and then another, which, even here
by himself in the rapidly running car, Adrian approached sensitively
and with inward deprecation.  In to-day's picture she had been alone.
She had not carried her child on her arm; so that only the woman,
beautiful and youthful, not the already made mother, was present.

And the above fact, it must be owned, contributed in no small degree to
the young man's content.  A thousand times, notwithstanding his love of
analysis, he had refused and shied away from analysis of precisely
this--namely, the feeling he entertained toward little Bette.  She was
a delicious being, granted; but she was also poor Horace St. Leger's
child, and from much which this implied Adrian did quite incontestably
shrink.  _La belle Gabrielle_ might still be, as he sincerely believed
still was, essentially _la Belle au Bois Dormant_, just as he himself
was the princely adventurer selected by Providence for the very
agreeable task of waking her up.  Yet, during that protracted sleep of
hers, things had happened, primitive and practical things, to the
actuality of which delicious Mademoiselle Bette's existence bore
indubitable witness.  Hence to carry away with him that other picture
of Gabrielle as seen to-day, interrogating the fair sunlit spaces
unaccompanied, gave him quite peculiar satisfaction.  In the glow of
which his thoughts now turned affectionately to the memory of poor
Horace St. Leger.  For wasn't _la belle Gabrielle_, after all, his, and
not Adrian's, discovery?  And wasn't he, Adrian, consequently under a
gigantic debt of gratitude to Horace for so speedily taking his
departure and leaving the coast clear?  He might have lived
on--agonizing reflection!--ten, twenty, even--since centenarians are at
present so conspicuously the fashion--a good thirty years longer; lived
on, indeed, until it ceased to matter much whether he took his
departure or not.  Thinking over all which, Adrian forgave the poor man
his abbreviated enjoyment of paternity, and in so doing made his final
peace with the existence of little Bette.

Not to have done so would, in his opinion, have betrayed a culpably
ungenerous and churlish spirit.  The more as when--her attention
attracted by the pretty outcry of little Bette herself and of Madame
Vernois--Gabrielle turning her gaze landward became aware of his
presence, the light in her face and quick welcoming gesture of her hand
showed his advent as far from displeasing to her.  Both expression and
action struck him so spontaneous and unstudied that, without undue
vanity, he might well believe himself to count for something in those
allurements of the Beyond and the Unattained.  Delightfully certain it
was, in any case, that she descended with haste from her grassy
monticule, and--he could most joyfully have sworn--put some restraint
upon herself so as to advance and offer her greetings with due
soberness and dignity.

All through his visit her manner had remained gentle, serious, touched
even with a hint of embarrassment.  From these signs he drew most
hopeful auguries.  After tea, under the quite perceptibly out-of-joint
noses of the two excellent young Americans, she had drawn him aside and
plied him with questions respecting his nursing of René Dax.  In
response he gave her a detailed account of the last two months.  With
the artist's happy faculty for playing two mutually destructive parts
at one and the same time in all sincerity, he mourned René's mental
affliction and felt the pity of it while looking into Gabrielle's eyes,
watching her every change of expression and reveling in the emotion his
eloquent recital evoked.  Her quickness of sympathy and comprehension
were enchanting.  Never had he found her so responsive.  Never had he
felt so closely united to her in sentiment.--And that the egregious
Tadpole, of all living creatures, should prove so excellent a
stalking-horse!

Putting aside the high delight of having Madame St. Leger as a
listener, he found sensible relief in speaking freely of the subject.
For the responsibility of his position had been severe and wearing.
Especially had it been so during those, at first, frequently recurrent
periods of acute mania, when his affection and philosophy alike were
strained to breaking-point, making him doubt whether the protracted
struggle to keep wayward soul and distempered body together was either
merciful or obligatory.  If this unhappy lunatic of genius was so
passionately desirous of letting loose that same wayward soul of his
through a gaping wound in his throat, why the deuce should he, Adrian,
in company with three or four other strong and healthy men, be at such
tremendous pains to prevent it?  Mightn't the poor Tadpole know very
much best what was best for him?  And wouldn't it, therefore, be more
humane and intelligent to leave nicely sharpened razors within easy
reach, ignoring the probable consequences of such intentional
negligence?  Are there not circumstances which render connivance at
suicide more than permissible?  Time and again he had argued the vexed
question with himself as to the binding necessity, even the practical
morality, of preserving human life when, through disease, life has so
cruelly lost its distinctively human characteristics and values.

"And," Gabrielle St. Leger remarked, with a smile edged by engagingly
gentle mockery, "then invariably ended, against your better judgment,
by still carefully removing the razors!"

That same smile dwelt in the young man's memory as singularly rich with
promise, justifying the belief that a lifetime spent in _la belle
Gabrielle's_ society would fail to exhaust her power of--to put it
vulgarly--jumping the unexpected upon you, and bracing your interest by
the firing off of all manner of fine little surprises.  Monotony, he
thanked Heaven, would very certainly not be among the dangers to be
feared in marriage with Madame St. Leger!

But while his imagination played about these agreeable matters the
music of the engines changed its tune, the brakes gripped under Martin
the chauffeur's boot-sole, and the car slowed down to a crawl in
passing a flock of sheep.  Two large dogs, bobtailed and shaggy, their
red mouths widely open as they raced barking to and fro, rounded up the
scared and scattering flock into a compact, bleating, palpitating mass
of bister color picked out with rusty black upon the dust-whitened
strip of turf by the roadside.  The shepherd, tall and lean, a long
staff in his hand, his felt hat, hawk-nosed face, unkempt beard, ragged
cloak and string-girt leggings, presenting a study in rich browns and
umbers under the last glinting gold of the sunset, gesticulated and
shouted, directing the evolutions of the racing dogs in a harsh and
guttural patois.  The scene, a somewhat violent pastoral, stamped
itself as a picturesque inset upon the wide-margined page of Adrian's
reflections.

The sheep once safely cleared and the pace again quickening, his
thought centered complacently upon the moment of his farewells.  For
surely these showed handsomely on the credit side of his day's pleasure?

The friendly little company--not exclusive of the forgiving though
cheapened Americans--had gathered at the hotel entrance to witness his
start.  Anastasia's voice and manner were rich with meaning and
affectionate admonition as she invited him speedily to return.  In the
expression of Madame Vernois's refined face he seemed to read something
approaching appeal as she gracefully seconded that invitation.  While
Gabrielle herself--she standing a little apart from the rest, nearer to
the waiting automobile--answered, not lightly, but with a sweet and
grave dignity, on his asking her:

"And you, _chère Madame et amie_, have I your invitation also?  May I
soon come back?  Without your sanction it would, perhaps, be
preferable, be wiser, more desirable for me to stay away."

"I, too, hope you may find it possible soon to return here.  If your
doing so depends in any degree upon my sanction I give that sanction
readily."

And thus speaking she had looked him full in the eyes.  Whereupon,
though furiously unwilling to quit the dear sight and sound of her,
this very modern young god mounted up into his very modern car in quite
celestial serenity of spirit.

But as the dusk deepened and the lights of Rouen multiplied in the
distance, happy retrospect gave place to happy on-looking, since, at
nine and twenty, no sound and wholesome man seriously questions the
existence of earthly bliss.

Yes, a week, possibly even a few days, would suffice to assure him all
went well with René in his new quarters.  Then he might reckon himself
at liberty to return to Ste. Marie and the dear people there.  And,
once there, no overstrained delicacy should withhold him from putting
it to the touch with Gabrielle St. Leger.  Bowing to Anastasia's
advice, he would risk saying the word too much, so as to avoid the
greater danger of saying the word too little;--risk it the more gladly
because he gratefully believed it mightn't prove the word too much, but
the word acceptable, even the word actually, though silently and
proudly, waited for.  The immediate consequence of which belief was
that, the car striking into the town through the _Faubourg Beauvosine_
and traveling the Boulevard and the _rue St. Hilaire_ successively, it
appeared to Adrian in act of traversing an altogether heavenly city,
whose now poetic ancient buildings, now stately new ones, were alike
built of silver, and whose deep-resounding streets, in the growing
brilliance of the lamp-light, were paved with gold.  Such extravagant
tricks, even in this machine-made, mammon-worshiping twentieth century,
can love still contrive to play upon the happy lover!

On the way to the hotel, where he had left his light traveling baggage
when passing through from Caen in the morning, Adrian alighted at the
central post-office, in the _rue Jeanne d'Arc_, to claim his two-days'
mail forwarded from Paris.

Coming out, he stood awhile at the edge of the pavement verifying the
several items.  Two consignments of proofs--this pleased him.  A slim
one from the office, containing, as he knew, his fortnightly
_chronique_ of current home and foreign politics for the forthcoming
number of the Review.  The other--and his glance settled upon it
affectionately--was stouter, holding the slips of a story of some forty
pages.  Into that story he had put all the imaginative and verbal skill
of which he, as yet, felt himself capable.  It was a drama, at once
pathetic and brutal, of the Paris underworld which he had this year so
intimately investigated during his unsuccessful search for Bibby
Smyrthwaite.  He felt keen to know how it looked and read in print; for
in the back of his mind lurked a hope that just conceivably it might
prove a little masterpiece and assure his place among those writers of
contemporary fiction whose literary output really counts.

And here for the moment it must be owned the lover was called upon to
make room for the artist, while Adrian promised himself the best of
good hours, after dinner to-night, in revising punctuation, correcting
misprints, and leisurely making those carefully considered alterations
in wording so absorbing to one emulous of combining grace and high
finish with pungency and vivacity of style.  Tenderly he laid the
packet down on the seat of the waiting car, and raised his eyes as in
invocation to the star-pierced blue of the summer sky roofing the
perspective of silver-gray houses and silver-gilt street.  For mightn't
he take it as a fortunate omen that the proofs should come to hand on
this so fortunate day?  Omen that the story would strike home and its
readers acclaim him as a doer of notable and living work?

He glanced rapidly at the envelopes of his private letters; and, while
thus occupied, became aware that Martin, the chauffeur, was engaged--as
not infrequently--in an altercation.  The man was a clever driver, and
to him, Adrian, a willing and trustworthy servant.  But his temper was
inconveniently inflammable, and he inclined to pick quarrels with half
the men and make amorous overtures to more than half the women he met,
thus involving both himself and his master in superfluously dramatic
incidents.  Under provocation his language became variegated and
astonishingly ripe.  Epithets of the latter description he was now in
process of discharging upon some individual who had knocked up against
him, in passing, as he stood at the edge of the pavement bending down
to examine the tire of the near front wheel of the car.

"Martin, stop that, if you please," Adrian said, warningly, over his
shoulder, and returned to the survey of his letters.

There was one from Anastasia Beauchamp.  Bless the dear woman, wasn't
she indeed a jewel of a friend!  And there was one, black-bordered, and
addressed, though less neatly than usual, in Joanna Smyrthwaite's
small, scholarly handwriting.  Adrian was conscious of impatience, of
an unreasoning sense of injury.  For why, of all days in the year,
should he hear from Joanna to-day?  He had thought of her seldom
lately, owing to preoccupation with and anxiety regarding René Dax; and
it struck him as a rather wanton smirching of his delightful day's
record and subtle menace to the success of his precious little story
that the rather unpleasant matter of poor Joanna should thus obtrude
itself.  Undefinable apprehension of coming trouble flashed through his
mind.

All this was a matter of seconds; but during those seconds, the voice
of the choleric chauffeur had risen from a gusty snarl into the screech
of a blazing sky-rocket, bursting finally into a star-shower of
unrecordable invective.

Adrian, imposingly tall in his long dust-colored frieze motor-coat,
wheeled round upon the man angrily.

"Ah, _par exemple!_ but this is intolerable!" he exclaimed.  "Have I
not already commanded you to be silent?  Do you propose to disgrace me,
as well as yourself, by fighting in the open street?  Behave
respectably, not like an idiot.  Do you hear--get in behind your
steering-wheel and keep quiet until I am ready to start."

"But, Monsieur, the fellow has grossly insulted me.  He cannoned into
me by design, the thrice filthy animal, the sodden ass, and would have
rolled me in the gutter had I not skilfully braced myself.  Clearly his
intention was robbery.  He is a danger to society, a thief, a
pickpocket.  Only let Monsieur look for himself, and declare whether a
more verminous gaol-bird has ever been presented for his inspection?"

And looking, Adrian beheld the chauffeur, fiery-eyed, with bristling
black mustache, and, struggling in his vicious grip, Joanna Smyrthwaite
herself--Joanna dissipated, degraded, with prominent, blear blue eyes
and weak hanging underlip, masquerading in man's attire, as in those
infamous, now obliterated drawings upon René Dax's studio wall.

Disgust, and a vague apprehension of something unnatural and outside
reason, seized on Adrian Savage.  The sight was loathsome, to a degree,
both in suggestion and in fact.  Then he understood; and,
understanding, suffered a moment of acute indecision.  But a crowd was
collecting.  The police might arrive upon the scene.  Making a strong
effort to surmount his disgust, he said:

"Let him go, Martin.  I know him.  I will explain to you presently.
Now I require your help."

Then he added rapidly, in English:

"Pardon my servant's rudeness.  In the end you shall not have cause to
regret it.  You are William Smyrthwaite--Bibby--are you not?"

Martin relinquished his hold sulkily.  His victim, dazed and
breathless, stood at bay; a ring of curious, contemptuous faces behind
him, and Adrian, stern, yet excited, and with difficulty repressing
evidences of his repugnance, in front.

"And, if I am Bibby Smyrthwaite, what the devil is that to you?" he
answered petulantly in English.  "I never set eyes on you before.  Why
should you interfere with me?  Haven't I as much right to the pavement
as that liveried brute of yours?  I've got a job as cab-washer.  If I'm
late at the yard I shall forfeit my pay.  And I want my pay."

His loose-lipped mouth twisted miserably and tears began to dribble
down his sunken cheeks.

"Let me go," he blubbered.  "I haven't done you any harm, and I want my
pay."

Then Adrian, moved by compassion, came close to him and spoke kindly.

"See here, my poor boy," he said.  "I am commissioned by persons who
have a regard for you to provide for you.  You need not worry about
your pay.  I will take care of all that.  For months I have tried to
find you to tell you this.  I am Adrian Savage, a cousin of your late
father, and his executor."

The tears ceased, and the young man's face was overspread by an
expression of almost imbecile rapture.  Adrian turned sick.  Exactly
thus had Joanna looked, more than once.

"Is my father dead, then?" Bibby asked.

"Yes, he is dead," Adrian replied, in bewilderment.

Bibby reeled forward and squatted on the broad footboard of the car,
his head thrown back, holding his sides, his thin, loose-jointed limbs
and body writhing with and shaken by hysterical laughter.

"Dead!" he quavered out--"dead!  By God! they've got him at last,
then--got him, the stinking, slave-driving old hypocrite!  And, please
God, they're cooking him now--now--at this very identical
minute--cooking him to a turn, down in hell."



CHAPTER VI

  CONCERNING A CURSE, AND THE MANNER OF ITS GOING
  HOME TO ROOST

The room, furnished in dark walnut, was upholstered in red Utrecht
velvet, the walls hung with a striped fawn-and-red paper.  A mirror, in
a florid gilt frame, was fixed above the low mantel-shelf.  The
atmosphere held odors reminiscent of cigarettes, patchouli, and food in
process of cooking.  The dinner-table had, by Adrian's orders, been
placed near the central window, the two casements of which stood open
to the ground.  After so many hours spent in the open air, dining in
present company he felt the necessity of such freshness as he could by
any means get.  In the center of the long flagged courtyard the big
palmate leaves of a row of pollarded chestnuts caught the light coming
from the offices on the left.  White-coated, white-capped _chefs_ and
scullions passed to and fro.  An old liver-colored bitch, basset as to
her legs and pointer as to her body, waddled after them, her nose in
the air, sniffing, permanently hopeful of scraps.  On the flags, just
outside the salon window, three tabby kittens played--stalking one
another round pots of fuchsia and musk, bouncing out, leaping in the
air, spitting, galloping sideways, highly diabolic with teapot-handle
tails.  Farther along the courtyard, hidden by the lower branches of
the intervening trees, a stable-helper sang and whistled as he washed
down the hotel omnibus.  The servants talked, laughed, scolded over
their work.  Almost incessantly from the _rue Jeanne d'Arc_ came the
long-drawn rattle and swish of the electric trams.  And opposite to
Adrian at table, clad in a complete outfit of his, Adrian's clothes--a
white flannel suit with a faint four-thread black stripe on it, a soft,
pale blue shirt, an immaculate collar and narrow black tie--sat William
Smyrthwaite, outwardly, at all events, surprisingly transformed.

Adrian had hesitated to propose him as an inmate; but an up-to-date
motor-car, a ruffling chauffeur, a well-built suit-case and kit-bag
bearing an English name, a very good Paris address, are calculated to
promote not only faith, but charity.  The hotel proprietor, a short,
fat, bland little man with a dancing step and a shrewd, rapacious
Norman eye, was sympathy itself.

"That Monsieur should remove his effects and seek another, an inferior,
hotel would desolate him, was not to be thought of!  He would arrange
the affair on the instant.  Such lamentable lapses will occur at
times--are there not, alas, members of the most respectable, the most
distinguished, families who turn badly?  Let Monsieur, then, rest
assured he was infinitely touched by the confidence Monsieur reposed in
him.  And, see"--tapping his forehead with a fat forefinger--"the
little suite at the back on the ground floor, giving upon the
courtyard, became precisely this morning vacant.  True, these were not
the rooms he should have selected for Monsieur's occupation; but, under
the circumstances, it was conceivable they would serve.  They were
comfortable though modest.  They were retired--two bed-chambers
connected by a salon.  There Monsieur and his guest could dine in
private, secure from the intrusive observation of strangers.  But,
indeed, no--Monsieur was too amiable!  He himself was undeserving of
thanks, since did it not become evident that Monsieur was engaged in a
work of the highest benevolence--the attempted reclamation of an
unhappy fellow-creature?--With which work to be associated, even in the
humblest capacity, could not but be esteemed by any person of feeling
as a privilege."

Then with a rapid change of manner, becoming autocratic, Napoleonic:

"Gustave," he cried, over his shoulder, "_portez les bagages de ces
messieurs aux numeros sept et huit._"--And waving Adrian to follow, he
bounced lightly away down the corridor; his eyebrows drawn together as
he inwardly debated how many francs extra he dared charge for the
Utrecht-velvet upholstered suite without seeming too flagrantly
extortionate.

After that first outbreak of unseemly rejoicing at the announcement of
his father's death, young Smyrthwaite subsided into a state of
acquiescent apathy.  He did as he was bid, but with what mental
reservations, what underlying thoughts or emotions, Adrian failed to
discover.  Somewhere, in this weak, slipshod creature, he suspected a
bed-rock of obstinacy.  He also suspected predatory instincts.  Or, was
it only that the instinct of self-preservation had taken--as under the
stress of poverty it almost must take--a predatory form?

At the beginning of dinner Smyrthwaite spoke little, but sat, his
elbows upon the table, his head bent low over his plate, putting away
food with the sullen haste of an animal suspicious of its
fellow-animal's intentions and appetite.  And when Adrian, to whom this
exhibition of gluttony proved anything but agreeable, hinted civilly
there was no cause for hurry, he looked across the nicely ordered table
with a half-sneering yet oddly boyish smile.

"Oh! it's all very well for you," he said.  "You're safe enough to have
your solid three meals to-morrow, and all the other blooming to-morrows
as long as you live.  But, I tell you, I mean to make jolly sure of
this meal while I can get it.  I've learned not to put much trust in
to-morrows.  I want to be on the safe side, so that if the wind
changes, as far as this meal goes, anyhow, I shall have nothing to
repent of."

"But, my good fellow, the wind will not change.  That is exactly what I
have been trying to assure you," Adrian interposed, pity and repulsion
playing see-saw within him to a bewildering extent.  "For the future
you can be just as secure of three meals a day as I myself am if you
choose."

"Bully!" Smyrthwaite said.  "I wonder!  The old man cut up well?" he
added, his face again bent down over the table.

"Your father left a large fortune," Adrian replied, repulsion now very
much on the top.

"To me?  Not likely!"

"To your sisters.  And Joanna"--Adrian hesitated, conscious of a
singular distaste to using the Christian name--"at once devoted a
considerable sum of money to be employed, in the event of your return,
for your maintenance."

With his coarse, thick-jointed fingers Smyrthwaite rubbed a bit of
bread round his plate, sopping up the remains of the gravy.

"That's no more than right," he said, "if you come to think of it.  Why
should the girls have all the stuff?"

His hand went out furtively across the table to a dish of braised beef
and richly cooked vegetables which he proceeded to transfer to his own
plate.

"All the same, it's nice of Nannie.  We were rather chummy in the old
days--the blasted old days which I've nearly forgot.  But I didn't
suppose she cared still.  Poor old Nannie!  What a beastly hash my
father made of our lives!  Nannie ought to have married Merriman.  Then
I should have had a home.  Andrew's a bit peachy, but he's a rare good
sort."

He slushed in the food silently for a while; and Adrian, anxious to
avoid observation of the details of that process, watched the kittens
sporting round the flower-pots on the flags just outside.

He had searched for Bibby, spending time, money, even risking personal
safety, in that search.  He had found Bibby.  He had brought him here
to civilized quarters.  He had clothed him from head to foot.--Adrian
felt a pang, for they were such nice clothes!  He was rather fond of
that particular flannel suit.  Really it cost him not a little to part
with it; and, he could almost fancy, hanging now upon Bibby's angular,
narrow-chested frame, that it bore the plaintive air of a thing
unkindly treated, consciously humiliated and disgraced.  He apologized
to it half sentimentally, half humorously, in spirit.--And then because
the small things of life whip one's sense of the great ones into higher
activity, the trivial matter of the ill-used flannel suit brought home
to Adrian with disquieting clearness the difficulties of this whole
third _affaire_ Smyrthwaite in which he had, as it now occurred to him,
rather recklessly embarked.

As if the two first _affaires_, those of father and daughter, hadn't
been enough, he must needs go and add that of the degenerate son and
brother!  And who, after all, would thank him?  Wasn't he very much a
fool, then, for his pains?  Psychologically and in the abstract, as an
example of lapse and degradation, Smyrthwaite presented an interesting
and instructive study.  But in the concrete, as a guest, a companion,
as a young man, a relation, moreover, to be reclaimed from evil courses
and socially reinstated, the situation took on quite other color.
Looking across the table now as, his plate again empty, Bibby sank back
in his chair, slouched together, his hands in his trousers pockets, his
blue eyes turned upon the door, anxiously awaiting the advent of the
_garçon_ with the next course, Adrian was tempted to deplore his own
philanthropic impulse.  All hope of pulling the boy up to any
permanently decent level of living seemed so unspeakably remote.

And, as though some silent transmission of thought had taken place
between them, Bibby's next speech went to confirm Adrian's fears.

"You say if I choose," he began; "but the question is, can I choose?
You see I'm so beastly out of the habit of all that.--Now I'm getting
full I seem to understand things, so I'd best talk at once."

"I ask nothing better than that you should talk," Adrian put in,
good-temperedly.  For Heaven's sake, let him at least gain whatever
scientific knowledge of and from Bibby he could!

"Presently I shall turn sleepy," the other continued, with a curiously
unblushing directness of statement.  "I always do when I'm first filled
up after going short.  You see, I've never set eyes on you before, and
you come along and tell me some blooming fairy story about poor old
Nannie and her money.  It may be true or it may be false, but anyhow I
don't seem to tumble to it.  I fancy these clothes and I fancy this
feed, but I don't feel to go much beyond that.--Chicken?--Yes, rather.
Leave me the breast.  Golly!  I do like white meat!  Two or three years
ago it would have set me on fire.  I should have felt like bucking up
and making play with it--repentant prodigal, don't you know, and all
that kind of rot.  But now I don't seem to be able to bother much.  If
it was winter I suppose I should be more ready to fix on to it, because
I'm afraid of the cold.  When you're empty half the time cold makes you
so beastly sick; and then I get chilblains and my skin chaps.  But in
the summer I'd just as soon lie out.--Say, can I have the rest of the
fowl?"

"By all means," Adrian replied, handing him the dish.

"You see, it's like this," he went on, picking up the bones and ripping
off the meat with his teeth, "I've knocked about so long it's grown
second nature.  I have to move on.  I can't stick to one job or stop in
one place.  I suppose that's left over from the old days, when my
father was always down on me with some infernal row or other.  He hated
me like poison.  It's a trick Englishmen have with their sons.  They've
not got the knack of paternity like you French.  I got into the habit
of feeling I'd best run because he was sure to be after me; and that's
a sort of feeling you can't be quit of.  It keeps you always looking
over your shoulder to see what's coming next.  People haven't been half
nasty to me on the whole, and I mightn't have done so badly if I could
have stuck.  A little mincing devil of an artist, with a head like the
dome of St. Paul's--draws for the comic papers--you may know him--René
Dax--"

"Yes, I know him," Adrian said.

"He picked me up this winter when I was just pitching myself into the
river.  It was cold, you see, and I'd been drinking.  It's silly to
drink when you're empty.  It gives you the hump.  He took me home with
him, and drew funny pictures of me.  They were pretty low down some of
them, but they made me laugh.  He did me very well as to food and all
that, but two or three days of it was enough.  I couldn't stand the
confinement.  I pinched what I could and left."

Adrian raised his eyebrows and passed his hand down over his black
beard meditatively.  A sweet youth, a really sweet and promising youth
this!--René had never mentioned the thieving incident to him, and it
explained much.  It also showed René's conception of the duty entailed
by hospitality in an admirable light.  Even active exercise of the
predatory instinct must be passed over in silence in the case of a
guest.

"What he paid me, with what I took, kept me going quite a good while,"
Smyrthwaite said, stretching and yawning audibly.  "But I'm turning
thundering sleepy.  I told you I should.  I'll be shot if I can sit up
on end jawing any more like this," he added querulously.  "You might
let a fellow have ten minutes' nap."

Ten minutes, twenty minutes, all the minutes of the unnumbered ages
spent by Bibby in slumber would, Adrian just then felt, supply a more
than grateful respite!  He lit a cigarette and stepped out of the open
window on to the flags, thereby startling the tabby kittens, who, with
arched backs and frenzied spittings, vanished behind the flower-pots.
An arc lamp was fixed to the wall just over the kitchen entrance.  One
of the white-clad _chefs_ brought out a chair, and sat there reading a
flimsy, little two-page evening paper.  The heavy foliage of the
chestnuts hung motionless.  In the distance a bugle sounded to
quarters.  And Adrian thought of Gabrielle St. Leger, standing on the
grass-grown monticle looking across the gleaming sands of Ste. Marie
into the beckoning future.  When next they met he would speak, she
would answer--and Adrian's eyes grew at once very gay and very gentle.
He pushed up the ends of his mustache and smoothed the tip of his
pointed beard.  Then he remembered on a sudden that in the houroosh
over the finding of Bibby he had forgotten all about his letters.

So he took them out of his pocket and looked at them.  It wasn't
necessary to read dear Anastasia's letter now, since he knew pretty
well what it must contain, having seen her so lately.  But here was
Joanna's black-edged envelope.  He shrugged his shoulders.--Oh! this
interminable _famille_ Smyrthwaite!  Why, the dickens, had his
great-aunt committed the maddening error of marrying into it?  With an
expressive grimace, followed by an expression of saintly resignation,
Adrian tore the envelope open.  The letter was a long one, worse luck!
He read a few lines, and moved forward to where the arc lamp gave a
fuller light.  "_Par exemple!_" he said, once or twice; also, very
softly, "_Sapristi!_" drawing in his breath.  Then all lurking sense of
comedy deserted him.  He straightened himself up, his face bleaching
beneath its brown coating of sunburn and his eyes growing hot.  The old
dog waddled across from the offices and planted herself in front of
him, wagging a disgracefully illegitimate tail, looking up in his face,
sniffing and feebly grinning.  He paid no heed to her feminine
cajoleries; paid no heed to the fact that his cigarette had gone out,
or to the antics of the again emergent kittens, or to the intermittent
sounds from the courtyard and city, or to the all-pervasive stable and
kitchen smells.

"Dear Cousin Adrian," Joanna's letter ran, "I find it difficult and
even painful to write to you, yet I can no longer refrain from writing.
In refraining I might be guilty of an injustice toward you.  This
nerves me to write.  I have suffered very greatly in the past week.  I
know suffering may purify, but I am not purified by this suffering.  On
the contrary, the tendencies of my nature which I least approve are
brought into prominence by it.  I owe it to whatever is best in me; I
owe it to you--yes, above all to you--to take steps to check this
dreadful florescence of evil in myself.

"But before explaining the principal cause of my suffering, I must tell
you this.  You may have heard from Margaret.  In that case forgive my
repeating what you already know.  She has engaged herself to Mr.
Challoner.  The news came to me as a great shock.  From every point of
view such a marriage is displeasing to me.  I have regretted Mr.
Challoner's influence over Margaret.  Already I cannot but see she is
deteriorating, and adopting a view of life dreadfully wanting in
elevation of feeling and thought.  I know you will sympathize with me
in this, and that you will also deplore Margaret's choice.  Indeed, the
thought of the effect that this news must have upon your mind has
caused me much sorrow.  You may so reasonably object to Mr. Challoner
entering our family.  I have never considered that he appreciated your
great superiority to himself both in position and in attainments, or
treated you with the deference due to you.  Mr. Challoner is not a
gentleman, and I am humiliated by the prospect of his becoming nearly
connected with you by marriage.  You are too just to visit this upon
me; but it must color your thought of me and of all our future relation.

"I speak of our future relation; and there the agony of suspense in
which I have lately lived overcomes me.  I can hardly write.  Believe
me, Adrian, I do not doubt you; I know you are incapable of an
inconsiderate, still more of a cruel, action.  My trust in you is as
deep as my affection.  It is myself whom I distrust.  Knowing my
absence of talent and beauty, knowing my own faults of character from
the first, the wonder of your love for me has been almost overpowering,
almost incredible."

Adrian folded the thin sheets together and walked back and forth over
the flags, looking up at the fair night sky above the big-leaved
chestnuts.

"My God!  Poor thing! poor Joanna!  What can one do?  Poor thing!" he
said.

Then he stood still again in the lamplight and re-opened the letter.

"And hence, when gossiping reports reach me, however contrary to my
knowledge of you and however unworthy of credence they may be, aware as
I am of my many shortcomings, they torture me.  I cannot control my
mind.  It places dreadful ideas before me.  I realize my utter
dependence upon you for all that makes life desirable--I could almost
say for all that makes its continuance possible.  Before you came to
us, at the time of papa's death this winter, I was unhappy, but
passively unhappy, as one born blind might be yearning for a sense
denied and unknown to him.  Now, when fears regarding our relation to
each other assail me I am like one who, having enjoyed the rapture and
glory of sight, is struck blind, or who learns that sightlessness,
absolute and incurable, awaits him.  A horror of great darkness is upon
me.  Only you can relieve me of that horror; therefore I write to you.

"Col. Rentoul Haig tells Margaret he heard from acquaintances of yours
in Paris this summer that you have long been attached to a lady there
who would in every respect be a suitable wife for you.  I know that
this cannot be true.  Indeed, I know it.  But I implore you to tell me
_yourself_ that it is not true.  Set my mind at rest.  The limits of my
endurance are reached.  Misery is undermining my health, as well as all
the nobler elements of my character.  I am a prey to insomnia, and to
obtain sleep I am obliged to have recourse to drugs.  I grow afraid of
my own impulses.  Dear Adrian, write to me.  Forgive me.  Comfort me.
Reassure me.  Yours,

"JOANNA SMYRTHWAITE."


Adrian folded up the letter slowly, returned it to his pocket, and
stood thinking.

Thanks to his strong dramatic sense, at first the thing in itself, the
isolating intensity of Joanna's passion, filled his imagination.  Every
word was sincere, dragged live and bleeding out of her heart.  Baldness
of statement only made it the more telling.  This was what she actually
believed regarding herself, what she really felt and meant.--"The
limits of my endurance are reached, I suffer too much, I grow afraid of
my own impulses."  This was not a way of talking, rhetoric, a pose; it
was reasoned and accurate fact.  And, if he understood Joanna aright,
her capacity of suffering was enormous.  If the limit of endurance had
now been reached, about all which lay short of that limit it was
terrible to think!  She had been tortured, and only in the extremity of
torture did she cry for help.

But here Adrian's dramatic sense gave before the common instinct of
humanity.  The most callous of men might very well be moved by Joanna's
letter; and Adrian was among the least callous of men, especially where
a woman was concerned.  Therefore, for him, practically, what followed?
This question struck him as quite the ugliest he had ever been called
upon to answer in the whole course of his life.  To use poor Joanna's
favorite catch-word, a "dreadful" question--a very dreadful question,
as he saw it just now, taking the warmth out of the sunshine and the
color out of life.  He recalled those extremely disagreeable ten
minutes, spent among the sweet-scented allspice bushes, in the garden
of the Tower House.  He had argued out the question, or the equivalent
of the question, then--and, as he had believed, answered it fully and
finally, once and for all.  But apparently he hadn't answered it
finally, since on its recurring now the consequences of either
alternative presented themselves to him with such merciless
distinctness.--The fact that his conscience was clear in respect of
Joanna, that she was the victim of self-invented delusion--in as far as
reciprocal affection on his part went--made little appreciable
difference to the situation.  Indeed, to prove his own innocence was
merely to cap the climax of her humiliation with conviction of
presumptuous folly.

Indescribably perplexed and pained, shocked by the position in which he
found himself, Adrian passed absently back from the courtyard into the
salon.  He had forgotten the third _affaire_ Smyrthwaite in the storm
and stress of the second.  Here, the third _affaire_ presented itself
to him under a guise far from encouraging.

Bibby, the whiteness of the flannel suit bringing out his limp,
slatternly yet boyish figure into high relief as against the red
Utrecht velvet, lay crumpled sideways in the largest of the chairs.
His legs dangled over one arm of it, his head nodded forward, sunk
between his pointed shoulders, his chin rested on his breast.  An
ill-conditioned, hopeless, irreclaimable fellow!  Yet still the family
likeness to Joanna remained--to the degraded Joanna of the "funny
pictures" upon René Dax's studio wall--a Joanna wearing his, Adrian's,
clothes, moreover, whose mouth hung open as he breathed stertorously in
almost bestial after-dinner sleep.

Adrian looked once, picked up his hat, and fled.

For the ensuing three or four hours he walked aimlessly up and down the
streets of Rouen, along the pleasant tree-planted boulevards and the
quays beside the broad, silent-flowing Seine.  He was aware of lights,
of blottings of black shadow, of venerable buildings rich in beautiful
detail, of the brightly lighted interiors of wine-shops and cafes open
to the pavement, of people loud-voiced and insistent, and of
vehicles--these in lessening number as it drew toward midnight--passing
by.  But all his impressions were indefinite, his vision strangely
blurred.  He walked, as a living man might walk through a phantom city
peopled by chaffering ghosts, for all that his surroundings meant to
him, his thoughts concentrated upon the overwhelming personal drama,
and personal question, raised by Joanna's letter.

Must he, taking his courage rather brutally in both hands, disillusion
her and risk the results of such disillusionment?  Chivalry, pity,
humanity, the very honor of his manhood, protested as against some
dastardly and unpardonable act of physical cruelty.  How he wished she
hadn't employed that illustration of blindness and sight!  The thought
of her pale eyes fixed on him, doting, imploring, worshiping, hungry
with unsatisfied passion, starving for his love, pursued him, making
itself almost visible to his outward sense.  How was it possible to
sear those poor eyes, extinguishing light in them forever by
application of the white-hot iron of truth?  Before God, he could not
do it!  It was too horrible.

And yet, the alternative--to lie to her, to lie to love, to be false to
himself, to be false to the hope and purpose of years, didn't his
manhood, every mental, and moral, and--very keenly--every physical
fiber of him protest equally against that?  He saw Gabrielle as he had
seen her only this afternoon, in her fresh, grave beauty, the promise
of hidden delights, of enchanting discoveries in her mysterious smile.
Saw, as he so happily believed, a certain awakening of her heart and
sense toward the joys which man has with woman and woman with man.  How
could he consent to cut himself from all this and take Joanna's meager
and unlovely body in his arms?  It wasn't to be done.  He turned faint
with loathing and unspeakable distress, staggered as though drunk,
nearly fell.

Bibby Smyrthwaite and Joseph Challoner for brothers, Margaret
Smyrthwaite for sister, Joanna for bride--this, all which went along
with it and which of necessity it implied, was more than he could face.
He would rather be dead, rather ten thousand times.  He said so in
perfect honesty, knowing that were the final choice offered him now and
here, notwithstanding his immense value of life and joy in living he
would choose to die.

But in point of fact no such choice was offered him, since in his
opinion it is the act of a most contemptible poltroon to avoid the
issue by means of self-inflicted death.  No, he must take the
consequences of his own actions, and poor Joanna must take the
consequences of her own actions--in obedience to the fundamental
natural and moral law which none escape.  And among those consequences,
both of her and of his own past actions, was the cruel suffering which
he found himself constrained to inflict.  He shrank, he sickened, for
to be cruel was hateful to him, a violation of his nature.  In a sort
of despair he went back upon the whole question, arguing it through
once more, wearily, painfully, point by point.

Adrian's aimless wanderings had, now, conducted him to a small public
garden laid out with flower borders, shrubberies, and carefully tended
islands of turf, beneath the shadow of a chaste yet florid
fifteenth-century church.  Clerestory windows glinted high above,
touched by the lamplight, and flying buttresses, thick with fantastic
carven flowers and little lurking demons, formed a lace-work of stone
against the sky.  He sat down on one of the garden benches, laying his
hat beside him on the seat.  He doubled himself together, his elbows
upon his knees, pressing his hands against either side of his head.

He was very tired.  He was also desperately sad.  Never before had he
felt the chill breath of a trouble from which there seemed no issue
save by the creation of further, deeper trouble.  Never before had
he--so it now appeared to him--gauged the possibilities of tragedy in
human life.  And the present situation had grown out of such wholly
accidental happenings--well-meant kindnesses and courtesies, an
overstrained delicacy in admitting the reality of poor Joanna's
infatuation and making her understand that his affections were engaged
elsewhere.  In his fear of assuming too much and appearing fatuous, he
had let things drift.  He had been guilty of saying that fatal word
"too little" against which dear Anastasia Beauchamp to-day fulminated.
There he was to blame.  There was his real error, his real mistake.  It
gnawed mercilessly at his conscience and his sensibility.  It would
continue so to gnaw, whatever the upshot of this disastrous business,
as long as he lived.  In the restrained and conventional intercourse of
modern, civilized life, the difficulty of avoiding that fatal word "too
little" is so constant and so great.  His mind, spent with thought and
emotion, dwelt with languid persistence upon this point.  In this
particular he had shirked his duty both to Joanna and to himself, with
the terrible result that he was doomed to inflict a cruel injury upon
her or to wreck his own life.

And at that moment, dully, without any quickening of interest, amiable
or the reverse, he perceived that a young woman sat at the farther end
of the bench.  When he came to think of it, he believed she had
followed him through the streets for some little time.  Now she coughed
slightly and moved rather nearer to him, fidgeted, pushing about the
loose, shingly gravel, which made small rattling noises, with her foot.
Adrian still sat doubled together pressing his hands against either
side of his head.  Presently she began to speak, making overtures to
him, praising his handsome looks, his youth his dress, his bearing, his
walk, flattering and wheedling him after the manner of her sorry kind.
While expressing admiration and offering endearing phrases, her voice
remained toneless and monotonous.  And this peculiarity rather than
what she said aroused Adrian's attention.  He looked round and received
a definite impression, notwithstanding the dimness of the light.  Her
reddish hair was turned loosely back from her forehead.  Her face was
gaunt and worn under its layer of fard.  Her mouth was large, and the
painted lips, though coarse, were sensitive--her soul had not yet been
killed by her infamous trade.  Her eyes were pale, desperate with shame
and with entreaty.  And these were the eyes which, if he would save all
which made life noble and dear to him, Adrian must strike blind!

During some few seconds he looked straight at her.  Then, feeling among
the loose coins in his pocket, he found a gold twenty-franc piece and
put it into her hand.

"It is no use," he said gravely and very sadly--speaking whether to her
or to Joanna Smyrthwaite he could not tell.  "I do not want you.  My
poor woman, I do not want you.  It is not possible that I ever should
want you.  I am bitterly grieved for you, but you waste your time."

And he rose and moved away, having suddenly regained full possession of
himself.  He had ceased to doubt in respect of Joanna.  That passing of
money was to him symbolic, setting him free.  He understood that to
marry Joanna would be a crime against God-given instinct, against
God-given love, against the God-given beauty of all wholesome and
natural things.  The sour, pedantic, man-imagined deity of some
Protestant sect might demand such hideous, almost blasphemous sacrifice
from its votaries; but never that supreme artist, Almighty God the
Creator, maker of man's flesh as well as of his spirit, _le bon Dieu_
of the divinely reasonable and divinely human Catholic Church.  To
marry Joanna would, in the end, constitute a blacker cruelty than to
tell her the whole truth.  For he couldn't live up to that lie and keep
it going.  He would hate her, and sooner or later show that he hated
her; he would inevitably be unfaithful to her and leave her, thereby
ruining her life as well as his own.

He went back to the hotel.  The little red Utrecht-velvet upholstered
_salon_ still smelled of cooking, patchouli, and cigarettes, plus the
dregs of a tumbler of brandy and soda and a something human and
insufficiently washed.  Smyrthwaite's door was shut, and no sound
proceeded from behind it, for which Adrian returned thanks and betook
himself to bed.  He was dog-tired.  He slept till broad day.  On making
a morning reconnaissance he found Smyrthwaite's door still locked, nor
did knocking elicit any response.  Somewhat anxious, he went out into
the courtyard.  The window was ajar, the room vacant, the bed
undisturbed.  Then he remembered to have seen a tall, slight, loosely
made figure, wearing whitish garments, flitting hastily away down a dim
side-street as he turned into the _rue Jeanne d'Arc_ on his way home.
Later Adrian discovered that a pair of diamond and enamel sleeve-links,
a set of pearl studs, some loose gold and a hundred-franc note were
missing from his suit-case, of which the fastening had been forced.

True to his predatory and roving instincts, Bibby had "pinched" what he
could and left.



CHAPTER VII

SOME PASSAGES FROM JOANNA SMYRTHWAITE'S LOCKED BOOK

The long drought broke at last in an afternoon and night of thunder and
scourging violence of rain, drowning out summer.  A week of chill
westerly weather followed, lowering gray skies, a perpetual lament of
wind through the great woodland, combined with a soaking, misty drizzle
which forced the firs and pines into their blue-black winter habit and
rusted the pink spires of the heather.  The flower-garden, dashed by
the initial downpour, became daily more sodden, its glory very sensibly
departed.  Water stood in pools on the lawns.  Leaves, dessicated by
the continuous sun-scorch, fell in dingy brown showers from the
beeches; and a robin, perching upon one of the posts of the tennis-net,
practised the opening, plaintively sweet notes of his autumn song.

On the Thursday evening of this wet week, Joanna Smyrthwaite went to
her room immediately after dinner, and, lighting the candles, sat down
at her bureau.  The rain beat against the windows.  She heard it drip
with a continuous monotonous tapping off the edge of the balcony on to
the glass and tile roof of the veranda below.  She heard the
intermittent sighing sweep of the wind through the near trees, and the
wet sucking sob of it in the hinges and fastenings of the casements.
Nature wept, now petulantly, now, as it seemed, with the resignation of
despair; and Joanna, sitting at the bureau with her diary open before
her, listened to that weeping.  It offered a fitting accompaniment to
her gloomy concentration and exaltation of mind.


"_August 29, 190-_

"I supposed that I should have received an answer to my letter in the
course of to-day at latest, but none has reached me," she wrote.  "I am
not conscious of regretting the delay.  The reply, when it does come,
can only confirm that which I already now know.  I am no longer in
suspense, and I wait to receive the reply merely to prevent the
possibility of its falling into other hands than my own.  That I could
not permit.  Although it can modify neither my intention nor my
thought, it is mine, it belongs to me alone; and I refuse to allow the
vulgar curiosity of any third person to be satisfied by perusal of it.
I am sure that I do not regret the delay.  It gives me time to reckon
with myself and with all that has occurred.  It also gives me time to
test myself and make sure that I am not swayed by impulse, but that my
will is active and my reason unbiased by feeling.  I am quite calm.  I
have been so all day.  For this I am thankful, although whether my
calmness arises from self-control or from physical incapacity of
further emotion I cannot decide.  I do not know that the cause really
matters, yet I should prefer to believe it self-control."

Joanna paused, leaning upon her elbow and listening to the sobbing of
wind and rain.

"I suppose finality must always produce repose, however dreadful the
cost at which finality is obtained.  Only so can I account for my
existing attitude of mind.  I want, if I can, to put down clearly and
consecutively exactly what happened last night.  I think it may be
useful to me in face of this period of waiting for the answer to my
letter; also, I wish to live through it again step by step.  I have
learned very much during the last twenty-four hours.  I have learned
that pain, self-inflicted pain, can be voluptuous.  Even a few days ago
I should have been scandalized by such an admission.  I am no longer
scandalized.  Torture has emancipated me from many delusions and
overnice prejudices.  I have not time now, even had I still
inclination, to be overnice.

"Margaret and Marion Chase dined in town and went to the theater with
Mr. Challoner last night.  A London touring company is giving some
musical comedy at Stourmouth.  When they returned I was still awake.  I
had not taken any of the tabloids Doctor Norbiton gave me to procure
sleep.  I did not care to sleep.  I preferred to think.  Margaret and
Marion remained some time upon the gallery laughing and talking rather
excitedly.  They kept on repeating scraps of a frivolous song which
they had heard at the play; and of which, so Margaret told me
to-day--she apologized for the thoughtless disturbance they had
made--neither could remember the exact tune.  Their voices and the
interest they evidently took in so senseless and trivial a thing jarred
upon me.  I felt annoyed and resentful.  Their behavior offered such a
startling contrast to my own trouble and to the whole tenor of my life
that I could not but be displeased by their light-mindedness.  I felt
my own superiority.  I did not attempt to disguise the fact of that
superiority from myself.  I despised them.  I may have done wrong in
despising them, but I did not care.  The ambition to assert myself, in
some striking and forcible manner which should compel recognition not
only from Margaret and Marion, but from the whole circle of our
acquaintance, took possession of me.  I have always shrunk from
publicity and been weakly sensitive to criticism and remark.  I have
been disposed to efface myself.  To rule others has been an effort to
me.  Any influence I may have exercised has been exercised in obedience
not to inclination but to my sense of duty.  Now I felt differently.  I
felt my nature and intelligence had never found their full expression,
that the strength of my character had never fully disclosed itself.  I
desired--I still desire--to manifest what I really am, of what I am
capable.  I even crave after the astonishment and possible alarm such a
disclosure would create.

"Thinking steadily, I came to the conclusion this desire for entire and
arresting self-expression is not actually new in me.  I saw that I have
always, implicitly though silently, entertained a conviction that the
opportunity for self-expression would eventually present itself.  This
conviction has supported me under many mortifications.  In the events
of the last six months that opportunity appeared in process of taking
tangible and very perfect shape.  More than my imagination had ever
dared suggest was in process of being granted me.  If I married
Adrian--"

Joanna raised her hand from the paper, or rather it raised itself, with
a jerk, refusing further obedience.  She sat stiffly upright, listening
to the wind and the rain.  The steady drip off the edge of the balcony
on to the roof below sounded indescribably mournful in its single,
muffled, reiterated note.  Taken in connection with the words she had
just written, that mournfulness threatened her composure.  The muscles
of her poor face twitched and her winged nostrils quivered, in her
effort to repress an outbreak of emotion.  After a struggle she turned
fiercely to her open diary.

"If I married Adrian Savage," she wrote, "this, in itself, would bear
indisputable witness to the fact of my superiority, would justify me to
myself and command the respect of others.  But, last night, I saw it
was necessary to go beyond that, and ask myself a question which, even
in my worst hours of doubt, I have never had sufficient fortitude to
ask myself before.  I am anxious here to state positively that I did
ask myself the said question; and that I answered it deliberately and
calmly before certain things happened, which I shall presently set
down.  If I did not marry Adrian--"

Again Joanna's hand jerked away from the paper, while every nerve in
her body was contracted by a spasm of almost intolerable pain.  She put
her left hand over her heart, gasping, the agony for the moment was so
mercilessly acute.  Yet, during that same moment, the old doting,
ecstatic expression overspread her face.  In a sense she welcomed, she
gloried, in this visitation of pain.

"If I did not marry Adrian," she went on, "what then?  The need for
self-justification, the need for entire self-expression, would in that
very dreadful event become more than ever desirable--the only solace,
indeed, which could remain to me.  Therefore, what had better happen?
What--because I definitely and irrevocably willed it--must and should
happen?  I answered the question last night, and my purpose has never
wavered.  To-day I have spent some time in examining the stock
arguments against this purpose of mine.  They do not affect my
determination, as I find that each one of them is based upon some
assumption which my reason condemns as unsound and inadequate, or which
is not applicable in my peculiar case.  I know what I am going to do.
The relief of that knowledge was immediate.  It continues to sustain
me."

Here Joanna rose and paced the room.  She still wore the black silk and
lace evening gown she had worn at dinner.  Her hair was dressed with
greater care than usual.  Plain, flat-bosomed, meager, hard lines
seaming her cheeks and forehead, yet there was nothing broken or weak
in her bearing or aspect.  Rather did she show as a somewhat tremendous
creature, pacing thus, solitary, the familiar and soberly luxurious
room, bearing with indomitable pride the whole realized depth and
height of her trouble--a trouble to the thought of which, even while it
racked her, she clung with jealous obstinacy as her sole possession of
supreme and splendid worth.  Her restlessness being somewhat assuaged,
she went back and sat down to write.

"I do not attempt to account for what followed; I only set it down in
good faith and with such accuracy as my memory permits.  My memory has
always been good, and, since now I have nothing left to gain or to
lose, I have no temptation either to invent or to falsify.  About an
hour after Margaret and Marion Chase returned from the theater, and
without any intervening period of unconsciousness--my mind, indeed,
still occupied with the decision I had arrived at regarding my future
action--I found myself walking through the streets of some foreign
city.  I was anxiously following a person of whose name and character I
was ignorant, but who I was aware had a message of great importance
which he needed to deliver to me, and to whom I felt an overpowering
wish to speak.  He walked apparently without any particular destination
in view, yet so rapidly that I found it difficult to keep him in sight.
Being tall, however, and of fashionable appearance, he, fortunately for
me, was easily distinguishable from all other persons whom I met.

"I say, _I_--yet I am conscious, dreadfully, even infamously,
conscious, that throughout I shared this experience with a woman of
different antecedents, of a lower social position and inferior
education to myself.  Our two personalities inhabited one and the same
body, for independent possession and control of which we contended
without intermission, sometimes I, sometimes she, gaining the
advantage.  This association was very frightful to me.  I felt soiled
by it.  And, not only did I in myself feel soiled, but hopes, emotions,
aspirations which until now I had believed to be pure and elevated,
assumed a vile aspect when shared by this woman's mind and heart.
Still I knew that of necessity I must remain with her, continue to be,
in a sense, part of her, if I was to get speech of the man whom
I--we--followed, and to receive the message which he had to deliver.

"After long wandering through streets, some modern and reminding me of
Paris, others narrow, crooked, and lined with ancient houses, I came to
a small, formally laid-out pleasure garden in the center of the town,
dominated by a singularly beautiful Gothic building, probably a church.
Benches were placed at intervals round the garden along the shingled
paths, between massed shrubs and beds of heliotrope and roses.  Upon
one of these benches, being overcome by fatigue and by a conviction of
unescapable fate, I sat down.  So doing, I perceived that, at the far
end of the bench, the man whom I had so long followed already sat.  His
attitude was expressive of extreme dejection.  His figure was bowed
together.  His elbows rested upon his knees, his hands were pressed
against the sides of his head.  I felt drawn to him not only by a very
vital attraction, but by pity, for I could not doubt that, for some
cause, he had recently suffered severely, and was suffering severely
even now.  I saw that this suffering blinded him to the outer things,
rendering him quite indifferent to or unaware of my presence.
Notwithstanding which, I--or she--the woman to whom my personality was
so horribly united--after making some vulgar efforts to arouse his
attention, began to speak to him, pouring forth, to my utter and
inextinguishable shame, a gross travesty of my love for Adrian Savage,
of my most secret thoughts and sensations in relation to that love, of
my joy in his presence, of my admiration for his talents, even for his
person, employing words and phrases meanwhile of a nature revolting to
me which outraged my sense of propriety and self-respect--words and
phrases which I was utterly incapable of using and of which I had never
indeed gauged the actual meaning until they passed her lips.

"A considerable time passed before the man gave any sign that he heard
what she--what I--said.  He remained immersed in thought, his head
bent, his hands supporting it.  At last--"

And Joanna closed her eyes, waiting for a space, listening to the
sobbing of wind and dripping of rain.

"--he looked round at me.  His face," she wrote, "was that of Adrian;
but of an Adrian whom I had never seen before.  It was worn and very
pale.  There were blue stains beneath the eyes.  All the gaiety, the
beautiful, self-confident strength and hopefulness were banished from
his expression, which was very stern though not actually unkind.  Then
I knew that he had received and read my letter; that the marks of
suffering which he bore had been caused by the contents of my letter.
I knew that the message which he had to deliver to me, and to obtain
which I had followed him through the streets, forcing myself into union
with this vicious woman--in whose speech and actions I so dreadfully
participated--was nothing less than his answer to that letter.

"At last, looking fixedly at me, he said, very sadly: 'It is no use.  I
do not want you.  Poor woman, I do not want you.  It is not possible
that I should ever want you.  I am bitterly grieved for you; but you
waste your time.'

"As he spoke he placed some money in her hand, and, having finished
speaking, he rose and went away.  Not once did he hesitate or look
back, but held himself erect and walked as a man whose decision is
deliberate.  She clutched the money tightly, whimpering; but I had no
part in her tears.  I had no disposition to cry then; nor have I had
any since.  I understood what that piece of money meant.  It was the
price of Adrian's freedom from my love.  He paid me to go away.

"I remember noticing the fantastic carven stonework of the church
outlined against the night sky, while shame and despair devoured
me--shame and despair intimate, merciless, unmitigated.  Still
clutching the piece of money, the woman got up.  I do not know anything
more about her, what she did, or who she was, or where she went.  For a
time, as far as I am concerned, the pulse of the world ceased to beat.
And then I lay here, at home, in my own room at the Tower House, and
heard the rain and wind in the trees just as I hear them to-night.

"When Isherwood brought me my tea, at half-past seven, she expressed
concern at my appearance.  I told her I had not slept and that I felt
tired and faint.  She insisted upon sending for Doctor Norbiton.  I let
her do so.  It was matter of indifference to me whether I saw him or
not.  Nothing can change either facts or the event.  But Isherwood has
always been kind and faithful to me.  I did not want to hurt her by
opposing her wishes.  Doctor Norbiton sounded my heart.  He told both
Isherwood and Margaret it was in a weak state; but added that he
believed such mischief as exists to be functional rather than organic.
He recommended me to take the tabloids, which he gave me for insomnia,
sparingly, as their effect upon the heart is depressing.  I listened
and agreed.  Margaret expressed regret at my condition.  She offered to
see Rossiter for me and spare me the trouble of housekeeping.  I let
her do so.

"It has rained all day; but I have been fully occupied in going through
papers and accounts, and making sure that my own affairs and those of
the household are in perfect order.  This almost mechanical work is
soothing.  I have always been fond of accounts.  I remain quite calm.
Why should I be otherwise?  I know the truth, and have nothing left,
therefore, either to fear or to hope."

The following evening Joseph Challoner was due to dine at the Tower
House.  Pleading a return of faintness and disinclination for
conversation, Joanna remained up-stairs in the blue sitting-room and
retired early to bed.  The next entry in her diary reads thus:


"THE TOWER HOUSE, _August_ 30, 190-, 9 P.M.

"I let Isherwood undress me.  I asked her for my white pleated
_négligé_, which I found she had sent to the cleaners' during the time
my hands were hurt and I had been obliged to give her my keys.  I am
glad to wear it to-night.  Isherwood was very kind and attentive to me.
I could almost think she suspected something, but I did what I could to
dissipate any suspicion she might entertain.  I promised her I would
call her if I wanted her during the night; but all that I really needed
is quiet.  This is perfectly true.  I do need quiet, unbroken quiet.

"Still I must try to put down events in their proper order.--And first,
I feel it is only just that I should note how much I have thought of
papa during these last two very dreadful days.  I have felt singularly
near to him in spirit and in sympathy.  I know that I have rebelled
against his methods; and have both thought and spoken harshly of him.
I am sorry for this.  I see now that, in his position and possessing
his authority, I should have acted as he did.  He valued wealth as
lightly as I do; though he was interested in the acquisition of it.
Business to him was an occupation rather than an end in itself.  He
craved for entire self-expression--as I have craved for it; and it was
impossible for him to find such expression in business.  In public
affairs, economic or social reform, he might have found it; and to the
last, I believe, he hoped some opportunity of entire self-expression
would present itself.  That, I think, was why he disliked the idea of
dying.  He was ambitious of impressing himself upon the mind of his
generation in the manner he inwardly felt himself capable of doing.  It
hurt and angered him to leave life with his personal equation
unrecorded.  He knew himself--as I have known myself--to be superior to
others both in intellect and in the nature of his aims and ambitions.
He despised weakness.  He despised what is common, trivial, ignorant.
He could not tolerate that those about him should run after cheap
pleasures in which the mind has no part.

"This morning, about twelve o'clock, the rain lessened.  I ordered the
carriage and drove by myself to the West Stourmouth Cemetery.  Leaving
the carriage at the entrance gates, I walked to his grave.  The
cemetery is still but partially laid out.  Patches of heather remain,
making the tombstones and monuments look bare and white.  I am glad
papa's grave is on the highest ground.  Standing by it, I saw, through
scuds of driving mist, the Baughurst Woods, sloping to the shore, and
beyond them the sea.  The loneliness of this growing camp of the dead
was sympathetic to me.  I am leaving instructions that I am to be
buried beside papa's grave, if not in it.  I have never been so much of
a companion or help to any one as to him.  He, at least, wanted me,
though he often frightened and wounded me.  So I will go back to him in
death; and lie beside him in the rain, and snow, and wind, and sunshine
out there under the barren gravel of the moor.

"I received Adrian's answer to my letter by the six-o'clock post this
evening.  I feared giving way to emotion on opening it; but I
experienced very little emotion.  Of this I am glad.  I am glad, too,
infinitely glad, that I determined what I would do before I so
strangely saw Adrian and spoke with him the night before last.  If I
had not determined my state of mind would have been far more agonizing.
Calmness and self-respect would have been impossible.  Margaret was
with me in the blue sitting-room when Edwin brought me my letters.  I
do not know whether she observed that I received one from Adrian.  I
fancy not.  I waited until she had gone before reading it.  It proved
just such a letter as I might have anticipated, written with every
intention of kindness.  It exhibits his character in a very agreeable
light--affectionate, courteous, penetrated by regret on my account.  He
does his utmost to spare my feelings and soften the blow he is
compelled to deal me.  I appreciate all this.  He praises my
intelligence, and points out to me, very gracefully, the advantages of
my education and of my wealth.  He points out, too, the endlessly
varied interests of life.  He admits that he has loved Madame St. Leger
for many years; and he reproaches himself deeply with not having spoken
to me about his affection for her when he stayed here in May, and when
I pressed him to tell me whether he was suffering from any anxiety in
which I could be helpful to him.

"That is the answer of the man of society, the well-bred man of the
world; the man, moreover, of sensibility and nice feeling.  I quite
appreciate the tone and tact of his letter.  But I had already received
the answer of the man himself.  It was simpler, so simple as to need no
supplement--'It is no use.  I do not want you.  My poor woman, I do not
want you.  It is not possible that I should ever want you.  I am
bitterly grieved for you; but you waste your time.'

"_He has never wanted me.  I have wasted my time._--That is all.  And
assuredly that is enough, and more than enough?  I will waste no more
time, Adrian.  I will go where time, thought, love, and the rejection
of love are not.

"The rain has come back.  It drips and drips upon the veranda roof.  I
have burned all your letters.  No one has ever seen or touched them
save myself.  This volume of my diary I leave to you.  I shall seal it
up, and direct it to you.  At least read it--I am no longer ashamed.  I
want you to know me as I really am.  Life is already over.  I am
already dead.  So I am not afraid.  I welcome the darkness of the
everlasting night which is about to absorb me into itself.--I wear the
white gown I wore the second time you kissed my hand.--I do not blame
you, Adrian.  It is just as natural that you should not love me as that
I should have loved you.  I understand that.

"And very soon now all my trouble will be over and passed.  Soon I
shall sleep in the arms of the lover who has never failed man or woman
yet--in the arms of Death.  JOANNA SMYRTHWAITE."



CHAPTER VIII

  IN WHICH A STRONG MAN ADOPTS A VERY SIMPLE METHOD
  OF CLEARING HIS OWN PATH OF THORNS

Challoner stood turning up the collar of his mackintosh.  Looking back
between the lines of dark, wind-agitated trees, the red mass of the
house, through a dull whiteness of driving rain, showed imposing both
in height and in extent.  Challoner measured it with a satisfied, even
triumphant, eye.  Its large size suited his own large proportions
capitally.  This evening, though early and still light, all the blinds
were drawn down.  This was as it should be.  He favored the observance
of such outward conventional decencies.  Then, as he moved away with
his heavy, lunging tread, the rain and wind took him roughly on the
quarter.

This rearward onslaught caused him no annoyance, however, since his
thoughts were altogether self-congratulatory.  Circumstance had played,
and was playing, into his hands in the handsomest fashion.  Well, every
one gets his deserts in the long run; so he could but suppose he
deserved his present good fortune!  Only in this case the run had
proved such an unexpectedly short and easy one.  For hadn't he arrived,
practically arrived, feeling every bit as fresh as when he
started?--Here a turn of half-superstitious, half-cynical piety took
him.  The Lord helps those who have the nous to help themselves.  He
praised the Lord!  Having offered which small tribute, or bribe, to the
Judge of all the Earth who cannot do other than right, he proceeded to
check off a few of his well-earned blessings.

The announcement of his engagement to Margaret Smyrthwaite had
appeared, about three weeks previously, in the society columns of local
and London papers.  Stourmouth buzzed with the news, to a loudness
which he found both humorous and flattering.  In private Challoner
laughed a horse-laugh more than once at thus finding how he had made
his fellow-townsmen "sit up."  He enjoyed the joke of his own social
elevation and prospective wealth hugely.  And Mrs. Gwynnie had been
quite good, thank the Powers!  If the rest of his acquaintance had been
made to "sit up" by the news, she--to quote his own graceful manner of
speech--had "taken it lying down."  Really he felt very kindly toward
her.  She'd given no trouble.  But then the world was going a lot
better with Mrs. Gwyn than she'd any right to expect.  Her rent and her
quarterly allowance were paid with absolute regularity.  Not every man
would have done as much for her after the dance she'd led him!  Beattie
Stacey was safely married last week to her young R.M.S. second officer.
And, so Challoner heard, mainly on the strength of the said young
officer's excellent reputation, Gwynnie herself had taken out a new
lease of social life since her installation in the white house opposite
the Marychurch Borough Recreation Ground.  She'd been cute enough to
throw herself into that department of Anglican religio-parochial
activity which busies itself with variety entertainments, rummage
sales, concerts, "happy evenings," bazaars, and such-like contrivances
for providing--under cover of charity--audiences for idle amateurs
ambitious of publicity.  Curates waxed enthusiastic over "Mrs.
Spencer's splendidly unselfish helpfulness" and "wonderful organizing
power."--The thought of that poor little, earnest, light-weight,
impecunious baggage of an Anglo-Indian widow in the character of a
church-worker tickled her ex-lover consumedly.

But now Challoner felt constrained to put a term to the slightly ribald
mirth induced by this checking of his well-deserved blessings, and
bestow himself within the four corners of an appropriately black-edged
manner.  For, as he turned out of the gates at the end of the
carriage-drive, he caught sight of Col. Rentoul Haig's unmistakable
figure, pompous and dapper even when clothed in an "aquascutum" and
carrying a streaming umbrella, walking briskly down The Avenue.  Making
a pretense of deep abstraction, Challoner passed him; then, drawing up
suddenly, wheeled round.

"You, Colonel?" he said.  "I beg your pardon.  For the minute I didn't
recognize you.  My thoughts were elsewhere."

He looked on the ground, as one who struggles with manly pride against
strong emotion.

"You may have heard of the trouble we are in at the Tower House?" he
added.

Rentoul Haig disapproved the "we"; but then he warmly and articulately
disapproved the whole matter of the Challoner-Smyrthwaite alliance.
Nevertheless he hungered for first-hand news, thirsted for retailable
detail; and who could supply these better than Challoner?  He pocketed
disapproval, and answered with fussy alacrity, peering upward, into the
younger man's curiously non-committal countenance, from beneath the
shelter of his umbrella.

"Very fortunate to run across you like this, Challoner," he said.  "I
was coming to leave cards and inquire.  Shocking news this, most
shocking.  I heard the report from Woodford, at the Club, after
luncheon, and, I give you my word, it quite upset me."

"I'm not surprised, Colonel," Challoner put in gloomily.

"Why, only yesterday morning I saw her out driving between twelve and
one--just upon the half-hour it must have been--as I was crossing The
Square on my way to the Club.  When Woodford told me, I said, 'God
bless my soul, it's incredible!'"

Challoner's lips parted with an unctuous smack.

"Incredible or not, Colonel, it is only too sadly true.  In the midst
of life we are in death, you know.  I don't set up to be a serious man,
but an event like this does bring the meaning of those words home to
you--makes you think a bit, reminds you what an uncommonly slippery
hold even the healthiest of us has on life."

Watching the effect of these lugubrious moralizings upon his auditor,
Challoner had the pleasure of seeing the latter's face grow small and
blue in the shade of the wet umbrella.--"Looks like a sick frog under a
toadstool," he reflected.  "Well, let snobby old froggy turn blue, feel
blue--the bluer the better."  It served him jolly well right.  Hadn't
he said no end of nasty things about his, Challoner's, coming marriage?
Then he proceeded with the amiable operation commonly known as "rubbing
it in."

"Ah! yes," he said, "I knew how you'd feel it, Colonel.  Without being
oversentimental, it is a thing to break up one's sense of personal
security.  And a relation of yours too!  Only nine-and-twenty--a mere
child compared to you, of course, Colonel.  It's always painful to see
the younger generation go first.  Yes, I knew how you'd feel it.  Kind
of you to come off at once like this to make inquiries.  It will please
Margaret, poor, dear girl.  She sent for me directly they made the
discovery this morning, and I've been with her ever since, looking
after her and putting things through.  You see, Joanna always kept the
management of the establishment in her own hands, and the whole
household fell to pieces like a bundle of sticks to-day.  All the
servants lost their heads.  Somebody had to step in and lay hold.
Margaret is behaving beautifully.  This bearing up is all very well at
first, but I'm afraid she's bound to pay later.  However, thank God!
I've the right, now, to take care of her."

"Quite so--no doubt--yes, exactly," Haig responded, in rather chilly
accents.  "Of course.  But I have heard nothing but the bare fact,
Challoner.  Quite sudden, was it--quite unexpected?"

"Yes, and no."  He spoke slowly, as one weighing his words.

"I sincerely trust there isn't any question of an inquiry?"

From his superior height Challoner looked down at the speaker in
momentary and sharp suspicion.  What story was current in Stourmouth,
he wondered?  Could the servants have talked?  Had the empty tabloid
bottle and the tumbler with a film of white sediment clouding the
inside of it, become a matter of common knowledge?  He found Rentoul
Haig's expression reassuring.

"Certainly not--quite uncalled for, I am thankful to say," he replied
largely.  "No, no, Colonel, nothing of that sort.  An inquest is a
pretty sickening business under ordinary circumstances; but it amounts
to a positive insult, in my opinion, in the case of a refined,
sensitive gentlewoman."

Rentoul Haig came near dancing with impatience.

"True, true," he murmured.

"So, pray put that idea out of your head, and out of everybody else's
head, Colonel.  You'll be doing Margaret a kindness, doing poor Joanna
a kindness too.  People are awfully unscrupulous in the reports they
circulate.  But then, of course, I know we can count on your
gentlemanly feeling and good taste."

A moment more and Colonel Haig believed he should burst.  He was being
patronized--patronized, he the bright, particular star of the most
elect circle of Stourmouth society, and by Joseph Challoner!

"The fact is she hasn't been in a good state of health for some time.
Margaret has spoken to me about it and a lot of people have remarked
upon it.  Her peculiarities seemed to grow upon her lately.  And she
was not an easy person to deal with--in some ways very like our poor
friend her father.  Margaret hasn't said much to me, but I fancy she's
found her sister's temper a little trying.  Health, I dare say, as much
as anything.  Norbiton has been treating her for sleeplessness and
general debility--nerves, you know.  She always was highly strung.
Yesterday morning, they tell me, she looked appallingly ill and
complained of having fainted in the night.  They had Norbiton in, and
he sounded her--was not at all satisfied with the heart's action.  I am
not surprised at that.  You remember how peculiar her eyes
were--globular--"

Challoner looked down with rich enjoyment at the "pop-eyes," so he
gracefully phrased it, staring eagerly, angrily up from beneath the
streaming umbrella.

"Globular," he repeated; "and with that pale circle round the edge of
the iris, which invariably, in my experience, indicates a weak heart.
Norbiton prescribed for her, and told her to keep quiet.  Margaret,
poor, dear girl, did her best; but Joanna insisted on driving out.  I
was dining there last night, and she didn't come down.  They told me
Norbiton's opinion, but I supposed it was just a case for care.  And
then, when her maid went to call her this morning, she found her stone
cold.  She must have been dead several hours--died in her sleep."

And both men stood silent, awed in spite of themselves, by the thought
of Joanna Smyrthwaite lying dead.

"Shocking occurrence, very shocking indeed!" Colonel Haig remarked
presently, fussily clearing his throat.  "You say peculiarities had
grown upon poor Miss Smyrthwaite recently.  One would be glad to know
why--to have some clue to the reason for that.  There were rumors, I
believe, a few months back of an--er--of an attachment on her part,
which--it is a delicate subject to approach--was, in fact, rather
misplaced.  And--well--you know, one cannot help putting two and two
together."

"Oh, as to anything of that sort," Challoner returned somewhat roughly,
throwing his big body back from the hips and moving a step aside, as
though to conceal justifiable annoyance,--"you really must excuse me,
Colonel.  Standing in the relation I do to both the Smyrthwaite ladies,
it is a subject I hardly care to discuss.  I can't help knowing a good
deal, and I can't help what I've noticed; but I don't feel at liberty
to speak.  Mr. Savage stayed twice at the Tower House this year, as you
are aware; and--people have eyes in their heads.  I don't mind telling
you, he and I came to loggerheads over the division of the property.
That's what first really brought Margaret and me together.  I had to
protect her interests, or she would have come off a very bad second.
And, though it's early days to mention it, I don't mind telling you in
confidence--the strictest confidence, you understand, Colonel--"

"You know by this time, I hope, Challoner, how entirely you can trust
me?" the other remonstrated, at once famished for further information
and bristling with offended dignity.

"To be sure I do.--Well, then, it may interest you to hear that
Margaret has the old home secured to her.  I am pleased on her account,
for she's fond of the place.  Personally, there are several houses in
Baughurst Park I prefer.  However, that's neither here nor there.  If
she's pleased I'm pleased, naturally.  But, exclusive of the house and
its contents, she hardly benefits at all under her sister's will."

In his excitement Rentoul Haig lost control of his umbrella, which,
tilting in a gust of wind, discharged a small cataract of water down
the back of his neck.

"Bless my soul," he exclaimed, "you don't say so!  What ungodly
weather!  Where on earth does all her money go to?"

"You may well ask," Challoner replied grimly.  "In the case of her
dying unmarried her share in the mills and the rest of the Yorkshire
property is left to Mr. Andrew Merriman, the partner and manager--a
self-made man, who had the wit to get round old Mr. Smyrthwaite.  He's
feathered his own nest very tidily, it strikes me, one way and another.
And the bulk of the invested property--prepare yourself for a pleasant
surprise, Colonel--Joanna leaves, on trust, to her scrapegrace,
rascally brother."

A flashlight hope of a solid legacy had momentarily illuminated Rentoul
Haig's horizon.  But the light of hope was extinguished almost as soon
as kindled, giving him just time to be mortally disappointed.  His face
fell, while Challoner, watching, could barely repress his glee.

"But, but," he bubbled, "every one has been assured for years that the
good-for-nothing boy was dead!"

"I don't want to be inhuman, but I can only say that, for the sake of
my future wife's peace of mind, I most sincerely and cordially trust he
is dead--dead and done with.  Judging by what you told me yourself,
Colonel, from a child he has been a downright bad lot, a regular
waster.  You may also be interested to hear we owe this precious bit of
business to Mr. Adrian Savage.  He came to Joanna, when he was over
last, with some cock-and-bull story about young Smyrthwaite's turning
up, half-starved, in Paris last winter.  Worked upon her feelings no
end with a whole lot of Frenchified false sentiment--brother and
sister, the sacredness of family, and that sort of fluff-stuff.  I am
bound to say plainly I date the break-up of her health from that
moment.  He spoke to me about young Smyrthwaite, but, of course, I
refused to touch it.  Gave him a piece of my mind which I fancy he
didn't quite relish, as he packed up and took himself off, on the
quiet, next morning.  As I told him, if he and Merriman wanted to dump
the young scoundrel upon his two unfortunate sisters they mustn't look
to me for assistance--the job, as I told him, wasn't in Joseph
Challoner's line, not at all.  Now, Colonel, I ought not to detain you
any longer.  I'm pleased to have had the chance to set your mind at
ease on one or two points.  And you'll do both Margaret and myself a
favor if you will tell every one it was heart, just simply heart--a
thing that might happen to any one of us, you or me, for instance, any
day.  Margaret will feel it very kind and thoughtful of you to call,
like this at once, to inquire.  Now I really must be off.  Good-evening
to you.  Let you know the date of the funeral?  Of
course--good-evening."

And he swung up The Avenue, in the shrinking light, under the swaying,
dripping trees, highly elate.

"Choked old froggy off neatly," he said to himself, "and got my knife
into highty-tighty Cousin Adrian too.  I wonder if he did carry on with
Joanna.  I'd give something to know--dare say it'll come out in time.
Anyhow, he wouldn't touch her money; though it would have been bad
policy to acquaint old Haig with that little fact.  Better take the
short-cut home.  Stiff from standing so long in the wet; but it's worth
while, if only for the fun of making old Haig feel so confoundedly
cheap."

Supported by these charitable reflections, he turned off the main road
into a footpath which, after skirting the gardens of a large villa
facing on to The Avenue, struck northwestward across an as yet
unreclaimed portion of the Baughurst Park Estate.  By following this
route Challoner took the base instead of the two sides of a triangle,
thus saving about a quarter of a mile in his walk home to Heatherleigh.
A dark plain of high, straggling heather, broken here and there by a
thicker darkness of advancing ranks of self-sown firs, lay on either
side the grayness of the sand and flint strewn track.  Even in sunshine
the region in question was cheerless, and, as seen now, in the driving
rain and fading daylight, it bore a positively forbidding aspect.  But
to this Challoner, having returned to enumeration of his well-deserved
blessings, was sublimely indifferent.

And among those blessings--here, alone, free to disregard conventional
black-edged decencies and be honest with himself--Joanna Smyrthwaite's
death, although an ugly suspicion of suicide did hang around it, might,
he felt, be counted.  Making the admission, he had the grace to feel
slightly ashamed of his own cynicism.  In the first shock of the
tragedy, when Marion Chase sent for him in the morning, he had been
genuinely troubled and overset.  But, as the day wore on, the
advantages of the melancholy event disclosed themselves more and more
clearly.  Joanna Smyrthwaite never liked him, considered him her social
inferior, didn't mince matters in expressing her objection to her
sister's engagement.  Ignored him, when she got the chance, or snubbed
him.  Distinctly she'd done her best to make him feel awkward; and
there was bound to be friction in the future both in their family
relation and in the management of the Smyrthwaite property.  Joanna was
uncommonly strong.  He, for one, had never underrated the force of her
character.  He even owned himself a trifle afraid of her, afraid of
some pull--as he expressed it--that she might have over Margaret.  Now
he would have Margaret to himself, exclusively to himself--and
Challoner's blood grew hot, notwithstanding the chill dreariness of
wind and wet, thinking of that.

For his feeling toward Margaret Smyrthwaite had come to be the master
power of his life, of all his schemes of self-aggrandizement.  After
the somewhat coarse and primitive manner of his kind, he was over head
and ears in love with her.  He was proud of her, almost sensitively
anxious to please her; ready, for all his burly, bullying roughness, to
play faithful dog, fetch and carry and slave for her.  No woman had
ever affected him or excited his passions as she did.  In food he
relished highly seasoned dishes to apprehend the flavor of which you do
not need to shut your eyes and listen.  And Margaret Smyrthwaite's
attractions were of the highly seasoned order, the effect of her
full-fleshed, slightly overdressed and overscented person presenting
itself without any baffling reserve, frankly assailing and provoking
the senses.--Oh! he'd treat her like a queen; work for her; buy her
jewels, motor-cars, aeroplanes if she fancied them; pet, amuse, make
Stourmouth bow down to, make himself a great man, for her!--Sir Joseph
and Lady Challoner--a loftier flight than that--who could tell?  Maybe
a peerage.  Lord and Lady Baughurst--why not?  After all, if you play
your cards cleverly enough such apparently improbable things do happen,
particularly in this blessed twentieth century, when money is the prime
factor.

And there was money in plenty, would be more, unless he was uncommonly
out of his reckoning.  At the start, so he calculated, their united
incomes--his own and Margaret's--would amount to getting on for twelve
thousand.  All to the good, too, since there was no drain of a large
landed estate absorbing more than half its yearly revenue in compulsory
outgoings.  They would be married soon, quite soon.  Her sister's death
and her present loneliness supplied ample reason for pushing on the
wedding.  It must be a quiet one, of course, out of respect for
black-edged decencies.  But he didn't object to that.  The thing was to
get her.--And then he'd carry her away, right away, shaking her free of
the dismal, old-fashioned, Smyrthwaite rut altogether.  They'd take a
three months' honeymoon and travel somewhere, anywhere; go a yachting
trip, say, up the Mediterranean.  Never since he was a boy at school
had he taken a holiday.  It had been grind, grind, scheme, scheme,
climb, climb without intermission.  Not but what he'd climbed to some
purpose, since he'd got high enough at forty to pluck such a luscious
mouthful as Margaret off the apple-tree against which he'd set up his
ladder!  Now he would take a holiday, if only to show other men what a
prize Joseph Challoner had won in the shape of a woman.

Amorous, uxorious, his whole big body tingling with emotion, he forged
along the path across the darkling moorland, breasting the wind-driven
sheets of cold rain.

"Hi! slow up there, you great, lumbering, greasy-skinned elephant, and
tell me where the devil I've got to in this blasted old wilderness!" a
voice shouted.

At the same time he was aware that a narrow strip of the gray pathway
in front of him reared itself up on end, assuming human form--a human
form, moreover, oddly resembling that of Adrian Savage.

The style of the address was scarcely mollifying, and Challoner had all
a practical man's hatred both of being taken by surprise and of
encountering phenomena which he could not account for at once in a
quite satisfactory and obvious manner.  He came straight to the
baffling apparition, and looked it steadily, insolently, up and down,
the bully in him stirred into rather dangerous activity.  The ridicule
of his personal appearance wounded his vanity.  The interruption of his
dreams of love and glory infuriated him; while the fancied likeness of
the speaker to Adrian Savage sharpened the edge of both offenses.

"I advise you to keep a civil tongue in your head, or you may happen to
find this wilderness an even more blasted and blasting locality than
will at all suit you," he said threateningly.

At close quarters the slouching figure was certainly not that of Adrian
Savage, nor was the weak, dissolute, blue-eyed face.  Yet, although
seen indistinctly in the waning light, the said face struck Challoner
as unaccountably familiar.  What on earth, who on earth was the fellow?
Not an ordinary tramp, for his speech, though thick with drink, and his
clothes, though ill-kept and dirty, were those of a man of education
and position.  Challoner continued to scrutinize him.  And under that
unfriendly and menacing scrutiny the young man's tone changed,
declining to petulant almost whining apology.

"You needn't bluster," he said.  "I meant no harm; and you know you did
look awfully funny and shiny!  I want to know where I am.  I came
across from Havre to Barryport in an onion-boat, because it was
cheapest.  I'm not overflush of cash.  So I've come to look up some of
my people who live about here."

"Charming surprise for them," Challoner said.

"And it blew like blazes all last night.  Between the motion and the
stench of the onions I was as sick as Jonah's whale.  Nothing left
inside of me except just myself.  One of those Breton sailor chaps,
hawking his beastly vegetables, came a bit of the way from Barryport
with me.  He told me to cut across these commons and I should be sure
to come out all right; but I expect he lied just to get quit of me."

"More than possible," Challoner said.

"I ought to have stuck to the tram-lines, but my head's rather light.
I haven't got over the Jonah business yet.  I lost my bearings
altogether somehow, through feeling so awfully slack.  I've been
sheltering in under those mangy old fir-trees for I don't know how
long, hoping somebody might pass.  And I'm wet to the skin, and as cold
as charity."

"Very interesting indeed, but no earthly concern of mine.  So if you've
got to the end of your tale I'll continue my walk.  Good-day,"
Challoner commented, preparing to resume his homeward journey.

The young man caught him by the arm.

"Say, but you can't leave me alone in this God-forsaken hole?"

"Oh yes, I can," Challoner answered.  "Kindly take your dirty paw off
my sleeve, will you? else I may be compelled to have a word with the
local authorities about a case of assault, attempted robbery with
violence, and such sweet little games.  However, it wouldn't be the
first time you've made acquaintance with the inside of a police cell,
unless I'm much mistaken."

"I don't mean any harm.  I only want you to tell me the way.  I can't
lie out here in the wet all night.  It would rot me with chills and
fever."

The wind had increased in force.  Now the tumult of it was loud.  It
rushed through the firs, bending them low, tearing off dry branches and
tufted tassels; then fled on, screaming, across the dark plain of
heather like some demented thing let loose.  The speaker craned his
neck upward and raised his voice to a quavering shout in the effort to
make himself heard.  His face was close to Challoner's; and again the
latter was puzzled by something unaccountably familiar in the features
and general effect of it.  Whereupon the bullying instinct gave place
to caution.

"See here," he said, "you must behave like a reasonable being, not like
a driveling sot, if you want me to take any trouble about you.  Tell
you your way, you young fool, your way where?"

"To the Tower House, something Park--Baughurst Park--that's the
blooming name of it, where my people live."

Challoner started; he could not help it.  Then he waited till the next
gust of wind had spent its fury, and, in the lull which followed, spoke
very slowly.

"So that's the blooming name of the blooming place where your people
live, is it?  And who may your people be, if you please, and what is
your business with them?"

"What, the deuce, does that matter to you?" the other answered, trying
to ruffle, yet shrinking away nervously, while the wind, gathering
force again, whipped his legs and back, showing the lines of his
wasted, large-boned frame through his thin, light-colored clothing.

"As it happens, it matters very much to me," Challoner retorted,
"because some very particular friends of mine live at the Tower House.
It may amuse you to hear I have just come from there, and that you very
certainly can't gain access to the Tower House without my permission,
and that I very certainly shall not give that permission.  Young
gentlemen of your particular kidney aren't required there.  The
men-servants would kick you out, and quite properly.  We know how to
treat loafers and tippling impostors who try to sponge upon gentlewomen
here in England.--Now come along with me.  I'll see you as far as the
tram-line, and pay your fare to Barryport, and you can go on board your
onion-boat again.  Also I'll telephone through to the central police
station directly I get home and give the Stourmouth and Barryport
police a little description of you.  So step out, if you please.  No
malingering."

As he finished speaking Challoner grasped the young man solidly by the
shoulder, propelling him forward, but the latter, slippery as an eel,
wriggled himself free.

"Let go, you great hulking beast!" he cried.  "I'm not an impostor.
I'm William Smyrthwaite, and my sister Joanna means to provide for me.
I know all about that.  A chap who I ran across three days ago in Rouen
told me.  We always were chummy in the old days, Nannie and I.  She'll
tell you I'm speaking the truth fast enough, and make you look d--d
silly.  She'll recognize and acknowledge me, see if she don't!"

"Upon my word, I'm afraid she's not likely to have an opportunity of
doing anything of the kind, poor lady," Challoner returned; and he
laughed at his own rather horrible joke.  "So come along, Mr.
Who-ever-you-are, alias William Smyrthwaite, Esq.  I begin to think I'd
better see you safe on board your precious onion-boat myself, and have
you affectionately looked after till she sails.  It may save both of us
trouble."

"You beast, you cursed, great, shiny, black devil!" Bibby shouted.  And
he clawed and struck at his tormentor passionately.

The first touch of those striking, clawing hands let the underlying
wild animal loose in Challoner.  A primitive lust of fight took him,
along with a savage joy in the act of putting forth his own immense
physical strength.  Still, at first, his temper remained fairly under
control, and he played with his adversary, feinted and parried.  But
the wretched boy did not fight fair.  He indulged in sneaking, tricky
dodges learned amid the moral and social filth of the Paris under-world
and in South American gambling hells and doss-houses.  Soon Challoner
lost his temper, saw his chance, took it; delivered one blow, straight
from the shoulder, which, landing on Bibby's temple, dropped him like
so much lead on the rain-washed flints of the crown of the pathway.
Then he stood breathing heavily, his eyes bloodshot, the veins standing
out like cords on his forehead, the intoxication of battle at once
stupefying and maddening him.

Presently Bibby's limbs twitched; and, as though moved by a spring, he
sat bolt upright, his elbows set back, his hands, the thick-jointed
fingers wide apart, raised to the level of his shoulders.

"He's done me in, the clumsy, murderous brute!" he panted.  Then
childishly whimpering--"Nannie," he wailed, "poor old Nannie, so you're
dead too.  Golly, what a sell!  Never mind.  I'm just coming."

He lurched and fell sideways, rolling over face downward into a long,
sandy puddle edging the pathway.

Five minutes, nearly ten minutes passed, while Challoner remained
standing stock-still in the volleying wind and blinding rain and
forlorn fading light of the moorland.  At last he shook himself, went
forward and knelt beside the motionless Thing lying close against the
black ragged fringe of heath, upon its stomach, in the sandy wetness.
For some time he couldn't bring himself to touch it.  Then putting
strong constraint upon himself, he turned it over and bent low, staring
at it.  It reminded him of the big, white, yellow-headed maggots he
used to pick out of the decaying wood of the old summer-house in the
little garden at home as a boy, and use for bait when he went fishing
in the river at Mary church.  Yes--it was queerly like those maggots.
But somehow it wore the clothes of Adrian Savage.  And its poor face
was that of Joanna Smyrthwaite as he had seen her this morning in the
agitated silence of her room, stretched cold and lifeless beneath the
fine lace coverlet of her satin wood bed.  Only her eyes were shut, and
this Thing's eyes were wide, wide open.  Now its loose lips parted.
Its mouth opened too, while a dark thread trickled slowly down its chin
into the hollow of its throat inside its dirty, crumpled collar.

Challoner tumbled up hastily and waited, breathing hard and brushing
the rain and sweat off his face with the back of his hand.  Gradually
his mind began to work clearly.  His sense of ordinary every-day
happenings, their correlation and natural consequences, of his own
identity, his business, his hopes of worldly advancement, wealth and
titles, came back to him.  He understood that he must decide, act,
cover up what he had done, get rid of this accusing, motionless Thing
lying open-eyed, open-mouthed in the pathway.

He knelt down again, put his arms round the limp body, with a mighty
lift and heave flung it sack-like across his shoulder, staggered on to
his feet, and, heading southwestward in the teeth of the gale, laboring
under the weight of that which he carried, plowed his way doggedly
across the desolate outstretch of rough, resilient heather, down into
the heart of the straining, bellowing, storm-swept woodland.

It was late, long past his usual dinner-hour, when Challoner reached
Heatherleigh.  To his own surprise, he accounted for himself to his
servant as the man helped him off with his mackintosh.  He'd been
detained, had got a chill, he believed; didn't know that he wanted any
dinner.  Yes--let them send whatever they'd got ready--hot, and the
plainer the better.  He'd have it when he came down--in ten minutes.
He must change first, he was so confoundedly wet.

For the sake of appearances he made an effort to eat; but the sight and
smell of food turned his stomach.  Still complaining of chill, he left
the table and went into the smoking-room.  Though an abstemious man,
both from habit and policy, he mixed himself a remarkably stiff brandy
and soda, set it down on the large writing-table--loaded with bundles
of folded papers, documents engrossed on vellum and tied with pink
tape--and forgot to drink it.  Went round the room turning all the
incandescent gas-lamps full on.  The chocolate-colored imitation
leather paper with which the walls were hung made the room dark; and
Challoner felt a strong aversion to the dark.  He wanted to see every
object quite plainly and in its entirety.  He took a cigar from the
cedar-lined silver box Margaret Smyrthwaite had given him, standing on
the revolving bookcase--looked at it and put it back.  Somehow he
couldn't smoke.  Sank down in an arm-chair and sat glowering, like some
sullen, savage, trapped animal, into the empty grate.

More than once, fatigue overcoming him, he dozed, only to wake, with a
start, crying out loud:

"It wasn't my fault.  I didn't begin it.  He hit me first."

Then, clearer understanding returning, he continued:

"I struck him in self-defense--before God--as I hope to be saved, I
did.  At most they could bring it in manslaughter.  I did it for
Margaret's sake, to save her from being exploited and sponged on by the
drunken young rotter.  Ah! my God--but if it was true, if, as he
claimed to be, he was her brother, how can I go to her with his blood
on my hands?  Margaret--I'm in hell.  Forgive me--don't believe it!
Never know--my own poor, splendid darling--God, how I love
her--Margaret--Margaret--never know--I can't, I can't lose you."

And Challoner broke down, sobs shaking his great, amorous body and
tearing his bull throat.

Toward morning at the turn of the tide the gale abated and the rain
ceased.  When daylight came, but not until then, Challoner went
up-stairs to his bedroom, the windows of which faced east.  He drew
back the curtains, pulled up the wooden-slatted Venetian blinds and
watched the brightness widen outward and upward behind the ragged
crests of the stone pines.  As a rule he had not time or care to waste
on the beauties of nature, but he found vague, inarticulate solace in
the gaudy colors of this wild sunrise.  He was calmer now, and the
strong daylight helped to drive out exaggerations of sentiment and
fearful fancies.  In short, his impregnable health and physical
courage, his convenient coarseness of moral fiber and indomitable
tenacity of purpose, began to assert themselves.  He began to argue and
not unably to plead his own cause to himself.

For, look at the ghastly episode what way you pleased, how could he be
blamed for it?  The whole thing was accident, accident pure and simple,
which he could not foresee, and equally could not prevent.  It had been
sprung on him out of a clear sky.  He was rushed, not given an
instant's breathing space for consideration.  And that was manifestly
unfair.  Any man might lose his head and be betrayed into violence by
such vile provocation.

His spirits revived.

And, when all came to all, there was not a tittle of evidence against
him!  After parting with Haig he had not met a soul.  He could swear no
one had seen him turn out of The Avenue into the footpath.  The rain
would have obliterated all traces of the struggle by this time, and wet
heather, thank goodness, doesn't show tracks.  Though why he should
trouble about such details he didn't know.  It was blitheringly silly,
for, who the devil would be on the lookout for tracks?  A thousand to
one the body would not be found until the estate foresters cut the
bracken in November; and by then--

Sweat broke out on Challoner's forehead, and he was not sorry the sun
stood high behind the pines, throwing slanting shafts of light between
their dark stems across the rain-swamped garden, where the blackbirds
and thrushes patroled, worm-hunting, on the turf.

By that time, whatever was left would be in no condition to tell tales.
"Painful discovery in the Baughurst Park Woods"--he could see the
headlines in the local papers--"Mysterious death"--"No clue to the
identity of the remains"--None, thank the Lord, none, none!  But for a
couple of francs and a few English coppers the boy's pockets were
empty.  Challoner, praise to God! had mustered sufficient spunk to
ascertain that.

All the same--and here callousness failed him a little--his and
Margaret's honeymoon should be a long one, long enough to insure their
being far away from Stourmouth when the foresters cut the bracken in
November.  Distance, travel, new scenes and new interests, are said to
draw the sting of remembrance.  And it was best, immeasurably best, not
only for himself, but indirectly for Margaret also, that remembrance
should be blunted, that he should--if he only could--forget.

For, after all--his spirits in the honest sunshine reviving yet
further--what proof had he the miserable drink and vice corrupted
wastrel had spoken the truth?  Wasn't it much more probable Haig's
story was the right one, and that this was some low, blackmailing
scoundrel trading upon scraps of hearsay information he'd happened to
pick up?  A lying, misbegotten whelp, in short, of whom society at
large was extremely well rid--really, to expend sentiment upon the
summary removal of such refuse came near being maudlin.  As to any
fancied resemblance he bore to Joanna Smyrthwaite, one couldn't attach
any serious importance to that.  In the ghostly twilight it was
impossible to see distinctly.  And, after the uncommonly nasty upset of
the morning and the bullying he'd been obliged to give that old
grannie, Norbiton, before the latter would consent to ignore the empty
tabloid bottle, and certify the cause of death simply as syncope, it
was hardly surprising if he'd got poor Joanna's personal appearance a
little upon his brain.  No--it is an awful misfortune, no doubt, to be,
however accidentally, the means of taking a fellow-creature's life;
but, looking at the whole occurrence coolly, he--Challoner--came to the
comforting conclusion that he was hardly more to blame, more
responsible, than he would be if some reckless fool had blundered
across the road under the nose of his motor and got run down.

Whereupon, the sun having now cleared the crests of the pines and it
being imperative not to give the servants any handle for gossip,
Challoner undressed and went to bed.

He succeeded in advancing the date of the wedding; but during the five
weeks which elapsed before it took place his moods caused some
perplexity and no small discomfort to his poorer clients, junior
partners, and clerks.  At moments he indulged in boisterous mirth; but
for the most part was abominably bad-tempered, irritable, and morose.

Colonel Haig, however, noted unexpected signs of grace in him,
concerning which he spoke to Mr. Woodford one day at the Club.

"Challoner's coming more into line," he said; "he is less noisy and
self-assertive--very much less so.  A good deal of the improvement in
his manner is due to me, I flatter myself.  I have been at the trouble
of giving him some very strong hints.  If you propose to associate with
gentlemen you must learn to behave like a gentleman.  His election to
the Club vexed me at the time.  Too much country-attorney sharp
practice in the methods he employed, I thought.  So I am relieved,
greatly relieved, he has taken my friendly admonitions to heart.  It
would have annoyed me extremely if his membership had lowered the
social tone of the Club.  Too, it's pleasanter for me personally, as I
am bound, I suppose, to see a good deal of him in the future, on my
cousin, Margaret Smyrthwaite's, account."

When alone with his _fiancée_ during this period of waiting Challoner's
attitude alternated between anxious, almost servile, humility and
extravagant making of love.  Margaret, however, being a young woman of
limited imagination, put down both humility and "demonstrations" to the
potent effect of her own charms, thus remaining altogether sensible,
self-complacent, outwardly composed, inwardly excited, and, in fine,
very well content.  While unknown to her, unknown, indeed, to all save
the man who so slavishly obeyed and fiercely caressed her, the
unsightly Thing, which had once been her playmate and brother, lay out,
below the ever-talking trees, among the heath, and sedge-grass, and
bracken, the tragedy and unspeakable disgrace of its decomposition not
hidden by so much as a pauper's deal coffin-lid.



CHAPTER IX

  WHEREIN ADRIAN SAVAGE SUCCEEDS IN AWAKENING
  LA BELLE AU BOIS DORMANT

In consequence of the bad weather every one returned to Paris early
that autumn.  Anastasia Beauchamp's first reception--the fourth
Thursday in September--proved a crowded and animated function.  Each
guest expressed rapture at meeting every other guest, and at being
back, yes, once again veritably established in our dear, good, brave,
inexhaustibly interesting, intelligent and entertaining Paris!  How
they--the speakers--ever mustered sufficient fortitude to go away,
still more to stay away, they could really now form no conception.  But
it was finished, thank Heaven! the mortally tedious exile; and they
were restored to the humanities, the arts, the sciences, in short, to
civilization, of which last dear Mademoiselle Beauchamp's hospitality
represented so integral and so wholly charming a part.  This and much
more to this effect.  The French mind and French diction rarely fumble;
but arrive, with graceful adroitness, squarely on the spot.  Lightness
of touch and finish of phrase effectually safeguarded these raptures
against any suggestion of insincerity or absurdity.  They were
diverting, captivating, as were the retailers of them.  And Anastasia
listened, retorted, sympathized, capped a climax with further witty
extravagance, heartily pleased and amused.

Nevertheless, to her, this yearly _rentrée_ was not without an element
of pathos.  In the matter of reminiscence and retrospect Miss Beauchamp
was the least self-indulgent of women; her tendency to depress her
juniors by exaltation of the past at expense of the present being of
the smallest.  To hours of solitary communing in her hidden garden she
restricted all that.  Still this joyous homing, when the members of her
acquaintance taking up their residence once again in Paris blossomed
into fullness of intellectual and social activity, left her a little
wistful, a little sad.  Recognition of the perpetual shifting of the
human scene, of the instability of human purpose, oppressed her.  How
few of those who greeted her to-day with such affectionate
_empressement_ were precisely the same in thought, circumstance or
character as when they bade her farewell at the end of May!  She could
not but note changes.  Those changes might be slight, infinitesimal,
but they existed.  Not only do things, as a whole, march on; but the
individual marches on also--marches on, too often, out completeness of
sympathy, completeness of comprehension, or, through the ceaselessly
centrifugal, scattering action of the social machine, marches on
actually out of hearing and out of sight!  And this thinning of the
ranks, these changes in those who remained, did cause her sorrow.  She
could not bring herself to acquiesce in and accept them with entire
philosophy.

Arrayed in a dress of clove carnation satin veiled with black _ninon de
soie_, Miss Beauchamp stood near the door opening from the first of the
suite of reception-rooms--in which tea had been served--on to the
entrance hall.  She had taken up her position there when bidding her
guests adieu.  In the second room two persons were talking, Lewis
Byewater's slow, detached, slightly nasal accents making themselves
clearly audible.

"Lenty Stacpole feels Madame Vernois is just the loveliest mature
French feminine type he has yet encountered.  He would be gratified to
work up those thumbnail sketches of her he made at Ste. Marie into a
finished portrait for exhibition with his other work in New York this
winter--"

With an unconscious, but very expressive, little gesture of reprobation
Anastasia moved across to the embrasure of the near window, pleasant
from the fresh, pungent scent of a bank of white and lemon-colored
chrysanthemums.  She looked up into the limpid clarity of the twilight
sky seen above the house-roofs on the opposite side of the quiet street.

... Yes, the perpetual shifting of the human scene, the instability of
human purpose.  And, as concrete example of all that, a portrait of
gentle, shrinking, timid, pre-eminently old-world Madame Vernois on
exhibition in New York!  The shouting incongruity of the proposition!
Would her daughter, _la belle Gabrielle_, entertain it?  And there, as
Anastasia confessed to herself, she ran up against the provoking cause
of her quarrel with existing conditions and tendencies.  For, of the
two living persons whom she had recently come to hold dearest, wasn't
the one changed and the other absent?

Since that pleasant afternoon at Ste. Marie she had neither sight nor
word of Adrian Savage.  The young man appeared to have incontinently
vanished.  She rang up his office in the _rue Druot_.  The good Konski
replied over the telephone, "Monsieur was, alas! _encore en voyage_."
She rang up his home address in the _rue de l'Université_, only to
receive the same response; supplemented by the information that Adrian
had not notified the date of his return, nor left orders as to the
forwarding of his letters.  What did this mean?  She became anxious.

"Lenty has worried quite a wearing amount," Byewater was saying,
"whether it would be suitable he should ask you to let him work up a
portrait.  I tell you, Madame St. Leger, Lenty's silver-point is just a
dream.  Do not go thinking it is because I am his friend I judge it so.
Mr. Dax positively enthused when he saw some samples last fall; and
Lenty has broken his own record since then--"

Anastasia, still consulting the calm evening sky, began to play a quite
other than calm little fantasia with the fingers of one hand upon the
window-pane.  For why, in the name of diplomacy, of logic, of Eros
himself, had Adrian Savage elected to vanish at this moment of all
conceivable moments?  The goal of his ambitions was in sight--hadn't
she told him as much at Ste. Marie?  Eros awaiting, as she believed, to
crown him victor in the long, faithful fight.  And then that he, the
dear, exasperating young idiot, should gallop off thus, the Lord only
knew whither, instead of claiming the enchanting fruit of his victory!
Really, it was too wildly irritating.  For _la belle Gabrielle_ wasn't
pleased--not a bit of it.  She resented his absence at this particular
juncture, as any woman of spirit not unreasonably must.  Only too
probably she would make him pay for his apparent slight of her.  And to
what extent would she make him pay?  Faster and faster grew the time of
the fantasia upon the window-pane, for this question greatly disturbed
Anastasia.

For if Adrian must be cited as an example of the absent, _la belle
Gabrielle_ must be cited as among the changed.  Miss Beauchamp, who
watched her with affectionate solicitude, perceived something was a
little bit wrong with her.  She was not quite contented, not quite
happy.  Her manner had lost its delightful repose, her beauty, though
great, its high serenity.  Her wit had a sharp edge to it.  She avoided
occasions of intimacy.  To-day she had helped Anastasia receive; and
the latter remarked that, during the whole course of the afternoon, men
had gathered about her and that she flirted--gracefully--yet
undeniably--with each and all in turn.  Since her return to Paris she
had discarded the last outward signs of mourning.  The smoke-gray
walking-suit she wore to-day was lavishly embroidered in faint pastel
shades of mauve, turquoise, and shell-pink, the pattern outlined here
and there in silver thread, which glinted slightly as she moved.  The
same delicate tones tipped the _panache_ of smoke-gray ostrich plumes
set at the side of her large black hat.  In this donning of charming
colors Anastasia read the signing of some private declaration of
independence, some assertion, not only of her youth and youth's
acknowledged privilege of joyous costume, but of intention to make
capital out of the admiration her youth and beauty excited after the
manner of other fair _mondaines_.

Clearly Madame St. Leger had arrived at a definite and momentous
parting of the ways.  Her mourning, all which it implied and which went
along with it, was a thing of the past.  Her nature was too rich--let
it be added, too normal and wholesome--for the senses not to play their
part in the shaping of her destiny.  She had coquetted with Feminism,
it is true; but such appeals and opportunities as Feminism has to offer
the senses are not of an order wholesome natures can accept.  To
Gabrielle those appeals and opportunities were, briefly, loathsome;
while, in her existing attitude, an exclusively intellectual
fanaticism--such as alone can render advanced Feminism morally
innocuous--no longer could control or satisfy her.  Against it her
ironic and critical humor rebelled, making sport of it.  It followed,
therefore, as Anastasia saw, that _la belle Gabrielle_ would inevitably
seek satisfaction, scope for her young energies, for her unimpaired joy
of living, elsewhere.  And this signaled possible danger.  For, just
now, being piqued, as Anastasia believed, and pushed by wounded pride,
she might commit a folly.  She might marry the wrong man, marry for
position merely, or for money.  Plenty of aspirants, judging by this
afternoon, needed but little encouragement to declare themselves.  She
had borne the trials of one loveless marriage bravely, without faintest
breath of scandal or hint of disaster.  Throughout she had been
admirable, both in taste and in conduct.  But what about a second
loveless marriage, made now in the full bloom of her womanhood?

Miss Beauchamp's fingers positively drummed upon the window.  For she
had come to love them both so closely, love them foolishly, even
weakly, much--perhaps--this very attractive young couple, of whom the
one, just now, was absent, the other changed!  Beyond measure would it
grieve her if the consummation of their romance should be frustrated or
should come about other than quite honest and noble lines.  Why, oh!
why, in Heaven's name, did Adrian Savage absent himself?  Why, at this
eminently psychologic moment, was he not here?  Anastasia could have
wept.

Then, becoming aware of footsteps, and some presence entering from the
hall behind her, she turned round hastily to find herself confronted by
Adrian himself.

"_Enfin!_" she cried, enthusiastically.  "What an inexpressible relief
to see you, my dear Savage!  You discover me in the very act of
exhaling my doubtfully pious soul in prayers for your speedy return.
You are late, in some respects perhaps dangerously late; but 'better
late than never'--immeasurably better in this connection.  Only, pardon
me, where on earth have you been?"

The young man held her hand affectionately.

"In a land which possesses no frontiers, alas!" he said; "a land which
bears no relation to geography."

"Hum!  Hum!" Anastasia responded, just a trifle impatiently, shaking
her head.  "And in addition to its other peculiarities is this famous
country devoid of a postal system, may I ask?"

"Practically, yes," Adrian answered.  "Unless one is prepared to make
oneself a really unpardonable bore.  Some people call it the Land of
Regrets, dear friend, others call it Purgatory.  The two names are
synonymous for most of us, I imagine.  I have spent several weeks
there, and the atmosphere of the accursed place still so clings to me
that, although I needed immensely to see you, I shrank from coming here
to-day until, as I supposed, all your other guests would have gone."

Then Anastasia, looking at him, perceived that this delightful young
man--her great fondness for whom she did not attempt to disguise or
deny--must also be added to the number of the homing Parisians who had
suffered change since she saw them last.

To begin with, he was in mourning of the correct French order, which,
in man's attire only in a degree less than in woman's, prescribes
uncompromising severity of black.  But the change in him, as she
quickly apprehended, went deeper than such merely outward
acknowledgment of mournful occurrence.  Some profound note had been
struck since she saw him at Ste. Marie of the gleaming sands and
alluring horizons, revealing tremendous and vital issues to him; and,
in view of those same issues, revealing him to himself.  From the
effect of this revelation his whole being was still vibrant.
Anastasia's heart went out to him in large and generous sympathy; but
she abstained from question or comment.  The matter, whatever it might
be, was grave, not to be taken lightly or played with.  If he intended
to give her his confidence, he would find an opportunity for doing so
himself.  Men, as she reflected, in their dealings with women are made
that way.  Express no desire to learn what troubles them, and they
hasten to tell you.  Show, however discreetly, your anxiety to hear,
and they roll like hedgehogs, prickles outward, at once!  So she merely
said, smiling at him:

"I am afraid you should have waited even longer, my dear Savage, if
your object was to avoid all my guests.  Two, in any case, still
linger.  Listen--we cannot hope for solitude _à deux_ just yet."

For once more Byewater's slow, penetrating accents made themselves
audible.

"If you feel not to be able to entertain Lenty Stacpole's proposal,
Madame St. Leger, I would not have you hesitate to tell me.  I believe
I catch on to your objection, though in America our ladies do not have
such strong prejudices against publicity.  I will explain to Lenty the
way you feel.  I would not wish to put you to any worry of refusing his
proposal yourself."

"Eh!  _Par exemple_!  And pray what next?" Adrian said, under his
breath, with raised eyebrows, looking his hostess inquiringly in the
face.

"Ste. Marie offered only too many fatally magical quarters of an hour.
They are both very hopelessly far gone, the two poor innocents!"

"Both?  But it is preposterous, incredible!  Dearest friend, you do not
say to me both--not both?" Adrian cried, in a rising scale of heated
protest.

To which Anastasia, hailing these symptoms of militant jealousy as
altogether healthy, replied genially, taking his arm:

"If you doubt my word, come and judge for yourself."

Lewis Byewater, his hands clasped behind him, leaned his limp height
against one of the few wall-spaces unincrusted with pictures, mirrors,
china and other liberal confusion of ornament.  Madame St. Leger stood
near him, smoothing out the wrinkles in the wrists of her long gloves.
To Adrian, as he entered the room, her charming person presented itself
in profile.  He perceived, and this gave him a curious turn in the
blood, half of subtle alarm, half of high promise, that she once more
wore colors.

Anastasia Beauchamp felt his arm tremble.

"Yes," she murmured, "a certain enchanting woman puts on her armor and
takes the field again.  Believe me, it is time, high time, you came
back!"

"You are so very good to try to spare me the pain of making Mr.
Stacpole a refusal," Gabrielle was saying sweetly to the young
American.  "But you do always show yourself so very amiable, so
thoughtful I think your countrymen are of the most--how do you
say?--the most unselfish of any--"

Turning her head--"Ah!" she exclaimed, quite sharply, living red
leaping into the round of her cheeks and living light into her
eyes--"it is you, Mr. Savage?"

But even while the answering light leaped into Adrian's eyes, very
effectually for the moment dissipating their melancholy, her expression
hardened, becoming mocking and ironic.

"You have the pleasure to know my kind friend, M. Byewater?" she asked,
with a graceful wave of the hand toward that excellent youth, who had
ceased to lounge against the wall and stood rather anxiously upright,
the blankness of unexpected discomfiture upon his ingenuous countenance.

"Incontestably I have the pleasure of knowing M. Byewater," Adrian
replied.  "I have also had the pleasure of reading, and further, of
publishing, two of his a little--yes, I fear, perhaps just a
little--lengthy articles."

"I did condense all I knew," Byewater put in ruefully, addressing his
hostess.  "But I presume I was over-weighted by the amount of my
material."

"Quite so; and the whole secret both of style and of holding your
reader's attention lies in selection, in the intuitive knowledge of
what to leave out," Adrian declared, his eyes fixed with positively
ferocious jealousy upon _la belle Gabrielle's_ partially averted face.

That poor, inoffensive Byewater should receive this public roasting was
flagrantly unjust, Anastasia felt, still she abstained from
intervention.  The silence which followed was critical.  She refused to
break it.  The responsibility of doing so appeared to her too great.
One or other of the two principal actors in the little scene must
undertake that.  She really couldn't.  At last, coldly, unwilling, as
though forced against her inclination to speak, Madame St. Leger,
turning to Adrian Savage, said:

"It is long since we have any news of him.  How is M. Dax?"

Adrian shrugged his shoulders.

"I have not heard, _chère Madame_," he replied.

Whereupon Miss Beauchamp, satisfied that, whether for good or ill,
relations were safely established between this altogether dear and not
a little perverse young couple, called cheerfully to the American youth.

"Come here, come here, Mr. Byewater.  I have hardly had one word with
you all this afternoon, and there is something I greatly wish to ask
you.  What is this that I hear about our good, clever Mr. Stacpole's
leaving for New York?"

"It is so, Miss Beauchamp.  Lenty is fairly through with the work for
his winter exhibition, and he looks to start the first of the month."

"But I do not comprehend how it is you do not bring any news of M. Dax.
Have you not then been with him all the time since we have last seen
you?"

"I have been abroad," Adrian replied.  "My cousin, of whom you may
remember to have heard me speak--Joanna Smyrthwaite--"

He hesitated, and his companion, though stoutly resolved against all
yielding and pity in his direction, could not but note the melancholy
and extreme pallor of his handsome face.

"But certainly I remember," she returned rather hastily.  "Is she ill,
then, poor lady, one of those pensive abstractions whom it has been
your interesting mission to materialize and rejuvenate?"

"She is no longer ill," he answered.  "She is dead."

"_Ah! quel malheur inattendu_!  Truly that is most sad," Gabrielle said
in accents of concern.  Then for a moment she looked at Adrian with a
very singular expression.  "I offer you my sympathy, my condolences,
Mr. Savage, upon this unhappy event."

And, turning aside, she began to move toward the doorway of the outer
room, upon the threshold of which her hostess stood talking to Byewater.

But Adrian arrested her impetuously.

"Stay, Madame!" he cried, joining his hands as in supplication.  "Stay,
I implore you, and permit me a few minutes' conversation.  By this you
will confer the greatest benefit upon me; for so, and so only, can
misunderstandings and misconstructions be avoided."

Thus admonished, Gabrielle paused.  Her aspect and bearing were
reserved, as those of one who yields in obedience to good manners
rather than to personal inclination.  But Adrian, nothing daunted,
followed up his advantage.

"I came here to-day, _chère Madame_," he said, "as soon as possible
after my return.  My idea was to consult our friend Miss Beauchamp, to
ask her advice and enlist her assistance.  I feared my conduct might
have appeared erratic, inexplicable.  I proposed begging her to act as
my ambassadress, asking her to recount to you certain things which have
taken place since we parted at Ste. Marie--things very grievous, in a
way unexampled and unnatural.  But as I have the good fortune to find
you here, I entreat you to wait and hear me while I acquaint you with
those occurrences myself.  You will remain, yes?  Let us go over there
then, out of earshot of the insupportably recurrent Mr. Byewater.  I
need to speak to you alone, _chère Madame_, without frivolous
interruptions.  And Mr. Byewater is forever at hand.  He annoys me.  He
is so very far from decorative.  He reminds me of a fish--of an
underdone _filet de sole_."

Madame St. Leger's reserve gave slightly.

"Unhappy Mr. Byewater!" she murmured.

"Yes, indeed unhappy, since you too observe the likeness," Adrian
pursued, darting positively envenomed glances in the direction of the
doorway.  "Yet is it not unpardonable in any man to resemble the
insufficiently fried section of a flat fish?  You recognize it as
unpardonable?  Sit down here then, _trés chère Madame_, at the farthest
distance possible from that lanky _poisson d'Amérique_.  Ah!  I am
grateful to you," he added, with very convincing earnestness.  "For in
listening you will help to dissipate the blackness of regret which
engulfs me.  You will hear and you will judge; yes, it is for you, for
you only and supremely to do that--to judge."

"I fear you will be no end fatigued, Miss Beauchamp, standing all this
long time talking," the excellent, and, fortunately, quite unconscious
Byewater was meanwhile saying.  "I believe I ought to go right now.  I
had promised myself I would escort Madame St. Leger home to the _Quai
Malaquais_.  But I don't believe I stand to gain anything by waiting.
Recent developments hardly favor the supposition that promise is likely
to condense into fact."

He nodded his head, indicating the couple ensconced at the opposite end
of the room in two pillowed, cane-seated, cane-backed gilt chairs of
pseudo-classic pattern.  The wall immediately behind them carried a
broad, tall panel of looking-glass, the border of which blossomed on
either side at about half its height into a cluster of shaded electric
lamps.  The mellow light from these covered the perfectly finished
figures of the young man and woman, sitting there in such close
proximity, and created a bright circle about them, as Anastasia
Beauchamp noted, curiously isolating them from all surrounding objects
save their own graceful images repeated in the great looking-glass.
Her eyes dwelt upon them in indulgent tenderness.  Might they prosper!
And therewith, very genially, she turned her attention to the fish-like
Byewater once more.

But that same bright isolation and close proximity worked strongly upon
Gabrielle St. Leger.  Her pulse quickened.  A subtle excitement took
possession of her, which, just because of her anxiety to ignore and
conceal it, obliged her to speak.

"Your cousin's death has evidently pained you.  You mourn her very
truly, very much?"

"I cannot mourn enough."

"Indeed!" she said, dwelling upon the word with a peculiar and slightly
incredulous inflection.

"No," he repeated, "I cannot mourn enough.  But to make my state of
mind intelligible to you--and it is vitally important to me to do
so--it is necessary you should know what has happened.  I cannot deny
that I am very sad."

He bowed himself together, setting his elbows on his knees, pressing
his hands against either side of his head.

"I have cause to be sad," he continued.  "Involuntarily I have
contributed to the commission of a crime.  All the values are altered.
I am become a stranger to myself.  Therefore I ask just this of you, to
hear me and to judge."

Surprised, impressed, alarmed even, Gabrielle St. Leger gathered
herself back gravely in her gilded, long-seated pseudo-classic chair.
The young man's genuine and undisguised trouble combined with his
actual physical nearness to threaten her emotional equilibrium.  More
eagerly than she cared to admit even to herself had she looked forward
to his return to Ste. Marie.  Her disappointment was proportionate,
causing her anger.  The thought of the slight he had put upon her
rankled.  She was, or rather wished to be, angry still.  But just now
wishes and feeling ranged themselves in irritating opposition and
conflict.  And during the silence following his last strangely
sorrowful and self-accusing words--he so very near to her, dejected,
abstracted, with bent head--feeling gained, waxing masterful and
intimate.  The personal charm of the man, his distinction of
appearance, his quick brain and eloquent speech, his unimpeachable
sincerity, his virility--refined, but in no degree impaired by the
artificial conditions of modern life--even his boyish outbreak of
jealousy toward Lewis Byewater, stirred and agitated her, proving
dangerous alike to her senses and her heart.  The culminating moment of
that terrible experience in René Dax's studio, when, half beside
herself from the horror of madness and death, she had flung herself
upon Adrian's breast, there finding safety and restoration to all the
dear joys of living, presented itself to her memory with importunate
insistence.  Was it conceivable that she craved to have that moment
repeat itself?

"Mr. Savage--you asked me to listen.  I listen," she said, and her
voice shook.

In response the young man looked up at her, a rather pitiful smile on
his white face.

"Thank you--it was like this, then, _chère Madame et amie_," he said.
"Pushed by certain sinister fears, without waiting to communicate with
you or with any one, I went straight to England on receiving from her
sister the announcement of my cousin's death.  Letters had passed
between us during the previous fortnight which rendered that
announcement peculiarly and acutely distressing to me."

Adrian bent his head again and sat staring blindly at the floor.

"She had asked a pledge of me which neither in honor nor in honesty
could I give," he said, bitterly.  "My cousin was an admirable woman of
business.  I knew that all her worldly affairs were scrupulously
regulated.  I was in no way concerned in the distribution of her
property.  I went to attend her funeral as a tribute of regard and
respect.  I also went in the hope the sinister fears of which I have
spoken might prove unfounded.  I stayed in London, merely going down to
Stourmouth for a few hours.  It was a wretched, wretched day, the
weather cold and wet."

He ceased speaking.  For at this moment--whether through some inward
compelling, some mental necessity to arrive at a just and comprehensive
estimate of the history of the last eight months, or whether through
some external influence emanating from the unseen world of spirit and
striving to dominate and coerce him, he could neither then, nor
afterward, determine--the whole gloomy _affaire_ Smyrthwaite, in its
entirety, from start to finish, presented itself to his mind.  The
slightly bizarre yet charming room, its crowded furniture, subdued
gaiety of lights and flowers, even Gabrielle St. Leger's well-beloved
and ardently desired presence, became strangely unreal to him and
remote; while his mind fixed itself in turn upon the autocratic,
self-centered husband and father warping the lives of wife and children
in obedience to cold-blooded theory; upon the interruption of his own
work, and prosecution of his fair romance, by the tedious labors of the
executorship; of his long fruitless search amid the filth of the Paris
underworld for the wastrel degenerate, Bibby; of the squalid finding,
the still more squalid redisappearance of the wretched fellow, and the
disquieting uncertainty which even now covered his whereabouts and his
fate; and lastly, with sharp inward shrinking, upon the commencement,
the progress, the extinction, of Joanna's infatuation for himself.

And as sum total and result what remained?  What was there to show in
the way of harvest for all that strenuous and painful sowing?  Only
this--that now, very strangely, he himself at once participant and
spectator, he saw in the mournful chill of the rain-swept September day
a dark, straggling, ill-assorted procession passing up a trampled,
puddle-pocketed road between ranks of pale and vulgarly commonplace
monuments set against a backing of somber fir-trees and heather.
Margaret Smyrthwaite, composed, callous, and comely, swathed in
abundance of brand-new crape, walked beside him immediately behind a
coffin--the hard, polished lines of which were unsoftened by pall or by
flowers--carried shoulder high.  The big Yorkshireman, Andrew Merriman,
followed in company with Joseph Challoner--the latter oddly subdued and
nervous, obsequious even in bearing and in speech.  Next came fussy
little Colonel Haig, Doctor Norbiton, and the amazon Marion Chase.  A
contingent of servants from the Tower House, headed by Smallbridge, the
butler; Johnson, the portly coachman, and Mrs. Isherwood, brought up
the rear.  Isherwood, alone of the company, wept, silently but
heart-brokenly, mourning not only a mistress who was to her as a
daughter, but the passing of an order of things which had filled and
molded her life and in the service of which she had grown old.  To
Adrian the faithful woman's tears supplied the one sincere and human
note in the otherwise cruelly barren and perfunctory performance.  And,
to his seeing, her desolation found sympathetic echo in the desolation
of the autumn moorland, of the bare coffin, and the gray curtain of
drifting mist blotting out the distance--the vast amphitheater of the
Baughurst Park woods, the streets and buildings of Stourmouth, and all
the noble freedom of the sea.  The hopelessness of that desolation
clutched at him still, penetrating him, even now and here, with
conviction of failure and futility, with doubt of any eternal and
reasoned direction and purpose in things human, and with very searching
doubt of himself.  His fine and healthy optimism--in other words, his
faith in God's goodness--suffered bitter eclipse.

"I would not be surprised if I concluded to take the trip with Lenty
the first of the month, Miss Beauchamp."

As he spoke Lewis Byewater's mild and honest eyes, half humorously,
half reproachfully, sought the delightful young man and young woman
sitting silent in their gilded chairs.

"I am ever so grateful to you for all the splendid times you have given
me," he continued, rather irrelevantly; "but I begin to have a notion
it would prove healthier for me to leave Paris this fall."

Again his eyes sought the silent couple enthroned before the tall
mirror.

"Yes," he said, "I feel pretty confident I will accompany Lenty.  Seems
as though this gay city had turned ever so lonesome and foreign
to-night.  Europe is enervating for a continuance.  I know others who
have found it affect them that way.  There is too much atmosphere over
here.  I have a notion my moral system is in need of toning up; and I
believe our bright American climate might help me some if I took a
spell of it."

Madame St. Leger threw back her head and loosened the lace scarf about
her rounded throat.

"Return, Mr. Savage.  Again I remind you that I wait to hear that which
you ask to tell me, that I listen.  Return, lest I grow too impatient
of waiting," she said.

Adrian straightened himself.  His looked dazed, absorbed.  He passed
his hands across his eyes and forehead, as one who awakens from a
feverish sleep.

"Ah! forgive me, _chère Madame_," he answered.  "But that is precisely
what I need, what I desire--just that--to return, to come back; and to
come back by your invitation, at your calling.  I ask nothing better,
nothing else."

He spread out his hands, leaning sideways in his chair, looking at her.

"Forgive me.  I am very stupid, incoherent; but the events of the last
three weeks are still so vividly present to me that they confuse and
distract me.  I cannot see my way clearly.  I find it difficult to tell
you what is necessary, just what I should.  See, then, it had been the
habit of my cousin to keep a journal daily from early childhood.  The
last volume of that journal she had, I found, left as a legacy to me.
Her sister gave it to me after the funeral.  I took it back with me to
London.  The night was wet, and I was in no humor for amusement.  I
remained indoors, in my room at the hotel.  The sinister fears which I
entertained in connection with my cousin's death had not been allayed
by my visit to Stourmouth.  A certain mystery appeared to surround the
circumstances attending it.  I perceived a great unwillingness to
answer my inquiries on the part of those most nearly concerned.  That
night, after dinner, I opened the packet containing the journal,
unwillingly, I own; I would rather have delayed.  But I could not do
so.  With the muffled roar of the ceaseless London traffic in my ears I
sat and read the journal from cover to cover.  Having once begun, I
could not leave off.  I did not go to bed that night.  In the morning
early I left London.  I left England.  I traveled.  I hardly know where
I went, Madame.  I wanted to escape.  I wanted to get away from every
person I knew, whom I had ever seen.  Above all I wanted to get away
from myself; but I was obliged to take myself along with me.  And I
found myself a dreadful companion.  I hated myself."

Madame St. Leger moved slightly in her gilded chair.

"My poor friend!" she murmured almost inaudibly.

"Yes, I hated myself," Adrian repeated.  "That journal is the most
poignant, the most convincing human document I have ever read.  My
cousin had the misfortune to love a person who did not return her
affection.  In the pages of her journal, with uncompromising
truthfulness, with appalling self-scrutiny, self-revelation and
unflinching courage, with, I may add, the amazing abandon possible only
to a rigidly virtuous woman, she has recorded the successive phases of
that love, from its first unsuspected and almost unconscious inception
to the hour when by an act of will, so extraordinary as to be little
short of miraculous, she sent her soul out of her body, across land and
sea, in pursuit of the man whom she loved and forced from his own lips
the confession of his indifference to her."

Again Madame St. Leger moved slightly.

"You tell me this soberly, Mr. Savage?" she asked.  "In good faith?"

Adrian looked fixedly at her.  Her beautiful face, her whole attitude,
was tense with excitement.

"In absolute good faith, Madame," he replied.  "I have not only the
detailed testimony of her journal, but the perfectly independent and
equally detailed testimony of the person whom she loved.  The two
statements agree in every particular."

"Still," Gabrielle cried, a sudden yearning in her eyes, "still I
cannot count her as altogether unfortunate, your poor cousin!  For it
is not given to many--it is the mark of a very strong, a very great
nature, to be capable of such love.  And when she had obtained this
man's confession?"

"She decided to live no longer," Adrian replied hoarsely.  "She had no
religion, no faith in Almighty God or in the survival of human
personality and consciousness, no hope of a hereafter, to restrain her
from taking her own life.  She made her preparations calmly and
silently, with the dignity of sincere and very impressive stoicism.
The concluding words of the terrible book, in which she has dissected
out all the passion and agony of her heart, of her poor tortured body
as well as her poor tortured soul, are words of pity, of tenderness,
toward the man who found himself unable to return her affection."

For a time both remained silent, while in the outer room Miss Beauchamp
bade a genial farewell to the disconsolate Byewater.

"Yes, go, my dear young man, go," she said, "and breathe the surprising
air of your very surprising native land.  I shall miss you.  But I
understand the position, and give you my blessing.  Later you will
return to us--for Europe is full of illumination and of instruction.
You will return, and, be very sure, we shall all be delighted to see
you.  Be sure, also, that you leave an altogether pleasant and friendly
reputation behind you."

"But, but," Gabrielle said, presently, with a certain protest and
hesitancy, "it pains, it angers me to think of so great a waste.  For
it is no ordinary thing, the bestowal by any woman of so magnificent a
gift of love.  That a woman, young and rich, should die for love--and
now, at the present time, when our interest moves quickly from person
to person, when we console ourselves easily with some new occupation,
new friendship, when our morals are perhaps a little--how do you
say?--easy, is it not particularly surprising, is it not, indeed,
unique?  To reject such affection, is not that to throw away, in a
sense, a positive fortune?  How could such devotion fail to attract,
fail to create a response?  Why, Monsieur, could not this man of whom
you tell me return your cousin's great love?"

Adrian Savage spread out his hands with a gesture at once hopeless and
singularly appealing.

"Because, Madame, because the man already loved you," he said.  "And,
that being so, for him there could be no possible room, no conceivable
question, of any other love."

Madame St. Leger remained absolutely motionless, expressionless, for a
moment; then she threw back her head, closing her eyes.  "Ah!" she
sighed, sharply.  "Ah!"

And Adrian waited, watching her, a sudden keenness in his face.  For
what, indeed, did it betoken, where did it lead to, this praise and
advocacy of Joanna Smyrthwaite's tragic devotion, followed by that
singularly unrestrained and unconventional little outcry?  The said
outcry struck right through him, giving him a queer turn in the
blood--carrying him back in sentiment, moreover, to the horrible yet
perfect experience in René Dax's studio, when he had felt the whole
weight of Gabrielle's beloved body flung against him and the clasp of
her arms about his neck.  He straightened himself, took a deep breath,
his nostrils dilated, his lips parted.  He emerged from the confusion
and lethargy which had oppressed him, quickened by that same outcry
into newness and fullness of life.  To him all this was as the drawing
aside of some gloomy, jealously impenetrable curtain--the curtain of
desolate gray mist, was it, blotting out the distance, the town, the
great woods, and the noble freedom of the sea, when he walked in that
ill-assorted funeral procession up the wet road behind Joanna's
coffin?--a drawing of it aside and letting the glad and wholesome
sunlight shine on him once more.  He no longer felt a stranger to
himself.  The past--all which had happened, all which went to shape his
character and inspire his action, all which he had desired and held
infinitely dear before the _affaire_ Smyrthwaite imposed itself upon
him--linked up with the present, in sane and intelligible sequence of
cause and effect.  Thus, chastened, it is true, a little older, sadder,
wiser, but fearless, ardent, purposeful as ever, did Adrian the
Magnificent come into his own again.

He drew nearer to her, laid his right arm somewhat possessively upon
the arm of Madame St. Leger's chair, and spoke softly, yet with much of
his former impetuosity.

"See, _chère Madame_, see," he said; "do you perhaps remember, this
winter, in the week of the great snow, when I came to tell you I was
summoned to my cousins' home in England?  You were not quite, quite
kind.  You mocked me a little, suggesting a solution of the problems
raised by my impending visit.  The solution you proposed was, as I
ventured to explain to you, impossible then.  It remained impossible to
the end, the cruel end, and for the same reason."

His manner changed.  His voice deepened.

"Yet, believe me, when by degrees, against my will, against my respect
for my cousin and sincere desire for her happiness, the fact of her
unfortunate partiality was brought home to me, I tried with all my
strength to command my heart.  Twice I faced the situation without
reserve, and tried to submit, to sacrifice myself, rather than cause
her humiliation and distress."

Adrian looked away across the crowded, pleasant room, with its scent of
autumn flowers, cedar, and sandalwood, and its many shaded lights.  His
lips worked, but at first no sound passed them.

"I could not do it," he said.  "I could not.  I loved you too much."

He raised his hand from the arm of _la belle Gabrielle's_ chair,
turning proudly upon her, as a man who on his trial fiercely protests
his own innocence.

"I had given her no cause for her disastrous delusion--before God,
Madame, I had not.  And my passion, too, has its authority, its
unalienable rights.  I could not, I dared not, betray them.  It may be
that the happiness to which I aspire will never be granted me.  Very
well.  I shall suffer, but I shall know how to accommodate myself.  But
to cut myself off voluntarily from all hope of that happiness by
marriage with another woman was like asking me to mutilate myself.  I
refused.  Could the situation repeat itself, I should again refuse,
although when I read her terrible journal and learned the reason of my
cousin's suicide I was consumed by remorse, by grief and self-reproach."

Adrian paused.

"Now I have told you everything, Madame," he added, quietly.  "I leave
myself in your hands.  It is for you to condemn or to acquit me, to
judge whether I have behaved as an honorable man, whether I have done
right."

After a silence, a pathetic bewilderment in her mysterious eyes,
Gabrielle St. Leger answered brokenly:

"I do not know.  I do not know.  I cannot presume to judge.  What you
tell me is all so difficult, so sad--only I may say, perhaps, that I am
glad you did not sacrifice yourself."

"You are glad?  Then--" Adrian stammered, "then you will marry me?"

"Eh! but," _la belle Gabrielle_ cried, and her voice shook, though
whether with tears or with laughter she herself knew not, "you go so
quick, so very quick!"

"You are mistaken--pardon me.  I do not go quick, but slow, slow as the
centuries, as æons, as innumerable and cumulative eternities.  Have I
not served for you, _tres chère Madame_, a good seven years?"

"So long as that?"

"Yes, as long as that.  Ever since the day I first saw you.  You had
but recently come to Paris.  Much has happened--for both of us--since
that date.  Yes, I can still describe to you the gown you wore, the
manner in which your hair was dressed, can recall the subjects of our
conversation, can repeat the words which you said."

Madame St. Leger gathered herself back in her gilded chair, her head
bent.  For a quite perceptible space of time she remained absolutely
still.  The inclination of her head and the shadow cast by the brim of
her hat concealed her face.  Adrian's heart thumped in his ears.  His
breath came short and thick.  At last he could bear the suspense no
longer.  He leaned forward again.

"Madame, Madame," he called softly, urgently, "think of the seven
years.  Remember that I am young and that I am on fire, since I love as
the young love.  Do not prolong my trial.  Give me my answer--yes or
no--now, here, at once."

Thus adjured, Madame St. Leger raised her head, looked full at him with
wide-open eyes, something profound, exalted, in a way desperate, in her
expression.  She shivered slightly, and holding out both her hands:

"I surrender," she said.

The young man took her extended hands in his, bent down and kissed them
reverently; then looked back at her gravely, resolutely, though he was
white to the lips.

"But not under compulsion, not out of pity?" he said.  "Now, even now,
with the consummation of all my hopes and desire within my grasp, I
would rather you sent me away than, than--that--"

_La belle Gabrielle_ shook her head gently, smiling.

"No, no," she answered.  "Not under compulsion, not out of pity, _mon
ami_; but because I find nature is too strong for me.  Because I find I
too love, and find--since you will have me lay bare my heart and tell
you everything--it is you, precisely and solely you, whom I love."

And from the inner room--into which Anastasia Beauchamp had passed
unperceived by her two guests during this, for them, momentous
colloquy--came strains of heroic music, good for the soul.



THE END





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