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Title: It Happened in Japan
Author: d'Anethan, Baroness Albert
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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Libraries.)



                         IT HAPPENED IN JAPAN.

                                                  [Illustration]



                             TO MY BROTHER

                         MAJOR ARTHUR HAGGARD.



                             [Illustration]



    ... "_Pearl's was a perfect Japanese garden: it was a garden of
    the past, a poem, a creation of an art whose charm and
    loveliness only a Japanese can produce._"

                                                    --_Page 28._



                           IT
                           HAPPENED
                           IN
                           JAPAN.


                                   BY
                       BARONESS ALBERT d'ANETHAN
                      Author of "His Chief's Wife"
                      "Love Songs and Other Songs"


                       WITH COLOURED FRONTISPIECE
                                   BY
                            WILLARD STRAIGHT


                   LONDON BROWN, LANGHAM & CO., LTD.
                        78, NEW BOND STREET, W.
                                 1906.



                               CONTENTS.


                                                               PAGE.

    CHAPTER      I.--Renunciation   ---     ---     ---            1

    CHAPTER     II.--In Lotus Land  ---     ---     ---           25

    CHAPTER    III.--Pains and Penalties    ---     ---           56

    CHAPTER     IV.--Deep Waters    ---     ---     ---           75

    CHAPTER      V.--Home News      ---     ---     ---           91

    CHAPTER     VI.--A Woman's Womanliness  ---     ---          118

    CHAPTER    VII.--Tried as by Fire       ---     ---          146

    CHAPTER   VIII.--Amy to the Rescue      ---     ---          159

    CHAPTER     IX.--On the Verge of the Unknown    ---          176

    CHAPTER      X.--In the Shadow of a Tomb        ---          198

    CHAPTER     XI.--The Price of a Kiss    ---     ---          222

    CHAPTER    XII.--Danger Signals         ---     ---         244

    CHAPTER   XIII.--Hidden Fires   ---     ---     ---         265

    CHAPTER    XIV.--A Bird of Ill Omen     ---     ---         280

    CHAPTER     XV.--'Twixt Scylla and Charybdis    ---         298

    CHAPTER    XVI.--"It is best so, Amy, Dear"     ---         315



                               CHAPTER I.

                             RENUNCIATION.


Two men, side by side, were slowly pacing the deck of the _Empress of
India_ on her outward voyage to Japan. A week had almost passed since
the boat had sailed from Vancouver, and the extremely bad weather
encountered until this afternoon had prevented all but the most hardened
good sailors from penetrating from below. Now, however, the wind and sea
had somewhat abated, the first ray of sun had brought the storm-tossed
and sea-sick from their berths, and the broad decks were soon swarming
with passengers of both sexes, whose faces and general demeanour
expressed entire satisfaction at their restored liberty.

Monsieur de Güldenfeldt, the newly-appointed Swedish Minister to Japan,
though an experienced and enterprising traveller, was watching this
motley crew through his eye-glass with an amused and somewhat quizzical
expression. He had seen many such scenes, and yet to his observant mind
they were ever new and always entertaining. He was at the present moment
occupied in gazing at a French priest, a German commercial traveller,
and a cadaverous-looking Englishman discussing with varied
gesticulations some point in the political situation, on which question
each appeared as ignorant as he was positive, and he was vaguely
wondering what means they would ultimately find to unravel the tangled
skein, when he felt his companion, a tall dark man with a black
moustache and a distinguished nose, grip him by the arm.

"By Jove, de Güldenfeldt!" exclaimed the latter excitedly, while an
unusual air of animation lit up his somewhat sleepy eyes, "Isn't that
Mrs. Norrywood? That woman about whom there has been all that fuss, you
know. Or am I dreaming?"

Monsieur de Güldenfeldt glanced along the deck and fixed his eyes on a
lady who, all unconscious of the notice she was attracting, slowly came
towards them.

"Not much doubt on that point, I fancy," he replied, as the tall,
graceful figure passed near them. "I've known her for years. As one
knows people about Town, you know. Dined with her, and that sort of
thing. There's no mistaking her. Sapristi! what a beautiful woman she
is! I wonder if Martinworth is on board: if they are together, you
know."

Sir Ralph Nicholson pensively stroked his moustache, but did not reply.

"It would give me intense satisfaction to be acquainted with the rights
of that story," continued de Güldenfeldt. "It was an uncommonly mixed up
affair. Doubtless, Nicholson, you will put me down as a fool, but I
believe that I am one of the few people who, after having followed the
evidence from the beginning to the end, still believe in her and
Martinworth's innocence. Why! you can't look into that woman's eyes, and
not feel convinced that she is all right. I defy you to do so."

"My dear fellow, it is just because she looks so uncommonly innocent and
pure, and all that sort of thing, that she's probably as bad as they
make 'em," replied Sir Ralph sententiously. "You are such a devilishly
indulgent fellow, de Güldenfeldt. All the many years that I have known
you, and all the time you were posted in London, I hardly ever heard you
utter a word against a soul: especially if the individual discussed
happened to be a woman. Yet heaven knows, in the course of a long and
successful career you must have had plenty of knowledge of the fair sex
and their peculiar little ways."

"Believe me, my dear boy," replied de Güldenfeldt somewhat gravely,
"women are far more sinned against than sinning. But it's no earthly use
arguing with a juvenile cynic, such as no doubt you consider yourself,
on this much disputed point. At present, you have all the censoriousness
and hard-heartedness of youth on your side. Only wait ten or fifteen
years--till you are my mature age--and then tell me what you think about
the matter. But," he added, "to return to our friend Mrs. Norrywood. You
have no notion what a brute was Norrywood. It was only after years of
neglect and infidelity, even downright cruelty on his part, that his
wife took up at last with that nice fellow Martinworth. One only wonders
she didn't console herself ages before."

"But surely it was _she_ who started the divorce proceedings?"

"Yes. You see one day things came to a climax when she--oh! Well, don't
let's go over the whole sordid history. Suffice it to say, that no woman
with a particle of self-respect could, knowing what she knew, put up a
day longer with such a blackguard. Then he--Norrywood--you know, brought
the counter charge against her, poor soul, and Lord Martinworth; and at
one time things were made to look uncommonly black against them.
However, nothing was proved, for the excellent reason, in my opinion,
that there was absolutely nothing to prove. And in the end she got her
divorce right enough."

"Yes, and everyone said she would marry Martinworth within the year."

"Well, the year is almost past. We shall see whether everyone was right,
and whether Martinworth is on board; and if so, in what capacity. Here
she comes again. I shall stop and speak to her this time, I think," and
Monsieur de Güldenfeldt, hat in hand, went towards the lady.

"How do you do, Mrs. Norrywood," he said; "how extremely pleasant it is
for me to think that we are fated to be travelling companions."

The person addressed stopped a moment in her walk, raising her clear
grey eyes, in which lurked a look of annoyance and of slight surprise,
to Monsieur de Güldenfeldt's face.

"I think," she said very slowly but very clearly and incisively, "you
have made a mistake. I am no long--I am not Mrs. Norrywood. My name is
Nugent," and with a slight bow she swept past him.

With a look of stupefaction on his expressive face, Monsieur de
Güldenfeldt's outstretched hand fell slowly to his side as he stared
after the retreating form.

He turned slowly round to Sir Ralph, who had been watching the whole
incident with interest and considerable amusement.

"Tell me, Ralph," he exclaimed, "am I dreaming? Is it not Mrs.
Norrywood? Is it her double? But what a fool I am," he added; "of course
there is not a doubt of it. The fact is, my dear boy, that I--I,
Stanislas de Güldenfeldt, have been deliberately cut by one of the
prettiest and smartest women in Town. A by no means pleasant experience,
I can tell you!" and Monsieur de Güldenfeldt, with a twinkle in his blue
eyes, gave a little shake to his shoulders that was distinctly foreign
and decidedly expressive.

"Yes," smiled Nicholson, "if she had snubbed a nobody like me, now,
there would have been nothing to be surprised at. Precious glad, though,
I didn't give her the chance," he added, with a cheery laugh. "I should
never have survived it, whereas a diplomat like you can of course, get
even with her any day. Forgive my laughing, de Güldenfeldt, but really
it was rather a comic spectacle for an onlooker, you know."

"Laugh away, laugh away, my dear boy. Perhaps, however, when your
hilarity has spent itself, you will kindly help me to unravel this
mystery. What the dickens does it mean, eh?"

"Oh! I don't think we need go very far for an explanation. Probably she
is going out to the Antipodes to try and start afresh. Of course, the
first step towards that operation is to wipe out the past. So she begins
by cutting her old friends, you see. 'Pon my word, I admire her pluck.
But I shall take warning from your adventure, and before making a move
shall wait with resignation until Mrs. Norrywood--I beg her pardon--Mrs.
Nugent, condescends to recognise in me a former acquaintance. It's a
beastly bore being snubbed by a pretty woman, isn't it old fellow? Come,
don't eat me, but let's go below and see if Martinworth's name is among
the list of passengers."

Meanwhile the subject of the above conversation was standing in her
cabin, and with flushed cheeks and a beating heart was thinking deeply.
This meeting with two members of the set in which she had originally
moved had come upon her as a most unpleasant shock, a shock for which
she was totally unprepared. Indeed, she had been so taken by surprise
that she had behaved, as she told herself now, in a most unwarrantably
tactless manner. Both de Güldenfeldt and Nicholson she had known fairly
well in the old days, and in calmly thinking over the circumstances of
the meeting, it struck her what a false step she had made in this crude
attempt of ignoring persons whom, indeed, it was impossible to ignore.
She remembered now having read in a paper before leaving England, that
de Güldenfeldt had been named Swedish Minister to the Court of Japan, in
which case she knew that sooner or later she was bound to come across
him again, and as for Nicholson, it did not take her long to recall that
his relations with Lord Martinworth had been in former years of the most
friendly nature.

The meeting with these two men brought back vividly to Pearl all the
wretchedness of her past life, and it was only now that she realised to
the full the intense relief and sense of freedom that filled her soul,
as she stepped aboard the Atlantic Liner at Southampton, and had watched
the coast-line of England fade--as she then had sincerely hoped--for
ever from her eyes.

Sir Ralph Nicholson had judged the situation rightly. Pearl Norrywood,
or Nugent, had left England with the firm intention of forgetting
everything connected with her unhappy past. She was determined, as far
as it was possible, to wipe out all the despair, the hatred, the
humiliation of the last ten years of her life. But in doing this, she
felt there could be no half measures. That in company with the misery
must also be obliterated all the joy and happiness she had experienced
in the one love of her existence. She told herself that with this
blotting out of the past, Dick Martinworth must be sacrificed with the
rest. There was a decision of character, a certain sternness in her
nature which she knew would help her to carry out that determination,
and from the day that she and Lord Martinworth left the Divorce Court a
suspected, but in spite of all, an unconvicted couple, Pearl Nugent had
never again seen the man who for a series of years had exercised so
great an influence over her life.

She had been but little past twenty when she put her future into the
charge of a husband whom three months later she learned to utterly
loathe and fear. From that time, every day, every hour, was a fiery
ordeal from which, indeed, but few women could have hoped to escape
unscathed. The inevitable arose ere long in the appearance on the scene
of the Honourable Dick Pelham, as he was in those far-away days. Mr.
Pelham had at once been struck by the refined beauty and grace of the
girl with sad grey eyes. Then in getting to know her well he learnt to
pity her, a feeling which ultimately culminated before many months
passed into a deep and passionate love.

It did not indeed take Pelham long to learn that he worshipped the very
ground on which Pearl trod, and no great interval passed before he told
her so. The world never knew, never would know, whether Pearl Norrywood
had listened to these protestations. All that it saw was that she
behaved as if she had done so, for from the day that Dick Pelham
commenced to haunt her side she became another person. She developed
into an extremely beautiful woman. The grey eyes lost their sadness, the
lovely lips learned to smile, and there was a radiance over the whole
charming face that is only seen around those who love. The world put
down this wonderful transformation to the presence of Dicky Pelham, and
for once the world was right.

Society indeed at this period of their existence was more than indulgent
to Pearl and Mr. Pelham. With the indifference and cynicism which
characterises a certain class, not only did it condone, but it appeared
on the contrary to encourage Pelham's devotion, to smile with
approbation upon the marked and evident intimacy existing between this
happy and good-looking couple. To invite one without the other would
have indeed shown a total _manque de savoir faire_, and the same post
that carried a letter begging Pearl's presence at a certain
entertainment, or a certain house, as a matter of course conveyed
another to Mr. Pelham containing the same request.

And yet, if the truth were known, this inseparableness, this constant
daily companionship, was apt at times to prove to both more of a trial
than a joy, more of a curse than a blessing. On Pelham's side it was a
never-ending, feverish dream of unsatisfied desire, which Pearl was
eternally resisting, eternally fighting against with all the weapons of
her decidedly religious training, and a genuine and innate purity of
heart.

And thus matters remained for the next five or six years. Dick Pelham
succeeded in course of time to the title, and blossomed into Lord
Martinworth, and his devotion to Pearl instead of cooling increased in
intensity as time went on. One day, after years of waiting and
imploring, he finally succeeded in persuading Mrs. Norrywood to take the
decisive step of issuing divorce proceedings against her husband. This
had long been his aim. But not only Pearl's hatred of open scandal and
publicity, but her better judgment had prevented her hitherto from
listening to his persuasions and from acceding to his unwearying
entreaties. A severe, and what indeed might have proved a fatal injury
from a blow bestowed in one of his ungovernable rages by the husband who
had tortured her for so many years, finally however, decided Pearl to
give ear to Martinworth's prayers, and at length to go to the extremity
of sueing for a divorce.

She succeeded, after days of suspense, in obtaining her divorce. But
whereas she had entered the court with the smiles and approbation of the
world, she left it with a ruined reputation, a social outcast, and with
hardly a friend to hold out a helping hand. The decree _nisi_ had indeed
been dearly bought, and as Pearl drove away from the Divorce Court she
was the first to realise and to acknowledge to herself that in obtaining
her freedom she had, from a worldly point of view, brought about her own
doom.

As the judgment was pronounced, Martinworth cast her one radiant glance,
which expressed as plainly as words "At last you are mine. At last! at
last! after all these years." But there was no answering look of triumph
in Pearl's eyes, for at that moment she felt that never again could she
raise them to the face of man. In after times she often wondered how she
had lived through all those awful days, how she could have remained
silent, drinking in that terrible evidence which her husband had raked
up from the very gutters. Nevertheless she survived this truly
distressing ordeal, and with a look of utter scorn on her face sat
patiently listening to servants' lies, and to sordid details of innocent
situations, which under the clever cross examination were transformed
into all that seemed most guilty and most damaging to her cause.

She walked away that day with Martinworth, and as she passed into her
carriage people whispered together and nudged each other. Nothing had
been proved,--and yet, in the eyes of her world, she knew that
everything had been proved.

"But, of course, she will marry Martinworth now," it said. "He is only
too willing to make the position a regular one. That is why she put
Norrywood into the Divorce Court, though evidently she never dreamt the
old fox would succeed thus thoroughly in turning the tables on her. She
has really been somewhat of a fool for her pains. Why didn't she let
things go on as they were? Why did she want to put old Norry's back up?
She had just as much liberty before as she will have now, and if she had
left him alone we should never have heard all these abominable things
about her. Of course, before this scandalous case it was easy enough to
feign ignorance of all their goings on. Now she has put herself outside
the pale altogether, and in spite of that ridiculous verdict one really
cannot continue the acquaintance. No doubt, once she is Martinworth's
wife,--though of course she won't go to Court--their country neighbours
will call on her, and she is just the sort of woman to be adored by the
poor people. Pity we can't see her any more. Such a sweet woman, you
know," etc., etc., etc.

Pearl knew her world. She heard words such as these ringing in her ears,
and as on the doorstep of her house she said good-bye to Lord
Martinworth, she vowed to herself never would she see him again. She was
an innocent woman, whatever the world might call her. Her first desire
had been to have a certain satisfaction in disappointing the cynics of
their laughter, and by not marrying the man whose name had so long been
coupled with hers, and whom everyone had without doubt expected her to
marry, to prove indisputably her innocence. But that was only a
momentary thought. Worthier reasons against this union soon took root in
her mind. She loved Martinworth with all her soul. The knowledge flashed
upon her, that only by not marrying him could she prove her devotion to
the man who would willingly have sacrificed all--his position in
society, his future, his life's ambitions--by bestowing on her the
protection of his name.

That night all Pearl Norrywood's possessions were packed. When her
arrangements were completed she sent away her maid, and set herself to
the task of writing a letter. It took her a long, long time that letter,
and tears were streaming down her cheeks as she penned these words:--

    "I am leaving you, my darling; for I can never be your wife.
    Dick! you must not blame me for this, for it is just because of
    my great love for you that I can never take your name. The woman
    who shares that name must never have had the vile things said of
    her that have been said of me in that horrible Court, this last
    week. You, in your great love and generosity, had but one
    thought when my freedom was pronounced--I read it in your eyes,
    dear. But all during those dreadful hours it was gradually
    becoming clear to me, I was slowly realising, that for your sake
    alone, I must never give the world the right of confirming what
    the world has said. Had I only myself to think of I would, as
    you know, scorn what people may say, and now that I am free I
    would marry you, and at last taste what true happiness is. But,
    Dick, you are a public man. You have a great name and high
    position to maintain, and the woman who bears that name must be
    above suspicion. Dick! you are no child. You are a man of the
    world and of experience, and therefore I beg of you to look
    around among your acquaintances and friends and to ask yourself
    if there is a single one who, in spite of the verdict to-day,
    will believe in our innocence? Such being the case, how can I
    ruin your life by marrying you?

    "I feel no bashfulness in writing this before you speak to me
    again, for by expressing my decision I thus make it impossible
    for you ever to speak. Yes, Dick, I am leaving you for ever--for
    ever. Do not attempt to find me. All your efforts will be
    fruitless, and oh! indeed, indeed! this separation will be far
    better for us both. Do not become hard against me, Dick, for you
    will know--you must believe, dearest, that it is only my love
    that induces me to leave you. One day you will marry some pure
    young girl, and you will then bless me for trying to rectify the
    evil that I have done you, and you will perhaps forgive me for
    the years that you have wasted with me. And yet, if having made
    a woman in her darkest hour happy, if having prevented a heart
    from becoming cold and callous and cruel, if having cast many
    glorious rays of sunshine around an existence which, without
    you, would have been one dark abyss, if having blessed me with
    your beautiful, strong, supporting love, if, having done and
    given all this, you think your years have been wasted, let me
    tell you, Dick, they have not--they have not! And now I bid you
    farewell. What it costs me to write that word, I alone can know.
    For with it I vanish from your life. If I were strong I should
    say 'Forget me,' but you know me as a poor weak woman, and
    knowing me thus you will understand that I can only say 'Forgive
    me.'

                                                         "PEARL."

For several months Pearl Nugent lived in an obscure Welsh village,
buried like a hermit. She was awaiting an answer to a letter she had
written to Japan, and in due course it arrived. It was a satisfactory
letter, welcoming her to the Land of the Rising Sun. Immediately on
obtaining her divorce she had written to her cousin, Mrs. Rawlinson,
begging her to secure a house for her either in Yokohama or Tokyo, and
to make other arrangements subject to her approaching arrival.

Mrs. Rawlinson, who was some years senior to the girl she loved as a
younger sister, was the wife of an Englishman engaged by the Japanese
Government. She was a clever and large-minded woman. Many a time had her
kind heart ached for Pearl, and when the divorce proceedings commenced
she had prayed but for one conclusion. The complication connected with
Lord Martinworth had certainly proved somewhat of a shock to her
well-ordered mind, but in spite of the compromising evidence, not for
one instant did she allow herself to believe the worst, and the personal
love and pity she felt for the poor, storm-tossed girl, coupled with
Pearl's frank and affectionate letter, made her long for the day when
she could fold and comfort her within her motherly arms.

Pearl had merely stated facts, and had asked for no advice. She knew her
cousin well enough to be confident that none would be offered unasked.

There was only one other person to acquaint with her decision. Mr. Hall
was her lawyer and trustee, an old and valued friend of her father's.
Many a time when a child had he dandled her on his knee, and to him
Pearl now opened her whole heart, for certain business formalities had
to be transacted connected with her change of residence and of name, and
with regard to her fortune, which though not large, would be amply
sufficient for her needs. During all those dreary months Mr. Hall was
the only friend she saw. He ran down from Town constantly, armed as a
rule with documents to sign, and the appearance of this bright, cheery
little man, with a face like a russet apple, was Pearl's one pleasure
during that period of grief and solitude.

One day, when she had been in hiding a considerable time, he paid her
one of his welcome visits. On this occasion, contrary to his habits, he
appeared grave and preoccupied, and it was only after a certain time
that, with a little preliminary cough, he seemed to make up his mind to
speak.

He took Pearl's hand between his own.

"My dear," he said gravely, "I want to ask you something. May I?"

"Yes, Mr. Hall, of course you are privileged to say anything to me. What
is it?"

"Pearl, has it never struck you that Lord Martinworth would hardly be
likely to rest satisfied with the request contained in your letter?"

"He has been looking for me?" exclaimed Pearl, flushing.

"Yes, he has been moving heaven and earth to find you. Necessarily, his
first step was to come to me."

"And--you said--what?"

"What could I say, but that I was in your confidence, and that I
declined to betray it?"

"And you told him nothing--nothing?"

"No, in spite of prayers and threats, I of course divulged nothing."

Was it a shade of disappointment that for a moment clouded Pearl's eyes
Mr. Hall found himself wondering? At any rate, there was a pause before
she continued in a low voice:

"You were quite--quite right, Mr. Hall. Thank you. Then you think he has
got no trace?"

"Even with the aid of detectives whom, I hear, he has since been
employing, I don't fancy he has so far discovered your whereabouts.
But-- but----"

"But--you think there is danger that he may do so?"

"I should say there was every danger. For one thing, he could easily
have me followed."

He hesitated, then continued: "My dear child, you have honoured me with
your entire confidence in this matter, and you must not think that I
wish to take advantage of this fact if, before you finally decide to
take this important step, I beg of you to reconsider. You love this man,
and he loves you. His dearest wish--I know from his own lips--is to make
you his wife. Think what you are giving up, Pearl, by flinging this all
away, by flying from him. Love, happiness, honour. You--"

"Forgive me, my dear old friend," interrupted Pearl, "love and happiness
I know, but not honour, no, not honour."

She rose from her seat and stood by Mr. Hall's side. Her eyes were wet
with tears. "No," she repeated in a low voice, "not honour. I should
never gain honour by marrying Lord Martinworth, for in marrying him I
should despise myself. Think of the ruin to him! Knowing this--feeling
this all the time, should I not, as the years went on, learn to hate
myself for being the cause of his sacrifice? And though he is so good,
so generous, I know he would never show me he had repented of the step,
my own intuition would be sufficient. No words would be necessary to
tell me that I had been the destroyer of his life, the stumbling block
in the realisation of his hopes and of his ambitions. Oh! Mr. Hall, my
only friend, do not turn against me, do not tempt me. I have told you
this before, many and many a time, and you listened and understood. Do
not, I pray you, at the last moment, try to convince me that I am
unwise, that I am wrong, when I know--I know I am doing the only thing
that can possibly be right."

She paused, but Mr. Hall did not break the silence.

"If," she continued with a deeper note of appeal, "if there were only
myself to consider in this matter, do you think there could be a
moment's hesitation on my part? Do you think I should care what my world
might say--what it would be sure to say if I married Lord Martinworth?
Not I! No fear of the opinion of a few people who once called themselves
my friend, would make me hesitate in realising that happiness for which
I have so long pined, and which at one time I thought was so nearly
mine.

"But now dear friend," she laid her hand upon his arm, "let us, I beg
you, dismiss this subject, dismiss it for ever. You know my feelings on
this matter, and once more I implore you not to try to persuade me
against those feelings. Indeed," she continued, smiling through her
tears, "it would be useless, for I received a letter two days ago from
Mrs. Rawlinson, and have consequently taken my passage by the 'Paris,'
sailing in a few weeks from Southampton for New York. So you see the die
is cast."

Pearl Nugent's affairs occupied Mr. Hall's thoughts considerably as he
travelled back to Town that afternoon. "Hum!" he said to himself, as he
unfolded his newspaper and adjusted his spectacles to the right angle on
his nose. "She thinks herself sincere, poor child, when she says it is
all for Martinworth's sake she doesn't marry him, but Pearl
Norrywood--or Nugent, as she insists on calling herself now--hasn't been
a woman of society for ten years for nothing; and she has more
consideration for the opinion of that world over which she reigned so
long than she has any notion of. She is an innocent woman, but as proud
as Lucifer. I know her, bless her soul! She'll be hanged if she lets
society have the satisfaction of having the laugh on its side. Of
course, she firmly believes she is sacrificing herself for Martinworth's
sake, but it's confounded nonsense, all the same. I know my Pearl. Her
beastly pride is at the bottom of everything. Damn it! Why can't she
marry the man and have done with it?"

Which soliloquy of the worthy old lawyer's proves that even our best
friends are apt to misjudge us sometimes.

Meanwhile we have left Pearl Nugent standing in her cabin debating with
herself what she ought to do. She stood plunged in thought, realising
more and more into what a false position her impulsiveness had led her.
It went without saying she had mortally offended Monsieur de
Güldenfeldt. She, who could not afford to make a single enemy, however
humble his position, had doubtless by this rash action incurred the
lasting aversion of one who by the holding up of his little finger might
do her such irretrievable harm in this new life upon which she was about
to enter. She saw it all clearly enough now, and poor Pearl laughed a
little hollow laugh of wretchedness as she began to make the few
alterations in her dress necessary for the shipboard dinner. If she had
been somewhat vainer she would have been consoled by the remembrance
that she belonged to a world where the fascination and charm and beauty
of woman are still dominant features. But Pearl's self-esteem of late
had suffered too severe a blow for her to put great store on either her
beauty or her qualities of fascination; though if she had known not only
her own powers, but Monsieur de Güldenfeldt, somewhat better, she need
never have passed through that disagreeable period of regret and
apprehension.

At dinner, considerably to her dismay, she found herself placed between
her two quondam friends. She arrived rather late at table, and with
flushed cheeks and a slight bow to each, sat down. Her soup went away
untouched. Then finally taking her courage in both hands, she resolutely
turned towards the Swedish Minister.

"Monsieur de Güldenfeldt," she said with a slightly tremulous voice, "I
must ask your pardon for my rude, and what must indeed seem to you,
inexplicable behaviour of this afternoon. Will you--will you believe
that I was labouring under a misapprehension, and be generous enough to
accept this as my only explanation?"

It was very simply said, and Monsieur de Güldenfeldt answered her
request as simply. He looked at the beautiful and perplexed face with a
mixture of admiration and amusement in his eyes.

"Let us forget the past, Mrs.--Mrs.--Nugent," he said, "and begin
afresh. Shall we?"

And from that day commenced a friendship which was to prove an important
factor in Pearl Nugent's life.



                              CHAPTER II.

                             IN LOTUS-LAND.


Pearl Nugent had every reason to congratulate herself on her energy in
having renounced her old life and surroundings, for the three years
passed in Tokyo had proved the happiest, and certainly the most
peaceful, of her hitherto somewhat stormy existence.

On her first arrival in Japan she had remained for some weeks--until she
had settled herself in her own house--with her cousin, Mrs. Rawlinson.
It had been a profitable and happy time for both, and for Pearl
especially the association at this uncertain period of her life with a
woman like Rosina Rawlinson, was beneficial in every respect.

Everybody in Tokyo knew, respected, and loved Rosina, as she was
generally called behind her back. It was Rosina to whom one flew for
advice when placed in a slight difficulty, or for comfort when overcome
by a great trouble. It was Rosina who would get up in the middle of the
night to nurse a sick child, and it was she who received the confidences
of the various young men and women of the community, received them with
bright sympathy, and however trifling, kept them secretly locked within
her own breast. Again it was to Rosina, or to Rosina's husband, that
everybody of importance seemed to bring letters of introduction, and
many was the helpless and inexperienced globe-trotter whose appeal for
aid had been listened to by Rosina. Above all, it was Rosina who gave
the jolliest, cheeriest little Bridge dinners in Tokyo, dinners where
the wine and food were both above reproach, and where the most amusing
people, and those most congenial to each other, were sure to be gathered
together.

Those little dinners of Rosina's were alone enough to make her the most
popular person in Japan.

For the first fortnight after Pearl's arrival, to her infinite relief,
Mrs. Rawlinson, with her usual tact, had closed her doors to every one.

"You will soon see enough of the people, my dear," she said, "without
the necessity of being bored just at present. You and I have plenty to
talk about, heaven knows! So we'll just sit over the fire and yarn, as
that dear sailor boy of mine calls it, until we are both hoarse. I sent
my niece Amy away on purpose, for I knew you would have many things to
say to me that it's as well she should know nothing about, and, as for
Tom, he doesn't count, you know, for he's at his office all day, and he
sleeps all the evening. He is a dear old thing, but I can't say he's a
particularly lively husband. He says I do the talking for both, but even
in that case one expects more than a grunt as a reply, and I assure you
that is often all he vouchsafes me."

"And Amy?" asked Pearl, "has she grown up as pretty as she promised to
be? I haven't seen her for four years now, for you remember I was abroad
all that last year she was at school at Brighton."

"I am anxious to know what you think of Amy," responded Mrs. Rawlinson.
"Out here she is considered a beauty. But of course, coming straight
from Europe as you do, and accustomed to seeing all the loveliest women
in Paris and in London, you may think nothing of her. People tell me she
is the handsomest girl in Japan, and certainly I have seen no one with
such glorious eyes or brilliant colouring. But I may be prejudiced in
her favour, and therefore, my dear, I am quite anxious to have your
opinion. One thing, however, I do know, and that is she is the most
terrible flirt that ever was born. What I have gone through, my dear
Pearl, with that girl no one knows. She has had heaps of offers--good
ones, you know, from diplomats and people in excellent positions, but my
lady turns up that pretty nose of hers at one and all. Pure conceit I
call it, for she knows she is penniless. I always tell her that under
the circumstances she is lucky to have had an offer at all."

"Yes," replied Pearl, "girls at home are now beginning to find that
offers of marriage are not to be had by merely looking pretty, or even
by being clever and amusing. The practical, modern young man generally
thinks of his pocket before all other considerations. Looks and
intelligence are quite in the minority, I assure you."

"Of course! But I might just as well speak to a stone wall as to discuss
the advantages of matrimony with Amy. And then, you know, she behaves so
badly. She never shows the least repentance when she refuses these men
one after the other. She says she knows none of them will break their
hearts about her, and that she has not the slightest intention of
wasting her sympathy over people who doubtless one and all will be
consoled in less than three months. Such nonsense, you know, and so
hard-hearted! Yes, certainly Amy is a strange girl. She is really rather
a trial to me sometimes. Yet, in spite of all her faults, she is
wonderfully lovable. I think you will discover this fact on your own
account."

But three years had passed since this and many such conversations, and
Pearl Nugent one lovely Spring morning was seated in her garden, in the
neighbourhood of some magnificent flowering cherry trees, idly thinking
of what those years had brought her.

Pearl's was a perfect Japanese garden. It was a garden of the past, a
poem--a creation of an art whose charm and loveliness only a Japanese
can produce. She was seated on the curved branch of a very ancient pine.
A few feet distant from her stood a little stone shrine, chipped and
blemished, and covered with thick grown moss, while on her left were
uneven rocks, and quaint-shaped basins of various forms and designs. Two
stone lanterns, green with age, formed on her right a sort of entrance
to the miniature lake dotted with tiny islands and surrounded by knolls
of bright green grass, from the smooth surface of which rose the
spreading cherry trees, now in full bloom. Some of these cherry trees
had great gnarled trunks, and were very ancient. Their fallen petals,
covering the turf, formed a carpet like delicate pink snow, while above
was one glorious burst of blossom, hiding every branch in its mantle of
perfect form and beauty.

In and out of the little knolls and hills and elevations, which were
reached by stone steps of various shapes, were sanded paths which looked
as if they never were meant to be trod upon, and to prevent such a
desecration flat, queer shaped stepping stones were placed in strange
and irregular positions. Everything was irregular and unexpected in this
fascinating garden. Flowers were rare, but fine old trees abounded, and
shrubs and ancient pines,--some allowed to grow at their own sweet will,
others dwarfed in stature, and trimmed by careful training into
fantastic and uncanny shapes.

Beyond was a distant view of Fujiyama still wrapped in its white mantle,
though great bare places streaked the mountain, forming weird shadows
where the snow had already melted. Pearl felt a certain companionship in
this grand old mountain, solitary like herself. She would sit for hours
watching it in all its different, but ever lovely aspects, at one time
in its snowy covering almost dazzling the eyes in the brilliant morning
sunshine, and later on at eventide but vaguely distinct through banks of
heavy purple clouds, till gradually fading from view, Fuji would become
merged into the fading sky, finally disappearing into the shadows of the
darkening night.

Her eyes were dreamily fixed on Fuji now, standing out white and clear.
She was not alone, for de Güldenfeldt lay stretched on the grass at her
feet. His eyes, however, were employed in studying and admiring what at
that moment he considered far more beautiful, far more entrancing, than
any mountain in the world--namely, his companion's face.

Pearl was looking considerably younger and handsomer still than when she
had left England. Ease of mind and a quiet life had accomplished their
work, and the sweet placid face bore no traces of the storms that for a
time had marred its beauty, and somewhat hardened its expression. Her
past life was to her like an unhappy dream, from which she awoke, to
discover with a feeling of infinite relief that it was indeed but a
dream, a dream that had faded away for ever. She would find herself in
her idle moments, trying to piece the past together, and failing most
strangely in the attempt. The utterly miserable life she had spent with
her husband, her long moral struggle with Martinworth, those terrible
scenes in the Divorce Court, all the incidents of those bitter ten
years,--now seemed one and all, like a vanishing and almost forgotten
vision. At times she would deliberately set herself to the task of the
retrospection of each miserable occurrence, each wretched episode, for
there were periods when her present happiness had the effect of almost
terrifying her--it seemed so impossible, so unreal. She would then tell
herself that it were best and wisest that she should attempt to recall
what once had been her life, what once had been her sorrow and despair.

Could this happiness, could this peace of mind really be hers? Would it
not fade as a dream even as her past was so quickly vanishing from her
mind? How strange! how very strange! she often thought, that she should
experience this difficulty in remembering. Even Dick Martinworth was
becoming a faint shadow, whose features, voice, and manner she often
found it hard to recall. And yet she told herself she loved him as much
as ever. She would place his photograph before her and try to remember
scenes where they had been together, words that had been spoken between
them, and she would be angry with herself to find how difficult it was
for her to picture those scenes, to recollect those words. All seemed so
far--so very far away, and somewhat to her dismay, Pearl was beginning
to realise that she had almost achieved the object in view when she left
England--that of complete obliteration, entire forgetfulness of the
past.

"The world forgetting, by the world forgot," she quoted half aloud as
she rose from her seat and stretched out her hand to pluck a branch of
the heavily-laden cherry tree. "Such is now my life, but I do not
complain, for it has certainly many advantages--especially one. No one
here ever seems to care to ask awkward questions, and if they know my
secret they treat me none the worse for it. _Is_ it known, Monsieur de
Güldenfeldt?" she inquired suddenly of her companion.

The question came very abruptly, so abruptly, that the Swedish Minister
paused before replying. This was the first time since their meeting on
the boat three years ago, that Pearl, in spite of her close friendship
with Stanislas de Güldenfeldt, had in any way referred to her past
history. He looked up quickly, wondering what was working in her mind.

"Why do you ask me that, my dear lady?" he eventually inquired, flicking
the ash from his cigarette.

"Yes, why do I ask it?" she echoed. "Why do we ever wish to know
anything that may possibly prove painful to us? Why not rest satisfied
with this happy, dreamy, forgetting life? Why not, indeed? What a true
lotus eater I have become since I came to live in this poetical,
beautiful Japan. I hardly know myself. My life glides along, and I take
no count of the hours, nor of the days, and to me it is indeed 'always
afternoon.'


    'With half closed eyes ever to seem
    Falling asleep in a half dream.'


Such, indeed, has been my life since I fled to this 'far-off land.' It
is delicious, it is almost perfect. But it must not continue, for I know
it is enervating. Yes, and what is more, my dear friend, downright
demoralising."

"You use strong words, Mrs. Nugent," replied de Güldenfeldt, raising
himself on his elbow, and gazing into her flushed face with a look of
lurking amusement. "What has upset you to-day?"

"Oh, I don't know," replied Pearl impatiently, "I have been feeling for
some time that I ought not to go on in this aimless, indifferent way. It
is only quite lately that I bothered about anything--what people might
think of me, you know. But the idea has taken possession of me, and I
cannot get free from it. So I decided that I would ask you to tell me,
for I shall surely get the truth from you. Do they know?" she repeated,
fixing her clear grey eyes on his face. "Do they know that I am
deceiving them--that I am a fraud, that my name is not really Nugent? Do
they know that my husband and I are divorced? Do they know--do they
know--about?--Do they know--everything?"

"And you expect me to answer all these questions?" said de Güldenfeldt
slowly.

"Yes, I do. I expect you to be perfectly honest and frank with me. It is
the least you can do for me, for you call yourself my friend. And,
indeed," she added, with her sweet smile, "ever since the day that I
first put my feet on these shores you have proved yourself my best, my
truest friend."

"Now, I wonder why it should be the duty of a so-called friend to be
given the disagreeable task of announcing disagreeable facts," responded
de Güldenfeldt pensively. "And indeed, Mrs. Nugent, what good will it do
if I repeat all the gossip that is bound to go on in a place like this?
You can't stop it, you know, any more than you can hope to turn the
tide."

"Then they do gossip about me?" continued Pearl with persistency.

"Of course they do."

"And what do they say?"

"Oh, heavens! give me a woman for tenacity of purpose!" exclaimed de
Güldenfeldt, rising and stretching his long limbs. "By the by," he
continued, suddenly changing the subject, "do you know that Nicholson
arrived in Yokohama yesterday? I thought, in spite of his hasty
departure over eighteen months ago now, the attractions of Japan would
ultimately prove too strong for him."

"Amy refused him, you know. But I believe she really liked him all the
time. Are you thinking of her when you speak of attractions?"

"I should say she is the sole and only one. I know at the time he was
awfully hard hit. It was our conversation that made me think of him.
Never shall I forget the way he stuck up for you one evening at the
Club, when that little brute Reichter--who has left, thank God--came out
with some garbled version of your story. _Mon Dieu!_ didn't Nicholson
give it him, just! He is such a lazy, _nonchalant_ beggar that one never
expected to see him fly into such a passion. We all stood aghast, while
he lashed the mean little brute with his sarcastic tongue. Yes! you have
got a loyal, good friend in Nicholson, Mrs. Nugent."

"And another in you. Yet you change the conversation to avoid telling me
what I want so much to know. It is not very kind of you, I think."

"Well, I suppose you will get your way in the end," de Güldenfeldt
replied, with a smile, "so I may as well surrender without further
hesitation. Yes, people know your story, Mrs. Nugent. However strictly
your cousin Mrs. Rawlinson, Nicholson and I have kept the secret, it has
somehow oozed out. I firmly believe that it was those
globe-trotters--the Clive-Carnishers, who, recognising you at the last
Chrysanthemum Party, set it about. At any rate, it is known at the
English Legation who you really are, for Thomson spoke to me about it
one day. You see," he added deprecatingly, "if you had never
entertained, if you had been ugly and stupid and uninteresting, people
certainly would not have troubled their heads about you, nor have gone
to the bother of raking up old stories. But being what you are, charming
and beautiful, no matter if you hide yourself in the moon, no matter if
you change your name a dozen times, no matter if you live the life of a
hermit--your story, dear lady, will follow you to the end of your
existence. There! Now I have given in and told you the truth, and what
good will it do you, I should like to know?"

"It has already eased my mind considerably, only that," replied Pearl,
"I don't know what has possessed me of late, but I have felt as if I
were a cheat--a fraud. You see, I have grown fond of the people here,
both Japanese and Europeans, and I have begun to recognise that I was
rewarding their kindness but indifferently. Because I was Rosina's
cousin, everyone, when I first came, received me with open arms. Then I
think they got to like me a little for my own sake. Now you tell me they
know my story. Well, this shows, at any rate, that I was right in
leaving England, and choosing instead this dear Japan as my home. It is
only in a place like this that one would find so much kindness, so much
indulgence. The foreign community is so small, so very restricted you
see, that I suppose people can't afford to be too exclusive, too
particular," she added, rather bitterly.

De Güldenfeldt did not reply. He knew there was considerable truth in
Pearl's remarks. If Mrs. Nugent had remained in England she would
henceforth, necessarily, have only been received on sufferance. She
would by degrees have sunk into the ranks of _les déclassées_, with no
fixed abode, reduced to wandering from second-rate watering-places to
out-of-the-way continental towns, seeking rest and finding none. Thus
her youth, embittered and disappointed, would finally have passed, and
she who formerly had ever been welcome within the portals of good
society, would have found herself crawling on her knees, discrowned,
outside those closed gates. Here, on the contrary, in the limited
European society of the facile East, in spite of varied and garbled
versions of her story being known, not only did she receive and was
received, but she was considered an acquisition, indeed, much sought
after for her beauty and sweetness, her charm and many social talents.

As de Güldenfeldt walked away from Pearl's house that day he was very
pensive. The knowledge that he loved Pearl Nugent came as nothing fresh
to his mind. He had been fully aware of this fact since their encounter
long ago on board the Canadian Pacific liner. At that time however, if
anyone had ventured to tell him he would have ever contemplated marrying
a woman who had gone through Pearl's unfortunate experiences, a woman
who had been tarred by the dirty brush of the Divorce Court, he would
have been the first to have scouted the idea as utterly impossible and
absurd.

Stanislas de Güldenfeldt was extremely ambitious. His profession was his
god, and ever since the day he had entered on his career all his natural
tastes and longings, all his passions and desires, had been subservient
to this love of his profession and to the determination to excel. He was
possessed of many talents and a considerable amount of good looks, which
gifts, combined with great charm of manner and the attractions of his
position, all helped to made him a favourite with men and women alike.
But a natural cautiousness of disposition, together with this ruling
love of his profession, caused him to feel general indifference as far
as women were concerned, and though he certainly affected their society,
and was never otherwise than courteous and charming towards them, he
had, with but one or two exceptions been but little influenced by the
feminine sex throughout his life. These exceptions had on each occasion
proved themselves episodes rather of a pleasant than of a painful
nature. He had experienced nevertheless, a certain relief when in the
natural course of events these chapters of his life were closed, and
with a mind free from all outward influences, once more he could devote
his time and his thoughts entirely to his work. He would tell himself
that in the abstract he admired women, that on the whole he thought them
superior to his own sex. Then he would find himself wondering how it was
that in spite of this undoubted admiration, and what indeed might almost
be called veneration, he had really loved them so seldom, why the real
depths of his nature had been so little stirred, so little troubled by
their presence. He knew the answer to that question well enough, but he
would seldom give it even to himself, for he frequently felt irritated
with himself at this entire absorption in his work, and above all for
what he was wont at times to fancy was an absolute want of sentiment in
his nature.

And yet as he emerged from Pearl Nugent's garden that spring morning,
Monsieur de Güldenfeldt realised to the full what he had more or less
known for three years past--that he was even as others were, and that he
could love, love with the full power of his long pent-up feelings, and
learning this fact, instead of blessing he lamented his fate. He thought
of Pearl with her distinguished yet perfectly simple air. He thought of
the straight, clear-cut profile, and the firm, rather square little
chin, of those pure and clear grey eyes, and the habit she had of
doubling her fingers tightly into the palms of her hands. He thought of
those many outward examples of her firm and reliant character--and his
heart sank. He felt he desired her above everything in the wide world,
and he knew as surely as he knew he was himself that if he wished to
gratify that desire he must marry her. Stanislas de Güldenfeldt had not
studied Pearl's character for three years for nothing. He was confident
in his own mind that she had never listened to Martinworth's entreaties,
and he knew that in spite of the irregularity of her present
position--perhaps for that very reason--there was a pride, a certain
hardness in her nature, that would debar him from venturing to propose
any union but one which, in the eyes of the world, was strictly
conventional and correct.

That day de Güldenfeldt, whistling for his dogs, started on a solitary
walk of some miles, far away from the stir and haste of the city. It was
a perfect spring day, with a soft breeze blowing, and a hot sun
overhead. Stanislas skirted the fields, already bright with the young
corn, his eyes lingering on the beauty of the rich and varied foliage,
and on the little knolls of many a secluded and shaded grove fringed
with clumps of feathery bamboos and an occasional palm waving aloft in
the balmy air. Contrasting with the vivid and many shaded greens, and
always on the loftiest hill, half hidden in the shadiest spot of the
neighbourhood, would be visible the red portal or _torii_ of some little
shrine raised to _Inari Sama_--the god of farming--or perhaps to some
other deity of the province, while away in the distance rose a range of
purple mountains, and on the east a streak of sea gleamed like silver in
the bright afternoon sun. He crossed more than one stream of water, in
the cool depths of which groups of stark naked urchins were frisking in
the wild abandoned gambols of happy childhood. Peasant women of all
ages, wrapped in their scanty upper garments and blue cotton trousers,
far more resembling men than members of the gentler sex, would pass
along the road, bent and almost hidden beneath overwhelming burdens of
huge bundles of faggots, yet ever ready with a cheerful greeting as they
toiled on towards the thatched farm houses nestling in the hamlets and
villages beyond. Stanislas longed to be an artist to depict on paper
these simple scenes of Japanese country life, to be capable of
immortalising this lovely peaceful nature, chief of which in his eyes
were for the present the snowy blooms of the cherry tree, contrasting
with the sombre cryptomeria pines, and the brilliant green and red of
the giant wild camellia.

But Stanislas, equally ignorant of the kodak as of the paint brush, with
a faint sigh of regret continued his tramp alongside the little square
fields of the fresh young corn, emerald-green in colour, traversing in
his walk many an enchanting silent grove, till at length he reached the
goal of his pilgrimage.

Hidden away in the little village of Meguro, and overgrown by
vegetation, is a miniature and ancient graveyard. Two grey and battered
stones, half fallen on the ground, and half hidden in the long rank
grass, is all that is left in this old, old burying ground to mark the
last resting place of the dead. Stanislas knew well the pathetic love
tale connected with these gravestones, placed there over three hundred
years ago, and he paused to examine once again the faint inscription
borne by one of them. "The tomb of the Shiyoku," he read, the Shiyoku
being, he knew, fabulous birds, emblems of love and fidelity. This
moss-grown stone, lying battered and broken before him, told of a
love-tale romantic in many of its details, and tragic in its ending.
There it had stood for generations, the sole memorial of the burial
place of the robber Gompachi, remarkable for his valour and great
personal beauty, and of his companion in death, the lovely and loving
courtesan, Komurasaki.

The story relates how Gompachi after many murders, was at length caught
red-handed and promptly executed, his body being rescued and buried by
devoted friends in the grounds of the Temple of Meguro. Komurasaki,
getting news of her lover's death, hied to the spot, wept and prayed
long over the tomb, then drawing the dagger--a weapon which in those
days every woman wore on her person--from the folds of her "obi,"[1] she
plunged it into her heart, and, sinking on the ground, sighed her last
breath over the grave of her beloved.

    [1] A sash worn over the dress.

The legend continues how the priests, touched and greatly struck at the
devotion of this beautiful maiden, laid her by the side of her lover,
burying them in one grave. There they placed to their memory the stone
which remains to this day, and before which incense is burnt, and
flowers and offerings are laid, by all true and devoted lovers.

Hard by the gravestone under which so long have mouldered the remains of
Gompachi and Komurasaki, is another memorial which appears almost as
ancient, on which is engraved the following words which many a time had
been read and translated to Stanislas:

"In the old days of Genroku, she pined for the beauty of her lover, who
was as fair to look upon as the flowers, and now, beneath the moss of
this old tombstone, all has perished of her love but her name. Amid the
changes of a fitful world, this tomb is decaying under the dew and the
rain, gradually crumbling beneath its own dust, its outline alone
remaining. Stranger, bestow an alms to preserve this stone, and we,
sparing neither pain nor labour, will second you with all our hearts.
Greeting it again, let us preserve it from decay for future generations,
and let us write the following verse upon it:--'These two birds,
beautiful as the cherry blossom, perished before their time, like
flowers broken down by the wind before they have borne seed.'"

For some time de Güldenfeldt hovered round this romantic spot, musing
long on this old-world tale of a love, faithful and lasting even in
death. But the time wore on, the shadows lengthened, and
half-regretfully he rose, wending his way to the Buddhist Temple of Fudo
Sama, a spot that he knew well, buried within a grove of ancient maple
trees.

This was a very favourite resort of his. He passed through the _torii_
or stone gateway, bounding up the many steps that led to the Shrine, and
before which was placed the deep stone-lined basin of water, kept
replenished by the ancient bronze fountain carved in the form of a
dragon, spouting out from the rock behind.

Stanislas sat himself down by the basin, and lighting a cigarette
ruminated on the strange superstition that to this day induces many a
weary and penitent pilgrim, winter and summer alike, to stand often for
hours at a time under the rushing waterfall. There they would patiently
stand, praying fervently that the icy water, in cleansing and purifying
the body would by the intercession of the merciful and all powerful
Buddha, thus cleanse and purify the soul within.

De Güldenfeldt lingered for a time beneath the maple and cherry trees,
while bright-faced, bright-clothed _nesan_[2] from the picturesque
tea-house hard by, brought him tiny cups of Japanese tea, chattering in
their happy childish way, with laughter, smiles and bows. He sat there
for over an hour thinking deeply, and when at length the sun, sinking
behind the hill, warned him that it was time to go, his resolution was
formed.

    [2] Waiting maids.

He would ask Pearl Nugent to be his wife. After all, what was his
profession to him compared with his great absorbing love? It was true
that hitherto all had been sacrificed to his career, but that was before
he had met Pearl, before the love that now filled his heart had taught
him what it really was to live and to enjoy. A marriage such as he
contemplated would he knew well, be a hindrance to his profession, and,
consequently, a severe blow to his ambitions, but for the time being he
banished all thought of personal aggrandisement from his mind, and as he
rose and once more tramped across the fields, in Stanislas de
Güldenfeldt's blue eyes there was a light, and round his firm lips a
smile, that had been strangers there for many a long day.

That same day Mrs. Nugent ordered her carriage and drove round to her
cousin's house. She made a point of going to see Mrs. Rawlinson whenever
she felt restless or discontented, for Rosina acted on her nerves like a
stimulant. To-day when she got there Rosina was not at home, but she
found her pretty young cousin Amy Mendovy seated by the open window,
sketching Fujiyama with the evening glow upon it.

"Forgive my not getting up, Pearl," the girl said, "but I must finish
this before the sun sinks. Have you ever seen Fuji looking more divine?
No wonder the Japanese worship the mountain. Just look at it with that
hazy, purple light upon it. I have been breaking it gently to Aunt Rosy
that I am going to become a Shintoist or a Buddhist, or something."

"Oh, indeed. May I inquire why?"

"So that I may worship Fuji, of course."

"I don't see the connection."

"Oh, don't you? Then you are very dense, my dear. Aren't the Japanese
Shintoists or Buddhists? And don't they worship Fuji? Or, if they don't
they hold it sacred, which is very much the same thing."

"Don't talk nonsense, Amy. What is the matter with you to-day? You seem
so nervous and excited. Why! I declare you have been crying."

No answer, only energetic daubs of green and yellow and carmine, all
mixed together on the paper.

"Amy, dear, why have you been crying?" asked Pearl in her soft voice,
laying her hand on her cousin's arm.

"Now my dear Pearl, don't be silly; have you ever seen me cry?"

"Yes, often. Tears are as near your eyes as smiles are to your lips, you
April day. But tell me, what is wrong?"

"Look here, Pearl," answered Amy, raising her sleek head while her eyes
flashed, "I won't be bothered. And if I choose to cry I shall cry, so
there."

"Certainly, my dear, and as I came to see Rosina and not you, I have no
wish to disturb you in such a profitable occupation. So I'll take my
departure. _Addio_," and Pearl turned towards the door.

She hadn't got far, however, before she felt two strong arms round her
waist and various energetic kisses upon the back of her neck.

"Come back, Pearl darling. Have some tea and don't be crusty. Why, I
have just been longing for you. Aunt Rosy is no good, she doesn't
understand me, and never will understand me; so it's no use trying to
make her."

"I should like to know who does," said Pearl.

"Well, you do. So I am just going to tell you all about it. Come here
and sit on the windowsill. Give me your hand, and let us look at Fuji
till the light dies away."

And during a quarter of an hour's silence they watched Fujiyama that
rose up dim and indistinct against the setting sun. There it stood in
all its solemn majesty, solitary in all its grand repose, superb in all
its noble isolation. The dark lights grew fainter and more indistinct,
the brilliant blood-red sky with its shifting gleams took paler shades,
till little by little it seemed to mingle with the misty colouring of
the lonely peak, and behold, even as they watched, night fell,
enshrouding all in its vast impenetrable mantle.

"Now, dear," said Pearl, "it's dark, I can hardly see your face, so tell
me what is the matter."

Amy rose abruptly and switched on the electric light.

"As to that," she said with a nervous laugh, "pray don't think I am
ashamed of being seen. I've done nothing wrong, you know."

"Well, at any rate there's a certain comfort in that affirmation,"
replied Pearl drily.

"Oh, now you are laughing at me. Never mind, I am accustomed to it."
Then, after a pause, "Pearl, he's come back."

"Who's come back?"

"Don't tease. You know whom I mean--Sir Ralph Nicholson, of course."

"Oh, then it was a matter of course that he should come back? Well,
continue your confession. He has been here, I suppose?"

"Yes. He told me he returned on purpose to see me, you know. Pearl, he
asked me again to be his wife! He was so kind and nice, but he seemed to
be so awfully sure that I was going to accept him that I really couldn't
help it, but--but--I believe he thinks that I refused him."

"And now you are sorry, I suppose, and have been crying about it. Oh!
Amy, Amy! You foolish, foolish girl! Why, you love that man with all
your heart. You have never ceased to think of him since he left. And
now, when just like in a novel, he turns up again and gives you another
chance, you go and throw it away like this. I have no patience with you,
Amy, and I don't pity you a bit. You surely ought to understand that
Ralph Nicholson is a man in a thousand. A delightful man, a clever man,
and, from a worldly point of view, an excellent match. And pray, who are
you, Miss, that you should treat him like this? If you didn't care for
him it would be another question, but you told me yourself you have
never been happy since you said 'no' before. And now--oh! really, I
can't tell you what I think, I am so annoyed."

Amy's bright colouring paled while Pearl was speaking. She rose from her
seat, and stood with clasped hand and bent head.

"Pearl," she replied, with a break in her voice, "go on--go on scolding
me. I feel I deserve every word you say, and you cannot blame me more
than I blame myself. I can't think what induced me to behave as I did.
But you alone know how sometimes a spirit of contradiction takes
possession of me, and when he said, 'I have come back all these
thousands of miles to ask you again to be my wife. You will have me this
time, won't you, Amy?' I just answered--'And pray, Sir Ralph, why should
I answer yes now more than eighteen months ago? The circumstances, I
imagine, are just the same as far as I am concerned.'"

"You said that? Good heavens! what cruel creatures women are!" exclaimed
Pearl. "And what was his answer?"

"I think he turned very white, and he said--'This, then, is your only
answer after--after all this time?'"

"And what did you reply?"

"What did I reply? Oh, nothing."

"Nothing? Oh, Amy!"

"I couldn't, Pearl. But I did the next best thing. I went to the piano
and played some bars of a waltz, that waltz of Strauss' to which he and
I have danced so much in the old days. Of course, I thought that he
would understand by that--that--well--that I didn't mean 'no' exactly. A
woman would have understood the _nuance_ in a second, but men are so
dense. I put plenty of expression into my playing, too. But when I
looked up he was gone!"

Pearl couldn't help laughing at this very original form of replying to
an offer of marriage. She took the girl in her arms and kissed her.

"Really, Amy, you are a most extraordinary girl. What other person would
think of doing such a thing? You really deserve that he should never
come back again. A serious man like Sir Ralph is not to be coquetted
with like a boy. He put you a question, a question on which depends the
happiness of his life, and all you seem capable of doing is to reply in
this flippant manner."

"Don't you think I see all that clearly enough now?" replied Amy
mournfully, "and what is worse, there is a mail going out to-morrow--the
'China,' and I'm convinced he'll sail by it. Oh, Pearl! do help me. What
am I to do? I can't let him go away again. I really can't."

"Now look here, Amy, if I come to the rescue in this matter--which is
far more than you deserve, Miss--will you promise to be guided by me?"

"Well, you know, Pearl," replied Amy, with a mischievous light in her
eyes, "I hate making promises, for I no sooner make one than I find
_c'est plus fort que moi_, and lo! it is broken. But in this case my own
interests are so much at stake that perhaps--perhaps--"

Pearl rose from her seat and began putting on her cloak.

"Oh, Amy, Amy! why will you not be more like other people? You give most
people, dear, such an entirely false impression of your real nature. But
never mind, I am not going to preach any more to-day. Good-bye! and if
Sir Ralph ever has the temerity to ask you again, try and behave for
once in your life like a rational being."

Pearl's thoughts were much occupied with Miss Mendovy as she drove home
that afternoon. She was extremely attached to her young cousin, and
perhaps she sympathised better than most people with the contradictions
of that girlish nature.

Amy Mendovy, the only child of a sister of Mrs. Rawlinson's, was left an
orphan while still an infant. Rosina adopted her, in every way
fulfilling the mother's part. She loved the girl with all her heart. But
in spite of her great affection and indeed, genuine admiration, she did
not profess in the smallest degree to understand her. Consequently their
ideas, habits, and ways of looking at things generally, were hardly what
could be called congenial or sympathetic.

Mrs. Rawlinson was a simple-minded creature, and deluded herself with
the belief that she was now extremely modern and up-to-date. If the
truth were known, she had never entirely recovered from the narrow,
Calvinistic training of her youth, a proof of which was particularly
shown in the prim, little manner she affected when she thought it
necessary to correct her niece. Amy delighted in rousing that manner,
indeed, at times her chief joy in life appeared to be that of teasing
her aunt. It was only when she had succeeded in finally driving the poor
soul to the verge of desperation that she would throw her arms around
her neck, coax her, blame herself, ask pardon--in fact, behave generally
in such a bewitching _caline_ way, that it would indeed be a stony heart
that could resist her, and certainly not the soft organ that Rosina
Rawlinson was generally credited with possessing.

Pearl as she drove home, was thinking of this strain of perversity in
her cousin's disposition. She confessed to herself that it added greatly
to her charm, but nevertheless she deeply regretted this peculiarity,
preferring to dwell on those deeper traits in the girl's character which
to others were so seldom visible. Under the apparently frivolous,
somewhat futile manner, there was a strength, almost a grandeur of soul,
the glimpses of which more than once had literally taken away Pearl's
breath, so totally had she been unprepared for such an exhibition. It
was strange to hear some deep thought expressed by those lips, that
seemed formed only for mockery and laughter, and still stranger to see
the flash of cold disdain, of righteous scorn, that would fill the dark
eyes at the sight of some mean or unworthy action, or at the sound of
some paltry, petty speech.

But it was only to very few that the beautiful Miss Mendovy ever showed
this finer side of her nature, and to the world at large she was looked
upon as a girl of moods--original and impetuous--lovely as a dream, and
as heartless as a stone.



                              CHAPTER III.

                          PAINS AND PENALTIES.


Sir Ralph Nicholson appeared the next day at Pearl's house in answer to
a note he had found awaiting him on his return from dining at the
Swedish Legation the evening before. Stanislas de Güldenfeldt and he
were old and intimate friends, yet in spite of the fact that he was
feeling bitterly mortified at Miss Mendovy's cool reception, not once
did Amy's name cross his lips in the conversation kept up between the
two men until the early hours of the morning.

De Güldenfeldt, on the contrary, spoke incessantly of Pearl, and Ralph
wondered if his friend had the vaguest idea how much he betrayed himself
in every word he let fall. He gazed at him with amazement. Here was a
man who had been known throughout his career as the most cautious, the
most guarded, and the most reticent of diplomatists, proving by every
remark that passed his lips, in the very expression of his flushed and
handsome face, the thoughts that were evidently entirely monopolising
his mind. For the time being the two men seemed to have changed
personalities, and the more de Güldenfeldt spoke of Pearl, the more
silent and reserved did Nicholson become. He watched him with
half-closed eyes through his cigar smoke, and with a cynicism he had
somewhat adopted of late, found himself pitying what he chose to
designate as his friend's "state of demoralisation."

"Poor old fellow," he thought, "Japan is spoiling him. Three years ago
one would never have heard him maudling about a woman in this ridiculous
way. Good Heavens! what confounded fools these women make of us!"

To Mrs. Nugent the following day he gave expression to almost the same
sentiment, though on that occasion it was entirely in reference to
himself. To her he was as frank and open as he had been reticent to de
Güldenfeldt. Little by little the whole story came out. How it was not
the charm of the scenery of Japan, not its people so clever, brave and
fascinating, not its engrossing art, much as he appreciated beautiful
things, in fact none of these attractions that had recalled him to the
country after a few months absence, but simply the recollection of one
little rebellious curl on Amy Mendovy's white forehead, the distinct and
haunting impression of a seductively mocking expression in the bright
eyes that had induced him to cast all home duties and pleasures to the
winds, and had once more dragged him back to her side.

"And you see, Mrs. Nugent, how I have been rewarded for my constancy.
But then men are such confounded fools! She refused me eighteen months
ago, you know. Nevertheless I always had a faint hope that _au fond_ she
was not so entirely indifferent to me, which proves what a conceited,
fatuous ass I am. Perhaps it is only fair that I should be punished for
my folly."

"And are you so very positive that she does not care for you?" asked
Pearl, looking up into his face with a smile.

"Judge for yourself. If a girl cared two straws for a man, would she in
response to an offer of marriage, after a journey of eleven thousand
miles taken by that unfortunate fellow for her sake, sit down and begin
to strum on the piano? I ask you, would any girl with a scrap of feeling
or of heart do such an outrageous thing?"

"What did she play?"

"How am I to know? And I'm sure I don't care. I have no ear for music.
Something very noisy and jingly, that's all I heard."

"You didn't recognise the waltz you used to dance together, then?" and
Pearl, without looking at him, began putting straight the little ivory
_netsuke_[3] on her mantelpiece.

    [3] Carved objects that attach the tobacco pouch.

"By Jove!" exclaimed Ralph, jumping from his seat, "you don't mean to
tell me she was playing _that_! Now you mention it, the tune did seem
familiar to me. You mean, then, that--Good Heavens! I see it all now.
Mrs. Nugent, what an infernal idiot I have been!"

"Yes," said Pearl quietly, "perhaps you have been rather a goose."

"But how the dickens was I to know? Who would ever have imagined she
would act in such an extraordinary way?"

"In all your dealings with that young woman you must bear in mind that
she never does things quite like other people," replied Pearl. "That
must always be taken into consideration, and your own conduct
consequently must be dependent on this knowledge. So, instead of rushing
off to her instantly again, as I see you are dying to do, I should
refrain if I were you."

"But what am I to do?"

"I should simply for a time take absolutely no notice of her, and what
would be better still, and would certainly lead to most excellent
results, get up a mild flirtation with someone else."

Sir Ralph looked serious. "Mrs. Nugent," he said, "I am not a bit that
sort of fellow, you know. I'm really an awful duffer at saying pretty
things to a woman, especially when I don't mean them."

"Never mind, try your best for once in a way. For take my word for it,
if you want Amy as a wife, you must first rouse her _pique_, her
jealousy. She feels far too sure of you now, and she will be surer still
if she finds you have no intention of going off again--as she now half
fears you may do. If I were you, and if really you care to be guided by
me, I should advise you to choose a married woman for your flirtation, a
woman who would be sensible enough not to take too much _au grand
serieux_ any nonsense you may talk."

Sir Ralph Nicholson thrust his hands down into his pockets and walked to
the window. He stood gazing for some moments out on to the cherry trees
shining like pale pink snow in the brilliant sunshine. Then he turned
suddenly round and faced Pearl.

"Mrs. Nugent," he said, "I have something on my mind which I must tell
you. May I?"

"Certainly," replied Pearl quietly, "I am accustomed to receiving
confidences. What is it?"

"Oh, it is not a confidence. It is something about--about you--this
time. At least I mean not about you, but about--Martinworth."

Pearl rose from her seat, and going up to Ralph clutched nervously at
his sleeve.

"What is it?" she asked breathlessly, while she turned very pale.
"Is--is he dead?"

"Dead! Good Heavens! No. He was in the most flourishing state of health
when I saw him last in Paris, but he has nevertheless dished himself
pretty considerably. He is--he is--you must know sooner or later--he
is--married, and--and--what's more, he is coming out here."

"He is married and he is coming out here!" Pearl echoed the words in a
dull voice as she stared into Sir Ralph's sympathetic face. "Dick
married and coming out here with his wife! Good God! what shall I do?"
and she remained motionless with her distressed eyes fixed on Nicholson.

"My dear Mrs. Nugent--my dear lady," blundered Ralph, "please don't look
like that. For God's sake, I implore you to sit down!
Say--do--something. I wish I hadn't told you. But I thought it best, for
of course, you are bound to meet them if they come here. So I thought--I
thought you had better be prepared. But confound it all! I would have
risked anything rather than that you should have taken it so badly."

This last phrase roused Pearl from the dismay and stupefaction
experienced on first hearing Nicholson's unexpected news. She managed to
smile while she nervously put her hand to her forehead and pushed back
the curls of her hair. After all, who was Sir Ralph that she should
betray herself like this? A friend, it is true; a valued friend who knew
her history; but that was no reason why he should also become acquainted
with her heart. With an effort that cost her much she was successful in
recovering a certain amount of control over her features. She sat down
with her back to the light, and, taking a book from a table, began
turning over the leaves.

"Your news naturally interests me much," she said in a voice that she
succeeded in rendering almost indifferent. "Of course, at first it took
me by surprise. I--I'm sure I don't know why--but I--I--never thought
Lord Martinworth would marry. Whom--whom has he? Sir Ralph, would you
mind telling me if his wife is anyone I know? Whom has he married?"

Alas! for Pearl's reputation for imperturbability, these last questions
were asked in a very low, a very unsteady voice.

"Oh yes, you know her. You must have seen her knocking about Town for a
dozen seasons at least. He has married that extraordinary type: his
cousin, Lady Harriet Joyce; the large, fair one, who generally goes by
the name of 'Harry'"----

"Harry Joyce! Oh yes, I remember her," said Pearl quietly.

"She has run him down at last. She and her people have been trying it on
for years, you know."

Pearl did not reply. When she next spoke it was excessively calmly, on a
totally different subject.

But oh, the bitterness of it all! She sat and thought it all over when
Sir Ralph had left her. So Martinworth had forgotten her so soon--so
soon! And yet, she thought, ought she to blame him? Ought she not,
instead of feeling this sentiment of utter despondency, utter disgust,
be rejoicing that Martinworth by this step could henceforth no longer be
anything nearer to her than an ordinary friend, an ordinary
acquaintance? She accused herself over and over again for her
inconsistency. She told herself that she was absurd, illogical,
unreasonable. Had she not fled from this man--hidden herself from
him--for the express purpose that he should forget her? Had she not
advised him to marry some woman who could show an honest front to the
world, and be a credit to him? And now that apparently after some delay
he had obeyed her injunctions, what right had she to complain, to
regret, to feel angry and bitter, and to cavil against the inconstancy
of man?

Pearl's thoughts turned before long from herself and Martinworth to the
girl he had married. At last she experienced the satisfaction of being
able to give full vent to her anger and disappointment. To think that it
was _she_--that it was Harry Joyce whom he had chosen as his wife out of
all the women of his world! That elderly young lady whose whole soul was
wrapped up in guns and horses, in motor cars and rational costumes.
Harry Joyce, who never opened a book, and whose newspaper and magazine
reading was confined to the racing calendar and to the sporting
journals. Harry of the strident voice and weather-beaten countenance,
whose ordinary way of greeting her intimates of the opposite sex was to
call them by their nick-names, and to slap them on the back. A woman who
disregarded all the ordinary usages of society, every outward form of
conventionalism, and yet, because she was the only daughter of a Duke,
was not only time after time forgiven, but what was more, was accepted
as a matter of course, and in her frequent eccentricities was never at a
loss to find in either sex both followers and admirers.

"Perhaps she has improved now, but she used to be a horrible girl,"
exclaimed Pearl aloud, and rising from her chair she paced up and down
the room. "Dick always told me he detested her, and was ashamed to
acknowledge her as his cousin. And to think of his committing the
enormity of marrying such a woman. He must be mad! They haven't got a
single idea in common. In old days he cordially hated the emancipated
female. Some men of course find that sort of thing amusing. I have heard
her called more than once 'A capital fellow,' but imagine Dick, my Dick,
with such a wife! Imagine Dick uniting his lot with 'A capital fellow!'
Every word she will utter, every action, every gesture, will grate on
his nerves--will horrify and disgust him. Oh, what could have possessed
him to ruin his life by such an outrageous marriage?"

For many days did Pearl ponder over this problem, till at last she
arrived at what was perhaps more or less the right solution. Would she
have been human if, having decided in her own mind the reason for this
marriage, she did not at the bottom of her heart feel a sneaking
satisfaction that the wife he had taken was after all the masculine and
unattractive Lady Harriet Joyce, and not the sweet and innocent and
beautiful maid whom she herself had prescribed?

Nevertheless, in spite of any slight comfort she may have succeeded in
deriving from this thought, poor Pearl felt very sore and very forlorn,
and when a few days later Monsieur de Güldenfeldt offered her his hand
and his heart, she was more than half inclined to yield to the
temptation of accepting a man who in positive terms assured her of his
love, and who could give her not only a much-to-be-desired, but what was
more, a safe and tangible position.

Stanislas had, on the occasion referred to, accompanied her in her ride,
and they had stopped at a little tea-house to rest themselves and their
horses. They wandered off on foot through a grove of bamboos, and the
conversation turning on Ralph Nicholson's unexpected return to the
country, Pearl found herself speaking with considerable feeling, of his
constancy to her erratic young cousin.

"Nevertheless I have given him a piece of very worldly and very wicked
advice," she said with her pretty laugh--"I told him to get up a mild
flirtation with a married woman."

"Why married?" asked de Güldenfeldt.

"Because if he has no serious intentions, what's the good of
compromising a girl? Girls fall in love so easily; whereas married
women," she added with a sigh, "know so well how to look after
themselves."

Monsieur de Güldenfeldt did not reply for a moment. Then he stopped in
his walk, and gazing at his companion, asked somewhat gravely:

"Mrs. Nugent, are you quite sure that all married women know so very
well how to take care of themselves?"

"I think," answered Pearl in a low voice, "if, as I judge from your
question you are thinking of me, I really know pretty well how to look
out for myself. But then, of course my position is different from the
majority of married women. I am a sort of anomaly, and have had the sad
necessity of learning the lesson how to protect my poor battered self. I
confess, at times I have found it a somewhat difficult task. But I feel
sure I have mastered it thoroughly now. It has been a case of _force
majeure_, you see." And tears glistened in her eyes as she looked up at
him.

Stanislas de Güldenfeldt's heart swelled as, glancing at this beautiful
woman with the troubled face, he thought of the unhappiness of her past
life, and of her present dignity and courage. He stopped again, and
seized hold of her hands.

"Mrs. Nugent--Pearl," he said in a deep voice, "instead of for the
future fighting your own battles, dear, will you let me fight them for
you? Will you marry me? Will you let me have the gratification of being
in the blesséd position of having the right to protect you? Of shielding
you from evil tongues, and of trying to render you the happy woman you
deserve to be?"

The colour flew into Pearl's cheeks, but she did not withdraw her hands
from his. She looked at him, extreme astonishment depicted on her face.

"You are asking me to marry you?" she said, "you--you----?"

"Yes--I love you deeply, and my greatest desire on earth is to make you
my wife. Why should you be so surprised at that? Why, Pearl?"

For a minute Pearl looked down into the blue eyes that, full of
tenderness, were resting on her face. She gazed at them as if trying to
penetrate their very depths. They were kind, true eyes, she thought; but
she withdrew her hands gently from his, and turned away with a sigh.

"No," she said, "I can never marry you. Oh! that I could--that I could!
Do you know," she added hastily, without waiting for the reply that she
saw trembling on his lips, "do you know, Monsieur de Güldenfeldt, that I
think you one of the best, one of the most generous of men. You are
offering me everything. I, who can give so little--nothing in return."

"I ask you for much: for your love, Pearl. Will you not give it to me,
dear?"

Pearl did not reply. Her thoughts travelled as fast as the clouds above
her. Why after all should she not accept him? It was a brilliant offer;
an offer that a woman placed as she was placed could never in her
wildest dreams have thought probable, or even possible. By marrying de
Güldenfeldt she was perfectly aware that her position in society, which
now hung on so delicate a thread, would become regular and secure. He
knew her story. She had no inconvenient confessions to make. He was
evidently willing to take the risk of all future possible contingencies,
and of his love and tenderness and regard she felt no doubt. Lord
Martinworth would come and would find her engaged, or married; and for
one brief moment Pearl experienced a glow of satisfaction at the thought
that her former lover on his arrival, would find her, not pining or
regretting, not angry or dismayed, but in the proud position of a happy
and a triumphant wife. But this thought was instantly crushed as
unworthy. She blushed to think she had ever entertained it, and she told
herself that the natural grief, or _pique_, or whatever it was she felt
in connection with Lord Martinworth's marriage, must have no influence
on her present decision--must, in no way whatsoever, affect that answer
which she knew she must give within the next few minutes.

De Güldenfeldt was, she was well aware, a clever and a good man; a man
of a certain present and of a brilliant future; a man that any woman
might be proud to call husband; and here he stood, offering her--a poor
waif and stray in society--his love and his name. And yet she felt that
it was beyond her to accept these gifts offered thus generously. Why?
she hardly asked herself. Was it because she still loved
Martinworth?--Perhaps--she could not tell. But of one thing she felt
convinced, she did not love, could never love, Stanislas de Güldenfeldt.
She admired and respected and liked him more than she admired or liked
most men. She delighted in his society and in his conversation, which
was full of piquant anecdote, intellect and charm. She felt absolutely
contented, thoroughly at ease in his companionship, which acted as a
stimulant in her otherwise somewhat monotonous life. She did not
disguise from herself for a moment the many advantages she was
renouncing in setting aside this offer, and yet Pearl felt that it was
absolutely impossible for her to accept him, for if she did she would
she knew, be true neither to de Güldenfeldt, whom she liked so well,
nor, above all, true to herself.

By this time the two were seated on a little bamboo bench, and de
Güldenfeldt, waiting and watching with anxiety the expressive face, half
guessed and wholly feared the struggle that was being fought within. He
rose hurriedly.

"Don't say anything, don't speak now," he exclaimed, "Wait, Pearl. Take
your time to consider, but remember, my darling--I may call you so this
once?--that my whole life's future, my whole life's happiness, depends
on your answer."

Pearl felt greatly tempted to abide by this advice and to delay. As he
gave her this chance, why commit herself by answering at once? But her
hesitation lasted only a minute. Her natural candour and frankness of
disposition warned her it would be more than cowardly to postpone her
refusal. She turned towards him and said in her low voice:

"Monsieur de Güldenfeldt, it is best you should know at once that which
always must be known, for I know my decision can never change. I fear it
is--it must be--'No.' I can never marry you. For your own sake it must
be so, for I do not love you as you should--as you deserve to be loved.
My liking, my respect, my admiration is unbounded, but love--forgive me
for paining you--such as I have known the word, is not, can never be
mine to give you."

De Güldenfeldt let his keen blue eyes rest for a minute on Pearl's
flushed face, then without a single word in reply--with a quick,
impatient shrug of the shoulders--without a moment's hesitation he
turned and strode abruptly away.

Left by herself on the bench, Mrs. Nugent watched this precipitate
departure with considerable dismay. She had seen and known the Swedish
Minister in many moods. Ironical, pensive, bubbling over with good
spirits one day, melancholy and depressed the next, but, so far, she
never remembered having been a witness to his anger. She gazed after him
now with genuine consternation, as he paced the little path with his
head thrown back, and his hands thrust well down into the pockets of his
riding breeches. Her spirits sank as the minutes passed, and he finally
disappeared from view. Eventually the sentiment of trepidation that had
at first seized her changed to that of irritation and considerable
annoyance. After all, she thought, she had answered him as gently as
surely, in the circumstances, it was possible to reply, and the more she
considered the question, the more did a feeling of extreme vexation and
surprise overcome her at her refusal being received in this apparently
intensely angry and rebellious spirit.

Women at best are but unreasonable creatures, and Mrs. Nugent was no
exception to the rule, forgetting to make allowances for the necessary
blow that such a prompt refusal must certainly inflict on a man of
Stanislas de Güldenfeldt's proud and rather unyielding disposition. On
his side he was fully aware of the many and great advantages of his
offer, and of the sacrifices on his part that such a marriage would
entail. It had by no means been fear of failure alone that had prevented
him from suggesting a connection of a possibly too unbinding or
temporary nature. Since his final determination to make this marriage,
he had learnt that the great love he bore Pearl would in itself,
independent of any other reason, be sufficient to cause him to reject
the former idea with promptitude and distaste. He did not however,
disguise from himself that, situated as she was, nine men out of ten
would have hesitated before offering her their name. He himself had
deliberated and paused before taking this step, but having once, with
complete disregard of his future, proposed to give up all for her, he
found it impossible to recover from the mortification that her abrupt
rejection of his offer, and the refusal for one moment even to consider
his proposal, had caused him.

Stanislas, greatly angered and deep in thought, strode on and on. It was
only the fact of unexpectedly finding himself once more at the tea-house
that roused him from his vexatious thoughts, recalling to him the fact
of his hasty departure, and unceremonious desertion of Pearl.

He then and there retraced his steps, and found her where he had left
her on the bench, with a heightened colour, and a look of decided
reproach in her eyes. He was very pale as he lifted his hat to her.

"Pardon me for leaving you alone," he merely said. "Shall we return now.
It is getting chilly."

Pearl rose without a word. She followed humbly, feeling somewhat like a
naughty child in disgrace. It was not long before her pride rebelled
against this sentiment, so unpleasantly novel to her, and though her
voice trembled, and her throat felt rough and dry, she nerved herself to
break the prolonged and awkward silence.

"I don't think you are treating me very well," she said rather
defiantly. "You did me the honour to ask me a question, and I replied in
the only way that seemed possible to me. I can only say I grieve if it
was not the answer you appear evidently to have expected."

Monsieur de Güldenfeldt did not speak. He merely slowly raised his head,
and with his searching eyes gave Pearl one long and steadfast look. This
look had the unpleasant effect of causing Mrs. Nugent to sincerely wish
she had bitten her tongue out sooner than have ventured to break the
silence.



                              CHAPTER IV.

                              DEEP WATERS.


Stanislas fled from Tokyo. He felt as if he hated the place, as if he
never wished to set foot in it again. The evening of the day that Pearl
refused him he wrote to his Government requesting leave to return home,
but he worked almost single-handed at his Legation, and he knew that it
would be impossible to take his departure until someone had been sent
out to relieve him, a circumstance which meant many months of weary
waiting.

What might happen during those months he found himself wondering, as he
read over the letter he had written so impetuously? A day, a week might
alter the whole chain of events, and by the time his Government had
given him permission to take advantage of his leave, making all
arrangements to facilitate his departure, he knew that it was more than
possible that the idea of throwing up his work and of leaving Japan
would be the last desire prominent in his mind.

Even in moments of the greatest excitement or of distress,
Stanislas--where the question of his work was in any way
involved--rarely acted hastily or without looking at the question from
all sides. Thus in the present case, though it would have been
impossible for him to have explained the exact reason why, after weighty
consideration, he ended by thrusting the hastily written letter into a
drawer, where it reposed peacefully until destroyed many months later.

Not that at this moment De Güldenfeldt for one second contemplated
asking Mrs. Nugent a second time to become his wife. No thought, indeed,
was further from his mind. After much quiet deliberation, indeed
considerable hesitation, he had brought himself to the point of making
this offer, and greatly to his surprise, disappointment, and distress,
he had been refused. He was deeply in love with Pearl, but it must be
confessed the sentiment for the moment that had the greatest hold on the
spirit of Stanislas de Güldenfeldt, swamping all other feelings,--even
for the time being that of his love--was that of wounded pride,
Stanislas was by no means perfect, his faults were many and manifold,
and like all those who from their earliest youth have acted as their own
masters--seldom having been crossed in either whims or desires--he was
extra-ordinarily intolerant, even in small matters, of the slightest
contradiction or hindrance to his wishes. But when it came to the point
of renouncing what he most desired in life, not only for the moment, but
he knew well for all futurity, Stanislas was consumed with what was far
more than a merely temporary sentiment of annoyance and distress. A
great astonishment, a permanent anger and resentment filled his whole
being, and his one thought at the present moment was to fly from Pearl
and all associations of her, striving his utmost to entirely banish from
his mind the woman who had so strangely upset his equanimity,
disarranging so completely his rather settled habits and whole system of
life.

Thus it was, travelling by slow stages and passing his nights at clean
and picturesque tea-houses sleeping on _futon_[4] and eating the food of
the country, Stanislas, and the young interpreter of his Legation,
Suzuki, his sole companion in his travels, one day found themselves at
Sendai, from which place they took the train to Shiogama. There a
_sampan_--the flat bottomed junk of the Japanese--was engaged, and for
several hours Stanislas, stretched at the bottom of the boat, with hands
clasped behind his head, and eyes gazing lazily up unto the unclouded
sky above, glided in and out through the thousands of lovely islands of
this archipelago, so full of mystery and of dreams. Weird and wonderful
were those islands, bays, and promontories, in some cases beautiful and
entrancing in their wealth of thick grown pines and rich and varied
vegetation, and in others, almost uncanny in their bare, naked, volcanic
rocks, worn into strange patterns and fantastic shapes by the inroads of
the ever surging sea. Under the late afternoon sun, and across this
lovely limpid sea of green, would fade far away in the distance vast and
misty ranges of thickly wooded hills, while here and there, gleaming
through the soft whiteness of the light, a great peak of purple would
arise aloft like a beckoning finger, reaching far beyond into the fast
flying clouds of the faintly shaded sky.

    [4] Japanese quilts.

On reaching Matsushima (the "Island of the Pines") after this
never-to-be-forgotten sail of some delicious hours, and on arriving at
the tea-house perched on a rock high above the water, that was to be his
shelter for the night, de Güldenfeldt, while the evening meal was being
prepared under the supervision of Suzuki, leaned idly over the little
barrier of the verandah. He leant and gazed wonderingly at the beautiful
scene, till his whole soul was pervaded by the gentleness, the dreamy
passionlessness, the immense repose of the solemn charm of the sight
before him. The musically rippling water, the many thousand islands, the
fading sun-set, with its great shafts of glowing colour shooting across
the sky, and merging mysteriously into soft and subtle twilight--all had
a peculiar beauty and character of their own. It seemed to him like
nothing he had ever seen before. No old recollections, no old memories
were stirred to life as his eyes wandered over the waters, and dwelt on
the many thousand islands of every form and size, now growing shapeless
and dim in the darkening shadows of the night.

And as he gazed thus, drinking in the beauty of the scene and thinking
of nothing--not even for the moment of Pearl--and as the short twilight
gradually faded and night fell, Stanislas was the witness of a strange
and picturesque sight.

Thousands and thousands of dazzling lights were shimmering on the
surface of the dark calm sea before him, each light growing gradually
fainter and fainter, and gliding further and further away into the open.
Then it was that de Güldenfeldt remembered that it was the sacred and
yearly ceremony of the "Shoryobune," or the launching of the Ships of
the Souls, when thousands of little skiffs and barks, each illuminated
with a single lantern, are once a year set afloat upon the open sea by
the simple fisher-folk. On this date the ocean is nought for the time
being but one vast highway of the Dead, whose passing souls must cross
the waters, be they rough or calm, to eventually reach the haven of
their distant and Eternal Home.

Now gleaming on the crest of the wave, now disappearing beneath the
waters, those fires of the Dead take their onward uncertain journey. Sad
indeed, is the fate of the lost lamenting soul, whose little craft with
its twinkling light is submerged and extinguished by the scudding spray
of the sea, disappearing for ever from all human sight and ken. For that
poor struggling spirit is no rest, nor eternal repose, forever and
forever will it be an outcast and a wanderer, hovering on the shores of
that Land in which Nirvâna is found, but fated never to dwell within the
regions of its blessed calm and peace.

It is said that as these ghostly lights take their strange and onward
journey across the sea, the distant murmur of many voices is heard like
the mournful roar of the surf beating on the strand, the language
uncomprehended and indistinguishable of those many thousand weary souls,
struggling on towards their long prayed-for, long-expected haven of
peace and holy contemplation.

And as de Güldenfeldt gazed out thus far before him, his eye became
fixed upon one little glimmer, dancing up and down on the water, and a
cry above the murmur of the many voices seemed to him to come from the
direction of that light. Stanislas could not tear his eyes away from
this distant gleam, nor shut his ears to the sound of that cry, so faint
and weak, and yet so strangely dominant over all other sounds around
him. And as he looked, fascinated and engrossed, the fancy seized him
that it was even at the spectacle of his own striving weary soul he was
gazing, and that the wail that proceeded from that flickering light,
rising and falling across the waters, was the echo of the cry of
desolation and despair that had filled and rent his heart, ever since
the day he had parted from Pearl Nugent in anger and bitter disillusion.
He leant further over the balcony, trying to pierce the gloom and to
follow the wind-fraught vagaries of that one faint glimmering light. Now
it tore swiftly along, now it rose high above the waves, seeming to
challenge with its swift and triumphant haste the more backward
competitors in this strenuous race, of which the distant goal was the
stormy and open sea.

It disappeared for the space of an instant, and dreading that it was
engulfed for ever by the waters, Stanislas' heart sank within him. Ah!
no! there it was again, solitary and triumphant, shining like a colossal
diamond, far, far away--as far as eye could see. Alone it was, reaching
a great distance beyond the others, and de Güldenfeldt felt grieved for
this flickering uncertain light, always solitary, always struggling,
however much it was in advance, or appeared to have vanquished those who
had first started with it in the race.

It was, therefore, with a certain glow of joy, a sentiment of
excitement, which he made no effort to suppress, that he finally
perceived another distant light, yet as luminous and as steady as the
first, flying with all speed over the suddenly roughening ocean, every
instant approaching nearer to the brilliant spark that for so long had
remained triumphantly mistress of the seas. Stanislas, without
hesitation, joyously decided in his own mind that this second light
could be none other than the soul-light of Pearl, for as it gained on
the distant gleam the faint piteous cry that had hitherto proceeded from
the latter ceased, and the light stood still on the face of the waters,
and Stanislas knew that his own expectant spirit was waiting for Pearl's
soul to join it. Swifter and swifter it flew, nearer and nearer it came,
gaining every moment on that other trembling light that was pausing on
the crest of the wave to bear it company on that rough and onward
journey. Stanislas felt assured that just one faint effort more, one
short critical moment, would join in happy and eternal union these two
distant lights. But as he gazed breathlessly, the light which he called
Pearl's soul, for one brief second gleamed up high into the horizon,
gave a faint wavering flicker, and the surface that an instant before
was all aglow with its vaporous brilliancy, grew as dark as the inky
night that so suddenly seemed to envelope all things, and the little
spark, engulfed by the waters, vanished for ever from all human sight!

And there still remained his light, his soul, solitary and forlorn,
drifting aimlessly on and on. Once again Stanislas caught the sound from
far across the waters of that moaning cry, that piteous faint lament,
the echo of the desolation in his own heart; and the wail rang in his
ears till the light on the sea, growing smaller and smaller, and fainter
and fainter, finally merged into the distant horizon, and was seen no
more.

"I wonder what is coming to me," sighed de Güldenfeldt, as reluctantly
stirring from the balcony, he sat himself down on the pile of cushions
prepared for him on the _tatami_,[5] "I am as sentimental, as great a
fool as any boy indulging in his first attack of calf-love. Yet--and
yet--I wish to God Pearl's light had not gone out, but had succeeded in
eventually reaching mine. It would somehow have seemed more reassuring,
a better omen for the future, whereas now----"

    [5] Japanese mats.

Stanislas de Güldenfeldt passed a bad night. The tea-house, famous for
its lovely and extensive view, but for little else, was by no means the
haven of rest he had hoped for. The celebration of a _Geisha_ feast in
the next room, with all its accompaniments of cheerful voices, rippling
laughter, and the doubtful charms of the music of the _samisen_,[6]
destroyed through the earlier hours of the night all thoughts of repose.
When at length the last convivial guest, after many _O'yasumi nasai_,[7]
had finally taken his departure, Stanislas found to his cost that his
_futon_ were both hard and lumpy, and that the Japanese green mosquito
net, perforated with holes, seemed expressly fabricated to admit scores
of those wily and vicious insects, with which his tussles were many and
necessarily totally unsuccessful. He tossed and turned, dozed for a few
minutes, and in his uneasy dreams was haunted by the soul-lights. Now
dancing on the waves, now taking weird shapes of grotesque birds of
prey, or fish and animals of no known description, they seemed to
imperiously beckon him to join them, or enveloping him in strange
uncanny arms, they dragged his struggling form far beneath the waters.
Finally he no longer could support in patience the discomfort of his
room or these weird nightmares of an excited brain, and rising from his
lowly couch and pushing open the _amado_,[8] he looked out into the
night.

    [6] A musical instrument like a guitar in form.

    [7] Good-nights.

    [8] Wooden sliding shutters.

The moon was full, illuminating with its bright glory the calm sea from
which all the lights had long since vanished, and from the surface of
which the islands rose from out the water like great gaps blackened by
mysterious and ever-moving shadows. On the right, partly hidden by its
sacred groves, approached by the red _torii_[9] resting almost on the
water's edge, stood bathed in the mystic light, the ancient and
picturesque shrine. This lovely little shrine was entirely framed by one
immense cedar, whose great branches, motionless in the silent night air,
stretched far beyond, like dark angels guarding the consecrated ground.
Not a living creature was to be seen, and with the exception of the hum
of the night insects, all was as silent as the aged moss-grown
tombstones on which the moonbeams fell in ghostly streaks of light.

    [9] The gateway leading to a temple.

    "Oh, Heavenly Orb! whose pale but magic light,
    Sheds liquid glory through the realms of night.
    Oh, pathless wanderer! whose holy gleam
    Enshrines the Heavens around with silv'ry beam.
    Dear to my longing heart thy wondrous ray,
    Kindling pure thoughts that shun the glaring day.
    Here while I pensive kneel, gazing above,
    Thy silver sheen melts wild thoughts into love;
    And radiant dreams, and hopes and fancies roll
    In 'wild'ring rapture through my restless soul.
    Shine on, mild, mystic Moon! aid tears to cease,
    Through my sad heart shed thy calm light of Peace."

This simple verse was the composition of the English mother he had
adored, and the repetition of it, so appropriate to the sweet scene
before Stanislas' eyes, tended greatly towards bestowing that repose
which till now had eluded his weary yet restless mind.

But the beauty and peace and silence were not to last. A shadow fell
across the surface of the moon, and a fitful and mysterious wind wailed
from behind the hills. Suddenly, with no previous warning, every cur in
every little hamlet from far and near commenced a discordant and
incessant barking. Before Stanislas could ask himself what meant this
unwelcomed disturbance of the calm night, a premonitory trembling of the
wooden verandah on which he stood warned him that all the terrors of an
earthquake were before him. There was no time to realise this
disagreeable fact before another shock followed the first, more violent
and more prolonged, then a third, in which the wood creaking, rose like
the waves of the ocean from beneath his feet. Stanislas found himself
clinging to the bamboo rails of the verandah, watching with a strange
fascination the branches of the sacred cedar waving violently backwards
and forwards as if shaken by the force of a tempest, and the red _torii_
beyond, trembling in its balance. The shock continued, each second
increasing the violence thereof, till, with a deafening roar, like the
roar of the ocean, with one stupendous and prolonged crash, the frail
building, sliding from its slight foundations, collapsed like a house of
cards! Stanislas remembered no more until he found himself stretched on
the ground outside all that now remained of the once picturesque
tea-house. A few yards further and he would have been over the cliff. As
it was, he was on his feet in a moment, feeling none the worse for his
fall, which had been from no great height, and was broken by the heap of
stones and rubbish on which he fell.

The house was a mass of ruins. Such indeed, as soon as his somewhat
dazed condition allowed him to look around him, seemed to be the
melancholy condition of most of the miniature matchbox habitations that
three minutes before had stood edging the sea in all their simple and
romantic beauty. The _torii_ that he had admired so short a time ago
bathed in the calm moonlight, now lay prone on the ground, while half
the roof of the little shrine had vanished in a cloud of dust. Only
remained the great and ancient cedar to compete against and triumphantly
conquer many another revolution of angry nature. This noble tree had
survived hundreds of years of earth oscillations and currents, tidal
waves and earthquakes, volcanic agencies to which we are told Japan
itself owes her very being. Doubtless to the same terrible and
disastrous causes, perhaps to-day, perhaps to-morrow, perhaps only in
the far distant ages to come, will this beautiful fairyland owe her
ultimate destruction.

Güldenfeldt's first thought in the chaos that followed was of his young
interpreter Suzuki. He shouted his name aloud, but in the din and
confusion and the chorus of wails and weepings over lost property--and,
alas! in many cases, lost dear ones--his voice was unheard. He knew the
boy had been sleeping in the room next to his own, but that little room
was now with the rest of the building, heaped on the ground a mass of
ruins. Calling on some of the fishermen who were standing by him
stupefied by the scene of bitter desolation before them--he tore wildly
at the _débris_ of planks and paper and matting piled on the ground,
feeling sure that he had but to persevere long enough to find him for
whom he searched. In far too short a space of time in lifting a heavy
beam of wood, the body of this dear companion of his travels was
discovered beneath, motionless and dead. From the first indeed, a
presentiment of coming evil had warned Stanislas he would thus find him.
The moon, once more unclouded and brilliant, lit up the boy's
good-looking face and slim young form. Still resting on his _futon_
there was an expression of such complete peace and happiness on his
countenance that for a moment it was indeed difficult not to consider as
merely slumbering, this youth hurled thus suddenly into eternity.

De Güldenfeldt raised the burden, so light and delicate in his arms, and
pushing away the dark hair from the brow he perceived a deep jagged cut
on the temple. That wound in itself was enough to cause instant death.
The blood had ceased to flow with the ceasing of the heart-throbs, and
as his eyes lingered sadly on the inanimate form within his arm, the
tears welled up into de Güldenfeldt's eyes. He had loved this young man
born at the Legation, and educated at the French school, the worthy son
of a noble Samurai, who himself after the Revolution and on the loss of
his fortune, had in years gone-by, been only too grateful to accept the
situation of Interpreter at the Swedish Legation. From the first day
that Stanislas had held the post of Minister in Japan, this youth,
unusually quick and intelligent, had proved not only his companion, but
his right hand. He had returned the affection of his master with the
fidelity and devotion of his race, had accompanied him in his many
travels throughout the country, was an excellent interpreter, and had
directed his household with the thoroughness and conscientiousness of an
upright and honest man, devoted to his master's interests.

De Güldenfeldt felt that in losing this bright and intelligent companion
of many lonely hours, he was losing half himself. "One shall be taken
and the other left," he murmured, as unrestrained the tears fell.
"Indeed the ways of Providence are strange. Why has this lad, so full of
promise and with all before him, been the one taken, while I, a lonely
man, with no hold on life, no ties, no inducements to keep me here--am
the unfortunate one that is left?"

And the next day during the sad process of cremation, when, after three
brief hours, all that was left of this charming companion of years was a
handful of ashes and a few splinters of bone, Stanislas, with a feeling
of intense loss and desolation, again asked himself that question. Why
was he the one whom Providence had chosen to continue the strife?

"No one cares for me, no one wants me," he thought, as he sadly
supervised the placing of the ashes in the urn.

And to this day those ashes repose, and have incense and flowers offered
before them in the grounds of the great Temple of the _Koya San_.



                               CHAPTER V.

                               HOME NEWS.


While de Güldenfeldt was pursuing his travels, a prey to morbid thoughts
increased by this tragic event which had touched him so nearly, and
while he was trying to learn that hardest lesson in the world--the
lesson to forget, or in his weaker moments, for man is but human after
all, dreaming dreams and weaving fancies, dangerous and alluring, Pearl,
the chief cause of his depression, yet the subject of those heavenly
dreams and fancies, was pursuing the even tenour of her way in Tokyo.

Pearl likewise had passed through her moments of weakness and regret.
There were times, indeed, when she arrived at the somewhat humiliating
conclusion that, considering all things, there was not much to choose
between her manner of acting and that of the foolish girl whom she had
taken it upon herself so severely to lecture.

She and her young cousin were much in each other's society at this time,
the mere fact of both being placed in fairly similar positions, helping,
perhaps to strengthen the tie of kinship, and that of their mutual
affection one for the other.

It was during one of their early morning rides that Mrs. Nugent told Amy
of de Güldenfeldt's offer, of her rejection thereof, and of the Swedish
Minister's consequent irritation and final disappearance from the centre
of operations.

At this information confided to her, a mischievous gleam sparkled from
Miss Mendovy's eyes.

"Really, my dear Pearl," she said, very fairly imitating her cousin's
voice and manner, "I must speak seriously to you. How could you have
been so foolish as to have treated Monsieur de Güldenfeldt as if he were
a mere boy? I have no patience with you, Pearl. You forget that the
Swedish Minister is a man in a thousand,--a delightful man, a clever
man, and from a worldly point of view an excellent match, etc., etc.,
etc. Don't you think, my dear," she added, turning round in her saddle,
and glancing at Pearl with a face brimming over with laughter, "don't
you think that these, your own words remember, addressed no doubt
perfectly justly to your erring but I assure you long-ago-repentant
cousin, might apply most admirably in your own case? It is rather a pity
you were so 'previous,' I think, wasting your breath on me, instead of
reserving it for your own delinquencies."

"It seems to me," replied Pearl, as she gave a little flick to her mare,
"that you in your eloquence, Miss Amy, are forgetting one vital
difference in the two cases. Whereas you, by your own confession, are in
love with Sir Ralph Nicholson, and what is more, have been in this
blissful condition for ages, I have no feeling for Monsieur de
Güldenfeldt but that of great liking and the very deepest admiration for
his cleverness and wit. This rather alters the situation, don't you
think, you extremely sarcastic and facetious young person?"

"Oh, love!" ejaculated Amy with uptilted nose, "pray who thinks nowadays
of such an out-of-date sentiment as love? What is love, compared to the
advantages of a profitable marriage? Besides, Pearl, if you are not in
love with him, you ought to be. He's a dear man, and you have recklessly
and deliberately thrown away an excellent chance. And for what? An idea,
a mere antiquated worn-out idea. And that's a fact, so it is no use
trying to make out the contrary."

"You are doubtless right, Amy, perfectly right," answered Pearl in an
unusually humble voice, "I know I am never likely to get such a chance
again. Considering my position, it was a stroke of luck I had no right
to expect, and yet--and yet--My dear Amy, it comes to this, it's no use
talking to a girl like you. You've never been married, so how can you in
the least realize what marriage means? I know, to my cost, only too well
what it entails. So is it to be wondered at that I hesitate before
making a second venture, however advisable to your inexperienced eyes
such a marriage may seem?"

They trotted on in silence for some minutes, then Amy replied somewhat
dubiously,

"You are right, Pearl. Of course I can't in the least know the
consequences, good or bad, of matrimony. What is more, as far as I can
see, I am never likely to have the chance of finding out. For I am
decided on one point--nobody but Ralph shall have the honour of calling
me wife, an honour which, so far, that young man seems in no hurry
whatsoever to burden himself with. It is ages and ages since he
condescended to come near me. And when by chance, once in a blue moon,
we do happen to meet, His Excellency as a rule is far too occupied with
some other fascinating member of the fair sex to think it worth his
while to hardly cast me a glance of recognition. Rather different from
the old days, eh, Pearl?"

"You brought it on yourself, my dear cousin."

"I confess, Pearl, I have hitherto looked upon you as a fairly
intelligent woman. Another lost illusion, I suppose. Pray, how does the
fact of my having brought this state of things on myself in the least
alter or improve matters? Bother the men! Don't let's talk any more
about them. The world would certainly be far jollier if they didn't
exist. I see," she added with a serio-comic twinkle in her eye, "there
is only one thing left for me to do, and that is to pray that Sir
Ralph's ultimate fate in the shape of a wife may be a shrew, the plague
of his life, someone who will lead him a nice dance in fact. Then
perhaps he may feel inclined to indulge in some moments of regret that
he did not stick a little longer to dear, amiable, sweet-tempered Amy
Mendovy. Come along, Pearl, let's have a canter, and for one brief
moment forget that disagreeable appendage--man."

But Amy was not fated to be in luck that morning, for shortly afterwards
a sharp turn in the road brought the two ladies face to face with that
particular "appendage" who was evidently engrossing Miss Mendovy's
thoughts. Ralph was accompanied by two extremely pretty girls, all three
on horseback, and apparently, from their peals of happy laughter, in the
highest of spirits and the greatest good humour with themselves and the
world in general.

Amy Mendovy flushed crimson, and with a bow that included the whole
party, she gave a cut to her pony, and trotted quickly on, while Pearl,
calling out to one of the girls, "I hope you have had a nice ride this
lovely morning, Eulalie," followed after her cousin.

"Why did you not stop, Amy?" she asked as she caught her up. "The de
Bourvilles reined in their horses with the intention of having a chat.
They looked so astonished and annoyed when you went tearing past them in
that strange, erratic manner."

"If you find the society of those girls so fascinating, my dear, why did
you pay any attention to my movements, and not stop yourself?" replied
Amy sharply.

"I had to follow you. If I had not done so it would have made your
behaviour appear still more markedly rude," answered Pearl quietly. "As
it is, they may possibly attribute our tearing past them in that
extraordinary manner, to some real necessity for haste."

"I really don't in the least care what they think. The opinions of the
Mesdemoiselles de Bourville never have interested me, nor will they ever
interest me in the very slightest degree. The only thing that distresses
me somewhat is to see two unfortunate girls, neither of whom have the
vaguest notion of sitting a horse, attempting to ride."

"Well, you see, they are merely beginners. No doubt as they go out now
so often with Sir Ralph he will soon teach them to sit straight,"
replied Pearl rather maliciously. "They've got nice figures, and are
both adorably pretty. I'm sure their habits are English made."

"Doubtless," said Amy, with a slight drawl, which she affected when she
wished to appear bored, "but really their riding habits excite me as
little as the owners themselves. Do let us talk of something more
interesting, Pearl."

Pearl smiled quietly to herself as she thought, with a certain
satisfaction, how quickly the remedy which she herself had prescribed
was working on the all-unconscious patient. "I have never seen Amy in
such a temper, or heard her use such an unpleasant tone towards other
girls before," she thought. "Poor child! She's green with jealousy. No
wonder! when in the old days there was never a question of Ralph riding
with anyone but herself. Dear, wise Ralph! if only you continue to play
your cards as well as you have started, there's no reason whatsoever,
knowing my fair cousin as I do, but that you will be married to her
whenever you choose to fix the day."

That same morning, on her return from her ride, Pearl found she was
likely to have far more serious matters than Amy's affairs of the heart
to occupy her mind.

The mail had come in, an event that ordinarily did not greatly excite
Mrs. Nugent. Having shut herself off from all old associations, all
former connections, she seldom, with the exception of an occasional
communication from her banker or lawyer, received much of interest by
the post, the pile of newspapers and magazines, despatched to her
weekly, being her sole and only means of keeping in touch with the outer
world.

But this morning, on entering her cosy little boudoir, one glance at the
writing table showed, lying in a prominent place, a couple of letters,
one from Mr. Hall and the other in a former well-known and altogether
dreaded handwriting. No need to lift the letter from the table to
recognize only too well the once familiar, but now almost forgotten
writing of the husband whom she had divorced. On perceiving it she made
an exclamation of dismay, for a moment hesitating whether she should not
destroy unread this unexpected and most unwelcome missive. Nevertheless,
though vexed and irritated, the sight of the letter aroused no keen
feelings in her mind. Since she had freed herself from him, the writer
himself had grown so completely indifferent--belonging so entirely to
that black chapter of the past, which, until reopened by Nicholson, she
had flattered herself was closed for ever--that she felt, whatever he
might elect to write, whatever insults, whatever injuries might be
addressed to her in this letter, no sentiment but that of a sort of
dreary contempt, a partial and temporary irritation unworthy even of the
name of anger, was now capable of being once more stirred to life.

Indifference to vituperation did not however, carry her so far as to
swamp all natural feelings of curiosity, and when, after a few moments
of deliberation, she lifted the letter by the corner, she examined the
envelope with a certain interest and wonder. The letter was fully
directed to her present name and address, a fact which, on
consideration, caused an incipient fear, and certainly unbounded
astonishment.

So he knew not only of her change of name, but of her whereabouts, by
what occult means she did not wait to consider, but delaying no longer,
Pearl hastily opened the epistle, and read the following contents:

    "Dear Pearl,

    "I do not for one moment flatter myself that it is likely you
    should take the smallest interest in the fate of the man who
    once called himself your husband. As, however, I am informed
    that surely--and I am personally convinced by no means
    slowly--my days are numbered, I am writing before the breath
    vanishes for ever from this poor suffering body, to make,
    entirely for my own satisfaction, a certain communication to
    you.

    "I am leaving you--for reasons which it is hardly necessary for
    me to enumerate--the complete mistress of my fortune. For fear,
    however, that you should be deluded into the belief that this
    proceeding is an act of, what you might be pleased to consider
    reparation on my part, I wish before the end comes, to entirely
    disabuse your mind of that fallacy.

    "I am a dying man, it is true, but a worn out carcass does not
    necessarily entail a clouded or impaired intelligence. My mind,
    believe me, is as clear as when you knew me, and I solemnly here
    announce on my death-bed a fact, which except in public you have
    heretofore never given me the chance of declaring, that in my
    marital relations, I was as deeply wronged, as you no doubt are
    perfectly justified in considering I wronged you.

    "You obtained your divorce by the breadth of a hair, you will
    doubtless remember. The fact that after having achieved your
    ends no marriage with Martinworth took place, did not for one
    instant throw dust in my eyes, whatever may have been the effect
    on that individual himself, or on the many, who at that time,
    called themselves your friends. I repeat, that for many years I
    possessed the positive conviction that Martinworth was your
    lover. In no wise did this fact interfere with me or my plans.
    Indeed, the knowledge that you were agreeably occupied entirely
    suited my book, and under the circumstances I found it a natural
    and convenient arrangement for all parties concerned.

    "If, my dear Pearl, you had only shown that cleverness which you
    had exhibited for so many years, and if instead of dragging me
    into the Divorce Court you had been satisfied to let well alone,
    we should have continued a comfortable _ménage à trois_ till the
    end of the chapter. That chapter, as far as I am concerned,
    would soon have closed, and in three or four years' time you
    would have found yourself, while still fairly young and
    extremely handsome, playing the satisfactory and the justifiable
    _rôle_ of the bereaved, but by no means inconsolable widow. That
    awkward impediment the husband, having been conveniently
    disposed of underground, no stumbling block would have stood in
    the way of legalizing your position, by a marriage at some
    fashionable church, to which interesting ceremony lustre would
    have been added by the presence, no doubt, of the smartest set
    in Town.

    "But you were too hasty in your desire to cast off your
    shackles. Seeing, however, the precious little use you have made
    of your freedom, is it to be wondered at that my breath should
    have been taken away by such an exhibition of complete _manque
    de savoir faire_. By one, too, whom, when I gave myself the
    trouble to think about her at all, I certainly considered
    possessed that quality to perfection.

    "What? I ask you, have you gained by this most ill-advised step,
    on the taking of which, if you had only consulted me, I should
    most certainly, for your own sake, have counselled you against?
    Have you achieved liberty of action? Certainly not. Before your
    divorce you were completely free. A firmer and less compromising
    stand in society? Hardly, you must allow, considering the many
    doubtful and unpleasant incidents of your life, that to shield
    my own reputation my counsel had to bring to light. Undisturbed
    union with your lover? Your own subsequent and most inexplicable
    behaviour forfeited for ever all chance of such a future.

    "Now, in the place of gain, compare your losses. Exile from your
    native land. The loss of the protection of your husband's name.
    The loss of the constant companionship of an adoring lover, and
    while you were my wife, however much you might have thought fit
    to scorn that position, the loss of a tangible and by no means
    insignificant place in that society, which for over ten years
    had been to you as the very breath of your nostrils.

    "Oh! poor, blind, benighted fool! I cannot but pity you, Pearl,
    my rage and spite having long ago exhausted themselves. It is to
    prove to you this truth, namely, that I have no bitterness, no
    rancour, that I am acting as I do, leaving you the complete
    controller of that fortune, which, from the fact of you having
    shared it for so many years, you well know is by no means
    inconsiderable. Do as you will with it. As you will see, it is
    yours without conditions. You in your turn can leave this wealth
    to whom you desire, my own few distant relatives having no claim
    whatsoever upon me.

    "One word more before I close these lines.

    "Once, being no longer master of my actions, I was so
    unfortunate as to strike you. It was principally on the fact of
    that blow that you obtained your divorce. I apologise to you for
    this deed. I can only add that, whatever the provocation, I
    should never have acted thus in my sober moments.

    "And now, adieu. By the time you receive this I shall, in all
    probability be beneath the sod. No doubt you will experience a
    certain natural satisfaction in feeling assured that for the
    future you no longer can be troubled by

                                                "GUY NORRYWOOD."
arl stood for a long time with this letter clasped tightly in her hand,

Pea prey to strangely mixed feelings. Though, during all the years they
had spent together, Norrywood had evidently not considered it worth his
while to express his opinion, she nevertheless had by no means been in
ignorance of her husband's true sentiments towards her. Before the crash
she in her turn, had scorned to confute or to argue this opinion, though
if she had for a moment supposed that every questionable position, every
compromising action on her part was to have been brought as evidence
against her in her own suit, she certainly would have taken more pains
in those early days, even to the man whom she despised so thoroughly, to
have explained and proved her innocence. But neither she, nor
Martinworth, nor her Counsel had for one moment contemplated such a step
on Norrywood's part, and indeed at one time it was believed the case
would proceed in its course undefended. Judge then of her astonishment
when her husband appeared in Court armed with these many powerful, aye!
deadly weapons against her. Too late then to explain or temporize, and
Pearl in bitterness of spirit realised fully her egregious folly in
having from the very commencement so completely scorned, so entirely
despised her foe.

Bitter memories were aroused in Mrs. Nugent's breast by the perusal of
this letter--memories and regrets and rage that long had remained
dormant, so much so, that she asked herself whether after all, her
philosophy was beginning to play her false. But Norrywood's unvarnished
opinion of her, the complete cynicism of his plain speaking, the crude
bluntness, brutality indeed, of his well weighed and deliberate
conclusions touched her not at all. She had all along been aware of his
opinion, and to some extent she could comprehend his having arrived at
such an unflattering conclusion, and almost forgave him for it. She
felt, however, a slight regret that he should have died unchanged in
this belief, especially as on the whole the letter aroused her
sympathies, and a vague feeling of pity in her breast. She read between
the lines, and in spite of his refutation of the same, she knew that
this will in her favour was an act of reparation--tardy amends for all
he had made her suffer during his lifetime. The act, if not the words,
confessed remorse. Such being the case, and with this barrier of the
tomb between them, she felt that she could forgive him much. She had
never for one instant contemplated the possibility of inheriting his
money. She did not wish for it, and as she restored the letter to the
envelope she deluded herself with the belief that no power on earth
could force her to accept this undesired, this unexpected gift.

But there was still Mr. Hall's letter to be read. It was, she perceived,
dated ten days later than that of her husband, and contained the
contents of his will and the details of his miserable death, which had
taken place suddenly a few days after the writing of this last long
epistle.

    "Your former husband," wrote Mr. Hall, "has for the last year
    been suffering from an extremely painful, and from the first,
    incurable disease. I was surprised that I, and not his own
    lawyer, should be called in to draw up his last will and
    testament, but his reasons for this act were later on,
    explained. I was touched by the great change I perceived in the
    poor sufferer's whole character and demeanour, and though
    nothing I could say would induce him to change his opinion on
    one point,--namely, as to your relations with Lord
    Martinworth,--the approach of Death, that great Softener, had
    melted the hitherto stony heart, and he spoke gently and kindly
    of you, and with a genuine regret for the constant sorrow of
    which he had been the cause. Mr. Norrywood's standard of morals,
    as we know to our cost, was at no times a high one. Presumably
    it was owing to this fact that he appeared to think the
    intimacy, which to the last he insisted existed between you and
    his lordship, was not otherwise than natural, and by no means
    blamable under the circumstances of his own acknowledged
    infidelity to you. But what seemed to astonish him beyond words
    was the fact of your having gone to the length of putting him
    into Court at all. He told me he wished, before he died, to
    express what he had so far never had an opportunity of doing,
    his opinion of your folly in taking this step. 'Naturally I had
    to defend myself,' he said, 'and the consequences have been my
    wife's social ruin.' He said much more on this point, and
    concluded by asking for your address for the purpose--he told
    me--of expressing his sentiments, and of informing you of his
    monetary intentions towards you.

    "Considering it was the request of a dying man, I felt--in spite
    of your strict injunctions to the contrary, and consequently
    certain qualms of conscience on my part--that the only thing I
    could do in the circumstances was to accede to his request. I
    therefore wrote down for him your present name and address, and
    I can only trust, my dear young friend, that Mr. Norrywood, in
    this his last letter to you, confined himself to facts,
    inscribing nothing of a particularly unkind or painful nature.

    "You will see by the enclosed copy of the will that Mr.
    Norrywood has left you a very wealthy woman. However distasteful
    the source may be from which the money springs, remember, my
    child, that much good can be done with this large fortune, of
    which you are left complete mistress, now and for the future.
    Knowing you as I do, I am convinced that your first impulse will
    be to refuse this wealth. But I also believe that on impartial
    and thoughtful consideration you will understand the immense
    folly of such a step. Indeed, a great portion of it having been
    settled on you at your marriage, must be yours in any case. So
    do not act hastily, but remember that in years to come there may
    be others besides yourself who can be benefited by these large
    sums.

    "I should much like to know your intentions as to the future.
    Have you any thoughts of returning home? Your absence has been a
    long one. The persons that you dreaded are removed from your
    path--one by death and the other by marriage. It is therefore
    hardly necessary for me to point out that on inheriting this
    fortune your presence, for a short period at least in your
    native land, is highly desirable, I may even add, necessary."

Mr. Hall concluded his letter with various business details as to
investments, etc., also with much fatherly and kind advice, which he
considered it his duty to offer, but which no one knew better than he
himself was more likely to be ignored than followed.

Pearl, with puckered brow, was still standing by her writing table,
pondering over these momentous and upsetting communications, when a
_'ricksha_ rattled up to the door, and a moment later Mrs. Rawlinson was
in the room.

"Dearest Rosina," exclaimed Pearl as she embraced her cousin, "what a
wonderful woman you are! You have the blessèd knack of always appearing
on the spot when most needed. I was wishing for you so much, and was
just contemplating ordering the carriage and driving round to Azabu."

"What's the matter now?" enquired Mrs. Rawlinson, as she glanced at the
two letters in Pearl's hand with a certain alarm in her brown eyes.

"I want you to read these letters brought by this morning's mail. No,
this one first."

Rosina took Mr. Norrywood's letter handed to her, and walking to the
window stood with her back to Mrs. Nugent. She read it straight through,
and until she had replaced it in the envelope made no remark.

"Well, I suppose, judging from what he writes of his condition, the poor
man must be dead by this time," and Rosina's cheerful voice as she
turned round contrasted rather ludicrously with the _figure de
circonstance_ conjured up for the occasion.

"Yes," said Pearl quietly, "he is dead."

"It's no use humbugging, and pretending one is sorry when one isn't,"
retorted Mrs. Rawlinson. "To put it mildly, Pearl, that man's death
is--is--what shall we say? Well, let us call it a merciful release.
That's an expression that can hurt no one."

"He's done me no harm for some years, and time softens things," replied
Pearl gently. "I think, too, he was perhaps sorry at the last."

"Hum! death-bed repentance," said Mrs. Rawlinson drily. "I've not much
faith in that sort of thing myself. So easy to say you are sorry when
circumstances over which you have no control make it impossible for you
to have the chance of doing further harm. At any rate, I am glad to see
that his repentance--if repentance it was--took a tangible form, and
that in dying he had the decency to make certain amends for his
disgraceful conduct towards you during his lifetime. You'll be a rich
woman, Pearl. Let us trust, dear, that you will make better use of the
money than he did."

"Yes," said Pearl, "I shall be rich, very rich, if I accept the money."

"If--what?" and Rosina stared.

"If I accept Mr. Norrywood's money," repeated Pearl. "I have by no means
decided to do so, Rosina."

"Are you mad?"

"Not that I am aware of."

"My dear Pearl," and Mrs. Rawlinson settled herself squarely in an arm
chair, "I shall not even give myself the trouble of demanding your
reasons for this totally absurd, ridiculously quixotic hesitation on
your part."

"Such being the case," retorted Pearl with a slight flush, "I shall
likewise, greatly to my relief, be exempted from the trouble of
informing you of them. Nevertheless I am, I confess, somewhat
disappointed, for I flattered myself that you at least, Rosina, would
have understood my motives--my--well--my scruples on this point."

"Well, then, I don't, and that's a fact," replied her cousin tersely.
"The man, as all the world knows, treated you shamefully, made your life
a misery from the very commencement. After putting up for years not only
with neglect and infidelity, but with downright cruelty, you had the
strength of mind to appeal to the law, and to divorce him. He is dying,
and he writes you a letter. And even on his death-bed he cannot resist
insulting you--accusing you of various disgraceful and altogether
impossible actions. He has however, enough decency left in his
composition to apologise for one of the many hundreds of his villainous
acts, and, above all, he makes a certain reparation by leaving you his
fortune. After all, my dear Pearl, a large portion of that fortune is
already yours. He made excellent settlements, I remember, and you have
been profiting by the interest of that sum ever since you left him. I
really can't see the difference if, instead of a portion--the quarter,
the half, whatever has hitherto been yours--you should for the future
take over the whole of the fortune."

Pearl was silent. Rosina's calm unemotional manner of regarding matters
always influenced her more impulsive and excitable nature. She felt
there was much good sense and wisdom in what her cousin said.

"You seem to be of the same opinion as Mr. Hall," she said, after a
minute. "He thinks I ought to keep the money. You will see what he says
in this letter."

"He is a good friend to you, Pearl, that old lawyer," remarked Mrs.
Rawlinson, as after carefully reading the letter, she returned it to
Mrs. Nugent. "I can only impress on you to follow his and my advice.
Above all, don't act in a hurry. What do you intend to do about going
home?"

"Oh! spare me, Rosina! Why, I have only just received these letters. I
haven't thought of making plans. But who knows? If my presence in
England is really necessary for business purposes, I may possibly take a
trip home after the summer. But my absence will be only temporary. I
shall return. While you are here, Rosina dear, Japan will always be my
home."

"Well! there might be worse places," and Mrs. Rawlinson pulled down her
veil, preparatory to departure, "in spite of slight drawbacks in the way
of distance, typhoons, earthquakes, etc. By the way, I wanted to
telephone to you on Wednesday after that awful shock, but the wires were
disarranged. Were you frightened? Did you suffer much loss?"

"Several of my best pieces of Imari china were smashed," replied Pearl,
"and I picked up my big Delft vase in fear and trembling. But it was
uninjured, mercifully. Stranger still, this heavy bronze clock was
thrown off the mantelpiece, and was still going when I picked it up.
Frightened? I should think I was frightened. I and all the Japanese
servants rushed into the garden, and watched the house rocking backwards
and forwards, expecting every moment to see it collapse."

"It was the worst earthquake we've had for years," added Rosina, "but it
was nothing here compared to what it was in the north. I see by the
newspapers whole villages were destroyed, and there has been immense
loss of life. Amy will have told you how Tom retired as usual under the
table. And did you hear how those two American globe-trotters, those
dear old Miss Mordants, each clutching her own particular Chin dog, fled
precipitately from the Grand Hotel, clad in little else than their
stockings and chemises, and took refuge in a _'ricksha_ in the middle of
the Bund? Thus airily clad, with the hood down and the apron up, they
insisted on remaining for several hours. And then poor Nelly Richards,
who was completely lost, and at last, after a long search, was found up
a tree in the garden. I am told no power in heaven or earth would induce
her to desert her tree until dragged down by main force by her
infuriated parent."

"Yes, even earthquakes have their comical side. I heard of a certain
mutual friend of ours who was indulging in a bath at that moment, and
who fled into the street adorned tastefully but extremely simply in a
high hat and a walking-stick," and Pearl laughed, but a second later her
face became once more overclouded, and she sighed deeply.

"Now my dear," said Rosina, as she took her in her arms and kissed her
affectionately, "be your own brave philosophical self, and don't worry
about things. And as for your late husband, the last thing you could
possibly manage to do is to mourn him, you know. Personally, I make no
attempt to disguise how greatly relieved I am that a merciful Providence
has thought fit to remove him from this troublesome world to another,
and,--we'll hope,--a brighter sphere. While he was alive, in spite of
your divorce, one could never feel quite sure that he might not take it
into that evil head of his to annoy you in some way. Why! who knows? He
might have turned up here in Tokyo!"

"There may be, for all you think, a far worse danger threatening me than
the unexpected arrival of a divorced husband," murmured Pearl
oracularly.

She was on the verge of confiding to Rosina the probable arrival in
Japan of Lord Martinworth. She would have done so if it had not been
that, since those few confidential conversations held on Pearl's first
arrival three years ago, the name and even the existence of Martinworth
had, by a sort of tacit consent and mutual understanding, been ignored
by the two women in all later intercourse. Pearl was longing for
Rosina's sympathy and advice in the difficulties she saw before her, but
an incipient feeling of shyness, a kind of _mauvaise honte_, prevented
her from venturing to reopen a subject which for so long had been closed
between them. She therefore held her peace.

"After all," she thought, as she seated herself at her writing table
after Mrs. Rawlinson's departure, "it may simply be a mare's nest of Sir
Ralph's. Dick may never come in the end. A thousand incidents may occur
to cause him to change his mind. And even if he and his wife do come to
Japan, it is just as likely we shall not meet. What scores of
globe-trotters visit this country whom I never see. I can easily abstain
for the next two or three months from accepting invitations to the
English Legation, the one place where we are likely to run across each
other. Yes, after all, I am glad I said nothing to Rosina."

And yet in spite of all her sophistries, deep down in her heart of
hearts, Pearl never doubted for a moment but that it was ordained by
fate that Dick Martinworth should visit Japan, and that once again,
whether for weal or for woe she knew not, their paths in life should
cross.

Mr. Hall's and Rosina's arguments combined carried weight, and the next
mail conveyed a letter from Mrs. Nugent to the former, in which no
mention was made of renouncing the wealth left her. Indeed, enclosed
with the letter was the rough draft of a will, by which, with the
exception of a very substantial legacy to Mrs. Rawlinson, and another to
the old lawyer himself, the whole of Pearl's vast fortune was left
unconditionally to her young cousin, Miss Amy Mendovy.



                               CHAPTER VI.

                         A WOMAN'S WOMANLINESS.


The Imperial Cherry garden party was fixed that year for the 21st of
April, the day proving one of the most perfect of a perfect Japanese
spring.

Pearl had been prevented from attending both the spring parties that had
taken place since her arrival. Therefore, though suffering from a
certain depression of spirits which, in spite of her efforts to the
contrary, possessed her at times, she found herself looking forward with
considerable pleasure to the coming event.

As a member of the Rawlinson family she had a right to an invitation.
She accompanied her cousins, and as they drove towards the Hama-Goten
Palace, Mrs. Rawlinson's critical eyes rested admiringly on Pearl's
beautiful face, and on the almost equal loveliness of her young niece
seated opposite to her. Her heart swelled with natural pride as she
complacently smoothed out the creases of the purple shot silk that in
various forms and shapes had graced many an Imperial garden party.

"There's not the slightest doubt," she ejaculated, "but that my niece
and my cousin will be two of the prettiest and best dressed women at the
party to-day. You are both of you, my dears, looking perfectly charming.
Don't you agree with me, Tom? Come now, say something, you tiresome
person. Pay your relatives a compliment for once in a way."

Mr. Rawlinson opened his lazy eyes with somewhat of an effort.

"Both Pearl and Amy are quite vain enough of their looks without any
compliments from me," he grunted. "The only thing unusual that I observe
about them to-day is that the things they are wearing on their heads
look, if anything, a shade more absurd and grotesque than they do even
on ordinary occasions. My dear Rosina, I do wish you would leave me
alone, and make the proper use of your parasol, instead of employing it
for the sole purpose of poking me in the ribs. It is bad enough to be
dragged to this infernal garden-party, without being massacred before I
get there."

This last remark was accompanied with a twinkle in the very kindly eyes.
Tom Rawlinson was somewhat of a rough diamond, and he affected a certain
gruffness both in speech and manner. His bark, however, was well known
for being considerably worse than his bite, and many there were who
could vouch for his open-handedness in their moments of distress and
need, his ever-ready helpful generosity, and above all, that priceless
treasure in this unfeeling world--a warm heart.

"Now don't call the garden-party names, my dear, just because you would
prefer to be wasting this beautiful day in that stupid, stuffy office of
yours. And, Amy, don't pay any attention to what your uncle says. Your
hat is very pretty. I am sure it ought to be, as nothing was considered
good enough for your ladyship but a fabrication from Paris. By the bye,
Pearl, do you know anything about Sir Ralph Nicholson? Is he still here?
He never comes our way now. What's the matter with him? I have seen him
once since his return, and he appeared considerably changed from the
genial, pleasant fellow that I remember him."

Both Pearl and Amy reddened at Mrs. Rawlinson's questions. Neither
conscience was entirely free from guilt.

"Yes," answered the former hesitatingly, "he is still here. He came to
see me yesterday, and said that he would be at the party to-day. But
here we are," she added, as with a certain relief she saw the entrance
to the Palace gardens.

"Oh, Pearl, isn't it lovely?" exclaimed Amy. "I never saw the cherry
trees so beautiful as they are this year."

They walked through the picturesque grounds, planted with the
world-famed cherry tree, heavy with its fragrant mass of blossom.
Interspersed was the graceful _momiji_, or spring maple, clothed in its
luxurious mantle of brilliant red, forming with the dark foliage of the
lofty pines, and the varied greens of rare and ancient trees in all
their rich and perfect beauty, an enchanting contrast to the cloudless
azure sky above. Pearl for a moment, in her admiration of these beauties
of nature, perfected by the cunning art of man, forgot to be anxious and
unhappy. Her sweet face was no longer grave, and her eyes shone, as,
giving herself up to the enjoyment of the hour, she experienced the
charm of gazing at a landscape glorified at that moment by glowing,
brilliant sunshine, and scented by the delicate odour of a myriad
faintly-tinted, profusely clustering blooms.

Her eyes revelled in the unrivalled beauty of these lovely grounds, and
only when she arrived at the waiting place beneath the ancient and
wide-spreading trees, and was quickly surrounded and greeted by her many
friends, did she realise that she was there not merely to admire, but,
in her turn, to be equally admired.

She was in an animated conversation with the Minister of Foreign Affairs
and the Belgian and Spanish _Chefs de Mission_, when Amy came up to her.

"Fancy, Pearl," she exclaimed, "Baron de Pennett has just told me that
Monsieur de Güldenfeldt is still away at Sendai and Hakodate, and all
sorts of out-of-the-way places. You are guilty of keeping him away like
this," she added in a whisper. "He loves these functions as a rule. But
no doubt he has forgotten all about you by this time. Men are strange
animals. Talk about the fickleness and changeableness of women indeed!
Just look at the pronounced way Sir Ralph is flirting with that
strong-minded looking female in magenta. Not that I care a bit, you
know. Though I can't say I particularly admire his taste, do you?" And
Amy's dark orbs flashed disdainfully.

Pearl let her eyes travel in the direction indicated, and, as she
looked, a puzzled expression came into them. "I seem to know that face,"
she said musingly. "Where can I have seen it before?"

She was still pondering, when her thoughts were interrupted by a man's
voice behind her enquiring, in a strong foreign accent, "Madame Nugent,
may I be allowed to have the honour of presenting an old friend of mine
to you?" and turning, Pearl with no previous warning of the ordeal
before her, met Lord Martinworth face to face.

The meeting was so unexpected,--for she had gathered from Sir Ralph that
it would still be some weeks before the Martinworth's arrival,--that
Pearl found herself murmuring commonplaces, and mechanically bowing, as
she would have murmured and bowed to a complete stranger. Later on she
realised how dazed, how completely lost she had been at the moment. It
was only on perceiving the deathly pallor of the face before her that
she remembered that she was in public, that a thousand eyes were upon
her, and with a supreme effort she partially succeeded in recovering her
presence of mind.

Lord Martinworth had been standing conversing with Count Carlitti, a
member of one of the Foreign Legations and a former acquaintance whom he
had unearthed in Tokyo, when the latter caught sight of Pearl's tall
figure and straight back, clad in a perfectly cut gown. He had already
announced himself as one of her many admirers, though, having only
lately arrived in Japan, he was unacquainted as yet with the gossip of
his new post. Always talking himself, and never giving another a chance
to put in a word, he was so far, in ignorance of Mrs. Nugent's history.
He had heard vaguely that she was separated from her husband, a fact
which he considered much in her favour, for in the opinion of this
vivacious gentleman every pretty woman profited much, certainly as far
as he personally was concerned, in being placed in a position more or
less irregular or equivocal. At any rate, if unfortunately a husband did
happen to exist, the more such an inconvenient appendage remained in the
background, the greater approval was the lady of the hour likely to find
in Count Carlitti's soft brown eyes.

Those eyes were ever on the look out for a pretty face or a rounded
bust. His taste in female beauty was considered, certainly by himself if
by no one else, indisputable. So when at the Club he had once given out
that there was no doubt whatsoever but that Mrs. Nugent was _la plus
belle femme de Tokyo_, no one troubled, even if they disagreed, to
contradict one who counted himself such an experienced judge of the
correct and classic lines of feminine loveliness.

"I must, _mon ami_," he said to Martinworth, "present you to _une
beauté--mais une beauté incomparable!_ Madame Nugent is English. You see
that beautiful, straight back, and leetle head poised so haughtily? Ah,
I perceive you admire! But wait, _mon ami_, till you see her face. And
when you will have seen her face, wait a leetle longer till you have
seen her _en robe de bal! Quelles epaules mon cher, ah! quelles
epaules!_ Then tell me if we do not possess a gem in _ce triste Tokyo_."

The introduction promptly followed, and shortly afterwards Count
Carlitti was heard relating that _la parfaite beauté de cette Madame
Nugent_ had made such an impression on _ce brave Martinworth_ that he
had actually trembled, and turned ashen from the violence of his
emotions.

"My triumph is complete," he was saying to Tom Spence, a junior member
of the English Legation. "_C'etait le coup de foudre!_"

"_Coup de foudre_, by Jove! I should just think it must have been,"
exclaimed Spence. "Why, my dear fellow, Martinworth is the very man with
whom Mrs. Nugent (that's not her real name, you know) was mixed up with
in that divorce-suit two or three years ago. She came out here, they
say, to get rid of him. And now you go and introduce them to each other
as if they had never met before! Ha, ha, ha! upon my word, that's the
best joke, the rummest situation I have ever heard of!"

"_Mon Dieu_," exclaimed Carlitti, with a shrug of his shoulders, "if
women change their names, how is it possible to know the right--what do
you call it--co-respondents--that belong to them? _Mais sapristi! quelle
guigne!_"

"What is the matter, Count?" asked Lady Thomson, who, with her husband
the English Minister, at that moment joined the two young men. "You look
quite upset. An unusual state of things for you."

"Carlitti has just been distinguishing himself by introducing Lord
Martinworth to Mrs. Nugent," explained the amused Spence. "He evidently
wished for a sensation."

The British Minister was a very dignified person, and no one realised
better than His Excellency himself that he was assisting in a prominent
position at an important Court function. At his Secretary's words
however, he screwed up his mouth into the form of a button, and a sound
very like a whistle issued from his lips.

"My dear Carlitti, what a terrible situation! You mean to say you didn't
know about the divorce, and all the rest of it?"

"_Mais naturellement, Monsieur le Ministre, je n'en savais rien._ I
desired to make a pleasure to _mon ami Martinworth_, for he knows
himself well _en beauté de femme_. And I was assured that he would
admire _la belle Madame Nugent. Aprés tout j'avais raison, je connais
bien son gôut._"

"Yes! you are quite right, Count," murmured the English wife of one of
the German Secretaries, equally remarkable for her extreme prettiness,
her sharp tongue, and her very many indiscretions, "Lord Martinworth
certainly knows something about the good points of _le beau sexe_. As
for Mrs. Nugent, he has had in her case, I am told, many years of
leisure in London to study this particular example. Well, now he can
re-commence, and can still further improve himself in what you dear,
foolish men tell us is an absorbing and inexhaustible occupation,--the
study of the female heart. Dear Mrs. Nugent's heart must be so very,
very interesting. It is a pity that, so far, this boring, dull Tokyo has
never provided her with an adorer, to help to solve its mysteries."

"Don't, I pray you, waste your pity where it is not required, my dear
little Countess," laughed Lady Thomson. "Mrs. Nugent could have had, I
feel assured, as many adorers as she desired. But you know as well as I
do, that in spite of her somewhat difficult position she does not lay
herself out for admiration and that sort of thing. She is certainly not
a bit of a flirt. By the bye," she added _sotto voce_ to her husband,
"do you think I ought to say anything to her about that horrid man's
death, and the fortune? Or shall I ignore the whole subject? What do you
think about it?"

"By all means hold your tongue," replied the cautious diplomatist. "To
refer to the fellow's death would be in the worst possible taste. Why, I
see she doesn't even wear mourning, and quite right, too. It would be
the height of hypocrisy. Come along, my dear. Collect the wives of my
secretaries and those other ladies whom it is your duty to introduce to
the Empress, for it will soon be our turn to be received in audience. We
must take our place."

For the rest of that afternoon Count Carlitti retired into the
background, and this usually volatile gentleman was extremely silent and
considerably suppressed. Allowing for a certain amount of exaggeration,
the description he gave Tom Spence of Lord Martinworth's demeanour at
the moment of introduction was far from being incorrect. If, instead of
bounding away after someone else, Carlitti had remained a little longer
on the spot, his surprise would have been greatly increased by hearing
the one word, "Pearl," issuing in deep, astounded tones from the man's
lips, and by witnessing the intense look of joy that, after the first
shock of amazement, illumined the handsome but somewhat stern features.
To show emotion at an unexpected meeting, neither words nor violent
outbursts of excitement are necessary. Lord Martinworth and Pearl Nugent
met, and had at one glance, recognised each other. She had let her
trembling hand lie in his for a moment, while that one look, that one
word, had passed between them. She could not have spoken if her life had
depended on the opening of her lips, and she felt it indeed a cause of
thankfulness when the Court Chamberlains chose that moment to divide the
crowd, forming it into two lines facing each other, and when in the
necessary confusion, Martinworth was separated from her side.

The _Corps Diplomatique_ took up their stand in line, by order of
precedence, the rest of the crowd placing themselves beyond and behind,
where they could obtain the best view. The military bands repeated one
after the other, the very solemn and impressive National Anthem, while
their Imperial Majesties, accompanied by the Princes and Princesses of
the Blood and all the Court, walked slowly by between the two lines of
their respectful subjects, and that of the _Corps Diplomatique_,
acknowledging graciously the deferential salutations of this large
gathering of people. Immediately on the passing of the Court, the _Corps
Diplomatique_ took their place in the procession. The crowds of guests
followed, and Pearl found herself leaning heavily on Nicholson's arm,
walking, in a sort of trance across the picturesque bridges, and along
the lovely verdure-shaded paths.

Ralph had been an anxious and interested spectator of the meeting
between his two friends. He was exchanging banalities with Lady
Martinworth--the recollection of whose face had proved so great a puzzle
to Pearl--when he had observed the greeting, and his kind heart had
beaten sympathetically at what he knew must indeed be a terrible ordeal
to both.

He witnessed Pearl's sudden dismay, the dazed and frightened look, and
the nervous clutch of the handle of her parasol. Unceremoniously
deserting his companion, he made his way towards Mrs. Nugent, and when
everyone started to follow in the procession he without a word, simply
drew her arm through his, holding her up through all that long and
silent promenade.

When the Imperial party at length arrived at the marquee prepared for
them, and the crowd was waiting expectantly on the turf outside, Ralph
succeeded in obtaining a chair for his companion. Pearl by this time had
regained a certain amount of control, and was so far composed that she
could watch with interest their Imperial Majesties receiving the members
of the _Corps Diplomatique_, and accepting the various presentations
that are made to them on these occasions.

While this ceremony was still proceeding, Amy Mendovy occupied with her
own affairs, and all unconscious of the event that had just taken place,
came up to her cousin.

"You lucky woman," she said, "to have got a chair. I am simply dead with
fatigue. But, Pearl," she added, struck with her cousin's pallor and
gazing at her with anxiety, "how terribly pale you look. Are you not
well, dear?"

"Mrs. Nugent felt the sun a little. I have persuaded her to sit down,"
replied Nicholson, who with open parasol was still standing guard over
Pearl.

Amy raised her eyebrows, and instead of glancing at him gazed somewhat
superciliously down her straight nose. She was feeling deeply offended
with Ralph. He had not approached her the whole of that day, and--as she
had confessed to Pearl--had indeed scarcely honoured her with his
society, at home or abroad, since the memorable piano incident.

Ralph Nicholson was following strictly to the letter Pearl's advice, and
was feeling extremely pleased with himself in consequence.

"After all, what clever creatures women are," he thought. "Now, unless
it had been put into my dull head, I should never have dreamt of this
very easy plan of getting round the little witch. I should simply either
have cut it, or else like an idiot have rushed off and proposed again.
Either of which proceedings would, according to Mrs. Nugent, have proved
fatal to my chances. Now I see My Lady is just wild with me. She won't
even look at me. She saw me at work though, as I intended she should do,
on that queer fish, Lady Martinworth, who, by the bye, is not half a bad
sort and capital company to boot. _Tant mieux_, Miss Mendovy. Your
punishment will last considerably longer, I can tell you!"

Thus thought Ralph, as he stood at the back of Pearl's chair,
complacently twirling his moustache, and furtively watching the lady of
his dreams.

He found her looking more charming, more seductive than ever to-day, in
her pretty gown and extremely becoming hat. Her dark eyes were flashing,
the rich colour in her cheeks was coming and going with suppressed
excitement, as completely ignoring Nicholson's presence, she bent down
and wrapped a lace scarf around Pearl's shoulders.

"I think," said Sir Ralph, this time addressing himself to Pearl, "if
you will excuse me, Mrs Nugent, as you have Miss Mendovy with you now,
and as I see many of your acquaintances making their way towards you, I
will just go and give Lady Martinworth a look. I see her casting signals
of distress. She knows no one here in all this crowd, you know. And she
is awfully nice."

So with a grin, and a parting glance at the back of Amy's dark head, off
he went.

Pearl watched him go. Then she looked at Amy, who had turned, with
apparently great animation, to address one of her numerous admirers hard
by.

"I hope," she thought, "he won't over-act it. Men can never do things by
halves. And of course, two can play at that game."

The truth of which remark Miss Mendovy was determined to prove. For,
during the rest of the afternoon she succeeded in attaching to her
charming person a by no means unworthy suitor, a certain good-looking
Secretary of Legation, who long had been known to sigh hopelessly for
her hand.

Pearl never quite recalled how she got through the rest of the ceremony.
Afterwards she remembered vaguely catching a somewhat distant view of
their Imperial Majesties seated at a table within the tent, discussing
their repast in solitary grandeur. Near them were placed the Imperial
Princes and Princesses, and beyond were little tables at which were
seated the Ministers of State, and the members of the _Corps
Diplomatique_ with their wives and families. She had a dim recollection
of someone forcing her to swallow a fragment of _paté de foie gras_ and
a glass of champagne, and she once remembered raising her eyes and
finding those of Lady Martinworth fixed with a look of mocking enquiry
and scrutiny upon her face.

This expression on Lady Martinworth's countenance was an additional
shock to the many that Pearl was fated to experience that afternoon.
Fortunately shortly after this incident, the Imperial party broke up,
thereby allowing the guests the liberty to take their departure, or the
long strain on Pearl's nerves, and the dread that Martinworth would
again approach her, would inevitably have culminated in a breakdown.

As it was, her first action on reaching the shelter of her home was a
characteristic one of her sex. She shut herself into her drawing room,
and walking straight up to the glass over the mantelpiece, she gazed at
herself for fully two minutes. In spite of the pallor of her cheeks this
close examination apparently did not prove otherwise than satisfactory,
for there was a slight smile about the lips as she drew the long pins
from her hat, and laid her head back on the pillows of the sofa.

She was anxious to collect her thoughts, and if possible, to devise some
plan for the immediate future. Whether that plan would ever have been
formed it is difficult to say. As it was, her cogitations were speedily
interrupted by the simple fact of a violent ring at the door bell.

Pearl was on her feet in an instant, and her hand was pressed against
her heart to still its beating.

Who could it be? Was it?---- Yes, it must be Martinworth, who had
probably ascertained without difficulty her whereabouts, and had lost no
time in following her.

She experienced a strange sensation--a mixture of disappointment and
relief when she realized it was not Martinworth's voice, but a woman's,
that she heard in the hall.

The next moment Lady Martinworth entered the room.

She made a considerable noise as she strode with long steps toward
Pearl, who was standing erect, with a slight look of defiance in her
wide-open eyes.

"How do you do, Mrs. Norrywood," she exclaimed, holding out a large
hand. "I saw you at the garden party, easily found out where you lived,
and thought it best to come on here without delay, to have a necessary
yarn with you. No objection, I suppose, to my bearding you in your den
like this?" she added, with a broad, decidedly good-natured smile.

Pearl drew herself up, and threw her head back in a manner peculiar to
herself. She felt completely mistress of her actions, quite ready for
the fray, as she answered calmly:

"Before proceeding further in our interview, Lady Martinworth," the name
stuck in her throat, "I think it best that you should be aware that I am
known here under the name of Nugent. Will you not sit down?"

"Thanks. Oh! so you have changed your name," was the reply. "Well,
perhaps it is just as well in the circumstances."

"I am glad it meets with your approval. May I offer you a cup of tea, or
perhaps a cigarette? You smoke, I believe?"

"Thanks, yes, I smoke. Oh! Egyptians, I see. Fearfully doctored, you
know. Couldn't think of drinking tea. I ate enough of that spread this
afternoon to last me for a week. Pretty sight, but I was dying to get
away to have a smoke, and now, like a good Samaritan, you have come to
my rescue." Another broad smile.

Then followed a silence which Pearl for one was determined not to break.

Lady Martinworth threw herself back in her chair, stuck her feet out
before her, and made rings with the cigarette smoke.

"Pretty place, this Tokyo. Been here long?" at length she ejaculated.

"I have lived here rather more than three years," replied Pearl quietly.
"Have you come to see me for the purpose of obtaining some information
about the place or the people?"

"Nothing further from my thoughts, I assure you. You like it better than
London, I suppose? Uncommonly dull place to live in, though, I should
think. But no accounting for tastes. I didn't know you were here, you
know, or of course I shouldn't have been such a brute as to have come to
Japan and disturbed your peace of mind."

Pearl slightly lifted her eyebrows, and looked her companion straight in
the face.

"And may I enquire," she asked suavely, "in what possible way you would
be likely to do that?"

Lady Martinworth tossed her cigarette into the grate, and rising from
her armchair, went and perched herself on the music stool.

"In bringing Martinworth here attached to my apron strings, of course.
Hard luck on you both, I call it. Not very pleasant for me, either, you
know. Why, he'll detest me more than ever now, which is saying a good
deal."

Pearl seated herself in a chair near the music-stool on which her
visitor was twirling herself round and round, accompanied by that
teeth-edging squeak with which music-stools seem chronically to be
affected. She laid her hand on the stool to try to stop the movement.

"Lady Martinworth," she said, "do you not think it would be wiser for us
both to keep Lord Martinworth's name out of this conversation? He and I
are old friends. We meet again after some years, and we----"

"Oh, I say," interrupted her companion rudely, "stop that. I don't want
a long jobation about your and Martinworth's friendship, you know. I
know all about _that_. Read the whole case from the beginning to the end
with the greatest interest. I made up my mind years ago to marry Dick,
but of course everyone knew he was otherwise engaged, and when you got
your divorce, it was given out that he would marry you. And so he would
have done, if you had not bolted like the little idiot you were. Well,
''tis an ill wind that blows no one any good.' You no sooner made
yourself scarce than I seized my opportunity. I needn't tell you _he_
never asked me to marry him. I saved him that trouble. And here I am
Lady Martinworth, whereas you are.----By the way, by what outlandish
name did you say you called yourself?"

Pearl rose and calmly went towards the door, which she threw open.

"Lady Martinworth," she said, very slowly and very icily, "no doubt my
education has been sadly neglected, but I must confess, in private
matters of this kind, I have only been accustomed to dealing with
ladies. As therefore, it is absolutely impossible for me to cope with a
person of your calibre, I must beg of you to do me the favour of leaving
my house directly."

But Lady Martinworth did not stir from her seat. On the contrary, the
eternal smile grew broader on the somewhat homely features. She took a
single eyeglass from the breast pocket of her coat, and rubbing it with
a silk handkerchief, stuck it calmly into her left eye, gazing meanwhile
complacently at Pearl.

"Bravo, bravo!" she exclaimed, clapping her hands, "you really did that
very well, you know. What an actress you would make, with your figure
and _grand air_. No wonder Martinworth fell in love with you. I admire
his excellent taste, 'pon my word, I do. Poor old fellow, it is hard
lines on him, that after having been your slave for so long he should
now have to fall back on _me_. Never mind, we won't talk about him if
you don't like it. Do be a sensible woman. Come and sit down, and leave
that door to take care of itself. I'm not going just yet, you know, for
I have something I want to say to you."

Much to her own astonishment, Pearl found herself obediently following
her ladyship's request. She closed the door, and came once more and sat
down by her side.

If she had been asked to do so, she could not have defined her
sentiments towards this strange woman, who all unbidden, had forced
herself into her presence. Coarse, utterly wanting in tact and delicacy
as she seemed to be, there was something about her very honesty and good
nature that attracted Pearl. She found herself trying to analyse her
companion's character, wondering what there was in it, and in the
situation altogether, that was tending to change her sentiments towards
her visitor. Was it sympathy she asked herself--a feeling of sorrow that
was now taking possession of her?

She answered gently, "Forgive me for my brusqueness. If there is
anything you wish to say to me, I shall be willing to listen to you. Can
I be of use to you in any way?"

Without a moment's hesitation, Lady Martinworth rose from her seat and
clasped Pearl's two hands.

"Yes," she said, "you can be of great use to me, if you will. You can be
my friend. Will you?"

There was no reply, for Pearl was deeply considering this extraordinary
request. What did it mean? Was the woman sincere, or was it merely a
clever move on her part to secure the alliance of a person who otherwise
might be an impediment, a dangerous rival? The ups and downs of a stormy
existence had developed in Pearl a certain mistrustfulness, a
suspiciousness of disposition, otherwise unnatural to her, and
considering the circumstances of the case, she felt in no wise inclined
to jump at this unexpected proposal. While she was debating in her mind
what reply to make, Lady Martinworth spoke again.

"Well, I see you don't like the notion," she said, moving towards the
window. "Why should you? I suppose you and I haven't an idea or a taste
in common. I have never had a woman friend in my life, and have never
wanted to have one. Till now I have always looked on women as poor
creatures. But somehow you seem different from the rest. I liked the way
you went to that door and wanted to turn me out. Real plucky I call it,
and one so seldom sees pluck in a woman. Then the way you left it when I
asked you to do so showed me you had a heart, for I saw you were feeling
sorry for me. I've got a heart too, whatever you may think of me. Yes,
Mrs. Nugent, I've got a heart. One that is full of love for my husband,
too, though he little knows it."

As Lady Martinworth uttered these last words, she might have been called
almost pretty. A wonderfully tender light lit up the small eyes, and the
wide mouth smiled very sweetly as she continued:

"And that is just it, that is just why I ask you to be my friend. I love
my husband. He doesn't care a rap about me, you know. No! not one little
bit. In fact, I know there are times when he downright detests me. I
well know he is just as devoted to you as ever he was. Of course he has
adored you for years. You are a good woman, I know you are, in spite of
that nasty speech I made about the divorce case. With your pretty face
and unhappy married life you must, of course, have had heaps of
temptations, and yet, as I look at you, I feel convinced you have always
kept as straight as a die. You have got such nice true eyes. Yes, 'pon
my word, I like you, Mrs. Nugent. I feel you are a trump, and it would
make me thoroughly happy if you would do me the kindness of calling me
your friend. Cannot you make an effort in that direction? Do try. I know
I am not a very attractive person, but one thing I swear to you, I am
neither mean nor petty, and I am sure that, so far, I have never
willingly done a shabby action. Of course, those qualities are not much
to boast of, but they are all I possess, so I enumerate them, and I do
so want a friend--oh! I do so want a friend."

At these words Lady Martinworth suddenly hid her face in her hands and
burst into a flood of tears.

Pearl began to think there was to be no end to the surprises of that
day. Now, behold! as a climax to every excitement, Lady Martinworth,
succumbing, like any other member of her sex, to an hysterical attack of
nerves. It was this womanly, weak action that conquered Pearl, and if
Lady Martinworth had but known it, she could not have chosen better
tactics to have achieved her ends.

Pearl understood that in spite of those mannish ways and the abrupt
speech, in spite of the general roughness and uncouthness, in spite of
all these outward traits that on ordinary occasions would have gone so
far towards repelling a gentle nature such as her own, that nevertheless
she had there, seated in her house in the abandonment of grief, a
friendless, miserable woman, with a woman's heart and a woman's
weakness. Realizing this, Pearl kissed her and put her arms about her,
as only a woman knows how to kiss and soothe, and comfort another of her
sex.

Half an hour later, a grateful and transformed Lady Martinworth departed
from Mrs. Nugent's house, and Pearl was left once more to her thoughts.
Poor Pearl! they could hardly be reckoned pleasant thoughts. She
perfectly well understood that she was being entangled in a net, that
net of circumstances which is oft-times so strangely and so strongly
woven that to the unfortunate victim entrapped within there appears no
possible loophole of escape.

She thought of this interview just past, and asked herself where would
it lead her? An hour ago she considered herself the natural enemy of the
wife of the man she loved. Now, to her bewilderment, she found she had
vowed eternal friendship and protection to this woman, who in the usual
order of things, according to all natural laws, she ought to treat, if
not with great dislike, certainly with fear, avoidance and distrust.

And yet, strange to say, she did not in the least regret her action, for
she pitied with all her heart the woman who in such a genuine outburst
of grief, had prayed for her friendship. All the chivalry of Pearl's
generous nature was aroused when she thought of this poor, friendless,
heart-broken woman crying to her for help--to her who, from Lady
Martinworth's own confession, was still the sole recipient of Dick
Martinworth's love. Lady Martinworth had thrown herself, as it were, on
her protection, and Pearl then and there vowed to herself, that as far
as it lay in her power, as far as strength would be given her to carry
out her intentions, she would not prove her false.

She had she knew well, a difficult task before her, and she did not
disguise from herself the fact that in this matter there would be not
only herself, not only her own strength, her own endurance to be
reckoned with, but Martinworth, from whom she had fled, and who was here
once more on the spot. He knew his power, and he would surely use it. Of
that she had no doubt. Her dread of that power, of that determination of
will, was as great now as had been the case in former years. After
all,--as she had written of herself in her farewell letter at that
time,--she was but a woman--a helpless, loving woman, weak and frail. On
that occasion, when she had thought, rightly or wrongly, her
disappearance was for his benefit, her love had given her the almost
superhuman strength to fly from him. Now she had only herself to think
of, and one other forlorn woman--a stranger,--who had prayed to her for
help. Could she hope to be given a second time the power to resist his
undeniable influence over her? Could she resist his importunities,--his
prayers? He was so strong, so very strong, and she was so loving, so
lonely, and so weak.

Again the bell rang. This time it was Lord Martinworth who entered the
room, and with his arrival, Pearl knew that her resolutions, her force
of will, would be put straightway to the test.



                              CHAPTER VII.

                           TRIED AS BY FIRE.


There are moments in one's career when one knows as clearly as if
written in letters of fire that one's whole future may depend on an
action or a word. Both may appear insignificant enough in themselves,
and yet that one little action, that one little word, may be
all-sufficient to make or mar a life.

Pearl was fully aware of this fact as she saw Lord Martinworth with
outstretched hands, his face and eyes all aglow, coming towards her. The
moment was portentous! Her first instinct was to greet him with all the
pent-up feelings of years, and to throw herself into his arms; but
realizing how greatly everything depended on her self-control, she took
refuge in silence and inaction, and shrinking back behind her chair, she
waited with down-cast eyes for him to speak.

Lord Martinworth did not appear to resent her silence, or to notice the
fear and unrest of her movement. The chair acted as no barrier to his
impetuosity, and brushing it aside he seized her two hands and kept them
within his own.

"At last, Pearl," he said in a low voice, "at last I have found you."

She did not reply, but slowly raising her eyes to his, gazed long and
steadily into his face.

What she saw was a man approaching middle age, with lined face and
saddened eyes, and _not_ the Martinworth whom she had known.

She had left behind her a man with dark hair, frank and laughing blue
eyes, and a mobile and expressive mouth. He whom she saw before her now
had hair thickly sprinkled with grey, his eyes, blue as in days of yore,
laughed no longer, but gleamed mournfully and somewhat wildly from
beneath the finely marked eyebrows, while the beauty of the well shaped
mouth was marred by certain hard and scornful lines that surrounded the
slightly parted lips. His very figure seemed altered. He was a tall man,
and had formerly been remarkable for his erect carriage. Now there was a
stoop in the shoulders, and in spite of the well-cut frock coat, his
stature seemed to Pearl to have decreased.

All these outward examples of change, these slight signs of
degeneration, struck Pearl with a sudden chill. She let her eyes rest on
the man before her, feeling as if she were in the presence of a
stranger.

"Why do you not speak to me?" he asked at last. "Have you no word of
welcome for me, Pearl?"

"I do not seem to know you," answered Pearl sadly, as she withdrew her
hands from his. "You are changed, very changed. You are not the Dick
Martinworth I remember."

"You find me changed? Doubtless I am. Well! I will credit you with
believing that it does not give you much pleasure to look at a wretched,
a broken-hearted man. To gaze at your own handiwork," he answered
bitterly.

"My handiwork?" faltered Pearl.

"Yes, your handiwork. Listen, Pearl! God knows I did not come here with
the intention of reproaching you, but nevertheless I must tell you a
little of the harm that you have done. The man who loved his occupations
and enjoyed all that life had to give him, now has taste for none of
these things, but on the contrary is possessed,--poor soul,--with the
demon of perpetual unrest. The man who had a certain faith in purity and
truth, and was not otherwise than happy in that faith, now doubts
whether such things really exist. And yet, Pearl, I did believe in
goodness and in truth, for I believed in _you_. You left me, after years
of waiting and of longing, left me at the moment I thought my dearest
hopes were to be realised. You threw me a letter and left me,--and in so
doing you have ruined my life. Yes, you have ruined my future and my
life."

As Martinworth was speaking, his eyes grew larger and wilder, and Pearl
shrank back further behind the chair.

"I did it for the best," she murmured in a smothered voice, "Dick, I did
it for your sake."

He took a step towards her, and clasped her by the wrist.

"Oh, Pearl! You dare to stand there and to tell me that lie. You tell me
you did it for my sake, when you know it was only of yourself, it was
only of your own reputation, your own good name, you were thinking. I'm
not a fool, Pearl, whatever you may think me, and it was easy enough to
read through the falseness, the hypocrisy of that letter you wrote me.
Why, during all those years we knew and loved each other, were you not
always considering, always fearful of what the world--your little mean
world--would say? And it was just because you drew your own conclusions
as to what would be the verdict of that world if you married me, that
without one word of warning, you left me. And you tell me now you did it
for the best, that you did it for my sake. May God forgive you!" and
walking to the chimney-piece Martinworth buried his face in his hands.

Pearl was very pale as she came and stood before him.

"And you believe _that_," she said--"you believe that of _me_? You are
actually capable of believing that I, whom you loved all those years,
and who, despite your present accusations, in spite of that overwhelming
fear of the world's opinion you speak of, you well know, braved that
world many and many a time for your sake. You are capable of believing
that I, who already had sacrificed so much for you, could lie to
you--lie to you at such a supreme moment? If such is the case, Lord
Martinworth, I feel, that whatever may have been the motive at the time,
the mean, interested one that you lay to my charge, or the
single-hearted one of self-sacrifice, which before God I swear it was,
whatever I repeat, may have been the motive--I bless Heaven for the
instinct that prompted me to leave you. The man who can harbour such a
thought of the woman he professes to love, is only worthy to be despised
and scorned, as I despise and scorn you now!"

Martinworth had evidently not expected this furious onslaught. His face
expressed the utmost astonishment, the utmost dismay.

"Pearl--Pearl," he cried, "calm yourself, I pray you. What are you
calling me? What are you saying? If I have wronged you----"

"Wronged me," she interrupted, as she cast the hand away that he had
stretched towards her, "you have not only wronged me, but you have
insulted me with the injustice of such mean, such paltry thoughts. Oh,
leave me. Why have you come here to disturb me? I have been happy enough
these last three forgetting years. Leave me, I implore you. You are
married. Go back to your wife, to the wife who loves you, and leave me
in peace."

Martinworth looked up with a strange light in his eyes. "My wife?" he
said, "what has _she_ got to do in this matter? Have you seen her?"

"Yes, she has been here. Go back to her. Go back and leave me. This
interview is most distressing to me. It is painful to us both. It were
surely best to end it? Perhaps later on we may be calmer, and able to
meet without mutual reproaches, mutual regrets. Now we are both of us
angry and bitter. Oh! how could you say those things of me? I beg you to
go. I can never, never forget what you have just said. Go, Dick--go!"

Tears stood in her eyes, as she held out her hand as a token of
farewell. Martinworth took it and kept it within his own. His face had
become softer as she was speaking, and Pearl at last realised, as he
gazed fixedly at her, with the well-known devoted look of old, that
standing before her was indeed the Dick Martinworth she had always
loved. The colour flew into her cheeks, and her heart beat as once again
she felt his touch, the contact of his hand, and her thoughts went back
to scenes and days gone-by. He was looking at her with those beautiful
eyes of his. They had lost their wildness now, and were gazing down into
hers, with a world of regret, of tenderness, and of sorrow in their
depths.

"Sit down," he said, quietly, "I wish to speak to you, Pearl, before I
go. You must listen to me dear."

She let him press her gently back into a low chair, and he knelt down
beside her, taking her two hands in his. He heard her heart throbbing,
and before she knew what he was premeditating, he leant forward and
kissed her lips. Pearl closed her eyes, as for one brief moment her head
rested on his shoulder, and his lips clung to hers. Then she pushed him
from her, and rose from her chair.

"Ah, leave me, Dick!" she cried. "What are you premeditating? What are
you doing? Do not take hold of me any more. Do not kiss me again. Do not
touch me--but leave me--leave me."

He had sprung to his feet.

"I cannot leave you," he said. "I have loved you so long, Pearl. I lost
you, I have found you, and do you think I can leave you now? I can live
no longer without you."

"Oh, no, no, no!" she cried, "you must not love me now. I cannot forfeit
my salvation even for you, Dick. Leave me--and never come back. I
implore you, never come back again!"

"You tell me to go, Pearl, but you still care for me. I see it in your
face, your eyes. I know you love me, as much as you have always loved
me, and tell me what is salvation compared with our love? Our great
absorbing love. Oh, come to me, my Pearl. I have waited for you so long,
so very long, and have found you again after all these years. Though
many and many a time I have railed against you, and even cursed you,
Pearl, I have never ceased to love you, dear, to dream of you as mine.
And now, once more we are together, and we must never be parted again,
Pearl, my Pearl!"

He ceased, but the words still rang in her ears--We must never be parted
again, Pearl, my Pearl! The sound intoxicated her. With beating heart,
and eyes shining like stars, she went towards him. "Dick," she cried
breathlessly, "I shall lose my soul for all eternity--I shall lose it
now in spite of all my many years of fighting and of striving. But,
after all, I am but a woman, and I love you. Yes! I love you. I long for
you as much--ah! more--ah! more--than you have ever longed for me. I am
only a woman, a poor, weak, tempted woman. What can I do against you,
who are so strong? Therefore I come to you, my love--I come!"

She flew to his arms and he folded her within them. This time she gave
him back kiss for kiss.

"Wait," she said a minute later, unclasping his arms from her neck,
"wait a moment, and let me think."

"No, no, no," he cried, "you must not think; you must not wait to think.
Come with me now. Come away from this place. Come with me, darling,
where we can live forgotten and unknown."

She did not seem to hear him. She had walked towards the window, and was
gazing out into the garden, where, round the shrubs and flowers, the
twilight was quickly gathering. She stood there motionless for many
minutes, it seemed to him, then she turned and faced him. Round the lips
there was a look of great and stern resolve, though the eyes were
softened by unshed tears.

"No," she said, "I have changed my mind. I will not--I will never go
with you! My resolution must not--cannot--be altered. Dear Dick, I
implore you to go, to leave me now, for I will not come between your
wife and you. I have promised her."

"My wife!--my wife!--why drag in my wife again?" he cried. "What is she
to you? What is she to me? I tell you, Pearl, she is nothing to me, and
I am less than nothing to her. She goes her way and I go mine. She has
her friends, I have mine. She is my wife only in name. And you compare
this--this arrangement to the perfect love that you and I have for each
other,--to the devotion of years? You will let this wretched, this
unnatural state of things stand between us? No, you shall not do so,
Pearl! God knows I am accustomed enough to your--to women's moods. But a
minute ago you said you would come with me, you were even willing to
sacrifice your salvation for my sake. Why change now? You shall not
change now. You are bound to me by your flight--by your word, by our
love, by--by--everything, and, by God! you _shall_ come."

And he caught her once more in his arms, kissing her hands and face.

She wrenched herself free.

"Dick," she said, with eyes large with fear, and warding him off with
her hands, "listen to me, I pray you. You are wrong about your wife,
totally, entirely wrong. You may not love her, but she loves you,
deeply, truly. Indeed she does. She wept to-day when she mentioned your
name. I promised her, recklessly perhaps, that I would be her friend. It
was a foolish, a rash promise, I know, but while I have breath in my
body I intend to keep it. So go back to her, Dick. She loves you. Oh,
Dick, in the old days you always listened to me. You always did what I
desired. Once more I beg, I implore you to do so now, and to leave me."

"But to-day is not yesterday, and I will listen no longer. You have
fooled me too often, Pearl. You are free now, and you shall be mine for
ever and ever. Do you hear? For ever and ever," and once again he was
going towards her with outstretched arms, when he stopped abruptly in
his approach.

The varied trials and excitements of the day had resulted in one
termination, and that a natural one. Pearl's overstrained nerves at
length gave way. With a cry like a wounded animal she threw herself on
the sofa, her head buried in the cushions, sobbing in all the
abandonment of grief and fear, while Lord Martinworth,--standing
perfectly still,--watched her.

In the many years he had known and loved Pearl he had never seen her
weep before. No, not even that time years ago, when she had bared her
arm and shown him the bruises caused by her husband's blow. As he
watched her now in bitter silence, he perceived perhaps for the first
time, the terrible struggle between right and wrong that he had aroused,
and a hitherto unknown feeling of utter contempt, complete abhorrence of
self welled up within him. He knew now that he had conquered in the
fight, that he had but to take her within his arms and she would be his,
body and soul--his for ever. But the certainty of this knowledge brought
him no triumph, no joy. For once he saw himself as he was, and the
inequality of the contest, the self-acknowledged cowardice of his
present conduct, brought a flush of humiliation and of shame to his
cheeks. He stood for a moment hesitating as he watched the quivering
form and listened to the stifled sobs. He took one step towards her. He
gently touched her hair. Then he paused, and with a parting glance
revealing both grief and remorse, without a word he turned and fled.

And Pearl, lying there with her head buried in the cushions, heard the
door close, the retreating footsteps, and the noise of the carriage
driving away, and then, but only then, she understood that she had
banished him for all eternity. She rushed to the open window, and cried
to him in a voice sharp with agony; but the occupant of the carriage was
far beyond the sound of her call, and once more she threw herself on the
sofa and hid her face in her hands.

"What have I done?" she cried aloud. "I have sent him away--I have sent
him away. Oh! what made me do it? How could I do this thing? What do I
care for duty and honour? And his wife--what is she to me? What right
had she to exact such a promise from me? Why should I be her friend? She
is my enemy, not my friend. And her husband, my love, my only love, I
have sent away, I have sent away."

Thus Pearl raved while the night closed in upon her. And yet that
evening as she knelt by her bedside this prayer was uttered in all
sincerity from the depths of her heart:--

"Oh God," she prayed, "keep him away from me, for I am very weak and he
is strong. Keep him from me--keep him from me."

For two days, morning, noon, and night, that prayer was offered up to
the throne of Heaven. The third day and the fourth it passed her lips
haltingly but once. The fifth, sixth, and seventh days it was uttered no
more.

Hardly a week had gone by, when one morning, with a racking head and
trembling fingers, Pearl sat herself down by her writing table. She did
not hesitate as she took the pen and wrote these words:--

    "My heart's darling:

    "I know now what I have done. I have sent you away. You whom I
    love and have ever loved. Come back to me. Come to me after
    dinner to-night, and I will teach you what a woman's sacrifice,
    a woman's love can be."

                                                        "PEARL."



                             CHAPTER VIII.

                           AMY TO THE RESCUE.


"Pearl, what is the matter with you?"

This question was asked sharply by Mrs. Rawlinson, as she scrutinised
her cousin's face with her quick eyes.

"Matter? Oh, nothing," answered Pearl, flushing under the examination.

"Nonsense, my dear! Haven't I known you from babyhood? And for you to
sit there and tell me that you are in your usual equable state of mind
is simply ridiculous. I haven't seen you for a week. Not since the
Cherry party. You have not condescended to come to my house, and each
time I have come to yours I have been told that you were out, and, what
is more, have had the door calmly shut in my face by that extremely
impertinent 'boy' of yours. Amy tells me she has met with the same fate.
May I ask the reason of this strange behaviour?"

"Certainly," replied Pearl, calmly. "You may ask what you like, but I
don't fancy the reply will enlighten you much. I was busy saying my
prayers."

Mrs. Rawlinson stared, as well she might, at this unexpected answer to
her question.

Pearl laughed nervously at the expression on her cousin's face.

"Oh, you need have no fear for the state of my brain," she replied. "I
have finished now. I prayed for the last time yesterday evening."

"Pearl," replied Mrs. Rawlinson gravely, as she rose and began fastening
her cloak. "I don't understand you in this flippant mood. I have never
known you to joke about sacred subjects before, and I can't imagine what
possesses you now. Your looks, too, have changed. You seem to have grown
quite thin in a week. Your eyes are shining, and your cheeks have two
red spots on them. What is the meaning of all this?"

Pearl looked impatiently at the clock, an action which as she intended,
was not lost on her cousin.

"You are going out?" she said; "well, good-bye. We shall meet at the
Prime Minister's ball to-night, I suppose, and then dearest, you will
have plenty of time as you do not dance, to tell me what is troubling
you."

Pearl gave a sigh of relief as the door closed behind Mrs. Rawlinson.

"Oh, these relations!" she ejaculated. "Much as we may love and
appreciate them on ordinary occasions, how utterly wearisome and _de
trop_ they prove themselves at certain moments of one's existence."

Once more she glanced at the clock, noticing that the hands pointed to
half-past five.

"Three hours and a half more," she sighed, as, for the twentieth time
that day, she drew from her pocket Martinworth's passionate reply to her
summons. "How shall I ever get through them?"

                   *       *       *       *       *

At a quarter to nine that evening, just as Amy Mendovy was rising from
the table, with the intention of dressing for one of the events of the
spring--the Prime Minister's ball--a note from Mrs. Nugent was put into
her hands.

    "Dearest Amy," it ran, "As you love me come to me immediately on
    receipt of this line. I am in great trouble, and in dire need of
    you. Give up the ball for my sake, and come to me, I implore
    you. Yours,

                                                         PEARL."

    "P.S.--I am not ill."

Amy's face clouded. What! give up the ball! This ball on which she had
so greatly reckoned for the sole reason that she knew Sir Ralph would be
present? She had long ago decided in her own mind that this was to be
the occasion on which might be expressed, without loss of self-respect,
a reasonable amount of contrition and regret. There were moments when
Amy flattered herself that she knew her power well enough to be fairly
certain that she had only to offer the olive branch to see it promptly
accepted. And yet again, at other times, she felt considerable doubt as
to her advances being well received. Sir Ralph's conduct of late had
certainly not held out much promise of success. She had not seen him
since the garden party, and her vanity suffered more than one wound as
the disagreeable conviction slowly dawned upon her--that he was
persistently keeping out of her way. From all sides she heard of his
devoted attendance upon Lady Martinworth. Though Amy had more than once
seen this lady she did not know her. In moments of depression therefore,
she found herself picturing her rival as the owner--if not of beauty--of
much fascination and every charm, coupled with those powerful weapons, a
clever woman's designing and seductive wiles.

Lady Martinworth would have been the first to have felt intense
amusement at such gifted and extremely unlikely traits of character
being attributed to her.

Poor Amy was therefore, somewhat perplexed and annoyed, and at times she
felt extremely sorry for herself. She concluded that she had already
been more than amply punished for those few bars played so thoughtlessly
on the piano, and sometimes she declared to herself that it was an
imperative necessity to end the present unsettled situation. These last
few weeks of uncertainty had taught her, more than all the previous
months put together, how true and sincere was her love for Ralph
Nicholson. She could only pray now that her own foolish conduct had not
for ever put it out of her power to prove this fact to him.

The ball, she knew, would settle matters one way or the other, and it
was with a feverish anxiety, very unlike the usual indifferent
_insouciante_ Amy, that she awaited the evening's event.

And now the receipt of this frantic little note upset all her
calculations, destroying at one blow all her brilliant castles in the
air. She hesitated. Pearl herself wrote she was not ill. What reason
strong enough could therefore exist to cause Amy to relinquish this
entertainment, an entertainment where so much that was momentous might
occur. Her absence from the ball would cause Sir Ralph to doubtlessly
put a wrong construction upon her action, and as he never came to see
her now, when should she have another chance of explaining matters to
him? No, she would not go to Pearl. It was really asking too much. She
could not give up this opportunity, even for her cousin for whom her
affection was so great. But the moment that Amy arrived at this
determination, and as she read the note again, she realised that this
was no childish whim on Pearl's part, that her presence for some reason
unknown was necessary to her cousin, and such being the case, her own
wishes, her own inclinations, must certainly be ignored.

There was a suspicion of tears in her eyes as, putting the note into her
pocket, she rose from the table and looked across at her aunt.

"Auntie," she said, "I am sorry, but I can't go to the ball to-night.
You and Uncle must go without me."

"What's this nonsense?" growled Mr. Rawlinson. "What business have your
aunt and I skipping about at balls? We are both too old to make fools of
ourselves. Our object in going is simply to look after you, and if you
choose to take a ridiculous whim into your head to stay at home, why, we
stay at home too, that's all."

And with a look on his face that expressed: "Nothing in heaven or earth
will tear me hence," Mr. Rawlinson settled himself by the fire and
deliberately lit a cigar.

"I'm dreadfully sorry to have to give it up," replied Amy, as she went
towards the door, "but Pearl wants me. She writes very pressingly, and
though she says she is not ill, I feel I must go."

"How tiresome of Pearl!" exclaimed Mrs. Rawlinson, "and yet--though I
have no doubt your disappointment is very great, my dear--I think you
are right to go to her. She seemed strangely unlike herself this
afternoon when I was there, and I came away with the impression that she
had something on her mind. If that's the case, I should have thought the
best person to help her would be myself. But I certainly have no
intention of being huffy with the poor child. Life is too short for such
sillinesses. Go and cheer her up, Amy, and if you are not back by
eleven, I shall know that you are spending the night there, and will
give orders that the maid is to take over your things. Good night, my
dear," she continued, embracing her niece, "take the carriage and send
it back for me. Your uncle may stay at home smoking his horrid old cigar
if he likes, but I, for one, certainly intend going to the ball. I
should never look the dear Marquis and Marchioness in the face again if
no member of the family were to put in an appearance to-night. There are
occasions when it is absolutely necessary to sacrifice one's self on the
altar of duty. This is one of them."

Amy exchanged a sly glance with Mr. Rawlinson as she left the room. They
both knew Rosina.

As she entered Mrs. Nugent's drawing-room, Amy, glancing at the clock,
noticed that it marked exactly half-past nine. Three-quarters of an hour
had therefore elapsed since she had first received the note summoning
her.

"Am I in time?" she enquired breathlessly, as she went towards her
cousin. She did not know why she asked such a question, unless it was
that the expectant look on Pearl's face seemed to call for it.

Pearl was standing near the grand piano. She looked as if she had just
risen from it, and her hand was pressed against her heart. Her tall
figure was draped in a tea-gown of white chiffon and of silver
embroidery, and her face, framed in its masses of auburn hair, was
almost as colourless as the gown. The grey eyes were the only features
that moved in this countenance that seemed carved in stone. They were
restless and sorrowful--almost despairing--and Amy stopped short in her
approach as their glance fell upon her.

Pearl, perceiving the look of frightened astonishment, turned away, and
said in a low voice: "I thought--I thought when I heard the bell, that
it was--that it was--some one else. But of course I at once remembered,
Amy dear, that I had sent for you. It is good of you, very good of you
to give up the ball--and to come to me."

Amy went up to her cousin and put her arms round her.

"Of course I came," she said. "You wrote that you were in need of me,
and I see you are right. What is it, darling? Whom were you expecting
when you heard the bell?"

"Amy," Pearl said excitedly, clasping her tighter to her, "promise me
that you will stay by me--close by me all the time--with your arms about
me, as they are now. They are so strong, these arms of yours. I feel so
safe with them around me, and with your honest eyes looking at me, Amy.
You will stay and sleep with me to-night, will you not? You will not
leave me a minute--until--until--until----" she hesitated.

"No, Pearl, I will not leave you," answered Amy. "Of course I will stay
the night, if you wish it. Come, let us sit on the sofa. I will keep my
arms around you, and you shall tell me how I can help you. Come,
darling, lay your head on my shoulder--so, and tell me what is
distressing you. What do you fear?"

"No--no--Amy, I cannot--I dare not tell you. But you will see--you will
understand shortly, very shortly--in a minute--two minutes. You will
know, and then you will want to leave me. But you will not--you must
not, Amy. Promise me you will not leave me. Whatever you may see,
whatever you may hear, promise me you will stay to-night."

"Calm yourself, Pearl. I have already promised. Have I not come to be
near you? Hark! there is the bell."

The two women rose instinctively to their feet, with their arms around
each other's waists, their eyes fixed upon the door.

Amy had caught Pearl's excitement. She felt as if her nerves were strung
on wires while waiting for the door to open. Her sense of hearing seemed
intensified, as first she heard the front door open and close, then the
slight sounds connected with an arrival, and lastly, the Japanese
'boy's' shuffling gait, followed by the quick, firm footsteps of a man.

It seemed a century to both women before the door finally opened. At
length, however, the handle turned, and Lord Martinworth stood upon the
threshold! He took one step forward. In his eyes was a glad light, and
round his lips a smile. But he ventured no farther into the room. His
face changed as if by magic. He seemed rooted to the spot, his eyes
resting on the two women with their terrified faces, clasped in each
other's arms. Perfect silence reigned in the room as the three stood
motionless, staring into each other's eyes. Amy, half supporting Pearl,
felt her form quivering in her arms, and observing the pallor of her
face feared she was about to lose consciousness.

She led her cousin to the sofa, then went towards Martinworth.

"Pardon me, Lord Martinworth," she said, bowing slightly, "I see my
cousin is not in a fit state to go through the form of introduction. I
am Miss Mendovy, and I know who you are, for you were pointed out to me
at the garden party. My cousin is not well, and she--she sent for me. I
had just arrived when you came. Will--will you not sit down?"

It was in a state of desperation that Amy made this commonplace request.
If she had followed her inclinations she would have shrieked aloud--"For
God's sake, go! Don't you understand that every moment you are standing
here is torture to this woman?"

But Lord Martinworth did not seem to hear either the request or the
words that preceded it. He remained motionless, like one paralysed,
staring at Pearl, who, with ashen face and closed eyes, was lying back
on the sofa in a state of semi-collapse.

In that moment he realised to the full all that she had experienced
before and since she had sent him that letter of summons. For the first
time in his life he understood, through what a deadly conflict must pass
a woman who by nature is virtuous and chaste, before she casts honour,
and purity, and self-respect to the winds. Strange to say, he forgot
himself--his own bitter humiliation and disappointment. He forgot the
rapture he had felt on receiving her summons, and the despair and rage
that had taken its place when his eyes first alighted on the shrinking
form, sheltered in the girl's arms. He forgot all the varied,
conflicting emotions that had taken possession of him since his entrance
into Pearl's drawing room, and, as his eyes remained fixed on the
shame-stricken woman before him, he found himself thinking only of her.

Once before, in this same room, when he had watched her weeping on that
same sofa, he had partially divined what suffering this woman, whom he
loved, and for whom at that moment he would gladly have given his life,
was undergoing. But it was only now, seeing her before him almost
senseless with grief and shame, that the full magnitude of the torture
she was enduring flashed upon him. He watched her there, breathing hard,
without a trace of colour in her cheeks, and with her hands pressed
against her heart, and his whole being went out in pity to her. And,
mingled with the pity, was a feeling of admiration--almost of
veneration. He realised to the full that the hesitation, the faltering
weakness had reached a climax, that her better self had conquered, and
though crushed for the moment, he saw her rising triumphant from the
struggle, a nobler and a stronger woman.

How long he stood there, watching that shrinking form--troubled,
turbulent thoughts following each other in quick rapidity through his
brain--Martinworth never knew. He did not feel the girl's antagonistic
yet enquiring eyes upon him, indeed, he was indifferent to, almost
unconscious of her presence. He knew that he was bidding adieu, an
eternal adieu, to this the only love of his life. He felt none of the
bitterness, or unreasonable anger that had assailed him when Pearl, with
such determination, left him three years before, for, judging now by his
own sentiments, he knew that what she had then written was indeed the
truth--that in her renunciation of him she had sacrificed herself and
her love for his sake. But he would show her that he also could be
prompt in this spirit of self-sacrifice. He would prove his love by
leaving her, and she would thus learn and appreciate that, erring man
though he was, he also could renounce, he also could be strong.

Yes! he would bid adieu to her now. The love, the passion of years
would, he knew well, remain with him till the grave, but--he swore to
himself--never again, by word or by action, would he raise that look of
agony and of shame upon Pearl Nugent's face.

He took a step towards her, and, kneeling beside her sofa, he lifted the
hand hanging listlessly down, and pressed it between his own.

"Good-bye," he said, "I am leaving you, dear. You have conquered once
again, Pearl. You have always conquered. The struggle has been very
great, harder than ever this time, but once more you have chosen the
right. You would always do right in the end. So loving you as much as I
venerate you, Pearl, I leave you, dear. From me you have nothing more to
fear. I ask your forgiveness for the suffering I have caused you," and
raising to his lips the hand which he still held, he kissed it
once--twice, and waiting for no reply, looking neither to the right nor
to the left, Lord Martinworth walked towards the door.

Pearl Nugent half rose on her sofa. She watched with wide-open,
miserable eyes. Then let him go without a word.

The hall door closed. For a long time neither of the women spoke. Amy
glanced once more at the clock, and noticed that it wanted ten minutes
to ten. Lord Martinworth had been in the room seven or eight minutes,
and during that time Pearl had not once opened her lips.

It was, nevertheless, Mrs. Nugent who, arousing herself, broke the
silence.

"You know now, Amy, why I wanted you," she said in a low, weak voice. "I
thank God that you came, for you have saved me. You must not hate me,
dear. I have been a very foolish, a very wicked woman. Perhaps I ought
not to have sent for you, a girl, and yet--and yet--you have saved me,
Amy."

"My dear Pearl," replied Amy, smiling through her tears, "don't get
tragic, for goodness sake. We surely have had enough of that kind of
thing. And it's nonsense about my having saved you, whatever you may
mean by that. Of one thing I am certain, that my presence in your house
this evening in no wise affected Lord Martinworth's conduct. He would
have acted in precisely the same manner if I had not been here. The man
is a gentleman. Anyone can see that. Don't make any confidences, dear,"
she added, as Pearl was about to speak. "You are just in the mood to
tell me all your secrets, and, believe me, you will only regret it
later. So I will be magnanimous, and will refrain from asking you
questions. Besides, you know, I am not a fool. I can guess a good deal,
so my magnanimity is not so very tremendous after all. Now, dear, don't
let us talk any more, but I will sing you something while you lie back
and shut your eyes."

Amy strolled towards the piano, and, placing her hands on the keys,
watched Pearl from under her long eyelashes. Neither her soothing
presence, nor the sweetest lullaby she could think of, seemed however,
at first to have much effect upon her cousin's excited nerves. Pearl
walked restlessly up and down the room, trailing her white dress behind
her, with sad eyes shining feverishly from out the still whiter face,
looking like a troubled spirit from another world.

For some time she continued pacing the room. Then, as if struck with a
sudden idea, she unlocked a drawer of her writing-table, extracted from
some hidden recess Martinworth's reply to her letter, read it
deliberately through, tore it into a hundred pieces, and cast it into
the flames. She watched it burn until nothing but the blackened ashes
remained. At length, with a sigh of exhaustion, she stretched herself
once more on the sofa, and ere long Amy had the satisfaction of
perceiving the eyelids droop, and the weary and worn-out Pearl fall into
a dreamless slumber.

Amy continued playing low strains of music for some time longer. Then
she rose noiselessly, and seated herself near Pearl. For over an hour
Amy sat silent and motionless watching the sorrowful and beautiful face,
on the cheeks of which traces of tears still remained.

And as she watched, hardly daring to breathe for fear of rousing the
sleeper, her thoughts dwelt on many matters connected with Pearl. The
full details of the divorce had been studiously kept from her, but Amy
would not have been a modern young lady if she had not been acquainted
with a good deal more than her elders gave her the credit of knowing.
She was perfectly aware that Pearl had run away from some man who had
been mixed up in her case, and who had wanted to marry her, and though
she had never heard his name, by the simple process of putting two and
two together, it was not difficult to divine that the man concerned was
Lord Martinworth.

"How he adores her," thought Amy. "What a pity she did not marry him,
instead of throwing him into the clutches of that awful woman."

For, with the harshness of youth, it was thus that Miss Mendovy
designated Lord Martinworth's wife. Her imagination pictured "that awful
woman" whirling in the giddy waltz with Sir Ralph Nicholson, while big
tears of disappointment clouded her pretty eyes. She wondered if her act
of self-sacrifice had been wasted or the reverse. But even as she
debated this question in her own mind, she recalled once more the look
of triumphant anticipation on Martinworth's face as he entered the room
that evening, contrasting so painfully with Pearl's expression of shame,
her action of shrinking terror. The remembrance of these two faces at
that portentous moment were imprinted vividly on her brain. And Amy knew
that it was needless to doubt any longer. Her question was answered.



                              CHAPTER IX.

                      ON THE VERGE OF THE UNKNOWN.


The exaltation, indecision, and agony of mind experienced by Pearl for
the last fortnight culminated in a general breakdown.

Towards dawn of the next day Amy, sleeping in the adjoining room, was
roused from slumber by sounds of talking in Pearl's apartment. The walls
of Tokyo houses are proverbially thin, even those constructed on
European principles, and as Pearl was talking loud, every word she said
could easily be overheard. A short time sufficed to rouse Amy from her
bed, and in a minute she was in the next room. There to her horror she
found Pearl in night attire, with wide-open staring eyes, her glorious
hair streaming down her back, pacing frantically up and down the room,
uttering muttered sounds and incoherent words and exclamations.

Amy was genuinely terrified at the appearance of those wild eyes and
flushed cheeks, at the smothered cries and the constant stream of
senseless words. All her attempts to calm her cousin and to lead her
back to bed proving fruitless, she lost no time in awakening the
household, and ere long she was in telephonic communication with both
Mrs. Rawlinson and the nearest doctor.

Before the arrival of these persons, Amy had however, succeeded in
persuading Pearl to return to bed, where, with the help of the terrified
_amahs_,[10] and by holding her down by main force, she had so far
managed to keep her. No prayers or entreaties however, seemed to have
the slightest effect on the distracted mind, or soothing movements to
influence the restless body.

    [10] Maids.

It did not take long for the doctor to make his diagnosis. A sudden and
acute attack of brain fever was the verdict.

"Mrs. Nugent must have passed through some great and unexpected shock or
struggle to have undergone such a sudden and complete collapse," he
gravely remarked. "I must ask to be allowed to call in Dr. Takayama in
consultation. I find it impossible to say how the malady may turn."

And then followed days and nights, aye, weeks of anxious watching. For
long, not only Pearl's reason but life itself was despaired of. Terrible
was the consternation caused by this news among the many who loved and
admired, and even those who at one time may have disliked and envied the
beautiful Mrs. Nugent. Her magnificent hair was sacrificed. Amy wept hot
tears as she watched the scissors performing their ruthless task. She
gathered the thick masses up in her arms, and separating one glossy
auburn lock from the rest, enclosed it in an envelope. The direction
bore the name of Lord Martinworth, and on the note paper that surrounded
the tress were scribbled these five words:--"She is very ill--dying."

But that note was fated never to be forwarded to its destination. Amy's
impulses, though generally erring on the side of generosity and good
nature, were frequently, for this very reason, unwise. On the rare
occasions, however, that she gave herself time to consider, she seldom
did a foolish thing. A trifling incident prevented her sending the
communication and its enclosure that day, and the next saw it safely
committed to the recesses of a drawer, from which it was only extracted
several months later, under circumstances that brought back many a vivid
and painful memory.

'It is an ill wind that blows no one any good.' Pearl's dangerous
illness had at least one beneficial and unexpected result--that of
proving the means of an ultimate meeting and a complete reconciliation
between Amy and Ralph Nicholson. Not a day passed without the latter
calling to inquire after Pearl. Amy however, busy with her aunt in the
sick room, had never chanced to see him, and it was only when Pearl's
illness had lasted almost a month, and the doctors had lifted the awful
weight from their minds by at last finding a slight improvement in her
condition, that an encounter between the two at length took place.

Mrs. Rawlinson had sent Amy out into the garden for a breath of fresh
air, and the girl was seated under the shade of the great stone lantern
by the side of the miniature lake, watching the gold fish darting in and
out among the rocks, and pondering sadly over the distress and the
gnawing anxiety of the past weeks. Great tears were flowing down her
cheeks, which were pale and drawn. She fixed her eyes on Fujiyama, hazy
and indistinct in the afternoon sun, and she wondered mournfully whether
poor Pearl would ever gaze at her beloved mountain again. There was one
little fleecy cloud hovering over the summit. It was snowy white, with a
silver edge, and Amy found herself dreamily comparing this mystical,
almost transparent cloud to Pearl's pure, unsullied soul. Her eyelids
drooped. She wondered and wept no more, for Amy slept the sleep of utter
exhaustion.

It was fully an hour later when she opened her eyes to find Ralph
Nicholson standing by her side.

"Poor little thing," he said sorrowfully, as she started up from her
chair, "how sad, how weary you look. Go to sleep again. I will leave
you. But first tell me, how is she to-day?"

Amy brushed away the tears that were still wet on her eyelids.

"The doctors see a slight improvement," she replied. "The fever is, they
say, a shade lower. But she seems no better to auntie and myself. Oh!
Sir Ralph, I am sure she will die. She cannot resist. It has been going
on so long now. She is still delirious at times, and I know the fever is
gradually but surely wearing her away."

Ralph looked at the sweet face, on which all the joy and sparkle had
died out, and on which grief for the time being had made such havoc. And
as he looked, he knew that he had never admired, that he had never loved
Amy Mendovy as he admired and loved her to-day in this soft and saddened
mood.

He sat down on the grass beside her chair and took her hand between his
own.

Amy did not withdraw it.

"Amy, dear," he said very quietly, "I cannot tell you how unhappy I am.
It is awful to me to see your grief, for, as you know--you know it well
Amy, though you never would listen to me--I love you, and have loved you
for long, darling. May I share your trouble with you, Amy? May I help
you to bear it a little? Will you be kind to me, and after my long
waiting give me the right to do this?"

Amy never quite knew how it occurred, but shortly after this request she
found her head leaning on Ralph's shoulder, while that individual was
busily employed in kissing away the tears--tears whether now of joy or
of sorrow,--it was somewhat difficult to tell.

But Amy would not have been a woman, and certainly not Amy Mendovy, if
before her lover left her that day, she had not satisfied herself as to
the future disposal of the lady whom she chose to consider as her rival.

"And Lady Martinworth?" she inquired, "what are you going to do about
her? You will, I suppose, be kind enough to stop going about with her
and flirting, now that you have at last made up your mind to be engaged
to me. Oh! Ralph, you don't care for her really, do you?"

Ralph laughed and twirled his black moustache, as he looked down into
the flushed face.

"Nobody," he replied, "has ever yet accused me of ingratitude. I
certainly have no intention of casting off Lady Martinworth, for she has
done me an uncommonly good turn."

"What do you mean?" inquired Amy, on the defensive at once.

"Simply that my flirtation, not that it deserves such a name--for Lady
Martinworth, let me tell you, darling, hasn't got the remotest notion as
to what flirting means--our--late--intercourse, was nothing more nor
less than a pre-arranged plan formed with Mrs. Nugent to produce the
desired result of bringing you, Miss Mendovy, to your senses. I couldn't
have got on much longer without you, you know. So we had to contrive
some means by which you should learn to know your own mind. It was Mrs.
Nugent's happy notion that I should try to make you jealous, Amy. She is
ill now, so you must forgive her, you know. And as for me, I don't care
if you forgive me or not, for now that you have once said 'yes,' you
won't find it very easy to get rid of me again. I can tell you that."

Of course, Amy wasted a good deal of breath in pointing out that she had
never for a single instant experienced the sentiment of jealousy, a
sentiment for which, she assured him, she had indeed the very greatest
contempt. She took some little trouble to explain that she had merely
felt considerable regret that Ralph should have--well--caused gossip, by
allowing his name to be coupled with that of a married woman. In fact,
she begged he would understand that her anxiety from the first had been
solely for the condition of his morals, and she seized this opportunity
to deliver quite an eloquent little homily on the iniquity of
flirtations in general, and with married women in particular. To all of
which words of wisdom Ralph listened attentively, the effect, however,
being somewhat marred, in Amy's opinion, by a persistent and most
apparent twinkle in the dark eyes. She inwardly wondered if he could by
any possibility be laughing at her, and she felt that she really had
some right to be aggrieved, when, after her lecture, which had lasted
fully five minutes, he merely said in reply that Lady Martinworth was a
real good soul, and though he perfectly understood Amy being somewhat
prejudiced against her for the moment, he had not the slightest doubt
that eventually the two would become the closest of friends.

"She is the kindest-hearted, straightest woman I know," he added, "and
she really has an awfully sad life. Martinworth doesn't care two straws
for her. He is away now--went off weeks ago, and never offered to take
her with him. She is terribly lonely, for she knows very few people
here. I think you might take pity on her, darling, and chum up a bit
with her."

Which tactless and unfortunate suggestion was met with the severity it
deserved.

Miss Mendovy regretted, but she really did not think that she and Lady
Martinworth were likely to prove congenial. From her childhood she had
possessed a strong dislike for mannish women. And though, of course, she
could not but feel sorry for the poor thing's solitude, she really
feared that just at present, with her mind and hands so full of dear
Pearl, she would have but little spare time to devote to outsiders. This
fact reminded Amy that it was impossible to waste further precious
moments in talking about a person who really interested her so very
slightly, so that if Ralph would excuse her, she would go and relieve
her aunt in the sick room.

But Amy was not allowed to depart just yet. Sir Ralph was wise enough to
see that he had--to use his own phraseology--"put his foot into it," and
he mentally decided that, for the future, Lady Martinworth's name should
figure as little as possible in his and Amy's conversations.

He promptly made up for lost time. And when Amy parted from him a
quarter of an hour later the radiance of her face proved that, certainly
for the time being, the fact that such an annoying person as Lady
Martinworth existed was entirely obliterated from her mind.

Meanwhile, Sir Ralph Nicholson had spoken the truth when he announced
that the lady discussed was an unhappy woman, though perhaps he would
have been more accurate if he had contented himself by saying that she
was an intensely bored woman. She hated Tokyo, and, for that reason
alone, she had been somewhat disappointed when her husband had started
on his travels without her. As for his indifference to her
companionship, she was too much accustomed to that state of things to
greatly worry herself on that score. It was only on very rare occasions,
such as the day when she had unbosomed herself to Pearl, that she would
allow the fact of her husband's want of affection to distress her.
"Harry" Martinworth was essentially practical, and if only she had been
able to indulge in some amusement more or less congenial to her tastes
to occupy her spare time, she would certainly never have troubled
herself about what, by bitter experience, she knew to be the inevitable.

But here she was, planted down in a Tokyo hotel, with scarcely an
acquaintance in the whole of Japan save Sir Ralph and the members of the
English Legation. Art of any kind had no interest for her, the
collecting of curios held out no inducement, and such scenery as had
come under her notice she loudly declared was absurdly overrated. Later
on, it was her ambition to climb Fuji-yama, Nantaisan, Asama-yama or any
other mountain that might happen to come in her way, but as yet it was
far too early in the year to think of such strenuous expeditions.

Meanwhile, there were two or three sights which Lady Martinworth
concluded were really worth her consideration--the game of polo, as it
is played in Japan, the fencing, and the wrestling matches. Over the
description of the latter she grew quite enthusiastic. The fact that
these matches are not greatly patronised by the presence of ladies was
alone sufficient to encourage Lady Martinworth in witnessing the
performance as often as she could get a chance. She felt no disgust. On
the contrary, she experienced intense admiration at the sight of these
gigantic naked men, with their rolls of fat, and their huge muscles
standing out like cords, and at each fresh feat of strength her
enthusiasm increased. If all Japanese had been built on the same
Herculean lines as the wrestlers, Lady Martinworth's admiration for the
race would have been unbounded, but, as it was, for the natives
generally her Ladyship expressed that contempt which to say the least is
to be pitied as the outcome of ignorance, and of an insular and
unenquiring mind.

She told Sir Ralph she could not see what there was in Japan to make
such a fuss about. She launched into politics, and prophesied complete
annihilation if the country ever went to war with Russia. If the
Japanese were as enlightened and advanced as was said, why on earth
hadn't they made decent golf-links in Tokyo? What could one think of a
people who actually didn't know the meaning of the word "sport" in its
everyday sense. As for their women, it was positively laughable to think
of them as never taking any form of exercise, merely contenting
themselves by driving in 'rickshas with the hood up, or in carriages
that were closed. On very rare occasions they did walk a few steps, she
had been told, but then, was it not a dutiful and humble couple of yards
behind the husband? Again, what possibly could be the charm of the
Japanese woman for the European man was a mystery altogether beyond her
comprehension. A soft, purring kitten of a creature who could only
smile, acquiesce in everything, make gentle little phrases, and have
pretty manners! Ralph ventured to remark that it was probably these very
attributes, so unusual and so soothing, that proved their undoubted
fascination and their charm. But at this assertion he was met with such
a stony stare of amazement that he reddened. On the virtues and
attractiveness of the Japanese woman, and the courage and perspicacity,
the cleverness and far-seeing proclivities of the Japanese people
generally, on which subjects Nicholson held the very strongest opinions,
he, in all future discussions with Lady Martinworth, from henceforth
held his peace.

As an amusement, therefore, Lady Martinworth's bicycle proved almost her
only resource. Even there she was doomed to a certain amount of
disappointment, for she had not reckoned on the extreme variableness of
the Japanese climate. It developed into a rainy spring. On certain days
the roads in and around Tokyo were practically impassable, and this
inconvenience increased her contempt for a nation whose Town
Municipality was certainly at that time, permitted so completely to
neglect its duties. A cloudless day, perfect in the brilliancy and
clearness of its atmosphere, would however, put a temporary stop to her
grumblings, and, seizing these rare opportunities, and commanding Sir
Ralph to accompany her, Lady Martinworth would promptly don her
bloomers, straightway sallying forth on a bicycle ride of many miles.

These expeditions, on the whole, suited Ralph's particular frame of
mind, for they all took place before his engagement to Amy Mendovy. They
would ride long distances without exchanging a word, which gave him
plenty of time for reflection and for forming various projects and plans
for the future, which, even at this time, he ventured to think, might
possibly prove not altogether so absolutely despairing and hopeless.
While resting themselves at some _chaya_, or tea house, or while seated
beneath the shade of a knoll of pines, or within the shadows of a bamboo
grove, in the seclusion of which nestled many a picturesque Buddhist or
Shinto shrine, Ralph would lay himself out to be agreeable to his
companion. And, indeed, he found her capital company, and if the
conversations did invariably turn on the subject of sport in some form
or other, he was all the better pleased. For Ralph was a keen sportsman,
and in "Harry" Martinworth, whose love for all kinds of out-door
avocations was without affectation--and whose proficiency therein was
indisputable--he found a genuine kindred spirit.

It was during one of these expeditions that he happened to mention the
fact of his friend Mrs. Nugent's illness. He had not forgotten the
Cherry party, nor the antagonistic and disdainful glances in which the
ladies had indulged at the time, and consequently he had so far
purposely avoided bringing Pearl's name into their conversations. One
day, however, when poor Pearl was at her very worst, he proved such a
dull companion--so pre-occupied, that Lady Martinworth's curiosity was
aroused, and after some difficulty, she succeeded in extracting the
reason of his persistent and melancholy silence.

To Ralph's surprise, his companion, on ascertaining the state of
affairs, promptly turned her bicycle round, the only explanation she
deigned to offer for this spasmodic movement being her intention of
going forthwith to Mrs. Nugent's house to see what could be done for
her.

"But I was not aware that you were acquainted with her," was Ralph's
remark, as they raced along homewards.

"Of course I know her. She is a dear friend of mine. You don't suppose
that I'm going to let her die, do you, when I'm here on the spot and
able to nurse her?"

Considering what he knew of the circumstances, it was perhaps not
surprising that Nicholson should raise his eyebrows, smiling discreetly
at what in this statement certainly somewhat savoured of exaggeration.

Lady Martinworth did not, however, vouchsafe any further explanation,
but remained silent for the rest of their journey home.

True to her word, she bade adieu to Sir Ralph at the hotel, and cycled
straight to Pearl's house, where she had considerable difficulty in
making the "boy" understand, from her broken Japanese, her desire to see
the patient, but finally succeeded in gaining admission to the
drawing-room. She sent up her card, and after a certain length of time
Mrs. Rawlinson made her appearance.

At the first glance the two women proved antagonistic. Indeed, in
Rosina's case it was quite sufficient for a person to bear the detested
name of Martinworth for her to buckle on her armour, acting at once on
the defensive.

"I have come to see Mrs. Nugent," said Lady Martinworth abruptly. "Will
you be so good as to take me to her? I could not succeed in making that
stupid servant understand that I wished to see her."

"The 'boy' was only obeying his orders," replied Mrs. Rawlinson
brusquely, as her eyes travelled over the extraordinary figure before
her. Lady Martinworth was still adorned in her cycling bloomers, and
with her cropped head, man's shirt, and motor cap it was more difficult
than ever to distinguish her from a member of the sterner sex. "He was
told not to allow anyone into the house. My cousin, Mrs. Nugent, is
permitted to see no one."

"But she sees you?"

"Surely, that is a totally different matter," replied Rosina coldly. "I
am her cousin. My niece, Miss Mendovy, and I divide the nursing between
us."

"Let me help you to nurse her. You may not know, Mrs. Rawlinson, but I
am a certificated nurse. Taking up nursing was a mere whim, but
nevertheless I was for some time nurse in the London Hospital. Do let me
undertake her case?"

Rosina softened. "It is very good of you to propose such a thing, Lady
Martinworth, and I appreciate the kindness of heart that prompts you to
make the offer. But we have an excellent trained Japanese nurse to help
us, and I could not think of taking up your time. Besides--besides----"
Rosina paused, as, in spite of herself, her eyes once more became
riveted on the bloomers.

"Oh, well! of course, I shouldn't dream of nursing her in this rig-out,
if that's what you mean by staring at my knickerbockers," exclaimed Lady
Martinworth. "However, surely my garments are a mere matter of detail in
such a question of vital importance. Let me be of some little use, Mrs.
Rawlinson. Do let me assist in nursing your cousin. She has been very
kind and good to me, and I have had so little kindness shown to me in my
lifetime that I should like to do something to prove that I appreciate
it, when it does happen to come in my way."

Lady Martinworth's offer was however, kindly but firmly declined. Rosina
told Amy later, that when she saw the look of disappointment that
overshadowed the plain countenance she found herself on the point of
relenting. Perhaps, being naturally soft-hearted, she might have acceded
in the end to Lady Martinworth's desire and have enlisted her aid. The
incongruity of such a proceeding struck her, however, with particular
force when she recalled to mind the former state of affairs between Mrs.
Nugent and the lady's husband, and she remained firm in her refusal.

The proposal offered so frankly and naturally, though declined,
nevertheless won Mrs. Rawlinson's heart, and during the rest of the
visit there was a marked change in her manner. They parted quite good
friends. And though Lady Martinworth was not allowed to undertake the
duties of nurse, she showed her desire to be useful and kind in many
other ways. Every morning a large basket of flowers would arrive from
the hotel, "With Lady Martinworth's kind enquiries," and later on,
during Pearl's convalescence, she would send every delicacy within the
hotel cook's capability, and her visits to the patient became, as time
went on, more and more frequent.

But at the period of Lady Martinworth's invasion there was no question
of convalescence, and for many days both Pearl's life and her reason
hung in the balance. But at length she took a slight turn for the
better, her malady yielded to treatment, and her naturally strong
constitution, conquering in the end, one day, shortly after Amy's
engagement to Sir Ralph, she was pronounced by the physicians to be out
of danger. It was, nevertheless, many, many weeks before Mrs. Nugent was
allowed to be moved from her room. When at length she was lifted
downstairs, absolute quiet and freedom from excitement were still
prescribed. Indeed, the tranquillity insisted on appeared to be the
culmination of Pearl's desires. She would lie on her sofa on the
verandah silent for hours, her eyes fixed on the beds of purple and
snow-white irises bending their graceful heads in the gentle breeze, or
on the distant view of Fujiyama, shadowy and dim in the hot June sun.

It was only after many days that Rosina ventured to bring up Lady
Martinworth's name, and the eagerness of that lady to see her.

At the mention of that name, which recalled so much that she would fain
forget, Pearl half rose on her sofa, and the cheeks, now so thin and
pale, flushed.

"Is she alone?" she asked in a low voice.

"Yes. Lord Martinworth is still away. He has been away over two months
now, since the day that you were taken ill."

There was a pause as Pearl threw herself back wearily on to her
cushions.

"I cannot see her," she said at length, "I am too weak. She--she is so
jerky--so abrupt. She--she would fatigue me."

Mrs. Rawlinson did not press the point. But she was not greatly
surprised when some days later Pearl after a long silence, quietly
suggested that if Lady Martinworth called again, she would receive her.

Henceforth commenced a series of visits which eventually proved of great
pleasure and of a certain amount of profit to both women. Lord
Martinworth's name was by tacit consent never mentioned, and when Pearl
realised that no danger from that quarter was to be feared, she allowed
herself to show genuine satisfaction at his wife's presence in her
house.

It must be confessed Lady Martinworth deserved considerable credit for
the tact and cleverness she exhibited in amusing the invalid. Greatly as
both Rosina and Amy might wonder at this strange and unexpected
friendship, they could not but feel grateful for each smile which the
visitor, with her quaint and caustic remarks, would succeed in conjuring
up on the pale, sad face.

But Lady Martinworth was not the only person admitted to Pearl's
presence during this period of convalescence. De Güldenfeldt had
returned from his travels at the very moment Mrs. Nugent's condition was
considered the most critical, and he had hardly put foot in Tokyo before
he was met with the news of her almost hopeless condition. This
distressing information accomplished at one stroke what months of
absence, of distraction, and of meditation had failed to do. Stanislas
straightway forgot the fact that for long he had borne a bitter grudge
against this woman, who had treated both him and his proposal with such
calm and complete indifference. Not only all his love, but all his
sympathies, all his fears for her safety, were aroused at this crushing
news, and in spite of the accumulation of work awaiting him on his
return, he found he could put his mind to nothing while Mrs. Nugent's
fate hung in the balance. He haunted the house, sitting for hours in the
drawing-room alone, or pacing the garden, till Amy or Rosina taking pity
on him, would steal a minute from their duties to inform him how the
patient was progressing, or to give him the doctor's latest report.

It was during this miserable period that Rosina guessed his secret.
Indeed, a child could have read it, for it was easy enough to divine,
and de Güldenfeldt himself made next to no attempt to disguise his
feelings. One day, in a specially despairing mood, he went so far as to
hint to Mrs. Rawlinson what had passed between him and Pearl. He found a
sympathetic listener, and consequently ended by confiding all those
cherished hopes which had met with so unexpected and so disastrous a
termination.

Like all large-hearted women, Rosina was somewhat of a matchmaker. At a
glance she saw the many advantages that Pearl had thrown away in this
refusal of Stanislas de Güldenfeldt's love and protection. Promptly she
decided in her own mind that if her cousin should be spared, it would
certainly not be her--Rosina Rawlinson's--fault if matters were not one
day brought to an entirely satisfactory conclusion.

But now was not the time to think of such things. It was only later on,
when Pearl was passing so many hours of enforced idleness on her sofa,
that somehow it became a matter of course that Stanislas de Güldenfeldt
should be found seated by her side, reading to her in his pleasant voice
the latest books from Europe, or talking to her as only he could talk.

That Pearl found pleasure in his society was evident. She seemed to
forget that anything of a painful nature had ever passed between them.
Her face would brighten as his form appeared on the verandah, and she
would greet him gladly with her soft voice. De Güldenfeldt would often
wonder whether in the very smallest degree she understood, not only how
blessed for him were those many hours spent thus by the side of her
sofa, but likewise how intensely he dreaded the fatal moment when she
would once more take up her everyday life, and when he consequently
would necessarily be shifted to the conventional rank of the occasional
afternoon visitor.

But those dreaded days still seemed a long way off. Meanwhile, Stanislas
de Güldenfeldt sat during the whole of those sweet, summer afternoons in
the presence of the woman he loved, drinking in the poison of her
returning beauty, and dreaming dreams of untold happiness and content.



                               CHAPTER X.

                        IN THE SHADOW OF A TOMB.


It was an early summer, and as Pearl's health was sufficiently restored
to render her fit for travel, she was ordered by the doctors to leave
Tokyo. By the end of June the heat became intense, and early in July she
and the Rawlinson ladies departed for Nikko, _en route_ for Chuzenji.

On the borders of the beautiful lake of Chuzenji, Pearl, following her
cousin's example, had built herself, during the first year of her
arrival, a small and picturesque Japanese house. She loved this charming
spot, as all must learn to love it who have passed the summer months by
the borders of its blue, rippling water, and beneath the shadows of its
wooded mountains. Pearl was peculiarly susceptible to the influences of
nature, and the summers already spent by her at Chuzenji had been
principally employed in sailing her little boat on the lake, watching
with keen delight the changing scenery, sometimes so dazzling in its
sunlit verdure, at others, beneath its sudden storms, so sombre,
terrible, and forbidding. Pearl knew the lake under all its aspects, and
from constant watching could foretell almost as well as a Japanese
_sendo_,[11] the rapid transformations that metamorphosed in a few
minutes the whole face of Nature. For it is a lake not only to be loved,
but with its sudden rages, sweeping mists, and boundless, unknown
depths, equally to be feared.

    [11] Boatman.

During a happy summer on the Thames many years before Martinworth had
taught her how to manage and to sail a boat, and the knowledge of this
art had proved one of Pearl's greatest pleasures during those calm,
peaceful months, spent high in the Japanese hills. She would sail for
hours in her little skiff, gazing with eyes full of mystery into the
glittering blue expanse of sky and waters, while the perpendicular sides
of the sacred mountain Nantai-san, black with the shadows of its
impenetrable forests, stood like a giant sentinel among its lesser
brethren, overshadowing, in its gloomy, threatening darkness, the
glowing outer world.

But this year, before attempting the ascent to Chuzenji, it was thought
advisable, on account of Pearl's health, to pause half way for some days
at Nikko. The nights of this lovely mountain village were refreshingly
cool and invigorating after the suffocating airlessness of the city,
whilst during the lovely summer days Pearl and her cousins would wander
through the romantic grounds of the Nikko temples, or seat themselves
for hours by the borders of the river, watching its hurried rush over
rocks and colossal boulders, which year after year, to the destruction
of roads and bridges, are borne by resistless floods from the mountains
above.

The trio of ladies had been but a few days at Nikko when they were
joined by the Swedish Minister and Nicholson, Tokyo being found
unbearably dull after the departure of their friends. Nikko, with its
sparkling, verdure-bordered streams and cloudless sky, its fairylike and
wooded glens, its avenues of great pine trees dusky in the gathering
shadows of the night,--is an ideal spot for lovers. This fact Amy and
Ralph were not long in discovering for themselves, and from the day that
the latter joined them, Mrs. Rawlinson was permitted to see but next to
nothing of her pretty niece, and with her usual good-temper, accepted
the inevitable.

As for Pearl Nugent, she was at this moment passing through a period of
transition, difficult to imagine and still more difficult to endure. She
who for so long had devoted first her existence, and later on her
thoughts to one sole object, awoke one day to find that all was
transformed--that the dream was over, and that she loved no longer.

Needless to say, the awakening was a cruel one.

To her dismay, not only did she discover that this passion of her life,
which till now had never even flickered, but had burned with an
ever-steady glow, not only was this passion extinguished for ever,--but
slowly and positively the fact dawned upon Pearl that the mere mention
of the name of Martinworth was alone sufficient to give rise to a
sentiment of shrinking terror, of breathless dismay, of overwhelming
consternation and regret. She could not think of that fatal letter of
summons, of his passionate reply to that letter, already expressive of
immediate possession, of that conquering look of triumph on his face
when he entered her room that eventful night,--without turning white
with consuming shame, with misery and reproach.

She hated herself as she recalled those moments. And in hating herself
she realised that slowly developing was an incipient feeling of dislike
against the man who, however unwittingly, had given rise to these
sentiments of humiliation and disgrace.

She did not for one moment attempt to disguise from herself the cruel
injustice of this feeling. She knew well enough that Martinworth had
conducted himself with unselfish and most unusual abnegation in
withdrawing all claim to one who had said, "I am yours--take me!" She
knew that nine men out of ten would have unflinchingly held her to her
word, allowing no temporary stumbling block of shrinking feminine
vacillation to intercept the realization of their strivings, the
unfaltering desire of years. She knew that it was his deep and absorbing
love that was the cause--the unconscious cause--of that prompt decision
of renouncing her for ever. And yet, knowing all this, it was in her
eyes sufficient that he should have witnessed her in that period of
humiliation, that he should have divined, if only partially, her agony
of mind during those days of weakness and of degradation, for her to
shrink, not only with fear and distaste, but what was more--with horror
and dismay from the man she had once so passionately loved, so ardently
admired and believed in.

She had fallen so low--so bitterly low in her own eyes. True, at the
supreme moment of the crisis she had fled from the consequences of her
final undoing. But Pearl's natural candour of disposition, her innate
honesty, did not permit her to cloak over with weak sophistries and
self-excuses what she knew at one time had been not only her firm
intention, but in those days of frenzy, her sole desire and earnest
aspiration.

During many hours of necessary idleness she would lie on her _chaise
longue_, brooding over every incident since Martinworth had once more
come into her life. This process of self-examination became almost
morbid in its intensity and repetition. But all her thought, her
constant restless brooding, did not satisfactorily explain to her the
reason of that hasty, that impetuous appeal at the eleventh hour to Amy
Mendovy. Why had joyful anticipation so suddenly given place to terror?
and what was the impulse that had prompted her at the last moment to
indite that desperate, that frantic note for aid?

Pearl believed in a God, and at times she found herself asking if this
sudden saving act, this possible loophole of escape, had not indeed been
inspired by an unheard Voice, by Divine and Holy intermediation?

This question, however, like so many that she asked herself during these
weeks, remained unanswered, and the only feeling that stood out clear in
Pearl's confused and weary mind was the prayerful hope that never again
would it be her misfortune to come across the man who had given rise to
such relentless feelings of shame and self-humiliation.

Meanwhile Stanislas de Güldenfeldt was there, haunting her presence like
a shadow, and Pearl did not disguise from herself that she found a great
security and peace, a certain happiness, in the proximity of one who
made it his pleasure and his duty to anticipate her slightest wish, to
sympathise with her every thought and feeling. Stanislas from the first
moment of Pearl's convalescence had shown himself as gentle and as
tender as a woman. With peculiar tact, without the slightest shade of
fussiness, he was always on the spot, shielding her from every physical
pain, from every mental worry. For the first time in her life Pearl
appreciated the delight of being thoroughly spoiled and petted. What
wonder if she learned to consider Stanislas as her own special property,
and most certainly necessary to her comfort and well-being?

Amy would stand aloof, looking on with surprise and indignation at the
sight of this big man with the strong face and commanding eyes being
ordered about, the object of every capricious whim, every sudden fancy,
and frequently scolded like a child for his pains. It seemed to her that
there was something rather ridiculous and certainly slightly pathetic in
the spectacle.

"Ralph," she said one day, when for the third time Stanislas had hurried
off in the burning sun to the hotel, to fetch an extra rug or cushion
for his lady-love, and Pearl, as a matter of course, had allowed him to
go, "Ralph, will you promise me one thing? If you ever perceive
incipient signs of an inclination on my part to treat you like a slave,
will you please jilt me without hesitation? I might lose you, but at any
rate I should retain my respect for you."

"Well, then, let us hurry up and break it off at once," laughed
Nicholson. "Could anyone see a more patient beast of burden than I am at
the present moment? A sketch book, a paint box, a camp stool, a cushion,
a parasol, and soon, when the sun gets cooler, I foresee--a coat.
Perhaps you would kindly inform me of the difference of my fate to that
of the man you pity."

"Don't talk nonsense, Ralph. You know perfectly well what I mean. Pray,
do I keep you constantly on the trot? Why, the poor man is never allowed
a second's leisure or repose. He's a slave, a perfectly abject slave.
Pearl looks upon his devotion, upon the sacrifice of his time, not only
as a matter of course, but as her right. And they're not even engaged
yet."

"Well, one thing is they are bound to be before long," replied Ralph.
"Bless you, my dear girl, he likes it, he glories in it. That rather
stern 'phiz' of his has borne of late quite a seraphic expression. Leave
the poor fellow alone, Amy, and let him be happy in his own way."

"All I can say is," replied Amy severely, "it is quite the last way I
should have expected Stanislas de Güldenfeldt, of all people, to choose
to be happy. It makes me quite ill to see a splendid big fellow like
that reduced to the rank of the tamest of tame cats, and what is more,
appearing to delight in that extremely humiliating position."

"Don't distress yourself, my child," laughed Ralph, as they wandered off
to their favourite seat beside the river. "It is a ridiculous phase
through which we men pass, one and all, each as our turn comes. And
though you pretend not to see it, Amy, I at this present time am in a
precisely similar idiotic stage. Bless you, I know it, and do I
complain? On the contrary, I survive the ordeal extremely well, while to
the general outsider I appear, I am sure, as beaming and as blissfully
foolish as de Güldenfeldt. We both have every intention of getting our
_quid pro quo_ later on, you know."

The person discussed was, as Nicholson announced, entirely satisfied
with the existing state of affairs. Monsieur de Güldenfeldt would indeed
have been willing to allow matters to proceed in the same easy fashion
for ever, had he not one day received a warning that it was time for him
to speak again.

Mrs. Rawlinson had been watching the progress of events with
characteristic shrewdness. Her observations caused her after a time to
conclude that de Güldenfeldt and Pearl had both reached a stage which,
however delightful in its dreamy uncertainty, certainly as far as the
future of her cousin was concerned, was a long way from being either
practical or desirable.

She therefore made up her mind that matters should be brought to a
climax. A prompt and decisive action appeared still more necessary on
the receipt one morning of a letter from Lady Martinworth, announcing
the fact of the couple's premeditated visit to Chuzenji, and begging
Mrs. Rawlinson to telephone for rooms at the hotel.

Rosina's heart sank at this news, for though Pearl had never taken her
cousin into her confidence, her ravings during her delirium,
independently of her subsequent melancholy, were facts sufficient to
explain the unfortunate influence Lord Martinworth still exercised over
the younger woman's impressible and sensitive nature.

She saw how absolutely necessary it was before his appearance once more
upon the scene that matters between Pearl and de Güldenfeldt should be
brought to a satisfactory conclusion. Rosina was never long in making up
her mind, and having once determined on a little judicious meddling, she
captured the would-be lover one day as he was lounging off to join
Pearl, and in a manner thoroughly typical, straightway went to the
point.

"Monsieur de Güldenfeldt," she said, as she took his arm and led him
over the stony road through the straggling Japanese village, "I want to
speak to you about Pearl. You remember your conversation with me some
weeks ago, do you not?"

"Certainly," replied the Swedish Minister, whose cheeks flushed like a
boy's at this abrupt mention of Mrs. Nugent's name, "certainly, I
remember it, and your kindness to me during her illness. What is it you
want to say, Mrs. Rawlinson?"

"Of course," resumed Rosina, "I should not venture to broach the subject
if you had not yourself first mentioned your hopes to me. Monsieur de
Güldenfeldt----" and Rosina stopped in her walk and gazed at him
straight with her shrewd brown eyes, "I think, if you wish to make
certain of Pearl, you ought to ask her again without further delay."

De Güldenfeldt kicked a stone in the pathway.

"Why," he said, "why this hurry?" He laughed uneasily. "To tell you the
truth," he added, "I acknowledge to you--I am afraid! That's a nice
confession to make, is it not? for a man of my age and experience, and
one who is half an Englishman to boot? I'm afraid--downright afraid to
again ask Mrs. Nugent to be my wife."

He paused, and then continued nervously: "It would be more than I could
bear if she refused me a second time, you know. Why not leave well
alone? Matters are pleasant enough as they are."

"Very well, of course you know your own business best," replied Rosina
calmly. "I certainly don't venture to prophesy the result of your
proposal. I mistrust my own sex too well to answer for their vagaries.
Nevertheless, my dear friend, I think Pearl is beginning to learn your
value, and--and--by the bye," she added, glancing quickly up into his
face, "the Martinworths are going to Chuzenji. We are to engage rooms
for them, as they wish to escape the heat of Tokyo as soon as possible."

Monsieur de Güldenfeldt made no reply. But with considerable
satisfaction Rosina observed, through the corners of her eyes, the
change in his expression at her communication.

"If that won't bring him to his senses, nothing will," she thought.

And as usual, Rosina was right.

All during this happy time of inaction de Güldenfeldt had not once
thought of Martinworth's existence. Lord and Lady Martinworth had
arrived in Japan during his absence from the capital. On his return he
had more than once met the latter at Pearl's house. He had inquired
after the husband, been told he was travelling, and since then had never
given him another thought.

Naturally, he knew nothing of what had occurred in Tokyo. Mrs.
Rawlinson's tone and expression of countenance had however, been more
than significant. Stanislas awoke suddenly to the fact that, with the
re-arrival on the scene of operations of the man who had formerly played
so important a part in Pearl's life, there arose an obstacle, a
threatening danger, on which he had but little reckoned, and for which
he found himself totally unprepared.

In spite, therefore, of the timidity of which he had made so _naïve_ a
confession, he resolved to take Mrs. Rawlinson's friendly hint, and to
speak again without delay.

The opportunity was not long in occurring.

That afternoon Pearl announced her intention of attempting the ascent to
Ieyasu's Tomb.[12] So far, she had not ventured to climb the numberless
steps that lead to the Shogun's last resting place, but it was a spot
she dearly loved, and she never left Nikko without paying this hallowed
ground at least one visit.

    [12] Ieyasu was the first Shogun of the Tokugawa dynasty. His
         remains were removed to their present resting place at
         Nikko in 1617.

It was somewhat late in the afternoon when she and de Güldenfeldt left
the hotel. As they walked through the Temple grounds and arrived at the
steps the sun was still hot, and glistened like a stream of fire through
the forests and belts of brilliant maple trees beyond, lighting up their
sheeny green with a glory of colour, golden, dazzling and intense. Both
were silent as they slowly mounted the steps, bordered by the moss-grown
balustrade of stone. Beyond was the glowing outer world, but here around
them, centuries old, were the black and threatening cryptomeria pines,
towering on either side like great angels of darkness spreading wide
their gloomy wings, while away in the distance through the vast dreamy
forest, the wind rose and fell with mystical and harmonious cadence.

Up and up they climbed, and as she paused for breath Pearl felt a
delightful feeling of exaltation at the sight of these lofty trees,
these grand and ancient pines, guarding like giant sentinels the
balustrade of stone, and the wide and numberless steps, green with moss
and age. She knew so well that this solemn approach led,--not to some
magnificent palace, not to some temple, gorgeous with colouring, and
wonderful with intricate carvings, but--buried within the heart of the
forest--to a little lonely tomb of bronze, shaped like an urn, and
guarded on either side by the sacred stork, the symbolic and gigantic
lotus leaves.

What more noble--what more awe-inspiring than this towering, upward, and
impressive approach to all that is most pathetically simple, most
modestly unadorned of funeral monuments to the honoured and beloved
dead? Only an artist mind of an artist country could have planned,
created, and carried out this beautiful and poetical thought, and only
artist minds, such as Pearl's and de Güldenfeldt's, could know how to
appreciate,--how to adore,--the nobility and grandeur of the conception.

Pearl was still silent as she sat down on the stone coping surrounding
the bronze urn, listening to the wind as it musically and eternally
sighed through the banks of trees beyond. Just before starting for her
walk Rosina had told her of Lady Martinworth's letter, and she was still
under the influence of dismay aroused by the unwelcome news. A feeling
not only of complete helplessness, but of approaching evil, overshadowed
her. She felt stupefied, paralysed by what she had heard. The news was
totally unexpected, for only the day before Pearl left Tokyo Lady
Martinworth had volunteered the information of her approaching departure
from Japan. Pearl found herself wondering what unforeseen circumstances
could have caused her to change this determination. Was it that Lady
Martinworth had made her arrangements without consulting her husband?
and was it possible that he himself had other plans in view? In spite of
his assurances and promises in her house that night, was it--could it
be--that he wished to see her again, that he still had hopes, was still
unwearied in his pursuit?

Pearl's growing dislike awakened her suspicions, and made her foresee
and fear every probable, every improbable design on Martinworth's part,
all sense of justice being swamped in this newborn dread of a man she
had been willing not so long since to follow to the end of the world.

She was aroused from these anxious forebodings, these problematical and
gloomy prognostications, by the sound of her companion's voice. He had
seated himself by her side on the coping, and on glancing up into his
face, Pearl was struck by its gravity and unusual pallor.

"Mrs. Nugent," he said slowly, looking at her very intently, "will you
be so kind as to give me your attention for a few moments? I wish to ask
you something."

Pearl, who understood instinctively the meaning of these preliminary
words, flushed--merely bowing her assent.

"Some months ago," continued de Güldenfeldt gravely, "I ventured to ask
you for your hand. You refused me. And I confess I took your refusal
very much, very deeply to heart. I felt then that, however much I might
desire you for my wife, I could never bring myself to repeat the
request. But I love you dearly, Pearl,"--here his eyes grew large and
soft as they rested on her face--"you are everything in the wide world
to me. I feel I cannot live without you, and before this one absorbing
passion of my life, all my surprise, my anger, my pride have fallen away
from me, and now once more I beg you to listen to me, and to grant me
the great gift of your most precious self."

As he said the last words, Stanislas rose from his seat, and standing
before Pearl, held out his two hands towards her.

Pearl said nothing in reply, but with a smile of great sweetness simply
placed her hands in his. He drew her up beside himself, and bending
down, kissed her on the forehead.

And thus they silently stood lit up by the slanting sun, while the wind
sang in the trees its eternal song of peace. Stanislas held her in his
arms, a great joy filling his heart as he gazed down into the beautiful
pale face of this woman whom he had gained at last, and whom he vowed to
himself should one day love him as he loved her.

At length Pearl broke the long and expressive silence, until now only
disturbed by the throbbing of their hearts.

"Monsieur de Güldenfeldt," she said quietly, as she drew herself
slightly away from him, "you have asked me to be your wife, and I
accept, for I know now that though I cannot yet give you my love, I like
you much, yes, very, very much. Perhaps, however, when you hear what I
have to say, you will regret what you have done. Better however, a
thousand times that you should know now, and part from me while your
love is still young, than that in the years to come you should discover
my weakness, learn in consequence to despise me, and leave me to die of
grief. Will you listen a moment to me, Stanislas, while I tell you what
happened after you left Tokyo?"

De Güldenfeldt's face clouded, but he answered gently as he once more
put his arms around her and drew her to him.

"No, Pearl," he said, "I will not listen to you. It is better not, dear.
I wish to know nothing. I believe in you and trust you, darling. Have I
not known your life for years? Has it not been as an open book to me?"

"Yes, and for that very reason," replied Pearl firmly, "there must be no
closed chapters in it. If you do not let me speak now, I cannot be your
wife. For I have sworn,--my friend,--there must be no secrets between
you and me."

"Speak, then," replied de Güldenfeldt, somewhat sadly, "if you will it
so."

But Pearl did not seem in a hurry to take advantage of the permission
thus reluctantly given. With a sigh she sat down again on the stone
coping, half shielding her face with her hand.

At length she opened her lips to speak. Her voice was low, but there was
a clearness, an incisiveness in the tones that impressed her listener.
She gazed straight before her and spoke unhesitatingly, as if relating
an oft-repeated tale.

"Shortly after you left," she said, "the Martinworths arrived in Tokyo.
I had been warned of their approaching arrival. Nevertheless, I
eventually met them unexpectedly at the Imperial garden-party. It was a
shock to me to see them--to see him--there, and on my return home I was
still thinking over this meeting, when Lady Martinworth called on me.
Before her departure from my house she confided to me her attachment to
her husband, and she told me that she was a very unhappy woman. She made
also a strange request. She asked me to be her friend. She appeared very
much moved, very much upset. Finally I took her in my arms and comforted
her, and, feeling very, very sorry for her, I promised her my
friendship."

Here Pearl paused, and looked up at Monsieur de Güldenfeldt with a
slight flush on her cheeks.

"She had hardly left me," she continued, "when Lord Martinworth was
announced. I perceived at once the change--a change for the worse--in
him. But I was hardly prepared for his accusations against me, as the
cause of that change. He blamed me for many things, and seemed to think
my leaving him after obtaining my divorce--when I might have been his
wife--was prompted by interested motives. My anger rose at the injustice
of his accusations, and I replied very strongly, very bitterly, begging
him to leave me and to return to his wife. I held out my hand to him as
a token of farewell, and as he took it between his own and kept it
there, I felt the revival of all my love for him. He pleaded with
me"--here Pearl grew pale once more--"and I--and I--listened,
Stanislas--at last--to his pleading. I was on the point of yielding to
his prayers, for I felt I had loved him so deeply, and for so very
long--I was yielding, I say--when I remembered my recent promise to his
wife. It was that remembrance, I think, that made me pause. I bade him
go. And he left me."

At this juncture Pearl remained silent a long time. So long, indeed,
that de Güldenfeldt thought she had completed what she wished to say,
and he was himself about to speak when--holding up her hand to silence
him--she continued:--

"And now, Stanislas, comes the worst part of what I have to say. It is
death to me to tell you what followed, but even at the risk of losing
you for ever I feel you must, before calling me your wife, know the
truth about me. Martinworth was hardly out of the house before I
repented of what I had done. I longed for him so. And I was so very,
very lonely. That night, however, and for many days and nights, I prayed
God to keep him from me. I prayed with all my heart, with all my
strength, and yet were my prayers truly sincere? I know not. I thought
they were. But one day, when I saw that he kept away, that he did not
come, I wrote to him and told him--and told him--that--"

Here Pearl paused again, hiding her face in her hands.

"Yes," said de Güldenfeldt gravely, as he laid his hand gently on her
arm, "I understand, dear. Don't enter into particulars. Don't pain
yourself by unnecessary explanations."

"I expected him that evening," continued Mrs. Nugent in a muffled voice,
"and Stanislas--I was happy, quite happy in the thought that he would
come to me. But even now, I cannot tell how or why it was, but as the
hour drew near I began to feel--to realise the enormity of my sin. It
came upon me with a sudden flash that I--I who had fought and resisted
and striven so long, that I, Pearl Nugent--so proud of my virtue, so
scornful of the want of it in others--was falling from the height of my
pride and self-content, falling, falling--to utter destruction, to utter
perdition of body and of soul.

"The horror of that moment--of that awakening--I can never express. The
iron has entered into my soul, and will leave its mark for ever. At
first, I believed it was too late to retract. I did not know what to
do--where to fly from the misery and dishonour that I knew were
overtaking me. Then I thought of Amy. And though she had told me she was
going to a ball that night, a ball that would settle her future one way
or the other, I wrote begging her to give it up, imploring her to come
to me at once. She came. And her presence in my house that evening saved
me."

"And Martinworth?" inquired de Güldenfeldt, fixing his piercing eyes on
Pearl's face.

"Lord Martinworth came at the hour appointed. He stayed a short time, a
very short time. I can hardly tell you what passed--for I know that
I--I--was partially unconscious most of the time that he remained. I
remember however, his leave-taking. It was, Stanislas, an eternal
farewell. He acted generously--nobly, as only he could act. But I hardly
knew what he said. I longed so for him to leave me--for him to go. And
it was only when the door closed behind him that I breathed and lived
once more.

"And now, my friend, you have heard all I have to tell you. It is, I
know, a shameful story. A story of weakness and of humiliation. Since
that awful night, my one hope, my one prayer, has been never more to set
eyes on this man, who until that evening had for so many years engrossed
my affections and my thoughts. My prayer, it appears, is not to be
answered. He is going to Chuzenji. The knowledge of this move of his I
thought at first would kill me. But now I know that you love me, that
you are near me and--and----"

"Yes! you know all, and, Stanislas, perhaps now you will retract your
words, and cast me off--and say you do not care for me. For indeed, I am
not worthy--unstable, foolish, weak woman that I am--to be the wife of
such a man as you."

Pearl ceased. And for a moment there was silence. Mrs. Nugent felt
herself trembling, as with averted eyes she gazed out at the waving pine
trees far before her. De Güldenfeldt's face, which had been grave and
rather stern while Pearl was speaking, remained pensive for some seconds
longer. He looked at her and his expression changed, while a gleam like
a ray of sun lit up his blue eyes. He smiled very sweetly as he took
Pearl in his arms, and pushing back the little auburn curls, kissed her
again on the forehead.

"My poor child--my poor child," he murmured, "to think that once you
should have told me that bitter experience had taught you a lesson--the
lesson how to protect yourself. Ah, Pearl, you may be beautiful--you may
be sweet--you may be the angel of goodness that I think you, in spite of
the many hard names you call yourself,--you may be all these things and
much, much more, but of one fact I am certain--you are sadly in need of
someone to help you, to take charge of you, to guide you, darling. That
task, with your permission, I, Stanislas de Güldenfeldt, mean for the
future to undertake."

Thus, in perfect peace and contentment, they sat together until the
evening fell and the stars came out. It was only as they slowly wended
homewards that Pearl, on looking back into the gloaming, realised with
dread and a sad foreboding, that their mutual vows had been interchanged
beneath the shadow of a tomb.



                              CHAPTER XI.

                          THE PRICE OF A KISS.


Pearl's engagement to Stanislas de Güldenfeldt was not generally
announced. They both had their reasons for keeping the fact to
themselves, and it was only Mrs. Nugent's immediate family, and Sir
Ralph Nicholson, as so soon to form one of that family, who were
initiated into the secret.

Rosina was radiant, as indeed she well might be, for, after months of
feminine vacillation, were not both her beautiful charges at last
satisfactorily disposed of? Naturally, perhaps, she took the credit of
Pearl's engagement entirely to herself. She told her husband it would
never have come off if it had not been for that necessary progging,
given so judiciously to the devoted and constant, yet hesitating lover.

At this information Mr. Rawlinson growled forth the remark that she
would far better have left matters alone. That people who mixed
themselves up in such affairs generally ended by burning their own
fingers, and that if de Güldenfeldt, at his age, didn't know his own
mind, well, all that he could say was he was a far greater fool than he
had given him credit for being.

He further remarked--for when once wound up Tom Rawlinson was not devoid
of conversation,--that it was perfect bosh, in his opinion, this
ridiculous effusion and fuss over a simple and every-day engagement of
marriage. No doubt all the world gushed in the same absurd manner over
Pearl's first marriage. And pray, how had that turned out? Certainly he,
for one, didn't see that de Güldenfeldt was doing such a very good thing
for himself. True, Pearl was a pretty woman, pleasant too, and had an
uncommonly good fortune of her own. But then, look at that business with
her first husband, to say nothing of that uncomfortable scandal with
that fellow Martinworth, who, in his opinion, would far better have kept
in England, instead of coming to Japan and getting into further
mischief.

For his own part, he liked de Güldenfeldt. He was a capital chap, and he
thought it was a pity he was wasting himself on a woman who, in spite of
certain attractions, never succeeded in being of the same mind two days
running. In fact, in his humble opinion, he was far too good for Pearl.

Thus, having reduced his wife almost to the verge of tears, Tom
Rawlinson took his hat and went for a tramp across the hills.

Nevertheless, shortly after he had relieved his mind in this downright
fashion, Mr. Rawlinson informed Pearl that it was his express wish that
she should be married from his house. He likewise announced his
intention of bearing all the expenses of the _trousseau_ and the
wedding. In fact he begged that she would understand that she was to
look upon herself, for that occasion at least, as a daughter of the
house. Further, he requested her acceptance of a trifling cheque with
which to buy herself a jewel, which, he need not add, he would feel
greatly flattered by her wearing on her wedding day.

The cheque was a substantial one, representing the sum of a hundred
guineas.

By this time all the party had moved up to Chuzenji. Pearl was supremely
happy in her Japanese wooden house on the borders of the lake. She loved
her picturesque, bright little abode, with its fresh, clean
_tatami_,[13] its beautifully engrained wood, its white walls and
ceilings, and its sliding paper doors and cupboards. But above all, she
loved the broad, cool verandah, on which was passed the hot period of
the day, and from which was visible the most extensive, the most lovely
view of lake and mountains in all Chuzenji. She would rest her arms on
the balustrade of this verandah, which hung completely over the water,
and there she would remain, idle and happy for hours, watching the
limpid, laughing lake with its frame of wooded mountains and its ever
changing banks of clouds.

    [13] Japanese matting.

But it was in the early morning that Pearl found Chuzenji the most
seductive, that she loved it best. After the opening of the
_amado_[14]--without which protection against storm and rain and thieves
no Japanese house would be complete--she would lie in bed, and with her
face turned towards the lake would watch with a dreamy fascination the
scene before her.

    [14] Outside wooden shutters.

And indeed, the picture upon which she gazed with enchanted eyes was an
ideal one. The sapphire blueness of the water, on which at that hour
seldom a ripple was to be seen--the chain of wooded mountains rising up
large and indistinct, and garlanded by vast pearly belts of caressing,
fleecy clouds,--the little village on the opposite side, with its
sparkling beach and tiny wooden houses, glistening like snow in the
brilliant sun--the Japanese fishing boat, with one great, white wing
faintly fluttering in the soft and wavering breeze--Pearl would gaze
entranced at all this bewitching beauty of the mysterious silent morn,
enveloped in a hazy mantle of perfect peace and calm--and, gazing, she
would thank God that she lived.

Monsieur de Güldenfeldt was as enthusiastic as his _fiancée_ over the
varied charms of Chuzenji. They would pass together the greater part of
those sweet, sunny days, either sailing or rowing on the lake, or when
they wished to vary their form of exercise, taking long tramps across
the mountains to the plains where the myriads of wild flowers and the
great white tiger lilies grow. As Pearl became stronger, they would
sometimes walk to the neighbouring village of Yumoto, most beautiful and
secluded, with its forest of giant pines and maples that overhang the
miniature lake. Curious and unique, too, is this lovely mountain spot,
its chief characteristic being its open-air sulphur baths, among the
suffocating fumes of which the lower-class Japanese of both sexes are
seen disporting themselves, sometimes for hours at a time, their sole
array being Nature's garb of innocent simplicity.

Meanwhile, Pearl was far from feeling that happiness and contentment of
mind she certainly counted upon when she bound herself by promise to
marry Monsieur de Güldenfeldt. As the days passed she knew, without
analysing her feelings very deeply, that it was impossible for her to
give that love that he in time would without doubt claim as his due. In
spite of his many delightful qualities which called forth her sincere
admiration, in spite of his more than ordinary share of intelligence and
good looks, of the seductive tones and subtle charm of manner, and above
all,--in spite of his great and absorbing devotion to herself, Pearl
Nugent's heart did not beat one iota the faster at the sound of his
voice, at the touch of his hand, or at his presence by her side.

And the day when she discovered to her dismay the fact that not only did
she not care for him, but that, above all, de Güldenfeldt's great
affection for herself was acting as an irritant upon her nerves, Mrs.
Nugent was indeed a woman to be pitied. Before her engagement she had
thoroughly appreciated the hundred little attentions with which he had
surrounded her, and what is more, had almost looked upon them as her
right. Now however, that she was bound to him by promise, she found her
feelings undergoing an unexpected and most lamentable transformation.
She made every effort to disguise this change of front from her lover,
and she flattered herself that she succeeded fairly well.

Her surprise, therefore, would have been profound, and would have
equalled her dismay, if she had divined that Stanislas de Güldenfeldt
was, to a very great extent, aware of the constant and bitter struggle
that was being fought within her heart.

De Güldenfeldt was, however, a patient man. His chief object had been
gained, namely, Pearl's promise of herself. He was, therefore, content
to bide his time for what he flattered himself must necessarily follow
ere long--the promise of her love.

But though generally right in his calculations, on this occasion the
Swedish Minister was entirely at fault. Indeed, it was not surprising
that in this instance he should make a mistake. De Güldenfeldt's
knowledge of the intricate workings of the female mind was unusually
vague and superficial for one who so prominently and for so many years
had mixed in the world. His immersion hitherto in the political and the
more serious side of his profession, and the life led--as a recreation
to those duties--of scientific thought and study, was the worst school
for attaining a knowledge of womankind. Stanislas at this period of his
existence, though he was the last to acknowledge this deficiency, was
more ignorant than many a modern youth of twenty of those inexplicable
feminine contradictions that contribute not only towards the frenzy and
the despair, but likewise to the frequent destruction of too confiding
man.

If his experience of women had been a trifle greater, de Güldenfeldt's
eyes would have opened to the fact that this very indifference to his
presence, this very shrinking from his words and acts of affection,
which Pearl tried so vainly to disguise, was the sure and certain proof
that no amount of persuasion, of patience, or of tact would succeed in
securing him that love on which he relied for his future happiness. If
he could but have known it, Pearl was simply incapable of again feeling
a throb of passion. Her devotion for Martinworth had lasted too
long--had burnt too deeply into her soul--to be capable of being
rekindled, or of blazing afresh, lighted by another hand. Pearl knew it
now. And as the days went on, and she was more and more in de
Güldenfeldt's society, and as more and more he treated her as his own
especial property, she gradually realized that of the many mistakes she
had made of late, this last was the most disastrous, the most fatal of
her life.

It was about this time that Mrs. Nugent received an answer to her letter
to Mr. Hall. Enclosed with the letter was a copy of her will drawn up
from the rough draft she had sent her lawyer, and which only required to
be signed and witnessed to make it legal. Pearl put the private letter
aside to be perused at leisure, and witnessed by Count Carlitti and Tom
Rawlinson, she signed the document, with the intention of despatching it
by the mail that was leaving the same day.

Mr. Rawlinson was nothing if not business-like. And whereas Carlitti had
signed the will in a blissful state of ignorance as to its purport or
contents, and at the sight of a favourite lady-friend sweeping past
Pearl's door had immediately hurried in pursuit,--the former, before
venturing to put his name to paper, had ponderously read and weighed
every clause of the document.

"You will excuse me, Pearl," he said, as after a very firm and upright
'Thomas Rawlinson,' he deposited the parchment on the table, and leaning
against the frail wood-work of the Japanese _shoji_[15] he lit a cigar,
"you will excuse me if I venture, as a member of the family, to make a
remark. In my opinion this is an uncommonly rum sort of will of yours.
Deuced pleasant for Amy Mendovy, I allow, and it is nice of you to have
remembered Rosina so extremely handsomely. But may I be allowed to
inquire where your future husband, de Güldenfeldt, has a look in? It
seems to me that you have ignored his existence altogether."

    [15] Sliding window.

Pearl flushed. "I am not yet married to Monsieur de Güldenfeldt," she
murmured, "and as his _fiancée_ I have certainly never for a moment
thought of leaving him my money. He does not need it. He has plenty of
his own."

"Doubtless," and Pearl blushed a deeper crimson under the scrutiny of
the keen eyes, "but you will, I suppose, in the natural course of
events, be married to him before many months have passed. It is, I
should have thought, hardly seemly to cut him out entirely. Don't you
agree with me?"

"The date of our marriage is not yet fixed. I am not married to him
yet," she repeated, rather helplessly. "When--when we are
married--nothing will be easier, I suppose, than to make a new will. In
fact the old will does not hold good in those circumstances. Besides,
there will be the settlements. I am perfectly aware that you mean well,
Tom. But don't distress yourself. I know what I am about."

"Well, then, I'm blest if I do, and that's flat!" exclaimed Rawlinson.
"No shilly shallying, I hope, my fair cousin. Let me tell you, once for
all, de Güldenfeldt is not the sort of fellow to stand any confounded
feminine nonsense. Pay attention to what I say, my dear, and don't for
heaven's sake, behave like a fool."

Pearl drew herself up, and her eyes flashed ominously.

"Really, Tom," she said, "I think you--you--go a little too far. You
presume somewhat on our relationship. I do not wish to believe that you
have any real intention of being rude or disagreeable, but--well--to
begin with, I never asked you to read my will. And I don't believe for a
moment that it is usual for a witness to read through a will before
signing it."

"Don't you, indeed! Well! I tell you it is usual for Tom Rawlinson to do
so. You needn't have done me the honour of asking me to witness it if
you didn't like the habit. But," he added, seeing she still looked
angry, "don't let us wrangle about such a trifle. You mustn't be vexed
at my plain speaking, Pearl. Remember, I stand _in loco parentis_ to
you, and if that position doesn't give me the right to offer advice and
to speak my mind, I don't know what should. But when, I should like to
know, did a woman ever take advice? Nevertheless, I repeat I am puzzled
with regard to your treatment of de Güldenfeldt. He is a first-rate
chap, Pearl."

"Oh! you dear old Tom, as if I didn't know that. Am I likely to forget
it, when the fact is being everlastingly dinned into my poor ears? How
often have I not been told by you, and Rosina, and Amy, that I am the
luckiest woman on the face of the earth to have succeeded in securing
such a treasure? It is not necessary to impress this information so
often, so very often, upon me, I assure you, Tom. I am perfectly aware
of my good luck, and you may rest satisfied that I have no intention
whatsoever of forfeiting such a prize. Nevertheless, in spite of your
objections, and of anything that you may consider it your duty to say,
my money, certainly for the present, goes to Amy, and not to Stanislas.
Why! it was chiefly for that purpose and for the pleasure of being able
to leave it to her, that I decided to accept that horrid fortune."

"Indeed! Well, I suppose you know your own wishes best. She's a lucky
girl. Not that she is ever likely to get it. Your life is as good as
hers, any day," with which farewell shaft Tom Rawlinson took his
departure.

"A queer woman, that Pearl," he remarked to his wife that evening over
his second glass of port. "Hysterical, and nervous and uncertain. I
wouldn't be in that poor fellow de Güldenfeldt's shoes for all I'm
worth. Not that she'll ever marry him, that's one blessing."

"What?" shrieked Rosina and Amy in chorus. "Oh, Tom, what do you mean?"
added his wife tremulously.

"I mean what I say. At the last moment--she'll wait till then, of
course--but at the last moment, Pearl Nugent will throw de Güldenfeldt
over. I warn you she has not the slightest intention of marrying him.
She finds it very convenient to have a devoted idiot eternally dangling
after her. But she'll never come up to the scratch. She's as shifty and
as vacillating as you make 'em. A most untrustworthy woman, I call her,
in spite of her prettiness, her money, and all the rest of it."

"You've disliked Pearl from the commencement, Tom," replied Rosina as
she rose from the table, "and of course nothing I may say will be likely
to change your opinion. But I really think, before making these rash
assertions, you should have some grounds to go upon."

"I by no means dislike your Pearl. In fact I rather like her. But with
regard to her heart affairs, she--as a weak, vacillating member of your
sex,--in my opinion, takes the cake. Mark my words, Rosina, my fair and
fascinating cousin Pearl will never be the wife of Stanislas de
Güldenfeldt."

"As he gets older your poor uncle's habit of constantly repeating
himself increases," remarked Rosina, as she and Amy settled themselves
in the little rowing boat. "He really is a most tiresome man. This
engagement of Pearl's is so very satisfactory in every way. I was so
enchanted about it. And now he makes me wretched with those horrid
prognostications of his. I wonder what can have induced him to take such
an annoying idea into his head. So shortly after everything has all been
comfortably settled, too. You don't think that there is any ground for
his fears, do you, Amy?"

Amy was silent, while her eyes grew thoughtful. "Yes," she said after a
minute, "I think that perhaps uncle is right. I am sure Pearl is not
happy, auntie. She tries her utmost to like Stanislas, but nothing she
can do will ever succeed in making her really care for him. He has got
on her nerves. I can see that."

"And he's such a dear, charming fellow, and so absolutely devoted to
her."

"Whereas, if he were a worthless but fascinating scoundrel, who merely
desired to marry her for her money, she would probably adore him, and be
grovelling at his feet for a kind word. We women are made like that,"
replied Amy, with a worldly wisdom beyond her years.

"Well, at any rate, your affairs and Ralph's are all right. That's one
comfort."

"I'm not so sure of that. I've discovered lately that Ralph is by no
means perfection, and as life is far too short to devote time to the
correction of settled bad habits, I'm not at all certain, auntie, but
that in the end I may be reduced to the unpleasant necessity of throwing
him over," and Amy's eyes gleamed with mischief as she glanced up at her
aunt and gave an extra strong pull at the sculls.

Mrs. Rawlinson's face for the space of a moment was indicative of the
deepest despair. But bitter experience had taught her wisdom, and she
made no reply. She had long ago given up attempting to fathom the
intricate traits of her young niece's character, or of trying to decide
in her own mind those moments when Amy meant seriously or the reverse.
Thus on the present occasion she held her peace, and with a sigh of
resignation placidly folded her plump hands upon her lap. Trusting that
a merciful Providence would take the matter up, she offered a secret
prayer that in spite of the perversity of a troublesome niece, all might
ultimately come right in the end.

The Martinworths had taken possession of their rooms in the hotel.
Circumstances, however, had so far arranged themselves that the
inevitable meeting between Pearl and Lord Martinworth had not so far
taken place. Pearl had on the contrary been constantly thrown in contact
with his wife, the latter having contracted the habit of running in and
out of Mrs. Nugent's house whenever an opportunity occurred. Pearl found
her looking both unhappy and ill, but though she more than half divined
the cause, Lady Martinworth volunteered no information, rarely indeed
mentioning her husband's name. It was purely incidentally that, in the
course of conversation one day, Pearl learnt that Lord Martinworth's
health was, in his wife's opinion by no means satisfactory, and
consequently, the cause of considerable anxiety.

With that vague fear and dismay felt by Pearl whenever she now thought
or spoke of Martinworth, she nevertheless nerved herself, on receiving
this intimation, to make one or two necessary and polite inquiries.

"I hope," she said rather formally, "that you are not seriously uneasy
as to Lord Martinworth's health? If so, this is the last place to bring
him to. We have no doctor up here, you know."

"Life is too short to fuss over people who decline to be fussed over,"
replied Lady Martinworth philosophically. "Dick bites off my head if I
suggest he is out of sorts. So now I hold my tongue. But the fact
remains, his nerves are completely unstrung, and he's jumpy to a degree.
His temper, too, has been unbearable ever since he returned from that
trip. I think it must be the Japanese food that disagreed with him. He
lived on it for two months. And we all know the digestion acts to a
great extent on the temper and the nerves."

Pearl smiled. "I should say it is much more likely to be the climate
than the food. Nervous people always come to grief in Japan. I should
get him away if I were you."

Lady Martinworth glanced sharply at Mrs. Nugent.

"That is most excellent advice, my dear," she said dryly, "and
nothing would give me greater pleasure than to follow it. But
unfortunately Martinworth possesses a will before which--from my
experience--everything and everybody give way in the end."

Pearl changed colour, and turned the conversation.

It was some days after the above remarks that Mrs. Nugent and de
Güldenfeldt decided to row half way down the lake to Shogonohama. They
beached their boat, wandering under the shade of the maples, till they
found themselves in the little hut overlooking the waterfall. The rain
had poured in torrents for the whole of the day and night before. The
cascade, always beautiful, was that day simply magnificent, and the
sheets of water crowned with their wreaths of snowy foam, were tearing
over the smooth surface of the rocks, and across the fallen trunks of
trees, in unbridled and uncontrollable fury. The sight was a glorious
one, if somewhat appalling, and the noise was deafening. Pearl and de
Güldenfeldt sat close to each other, silent and impressed, he half
supporting her with his arm, for the barrier against which they leant--a
frail and rotten bamboo--was their only protection from sure and summary
destruction.

The sight of rushing, roaring waters invariably worked upon Pearl's
emotions. The present moment, with its many lovely accessories, a
brilliant blue sky, massive, fern-grown rocks, and surrounding woods of
every shade of green--stirred her greatly, and combined in awakening
feelings that had long lain dormant in her heart.

With unusual demonstrativeness she turned towards Stanislas, her lips
parted, and her eyes shining like stars, and taking his hand between her
own, she laid it gently against her cheek. Since their engagement, Pearl
had volunteered but few proofs of tenderness, and the present action on
her part was so spontaneous, so unexpected, that Stanislas felt the
blood surging up into his head, and his heart throbbing, as in reply he
leant forward, and pressing her to him, he kissed her passionately on
the lips.

A moment later they both instinctively knew--for they could hear nothing
owing to the deafening roar of the waters,--that someone was watching
them from behind. They turned simultaneously, their eyes meeting those
of Lord Martinworth fixed upon them--while Amy Mendovy--apparently
extremely wretched and uncomfortable--was standing by his side.

Arriving from an opposite direction and at that unfortunate moment
sharply turning a corner, Martinworth and Amy had fallen thus upon the
unconscious pair, necessarily witnessing the whole tender and silently
acted scene.

At such a sacred moment, the last thing one would ask is to be
disturbed, and however true and deep and absorbing may be a man's
feelings at the time, it is hardly a pleasant sentiment to know that to
the ordinary outside and amused observer one must necessarily be looking
somewhat like a fool.

And yet, to his intense annoyance, it was in this undignified and
unusual position that de Güldenfeldt now found himself. Perhaps it was
only human nature that, being the sole person at fault, his rage should
straightway centre itself upon one who so far had proved himself, except
by his uncalled-for and unfortunate arrival, entirely inoffensive.

He took two steps forward in Lord Martinworth's direction, and was about
to pour forth a flow of angry words and enquiries, when his eloquence
was abruptly nipped in the bud by the expression on his would-be
victim's face.

And, indeed, the transformation visible on that countenance, which de
Güldenfeldt had known so well in former days, was enough not only to
astonish, but to paralyze the bravest man. For the face was no longer
human. It was almost that of a fiend.

Lord Martinworth was looking straight at Pearl. His blue eyes, which she
had always known so soft and tender, so gentle and so kind, gleamed
wildly, seeming to be charged with lightning under the contracting
eyebrows. His mouth was slightly open, and through the sneering lips
shone the white teeth, while the nostrils of the delicate nose were
quivering with excitement and with rage. Features so transformed were
sufficient in themselves to terrify the most courageous. But an
expression of bitter, overwhelming hate and fury, resting like a veil
upon the livid face, completed the appalling picture.

He did not say a word. He hardly seemed to breathe. But he stood--for
what seemed to the spectators an endless period--staring at Pearl Nugent
with those frenzied eyes. With one hand half-lifted before her, as if to
shut off the sight, and with the other clutching de Güldenfeldt's arm,
she looked back, white and trembling with fear, yet as if
half-hypnotised, into Martinworth's face.

At last the tension proving more than she could bear, Pearl gave one
little piteous moan, and sank unconscious upon the earthern floor of the
shed.

This alarming occurrence roused all from the spell that had hitherto
held them silent and inactive. Martinworth, casting one last look of
infinite hatred and contempt at the inanimate form, turned and left the
hut, while de Güldenfeldt and Amy, bending over Pearl, and engrossed in
their attempts to restore her back to consciousness, hardly noticed that
he was gone.

For long their efforts seemed unavailing. But at last Pearl slowly
opened her grey eyes, smiling sweetly at de Güldenfeldt as he leant over
her. Then consciousness and memory returning, the terrified expression
shadowed once more the pale face.

"Where is he?" she whispered, starting up. "Has he gone?"

"Yes, my darling, he has gone away," replied Amy, taking the still
trembling form in her arms. "You have nothing to fear, Pearl."

"He is gone! And you did not kill him!" exclaimed Pearl, tearing herself
from Amy's arms, and facing de Güldenfeldt. "Oh God! you let him go? You
did not kill him? And you call yourself a man?"

Stanislas de Güldenfeldt's first expression of surprise changed to one
of sorrow. At the moment it seemed to him that this most uncalled-for
and unexpected attack was a return of Pearl's illness and delirium.

"Hush! dear, hush!" he said soothingly, "Why should I kill Martinworth?
He did nothing."

"You say he did nothing?" she cried excitedly. "You saw the horrible way
in which he looked at me, and you say he did nothing? Oh,
coward!--coward!"

The blood flew into de Güldenfeldt's cheeks, and he bit his lips.

"Don't excite yourself, Pearl," he replied quietly. "Of course, if you
think Martinworth has insulted you, he shall answer to me for it. Now
come home, for you are ill, dear, and it is getting late."

Pearl said no more, suffering herself to be led between Amy and
Stanislas, though she was still trembling like a leaf when they placed
her in the boat. From the moment that she was seated in the stern, Mrs.
Nugent lapsed into gloomy silence. Her former excitement, greatly to the
relief of both, appeared to have passed as quickly as it had risen. She
sat with her hands clasped on her knees, staring out before her, but
taking no notice of passing objects.

The silent row home against a high wind seemed endless. But at length
they arrived at Mrs. Nugent's house, and Amy, as a matter of course,
followed her cousin within its shelter.

Stanislas knew that with Miss Mendovy Pearl was in safe and tender
hands. But he looked very white and drawn, and he heaved a deep sigh as
turning back into the boat he sculled himself home.

From the moment that he and Amy had half lifted her into the boat Pearl
had completely ignored his presence, nor had she answered, or taken any
notice whatsoever, of her lover's farewell salutation.

Stanislas de Güldenfeldt had indeed paid dearly for that one moment's
happiness of the touch of Pearl's soft hand upon his cheek!



                              CHAPTER XII.

                            DANGER-SIGNALS.


Pearl was very silent and very pale during dinner. As for Amy, she
simply waited, for she knew that in time her cousin must speak.

She was nevertheless hardly prepared for the manner in which the
conversation at length opened.

The peaches were being handed round, when Pearl, glancing suddenly at
the girl opposite to her, asked abruptly:--

"Amy, how was it that you went with Lord--with that man to-day--so far
from home?"

"I was taking a walk with him," replied Amy quietly.

"It seems to me that you accompany him very frequently in his walks,
Amy. Ralph said the other day that he saw much less of you now-a-days
than formerly, your time being so greatly engrossed by Lord Martinworth.
This sounds very strange to me, considering the circumstances, and I
think, dear, if you will forgive my saying so, you are playing rather a
dangerous game."

Amy Mendovy did not reply for a minute, while she made little heaps on
the table with her bread crumbs.

"I think," she said at length, and the colour rose in her cheeks, "if
another time Ralph finds that he has a grievance, it would be best if he
complained to me, instead of confiding in other people."

"He didn't complain. He is far too loyal to do that, whatever he may
feel," retorted Pearl. "But I saw he was looking worried and out of
sorts, so I asked him what was wrong. If anyone is to blame, it is I."

For a time Amy seemed preoccupied. Then she said in a low voice:

"Pearl, surely Ralph--surely you--do not think that I--I am amusing
myself with Lord Martinworth--that I am flirting with him?"

Pearl put her hand on her young cousin's arm, for by this time they had
risen from the dinner table.

"I don't know what to think, Amy," she replied, with her grave, sweet
smile. "This friendship seems so unusual, so--so strange."

"Nevertheless, it is easily explained," retorted Amy quickly. "I rather
like Lord Martinworth, but only _rather_, for he is often very peculiar,
very odd. I frequently find it difficult to make him out. But of one
thing I am sure--I never felt quite so sorry for anyone in my life as I
feel for him. Pearl, that poor man is so desperately unhappy. He
worships you. Of course, it is all very wrong, at least--I suppose it
is. But I am sure it is natural enough. What is more, I believe, poor
fellow, the worry is actually turning his brain. He does and says such
strange things, Pearl, and is so morose. He has taken a fancy to me
simply and purely because I am one of your belongings. And I, out of
sheer sympathy--sheer pity--go for walks with him, and have tried as
much as I can to cheer him up with my chatter and my nonsense. So now
you understand. As for flirting, the idea is absurd. Why I never knew
such a silent, abstracted man. But he seems grateful to me when I rattle
along. And he brightens up a little at times. I thought I was doing some
good for once in a way," she added plaintively, "but seem merely to have
succeeded in placing myself in a false position."

Pearl merely sighed impatiently in reply. She wandered aimlessly about
the room, then fidgetted with a piece of work, then opened a book, but,
almost as quickly closed it. At last she took a lily from a flower vase
and began abstractedly pulling it to pieces. Finally, she went towards
her cousin, and placing her hand upon Amy's arm, glanced up into her
face.

"Amy," she said almost inaudibly, "did you--did you see that awful, that
terrible look that he--that Lord Martinworth gave me to-day, when he
came upon Stanislas and myself in the hut?"

"Yes," replied Amy, without hesitation, "I saw it, dear."

"Amy, I must tell you what I think. There--was--murder--in that look!"

Pearl's eyes grew round with fear. She hurt Amy's arm as she whispered
these words.

"I felt it--I knew it," she added, "and it was the suddenness, Amy, of
this overwhelming, positive knowledge that made me faint away."

"Hush, dear, hush!" replied Amy, putting both arms round her. "You are
excited and nervous. Your nerves are unstrung. You know they never have
been quite normal since your illness. You are apt, darling, to fancy and
exaggerate things. You are thoroughly upset, Pearl. He simply looked
angry and surprised, dear, as well he might, for, of course, he is
ignorant of your engagement to Stanislas. Seeing you together in the
hut--and--and--so affectionate--must have been his first inkling of
anything out of the common."

"Amy," exclaimed Pearl, unlocking the girl's arms from about her waist,
"you are not speaking the truth, and you know it. Don't you understand
that I, who have known Lord Martinworth for so many years, have learnt
by heart every look of his eyes, every expression of his features. And
do you for a moment suppose that I have ever seen that look, or anything
like it, on his face before? Never! And I pray God I may never see it
again. If I do, I know there can be no possible escape for me. For as
surely as I am standing in this room, Dick Martinworth will kill me!"

At these tragic words Amy gave a little cry and her lips grew pale. Both
women lapsed into gloomy silence, while Amy--once more placing her arms
tenderly round her cousin, drew her out on to the verandah. They watched
the moon in all her glory, lighting up with mystic glow mountains and
woods and silent lake. The soft, mild light seemed to have a soothing
effect upon Pearl's storm-tossed mind, for after a time she spoke more
calmly.

"Of course," she said, with a long-drawn sigh, "it was very, very wrong
of me, just because I was upset--half mad with fear--to behave as I did
to poor innocent Stanislas. I cannot now understand how I could have
called him--Stanislas--of all men--a coward. How I could have said those
wicked things about his--killing--killing the other one. I did not know,
Amy, I had it in me to be so hard, so unjust, so--so cruel. But lately I
have discovered more than one detestable trait in my character unguessed
before. Oh, dear, if you only knew how I hate and scorn myself, how
cordially sometimes I wish I were dead!"

"If," replied Amy, alarmed at this fresh outburst, and speaking in her
most calm and composed manner, "if you do not intend that Monsieur de
Güldenfeldt should carry out your wish of killing Lord Martinworth, you
had better perhaps, let him know without further delay that you have
changed your mind. I believe people even in these enlightened days,
still sometimes fight duels."

Pearl looked startled, then she sighed wearily, but made no reply. As
the evening wore on she grew calmer and more collected. But she did not
again refer to the subject, and by the time Amy left her, all traces of
excitement and tears had vanished.

Stanislas de Güldenfeldt had returned home feeling thoroughly upset and
distressed. Making every allowance that he reasonably could for the
temporary excitement of an hysterical woman, he still found it difficult
not to feel wounded at Pearl's behaviour, so uncalled-for and
inconsiderate. Of late, he had more than once noticed an irritability
and fractiousness of disposition, which before her illness had certainly
been unknown to him. But this was the first time he had been treated to
such an outburst as that which followed the unfortunate meeting with
Lord Martinworth. Even that, considering the circumstances, he would
have freely forgiven, for he knew that women suffered from a malady
called nerves, and at such times they were apt to do and say strange
things. What however, he found it difficult to pardon and indeed to
comprehend, was not only her air of chilly reserve, but the persistent
ill-temper that Pearl had exhibited in the boat and even up to the
actual moment of their parting on the shore.

Stanislas de Güldenfeldt had yet to learn that women's moods are
incomprehensible in their uncertainty, inexplicable in their variety.

From Pearl's misdemeanours, de Güldenfeldt's thoughts flew to the
ominous look witnessed on Lord Martinworth's face. In recalling it to
mind, he was forced to acknowledge that the passion it expressed was
simply diabolical. He remembered how this expression had staggered him
as it crossed his vision, how his blood had boiled to think that such a
glance should, even for one second, fall upon the woman whom he loved.
In pondering over that look, and the circumstance that gave rise to it,
de Güldenfeldt was seized with fury, and at that moment it was perhaps
fortunate that Martinworth was considerably beyond the reach of the
Swedish Minister's muscular arm. And yet, as Stanislas grew calmer, he
realised the difficulty of going to the extremity of killing a man in a
duel, simply because the expression of his face had been of an
unpleasant nature, and had consequently displeased him.

He was still debating this question in his mind, wondering, as he puffed
thoughtfully at his cigar, what steps could possibly be taken, and
gazing in perplexity at the moon, which in its brilliancy seemed to mock
at his lugubrious thoughts, when Sir Ralph Nicholson appeared on the
verandah.

There was a suppressed discomposure and hurry in the latter's manner,
and he was paler than usual.

"I say, de Güldenfeldt," he exclaimed, sinking into a cane chair, "we've
had a devilish unpleasant thing occur at the hotel. Martinworth has all
but cut his throat with his own razor."

"_Sapristi!_" exclaimed Stanislas under his breath, half-rising from his
chair.

"The fellow for the time being was evidently as mad as a hatter,"
continued Ralph. "Fortunately for him, this charming little tragedy was
enacted in his wife's presence. I've no notion what called it forth.
There was a row between them, I suppose. But I have gathered from her
that he suddenly rushed to the dressing table, and the next thing she
saw was the gleam of the razor across his throat! She was up in a
second, caught hold of the beastly thing as he was in the very act, had
a tremendous struggle with him--she's a strong woman, you
know--eventually secured it, and promptly pitched it out of the window."

"Good God! What a terrible business! Is the wound serious?"

"He was bleeding horribly when I rushed in. Their rooms are next to
mine, you know, and through those thin partitions I heard the whole
affair--the struggle, her screams, etc. I was just dressing for dinner.
It appears, however, that the wound is not very deep. His plucky wife
prevented that. Her hands are awfully cut about, too. But she's kept her
wits, and hasn't broken down for a single instant."

"But what have you done with Martinworth?"

"Oh! he's calm enough now. And sane enough too, for the matter of that.
Fortunately, there is an army doctor on leave from Hong-Kong staying at
the hotel. He has bound up the wound, and says that both Martinworth and
his wife will be all right in a few days. We've tried to hush the affair
up as much as possible, but of course the story is bound to get about.
The question is, de Güldenfeldt, what on earth are we to do with
Martinworth?"

"You think he ought to be put into confinement?" enquired de Güldenfeldt
with a quick look.

"Well, you see, a man who attempts his own life is supposed as a rule to
be hardly responsible for his actions. Besides, I personally look upon
the fellow as a dangerous animal. Who knows but that the fancy may take
him to attack someone else instead of himself? He has been awfully queer
ever since he came up here, and I have not at all liked Amy being so
much with him. She thought he seemed ill and unhappy, and kind-hearted
little soul that she is, felt sorry for him. I blame myself now for not
having sooner prevented this intimacy. But naturally I felt a certain
delicacy at interfering in her friendships. But that's neither here nor
there. What on earth are we to do with the poor fellow, de Güldenfeldt?"

The two men discussed the question until far into the night. Eventually
what appeared like the right,--indeed the only solution,--was arrived
at. They decided between themselves that as soon as the wound was
sufficiently healed to allow of his removal, Lord Martinworth should be
conveyed without delay to the General Hospital in Yokohama, in which
place he could be detained in the necessary confinement until it was
found possible to transfer him to England.

The plan was in every way a practical one. But in forming it, neither de
Güldenfeldt nor Nicholson reckoned on the great opposition likely to be
raised by one of the chief persons concerned, namely--the wife of the
injured man.

The subject was approached by Ralph the next morning, who with that
purpose in view, begged Lady Martinworth for a private interview. But
after a short time, looking pale and flustered, he rejoined de
Güldenfeldt, who was smoking his cigar while waiting for him outside the
hotel.

In emphatic terms he announced that never again would he undertake such
a mission, for he had passed through one of the most painful, the most
unpleasant half-hours ever spent in his life.

It appeared that after considerable hesitation and beating about the
bush, Ralph came at length to the point. At first--he told de
Güldenfeldt--Lady Martinworth did not appear to understand, but that
when she finally grasped his meaning her anger was uncontrollable. She
turned on Ralph, and positively white with rage, asked him how he dared
to insult her and her husband--to say nothing of the family of
Martinworth generally--with such an iniquitous proposition? She affirmed
over and over again, in the most angry and positive terms, that Lord
Martinworth was as sane as Ralph himself, that in fact, the action of
the night before had merely been the result of a temporary mental
disturbance caused by an unexpected shock, followed by great distress of
mind.

"Of course," continued Ralph, "I have no notion to what she referred.
And my belief is she does not know herself what was the cause or the
nature of this shock. I ventured mildly to insinuate that such an
unfortunate state of affairs might recur, in which case the danger might
not a second time be so easily averted. I was bound to point this out to
her, but it was an unfortunate remark on my part, for on the strength of
it, what the dickens do you think she did?"

"Go on," replied his listener. "What happened?"

"She caught me by the hand, dragged me across the passage, and would you
believe it, before I caught on as to where she was going, ushered me
straight into Martinworth's room! He--poor fellow--was lying on the sofa
with his throat bound up, though he really did not look half as bad as
one might have expected in the circumstances. I went up to him at once.
But Lady Martinworth did not give me time to open my lips. 'Dick,' she
cried, 'I have brought Sir Ralph Nicholson into your room for the
express purpose of proving to him what he declines to believe from my
lips--the fact that you are a sane man. He affirms that you were mad
last night when this unfortunate accident took place, that you are still
mad, and what's more, that you are likely to become worse as time goes
on, and that consequently precautions must be taken. He comes here with
a proposition which if not so insulting, would really be downright
absurd. I expect you will have something to say in reply to both the
accusations and the remedy proposed. Of course, you must not talk, but
write what you have to say on this,' and pushing some note-paper towards
him, she cast a last furious glance at me, and then and there left the
room.

"Well, you can fancy, de Güldenfeldt, I felt a bit of a fool standing
there. Certainly my sentiments for Lady Martinworth for having
deliberately forced me into such an unpleasant position were not of the
most amiable description. My reasoning and accusations may have been
perfectly correct, still naturally, no fellow likes being called a
lunatic to his face, and I was quite prepared for any amount of anger or
violence on Martinworth's part.

"However to my astonishment, he did not seem at all put out. In fact he
looked quite agreeable, nodded and smiled, pointed to a chair, and began
writing at once. Here's his letter. I confess, it doesn't look much like
the production of a madman."

And Ralph extracted from his pocket-book a folded epistle, which he
straightway handed to de Güldenfeldt.

    "You are both right and wrong, my dear Nicholson," it ran. "Last
    night I was as mad as people who are thoroughly sick of life and
    are determined to end it--generally are. The mood, the desire
    for self-extinction, has however, passed. To-day I consider
    myself perfectly sane, as sane as you are yourself. Indeed, I
    now realise that I have a purpose before me, and until that
    purpose is accomplished I can assure you I shall make no further
    attempt on my life. And, even when my object is fulfilled, I
    really see no particular reason why I should wish to disappear.
    Shall I not then have reached the height of my desires?
    Therefore, why should I wish to die?

    But that is not the question now. What I wish to explain to you
    is that there is absolutely no reason whatever why I should be
    shut up. For I presume it was with that idea in your mind that
    you called on my wife this morning? I perfectly understand your
    view of the case. But _I am not mad_. So you can go away, my
    dear fellow, with the assurance that though doubtless your
    intentions are excellent, they are somewhat uncalled-for, and
    slightly premature.

            Your decidedly amused,
                                                    MARTINWORTH.

    Come and give me a look sometimes. I hope to be able to speak in
    a few days. It will enliven me much to see your cheery face."

De Güldenfeldt looked serious as he returned the letter.

"I cannot agree with you, Nicholson," he remarked after a minute or two,
"in considering this communication the letter of a sane man. Taking his
previous acts into consideration, I judge by this letter that he is more
dangerously cracked than I even at first imagined him."

"In what way?" enquired Ralph.

"My dear fellow, we all know the deepness and cunning of a madman. And
in my eyes that letter is the acme of cunning. What, I should like to
know, does he mean by a 'purpose before him?' What, I ask you, is that
'purpose?' Mark my words, my dear Ralph, it means some fiendish design,
which, if the poor fellow were sane, would probably be as far from his
thoughts or his intentions, as from yours or mine. Of course, nothing
can be done without the sanction of his wife. But in my opinion, that
man has no right to be at large. Let him work out his 'purpose' in an
asylum if he likes. Not among the peaceful community of Chuzenji."

"Well, I don't see what is to be done," replied Ralph with a sigh. "I
only hope your suspicions are unfounded, and that there may be no
further bother with him. At any rate, perhaps it will be just as well to
keep Amy away from him for the present."

"Yes, and above all--Pearl," remarked de Güldenfeldt darkly.

Stanislas was particularly thoughtful as after this conversation, he
strolled towards Mrs. Nugent's house. He did not attempt to disguise
from himself that he felt extremely anxious on her account. He could not
get Martinworth's murderous look out of his mind. It haunted him each
time with greater vividness and meaning, and the more clearly it
imprinted itself on his vision, the firmer was his impression that it
was the wild, vindictive, unreasoning look of a madman.

He still seemed worried and preoccupied when he appeared on Mrs.
Nugent's verandah. That lady, glancing quickly into his face as he went
towards her, naturally misconstrued the cause.

There were still moments when Pearl felt a certain shyness and dread of
her future husband. The present was one of them.

She was paler than usual as she gave her cheek to be kissed.

"Stanislas," she said, still holding his hand, "I have been so ashamed,
so unhappy at what occurred yesterday. I am consumed with remorse. Will
you forgive me, dear?"

Recent events had obliterated Pearl's misconduct. Her words, however,
recalled not only the annoyance, but the considerable distress of which
she had been the cause. De Güldenfeldt's glance, as it fell on her, was
for once both cold and stern.

"If, Pearl," he said gravely, "you hope in the future to fill well your
position as a Diplomatist's wife, the first lesson you must learn is to
control not only your speech, but your temper. But let us say no more
about it," and his face softened as his eyes rested on her repentant
face and he took in all her dainty loveliness. "The man frightened you.
You were nervous and unstrung, dear. Perhaps I was wrong to attach so
much importance to your irritability, or to be hurt at your treatment of
me. Certainly subsequent events have proved that you were to a certain
extent justified in your alarm."

"What do you mean?" asked Pearl quickly.

"Put on your hat and I will tell you in the boat. There is a delicious
breeze for sailing. It will take us straight to Senji."

It was only after much thought that de Güldenfeldt decided to tell Pearl
what had occurred at the hotel. He was anxious not to increase her
fears. On the other hand, he knew that she must hear the story sooner or
later, and he concluded that it were better she should get the true
facts from him than to have imparted to her from some outsider a garbled
and exaggerated version. Also, he was anxious, without frightening her
too much, to impress upon her the great necessity for being on her
guard, a task which, he knew, required both tact and delicacy.

Altogether, Stanislas felt that he had a difficult business before him.
He was very desirous that Mrs. Nugent should leave Chuzenji without
delay. He intended to use all his powers of persuasion to convince her
of the necessity for such a step, and although he was prepared for many
objections, he little reckoned on the total failure of his mission.

Pearl's steering was erratic, and her startled eyes looked brighter and
bigger than ever, while she listened in silence to all de Güldenfeldt
had to tell her. Hearing these distressing details was a truly dreadful
ordeal to her. At each word Stanislas let drop, Pearl felt as if a knife
was being thrust into her breast. For, if it were indeed true that Dick
Martinworth were mad, Pearl instinctively knew that she alone was the
cause of that madness. And as Stanislas' grave, calm words fell upon her
ears, and the ghastly truth flashed upon her, that she--Pearl
Nugent--had driven a man insane for love of her, she wept silently from
very bitterness of soul.

So this was the sole result of her strivings, her flight of three years
ago, her struggle for respectability and for virtue. So this--the mental
collapse of a man, once famous for his brilliant intellect, once noted
for his calm impartial judgments--was the climax, to what she in her
self-satisfied pride, had been wont to consider a fairly successful
victory over manifold temptations, a triumph of entire self-control. It
was but now, in obtaining cognizance of his supposed insanity, that
Pearl fully appreciated the passionate, yet self-sacrificing nature of
Martinworth's devotion. She realised at that moment, that it was this
actual act of self-renunciation that had caused the present state of
things, the unhinging of that once powerful mind. Her frame shook as
this thought was brought home to her. That look of
yesterday--everything--seemed to be explained in those three words, "He
is mad." He was mad. And she told herself that it was she--Pearl
Nugent--by her self-righteous, cold, calm virtue and superiority, who
had driven him insane.

She looked out her eyes wide open with dumb misery, at the blue expanse
of water before her. Her hand was leaning on the tiller, but she did not
move it. De Güldenfeldt watching her tears, partly read and understood
the remorse and agony of mind through which she was passing.

He touched her with his hand.

"Don't take it so hardly, dear," he said. "I daresay he will get all
right again. Indeed, Nicholson thinks him so now, and you must remember,
he is the only one of us who has seen him since this awful thing
happened. Don't you think you had better go away for a little, Pearl,
until all this has blown over? You will get ill again if you worry so,
if you take things so much to heart."

"Go away? What should I go away for? Where would you have me go?"

"Oh, up North,--anywhere. The Rawlinsons and I would of course,
accompany you. You must get out of this place. You will get ill again.
You badly want a change, Pearl."

"I want a change, when I have not been here a month? No! I have no
intention of moving for the present. I am not ill, Stanislas. I am quite
well. All I implore is not to be bothered--to be left in peace."

In spite of her petulance, de Güldenfeldt persisted for some time in his
entreaties. Till finally Pearl, glancing up at him with an expression of
bored surprise, informed him quietly but incisively that his arguments
were a mere waste of breath, as she certainly had not the slightest
intention of leaving Chuzenji, where she was so satisfactorily
installed, until the hot season was over.

"Would you mind," she continued, "once more giving me your reasons why
you are so particularly anxious for me to exchange my pleasant little
abode here, where I am cool and perfectly contented, for the discomforts
of hot, stuffy tea-houses?"

The reasons were not repeated. At that moment the wind changed, and they
had to put about. Later, when they were comfortably settled down again,
Stanislas took a long look at Pearl's firm, little chin. Not for the
first time was it borne upon the Swedish Minister's diplomatic mind, the
utter uselessness, the complete futility, of trying to persuade Mrs.
Nugent against her will.



                             CHAPTER XIII.

                             HIDDEN FIRES.


Prophets of misfortune are apt to experience a decided sentiment of
humiliation, perhaps a sneaking disappointment and regret, when their
evil prognostications remain unfulfilled.

Monsieur de Güldenfeldt was, however, a pleasant exception to the rule.
In spite of the catastrophe he had foretold, it was with genuine relief
that as time went on, he proved to his own considerable satisfaction
that the calm enjoyments of Chuzenji were as far as he could see, in no
danger of being disturbed by the unmanageable presence of a lunatic at
large.

After each meeting with Lord Martinworth--and they were necessarily
many, for the invalid was soon about again, and in this charming but
restricted mountain resort it is difficult to take a stroll without
running across all the world--Stanislas confessed he could perceive no
signs of the malady that he feared. Indeed, as time passed, and they met
for at least a few minutes every day, he concluded that not only was
Martinworth perfectly sane, but that he was certainly in manner and in
appearance more intelligent, more brisk and wide-awake than nine men out
of ten. He had known Dick Martinworth for many years. But during the
period of his former friendship he failed to recall those signs of vivid
intellect and buoyant spirits, undeniable proofs of which were
constantly now being brought before his notice.

It would seem as if the physical shock and pain of his attempted
suicide, instead of injuring had on the contrary, acted as a tonic upon
the moral stamina of the man. From the moment that he left his sofa he
was to all outward appearances a changed individual. Whereas of late
months, he had been morose and abstracted, gloomy, surly, and
unsociable, he suddenly developed traits of quiet wit, constant good
humour, charming affability, and such a desire for the companionship of
his fellow creatures that it was not long before he attained the,
perhaps scarcely enviable position of the most popular guest in the
hotel.

He and his wife from this date, were constantly seen in each other's
society, a fact in itself enough to strike those who knew him and the
circumstances of his marriage with considerable wonder. She, poor soul,
was consequently beaming with happiness. There were more than a few who
were heard at this period of her existence, to call Lady Martinworth
actually good-looking, which shows what a contented mind can sometimes
do for the improvement of homely features.

Pearl and de Güldenfeldt would, in their walks and expeditions,
frequently run across the Martinworth couple apparently on the most
excellent conjugal terms. They would stop and talk for a few minutes,
and the meetings would pass off naturally and without unpleasantness. De
Güldenfeldt would, nevertheless, give a sigh of relief each time these
encounters were safely accomplished, for with the appearance in the
distance of Martinworth and his wife, Mrs. Nugent would turn white and
dismayed, and while clutching nervously at her _fiancé's_ arm, her
breath would come and go in short, quick gasps.

No sooner, however, was she actually in Lord Martinworth's presence than
these signs of distress would disappear, and Pearl would behave with as
much _sang froid_ as any other woman of the world placed in similar
circumstances. Indeed, it was an intense satisfaction to judge with her
own eyes that, in spite of de Güldenfeldt's dreary prognostications, and
indeed, in spite of her own personal fears, there now seemed no ground
for their former gloomy apprehensions.

Lord Martinworth's condition was certainly, as far as she could judge,
absolutely normal. Realising this, it was perhaps hardly a matter for
wonder that Mrs. Nugent felt slightly humiliated that so much wasted
sympathy, such heart-rending remorse, had been conferred on one who,
from all outward appearances, neither needed nor seemingly expected
further consideration than is usually bestowed on a fellow creature
temporarily incapacitated or indisposed.

She could not but appreciate--though once again she experienced a faint
surprise--Martinworth's tact and delicacy in making no attempt to thrust
himself into her presence. He had not called either before or since what
was now generally spoken of as his "accident," and in recalling the
dread she experienced when she first heard of his expected arrival at
Chuzenji, of her fear of constant importunities, frequent visits, vain
protestations, Pearl could not but smile--rather drearily and cynically,
it is true--at these apprehensions, apparently so entirely uncalled-for,
and premature.

Thus were the fears of all repressed and allayed. Lord Martinworth, as
was only right and proper, devoted himself to his wife. Monsieur de
Güldenfeldt was seldom absent from Mrs. Nugent's side, and Sir Ralph
Nicholson, after a laughing remonstrance on Amy's part, at what she
declared was a far too premature exhibition of masculine appropriation,
was happy once more in the undisputed society of the girl he was to
marry. The quiet every-day life, the innocent, healthy out-door
pleasures of Chuzenji, pursued their natural and their agreeable course.
Everyone seemed contented and at ease. There were no disputes, no
excitements, no disturbances, and probably matters would have continued
thus satisfactorily till the end of the season had it not been that one
member of the little community was obliged to acknowledge that delicious
dallying through those long, lovely summer days, and the enjoyment of
charming society and the peaceful pleasures of the country were, alas!
not the only ingredients that constituted life.

Stanislas de Güldenfeldt's official duties called him to the Capital.

He parted from Pearl with a lingering regret, tempered with an anxiety
he did not attempt to conceal. At the moment of his departure, all his
former fears of Martinworth which had been lying dormant for so many
weeks were renewed, and the knowledge that he was leaving his future
wife alone and unprotected induced him once more to urge upon her a
temporary absence from Chuzenji. She, however, definitely refused to
contemplate his proposal, and nothing he could say would move her from
her decision. De Güldenfeldt was offered instead, one sole consolation.
On the eve of his departure, he at last succeeded in extracting from
Pearl a reluctant promise that their marriage should take place shortly
after the general return to Tokyo. This concession had, to a certain
extent, relieved de Güldenfeldt's mind, for it was the first time since
their engagement that Pearl--in spite of his many attempts--had allowed
him to touch on the all-important subject of the date of their marriage.

Mrs. Nugent was wise enough to understand that it was necessary to
concede something. She could not for ever be refusing her lover's every
suggestion, every wish, and she reassured herself with the thought that
it was now but the end of August. The middle of October still seemed to
her a very long way off. Much might happen before then.

And so Stanislas rode off down the pass, partially consoled. It was only
Pearl watching his vanishing figure from the tea-house to which she had
accompanied him, who once more found herself recalling with a sickening
dread that threatening look which for so long had haunted her nights and
embittered her days.

For even as Pearl watched her lover from afar guiding his horse down the
zigzag path, she felt again that strange feeling of coming evil that
assailed her when de Güldenfeldt had proposed to her under the shadow of
the Shogun's tomb. It attacked her now with renewed force. And some
Power, which she could not explain, induced her to cry his name aloud.

He heard her, and turned in his saddle. Her tall figure, clad in a white
gown, stood out clearly against a background of dark pines. Her arms
were stretched towards him, and even at that distance he could
distinguish the general fear and unrest enveloping her person.

"Stanislas," she cried, "come back to me. I want you."

He put his horse to a canter, and was soon by her side.

"What is it, my darling?" he said dismounting, and going up to her he
took her two hands in his, and gazed steadily into her face.

"Stanislas," she whispered,--and she put her arms round his neck, hiding
her head on his breast,--"forgive me, dear, for calling you back. But I
felt so sad, so lonely, so frightened, and I wanted to tell you before
you left how much--how very, very grateful I am, for all your goodness
to me. I have never told you this before, Stanislas. But I felt I could
not let you go without assuring you that I will try to prove my
gratitude by being a good wife to you. I will indeed. No one has ever
been so kind to me as you have been. No one has been so gentle, so
tender, so forbearing. And yet _I_ know I have often been trying,
capricious, unreasonable. I have rewarded you but badly, darling, for
all your kindness--your great goodness to me. Do you think me very
horrid, Stanislas?" and she looked up at him, her lovely eyes clouded
with tears.

It is unnecessary to give Monsieur de Güldenfeldt's reply to this
question.

Once more he rode down the path, his face aglow and his heart lighter
than he had felt it for many weeks past. Whilst Pearl, sad and sorry,
wended her way slowly home, and throwing herself on her knees by the
side of her bed, burst into an uncontrollable fit of weeping.

It was in this melancholy condition that Rosina found her half-an-hour
later. Mrs. Rawlinson asked no questions. But she took her cousin in her
arms, and kissed and soothed her, and stroked the tight little auburn
curls that since Pearl's illness had taken the place of the magnificent
tresses for which she had once been famous. She knew well enough what
was troubling Pearl, for ever since her husband had opened her eyes, she
for weeks had silently watched the struggle which she saw was being
fought out within her cousin's breast. She deeply pitied her, but she
understood that she could not force her confidence--that she must wait
for her to speak. And now at length the moment had come. Ere long Pearl
had unburdened her whole soul to the friend who had never proved her
false. She told her cousin everything. Nothing was left unconfessed,
from the moment that Lord Martinworth had once more crossed her path, to
her parting that day with Stanislas de Güldenfeldt.

And when she had finished a long silence ensued between the two women,
for Rosina knew not what comfort to hold forth.

Pearl had shed all her tears, and with hands crossed upon her knees was
gazing out with mournful eyes at the distant mountains and the blue,
sunlit lake.

At last she spoke again in short sharp sentences. "Tell me, Rosina," she
said, "what am I to do? How am I to marry Stanislas? I do not love him.
I can never love him. I have tried so hard, and at one time when he
asked me again I thought it would be so easy. Why do I not care for him?
He is lovable enough, heaven knows! I dare not tell him that I cannot
marry him. I dare not. I dare not. It would, I know, break his
heart--that heart which is of pure gold. I had my chance to-day, when he
insisted on my fixing the date of our marriage. But coward that I was, I
left all that I ought to have said unsaid. Now I am in a worse position
than ever. We are to be married in the middle of October, Oh! Rosina,
what am I to do? Tell me, dearest, what am I to do?"

"There is," replied Mrs. Rawlinson, rising from her seat, and speaking
very quietly, "only one thing, Pearl, to be done. If you feel like this
you must discontinue the engagement."

"I cannot, I cannot! I tell you it will break his heart. It will kill
him. He is not a boy, and I don't think he has ever cared very much for
anyone before. He is sacrificing much, I know, to marry me. Oh, Rosina!
if you only knew how I like him, how I respect--admire him, take
pleasure in his society--everything, but--love him. If he would only be
satisfied with these things. But once we are married he will, of course,
look upon my love as his lawful right, and oh! how shall I be able to
endure it? How shall I, in these circumstances--yielding nothing--giving
nothing--be able to live with him?"

"My dear Pearl," replied Mrs. Rawlinson, taking her cousin's hand
between her own, and looking at her steadily with her clear brown eyes,
"it is no good going over the same ground time after time. You must
realise one thing. You must either make up your mind to marry Stanislas
de Güldenfeldt, or else you must break if off _at once_. Now, if you
feel that this marriage is impossible for the reasons that you give, you
must have the strength of mind to write immediately, and put an end to
the matter. He will suffer, but people nowadays do not die of broken
hearts. Whereas if you marry, not loving him--obliged to live in daily
intercourse fulfilling your duty as a wife, your life will be a torture.
He, of course, will soon understand what you are going through, and
there will be unhappiness and misery on both sides. I repeat, if you
feel certain, dear, that you can never give him that love that he will
expect as his right, there is only one course to follow. It will,
believe me, be kinder to him in the end. Stanislas de Güldenfeldt is not
a man to be trifled with. He is not a man to rest satisfied with half
measures. If I remained in your house a week, Pearl, I should only
repeat the same thing. So good-bye, my darling. Be brave. Follow my
advice, and write to him without further delay."

Mrs. Rawlinson pondered greatly as she wended her way homewards. She
wondered much whether Pearl would be guided by her advice, and, knowing
human nature fairly well, the conclusion at which she ultimately arrived
was--that she would not.

"She will marry him," she thought, "and they will, I suppose, both be
thoroughly wretched for the rest of their days. And I, who was so
pleased at this match! Really, Pearl is very tiresome. Why on earth
can't she be reasonably and comfortably in love like anybody else? But
one can't alter one's disposition, I suppose. As things are, such a
marriage for both parties concerned is simply suicidal. Dear me! how Tom
will chuckle when I tell him of this interview."

And he certainly did.

"This comes," he said, "of your mixing yourself up in such affairs.
Didn't I tell you you would burn your fingers? Didn't I tell you, that
though obstinate enough on certain points, on matters connected with her
heart Pearl never knew her own mind two days running? And didn't I tell
you that marriage number two would probably prove as great a _fiasco_ as
marriage number one? Never mind, my dear, you will meet with your
reward, for in less than a couple of years you will probably have the
delightful excitement of all the scandal of another divorce, or at least
a separation. De Güldenfeldt is not a man to stand any damned nonsense,
I can tell you."

Certainly, Mr. Rawlinson was an extremely annoying, disagreeable sort of
husband. Such was Rosina's decided, and perhaps justifiable opinion at
that moment.

Meanwhile, with regard to the writing of the proposed letter of
dismissal, Mrs. Rawlinson was perfectly correct in her surmises. It
was--though often enough commenced--never accomplished. Day after day
Mrs. Nugent would make up her mind to put an end to the existing state
of things, and day after day matters remained exactly as they were. At
last the time approached for the return of her future husband, and still
the letter was unwritten. Pearl adopted the habit of indulging in long,
solitary walks, and dejected rows on the lake, every day finding her
more care-worn, paler and thinner, and Count Carlitti, who paid her many
visits at this time, became more and more concerned about her state of
health and loss of animation and good looks.

"I must tell you, _mon ami_," he said to Ralph in a moment of
confidence, "I intended a week or two ago to declare myself. Because you
know she is _une ravissante et charmante femme_. My heart did beat each
time I did see her. Yes, I would have made her _la Comtesse Carlitti_.
She was worthy of my name and title, and leetle fortune. But now, _que
voulez vous?_ her beauty fades. Every day it does vanish a leetle more,
and perhaps--_qui sait?_ one day she will become only a savage
flower--no longer _une rose, la reine des fleurs_. So I have decided
now, _mon cher_ Nicholson, not to tell her of my honourable intentions.
Do you not give me right?"

"Quite right," replied Ralph, "but I am sorry for her, poor thing. It
will, you know, be a cruel disappointment."

Monsieur Carlitti, who was by no means the fool that some people gave
him the credit for being, looked up sharply.

"Ah! _farceur!_ now you do mock," he said. "I will no longer hesitate,
but will ask her to-day. And to-morrow I will announce to you my
wedding. _Elle est adorable!_"

"I do lofe you," he said to Pearl that afternoon, having to his great
satisfaction found her alone in her little white drawing room. "I do
lofe you _excessivement_. I have lofed you from the first day that I met
you at _la fête de la Légation de France_. It will give me a happiness
_immense_ to make you _la Comtesse Carlitti_. I know that you are _une
divorcée_. _Mais n'importe, vous êtes si belle et si séduisante._ And I
do lofe you. That is enough. We shall make _trés bon ménage_. You will
share with me my leetle fortune, and I likewise your fortune will
participate with you. _Un arrangement bien commode._"

Pearl never for an instant doubted but that the arrangement would indeed
be extremely convenient, especially for the male participator thereof,
her fortune being at least ten times larger than that of her admirer.

"I will suicide myself," he said mournfully, after she in all
gentleness, but with a smile in her eyes which she vainly tried to
suppress, had refused the honour of this noble alliance; "I will burn
myself the brain. _Je suis trop malheureux._ For I had said to myself,
'_cette belle Madame Nugent_ is worthy of the ancient name of Carlitti,
and of my leetle fortune.' And now you do me decline. You do say 'No.'
So I will suicide myself. Yes, I will go on the lake, _ce beau lac de_
Chuzenji, and you--cruel one--will never, never see me more."

Not much anxiety was experienced by Mrs. Nugent at these threats of her
volatile and flighty adorer. To no one did she mention the details of
this interview, or the melancholy result of Count Carlitti's matrimonial
attempt. As for Ralph, he was by far too kind-hearted to think of
putting his sanguine friend to the torture of answering painful
questions.

Indeed, the unusual droop of the finely waxed and pointed moustache, the
plaintive look in the soft, brown eyes--and the general limpness and
depression that for two whole days enveloped the person of the
ordinarily vivacious little man, told their own sad tale.



                              CHAPTER XIV.

                          A BIRD OF ILL OMEN.


Stanislas de Güldenfeldt, the subject of so much heart burning, was
meanwhile, in the scorching heat of Tokyo, striving as speedily as
possible to accomplish the business that had called him to the Capital.
It was a tiresome affair that compelled appointments with Ministers and
endless interviews with men of business, the latter frequently
necessitating the presence of an interpreter--at the best of times a
wearisome and tedious performance, and especially so when the
thermometer marks, as it frequently did during that torrid summer--97°
in the shade. In spite of his somewhat dreary occupations, there were
many weary hours of enforced idleness, and the time had to be killed as
best it could, a difficult operation with scarcely a creature--much less
an acquaintance or a colleague--left in town.

Stanislas' love of reading and research seemed to be a thing of the
past. His own life's drama struck him at this time as being so far more
thrilling and absorbing than the perusal of any treatise or romance, or
even the study of his favourite scientific authors who--until now--had
proved the great resource and stand-by of his lonely hours. He no longer
had taste for these former delights, and though a once beloved volume
might be taken from the bookshelves adorned by the work of many an
ancient and distinguished author, instead of being dipped into, studied,
or perused, it would remain for hours unopened on his knees.

Thoughts of Pearl, plans for the future, hopes for the future and--on
frequent occasions--fears for the future, engrossed instead his mind.
Mrs. Nugent's recent and fairly constant fits of irritability had by no
means escaped the observation of de Güldenfeldt. Though, so far, he had
hardly succeeded in fathoming the true cause of this strange and
uncomfortable deviation in a disposition which--he was wont to flatter
himself--he had after three years' study thoroughly solved--he,
nevertheless, genuinely lamented the existence of these--until
now--concealed and undreamt-of traits of character. More than once had
he been brought into intimate contact with these uncertain and
capricious moods. More than once had he suffered from these fits of
nervous excitement, indulged in by one whom he hitherto had considered
not only the sweetest and the best, but, above all, an unusually just
and reasonable specimen of her sex.

He at times consoled himself with the thought that once married, once
leading the daily routine of a calm and settled existence--Pearl would
regain that former buoyancy of spirits, that previous equanimity of
temperament which in his eyes, had constituted the greater part of her
fascination and her charm.

He felt he had indeed achieved much in getting fixed the approximate
date of the wedding. He recalled the sweet face which he had kissed so
ardently when Pearl had summoned him back on the mountain pass, and the
delicious words of love and repentance that in the fulness of her heart,
with her arms encircling his neck, she then had uttered,--and his pulses
beat, and once more his heart throbbed with joyful anticipation at the
thought of that happiness which--he flattered himself--must surely one
day be his lot.

He longed with an indescribable longing to be back to her. And it was
with genuine relief that he saw the termination of his business
approaching, and knew that those dreary days of enforced absence from
her side must soon be reckoned as among the dark chronicles of the past.

It was the beginning of September and a most unusual season for the
visit of the ubiquitous globe-trotter. Stanislas was therefore
considerably, but none the less most agreeably, surprised, when one
morning, just at the time he was feeling his dullest and forlornest, a
note was brought him from the Imperial Hotel, announcing the
arrival--accompanied by a young son and daughter--of a former London
friend, and a connection of his English mother's, a certain Mrs.
Millward-Fraser.

    "We arrived in Japan by the last 'Empress' a fortnight ago" she
    wrote, "and have since been hard at work doing the sights of
    this most fascinating city. We called at the Legation, but were
    told that you were ruralising in the hills. Now we hear that you
    have returned to Town, so we allow ourselves to hope that you
    will look in upon us one day soon. It will be so pleasant to
    meet again, and to talk over family news," etc., etc., etc.

Stanislas went promptly, that same day, to see his old friend. And an
invitation to lunch at the Swedish Legation for the following morning
was the outcome of the visit.

Mrs. Millward-Fraser had been reckoned a beauty in her day, and was
still a very good looking woman. She was a widow, having lost her
husband, an energetic and well-known M.P., a few years previously.
Stanislas had known the family intimately during the years he was posted
in London, and in those days was not only a valued friend of the elders,
but an equal favourite with both boy and girl. Since those jolly days of
romps and fun, Alfred, the son, had emerged from Eton a cheerful, fairly
well mannered, and fairly well educated, though somewhat raw
stripling--while the daughter Muriel had developed into a bright and
extremely pretty young woman, of which beauty she had indeed given full
promise in her juvenile days.

"You bring it forcibly before my mind into what a regular old buffer I
am degenerating," de Güldenfeldt remarked to the latter as they strolled
into lunch, "and yet it only seems the other day since I nursed you on
my knee."

"Nevertheless, it is ten years ago at the very least," laughed the girl.
"I am seventeen now, and I am firmly convinced that I never permitted
such a liberty after the age of seven or eight."

"And a nice fat lump you must have been even at that age. I pity poor
cousin Stanny if he often indulged in the amusement of dancing you up
and down on his knee," chaffed young Millward-Fraser, with brotherly
politeness and candour.

"Alfred, it was impressed upon our minds by Mamma when we were children
that personal remarks were considered particularly odious," retorted his
sister. "Do you think me so very fat, cousin Stanislas? Ally is always
teasing me, and laughing at me for being what he calls 'rotund.'"

Stanislas, thus appealed to, looked admiringly at the pretty plump girl
beside him and laughed.

"You are perfectly enormous," he said; "a female Tichborne in fact.
Fortunately there are, however, many men who, like myself, admire 'a
little plump partridge.' Wait till you see Carlitti. He'll not hesitate
long in falling a slave to your charms."

"Who is Carlitti?" enquired Mrs. Millward-Frazer.

"Count Carlitti is a colleague of mine. A dear fellow, and an immense
admirer of your sex, and extremely susceptible in consequence. He is
bound to lose his heart to Muriel, when he meets you all, as he will no
doubt do later, at Chuzenji."

"Talking of hearts reminds me, Muriel, that we have forgotten the
fortune-teller. You know we arranged to go there to-day," exclaimed
Alfred.

"My dear children! such nonsense. He will only cram your head with
fables," remonstrated Mrs. Millward-Fraser.

"Dearest mother, we have come here to study the habits and customs of
the country. No one would dream of leaving Japan without visiting one of
its famous soothsayers. Would they, cousin Stan?"

"I blush to confess, Muriel, that during all the years I have lived in
the East I have never, so far, penetrated into the sacred precincts of a
fortune-teller's house," replied de Güldenfeldt as they seated
themselves on the verandah, where coffee was served. "But then, you
know, it is always the G.T.'s who see and do everything. We poor
ignorant residents are very much behind the times, and are unacquainted
with half the sights of Tokyo."

"Better late than never," said Muriel. "Come with us to-day. They are
really marvellous people, you know. I have the address of a particularly
clever one, much consulted by the Japanese."

"Isn't it rather hot for such exciting interviews?" feebly remonstrated
Stanislas, knowing all the time that when once Miss Muriel took it into
her pretty head to command, the sole thing was to surrender with a good
grace. So, without further discussion, the carriage was promptly
ordered.

In spite of the heat the young people were in the highest spirits during
their drive, seeming greatly to enjoy the brightness and animation of
the crowded streets, as the _betto_,[16] with his peculiar warning cry,
cleared the way which led to the picturesque suburbs of the city. It was
with regret when, after over an hour's transit, the carriage stopped
before a black wooden ancient gateway, and they knew that they had
arrived at the entrance to the _Ninso mi's_[17] domain.

    [16] Running footman.

    [17] The name given to a class of fortune-teller.

"I feel as if I were leaving the Occidental, the modern existence behind
me. It is all so old-world and weird," whispered Muriel to her mother,
as they proceeded from under the gateway and entered the quaint,
well-kept garden.

It was a lovely, poetical little garden, restful and secluded. Its many
narrow paths were paved with grey pebbles, and in the centre of a plot
of bright green turf was a miniature lake or pond edged with divers
shrubs of various sizes and shapes. Uprising from the lake was a tiny
island, on which flourished equally tiny and twisted maple, plum and
cherry trees, shrined by one gnarled and quaint shaped pine, many
centuries old. Floating on the surface of the little pond, and swaying
gracefully in the summer breeze, were regal lotus plants, some bearing,
amidst their glossy cup-shaped leaves, giant flowers of soft rose-pink,
while other plants were crowned with marvellous white blossoms, standing
erect on their long stems.

August is the month in which the lotus plants are in full and glorious
flower, and the travellers were in raptures at the richness of growth,
their delicate loveliness, as their eyes rested on this entrancing and,
to them, unknown sight. The party lingered long on the large flat stones
that forming a natural bridge, traversed the pond, gazing with unbounded
admiration at these unrivalled bell-shaped flowers. The colossal leaves
of green almost as striking as the lovely blossoms themselves, were full
to overflowing of glistening dewdrops, that sparkled like diamonds in
the afternoon sun, as the plants swayed gracefully above the water with
every breath of the quiet air.

The Millward-Frazer family at length tore themselves away from admiring
these lovely blossoms and left the garden. The party passed through the
grotesquely carved porch of the old-fashioned building, with its many
gabled, peaked Chinese roof, and were received by a servant, who, after
greeting them kneeling and with her forehead touching the threshold of
the doorway, rose, assisted in taking off their shoes, and finally
ushered them into a fairly sized Japanese room. The _shoji_ were wide
open, acting as a simple frame to the picturesque garden without, its
gnarled and twisted trees, its ancient stones and lanterns, and its pond
of slumbering lotus blooms.

In the middle of the matted room, which--with the exception of the
little shrine before which the evening and morning prayers are offered
up--was almost devoid of furniture, was a square lacquer table that rose
about a couple of feet from the floor, and on which was piled a heap of
ancient volumes. Before the table, with huge horn spectacles perched on
his nose, and with a glistening and entirely shaven pate, was squatting
on his heels, a wrinkled and solemn looking Bonze of benign countenance,
holding upright in his hand a partly opened fan. He was adorned in the
richest vestments of purple silk, which stuck out in stiff, straight
lines around his bending body.

As each of the visitors filed in, filling the little room, the old
priest from behind his great round spectacles examined them from head to
foot with the piercing eye of an eagle. His glance finally fell and
rested on the interpreter of the Legation, a young man whom Stanislas
had recently appointed to fill the post left empty by poor Suzuki's
tragic death.

From studying the impassive face of Ito, the old man's eyes travelled to
de Güldenfeldt, on whom they remained, though the latter made vain
attempts to keep himself as far as possible in the background.

The Bonze, never once taking his eyes from Stanislas, murmured something
to Ito in a low and impressive manner.

"The _Ninsomi-san_ says he wishes to interview you first," Ito said,
turning to his master. "He has something of the utmost importance to say
to you."

"Nonsense," replied de Güldenfeldt impatiently. "He can have absolutely
nothing to say. Why, it is impossible for him to know even who I am.
Besides, I pay no attention to such things, and have no intention
whatsoever of having my fortune told. Miss Millward-Fraser wishes to
hear her fate. He will speak to her."

The message was transmitted, and the old man, mournfully nodding his
head, said the _Danna sama_[18] should be obeyed; but that later he
would himself be the first to regret the unnecessary delay. He begged
humbly to be allowed to say what he had to say to the _Danna sama_
immediately after he had spoken to the _O' Fo-sama_.[19]

    [18] The honourable master.

    [19] The honourable young lady.

Muriel thereupon knelt on the floor in front of the table, and the old
Seer, wrinkling up his face and closing his narrow eyes, devoid of
eyelashes, mumbled and muttered incantations between his toothless lips.
She held out the palm of her hand. He did not even glance at it, but
lifting the divining rods reverentially and solemnly to his forehead, he
for a moment leant his forehead in deep thought on-to the table, always
muttering and groaning to himself. After this performance he slowly
raised his bald old head looking at Muriel with a quick and
comprehensive glance. He next enquired her age, and reckoning by the
Japanese signs of the Zodiac, he parted the divining rods into two
bundles, then taking up the magnifying glass, he examined intently the
lines of the face. So intently and so long indeed did he gaze as to
considerably embarrass poor Muriel, who blushed furiously under this
prolonged examination of her features. He seemed apparently satisfied
with this inspection, for a grim smile gleamed from his cunning old
eyes, and he proceeded to count the number of twigs in each of the
already separated packets of divining rods. Then once more he took the
magnifying glass, and carefully re-examining her face he spoke, pausing
every now and then to allow the interpreter to translate his prophecies.

"You have," he mumbled in a low monotone, interspersed with various
"oh's" and "ah's," and a curious hissing sound between the wrinkled
lips, "you have crossed many miles of water"--("I could have told you
that," whispered Alfred Millward-Fraser, "without having the honour of
being a Japanese soothsayer")--"but you will not cross it again for many
months, and perhaps years."--("Why, we are returning home in three
months," continued the irrepressible youth.)--"In a few days you will
travel to a country high in the hills, a beautiful fertile country,
where there is much water and beautiful vegetation, but a dangerous and
difficult journey over rocks and fallen trees and broken bridges. You
will meet a male, a stranger, on the road, and before two months have
passed and gone, you will have told that man that you will become his
wife. The ninth month and the tenth month of this year of Meiji will be
your most fortunate months. They will bring you much happiness. You will
have a long and happy and healthy life, for your pretty face is likewise
a lucky face, and much money and many children and good fortune will be
your lot. I have spoken."

The young girl's eyes were sparkling with excitement and merriment as
she rose from her lowly seat.

"How wonderful it is," she exclaimed. "I am actually to meet my fate in
a few days. Do you hear, Ally? you, who are always scoffing and telling
me I shall never succeed in securing a husband."

"Bosh! I bet you ten dollars, Muriel, it is all humbug," said Alfred,
boy-like, ashamed to show how much impressed he was.

"No doubt. But what delightful humbug, nevertheless. Now, Cousin Stanny,
it is your turn. He is looking at you all the time. He evidently finds
you by far the most interesting member of the party. I am sure I have
suffered by this absorbing interest, and that he has cut my fortune
short in consequence."

"Very well, to please you, Muriel," replied de Güldenfeldt with a smile.
"But pray don't run away with the notion that I for one instant believe
in this nonsense. Alfred is right. It is all humbug from beginning to
end. I sacrifice myself on the sole condition that your mother promises
to be the next victim."

Mrs. Millward-Fraser smiled rather sadly and shook her head. "I live in
the past, not in the future," she said, as de Güldenfeldt, folding up
his long legs as best he could, squatted down in front of the little
table, and prepared himself to be scrutinized.

This time, however, the Seer employed neither magnifying glass nor
divining rods. He looked steadily at Stanislas for a few minutes with
his penetrating black eyes. Then turning to the interpreter he spoke
rapidly, in a low sing-song voice, charging his monologue with many
ominous shakings of the head, and with dreary groans and sighs.

"Well, Ito, what does he say?" asked de Güldenfeldt, when the old man,
ceasing to speak, leant his head on the table in a state of breathless
exhaustion. The interpreter hesitated.

"Pardon me, your Excellency, but he says many bad, many false things. Do
you wish me to repeat them?"

"Certainly," and de Güldenfeldt laughed rather uneasily, "let us hear
everything. Keep nothing from me, false or true, good or bad."

"In what he says there is no good, no truth, Excellency. It is all bad,
all false words. He says that you must hasten away up into the hills. He
says the wind is rising, that it is already beginning to sing in the
trees, and that there will be a great and terrible storm. The storm in
the mountains will be a raging tempest, very, very dreadful and
destructive. He says that one whom you love will be in the midst of it,
at the mercy of the wind and of the waves, and what is worse, at the
mercy of a man who is mad, of a man who hates you with a great and
bitter hatred. You must go to her, Excellency, he says, if you ever wish
to again see the honourable and gracious lady whom you love. Every
moment is precious. There is not a minute to be lost, you must
hasten--hasten. Soon it may be too late. For the wind is already
beginning to sing drearily in the eaves of the house, and the raindrops
are already overflowing from the cups of the lotus leaves."

And truly, as Ito spoke, a violent gust of wind shook the woodwork of
the little house, and huge rain drops splashed into the lake outside.

Stanislas had turned pallid at Ito's interpretation of the old
soothsayer's mumbled words. For, in spite of all his former professions
of incredulity, it was impossible not to be strangely and alarmingly
impressed at the unhappy forebodings contained in this ominous prophecy.

The mountains--the woman he loved--the madman, what and who else could
they mean but Chuzenji--Pearl--Martinworth? He did not pause to ask
himself how the old Bonze, living buried in his little wooden house,
miles away from any European, could have obtained knowledge of who he
was, or of his intimate concerns. There was a mystery, a weirdness in
the whole strange proceedings, that baffled investigation, or defied
analysis. Perhaps at some future time he would try and solve the
problem. But for the present he was consumed with an unquestionable and
confident belief that the Seer's warning permitted of no
discussion--that what he foretold was indeed occurring or about to
occur, and that Pearl, the being whom he loved most on earth, was in
some great danger, was helpless and alone, and what was more, was
needing him.

A merciful Providence in the form of a giddy girl had guided his
footsteps to this distant neighbourhood and house. By these unforeseen
and unexpected means he had been warned of this danger threatening the
woman who was to be his wife. And not for one instant did Stanislas, the
contemptuous sceptic of half an hour ago--the practical product of a
practical age--hesitate, or think of ignoring this warning delivered in
so unusual a manner, from so unthought-of and so strange a quarter.

"Ask him," he said to Ito, "if the danger is imminent, and if it can by
any possible means be averted?"

Ito put the question.

"He says, Excellency, that you must hasten, hasten with all possible
speed if you wish to see the lady again. But he will not, he says--he
cannot, say more."

Stanislas glanced at his watch. It was past five o'clock.

"Ito," he said, "is there another train to Nikko to-night?"

"No Excellency, the last one left at three o'clock."

"But there is one I know shortly for Utsunomiya. I will take that, sleep
the night there, and get up to Chuzenji early to-morrow. Thank God! I am
near the station here. Ito, you will take these ladies and this
gentleman back to the hotel, go to the Legation, get me some clothes,
and follow me by the first train to-morrow. Now call me a _'ricksha_ at
once. I have just time to catch the train."

The Millward-Frasers had been silent and inactive, but deeply interested
and distressed spectators of this scene. They saw that their friend,
restrained and composed though he was in manner, was possessed not only
with the very greatest anxiety, but likewise with an overwhelming dread.
They longed to be of help to him, but knew not how.

He turned to the elder lady, "You will forgive me," he said, "leaving
you thus unceremoniously. But I look upon that old man's words as a
warning sent from heaven. I feel that not only are they not to be
ignored, but that they must be obeyed. And what is more, obeyed without
delay. One whom I love, who is to be my wife in a few months time,
is--according to this old man--in imminent danger, and I must reach her,
and go to her assistance as speedily as lies in my power. Listen to the
wind and rain! Good God! the first part of his prophecy is already
coming true."

"Can we help you, dear friend? Do anything for you at the Legation? Give
any message?" asked Mrs. Millward-Fraser with tears of sympathy in her
eyes.

"You can do nothing, dear Mrs. Millward-Fraser, but pray for me in this
the moment of the greatest distress, the greatest agony of my life.
Stay, I will on second thoughts, take the carriage. It is quicker, and
the rain is coming down in torrents. I will send it back to you, and
also Ito, who will return and see you safely home. Adieu!"

And he was gone!



                              CHAPTER XV.

                      'TWIXT SCYLLA AND CHARYBDIS.


It was two or three days before Monsieur de Güldenfeldt's proposed
return. And Pearl knew that if her letter of rupture was to be sent at
all it was necessary to write it without further delay.

For over an hour she had been sitting at her writing table with the
blank paper before her. The atmosphere was heavy and close, signs of a
coming storm. Her head was aching, and her sight dimmed with the pain.

Finally, after merely inscribing a few words, she impatiently threw down
her pen, and, pushing the writing materials aside, she rose from her
seat.

"There will be ample time to catch the post when I come in," she
thought. "My head is splitting. I shall die if I don't have some air."

The sun was covered, but this by no means prevented the heat from being
stifling as Pearl plodded along the path that overhung the lake. Her
feet lagged somewhat, but her thoughts on the contrary, followed each
other in rapid succession, and as she trudged through the undergrowth
she found herself recalling many incidents of her past life. That
unaccountable feeling of misery and depression, that so often weighs
down the spirits before the coming of a typhoon, possessed Mrs. Nugent
this afternoon. This sentiment of melancholy did not strike her as
anything out of the way, for it was indeed many a long day since Pearl
had known what it was to feel really happy or light-hearted. She found
her eyes filling with tears of self-pity as she walked to the border of
the lake, and leaning against a tree, gazed down sadly into its depths.

After all, she drearily thought, what a long incessant struggle had been
her life. What a small, what a very small iota of happiness had fallen
to her lot. Pearl buried her face in her hands, and wondered if, in any
way, she had brought these misfortunes on herself--if, indeed, it had
been through any fault of her own that everyone whom she had trusted and
loved had proved false in the end, that everything she had believed in
had eventually turned to ashes in her hands.

She thought of herself at the time of her marriage--bright, and sunny,
and single-hearted, believing in everybody who was kind to her and in
everything that pleased her. She remembered how this credulity, this
innocent faith in all that was best in human nature, had blindly centred
itself in the husband whose utter worthlessness, before many months were
passed, was the cause of a cruel awakening from this beautiful dream of
pure belief, resulting in disillusion, and in a bitter lesson thoroughly
learnt.

She recalled the wretched years that followed this discovery of Mr.
Norrywood's real disposition. Then she thought of Martinworth, and how
he had come into her life, to transform its misery into an unsatisfied,
restless excitement, which, at the time, she blindly deceived herself
was happiness. From Martinworth her thoughts turned to the sweet widowed
mother, who had died before she left school, but whose example and
teaching had remained implanted in her mind, and was the means of
keeping her honest and pure through many a bitter moment of trial and
temptation. Pearl loved to think of her mother. For long she let her
thoughts linger round this guardian angel of her youth. It was a relief
to turn them away from herself, and to recall that tall, stately figure,
with the large grey eyes, so like her own, the soft voice, and the
grave, sweet smile.

She sat down on a moss-grown boulder, and dwelt tenderly on all the past
incidents of her merry childhood, and trusting, early girlhood. And when
at length she rose, and once more continued her walk, Pearl Nugent's
thoughts had taken a new and a happier turn.

She wandered on, lingering here and there, and occasionally plucking
some of the many ferns and wild flowers that grew by the path. Her eyes
travelled upwards and alighted, at some distance above her, upon a plant
she had long desired, a magnificent specimen of the _Osmunda regina_.
Pearl paused in her walk, and found herself speculating as to how
greatly this giant fern would adorn her rockery, one of the many
beauties of her lovely garden. Finally, with some difficulty, she
succeeded in clambering up the steep upright bank, and regardless of the
rising wind and the rain that now began to fall, she attempted to loosen
the plant, and, for want of a better instrument, commenced digging with
her fingers at the roots.

Mrs. Nugent little knew that she had a solitary but interested spectator
of her proceedings. Martinworth, in his boat on the lake, had caught the
flutter of a white dress through the trees, and, with his keen sight, it
did not take him long to distinguish that the owner of the dress was
Pearl. He shipped his oars, and bending forward watched with absorption
the efforts to uproot the fern. He had not long been thus silently
employed when, to his astonishment and dismay, he saw her jerk suddenly
backwards, and, sliding rapidly down the bank, disappear from view in a
cloud of earth and stones.

The plant that at one time seemed so firmly and obstinately embedded in
the ground had, without warning, become loosened, and Pearl, in giving
one final pull, found herself thrown with violence and unexpected
impetus upon the path.

Her fall was not from any great height. Though dazed for a minute by the
suddenness of her collapse, she was preparing to rise from her lowly
position when, in attempting to stand, a sharp pain in her right ankle
was an unmistakeable and alarming proof that her foot was sprained. With
dismay and a smothered cry she fell back again on the ground.

To make matters worse, the wind was rising every minute, and the rain,
increasing in force, was penetrating the foliage overhead. Pearl made a
supreme effort to drag herself up by catching at the branches and the
brushwood, but the pain of her foot was so intense that, greatly to her
annoyance, she found herself forced to desist from her efforts.

The path was an unfrequented one. And it was hardly a consoling thought
that a night spent in a dripping wood, with a possible typhoon thrown in
for company, was likely to prove the result of her adventure. Indeed,
this anticipation was so little congenial to Pearl that she once more
made a final effort to rise, the consequence being that, certainly for a
minute or two, she lost consciousness from the pain.

She was aroused from this partial lethargy by a rustling of the leaves,
and the next minute the form of Lord Martinworth emerged from behind the
trees.

On any other occasion Martinworth's sudden appearance would have filled
Mrs. Nugent with the greatest dread and consternation. Her present
position was, however, proving so extremely unpleasant that, forgetting
all fears and past disagreeableness, she found herself, on the contrary,
hailing his unexpected arrival on the scene with intense relief.

"Thank goodness! you have come," she exclaimed, as her face brightened.
"I have been very unfortunate, and in falling have sprained my ankle. I
am quite helpless, and unable to move."

Lord Martinworth gazed down at the recumbent form for a few seconds in
silence. Then he said:

"You seem indeed to be in a sorry plight. The only thing I can suggest
is that I should carry you to my boat. I have got it moored close by,"
and, without waiting for a reply, he stooped down and gently lifted her
in his arms. "I will row you home," he added. "Put your arms round my
neck," and Pearl found herself obediently following his directions.

It was with considerable difficulty, hampered as he was by a burden by
no means slight, that Martinworth succeeded in threading his way through
the undergrowth. The climb down the steep uneven bank was long and most
laborious.

He was breathless when he at length deposited Pearl by the edge of the
lake.

"I must wait a moment," he panted, "before I attempt to lift you into
the boat. The lake is fearfully rough, and my little cockleshell is not
made for bad weather. We shall have to keep by the shore. You are not
afraid?" and he looked down at her with a strange light in his eyes.

Pearl hesitated a moment.

"No," she said at last, "I don't think I am afraid, at least, not very
much. But I want to get home as soon as possible. I have to write a
letter that must absolutely go by this evening's post."

Lord Martinworth looked at her fixedly, but said nothing. And once more
he stooped down and lifted her in his arms.

It was no easy matter to place Pearl into the little outrigger which was
dancing like a cork on the water, that from a calm and sunny lake had in
so short a time become transformed into a raging sea. Twice he missed
his footing and nearly fell, and twice he recovered himself, while Pearl
clung tightly to him, and felt his heart beating against her own. The
rain had ceased for the moment, but the wind raged in greater fury than
ever, and it was already getting dusk. Lord Martinworth's third effort,
however, proved successful. Depositing Pearl in the stern of the boat,
he took off his coat and made a cushion for the injured foot.

"It will be an endless, a terrible business getting back," he said,
"Don't stir. For as it is, it will be all I can do to keep the boat from
upsetting. Steer as near the shore as you can."

Pearl silently obeyed his directions, while Lord Martinworth worked
manfully at the sculls.

The boat, as he truly said, was not intended for rough weather. Pearl
soon realised this fact as it danced up and down, backwards and
forwards, and the water came dashing over bow and stern.

At first the pair were silent, for all Martinworth's breath was required
for the effort of sculling against the wind. But at last, during a lull
in the storm, his eyes wandered to his companion's face and remained
fixed there with a steadiness of gaze which Pearl found anything but
reassuring.

"The wind is abating," he finally said. "It is fortunate, as I wish to
ask you something, Pearl."

Mrs. Nugent did not reply, but her heart sank within her.

For some moments Lord Martinworth still rowed on, while it seemed as if
his words were likely to be verified. Though the roughness of the water
still tossed the helpless little boat, the wind had temporarily almost
dropped.

"We can drift in safety, now," he said, and shipping his oars, he leant
toward Pearl.

"Pearl," he said very gently, "I want you to be true. I want you to
frankly answer one or two questions which, considering our former
friendship, I consider I have more than a right to ask. First of all,"
and he paused a moment, "I wish to know, do you still love me, Pearl?"

The question came abruptly. Mrs. Nugent was suffering considerable pain,
and was feeling very angry and rather frightened. She for a moment
forgot the past,--the devoted intercourse of former years--everything
but the present trying situation,--and her answer without hesitation was
sharp and hard.

"You have no right whatsoever to ask me such a question. And you know
it. It is an action unworthy of you, to take advantage of my
helplessness, to place me in such an extremely unpleasant position. But
as you have thought fit to question me, I will not be such a coward as
to shirk the answer. No, Dick, I certainly do not care for you any
longer. All that is passed. My sentiments have--have--changed. I can
only thank God that all that folly is over."

The words had hardly left Pearl's mouth before she bitterly regretted
them. She knew they were harsh and cruel, and she was grieved indeed
when she saw the change that came over Lord Martinworth's face that she
had let her sharp tongue and irritable temper get the better of her.

He winced as if she had struck him, and his cheeks turned white beneath
the sunburn.

"Thank you," he replied with bitterness. "You are certainly carrying out
my request to the letter, and are frank enough. So this is the reward
for the devotion of years. Well! your answer explains many things," he
added musingly. "First of all I learn, that not only do you not love me
now, but what is more, that you never really cared for me, never loved
me as I loved you. I was a blind fool not to have understood that fact
many years ago. You gave me proofs enough, God knows."

"I beg," retorted Pearl, but in a gentler tone, "that you will not
discuss this question, Dick. Did you not promise to bury what has gone?
Why move these gravestones of the past? Will you not continue rowing?
The wind is rising again. I have nothing on but this thin, white gown,
and I am cold and very anxious to get home."

"No," answered Martinworth sternly, "I will not go on rowing for the
present. When I made that promise the situation was entirely different.
You were not then--then----I have another question still to ask. May I
request that you will give me as frank a reply to my second question as
you did to my first?"

Mrs. Nugent remained silent. She shivered and looked anxiously towards
the fast darkening shore.

"I am really sorry to inconvenience you," continued her companion, "but
it is absolutely necessary for the purpose that I have in view that
these questions should be answered clearly, frankly, and without delay.
In fact it entirely depends on the nature of the replies I receive
whether I carry out that purpose or not."

"I don't know what you are talking about," replied Pearl petulantly. "I
am miserably cold and wet. My foot is paining me very much. Only get me
home, and I will answer as many questions as you please."

"Pardon me. One more question at least must be answered now. But I will
not delay you long. Pearl Norrywood"--he unconsciously used her former
name--"as you one day expect to stand before the Throne, tell me the
truth. I must--I will know the truth. Are you or are you not engaged to
be married to de Güldenfeldt?"

As Martinworth uttered these words he leant further forward, gazing
intently at Pearl.

Mrs. Nugent did not respond. She flushed, her eyes falling beneath her
companion's penetrating glance. Fortunate indeed that she averted them
for a time. Thus for a short period, was she saved the sight of the
wildness of expression that slowly crept over the face of her companion,
as the question brought forth no immediate reply.

Mrs. Nugent continued silent. It was not from any desire to prevaricate
or to avoid telling the necessary truth that she hesitated. But at the
moment that the question was asked, so sternly and so impressively, it
struck her like a blow how very different might have been the answer if
her letter to de Güldenfeldt had been written and despatched, instead of
being still to write. She began to realise, to dread, that this one act
of procrastination--vacillation--weakness of mind--whatever it might be
called--was likely to be productive of calamitous results, feared and
foreseen for weeks.

As this thought passed through her mind she instinctively raised her
eyes to Martinworth's face. That one glance was sufficient to impress on
her the certainty that she was in the presence, not only of a madman,
but of one who, with the premeditation, vindictiveness and ferocity of
his type, was she was firmly convinced, contemplating her speedy
destruction.

Strange to say, the conviction of this fact caused her no immediate
terror. Though of a naturally timid and nervous temperament, Pearl, at
this moment of terrible and full assurance, felt none of those
depressing fears that had assailed her of late with such crushing and
ceaseless persistency. She knew now, that from the moment she had seen
that look in Martinworth's eyes weeks ago, she had been preparing
herself for that fate which she had then told herself must surely one
day overtake her. She was alone on a stormy lake with a man no longer
master of himself or of his actions. The wind, which had risen again,
was tearing round in circles, the rain was dashing in their faces, and
the little boat was helplessly tossing first one side and then the
other. She looked up and saw the angry heavens, she looked down and saw
the angry waters, she looked before her and saw what was far more
terrible than either--the angry eyes, wild and threatening, fixed upon
her face. And yet Pearl felt no fear. Not for one moment did she
contemplate the thought of hiding the truth by vain subterfuges, of
cloaking it by prevarications. She knew that in time, all in good time,
an answer must be given. And she likewise knew that that answer would
seal her fate. She only wanted a short moment, a little space to think.
Not to weep over herself or bemoan her own destiny, for an overwhelming
pity for the man before her, a deep compassion, took the place in
Pearl's breast, for the time being, of all natural feelings of terror
and dismay. It was her firm conviction that this man, who had once been
her tender and adoring lover, was in a short space of time about to
become her assassin, and she asked herself, as she gazed into his
terrible face, what must not have been his sufferings of late, that a
transformation such as this should have taken place in the once gentle,
well-balanced and affectionate nature. As Pearl sat there, looking
silently and unflinchingly into those eyes, her individuality for the
moment seemed merged into Martinworth's. Now for the first time did she
truly realise the misery and the despair that had gripped his soul when,
without a murmur, that evening in Tokyo he had left her, resigning all
claim upon her for ever. The strain caused by this voluntary
renunciation of the desire of years had, she knew well, proved too great
for the highly-strung, nervous disposition, and the will, once under
such calm self-control, the brain, once so superior, had ultimately
collapsed under this last final effort of supreme self-denial.

This tragic and undoubtable fact was brought vividly before her as she
continued to gaze back into those eyes. She had retained her own
self-respect, she had acted up to the principles of her youth, she had
kept intact the promise she had made--but--but--on the other side, she
had broken a heart, she had ruined a happy and a useful life, and above
all--she had unwittingly driven a man mad for love of her! And in agony
of mind, Pearl asked herself the question, had she done right? Oh! had
she done right?

And all this time, while Lord Martinworth's inquiry remained unanswered,
his face was growing more terrible, the steely blue eyes more bloodshot.

"Answer me," he said, and he leant forward and caught her by the wrist.
"Are you engaged to de Güldenfeldt? Do you hear me, Pearl? Answer me!"

At the contact of his hand on her wrist, Pearl drew back and shuddered.
She at last felt her nerves giving way under the tension. And she was
aware that all feelings of self-reproach, regret, and compassion were
becoming submerged in a more natural sentiment--that of genuine terror
for her own safety. She looked despairingly around her, and saw with
horror and dismay that they were drifting towards the river that led to
the waterfall. The current was swift and strong at that place, and she
well knew that if Martinworth did not at once take the oars it would
merely be a matter of minutes before they were dashed over the brink
into eternity! The knowledge flashed upon her as they sped nearer and
nearer to the fatal spot that this was the end that from the moment he
had lifted her into his boat he had decided upon. Again Pearl shuddered,
as her eyes fled once more to his face, and she knew that further delay
was impossible, and that she must speak.

"Dick," she replied, "you will kill me. I know it. I read your intention
in your face. You loved me once, Dick, but now your love has turned to
hate. It is clear enough. Your hate is so bitter that you will kill me.
But I have never told you a lie and I will not die with one on my lips.
Yes, I--I am engaged to Monsieur de Güldenfeldt, but I am not----"

The sentence remained unfinished. Martinworth waited for no more. He
started from his seat, and shouting wildly, so that his ringing voice
was heard far above the roaring of the wind and the waters: "Never,
Pearl! Never! Mine at least in death," he stretched his arms towards
her, tore her from where she was crouching on her seat, and clasped her
to him. For a moment they stood thus, locked in each other's arms,
tottering with unsteady feet in the fragile boat, while he gazed with
all the frenzy of insanity into her white face. Then as his eyes
lingered on hers, large with terror and despair, his sinister intentions
appeared to soften, for a change, sudden and complete, passed over his
face, transforming the wild glare of madness into a look of grief,
despairing sorrow and reproof--sad and mournful in the extreme. He
stooped down, let his eyes dwell on hers with the adoring look of old,
kissed her once tenderly, almost reverentially, on the forehead, and
replacing her as gently upon her seat as he had torn her roughly from
it, Lord Martinworth balanced himself for one second on the edge of the
boat, then plunged headlong into the seething lake!

One stifled cry mingled with the fury of the wind as, with the violence
of Martinworth's movement, the little craft upset, and Pearl Nugent,
precipitated into the water, was hurled through the rushing current, and
carried helplessly towards the waterfall!



                              CHAPTER XVI.

                      "IT IS BEST SO, AMY, DEAR."


And all through that dreadful night raged one of the most terrible and
disastrous typhoons that had visited Japan for many years. Mrs. Nugent
and Lord Martinworth, not returning to their respective domiciles, an
immediate search was instituted, but as the darkness deepened the wind
and rain increased in fury. It was a sheer impossibility to stand up
against the raging gale, and eventually the hopeless search had to be
temporarily abandoned. In that one night the lake rose six feet, huge
landslips descended from Nantai-san, and bridges and roads and dwellings
were washed away and demolished, as if mere sheets of paper.

As dawn approached the torrents ceased, and the wind abated.

At length the sun rose in full glory, casting in brilliant irony its
penetrating rays over this grievous scene of waste and desolation. And
mingling with the foliage of a great tree blown across the still raging
stream the auburn tint of Pearl Nugent's hair shone like red gold among
the green.

On the upsetting of the boat she had been borne down the torrent. A few
seconds more and she would have been dashed over the rocks, hundreds of
feet high, which form the cascade. But some hours before, during the
fury of the storm, a giant pine tree had fallen with a deafening crash
half across the stream. It was that tree that saved Pearl from a watery
grave, for wedged, as in a vice, between a fork of its branches, her
bruised, unconscious form was ultimately discovered. Her head and
shoulders were out of the water, and the rushing stream, instead of
loosening, had apparently been the means of entangling only more
securely the rent and dripping garments to the branches of the tree.
From the bank could be seen her head, with its ashen face and closed
eyes, thrown back and pillowed, as it were, upon a wealth of green
foliage, while the torrent tore around her with raging fury, in its
onward relentless course battering and bruising the delicate limbs.

It was at considerable risk to their own lives that Ralph and Count
Carlitti, and other brave men with them, crept cautiously and with the
greatest difficulty along the trunk of the tree, over the greater part
of which the water was still rushing. By dint of clinging with all their
strength to the upstanding branches they at last succeeded after many
vain attempts and countless perils, in reaching the tossed, unconscious
form.

Count Carlitti clung on to Ralph with all his force, while the latter
laid himself down flat on the trunk, and set about cutting away, as best
he could, the remnants of Pearl's clothing from the branches. After a
wearisome, and what appeared an endless time, this difficult task was at
length successfully accomplished, enabling them to drag the inanimate
body gently and tenderly along the trunk of the tree, finally rescuing
it from the watery bed in which it had been helplessly tossed by the
stormy elements for so many hours.

As Ralph bent his head, resting it on her breast, his face brightened
somewhat.

"Her heart beats," he murmured. "Thank God she still lives."

Between them they bore her home, and laid her with loving care on the
little bed from which Pearl Nugent was fated never to rise again, for
human skill was unavailing.

The army doctor from Hong-Kong, who some weeks before had attended
Martinworth, was still at Chuzenji. He did his utmost to relieve all
pain, and indeed on recovering consciousness Pearl suffered but little.
Her spine, independent of other severe internal injuries, was discovered
fatally damaged, and Pearl and those around her knew that she was dying.
She lingered all that day and all the next, sweet and patient to the
end. Rosina and Amy and Lady Martinworth were there. They never left the
bedside, and the latter's medical knowledge and gentle, experienced
nursing helped greatly to lighten and relieve those last sad and
distressing days.

Shortly after Mrs. Nugent had awakened from the deathlike swoon that had
lasted so many hours, and when in spite of her diminishing forces she
was quite capable of understanding what was wanted of her, she slowly
and painfully turned her head on the pillow, and letting her veiled orbs
linger on the face bending over her, she read the mute question
expressed by Lady Martinworth's miserable eyes.

She put out her hand and gently drew her face to hers.

"He is--drowned," she whispered. "We were--together. The boat upset--in
the storm."

That was all. And surely when her spirit stands in judgment before the
Throne, Pearl Nugent will be pardoned for having said no more.

She would lie silent and motionless, with her beautiful soft grey eyes,
dark with the shadow of death, wide open, while from time to time she
would smile with an angelic sweetness at the three women who were
watching her.

She spoke but little. Indeed with these few rare exceptions she hardly
noticed her watchers, for her thoughts seemed far away from all earthly
things. The next day, however, towards the end, as Amy, weeping, was
leaning over the bed, she smiled back into her eyes, and whispered very
low:

"It is--best so, Amy, dear. Do not weep--for me. I am quite
content--more content, more at peace than I have been--for many, many
long years. If I had lived--I should not have been happy--nor--should
I--have made others--Stanislas--dear, good kind Stanislas--happy.
Yes,--it is--best so. I am--quite ready,--quite--willing to--die. No
more--difficulties, or--dread, or--terrible indecision,--or--uncertainty
now. No more unhappiness--now. All--soon will be made--clear, Amy, dear.
When--I am gone--be kind--to Stanislas,--poor--Stanislas, for--he--will
grieve, and thank--God--he--will never--know--now, never--know--now. Do
not--weep for me, darling. I--have--always--loved--you--Amy.
Please--please--do not--weep--so."

And then after a minute or two she sighed and asked: "Where--is he?"

"Ralph went to Tokyo at once to tell him," answered Amy, her voice
choked with sobs. "Telegraphic communication has been interrupted by the
storm, and the road is washed away. No one can go down or come up from
Nikko. Ralph, however, will have got there, Pearl, my darling, even if
he had to climb twenty mountains. They will soon be here, darling."

"Yes," whispered Pearl softly, "he will be here--before I die. He
is--coming. He knows--I want him. But he--will grieve,
poor--Stanislas,--poor--true--heart, he--will grieve,--but--thank
God!--he will--never--know--now."

Then she turned her head, and for the last time, and in unbroken
silence, she gazed out far before her at the mountains and the lake.

It was the following morning shortly after dawn that the doctor told
them she could not last much longer. And even as he was making this sad
announcement Stanislas de Güldenfeldt, accompanied by Ralph, who had met
him half way to Tokyo, weary and worn and travel stained, appeared
outside the house.

Pearl, who had been lying partially unconscious for many hours, suddenly
awoke from her torpor, and raising her head from the pillow, gazed
fixedly with shining eyes through the open _shoji_.

"Stanislas has come! He is near me!" she called in a clear and ringing
voice, "Bring him to me."

Rosina exchanged a glance of surprise with Amy as she left the room, for
from where Pearl was lying in bed it was impossible for her to see her
lover, and silence reigned,--no word had been spoken.

Stanislas de Güldenfeldt, exhausted by sorrow and fatigue, went alone
into the room of his dying love. And when, over an hour later, the
others, anxious at the ominous silence, ventured within the
death-chamber, they found him kneeling by the bedside--unconscious,--his
dark hair mingling on the pillow with Pearl's auburn curls, while her
dead cheek was pressed against his lips, and her dead arms were clasped
around his neck.

                   *       *       *       *       *

                   *       *       *       *       *

                   *       *       *       *       *

                   *       *       *       *       *

Stanislas never completely recovered from the shock and grief of Pearl's
tragic death. Shortly following her loss he left the Diplomatic Service.
He was strongly advised against this step by his many friends, amongst
whom, as his truest and his best, he counted not only the Rawlinsons and
Sir Ralph and Lady Nicholson, but his former colleague, Count Carlitti,
who in fair Japan, falling a victim to the freshness of Muriel
Millward-Fraser, had promptly, within two months of Mrs. Nugent's death,
placed his ancient name and title, to say nothing of his "leetle
fortune," in all their completeness at the extremely pretty feet of
"_cette belle jeune fille Anglaise_."

But the counsels of de Güldenfeldt's friends fell on deaf ears. He took
a hatred for the Service, and never for a moment in the future did he
regret his former busy and interesting life. He made England the country
of his adoption, buying himself a small but beautiful estate in one of
the western counties. There, surrounded by his lovely garden and orchid
houses, his books, and portraits and souvenirs of Pearl, he passed--if
not a happy--at any rate a peaceful existence, and when not at home he
spent much of his time with the Nicholsons, whose lovely place was in
the adjoining county.

His devotion to his god-daughter, Pearl Nicholson, was profound. And to
her alone was he ever known to mention the name of his dead love. Many
were the talks that this strange pair, the elderly, saddened man and the
innocent child, held on this subject. But to the last, to no other
person, not even to Rosina or to Amy, did Stanislas de Güldenfeldt ever
refer directly to that unforgotten page that influenced every thought
and action of his life.

This sweet confidence between the man and child had arisen in this way.

Seven or eight years after Pearl's death, while the Nicholsons were
paying their annual visit to Lynlath, Stanislas entered one day,
somewhat unexpectedly, into his library. There, in front of a full
length and most successful portrait of Mrs. Nugent, painted after her
death from photographs and description, was standing, with uplifted head
and sorrowful visage--his little god-daughter. The child's hands were
clasped behind her back, and the same gleam of sun that lit up the
sweet, lovely face of the portrait fell across the golden locks of the
little girl, as she turned towards Stanislas with tears streaming down
her cheeks.

"You have, godpapa," she said, "so many pictures of this beautiful lady
with the large grey eyes. What lovely hair she has! But what a sad, sad
face! I feel I love her so, and often and often I come in here and look
at her, and she seems to talk to me. Tell me about her, godpapa. Did you
love her too?"

And Stanislas de Güldenfeldt took Pearl's namesake on his knee, and with
sad eyes gazing back far into the past he told her of his eternal love.


     _Printed by Holland Rowbottom, "Graphic" Office, Bournemouth._



                           Transcriber Notes:

Passages in italics were indicated by _underscores_.

Small caps were replaced with ALL CAPS.

Throughout the dialogues, there were words used to mimic accents of the
speakers. Those words were retained as-is.

Errors in punctuations and inconsistent hyphenation were not corrected
unless otherwise noted.

On page 2, "excidedly" was replaced with "excitedly".

On page 17, "obtaintaining" was replaced with "obtaining".

On page 17, "to to" was replaced with "to".

On page 59, a quotation mark was added before "By Jove!".

On page 64, the comma after "ashamed to acknowledge her as his cousin"
was replaced with a period.

On page 87, "shirne" was replaced with "shrine".

On page 118, "cousins,and" was replaced with "cousins, and".

One page 132, "Mrs" was replaced with "Mrs."

On page 192, "rivetted" was replaced with "riveted".

On page 201, a period was added after "as she recalled those moment".

On page 220, a quotation mark was added after "and--and----"

On page 225, "with-without" was replaced with "without".

On page 264, "pursuade" was replaced with "persuade".





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