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Title: Quicksands
Author: Croker, B. M. (Bithia Mary)
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "Quicksands" ***




  Author of "The Cat's Paw," etc.


  London, New York, Toronto and Melbourne


  CHAPTER                                   PAGE

  1. THE BRIDGE OF DREAMS                      1

  2. BEKE                                     13

  3. A MEETING ON THE MARSHES                 24

  4. A DANCE AT "THE PLOUGH"                  31

  5. THE GREAT INVASION                       45

  6. IN AUNT MINA'S SHOES                     61

  7. THE FAMILY SKELETON                      79

  8. "AN OPEN DOOR"                           85

  9. OUT OF THE FRYING-PAN                   100

  10. THE "ASPHODEL"                         107

  11. A HILL STATION                         119

  12. THE NOTORIOUS MRS. DE LACY             137

  13. A FRESH START                          148

  14. THE CLUB                               157

  15. A RENEWED FRIENDSHIP                   170

  16. AN UNWELCOME VISITOR                   185

  17. A COMPROMISE                           195

  18. THE RESIDENCY BALL                     203

  19. "YES--OR NO?"                          221

  20. CLOUDS                                 229

  21. RONNIE'S CONFESSION                    242

  22. PUNISHMENT                             253

  23. A HAVEN                                266

  24. THE FLIGHT                             279

  25. AT BANGALORE                           288

  26. WITHIN THE PRECINCTS                   296

  27. DARK DAYS                              310

  28. HYDER ALI'S GARDEN                     326

  29. THE ORDER OF RELEASE                   335




One sultry September afternoon, some years ago, my brother Ronald
and I, being tired and dusty, found a temporary resting-place on the
parapet of a little old bridge that spanned a sleepy stream. Through a
thin silk blouse a comforting sun beat upon my back, and I was serenely
conscious of an unusual sense of happiness and well-being--though I
owed little to my surroundings. In all England it would have been
difficult to find a more featureless and monotonous outlook than the
prospect that lay stretched before us. A series of flat, marshy fields,
exhibiting here a space of willowy green, and there a patch of black
soil, enclosed by ragged hedges or deep, dark dykes. Occasionally a few
lonely and distorted trees, or a humped-up cluster of red roofs, varied
the scene, which gradually faded until sky and horizon seemed to melt
away into one pale blur.

"What a region!" exclaimed Ronnie, as he tossed away the stump of a
cigarette. "The back of beyond, the Land of Never Never! Never again,
so far as I am concerned! Who discovered it?"

"It was discovered by the Danes, I believe," I answered; "they say it
was once under the sea."

"A pity it did not stay there!"

"It's rather cheerful now, and the air is splendid; but you should see
it in winter, when it has a grey, weird, starving sort of look, and the
face of the country is like a dead thing."

"Well, thank goodness, I am spared that," rejoined Ronnie. "I shall be
out in the nice sultry East, sunning myself among the big red boulders
that are scattered round Secunderabad."

"And you start on Friday? Oh, Ronnie, I believe you are _glad_ to go

"Yes; I am jolly glad, only for leaving you, old girl--and in such a
hole as Beke. My leave has gone like a flash; just a month at home. I
must say it is a beastly shame they did not ask you to Torrington when
I was there."

"Aunt Mina sees as little of me as possible--she does not like me, and
is at no pains to conceal the fact. The girls and I have never what you
call 'got on'; we have nothing in common. You see I am much younger
than they are."

"And so much better looking," supplemented my brother.

Waving aside his compliment, I continued:

"You know, when I first went to Torrington I was a small child, and by
all accounts dreadfully spoiled; later on, in the holidays, I was too
young to appear in company, and was generally hustled out of sight.
My goodness, but it was dull, all alone, in the old nursery! Coming
down to lunch as a treat, cross-examined and snubbed by the girls, and
overawed by Aunt Mina--she had a way of looking at me that made me feel
as if I had no clothes on!"

"My dear Eva, don't be improper!"

"You see," I resumed--now comfortably embarked on a flowing tide of
talk, and eager to impart my confidence to a sympathetic ear--"I can
realise what a nuisance I was in those days. The house was full of
grown-ups and smart people, and I was just a lanky girl who slunk in to
lunch or was met roaming about the grounds! Then twice I brought home
infection, and gave most of the establishment mumps and chicken-pox--so
you can't wonder that I was not popular! After all, I am only Aunt
Mina's niece by marriage; Uncle is nice to me in his cheery, vague,
irresponsible way, but he has no _say_. Living in the nursery, I
naturally heard a good deal of backstairs talk, and gathered that Aunt
manages everything--even to evicting tenants and arranging the shoots."

"Oh, come! I don't think it is as bad as all that," protested Ronnie;
"though of course a man who marries half a million must pay _some_ sort
of interest. The family were in very deep water, when potted meat came
along and hauled them out. When were you last at Torrington?"

"Two years ago this Christmas."

Ronnie was about to exclaim, but I put my hand over his mouth.

"Do let _me_ talk," I pleaded. "I want to tell you things I can't
write. It was the Christmas before last. I was in long frocks with
my hair up, and had just left Cheltenham. I caught a slight cold on
the journey, but was nevertheless in the wildest spirits, full of
anticipation of the delights that awaited me now that I was officially

"Yes, yes," interrupted Ronnie impatiently; "that is all stale news."

"The evening after I arrived there was a dinner party, and I happened
by good luck to sit next to a charming man, who was very agreeable, and
no doubt drew me out. A lively girl sat opposite to us; she had a loud
voice, and talked the most ridiculous nonsense, much appreciated by
Beverley, her neighbour.

"'What is your family disease?' she asked him; 'ours is softening of
the bones.' And Bev replied:

"'Our hereditary disease is gambling.'

"'Which leads,' said the girl, 'to softening of the _brain_!'"

I paused, turned to my brother, and said:

"Did you ever hear that there was gambling in the Lingard family?"

"There's a taste for gambling in every family," he answered evasively.
"Well, go on about your dinner party. What happened?"

"I am afraid I allowed my spirits to get the better of me, for I
laughed and chattered incessantly. I know I always talk too much."

"No doubt of that--when you get the chance," corroborated my listener.

"I pulled crackers, put on paper caps, exchanged mottoes and poetry,
and in short enjoyed myself enormously. Afterwards, when the men came
into the drawing-room, my dinner friend found me out at once, and at
his suggestion we retired into an obscure corner, in order to cement
our acquaintance. All at once I began to notice that the surrounding
atmosphere was chilly: I saw my cousins whispering together, and I
believe Clara summoned her mother, for presently Aunt Mina swooped
upon us, and told my companion that she had something she particularly
wished to show him, and, in spite of his obvious reluctance, she took
him in charge, and marched him off. A significant glance assured me
that I was in deep disgrace, and when people had settled down to music
or bridge I stole away to bed."

"Best place for you," interposed Ronnie.

"I was woke out of my first sleep by Clara, who came into my room,
candle in hand, wearing her most venomous expression; the visit was
on purpose to inform me that she 'was really _sorry_ I had made such
a dreadful exhibition of myself at dinner, laughing and screaming at
the top of my voice, pulling crackers, sticking things in my hair,
altogether behaving like a shop girl'! I heard no more beyond a murmur,
as I covered up my head with the bed clothes. When at last I was
compelled to emerge from want of air, the room was in darkness, and my
cousin had disappeared. As my cold was pretty bad I was confined to
my old quarters, the nursery, and there I remained for several days.
Beverley, just home from Eton, used to come and sit with me, and bring
me the news. He informed me that Major Halliday, my charming friend,
had been making tender inquiries after me, adding: 'I suppose you
didn't happen to know that he is by way of being Clara's young man--she
had all but landed him!'

"Bev befriended me--supplied me with magazines and chocolates, but when
he began to make love to me--that was another pair of shoes!"

"So I should think--the moon-faced idiot!" commented Ronnie.

"Well, one afternoon he tried to kiss me, and was actually chasing me
round the table, when Aunt Mina entered. She was furious. Bev fled
headlong, and on me she poured all the vials of her wrath. She said
I was a bold, designing minx, a disgrace to the family. For once I
protested, and protested with fury--assured her that I loathed the
sight of Bev, and never wished to see him again--no, nor anyone at
Torrington! Naturally I was soon squashed. Aunt was too strong for me,
and the scene ended in humiliation and tears. Possibly my prolonged
weeping increased my cold, which presently developed alarmingly. The
local doctor (Aunt Mina's slave) was summoned. He talked gravely about
pneumonia, and my lungs, and announced that I had a delicate chest, and
must on _no_ account remain at Torrington--the place was too low and
enervating--so I was promptly packed off to Beke, where I have been
ever since!"

"Great Scott!" exclaimed Ronnie. "Why, it is a sort of countrified
Bastille. How on earth did Aunt Mina discover it?"

"Quite easily," I replied. "Miss Puckle was the girls' governess
when I was small. I remember her well; so trim and punctual, and
authoritative, with a trick of pulling down her belt if she was going
to be disagreeable, but always indulgent to me. When I was in trouble I
used to sit on her lap and just sob and sob."

"I wonder you don't do it now," said Ronnie.

"I am afraid I am a size too large. As for Beke, some years ago an old
relation died and left a fine legacy and 'The Roost' between Lizzie and
her uncle the professor, so they retired together, and are now in what
is called 'easy circumstances.' I contribute a hundred a year."

"You are humbugging! Why, they ought to pay _you_ as companion--and
lady help."

"Aunt arranged everything; she declared I could not be better off
than at 'The Roost.' The doctor particularly recommended this marshy
air, with a dash of sea, she said, and I might continue my music and
sketching with Lizzie--who would finish me properly."

"_Finish_ you indeed!" cried Ronnie, "I wonder Beke has not finished
you long ago. Hallo, I say, who are the riders coming down the road?
Shall I put my arm round your neck and pretend I am your sweetheart,
and give the poor natives a fresh piece of gossip?"

"Put your arm round my neck if you like, but all the village knows that
you are my brother, my only near relation. Clarice has a cousin at 'The
Beetle,' which is our newsagency."

"Clarice," repeated Ronnie, "is that the shuffling parlour-maid with
the cock eye?"

"She is a capital servant," I replied, "and sees as much as three. Here
come the Soadys."

"Who are they?--tell me quickly," urged Ronnie.

"Sam Soady and his daughter. She is the only girl I know in these
parts, and has been my great stand-by. He is a rich farmer, sells
cattle and horses, and lives in an old manor house the other side of

Almost before I concluded, the Soadys were upon us, a fine, solid,
up-sitting pair, with the same open countenances, ruddy cheeks and blue
eyes. As they halted, Tossie cried out:

"Hallo, Eva, fancy seeing you roosting beside the road!"

"Yes, my brother says I have walked him off his legs. Let me introduce
him to you. Mr. Lingard, Miss Soady, and Mr. Soady."

The latter touched his cap and said in his loud, hoarse voice:

"Not much to see in these parts, sir!"

"No, I have not come across anything to touch your two gees; fine
weight-carriers," walking over to his side as he spoke--horses always
attracted Ronnie.

"Aye, they are good 'uns," assented the farmer, "and rarely bred. My
girl and I have been giving them a bit of a gallop in the fields yonder
now the crops are in, getting them fit for the cub-hunting. I will be
pleased to do a deal, sir," he added jocosely.

"Thanks, awfully, but I ride ten stone, and I'm off to India on Friday.
I should have thought you would only have had otter hunting in this
part of the country."

"Round here there is naught but water rats, but on our side of Beke
there is rare fine going, and two good packs within reach."

During this conversation Tossie was considering Ronnie with an air
of fascinated attention; her eyes resembled two blue glass balls,
and her gaze expressed undisguised approval. Ronnie and I were the
same height--that is to say, five-foot-eight. He was slight, well
set up, and remarkably good looking. From his earliest childhood he
had been excessively particular about his personal appearance, had
never objected to having his hair brushed and his hands washed, and,
as he stood on the road before Miss Soady, he presented a picture of
a thoroughly well turned out and admirably groomed young man. Tweed
suit, boots and shirt, were precisely what they should be; his glossy
hair was delicately scented; socks, tie and handkerchief were all in
sympathy; and yet there was nothing remarkable in his get-up--it was
subdued, simple, and absolutely "the right thing." What a contrast
to my own countrified appearance in a home-made serge skirt, a baggy
blouse, sunburnt sailor hat, and bare hands--we rarely wore gloves at

Ronnie now turned to Tossie's horse, patted its damp neck, and looking
up at the rider, said:

"So I hear you and my sister are great pals; she tells me you have been
awfully kind to her."

"Not a little bit of it, it's the other way on," she protested in her
loud, far-reaching contralto.

"Eva keeps us all alive, she plays tennis like a professional, and her
singing is just a treat. Are you making a stay?"

"No, I am off to-morrow."

"A little of the professor goes a long way?" she suggested archly.

"I did not come to see him, but my sister," he answered stiffly.

"Aye, I expect you came home to look up missie," put in Sam. "There be
only the two of you."

"Partly, and partly business; it is bad luck I can't wait on and have a
shot at the partridge."

"Aye, and I could give you a rare day's sport. Well, maybe another
time," said the farmer. "Now Tossie, these horses be too warm to be
kept standing. Good-day, sir, and good luck. Good-day, missie--see you
soon," and he moved off.

Tossie, I observed, was not disposed to follow, but inclined to linger
and improve her acquaintance with Ronnie.

"I think your sister _might_ have brought you up to see us, Mr.
Lingard; I do, indeed," she said emphatically.

"We have only had a short time together, Miss Soady, and Eva had such
a lot of talking to get through," he replied with his charming smile;
"better luck next time."

"I hope so," agreed Tossie, as she wrung his hand, and, with obvious
reluctance, followed her parent. As they departed at a walking pace
Ronnie declaimed:

    "'I saw them go: one horse was blind,
    The tails of both hung down behind,
        Their shoes were on their feet.'

"All the same, those are fine weight carriers, and have lots of bone.
That girl must ride thirteen stone, if she weighs an ounce. I think she
seemed a little sniffy because you did not take me there to pay a visit
of ceremony."

"Oh, Ronnie, I have only had you for two days, and the day we spent
together in London."

"Well then, let's make the most of our time," he said, seating himself
once more on the bridge, "and continue to talk of our joys and sorrows."

"_Your_ joys and _my_ sorrows," I corrected.

"Yes, there is something in that. I have, ten to one, the best of
it. Here am I at six-and-twenty, on the point of getting my company,
returning to a life that suits me down to the ground, strong and
healthy, with lots of pals, and a fat balance at Cox's. Oh, Sis, I
tell you, it's jolly to be alive!" and he thumped me violently on
the back. "This old world is a grand place; I have a feeling in my
bones that in some way my name will ring through it--my subconscious
what-you-may-call-it tells me that I am going to have a ripping
career--I shall make the race of Lingard famous!"

"I hope you will, with all my heart," I answered with enthusiasm. "And
I shall play the part of proud sister to the manner born."

"Yes, you have always been my backer," said Ronnie, "and no end of a

"What happens to you in a way affects me; your good luck will be my
good luck. Perhaps this old bridge may be uncanny, for I too have my
premonitions, and I believe that in some unexpected way our fortunes
will be bound together."

"I'm afraid there's not much chance of that," said Ronnie, "but who
knows?" Then, starting to his feet, "Oh, Lord, here are the professor
and Lizzie coming to look for us! We can finish our jaw in the garden,
after our so-called dinner. Let us advance to meet them, it saves time,
and looks _empressé_. Call up that dog, he is hunting water rats. Well,
good-bye, old bridge," he went on, slapping the grey stone parapet as
he spoke, "I don't expect we shall ever meet again, but I jolly well
hope those visions will come true!"



Professor Septimus Puckle must have been considerably over sixty
years of age, a burly, slouching figure, moving with a ponderous and
pompous gait; he had a grey beard, two shallow little brown eyes, and
a dome-shaped head covered by a soft cap--he also wore a roomy suit
of creased black-and-white flannel, and elastic-side boots. In these
days, Lizzie, his niece, seemed elderly to me--possibly she may have
been about forty. Her figure was remarkably pretty, and her sharp,
clever face was illuminated by a pair of bright eyes which shone
steadily behind a pince-nez. Perhaps her manner was somewhat abrupt and
authoritative, but Lizzie was a capable and cultivated woman, with a
level head and warm heart.

"So here you are!" began the professor; "we have come out to look for

"Thanks awfully," replied my brother, "but there's not much fear of
being lost in these parts, as apparently there is only one road."

"Oh, we have others--several others," protested Lizzie. "Where is
Kipper?" now looking about. "We must be getting back to tea, as I have
a choir practice at half-past five," and she screamed "Kipper! Kipper!

After a momentary delay, Kipper emerged from under the bridge a
deplorable object, dripping with muddy water, and immediately proceeded
to shake himself in our vicinity.

"Get away! get away!" shouted the professor, making a drive at him with
his stick.

"Oh, poor boy!" I interposed, "he has been hunting rats, and having
such a happy time."

"Yes, that's all he thinks of, the horrid brute. I hate the sight of
him," declared his master.

"Uncle Sep loved him till you came, Eva, and cut him out in Kipper's

We had now turned homewards, that is to say, in the direction from
where the dagger-like spire of Beke church rose from the plain, and
were walking four abreast, adapting our pace to the professor's
self-conscious waddle, with the humbled Kipper skulking in our wake.

"Yes," continued Uncle Sep in his deep, scholastic voice, "I don't mind
telling you, when the fellow was a pup I tolerated him, took him round
the garden, suffered him to lie at my fire, and even gave him milk;
and for thanks, he tore up my new slippers and several most important
papers. I even forgave him that!" emphasising such generosity with
a large, fat hand. "But when Eva arrived he simply turned me down,
ignored my existence, never answered when I called him, no, no more
than if I was a piece of furniture; to be dropped by a dog makes one
rather small!"

"I am sure you could never feel that!" protested Ronnie with dangerous

"Well, but, Uncle Sep," hastily interposed Lizzie, "you know Eva takes
Kip for long runs over the marshes, she brushes him, makes up his
dinner--_your_ friendship was merely passive."

"He was glad enough of it once," rejoined the injured patron; "but two
can play at that game. Now I never open a door for him--on principle."

"So you have your innings!" exclaimed my irrepressible brother, "and
I am sure you have something else to do than wait on a cold-hearted
terrier. By the way, how do you put in your time? Do you play golf?"

"Golf? No--do I look like golf?" The professor halted, and leaning both
hands on his stick, challenged an opinion.

"Well, no," admitted Ronnie. "You look more like fishing--lots of

"I sit at my desk, my good sir, I fish for ideas. I write poetry,
articles, reviews. 'My mind to me a kingdom is'--_I_ require no outside

"No; but what about outside exercise?"

"Exercise!" repeated the professor; "the world is crazy on that
subject. I was brought up to a sedentary life; even at school I never
went in for games, but was always keen on brain work. For years I was
Lecturer and Professor of Classics and English Literature. Now I have
retired my time is my own. I am enjoying the luxury of leisure, and I
don't mind telling you that in my lighter mood I write plays."

"Plays!" echoed Ronnie, staring at the professor with blank
incredulity. "By George, do you?"

"Yes, I have one now, a four-act comedy, under consideration at the
Metropolitan Theatre. Just at present I am hard at work on the history
of Slacklands and our local folk-lore."

The mere mention of the subject loosened the professor's tongue, and
all the way home--and almost without drawing breath--he held forth on
this topic in a full, monotonous voice, and with a fierce determination
that would brook no interruption. Ronnie, poor victim, was helpless,
so to speak, benumbed, by such an unusual experience; and I could not
help smiling to myself as I glanced at his face of furious boredom. Our
arrival at the village of Beke put an end to the lecture. The professor
could not well continue declaiming and ranting in public--as was his
custom in his own garden--and the sight of the first cottage was the
signal for our release. Beke, a dreary old village, which had seen
better days, consisted of one long, clean street, lined with irregular
red-roofed houses, some of a great age. Half-way up the thoroughfare
stood the church, a notable edifice, with flying buttresses, surrounded
by the tombstones of its dead parishioners. Facing the church was
the "Beetle Inn," a crooked black-and-white hostelry, which kept the
only fly in the country; farther on, the Parsonage and "The Roost"
confronted one another; the latter, a trim, red, Georgian residence,
was approached by a brick path across a small enclosure, at present gay
with a multitude of pink and lilac phlox.

Outwardly "The Roost" was insignificant, within both roomy and
comfortable. The walls were wainscoted, the fireplaces of generous
space. The doors of the principal rooms were of rich South American
mahogany, and most of the furniture was quaint and old-fashioned: in
former days "The Roost" had been the abode of taste and leisure. Now,
alas! times were sadly changed.

The professor had ample leisure but no taste; his niece had a
cultivated taste but no leisure--all her spare hours were dedicated to
the parson and the parish.

Undoubtedly these changes had been anticipated, for a deeply cut
carving on a panel in the passage said:

    "All terrene things by turns we see
    Become another's property.
    Mine now must be another's soon,
    I know not whose, when I am gone;
    An earthly house is bound to none."

A glass door at the back of the hall opened upon an unexpectedly large
garden, gently sloping to the sluggish river; here there were long
gravel walks--worn bare by the professor's pacing--bordered with box
and old standard roses. Here was also a notable mulberry tree, several
rustic seats, and a sundial on which was inscribed, "Time will tell."

That evening a full white moon illuminated the land, and after dinner
Ronnie and I effected our escape, and strolled to and fro arm in arm
along the professor's pet walk; this would be our last hour together.

"I cannot stand that slovenly old bore," said Ronnie. "Did you notice
the ink on his fingers and the crumbs in his beard? I don't know which
is the worst--his drivelling talk or his appearance. I wonder he hasn't
driven you mad long ago. I've only been here two days, and already my
reason is tottering. Does he _never_ stop talking?"

"Sometimes," I replied, "when he is not pleased and sulks."

"Is it really true that he writes plays?"

"Yes, for his own entertainment. They are never accepted. He spends
lots of money on dramatic agents, typewriting, and so on, and, as a
great favour, he generally reads the plays to me."

"You long-suffering martyr! I should certainly kick at that."

"They are not so bad; it is his poetry that I cannot endure--so
sickeningly sweet, it makes me feel positively squeamish! Sometimes he
brings it to meals and reads it between the courses, and says, 'Lizzie
and Eva, you must really hear this, it is _delicious_.'"

"What lunacy!" cried Ronnie. "It seems to me you would be just as well
off in an asylum for idiots."

"By no means," I objected; "the professor is as dull as a wet Sunday,
but Lizzie is immensely clever, a thorough musician, speaks French like
a native, and has no end of certificates. She was governess in the
family of a Russian Grand Duke before she went to Torrington. Besides,
I am really fond of her; I think she finds Uncle Sep trying at times,
and after he has read me a play she will say, 'Now don't pretend you
liked it, Eva--speak the truth. Tell him it is just wordy _rubbish_!
I implore you not to encourage him; as long as he writes letters and
poetry for the _Slacklands Post_ it is all right, but the plays burn a
hole in his pocket.' He is really not a bad old boy--rather simple and
weak, in spite of his fierce eyebrows--anyone, even a child, can lead
him by flattery."

"I wish I saw my way to leading you out of this hole," said Ronnie;
"my visit has been a shocker; if they would only have you at
Torrington--but I suppose that as long as those girls are unmarried you
will be what I may call 'reserved.'"

"I have no wish to go to Torrington," I replied. "Beke may be dull, but
here I don't live in fear and trembling of anyone. I wonder why Aunt
Mina, who detests me, is so friendly to you?"

"I think I can answer that," rejoined Ronnie. "I am a Lingard--quite
the family type--ears and all. I am self-supporting, I have four
hundred a year, I have done pretty well for myself so far, and I am in
a crack regiment. Also I can shoot and dance, make myself useful in a
house party, and do not--like my pretty sister--extinguish the girls or
fascinate Bev--quite the contrary, so far as he is concerned; moreover,
should anything happen to that long-necked young pup, I am the next
heir. When I told Aunt Mina I was coming here she was inclined to be
apologetic, and said she was so sorry that Torrington did not agree
with you, and that she had settled you at Beke solely on account of
your health and education, as they had found you extraordinarily young
and unformed for your age. Tell me, Sis, how do you put in your time
when you are not doing lessons?"

"Oh, I dust the china, practise, go for long walks with Kipper, poke
round the village among my friends, and play tennis with the Soadys,
who sometimes give me a mount. On wet days I help Clarice to clean the
silver, and besides all this I read a lot. I've unearthed no end of old
books in a closet, some horribly musty, and printed with those long
S's. I've just been devouring a fearsome tale, called 'Sir Lancelot
Graves'--it's all about a ghost in armour."

"Oh, bother ghosts and books!" interrupted Ronnie impatiently. "Have
you no people of your own class around here?"

"There are one or two big places," I answered, "but the Darlingfords
and the De Veres would not dream of visiting at 'The Roost.' Lizzie was
only a finishing governess, and Uncle Sep was never a real professor;
he is called that hereabouts, and he likes it, and has come to believe
in it himself."

"And have you no variety at all?" Ronnie's tone was despairing.

"Yes, twice a year we spend a riotous fortnight in London. We stay at a
Bayswater boarding-house that calls itself a private hotel, which the
Puckles always patronise. Lizzie and I stare into windows and compare
opinions, do a little shopping and go to concerts. Sep spends most of
his time in theatres and worries managers with his plays."

For some moments after this announcement Ronnie sat beside me in dead
silence, then suddenly he sprang to his feet and began to walk to and
fro along the professor's well-beaten track; at last he came to a halt
and said:

"Eva, I had no idea of all this! You always write such cheery
letters--even that time in London you were mum. It is thundering bad
luck that I'm obliged to be off so soon. However _something_ has got to
be done. Uncle Horace must find you a more suitable home. Look here, I
have just hit on an idea! I shall suggest your going out to India as a
P.G.--paying guest, you know--lots of girls do that, and Anglo-Indians
are glad enough of the coin now that everything is so expensive. Of
course the people you go to must be top hole--that is understood. Aunt
Mina is a wonderful woman for references and position, and I believe
you will get along famously; you can dance and sing and ride, and
chatter nineteen to the dozen. You and I will be on the same continent,
which will be a change. I shall offer to pay your passage, and I expect
Aunt Mina will be so glad to be rid of you that she will give you a
ripping outfit--what do you think of my idea?"

"Oh, Ronnie," I exclaimed, "it is too splendid for words. How did it
enter your head?"

"It came into my head just now as I walked up and down and saw you
crouched here on the garden seat, and thought of you cooped up in that
gloomy old house, with the sham professor, the clerical governess, and
the great empty, ugly country that cuts you off from all the world--and
you only nineteen! Before I go to sleep this very night I shall write
Uncle Horace a letter that will make things move."

"I doubt if your letter will move Aunt Mina or remove me! Ronnie,
wouldn't it be lovely if I could go out and keep house for you--I am
such a clever manager?"

"My dear, crazy child, if the colonel were to hear you he would have
fits. He bars married officers and-----"

"Is married himself," I interrupted impatiently.

"Well, the fact is, _she_ married him. Away from the regiment, he fell
a prey, like Samson minus his hair. She was an old maid, a squiress,
with a long pedigree and a large fortune. She was sick of her village
and schools, and of unflinching determination to see the world; she
met 'James' at a dinner party, and, so to speak, nailed him! She's a
rattling good sort I must confess, entertains a lot, mothers what she
calls 'her boys,' and keeps us as well as she can under her own eye."

"And he?"

"Is wrapped up in the regiment, its past glories, its present fitness,
and its future exploits. 'James,' as we call him, is as hard as
flint, and as tough as boot leather; the orderly room and parade
ground are his real home; he looks black on married couples and, if
possible, hurls them to the depot. If a subaltern were to adventure on
matrimony, all I can say is, that I would be sorry for him--and if I
were to turn up with a pretty sister I expect it would be a case of a

"What a narrow-minded, detestable tyrant!" I exclaimed.

"Yes, but very civil in civil life; he plays a good game of billiards,
and is prominent in square dances with 'Burra mems.' Apart from
soldiering he is delightfully tame, and will, so to speak, eat out of
your hand."

"What is a Burra mem?" I inquired.

"You will know soon enough when you get east of Suez."

"Ah, if I ever do, perhaps you will see that my presentiment will come
true, and that we shall be together always."

"No such luck," rejoined Ronnie. "Even if I do succeed in transplanting
you I am afraid it will be a case of 'so near and yet so far,' though,
of course, wherever you may be I shall fly to see you. Now I am off to
write a scorcher to Uncle Horace."

"It is awfully good of you, Ronnie, but I am afraid you will find you
have only wasted your time and a penny stamp," I replied as I followed
him into "The Roost." Nevertheless, in spite of my dismal forebodings,
that night I lay awake for hours thinking over Ronnie's plan, and when
at last I fell asleep I dreamt of India.



Trains from the station nearest to Beke ran at inconceivably
inconvenient hours; for instance, a quarter to eight in the morning,
and half-past four in the afternoon, the latter wandering into London
about midnight. Ronnie, of course, departed by the first, and I took
leave of him in the front hall with copious tears (the professor, in
a plaid dressing-gown, and with dishevelled locks, peering over the

"Buck up, old girl!" he said; "it will be all right; within six months
you will be hugging me in India. Mind you write every mail, take great
care of yourself--and--er--good-bye." Then he tore himself away, and
ran down the tiled footpath to where an aged fly--once the equipage of
a countess--and a sprightly young horse were waiting to transport him
to the junction.

As I watched the light-hearted animal plunging and straining at the
shafts I was conscious of a guilty hope that he and the venerable
vehicle would part company, and thus spare me Ronnie for a few hours;
but no, tottering and swaying, the ancient landau rolled away intact.

Then I went upstairs to my own room, locked the door, and huddled down
in the deep window seat, there to mourn and meditate. I seemed to have
come to the end of my hopes and had now nothing to look forward to. A
painful conviction for a young and sanguine soul!

For one whole year Ronnie's return had been my lodestar; my first
thought in the morning, my last at night; now he had come and gone--it
was all so soon over. Surveying the future, what a bleak, monotonous
outlook lay before me. It appeared to me that I might almost as well
have been born a cabbage or a thistle! So far as the result of Ronnie's
letter was concerned, I had not been foolishly sanguine; I knew Aunt
Mina, from what might be called her "wrong side," and how she disliked
anyone to interfere with her settled plans; her plan with respect to me
was that I should remain harmlessly at Beke, and I had frequently heard
her express a horror of India--a country that, in her opinion, was
full of second-rate people, fast, disreputable women and impecunious
gambling men; no, there would be no gorgeous East for me, and I could
not reasonably expect to see Ronnie for three long years.

I must confess that for some days after my brother's departure I was
a moping, undesirable house-mate; even a letter from Marseilles, a
gold wristlet watch, and Tossie's enthusiastic admiration for my
beloved, scarcely helped to raise the clouds. Still, it comforted
me to talk about him to Lizzie and Tossie, who were both sincerely
sympathetic--not so the professor, who became portentously glum
whenever Ronnie's name was mentioned, and sat silently aloof with
an air of Olympian detachment. Apparently their antipathy had been
mutual, for he imparted to the parson, who told Tossie, who told
me, that "young Lingard was a conceited, empty-headed dandy, just a
good-for-nothing, impudent jackanapes!"

It was about this time, I imagine, that he began to work with arduous
enthusiasm upon a new play, in which the ne'er-do-well and scapegrace
was a full-sized portrait of my brother--so far as his personal
appearance was concerned; particulars dealing with his dress were given
in microscopic detail. For once there was much mystery concerning
this effort. Naturally the professor never read it to me, and for
this "let off" I was profoundly thankful, for it was something of an
ordeal to sit in a stuffy study, which reeked of stale tobacco, dust,
and worm-eaten furniture, whilst Uncle Sep read aloud with sonorous
complacency, occasionally pausing to look over his glasses and say,
"That is a fine speech, eh? How does it strike you?"

Lizzie, who was not a fellow sufferer, warmly approved of these
readings. "It was better," she declared, "not to disturb the amiable
delusions of our fellows, but to encourage such friends to believe
in themselves!" The result was that I was immured in the study,
administering to Uncle Sep's vanity, whilst she bustled about the
village, doing parish work or conferring with the rector.

The rector, a distinguished looking white-haired old widower, had
contrived to appropriate Lizzie as lay worker and curate. Beke was
a large and scattered parish, and she visited various outlying
hamlets on her bike, controlled the Sunday school, undertook mothers'
meetings, the Red Cross, the village nurse, Girls' Friendly Society
and the choir, whilst the Reverend Clement Chesterfield enjoyed an
amount of spacious ease, and had ample leisure to read the _Guardian_,
the _Spectator_, the heavier monthlies and the particular class of
literature which appealed to him. When the rectory had guests or
entertained the bishop, Miss Puckle managed the housekeeping; when the
rector was sick, she made poultices and beef tea, and nursed him most
efficiently. All the village believed it would be "a match," although
Mr. Chesterfield was seventy. The rumour went further, and one of his
married nieces had lately invaded Beke; her manner to Miss Puckle had
been pointedly disagreeable, and she was reported to have "said things."

Lizzie's time, as may be supposed, was fully occupied, but I had many
empty hours in spite of practising and readings. Some of these hours I
filled in with visits to my intimates in the villages, to the Soadys,
or by long tramps over the country, accompanied by Kipper. To Myson's
Dyke was his favourite excursion; here were rabbits, rabbits, and
rabbits--oh, such good hunting! Our path lay over a series of ugly flat
fields, ending in the palings and outlying plantations of one of the
big places.

On this particular occasion, although it happened to be my birthday, my
reflections were by no means cheerful. The morning's post had brought
me the gift of a lace pocket-handkerchief from my cousin Dora and a
note in which she said, "Father had a letter from Ronald; he said that
you are looking splendid--so much for Beke!"

So much for Beke indeed! Apparently Ronnie's appeal had fallen flat;
there was not a word about India. Alas! that door of escape was closed.
As I turned my face towards the village, and contemplated the hateful,
too familiar and forbidding path across the dried-up marshes, a memory
suddenly flashed into my mind:

    "Over the meadows that blossom and wither
    Rings but the note of a sea-bird's song;
    Only the sun and the rain come hither.
          All year long."

I asked myself impatiently how long was I to lead this empty, dull
existence? A life given over to the monotonous duties of an alien
household and to pandering to the vanity of a garrulous old man! My
school-fellows wrote to me from time to time. Several had asked me
to visit them, but Aunt Mina vetoed all such hospitalities. "These
people," she said, "were not in our set. You must remember that your
grandmother was a duke's daughter and only associate with your own
class, not with second-rate acquaintances." It was evident that she
liked to play dog-in-the-manger, and would neither suffer me to stay
with others nor offer me an invitation herself!

As I strolled along in a melancholy mood, musing on the misery of my
virtual internment, an acute sense of homelessness overcame me. My
eyes were dim with tears of self-pity, when, through these tears, I
discerned a distant speck on the pathway; it approached, gradually
grew larger, and presently materialised into the figure of a man,
tall, square-shouldered, and carrying a gun under his arm. Nearer and
nearer he strode, and when within ten yards I saw that he was a well
set-up, soldierly individual, in orthodox shooting garb, with dark,
rather sleepy eyes and a masterful chin. He looked me straight in
the face, as we passed almost touching--the sole human beings within
sight over miles of space. Kipper, with his hackles on end, sniffed
suspiciously at the man's leggings, and then, so to speak, "accepted
him," and I proceeded homewards, listening to the steady tramp of a
pair of heavy shooting boots till the sound had ceased. I had advanced
a certain distance, when an imperative curiosity impelled me to halt
and look back--I am well aware that this was a most unladylike action;
nevertheless I fell! To my horror and embarrassment, I discovered that
the stranger was doing precisely the same thing, standing apparently
immovable as a milestone. Undoubtedly our curiosity and, I think I
may say, interest, had been mutual! I was sincerely thankful that the
distance was too great for us to distinguish one another's features,
and felt deeply ashamed, exquisitely flattered, and painfully shy.
Before I could turn he had snatched off his cap and waved it to me!
What audacious impertinence! My heart beat unusually fast, and my face
flamed. Here was an adventure at last, and although its form was highly
indiscreet--nevertheless I liked it!

Possibly it may not be surprising when I state that I thought of
the stranger all the way home; my mind was so full of him that the
monotonous miles seemed as yards. I recalled his upright bearing, his
handsome eyes, his kindly word to Kipper. Was this the hero that every
girl of nineteen sees in her dreams? It is a remarkable fact that at
dinner I, who usually poured out my budget of small news--such as, how
someone had broken Mrs. Hogg's window, the postman's baby had croup,
or a party of motorists had stopped to tea at "The Beetle"--never
once mentioned my experience, but kept it locked up in my heart; yes,
even from Tossie, who brought all her joys and sorrows to me. Behold
my first secret! After all how puny and insignificant; nevertheless,
I hugged it like a child with her first doll! On Slacklands Flats I
had encountered a good-looking stranger--no doubt one of the guns
at Myson--who had stared hard, looked after me, and signalled a
gay greeting. "Ships that pass in the night"--"a couple who pass
at sundown." I must confess that I allowed my mind to dwell on the
adventure as I sewed, as I listened to the professor's plays, yes,
even in church, when naturally I ought to have been engrossed in holy
thoughts and the rector's short, crisp sermon.



Before Christmas my relations departed to Nice. Aunt Mina, who suffered
from bronchitis, went in search of a little sun, my cousins in quest of
amusement. The Riviera was gay, and they were by all accounts a large
and congenial party. Perhaps their consciences may have troubled them
with regard to me, for they sent me unusually nice presents--a large
box of chocolate, a fan, and a gay parasol. There was not much occasion
for these latter at Beke in winter time, but one must not look a
gift-horse in the mouth! Our Christmas was profoundly dull, not to say
depressing; it was cold work decorating the bleak old church--assisted
by Lizzie, the schoolmistress, the landlady of "The Beetle," and many
others, including Tossie and her most recent admirer, a smart young
"vet" from Newmarket.

As we pricked our frozen hands and made a great holly wreath for the
font she said,

"You look awfully down, dear, and I suppose there is no fun going on at
'The Roost' on Christmas Day--no party, eh?"

"Need you ask?" I retorted derisively. "We are to have early dinner, as
Clarice has a holiday, and the professor indigestion."

"You will be getting a letter from your brother to cheer you. My! he is
the best-looking fellow I ever saw, although he _is_ on the small side;
I admire his whole style, his neat little moustache, and the lovely
scent on his hair. Only that the others are so pressing I would wait
for him, I declare I would." And Tossie burst into a loud laugh. "See
now, listen, Evie, I have a splendid plan for you."

"A plan?" I echoed.

"Yes, give me over that ball of twine, and I will tell you all about
it. On New Year's Eve there is to be a grand kick-up at 'The Plough
and Harrow' in Mirfield village; it is an hotel that was a fine place
in old times, and has a great big room at the back, where they used to
have routs, and soirées--whatever they were. The inn is getting up a
dance; tickets half a crown for ladies, and I have got yours."

"As if Lizzie would allow me to go!"

"Wait now," urged Tossie impressively; "the company will be extra
respectable, just farmer folk; there will be a piano and a fiddle, and
a bit of supper, tea, and coffee and sandwiches. Mother is sending the
soup, and she will chaperon us. We will have the top put on the old
wagonette, which will hold six inside, and you must come and dine and
sleep at the Manor, as you have done before of a wet night. I know you
are mad keen on dancing. They say the floor is splendid, and you won't
mind with whom you dance, so long as he is sober and a good partner--so
say you will come?"

"Yes, you may be sure I shall, if Lizzie will let me."

"Oh, bother Lizzie! You must assert yourself, Evie, and not allow
people to walk over you. It is all very well for _her_ to be living
in Beke; she is forty and has all she wants, and enjoys playing about
the parish with the rector. You just talk up to her and say you intend
to have a little fling. I am sure she will see it. Liz has been young
herself, and she is awfully fond of you."

"Who are your party?" I inquired.

"Freddy Block the vet, and I am sure _he_ looks good enough for any
society; my cousin Bob from Leeds, he is in a big outfitter's; Annie
Green, Dr. Mercer, Mother, brother Sam, and ourselves. It will be
rather a crowd, but Sam can go outside."

"Tossie, it is too kind of you, and I should love to go. I have not
been to a dance since I left school, and I will fall on my knees to
Lizzie--but what about my frock?"

"Oh, your black will do elegantly, and stick a bit of mistletoe in your
hair! Now mind you don't disappoint me, but try to get hold of Liz when
she feels Christmassy and soft."

I believe Lizzie was a little sorry for me on Christmas Day; my
letters and cards had been so few and there was nothing from India.
The drawing-room fire smoked, the turkey was nearly raw, the groaning
professor had retired upstairs; on the whole we had a miserable

The village itself wore a convivial air, and from my post in a
deep-seated window I commanded a view of the street, and enviously
noted the many cheery couples and families passing to and fro. From
my niche I was summoned by Lizzie; according to immemorial custom the
school-children were to have a treat on Boxing Day, and I was bound to
lend a hand with the preparations. Accordingly, I spent the remainder
of the holiday helping to ticket presents--taking care to see that
there was no cause for jealousy or rivalry in their distribution; for
instance, that the Cobbs received nothing that might outshine the
Bolters, that little Tommy Ware was _not_ endowed with a knife, or the
"Beetle" baby with a box of paints. With unscrupulous subtlety I seized
upon this exceptional opportunity, as my confederate had advised, to
"talk up to Lizzie."

"Lizzie," I began, "I am still legally what is called an infant, and
_I_ should like a treat, too!"

"I only wish I could see my way to your having one, my poor child," she
replied, "I know this is a deadly existence for you, and I realise that
you do have a _very_ poor time, but what is the alternative?"

"We need not discuss that now, Liz, but the treat is to hand; the
Plough and Harrow Inn, at Mirfield, is giving a dance on New Year's
Eve, it will be quite a respectable affair, with a piano, a fiddle and
sandwiches. Mrs. Soady will chaperon me. Do let me go, my dear Lizzie,"
and I seized her by the arm, "let me just have one dance, to circulate
my blood, and try to feel like other girls!" I paused, and hung almost
breathless on her answer. It was a long time in coming, but at last she

"Well, of course, the Soadys are all right, but they are not in your
class, nor are their friends."

"Now you are talking exactly like Aunt Mina! Never mind the classes--I
should like to dance with the masses."

"Oh Eva," and as she spoke her face seemed to lengthen by inches, "what
_would_ your aunt say?"

"She will never know," I rejoined with easy confidence, "and you might
not have known either. If I had just gone to dine and sleep at the
Manor, you would not dream in your wildest moments that I was dancing
the New Year in at the Plough and Harrow, in Mirfield. You see, it
is five miles from here, and quite out of our beat; not a soul will
recognise me. But I could not play you such a trick, Liz--whatever I
am, I am not sly!"

"Well, I really do not know what to say," declared Lizzie sitting down
with a Noah's Ark in her lap. "I halt between two opinions. On the one
hand, I should like you to enjoy yourself and have a little bit of
amusement for once; on the other, I must say I rather shrink from the
idea of your making your debut, chaperoned by old Mother Soady, and
dancing with such partners as Sam and Bob Tate. If you do go----"

Here I broke in,

"Oh, you dear good Lizzie, and I shall have no end of funny things to
tell you afterwards."

"If you do go," she reiterated, "the whole thing must be a dead
secret; above all, not a word to Uncle Sep; he _talks_--and when he
went over to 'The Beetle' for tobacco he would tell the village all
about it; it is also to be a dead secret from _me_. Understand, that I
give you permission to dine and sleep at the Manor; however they may
entertain you there is no longer my affair."

"Oh, Liz, what a nice Jesuitical way of looking at it! But whatever
happens I have your official consent." Then I fell upon her and kissed

We certainly were a tight fit, and a noisy party, in the old wagonette,
which was somewhat severely tried by the weight of the company and the
slap-dash pace of a fine pair of young horses. Nevertheless, we arrived
safely at the "Plough and Harrow," and in capital time. The old inn was
all lit up, spectators were crowding round the door, gigs, phaetons and
even milk carts were depositing happy guests. The ladies' cloakroom was
crammed; here we unpinned, uncloaked and reported upon one another's
appearance, as there was not the smallest chance of approaching the one
looking-glass. Tossie looked blooming in blue and white. Annie Green
was in flowered muslin of a bold and lurid design--somewhat resembling
a perambulating wall-paper. The style, she informed us, "was the very
latest thing in Paris."

Mrs. Soady, chiefly remarkable for her kind heart and her
circumference, was dressed in her best black satin, which was many
inches too short in front, a large plaid bow crowned her good-looking
smiling face, and an enormous cameo brooch fastened under her chin
imparted the effect of a martingale.

As soon as we had emerged from the struggling mass of women in the
cloakroom we were joined by our cavaliers; thus supported, as we
entered the ballroom in a body, I was sensible of an atmosphere of
delicious adventure! The ballroom was long, narrow, and wainscoted,
and held a powerful atmosphere of potatoes--no wonder, since, as Sam
informed me, several tons of this useful root had been but recently

It was illuminated by wall lamps, and profusely garlanded with
Christmas greenery. At one end was the band (piano, flute and violin),
and the first set of lancers was promptly arranged. There were few
forms for sitting out, as most of the company were young and meant
business; in other words, they had come to dance--and dance they did! I
found myself as a partner in flattering demand. I waltzed with Doctor
Mercer, who bore me round in a series of leaps and bounds; the next
waltz was with the "vet," a most creditable performer; then I danced
with young Sam, who gambolled about like a clumsy colt, talking all the
time at the top of his voice.

I was resting after my second waltz with Mr. Block, the vet, when he
drew my attention to two men who were contemplating the scene from an
opposite doorway. They were in shooting dress; one I had never seen
before, but instantly I recognised his companion as "the stranger." The
couple had evidently just looked in casually, to see what was going on,
and had happened upon a most animated gathering. There could be no
possible doubt of the company's enjoyment.

"You see those two fellows over there?" said my partner, "they are
officers stopping here for the duck shooting."

Almost before he had ceased speaking, I beheld the stranger dodging
about among the dancers. He came straight up to me, bowed, and said,

"May I have the honour of a dance?"

In for a penny in for a pound! Without a moment's hesitation I replied,

"Yes, with pleasure."

"The next?"

I was engaged to the local telegraph clerk for the next. Should I throw
him over? No.

"I can give you number twelve," I said looking at my card.

"I say, and what about _me_?" clamoured the stranger's companion, who
had now joined us, clicking his heels together and bowing before me
with exaggerated respect.

Somehow I did not feel favourably disposed towards this would-be
partner; he had not, like his friend, an arresting personality. I
disliked his prominent nose and teeth and bold goggling eyes, and fixed
him with my best imitation of Aunt Mina's glare.

"But why should I be left out?" he argued, totally unabashed; "you have
given him one, and you dance like an angel."

"This lady and I have met before," coolly interposed the stranger. Then
to me, "I shall look forward to number twelve"; and taking the other
forcibly by the arm, he removed him from my vicinity. Subsequently, as
I swam round the room in the charge of the telegraph clerk, I noticed
the two watching us closely from the doorway, and as soon as the waltz
was over I was promptly claimed.

My new partner danced admirably, our step suited, the floor was in
first-rate condition, and the old "Amoureuse" was one of my favourites.

"Why do you try to steer?" inquired my partner, when we halted.

"I am sorry," I replied, "but I suppose it is because, being one of the
tall girls, I always danced gentleman at school."

"And since?"

"This is my first dance--elsewhere."

"Then I am afraid your people must live in a desperately dull

"I do not live with my people," I replied, "in fact, I may tell you, I
have no people to live with. My parents died when I was quite small,
and my only brother is in India." I paused abruptly, and felt myself
growing red with self-consciousness. Why should I offer all this
autobiography to an absolute stranger? What were my affairs to him?
As usual my tongue had run away with me, and I felt stricken with
confusion and remorse.

After a short silence, he said,

"Possibly you may not remember me, but we passed one another on the
marshes some time ago. I was so astonished to see a young lady walking
alone in that dreary side of the country, I might have thought you were
an apparition but for the dog. Do you live in that part of the world?"

"Yes," I replied, "within a few miles."

Mrs. Soady, passing by on the arm of the doctor, patted me on the arm
and said,

"Come along and get some soup before it's all gone. I hope you are
enjoying yourself, dearie?"

I nodded an emphatic assent, and as she disappeared in the direction of
refreshments my companion looked at me interrogatively.

"My chaperon," I briefly explained.

"I see," he assented, nevertheless it was evident that he was greatly
puzzled. He surveyed my neat black frock, my well-fitting gloves,
my beautiful French fan--also perhaps my smart satin shoes and silk
stockings, which were crossed in front of me, for I never made any
secret of the fact that I had remarkably pretty feet.

After this we talked perfunctorily of the weather and of dogs;
presently he conducted me to the buffet in the hotel dining-room,
where, as I stood sipping coffee, I noticed that many eyes were upon
us, including those of the landlady. To this attention I was serenely
indifferent; beyond our own party not a soul in the room, or among the
company, had the least idea as to who I was, or that they were honoured
by the presence of the great granddaughter of a duke! After a very
short "interval for refreshments," we returned to the ballroom and
danced two delightful waltzes; as the last sad strain sobbed itself to
an end, my companion said:

"I am aware that we have become acquainted in rather an unusual
fashion. Would you think me awfully presumptuous if I were to ask
you to tell me your name?" I nodded my head with, I fear, ungracious
emphasis. "I see," he exclaimed. "Well, all right--then I shall call
you Miss Incognita. Mine is Captain Falkland--Brian Falkland."

"I see," I echoed. I cannot imagine what possessed me to mimic him to
his face. I felt "fey," the dancing had exhilarated me, and had gone to
my head like champagne.

"This is a queer old inn," he went on. "The landlady told me that
ages ago all the county came here, and in winter had routs in this
room. I should say it had routs within the last week," and he sniffed

At this moment Sam, breathless from his exertions, mopping his big, red
face, accosted me.

"Sorry to interrupt, Miss Eva," he panted; "Mother sent me to look
for you. It is after one o'clock and we ought to be getting home,"
and turning apologetically to my partner he added: "You see, sir, we
farmers are bound to be early folk."

"So sorry," said my companion; "I suppose there is no help for it; you
must go, but I will only say au revoir, Miss Eva," and he bowed.

Still possessed by the spirit of giddiness, I made him a profound
court curtsy, such as had possibly been executed in the adjacent
ballroom a hundred and fifty years previously, and then I walked
off attended by Sam. Ten minutes later, when our loud and hilarious
party had all been packed into the "Black Maria," I noticed Captain
Falkland and his friend standing on the steps of the "Plough and
Harrow," watching our proceedings with unaffected interest, until our
high-spirited horses whirled us away into the darkness of the January

On our arrival at the Manor, Tossie followed me into my room for "a
talk"; as we unhooked one another, and so to speak disarmed, naturally
we discussed the dance.

"I need not ask you if you enjoyed yourself," she said, "you were quite
the beauty. And it was a real treat to see you and that officer dancing
together; a good partner, wasn't he?"

"Yes," I replied, "he holds you so comfortably, and always seems to
know where he is going."

"And you did have what they call a 'success,' my dear; everyone was
asking who you were, and I told them, a friend from London, who is
stopping with me; one may as well tell a good lie when one goes about
it. Did you not feel for all the world like a swan in a duck pond?"

"No, but a goose--and very much a goose."

Before Tossie retired to her own apartment she became most confidential
and interesting, and informed me that Fred Block had been on the verge
of a proposal, but she had headed him off as she could not yet make up
her mind.

"As for you," she added, "I was very 'mum' when they were chaffing
you in the bus about your best partner--I believe you gave him five
waltzes. I know all about him, and they don't; shall I tell you?"

"If you like," I answered with affected nonchalance.

"Don't drawl," protested Tossie, "be interested or you shan't hear a

"Well, go on, I am all ears."

"Then listen. Captain Falkland is in some cavalry regiment. He has
been staying at Landmere for Christmas with the Earl and Countess
of Runnymede, his cousins; it is said they want him to marry Lady
Amelia, a plain, washed-out thing with weak eyes. He is the only son
of General and Lady Louisa Falkland--awfully proud people--and is very
good-looking, as you may see; I do love the nice way his hair grows
down over his square forehead--I should like to see you married to him,
so I would!" and Tossie gave me a playful push.

"I never heard such nonsense!" I exclaimed. "It is not the least likely
we shall ever meet again."

"Then you did not give him a little clue, or tell him your name?" and
Tossie thrust her red-and-white face close to mine, and stared into my
eyes with her unflinching blue orbs.

"Of course not," I answered impatiently. "Why should I?"

"If it had been _me_, I'd have done it! Well now, there is three
striking and I must go to my bed. The meet is at Harper's Cross at
eleven--but you can sleep it out!"

On my return from the Manor to "The Roost," I related to Lizzie the
history of my illegitimate outing. With more than usual glibness my
tongue wagged freely, as I described the dance, the supper, the music,
the most notable costumes, and my various partners--all except one; and
she, kind and unsuspicious creature, declared that she was delighted to
hear I had enjoyed myself so thoroughly, but added:

"If the tidings of this little escapade were ever to reach the ears of
Mrs. Lingard, I believe I should be compelled to _emigrate_!"



It is strange but true that my future lot was profoundly affected by
the microbe of influenza. Influenza accomplishes various evils; this
obnoxious germ carries weakness, depression and death, but it is rare
to find it a medium that launches a young woman into the great wide

An excursion to London every January was one of the hard-and-fast
rules of "The Roost"; about the middle of the month, when Christmas
festivities had waned, the professor and his niece journeyed together
to a boarding-house in Bayswater, and there enjoyed--each in their
own way--a fortnight of the Metropolis. She, in attending sales and
classical concerts, looking up old friends and going to "teas" arrayed
in her best clothes. He, in personally worrying managers and dramatic
agents, patronising theatres, telephoning incessantly, and giving
expensive entertainments to needy professionals, who fed his insatiable
vanity with enormous helpings of the sweetest flattery, and sent him
back to his dull old den with a swollen head and a somewhat empty

Just before this half-yearly expedition, when rooms had been engaged,
luggage packed, and our arrival formally notified, Lizzie suddenly
collapsed under a violent attack of "flu." As her temperature was
found to be 103, a journey was out of the question. The doctor who
was summoned ordered bed and nursing, and declared the ailment to be
of a particularly virulent type. Lizzie, painfully distressed and
apologetic, endeavoured to assert herself and talked of "being all
right in a couple of days," but when the doctor uttered the word
"pneumonia" she succumbed.

At first the attitude of the professor was sympathetic, then by degrees
he became silent, sullen, and finally morose; as vexed at his postponed
holidays as any spoilt child.

"But I thought you hated London," I said, not sorry to tease him a
little. "You have always said you were so thankful to live outside the
noise and clamour of the world."

My remarks irritated the professor to such a degree that I believe he
could have thrown a book at me had one been handy, but they had merely
the effect of inflaming his passion for the great city with its vast

"Why not let him go alone?" I suggested to the invalid. "He says the
rooms will have to be paid for, and he is miserable about all the
important appointments he is missing. If you could look out of the
window, you would see him raging up and down the garden."

"Oh yes, I know," said Lizzie impatiently, "he always does that when
he's put out. Somehow I am reluctant to let Uncle Sep out of my sight,
especially in London; he does crazy, impulsive things and is so easily
talked into follies, such as spending and lending, and I act as a sort
of brake; then those chattering elderly women at Number 20 make no
end of him and imply that he is quite a lady-killer and irresistibly
attractive. Poor Uncle Sep never was either; clever enough, but not
very wise, especially since he slipped on a banana and fell on the back
of his head. You say he is dull and disappointed?"

"'Dull and disappointed' but feebly conveys the case! He is like Kipper
when he sees me with my hat on, frantic to go out. He ate no dinner
last night."

"Then, indeed, he is in a bad way! Well, ask him to saturate himself
with eucalyptus, and to come and talk it all over with me after lunch."

The result of this talk was the departure of the professor the very
next morning. He made an almost imposing figure in his London clothes,
tall hat, frock coat, neat umbrella, and modern boots. As I escorted
him to the little gate he remarked:

"Well, Evie, _this_ time I shall do something with the managers. I have
a presentiment that I shall bring back a huge success."

"Only it's so cold I'd throw my shoe after you," I replied, "but I wish
you the best of luck."

Without any further remark, or even the formality of a farewell,
he climbed into the creaking fly and was presently lumbering away.
Lizzie's illness lasted longer than we anticipated; she kept her room
for nearly three weeks; meanwhile, village and parochial business was
more or less dislocated. Mr. Chesterfield the rector called daily and
sent flowers, newspapers, and notes, but never approached the infected
premises nearer than a hundred yards.

At last the ruler of "The Roost" crawled downstairs, a weak and
shattered remnant of her keen and energetic self. However, the "sofa,"
and "feeding up" were duly prescribed, with excellent results. Letters
from the professor--once so copious--had lately degenerated into
picture postcards, and these chiefly conveyed bulletins of the weather.
He had been absent nearly a month, and to me this was a happy relief.
Lizzie was now convalescent, and once more managing Beke with her
accustomed capability.

One afternoon we were returning from a long and muddy walk, when a boy
darted out of the post office, and handed her a telegram. It came from
Uncle Sep, and said, "Arrive to-night, send fly to the seven; have good
fires and dinner."

"What a funny telegram!" she exclaimed handing it to me; "as if we
don't always have fires and a good dinner. As it happens, there is
a goose to-night. I will tell Eliza to make a roly-poly and Welsh
rarebit--Uncle Sep loves them--and also to put a big fire in his
bedroom. I expect he's had a play accepted, and wishes to commemorate
his return with a feast."

It was nearly eight o'clock when I heard the fly stop at the front
gate. I had been listening expectantly; even the return of the
tiresome professor made a change in my monotonous existence. He would
bring, if not news, at least some illustrated papers. I went into the
hall and looked out; it was a cold, dark night, with drifting showers
of sleet; nevertheless, I stood bravely at the open door, whilst
Clarice, with the skirt of her dress flung over her head, pattered down
to the cab. The professor descended heavily backwards, and instead of
as usual hurrying indoors, he turned about, apparently in order to
assist another to alight--a woman! In a second I divined the truth.
Uncle Sep had brought home a wife!

Naturally a desperate moral coward, he had shrunk from announcing
the marriage to his niece, and left it to the bride to break the
intelligence in person. I dashed into the dining-room, where Lizzie was
deliberately lighting candles on the mantelpiece, and gasped out:

"Your uncle has brought someone back with him--I think it is Mrs.

Lizzie turned about, and stood staring at me stupidly, her mouth half
open--a lighted taper in her unconscious hand. I remembered Mrs.
Bickers at the boarding-house, a plump widow of fifty with a strongly
corseted figure, black eyes like boot buttons, a high colour, and a
long chin.

Yes, I was right, it _was_ Mrs. Bickers! Already she was standing in
the doorway, clad in a black waterproof and an aggressive-looking hat
covered with pointed wings. The cowardly professor pushed her into the
room before him, saying in a loud, would-be jovial voice:

"Hallo, Liz, I have brought you a present from London. Here is your new
aunt and old friend, Mrs. Bickers--now Mrs. Puckle. We were married ten
days ago!"

The announcement was succeeded by a prolonged and dramatic silence. For
my part, my nerves were throbbing with excitement, and it may appear
callous and hard-hearted, but personally I felt as if I were witnessing
a powerful scene in some play. The atmosphere seemed to be charged with
animosity and fear; fear being well represented by Uncle Sep, who was
breathing audibly in quick short gasps; animosity had sprung to arms
within the eyes of the two ladies.

"My dear Lizzie," said Mrs. Puckle; then suddenly advancing upon her
and seizing her unawares she attacked her with a vigorous embrace.

"Well, Uncle," said Lizzie, releasing herself as vigorously, and
straightening her back; "you _have_ indeed given us a surprise!"

I knew that Lizzie was furious, wild with indignation and
consternation, but years of governessing had taught her extraordinary

"Yes, my dear, life is full of surprises," said the professor, to whom
things seemed to be going unexpectedly well. "I hope there is a good
fire in my room," he added bumptiously. "Jessie," to the bride, "you
will like to take your things off, and we will have dinner at once."

"All right," she answered obediently. "Dear me, how warm and cosy it
all looks!" and the bride's quick eyes travelled round the room, and
noted the solid mahogany furniture, the massive table appointments, and
the whole appearance of unostentatious comfort. On her way towards the
door she halted and addressed herself particularly to Lizzie.

"Your uncle and I were always friendly you remember, and a fortnight's
propinquity was too much for us both!"

"Was it really?" rejoined Lizzie, speaking with set lips, and a bright
red spot on either cheek.

"Yes," replied the bride, "we have so much in common, and are both old
enough to know our own minds." And then she turned her broad back on
her new niece, and passed into the hall.

"This I suppose is the drawing-room?" And the bride threw open the door
and stood in a "monarch of all I survey" attitude on the threshold.
Within, it looked black and aggressively forbidding; it was as if the
spirit of the old house distrusted this stranger.

"Oh dear me, what a horrible smell of damp and dry rot! I shall have a
fire in here every day."

Having made this announcement, Mrs. Puckle closed the door with
emphasis, and mounted the stairs.

The landing was already piled with luggage--bags, baskets, battered
cardboard boxes, and shabby trunks. Lizzie conducted her supplanter to
her quarters with exaggerated ceremony--even dissembling her feelings
so far as to get out fresh towels and the best scented soap--and having
been told to order dinner to be ready in ten minutes' time, she flew
down to me.

As the craven and base professor was a refugee in his den, Lizzie and I
had the dining-room to ourselves.

"So for once he _did_ mind telling!" I began.

"Eva, how can you joke?" she interrupted indignantly; "I was wrong to
let him go alone, but influenza makes one such a worm, not only weak in
body but in mind, otherwise I never would have consented to this trip
to London--a most fatal excursion for him. Mrs. Bickers is the worst,
most catty, and pushing of all the widows. I believe she is penniless
and has just flattered herself into this comfortable home." Then to
Clarice who had entered gaping, "Clarice, your master was married ten
days ago; let Eliza know."

"Eliza, she do know," was the prompt reply. "She says the master be

A stealthy rustle on the stairs interrupted Clarice, who hurried out,
only to return almost immediately with the soup tureen and evidently
prepared to enjoy a good leisurely stare at the stranger--a sleek,
complacent matron, wearing a pink satin blouse and a large lace collar,
fastened by a new-looking diamond brooch.

Seating herself at the head of the table and seizing the soup ladle,
Mrs. Puckle said:

"I'll just sit here, Lizzie dear, I know you won't mind, and begin to
take over at once--it saves trouble."

Lizzie's answer was a bow as she placed herself opposite to me; the
professor now appeared and, with assumed geniality, announced that he
was "starving."

I noticed that his appearance was considerably improved. He wore a
glossy white shirt, his hair and beard had been trimmed--also his nails.

"Well, Lizzie," he began, blinking his eyelids--sure sign of
nervousness--"I thought I'd do something to get out of the rut. Beke
is such a stick-in-the-mud sort of place, eh? I suppose _this_ is the
surprise of your life?"

"Well, Uncle, I confess it is--so far----"

"'Happy the wooing that's not long a doing,' and you know we had no one
to consult. We shall all shake down together, eh? The more the merrier.
It's a fine big house. I remember hearing that old Elias Puckle, who
lived here eighty years ago, had a family of fifteen children!"

"How many bedrooms?" inquired the bride in her brusquest manner.

"About eight," I replied, now thrusting myself into the conversation,
as Lizzie seemed to be temporarily dumb. "Not counting the servants'
rooms, garrets, and cellars."

"You are not thinking of taking P.G.'s?" put in the professor jocosely.

"No, no, darling, of course not."

To hear the professor addressed as "darling" was altogether too
much for my gravity. I choked, and then stooped for an imaginary
handkerchief to hide my smiles.

"Have you done anything about your plays?" I asked as soon as I had
recovered my usual composure.

"Oh yes, I have everything in capital train now; the missis there has
interest, she has relations on the boards. We expect great things from
'The Termagant,' don't we, ducky?"

"Of course we do; it will be an enormous success," she answered,
speaking as it were in capital letters. "Recognition has been a long
time in coming to the dear professor, has it not?"

As she spoke, Mrs. Puckle fastened her eyes on me; undoubtedly she had
heard of "the readings."

"Most geniuses have had the same painful experiences. Shakespeare, by
all accounts, had little honour in his own day, and think of poor dear
Chatterton! It's my belief--and I know what I'm talking about--that the
professor's plays will be acclaimed by packed houses yet--his name and
fame will be world-wide."

As Mrs. Puckle's manner was distinctly challenging, I meekly murmured:

"I hope so, I'm sure."

The lady now proceeded to criticise, dissect, and destroy the
reputations of the leading dramatic authors of the day. She talked
ceaselessly; evidently she was talking for talking's sake, in order to
counteract Lizzie's gloomy silence.

After the professor had swallowed a second strong tumbler of whisky and
water, he ventured to draw his niece into the conversation; under the
circumstances her composure was extraordinary. I sat amazed, as she
unfolded parish happenings and domestic news, as if totally unconscious
that a stranger had suddenly descended on her home and usurped her
position. Meanwhile, I observed the new aunt carefully examining the
forks and spoons and turning them about to discover the hall-mark.
Satisfied that they were mostly old Georgian silver, she proceeded to
cross-examine me.

"So you live at 'The Roost' altogether, Miss Lingard?"

"For the present--yes."

"And are you _really_ related to the Lingards of Torrington?" she
inquired condescendingly.

"Yes, Mr. Lingard is my uncle."

"And Miss Lingard who is to marry Sir Beaufort Finsbury is your cousin?"

I nodded assent.

"Torrington Park is quite a large place, is it not?"

"Yes," I admitted, "it is rather large."

"How many servants do they keep?"

"I really do not know."

"Doesn't it seem rather a pity that you cannot live with your own

This was a nasty one for me, and for the moment I could not think of
any effective reply.

"And you," firing a shot at Lizzie, "were the governess at
Torrington--nursery, or otherwise?"

To this impertinent question there was no rejoinder.

By this time the goose, pudding, savoury and cheese had been disposed
of, and having dined satisfactorily, and figuratively shown her teeth,
Mrs. Puckle made a move. Addressing the professor, she said:

"As I am rather tired, darling, I'll go up early and unpack. Don't be
long, and don't smoke more than one pipe."

"All right, ducky," he assented, then rising with remarkable agility
and pushing back his chair, he retired to the security afforded by his
den. It amused me to see how desperately he was afraid of being left
alone with us; possibly he was troubled by an uneasy conscience.

As soon as the happy pair had departed, Lizzie rang the bell for
Clarice, but for once the bell was answered by Eliza, who came to
inform us that "Clarice was upstairs with the mistress, unpacking her
boxes." Having made this announcement she began to collect the dinner
things as if she bore them a vicious personal spite. Eliza, like
Lizzie, was in moments of emotional stress a woman of few words, and
whilst she crashed crockery Lizzie was busy scribbling a note at the
bureau, which, when finished and folded, she handed to our retainer and

"Just run over with this to the rectory, Eliza; there is no answer."

"And how would I run that am bent in two with the rheumatics?" demanded
Eliza in a querulous tone. "One run I'll make, and it's out of this
house--I know the class of that one, so I do."

"That is enough, Eliza," said Lizzie with dignity. "Come, Eva, there is
a good fire in my room."

As soon as I was seated in a comfortable easy chair I flung out my arms
and exclaimed: "What a dinner! I declare there was a smell of gunpowder
in the air! Tell me, Liz, what you are going to do? I know you have
some plan--I see it in your eye."

"We leave here to-morrow," she announced with curt decision.

"Oh! Not really?"

"Yes," she proceeded, "to stay at the rectory as a sort of
_pied-à-terre_. I made up my mind about everything before that woman
had been in the house five minutes. You shall go to Torrington."

"No, no, Lizzie," I protested, "anywhere but Torrington. Do you know
it is a fact, that when I was last there I used to lie awake at night
for _hours_ hating Aunt Mina? Besides, they won't have me," I concluded

"But they must," she answered, with an air of serene resolution. "I no
longer have a suitable home to offer you. I intend to move up to London
and take a small flat."

"And leave Mrs. Puckle monarch of all she surveys?"

"By no means," deliberately turning up her skirt and placing a pair of
neat black velvet shoes upon the fender. "Uncle Sep has misled her.
She believes that the house and money are exclusively his, and is not
aware that the half of everything belongs to me. I shall consult my
solicitor, value, remove and store my portion of the furniture, let
half 'The Roost,' and take my share of _all_--yes, to the ultimate egg

"Will you?" I ejaculated. "What fun!"

"I'm afraid Mrs. Puckle will not see the humour of the situation,
but find herself bitterly disappointed. With our united incomes,
and your hundred a year, Uncle Sep and I were almost rich. Now he
will be obliged to economise. I am sorry for Uncle Sep. I have
always understood that Mrs. Puckle, who was penniless, contrived to
make herself so agreeable to Mrs. Williams at Number 20 that she
kept her on as useful help, advertiser and toady! I believe she has
two ne'er-do-well sons and a married daughter, and no doubt will
accommodate them all at 'The Roost.' Poor Uncle!"

To which adjuration I added a fervent "Amen."

"I shall be sorry to part with you, dear child," continued Lizzie, "but
you are sensible for your age and have your wits about you, and it is
time you put out from the shore; your aunt cannot refuse a harbour,
and, with a favouring breeze, I believe your little skiff will go far.
As for me, I shall have my freedom; I have saved, and in London I shall
breathe freely among people of my own tastes. Well, we can do the rest
of our talking at the rectory, for now I must pack. I intend to make
an early flitting. Jones will cart over our boxes in the wheelbarrow,
and, as I have a great deal to gather and sort, I expect to be up all
night. You, my dear child, have only your clothes and books, so it
will not be a long business, but go and set about it at once, and good

The next morning we found ourselves comfortably installed at the
rectory, Lizzie encompassed with the results of many trips by
wheelbarrow; and here, when her flight was discovered, she received the
visit and onslaught of her aunt and uncle. But they found the fugitive
firmly entrenched behind facts and will power; no alluring invitations
would induce her to return to "The Roost" and "go shares." She was
excessively polite but immovable, and her visitors were compelled to
retreat in obvious confusion--the professor dazed and pallid, his bride
on the contrary with a beetroot complexion, and seething over with
suppressed passion.

Soon after their departure the dog Kipper arrived; formally dispatched
in charge of the gardener, accompanied by his luggage so to
speak--bowl, basket, coat and lead; to intimate that he was absolutely
expelled from "The Roost."

And now the question arose, what was to be done with him? The
rector--most selfish of men--flatly refused him a home, declaring that
he was too old for a dog, and that his personal cat was elderly and a
fixture. It was clear that Lizzie could not have Kipper in her flat on
possibly a fifth floor, although there _was_ a legend that, once upon a
time, a lady had maintained a duck in similar quarters!

"You shall take him, Evie," she announced, with an air of cool
decision. "He was always your friend, and in a big place like
Torrington one dog more or less will never be noticed."

"But I am confident that Aunt Mina won't have me," I protested, "much
less the dog."

"Oh yes she will," rejoined Lizzie with conviction; "I know your aunt.
I ought to, after living under her roof for eight years. Whatever her
feelings are she studies appearances, and now that Dora is going to be
married there will be room for you in the landau."

My aunt's invitation was somewhat tardy. Before its arrival I made many
farewell calls and spent a whole day with the Soadys, where I received
(in confidence) the news of Tossie's engagement to Fred Block. She
had made up her mind at last! I was much interested, so also was the
village, in beholding great vans loading up in front of "The Roost,"
and subsequently carrying away Lizzie's share of the furniture. I also
observed a large painted board, stoutly planted in the front garden,
on which was announced "The Half of this House to be Let, Eight Good
Rooms. Apply at the Post Office." The vans and the advertisement gave
our little community plenty of topics for discussion.

Ultimately the "Beetle" fly transported Lizzie and myself to the
junction station, and the curtain fell on Beke.



In the creaking, rumbling fly conversation had been somewhat difficult,
but when in a smooth-running first-class carriage--which luckily we had
to ourselves--Lizzie and I enjoyed at last a heart-to-heart talk. My
aunt's letter, so tardy in making its appearance, had been cordial and
even affectionate. She no longer addressed me as if I were a naughty
child, but a full-grown human being, and even an intelligent member of
society! I drew her epistle from my hand bag and glanced over it once

It was written from Claridge's Hotel, and said:

 "MY DEAR EVA,--Do excuse my delay in writing to you with respect to
 your future plans, but I have been so busy, and so _rushed_, I've
 had scarcely a moment to myself. I have heard from Lizzie of her
 uncle's most _disgraceful_ and _insane_ behaviour; how she has been
 driven out of her comfortable home by a penniless adventuress. Silly,
 irresponsible old men such as the professor, should, in my opinion,
 be placed under proper restraint. As 'The Roost' is closed you will,
 of course, come to us and be one of the family--at least, for a
 time. Lizzie has reminded me that you are nearly twenty, and it is
 certainly desirable that you should come out and be presented, but
 somehow you have always seemed younger than your age. Girls shoot up
 so quickly and one forgets how years fly.

 "Professor Puckle's aberration happens at a most awkward moment. You
 have heard from Dora of her engagement to Sir Beaumont Finsbury? We
 are all _so_ pleased. He is quite charming, and has a lovely place
 in Sussex. A widower with one son, and that is the worst that can
 be said of him! The girls and myself are now in town getting the
 trousseau, making arrangements for the wedding, and have such hundreds
 of engagements, and so much to do, that I am afraid we shall not be
 at Torrington for another fortnight. However, your uncle is at home,
 and you and he will have to entertain one another. Unfortunately it
 is the dull time of the year (being Lent), but I dare say you will
 find a steady animal to ride, and you can always go and see dearest
 Mrs. Paget-Taylor, she is so cheery and sociable. The wedding will
 take place at Torrington early in April, and of course you will be one
 of the bridemaids. Post me a pattern, and I will order your dress at
 once. Your cousins send their love,

          "Your affectionate aunt,
                              "WILHELMINA LINGARD."

 "P.S.--I hope you have good news from Ronnie?"

"Quite a nice letter," remarked Lizzie, as she watched me folding it
up. I noticed that her colour had increased, and her eyes, like her
uncle's, were blinking--invariably a sign that she had something
unpleasant to disclose. She gave a little cough, and said, "Now that
all is so amicably arranged, I feel that I am bound to tell you that at
first your aunt was anxious that you and I should not part company."

I met her glance steadily and said:

"Then I presume that was the subject of all those letters and sheets of

"It was," admitted Lizzie; "she wished you to share the flat, and urged
that we were so accustomed to one another, and so attached, etc. But I
absolutely declined, and said that the time had come when you should
take your place in society. In short, my dear, I refused to be a party
to shutting you up in a flat with a middle-aged person like myself--you
must have your place in the sun."

"Do you think I shall enjoy a place in the sun at Torrington?" I asked

With my mind's eye I read the whole correspondence between Aunt Mina
and my companion. My aunt's urgent desire to foist me upon Lizzie
Puckle; Lizzie's equally firm determination to establish me with my
aunt. Possibly--nay probably--she had been offered a handsome bribe;
but both the bribe and I had been declined. No doubt Lizzie had acted
in what she believed to be my best interests, but the result left me
rather sore. Apparently I was wanted neither at Torrington nor in the

"Well, at least a few gleams must fall on you when Dora has become the
Lady Finsbury; you will fill the gap in the family! Your aunt will no
doubt move heaven and earth to transfer you to a home of your own.
Perhaps you will be disposed of next season, and I hope----"

Here I broke in angrily,

"If Aunt Mina attempts to make a match for me I warn you that I shall
run away. I can always find a home with the Soadys."

"My dear Eva, you shall never arrive at that strait! Should you find
Torrington unbearable you must come and live with me. I shall take a
flat with a spare bedroom, and that will be, if the worst comes to the
worst, your haven of refuge. But I can't help thinking that you will
settle down comfortably at Torrington; you are a grown-up young woman
now and must be treated as such; and for your part you will no longer
give way to screaming fits of passion, or to biting saucers! You must
be sure to write to me often, and tell me all your joys and sorrows.
And remember, my dear child, that in any trouble or difficulty you may
always look to _me_."

At a great junction sixty miles from London I was obliged to change,
and as we steamed into the station, with a few words, many kisses and
two or three tears, I took leave of Lizzie. Here our life's pathway
also parted; she, to lead at last a free existence, and I, to enter
once more my aunt's house of bondage.

I was met at our local station by a brougham and a luggage cart, and
was soon bowling along the frosty country road. Torrington had splendid
iron gates, flanked by imposing lodges. The avenue was long, and,
so to speak, made the most of itself! About a quarter of a mile from
the entrance the house came into view, but I felt no glow of joyful
recognition; in spite of a park, delightful gardens and clipped yew
hedges, I had little affection for the home of my ancestors. With its
blank white façade it gave me the impression of some ghastly sinister
face, peering out from among the surrounding woods.

The modern Torrington consisted of a vast domed entrance hall with
suites of cold lofty rooms to right and left. To the rear was the old
Tudor building and chapel; here were narrow dark passages, unexpected
steps and low ceilings. It was in this part of the house that I had
previously had my quarters; it was also in this region that the family
ghost was reported to reside.

On my arrival I was ceremoniously received by Baker, the butler. Baker
had been many years at Torrington and was a most trustworthy retainer.
There was a legend that _he_ was the butler who, when master said,
"This champagne is corked," breathed in his ear, "Never mind, sir,
it'll do for the ladies!"

Baker, who had grown portly with years, and had known me as a child,
was rather inclined to be paternal in his manner. He had witnessed my
fits of fury and been privy to my terms of punishment and disgrace.
After a word or two of greeting, he added:

"We have put you in the pink room, Miss Eva."

"Yes, Baker, I am beyond the nursery now, am I not?" I said as I stood
beside him in the hall and looked over his head, now bald and shiny.

"That's true, miss, a grown-up young lady. I should say you'd shot up a
couple of inches since you were here last. Tea is laid in the library.
I expect the squire will be in directly."

A pause of horror as he noticed Kip.

"I say, Miss Eva, this will never do; what about the dog?"

"Oh, the dog will be all right," I replied in my most offhand style,
"and no trouble to anyone."

Baker gave a dubious cough and said:

"You know Mrs. Lingard don't allow visiting dogs. I can't see how we
shall manage."

I made no reply, but turned to ascend to my room. Baker accompanied me,
still muttering to himself and shaking his head. More than once he had
carried me, kicking and screaming, up these very stairs! On the first
landing I was met and taken charge of by a smart maid, who ushered
me into one of the second best rooms--a pretty apartment, facing
south--and asked me for my keys. I endeavoured diplomatically and with
some success to interest her with respect to Kip, released my best hat
from durance vile, bathed my face, got into a new blouse, and hurried
down to meet my uncle in the library. He had just returned from hunting
and brought with him a bracing whiff of keen fresh air and new leather.

For a moment he stared at me, as if I were an utter stranger, then

"Hallo, Evie! I scarcely knew you! Glad to see you!" kissing me on the
cheek. "It's ages since you were here. How is that, eh?"

Impossible to tell him the bare naked truth, so I replied, "Don't you
remember, the doctors thought this place too relaxing for me. But now I
am perfectly well."

"Eh, that's good news! Now come along and pour out tea and give me a
big cup. Your aunt and the girls are detained in London with all these
wedding bothers. She sent me Miss Puckle's letter, that told all about
that blithering old fool her uncle. Rather a smash up for Miss Puckle
and you! Still it's an ill wind that blows nobody good, and I am very
glad to have you here. I say, where did that dog come from?" as Kipper
trotted in with the footman, escort to poached eggs and hot buttered

"He was Miss Puckle's property," I explained, "and she gave him to me;
he really is a very good fellow." (Yes, the days of slipper-eating were
no more!)

"I'm afraid your aunt won't stand him!" said my uncle, looking
unexpectedly grave. "You see she keeps griffons herself--she has them
with her now--and these fox-terriers are the devil for fighting, and
besides that he is bound to disturb the game. However, I suppose he can
stay till she comes back, and then maybe we shall be able to find him a
good home."

Uncle was a handsome dapper little man, with clean-cut features and a
remarkably neat figure. Ronnie resembled him, and uncle reminded me of
Ronnie in some ways. He and I, being _tête à tête_, got on famously:
we went for long walks about the place, over the Home farm and round
the coverts. Our tastes agreed; we both liked the country. We visited
the gardens, the stables, and once or twice I rode to a meet in one of
my cousin's habits--which was a decidedly easy fit. After dinner we
played piquet and talked politics; in short, we became great friends.
Uncle imparted to me in confidence that he was not much in favour of
the brilliant match. Finsbury was a fellow of his own age and something
of a _vieux marcheur_. I think--as he smoked an excellent cigar by
the fire in the library--uncle forgot that his listener was only a
girl, and talked to me as freely as one man to another. "Finsbury's
lawyer had been very stiff over the settlements." I also gathered that
"Bev was terribly wild and extravagant, but could do no wrong in his
mother's eyes."

"By Jove, she even jokes at his bills! There is nothing of the Lingard
in him, not like Ronnie, who is a Lingard to the bone. I sometimes feel
as if he were my own son. I am proud of Ronnie. As for you, my dear,"
and he patted my arm affectionately, "you must make yourself at home
here, now and always."

"I should like to, uncle, if I may."

"What is to hinder you?" he inquired.

I knew, but I could not tell him. Possibly he guessed, for he added:

"You know your aunt is a good sort, if you take her the right way.
Having pots of money in her own hands is a handicap for any woman"--he
heaved a tell-tale sigh, then pulled himself up and said, "Now come
along, and let us play piquet."

It was rather startling to find myself temporary mistress of this
great household, to enter rooms I had never seen, to examine things
I had never ventured to touch, to play on the grand Steinway piano
undisturbed for hours, to give orders, to ring bells, and to sit at
the head of the table in the place sacred to my masterful relative.
Once I ventured to open the door of her boudoir, and went in on tiptoe,
but I did not remain long; the whole room seemed to be imbued with the
personality of its mistress.

On hunting days I was alone. Uncle breakfasted, booted and spurred,
fussed off to some distant meet, and rarely reappeared before five or
six o'clock. I occupied my spare hours in reading, practising, and
writing letters--seated at Aunt Mina's bureau in the morning room, and
using the best paper headed "Torrington Park." As the family were known
to be from home, there were no visitors except the rector, and the wife
of uncle's agent, Mrs. Paget-Taylor, who had made a delightful home for
herself in the old Dower House across the park.

       *       *       *       *       *

It was an ideal hunting day, damp and cloudy. In the afternoon, Kipper
and I, who had been for a long tramp through the bare wet woods, sat
together on a big buffalo rug before the fire in the library. I think
I must have been dozing, when I heard the door open and a sonorous
voice announce:

"Captain Falkland."

I sprang to my feet, and so did Kipper. Captain Falkland looked
astonished as he advanced, then halted and said:

"The butler told me I would find Miss Lingard here."

"Miss Eva Lingard," I corrected. "My aunt and cousins are in London.
Uncle is out hunting, but he may be in at any moment."

"Ah, I doubt that," said the visitor. "The hounds met at Grantley, and
it is a capital scenting day; if they find, he will have a long ride

"Won't you sit down?" I said, pointing to a chair near the fire.

"It's odd," he remarked, looking at me as he seated himself, "but I
have never seen you here, and I have often been over for shoots. My
people are only ten miles away."

"That is easily explained," I replied, "most of my time has been spent
at school, and since I left Cheltenham I have been living with my old
governess at Beke. At least"--correcting myself--"she is not _very_
old, but she was with my cousins here for a long time."

"But Beke--why Beke? What a dismal hole! I have been there to buy
tobacco, and rank bad stuff it was!"

"They say Beke is healthy, and the doctors thought Torrington didn't
suit me."

"But surely you are all right now?" he remarked briskly. "I've come
over to say good-bye, as I'm off to India on Friday. I am sorry to miss
the squire, but, on the other hand, am awfully glad to find _you_ here.
You have been such a most distracting puzzle to me."

"A puzzle," I echoed, as I rang for tea and lights. "Why?"

"Why did you go to that beanfeast at Mirfield? You must allow that it
was surprising to see a girl of your class among that crowd."

"I went to that dance just to break the deadly monotony of Beke. I
worried Lizzie--that is to say, Miss Puckle--I made her life such a
burden that she gave me leave to go for once. It was to be a dead
secret, and I never dreamt that anyone I met there would ever see me

"I say, what a crew!" he exclaimed, "That fellow with the red tie and
yellow boots, and the one in the white sweater!"

"Yes, they were unconventional, I admit, but good kind souls, and I was
not in the least ashamed of being in their society. I enjoyed myself
immensely--my first ball!"

"Your first ball!" he repeated scornfully. "Well, you had a festive
time going home in that shandrydan, I should say!"

As I did not wish to pursue the subject, I asked:

"Do you take sugar?"

"If you please; and so I see you have brought your dog?"

"Yes, but only for a short stay. Dogs are not admitted here. I must
find him a home somewhere. They won't have him at the rectory, and the
gamekeeper says no, too--though he admires Kip."

"So Mrs. Lingard bars dogs?"

"All but her own griffons. And you are starting for India on Friday?
How I envy you! I wonder if you will be anywhere near my brother?"

"I am going to Secunderabad in the Deccan."

"How extraordinary! That is where Ronnie is quartered."

"Then he is in the Service?"

"Yes, the 'Lighthearts,' and has just got his company. He came to see
me last September, when he was home on leave. He was not favourably
impressed by Beke, and suggested my going to India as a paying guest
with nice people. There are only the two of us, and at least we should
be in the same country. He wrote to Uncle Horace on the subject, but
nothing happened."

"The squire is your uncle?"

"Yes; my father was his only brother."

Captain Falkland stared into his teacup, as if he saw something there
of engrossing interest, then raising his eyes to mine, he said:

"I see; and so you have been released from Beke, and have come to live
here? Are the Lingards your nearest relations?"

"My only ones, except Ronnie--and he is much more than a mere
relation." I cannot imagine what folly possessed me, but I added, "He
is very popular here--but I am not."

"Impossible!" exclaimed my companion with ready politeness, "How could
that be?"

"Oh, it's a long story--much too long."

"Do tell it to me," he urged, "I shall wait for your uncle; there's
nothing to do but talk this gloomy afternoon, and as you are deputy
hostess, I expect to be entertained!"

"But it's merely a family prejudice," I objected, "and not the least

"Your family and mine are old friends and even connections, so why not
share the little 'jars' with me?"

"Well, in that case you shall hear all there is to tell," I replied.
(Alas! it never required much persuasion to encourage me to talk.)
"Ronnie and I arrived here as orphans, when he was ten and I was
four. Aunt Mina took to him at once, he has such a dear open face and
charming manners; but I--well, we had come from France--and I missed my
_bonne_. I loathed porridge and lots of things. I had been spoiled. I
gave way to furies, and there is a legend that in one of my rages I bit
a piece out of a saucer! In fact, I was always in disgrace, so I was
sent to school at Cheltenham, where Ronnie was at college, and we saw
one another every week. Then in the holidays I generally brought back
something--measles, chicken pox or mumps--so you won't be surprised to
hear that I was left at school altogether, and only for missing Ronnie,
I much preferred it."

"The family black lamb!" he ejaculated with a laugh, then added, "Is
that all?"

"Yes, my past career has been tame--and my future is uncertain."

"It lies in the lap of the gods?" suggested Captain Falkland.

"No indeed, but in the hands of Aunt Wilhelmina. Uncle and I get on
together splendidly, but I don't know how it will be when she returns.
You see my aunt has not seen me for two years, and she, I am afraid,
can only think of me as a detestable, ill-tempered, sickly child. My
fate, like that of Kipper, is trembling in the balance."

"Kipper's fate need no longer tremble," declared Captain Falkland.
"With your permission, I will undertake his future."

"Ah, but you are going to India?"

"Yes, and I shall be rather glad of a dog. They are great company,
and these fox-terriers are the only breed that really thrive in a hot
place, and I believe Secunderabad is fairly warm."

"If you will really take Kipper," I said, "I shall be most grateful,
and he will see an old friend out there--my brother. If Kip is
tiresome, you must pass him on."

"I have never met your brother, as I am only recently appointed as
A.D.C. to the general, but I shall look him up, and carry him any
messages or parcels from you."

"Tell him not to be so lazy about writing, and that you found me
happily established here."

"But still, so to speak, 'on approval?'"

"I suppose it amounts to that!" Then suddenly, overwhelmed with qualms
at my indiscreet outpourings, I added, "But please, Captain Falkland,
forget _everything_ I have told you. You know you made me talk, and I
am afraid I am only too ready to chatter, and let my tongue run away
with me."

"There I envy you, for I can't talk, or ever get out half I want to
say. When I was a boy I had a hesitation in my speech; it was cured,
but the memory has always tied my tongue. My family call me 'Dummy.' I
suppose Miss Puckle kept you in great order?"

"No indeed, she merely pointed out my faults."

"And these are----"

"Having told you so much I may as well confess that I like to talk when
I get the chance. Since leaving school I have led rather a solitary
sort of life. Miss Puckle was busy all day in the parish, or flying
over the country on her bike. At night she was generally dead tired,
and would lie on the sofa while I played to her, and the professor was
buried in his books. Here, my uncle has been away since eight o'clock
this morning, and I have had no one to speak to except Baker the
butler, and of course we cannot advance beyond the weather, so when I
get hold of listeners, I don't spare them!"

"But your faults?" he persisted.

"Talking too much--being unguarded and impulsive, proud, and they say,
hot-tempered! Turn about is fair play. What about your weaknesses?"

"Silence is best," he answered with a laugh.

"And I have confessed everything! Just like me. Well, even so, it might
have been worse. As you are going to India we are not likely to meet
again, and you will soon forget my chatter and myself."

"I have a tenacious memory, Miss Lingard. In fact, I may say, that I
am tenacious about most things and I shall not forget you. You never
expected to come across me after that night of the dance, when you were
so mysterious, and, may I add--so saucy? Yet here I am, and actually in
possession of your dog. I shall keep you posted up in his career. I may
write to you, may I not?"

"Write," I ejaculated, my breath taken completely away, "I should like
to hear----" then I hesitated. "Of course I know that lots of girls
write to men--my cousins do--but I've never corresponded with anyone
but Ronnie; my aunt would ask questions, and wonder how I made your

"You made my acquaintance at Torrington. Our official acquaintance only
began to-day. I shall certainly drop you a line."

"Oh no, no, please do not write," I protested with energy. Then, aware
of the presence of a soft-footed manservant, who had entered to
remove the tea things, I broke off abruptly and hastily changed the
conversation. I believe Charles was deeply interested in our talk,
for he lingered over his task, and rearranged the saucers on the tray
with very deliberate exactitude. Just after he left the room a little
tinkling clock chimed six and my companion sprang to his feet.

"I say," he exclaimed, "it is later than I thought! Awfully sorry
I can't wait to see the squire; give him all sorts of messages for
me. Well," stooping, "come along, Kip, say good-bye to your missis,"
suddenly raising the drowsy and astonished animal and holding him
towards me.

"Must he go now, so soon?" I faltered.

Captain Falkland nodded, and as I kissed Kipper between his eyes I
felt a great lump in my throat. I was parting with one of my very few
friends, but I instinctively realised that I had bestowed him on a kind

With the struggling dog hoisted under his arm, his new owner wrung my
hand, and said,

"Good-bye, I promise to take jolly good care of Kip." He paused as
if about to add something, then evidently changed his mind, hastily
opened the door, and went forth. For my part, I resisted an almost
overpowering impulse to follow him into the hall, but I was aware that
such a proceeding would be outrageously improper. What would Baker
think and say? As I stood half-hearted and uncertain in the middle of
the room, I heard a motor buzzing down the avenue. He was gone! Then I
went and sat on the rug before the fire, now entirely alone, and was
aware of a curious sense of personal desolation. I dared not trust my
heart to answer the question, which of the two I most regretted--the
man or the dog?

By and by uncle arrived in exuberant spirits, talking himself into
the library at the top of his clear, well-bred voice. It had been
as Captain Falkland predicted, "the run of the season." I was not a
sportswoman, and I listened with politely assumed interest to a vivid
description of the desperate going over Hippersly, the amount of grief
that ensued, and the astonishing exploits of two hunters. At last,
after having blown off sufficient steam, he said:

"So I'm told Falkland has been here?"

"Yes, he came to say good-bye to you. He starts for India on Friday. He
waited ages."

"What do you call ages?"

"Over an hour."

After a pause of astonishment:

"You must have made yourself mighty agreeable, eh? Falkland hasn't much
to say for himself. He is a rattling good sort and a keen soldier, but
not a ladies' man."

"On the contrary, he made himself very agreeable to _me_, for he has
taken Kipper off my hands."

"What, the dog! Well, well, that's all right! He would be a bit of a
nuisance when your aunt came home. I hope he won't get into trouble
with Lady Louisa's prize cats."

"Oh, there is no fear of that," I answered eagerly, "for Captain
Falkland is taking Kip with him to India."

Uncle stared at me, and gave a loud whistle.

"I say, Eva, keep that dark! If your aunt were to hear of this
dog-giving, and taking, she'd--anyway, there'd be wigs on the green!"



Mrs. Paget-Taylor, whose society had been so urgently recommended
by my aunt, was the wife of uncle's agent, Captain Paget-Taylor, a
broad-shouldered, long-headed, active man of fifty, a first-rate farmer
and a celebrated shot. His consort was a little dark woman endowed with
extraordinary animation, tact and capability. Her house was comfortable
and well appointed, her cook a treasure, her delightful drawing-room
furnished with most inviting sofas and chairs, delicious cushions,
stacks of flowers, and softly shaded lamps. This apartment was the
council chamber and scene of many important conferences, for Mrs.
Paget-Taylor was a power in the neighbourhood. From her kidney-shaped
writing table she pulled many strings and was credited with an ample
supply of what is known as "interest." Her activities, although of the
same genre, were on a different scale to those of Lizzie Puckle. Whilst
Lizzie harangued school children, took the chair at meetings, got up
rummage sales, and shepherded outlying hamlets, Mrs. Paget-Taylor
merely held interviews and confidential conversations. She was known to
be exceedingly insidious and persuasive, and I may say at once that she
was my aunt's right hand! My relative referred to Mrs. Paget-Taylor
on every question and in every crisis--whether it was the matter of a
new kitchen range or a prospective son-in-law; and, as the agent's wife
had no family and ample leisure, she was in a position to throw herself
heart and soul into other people's affairs.

No one in the whole neighbourhood was so popular as Mrs. Paget-Taylor;
she was always agreeable, well dressed, helpful, and sympathetic. Half
the girls and the young married women laid their miseries before her,
and she might almost be said to have kept a high-class registry office
for marriages and situations!

When I arrived at Torrington the lady happened to be away from home.
A week later I received a note from the Dower House, inviting me down
to tea. Naturally I accepted with pleasure, although I impressed upon
myself as I walked across the park that I must be very cautious and not
give myself away, or burst into impulsive confidences, as had been the
case in my last _tête-à-tête_.

Mrs. Paget-Taylor invited me partly from good nature, and partly in
order to hold an inspection, on which to report on me elsewhere. As
I entered, the atmosphere of the place seemed to exude warmth and
comfort; the flagged entrance hall was covered with a thick carpet,
heated by a great log fire, and furnished with old oak chests and
chairs. Somehow I liked the feel of the place!

I found the mistress of the house in the drawing-room, hastily
stamping letters for the evening post. As she rose and offered me an
affectionate embrace, her keen dark eyes swept me with one swift glance
and she said:

"So glad to see you, Eva! I am sorry I have been away until to-day. You
must have found it terribly dull, I'm afraid."

"Oh no," I answered mendaciously. "Uncle is very kind, and takes me
about with him. He lends me 'Old Soldier,' and on the days he doesn't
hunt we go for long rides."

"You are grown up now," she said, drawing me towards the sofa, "and not
a Lingard, like your brother! You look such a vivid, youthful, happy
creature, you must be a Mostyn. I remember hearing that your mother had
masses of wonderful hair and such smiling grey eyes."

"Are my eyes smiling?" I inquired.

"Yes," she assented. "I noticed them when you were here two years
ago--sunny eyes, I would call them. Now come and let us have a nice
talk and tell me all about yourself."

"There's so little to tell. If you knew Beke, you would understand."

"You are quite strong, I can see--the picture of health. I am sure you
are glad of the change and looking for a little excitement, and things
to happen, are you not?"

After we had talked about the family and the forthcoming marriage, my
aunt's bronchitis and the professor's enormities, there was a slight
pause, and I was surprised to hear myself saying:

"Mrs. Paget-Taylor, you know everybody and everything. I should be so
grateful if you would tell me a little about my parents. Whenever I ask
my aunt her answers are vague. I have my mother's picture, and I know
she died in France, and that my father was so broken-hearted that he
threw up his commission and disappeared to America, where he died."

"I never saw your mother," said Mrs. Paget-Taylor, now looking at the
fire with an immovable face. "She was seldom in England. Your father's
regiment was quartered in the Mediterranean, but I have always heard
that she was most attractive, well born, and an orphan. Your father
met her on board ship, coming home from Egypt. She had a moderate
fortune--which luckily was settled on the children."

"But why do you say luckily?" I inquired eagerly.

"Because, my dear girl, your father was hopeless in that respect.
He had no conscience where money was concerned. He was a confirmed
gambler. I am sorry to say it is in the Lingard blood--and just let me
give you one little friendly hint: do not ask questions or talk about
him at the Park?"

"But why not?" I asked.

Mrs. Paget-Taylor made no reply, but again turned away her face and
stared steadily at the fire.

"He is dead, is he not?" I persisted.

"Yes," she answered slowly, "dead, this many years, but I would
rather not say any more except this: he is the family skeleton in the
cupboard--best leave him there."

For a moment, indeed for much longer, I sat beside my hostess in
stunned silence, then with a great effort I began to put on my gloves,
and prepared to take my departure.

Mrs. Paget-Taylor noticed my emotion, and instantly became motherly and

"I know exactly how you feel, my dear," putting her hand on my
shoulder, and looking into my face, "completely unhinged, of course;
what I have told you must be a most painful shock, but it was
better--yes, and kinder--to put you on your guard. It is all such
an old story now; thank goodness, most people have short memories.
It is said that nothing which is in the blood dies. The Torringtons
have always been afraid that the family curse might reappear in you
or Ronnie--especially Ronnie, but he is as steady as Old Time--such a
relief! My dear, whenever you feel inclined, I shall be too glad if you
will come down to see me, and I do hope you will find yourself _very_
happy at the Park."

Here, as the door opened to admit some belated visitors, I effected my

All the way home in the dark, although I might still be "youthful and
vivid," I was no longer a "happy" creature; my mind was tormented with
the problem of my parents' story, and it exercised my thoughts for many
a day.

I struggled to recall what I could from misty memories of long ago.
There was an impression of a great deal of bright sunshine, of being
carried up long streets with steps, of a tall lady in white, and a dark
man with gold buttons on his coat--and that was all!



Two days after my visit to the Dower House, Aunt Mina arrived home.
Her return occasioned an extraordinary commotion; what conscientious
dusting, what airing of rooms, and what extravagant fires! She
was accompanied by my cousins, her future son-in-law, and various
guests, also by several maids--including her kennel-maid and four
tiny griffons. We had not met for nearly two years, and the deadly
fear I entertained of her in childhood and flapperdom had waned. My
nerves were stronger, I felt more independent, I looked on my aunt
dispassionately, fought hard to smother my sense of personal antipathy
and distaste, and to put myself in the place of a stranger, meeting
her for the first time. If my uncle was well featured, and of short
stature, his wife was his opposite in appearance; tall and bony, with
high square shoulders, a pair of bluish green eyes, a large domineering
nose, and a sunken, bitter mouth. A plain woman, who made the utmost of
her appearance, had admirable taste in dress, and carried herself with
dignity. I am glad to state that I did not quail when we met in the
library, and she accorded me a smudgy kiss.

"Delighted to see you, Eva," she said. "Hubert," turning to an elderly
gentleman with an eyeglass, "this is my niece, or rather my husband's
niece, Eva Lingard."

Sir Beaufort Finsbury bowed, carefully rearranged his eyeglass, and, on
second thoughts, offered me his hand.

"Hallo, Eva!" exclaimed Clara, "Here you are! And so you've been
hobnobbing with the pater all this time? You look as if you'd grown a
foot, but, my dear girl, how abominably you do your hair!"

"She's got stacks of it, anyhow," put in her sister; "no pads, nothing
put on, eh, Eva?" Dora had always befriended me.

Clara was my senior by seven or eight years. When I was a small child
in the nursery she had been a well-grown girl in the schoolroom, and
a cruel and merciless bully. She was tall, with a stoop, and had
pale reddish hair, a thick white skin, and heavy white eyelids, half
concealing her pale prominent eyes. As Clara had a sharp, merciless
tongue, wore glasses and subscribed to the London Library, she was
generally spoken of as "the clever Miss Lingard." Dora, on the other
hand, was dull and indolent, but good looking, in a lazy dark style,
and much more amiable than her sister. She was fond of bridge, and did
a little betting on the sly! Was the hereditary failing to reappear in

The party from London, a gay one, was chiefly composed of Sir
Beaufort's friends and some of the Lingard connections who had
"handles" to their names. One day we patronised a point-to-point
steeplechase, the next a race meeting; at night, there was bridge and
dancing. My aunt had brought me some evening dresses, my hair was
arranged in the latest fashion, and I no longer looked like Beke--nor
felt like it either! I enjoyed myself vastly, and was privately
informed by Dora that her mother was pleased with me, and that I had
been quite presentable. I really believe that at this time my aunt
almost liked me. I was ready to help her by writing menus and notes,
giving a last little touch to the table decorations, and "taking on"
the bores. Moreover, I was in considerable demand as a partner for
bridge and dancing, and possibly my chaperon had agreeable visions of
getting me speedily off her hands.

Early in April the wedding took place, after a week of the most
strenuous preparations. The house was packed to the very roof, and I
confess that I was not sorry when the whole affair was over, the bride
had said farewell, the last handful of rice had been thrown, and the
departing motor become a mere speck on the avenue.

Bev, who had come down expressly for the day, renewed his attentions to
me. He informed me that he found me enormously improved in appearance.
Unfortunately, I was not able to repay the compliment in kind. Bev had
none of the good looks of the Lingard family. To me he always bore a
ridiculous resemblance to a young gander. A very long thin neck, a
very long beaky nose, a small flat head and no chin, supported this

We had settled into the usual routine, and my aunt was beginning to
talk of a couple of weeks in London and a June Drawing Room, when, to
the consternation of the whole family, Beverley reappeared, having been
sent down from Oxford. Apparently his scrapes had reached a climax.
There were debts, too! Uncle's face looked grim and glum, and even my
aunt, always so indulgent, was obviously displeased with her darling.

Suppressed by his parents and sister, Bev turned for consolation to
me. He followed me about like a shadow and was absolutely impervious
to snubs. If I went out riding he became my escort; if I escaped for a
walk, or into the old schoolroom, he tracked me down and joined me. My
angry protests were of no avail, and I could not help feeling that my
aunt was really unlucky. Here was an idle ne'er-do-well loafing about
at home. Here was also the niece, whose attractions she feared--and the
pair were continually together!

For my part I sought refuge with Clara or Mrs. Paget-Taylor, but what
was to be done upon wet days? On one of these Bev joined me in the old
schoolroom, where I had ensconced myself before a good fire with a new
novel in my hand. I gave him a very tepid reception, as he drew up a
chair, put his long feet on the chimneypiece, and lit a cigarette.

"I have been hunting for you everywhere," he announced.

"Yes," I replied, "like the little boy in the fable, who wanted
somebody to play with; but I'm not going to play," I added sharply,
"and if you worry I shall go and sit up in my own room." And I returned
to my book.

"By Jove, Eva, you are changed!" he exclaimed, "such a grand, stand-off
young lady. Do you remember how in this very room we used to roast
chestnuts and make horrible toffee? We were great pals then, why can't
we be pals now?"

"Everything is different," I replied without raising my eyes.

"Oh yes; instead of being a long-legged flapper, with red hands and a
cold in your head, you have bloomed into a great beauty."

"Don't talk nonsense," I said impatiently.

"By Jove, it's true! Old Finny"--thus did he refer to the baronet, his
brother-in-law--"said that if you were brought out in London you would
make a tremendous stir."

"Rubbish," I ejaculated, "he was pulling your leg."

"Not mine; he was talking to the governor; and young Chambers told me
there was no one to touch you at the Belmont hop, that the men were
falling over one another to get a dance, and I don't wonder." Here he
brought down his legs with a crash, threw his cigarette into the fire,
and, turning to face me, said, "Eva, I adore you!"

"Oh, shut up," I answered rudely.

"That's a nice way to talk to a fellow," he exclaimed in an injured

"It's the right way when a fellow is talking nonsense."

"You would be the making of me, Evie; you know that," he continued,
towering over me as he spoke; "you are awfully clever, the governor
says--so clear-headed and sensible, with a capital seat on horseback,
and uncommon good looks. He is dead nuts on you. Come now, say you will
marry me!"

"And what about your mother?" I asked.

For a moment he was dumb.

"Well, if she objects and makes the place too hot to hold any of
us, I'll marry a chorus girl. After all, I'm one and twenty and the
property is strictly entailed."

"You'll be cutting a rod to beat yourself, my good Bev, and I should be
truly sorry for the poor chorus girl, and incidentally for you. I like
you all right, Bev, as a cousin. I do not forget that you always took
my part and befriended me when I was in disgrace----"

"Well, now the boot is on the other foot," he interrupted, "I'm in
everybody's black books, I'm in disgrace with the pater, so won't you
befriend me? Turn about is fair play."

"I'm afraid, Bev, that the only thing I can offer you is advice. Why
don't you try for a commission in the army?"

"Too old."

"Well then, travel; go and see the world."

"If you will come along with me I'll go like a shot."

Ignoring this suggestion with a wave of my hand, I continued my

"You really must give up betting and cards----" History, as we all
know, repeats itself; even as I spoke the door opened, and my aunt

"Oh----" and she paused expressively. That "Oh" was dramatic; it
conveyed volumes of disapproval.

"Eva, I have been looking for you everywhere. I want you to collect the
books for Mudie's, make out a fresh list, and, as the maid is ill, will
you wash two of the griffons?"

She spoke in her normal voice, but her jaw was set and her suspicious
blue-green eyes roved backwards and forwards from Beverley to me.

"All right," I said, rising with alacrity, only too thankful to close
the interview; and as I followed Aunt Mina down the long flagged
passages, I knew from the expression of her back, as surely as if she
had told me in words, that her fears respecting Bev and myself were
once more awakened.

My life at this period was by no means a bed of roses. Uncle was laid
up with a sharp attack of gout, possibly brought on by the shock of
Beverley's debts. Beverley persecuted me. He was quite too dreadfully
cunning, a domestic Sherlock Holmes, and seemed, in spite of his
mother's most anxious precautions, to mark down my exact whereabouts
with unfailing accuracy. I snubbed him mercilessly, even at meal-times,
and, strange to say, my brusque little speeches aroused Aunt Mina's
ire; yet if I had been agreeable she would have been furious and
have declared that I was "drawing him on." There was no pleasing her,
but, poor woman, the situation was harassing; she could not send
Beverley from home, as he was not to be trusted--her only alternative
was to make some desperate effort to get rid of _me_! Alas! this was
a hopeless undertaking. Consequently, so far as I was concerned, she
became the very incarnation of despotism and aggression.

Although I lived in a luxurious abode, shared a maid with my cousin
Clara (my share I may mention was merely nominal), had a delightful
horse to ride, a superb piano to play on, quantities of books and most
dainty food, I was far from being happy or contented. The truth was
that the continual strain of holding Beverley at bay on the one hand,
and vainly attempting to soothe his mother's fears on the other, was
altogether too much for my nervous system. The tension was terrible,
a tension that was never relaxed. Just at this particular crisis our
good genius, Mrs. Paget-Taylor, came to the assistance of the family.
She constantly entertained visitors in her comfortable Dower House;
sometimes these were relations, sometimes old friends, and occasionally
there were casual acquaintances whom she had picked up abroad or when
doing a "cure" at home.

One afternoon she appeared, just before tea-time, accompanied by two
guests, a lady and gentleman; the former, who followed her closely
across the slippery parquet floor of the vast drawing-room, was
entirely uncommon and picturesquely different from our everyday
callers. The visitor who approached in the wake of Mrs. Paget-Taylor
held herself erect, her head slightly thrown back; her face was
strikingly handsome, she had wavy brown hair, straight black brows,
extraordinarily expressive eyes, and a brilliant complexion. These
details can give but a faint idea of her personality. She wore a
costume of some rich dark blue material with little touches of gold,
and a hat that was equally _chic_ and becoming. The vision was so vivid
and impressive that I could do nothing but gaze, and gaze, and gaze.

The strangers were presented as "Captain and Mrs. Hayes-Billington,"
and Mrs. Paget-Taylor murmured to my aunt that he was "a far away
connection, at present on leave from India." Captain Hayes-Billington
was a stout well-set-up man of thirty, with regular features and a
heavy dark moustache, but his face had a puffy appearance; indeed, he
was altogether puffy, and to me his arms and legs recalled inflated
air cushions, so tightly did his grey suit encase them. He was not in
the least overawed or dumbfounded, as were some, by the magnificence
of Torrington, but chatted away to Aunt Mina about "my regiment," "my
appointment," and "my mines," and carried round the tea-cups with the
address of long practice. Mrs. Hayes-Billington also took part in the
general conversation. She had a sweet, rather low voice, and exhibited
when she spoke glimpses of beautiful teeth. Her manners were easy and
assured, and her smile was radiant. Such smiles thawed Aunt Mina's
usual manner of ice and iron. She was always amenable when she realised
that people were not afraid of her. This stranger was fearless, and
listened to her account of the super-griffon's asthma with an admirably
assumed air of absorption and sympathy. It was wonderful how rapidly
she stole into my aunt's good graces. They discussed Monte Carlo, and
the rapacity of milliners, and compared their experiences of French
hotels. The visitor also exchanged a few sentences with Bev, who,
instead of fleeing from callers as usual, was sitting, tea-cup in hand,
staring at Mrs. Hayes-Billington with wide open pea-green eyes.

She inquired the name of his regiment, which query, strange to say,
delicately flattered his greedy vanity.

"Not in the army?" she repeated incredulously, "I certainly thought you
were in the Guards."

"Oh, no," he rejoined, "I am going into the Diplomatic Service"; which
was the first that anyone had heard of it!

It transpired that the couple were spending a whole week at the Dower
House ere returning to India in a month's time, and presently I screwed
up my courage and ventured to ask her how she liked the East.

"Oh it's all right, as long as one is young," she answered in a deep,
rather vibrant voice, looking at me steadily with her marvellous dark
eyes. "We have always been in the Punjaub, but this time we are bound
for the Deccan. Herbert has been given a very good appointment there.
It will be an entirely new country."

Before the little party took leave, my aunt, much to my astonishment,
invited them to dinner, for as a rule she never extended hospitality to
the Dower House guests.

No sooner had they left us than a chorus of remarks arose, all in
praise of Mrs. Hayes-Billington. Bev was particularly loud and
eloquent. His mother and sister agreed that she was handsome, smart,
and not in the least the usual type of officer's wife that drifted home
from India, washed out, flabby and dowdy.

Mrs. Hayes-Billington's appearance of an evening was positively
dazzling; in fact, I may say that the effect of her beauty on a country
cousin like myself was almost overwhelming. She wore a rose-coloured
gown, very _décolletée_, a diamond bandeau in her dark wavy hair, and
was undoubtedly the queen of the company. What was Aunt Mina in dark
green velvet? What was I, in my new white _crêpe de Chine_? Merely the
background of an exquisite picture.

We were a party of twelve; four from the Dower House, five of
ourselves, the rector and his wife (she was a bishop's daughter) and
young Tom Champneys, a neighbour. Uncle took in Mrs. Hayes-Billington,
who sat between him and Bev. I came next to Bev, with Captain
Paget-Taylor on my left hand. At the head of the table Aunt Mina
was supported by Captain Hayes-Billington and the rector. Mrs.
Hayes-Billington talked away with great animation to my uncle. She
discoursed of pig-sticking, jackal hunting, and racing, and asked many
questions about our local pack; but somehow I received an impression
that she and my uncle did not hit it off. It struck me that my usually
voluble relation was somewhat reserved in his manner, though always the
polite and attentive host. Occasionally she addressed herself to Bev,
and found him eagerly responsive.

From the other end of the table I could hear Captain Hayes-Billington
relating experiences and stories to Aunt Mina and the rector in a loud,
jovial voice. I caught one or two stories--chestnuts, no doubt--with
regard to a certain class called "Baboos." One of them had announced
that "the army was a glorious profession in time of peace, but in time
of war highly dangerous." Another, who had given his seat to a lady, on
her saying she was sorry to deprive him of it, replied, "No depravity,
madam!" The raconteur laughed so uproariously at his own anecdotes that
his hearers were compelled to join--even my aunt accorded a fixed smile.

Young Champneys, who sat opposite, suddenly addressed Captain
Paget-Taylor across the table, and said:

"Last time I was in town I saw Falkland at the club. He was just
starting for India. He seemed a bit bothered by a dog he had with him.
He told me it had been given to him by a girl."

"Oh, rats!" exclaimed Bev, "Falkland isn't a ladies' man, we all know
that. He bought the brute at Whiteley's."

"Funny sort of aide-de-camp he'll make," said Captain Paget-Taylor;
"I can't see him escorting women, writing invitations, and doing the
carpet knight! Falkland is a keen soldier, his character is as strong
as a breakwater, but his manner is short and he has no parlour tricks!
I believe the general is a connection of Lady Louisa's, and as Falkland
had a pretty stiff time in the Soudan, and as a lad got knocked about
in the Boer War, his mother clamoured for this easy billet, but of
course _he_ knows nothing about that!"

Once in the drawing-room, Mrs. Hayes-Billington and my aunt paired off
together and enthroned themselves on a sofa, whilst I was dispatched
to the piano and commanded to play and sing. Mrs. Paget-Taylor and the
rector's wife discussed the temper of the parish nurse, and Clara wrote

Between my unappreciated songs I noticed that Aunt Mina and her guest
were engaged in what appeared to be an absorbing conversation. Mrs.
Hayes-Billington undertook most of the talking, and was evidently
explaining something to my relative, to which she listened with unusual
attention, punctuating the information from time to time with slow,
impressive nods.

The next day Mrs. Paget-Taylor came up to Torrington, and had a long
private conference with my aunt in her boudoir. Subsequently the
Hayes-Billingtons were invited to lunch and the lady was taken for a
drive in the family landau--a most unusual favour--and, so far as I
could divine, for no ostensible reason. It soon became evident that _I_
was the cause of all this hospitality and condescension. To make a long
story short, the Hayes-Billingtons were hard up; a year at home had
proved unexpectedly costly, and they would gladly undertake the charge
of a nice girl, if it were made worth while. Their terms were £150 a
year inclusive, to be paid quarterly. All this my cousin Clara imparted
to me with considerable zest, for although she and I had never openly
quarrelled we were far from being really congenial, and apparently she
now saw a happy opportunity for displacing me. In her opinion one Miss
Lingard in the landau, or the new car, was amply sufficient, and, with
a heavily charged brush, she painted my future prospects in glowing
colours, finishing off the picture with the announcement:

"You will have a splendid time out there, Eva, you are so lively and
superficial, and such a good dancer--just the right sort of girl to go
to India."

This may have been a left-handed compliment, but when, as Lord
Chesterfield said, a compliment is doubtful, it is best to accept it.
My cousin candidly admitted that my uncle was inflexibly opposed to
Mrs. Paget-Taylor's scheme. He thought Captain Hayes-Billington a loud
bragging sort of bounder; as for his wife, she was a handsome woman,
there could be no two opinions about that, but somehow or other she was
not his style. She wore too much scent, made too much use of her eyes,
and he couldn't exactly place her; but then he was always particularly
fastidious. "To come down to the bedrock of the whole question," said
Clara, in conclusion, "what do you think yourself, Eva?"

I was not prepared to give her an answer on the spot, and felt rather
inclined to fall in with my uncle's opinion. Captain Hayes-Billington,
though good-natured, was loud and slangy, and in spite of her spell
there was something odd about his wife. She glowed with beauty like
some hard irresponsive gem, and for all her flow of impulsive talk
I instinctively felt that she was really as cold as a well-cut
diamond. I paced slowly up and down the room with my hands locked
behind my back, then I went and stood for some time looking out of
the window, endeavouring to concentrate my mind on the "fors" and
"againsts." Suddenly below in the Italian garden I beheld Beverley,
who, having caught sight of me, halted and signalled violently with his
handkerchief. No doubt my aunt was watching him from her boudoir--which
was just below--and believed that I was encouraging this frantic

Oh, I felt my present position to be absolutely intolerable. Yes, even
if I went out of the frying-pan into the fire, I resolved to accompany
the Hayes-Billingtons to India!



What a change in my life a few hours had brought. I was going to India!
My dream of dreams was about to be fulfilled. In the meanwhile there
were arrangements and obstacles to be talked over. Uncle, Beverley and
Lizzie Puckle were strongly opposed to my trip, but for once Aunt Mina
and I were agreed, and to every objection we presented an invincible
force of obstinate resistance. She gave me enthusiastic support, was
my firm and eager ally, generously engaged to pay for my outfit and
passage, and assured me that I should have a delightful time and that
this accidental invitation was "a great chance!" She even went so far
as to hint that I would not be long with the Hayes-Billingtons, but
soon comfortably installed in an establishment of my own.

"Really, my dear Eva," she said in an outburst of happy relief, "a girl
with your air and appearance, not to speak of connections, ought to
marry remarkably well."

Apparently I was about to be specially exported to India in order
to be launched on the marriage market! That was my aunt's idea. My
own was otherwise. I would be within hail of my beloved Ronnie, and
far away from the anxieties and embarrassments which encompassed me
at Torrington. With a view to a good talk and to learn my immediate
requirements I went to tea at the Dower House, where I found only Mrs.
Paget-Taylor and Mrs. Hayes-Billington. As I sat beside the latter
on the sofa I was nearly overpowered by the perfume of some heavy
Eastern scent, and at close quarters noticed that the lady's face was a
little made up and careworn. On her part, she was examining me with an
unmistakably critical expression in her lovely eyes.

"I hear you ride well and are fond of dancing, Miss Lingard, so we will
keep a pony for you," she said. "We start next month, and as we arrive
out there in the monsoon you and I will go to the hills together,
whilst Bertie, poor boy, must return to those detestable mines."

I had not the faintest idea of what a "monsoon" might be, but did not
venture to display my ignorance by making inquiries.

"We are going out by a cheap liner if you don't mind," she continued,
"first class to Bombay only forty pounds. We are obliged to be
economical. Your expenses on to Silliram will come to about a hundred
rupees. Unfortunately, we arrive in the rains, but, you see, Bertie's
leave has expired and it cannot be avoided."

She then proceeded to give a long list of my requirements, which Mrs.
Paget-Taylor precisely entered in a little notebook. It seemed that
I should require a saddle and bridle, a thick and thin habit, warm
clothes, cool clothes, smart clothes, cushions, a folding chair, a good
supply of scented soap, sheets, towels, a tea-basket, heaps of silk
underwear, silk stockings, and also golf and tennis requisites.

Armed with this list I returned to my aunt. I felt a certain diffidence
about handing over such a long array of wants, but she seemed to look
upon the matter as a mere bagatelle and even added several items. She
also informed me that I had (as I knew) an income of £150 a year of
my own. This would go to the Hayes-Billingtons, to pay for board and
lodging, and as their funds were low she had agreed to lodge the first
six months in advance, also she and my uncle had decided to make me an
allowance of an additional hundred a year for clothes and my personal
expenses. This was generous treatment, and I thanked her warmly. Now
that I was actually departing, placing seas and continents between us,
Aunt Mina had become semi-attached to me, and it may seem mean of me
to add that I believe she scattered this liberality and largesse as
sacrifice and thank-offering, and, as it were, the price of Bev.

My aunt accompanied me to London to select my outfit, which was ordered
on the most lavish scale; in fact, I would be justified in calling it
a trousseau! When the preparations were well _en train_ she left me to
spend two or three days with Lizzie in the flat, and to be taken by her
to undergo my various fittings.

I found Lizzie comfortably installed, looking years younger than she
had done at Beke, and quite smart. She gave me to understand that Mr.
Chesterfield, the rector, had urged her to marry him, first by letter,
indeed letters; and, as these proved unsuccessful, he had actually come
to London and figuratively prostrated himself at her feet, announcing
that "he was lost without her, and had never realised her priceless
value until she was gone! She was sorely missed everywhere and really
must recall her decision and return to Beke as Mrs. Chesterfield."

"I told him," said Lizzie, "that I knew how he had leaned upon me and
that under other circumstances I would gladly have become his wife, but
now it was impossible. Mrs. Puckle was the obstacle. He might think me
unchristian if he liked, but I could not breathe in the same parish
with that woman."

So much for Lizzie's affairs, and with respect to mine she said: "Eva,
I do hope you will never regret this step. I know you have always
longed to go to India and I must confess I envy you. I too would like
to flap and spread my wings. But you ought to go out under proper
auspices. _Who_ are these Hayes-Billingtons?"

She had met them at Rumpelmayers, and somehow they had not coalesced.
Mrs. Hayes-Billington was lofty in her manner, and inclined to be
condescending to Miss Lingard's late governess--who scrutinised that
very beautiful chaperon with keenly observant eyes.

"He may be Mrs. Paget-Taylor's cousin, but these Hayes-Billingtons are
not in your class--hard up and pretentious. I may be quite wrong,
but the man looks as if he drank, and the woman, although undoubtedly
handsome, is so made up. My dear Eva, your aunt must be desperately
anxious to get rid of you! If the worst happens cable to me and come
back to the flat. I am not sure that your little skiff is sufficiently
weather-tight to battle among the waves of Indian society."

"I know you are a good judge of character, Lizzie, and before I 'take
to the water' I wish you would tell me something about myself. You have
carte blanche to say what you like--I shall not be offended."

"Well, it will be no news to you that you have a strong will, and heaps
of vitality and staying power; are naturally impulsive and much too
talkative, also, in a way, deceptive. Your real feelings are not easily
moved, and, except for sick people and animals, your heart is rather

"Oh Lizzie!" I exclaimed.

"Oh Eva!" she echoed. "This is, in a way, true. When you dislike a
person it is for always. For instance, nothing would ever make you
really care for your aunt and Clara; or at Beke for Mr. Chesterfield
and Eliza the cook. On the other hand, your affections are staunch and
unchangeable, you idealise your friends far beyond their deserts, and
refuse to see a single flaw in their characters. Take, for example,
Ronnie. To you he is absolutely perfect, a sort of little god; if it
came to a pinch I believe you would make _any_ sacrifice for him."

"Yes," I answered stoutly, "any--and glad of the chance!"

"Ronnie is a good sort and fond of you, but he is by no means a stable
character. Yours is by far the stronger of the two."

"Lizzie, how can you talk such nonsense?"

"It is the truth, and you may have occasion to realise it yet. With you
it is all or nothing, and when you fall in love I confess I shall feel
anxious--you will give so much, and may receive so little. Well, there,
no one can help you! Fate shuffles the cards and you have yet to meet
your destiny. Shall I give you one or two scraps of worldly advice, my

"Yes, do," I urged eagerly.

"Well, when you go into the big world be careful how you choose your
associates; people are judged by their friends."

"Are they? I should not have thought so."

"Try, if you can, not to talk of yourself."

"Yes, I'll do my best, but I have not much else to talk about, have I?"

"There will be plenty of topics once you are out of your little groove.
In Vanity Fair I dare say you may receive a share of knocks and bruises
among others hustling in the market-place, but whatever these may be do
not show them! All I am advising is simply worldly wisdom, and my most
urgent important injunction comes last: do not give your confidence
to every agreeable woman, or your heart to the first insidious and
good-looking man who gazes into your eyes, and tells you that you are
pretty and a darling. Wait and look round, for with you to love, is for

I felt unexpectedly embarrassed; my face felt hot, as I listened
to these intimate personal directions, and I hastened to turn the
conversation to Beke and its inhabitants.

In answer to my questions Lizzie informed me that her uncle had taken
over the whole of "The Roost," and paid her a rental of twenty pounds a
year. The house was now occupied by Mrs. Puckle's married daughter and
her three children; with long visitations from Mrs. Puckle's actor son
when--as so frequently happened--he found himself "out of a shop."

The new mistress kept pigs, the garden was converted into a poultry
run, the mulberry tree and others had been cut down and sold. According
to Mr. Chesterfield the establishment was a continual scene of
animosity and wrangling, and the professor's beard was as white as snow!

"At one time," added Lizzie, "I would have asked for nothing better
than to live my life and end my days in Beke, but, as you know, I have
been driven forth by my aunt by marriage!"



During my stay in London I saw a good deal of Mrs. Hayes-Billington;
her husband had been hastily summoned to his mines and she was alone,
awaiting my company in the _Asphodel_, in which we had secured
passages. My future chaperon would often drop in at the flat to offer
advice respecting my luggage and boxes, or to arrange for meetings
at dressmakers. She exhibited a lively interest in my frocks and
invariably accompanied me to be fitted. It struck me as strange--or
rather I believe Lizzie suggested the idea--that such a handsome and
fashionable woman should appear to have so much time on her hands.
Apparently she had taken a fancy to me, called me by my Christian
name, and was far more demonstrative than my late governess, who had
known me since I was a fretful little creature aged four years. Mrs.
Hayes-Billington was also her reverse in another respect, as she fed me
with a certain amount of flattery. This was indeed a novelty and I must
honestly confess that I was not averse to such nectar in small doses,
but from huge spoonfuls I instinctively recoiled.

One day I had been enduring the trying on of a lovely white evening
frock, and the fitter had left the room in search of some ribbon;
as I stood before the long glass contemplating my appearance Mrs.
Hayes-Billington suddenly rose, put her arm round my neck, and gazing
at my reflection exclaimed:

"Do you know, my dear, that you are _lovely_!"

Before I could protest she continued:

"I think we shall make rather a striking pair, you and I--such a
complete contrast. I with my gipsy face, you with your masses of golden
brown hair and sunny blue-grey eyes--sometimes they are angel-praying
eyes, and sometimes I see a little devil dancing in each of them! Then,
and above all, my dear, you look such an aristocrat."

It was an enormous relief to me when the return of the forewoman and
skirt hand put an end to these embarrassing and exaggerated compliments.

Ten days later we sailed from Tilbury Docks. I was seen off by my uncle
and aunt, Lizzie, Beverley, young Champneys and two schoolfellows
who happened to be in London; my cabin, which I shared with Mrs.
Hayes-Billington, was packed with books, flowers, and large boxes of my
favourite sweets. I must here confess, hard-hearted creature as I was,
that I left my native land with composure. I should add, however, that
since I had come to woman's estate I was not much given to weeping,
but, on the other hand, Mrs. Hayes-Billington, in a voice choked with
emotion, large tears trembling in her splendid eyes, assured my aunt
and uncle that she would be a _mother_ to me.

Our steamer, the _Asphodel_, corresponded with the passage money in
every particular. She looked, and was, cheap, and I think I may add,
nasty. The smell of oil from the engine-room almost overpowered the
salt sea air, and the saloon reeked of new mahogany and stale sherry.
The cabins were small and stuffy. There were but two bathrooms for the
first-class passengers, who luckily were few and far between: chiefly
individuals like the Hayes-Billingtons who had squandered most of their
money when on furlough; one or two railway officials, several planters,
and half a dozen missionaries; nothing approaching the smart crowd that
one heard or read of as passengers to the East. For one thing, we were
outward bound at the wrong time of year; and for another, we had booked
by an unfashionable line. There were no dances, no games; the piano
was a derelict; but the weather and the novelty consoled me for all

As we coasted down by Spain and put in at Gibraltar and Malta, and
endured the usual coaling agony at Port Said, it seemed to me that I
was seeing the world at last! Mrs. Hayes-Billington and I shared the
same cabin. Here I also shared some of the secrets of her toilet; to do
her justice she had no false shame, and allowed me to know that certain
portions of her hair and complexion were artificial; nevertheless, much
of her beauty was _bona fide_. Living at such close quarters I realised
that she was considerably older than I had supposed, and, in spite of
some wonderful grease that she applied at night, there were wrinkles
round her eyes and lines upon her forehead.

I always rose first, in order to clear out of the cabin and give my
companion lots of elbow room for dressing. The operation was a lengthy
one, and she rarely appeared on deck before twelve o'clock, but, on the
other hand, she seldom descended to her berth till after midnight.

Among our fellow passengers she had discovered an old acquaintance in
a good-looking officer of the frontier force. His name was Colonel
Armadale; he sat next her at meal times, his chair was with ours on
deck. They promenaded for hours at a time, and occasionally disappeared
into a particular lair of their own somewhere about the bows of the
ship. Mrs. Hayes-Billington carefully explained to me that Colonel
Armadale's sister was her very oldest friend, which fact naturally drew
them a good deal together, and this was not their sole tie. They had
been in the same station in the Punjaub, and had many acquaintances
and topics in common. Her friend was always polite and attentive to
me, carried my rug, moved my chair, and occasionally included me in
the conversation. Once or twice I caught his eyes gazing at me with a
curious, interrogative expression. What did it mean?

As he had, to a great extent, appropriated the society of my chaperon,
I was more or less thrown upon my own resources. At first the other
womenkind seemed to hold aloof from me, but before long I found myself
received into the bosom of the missionary circle. There was a kindly
white-bearded gentleman and his wife who were going to Assam, and one
tall, distinguished woman travelling alone, _en route_ to join her
husband in Upper Burmah. Her name was Mrs. Ashe, and she and I became
comrades, paced the deck together, exchanged books and new stitches in
lace work. Her spirits were depressed, as she had just left two small
children at home, but presently she cheered up and gave me a great deal
of useful information respecting the country to which I was bound.
Undoubtedly Mrs. Ashe belonged to my own class, though I may honestly
say it was not for this reason that I made friends with her. She
informed me that her father had been the general commanding a division
in Northern India. There she had met a zealous young Oxford parson,
cast in her lot with him, and departed to work in the mission field,
to the stupefaction and horror of her family. "It has turned out all
right," she added. "Julian and I are very happy. Our only trouble is in
having to be separated from the kiddies."

For my own part I imparted abundant information about myself, and told
her that I had no parents, no real home, and was going to India in
order to be within reach of my brother, also because the family doctor
advised that I should spend the winters in a warm climate.

"And Mrs. Hayes-Billington is taking charge of you on the voyage?"

"By no means," I replied, "she is in charge of me altogether. I am to
live with them."

For quite an appreciable time Mrs. Ashe was speechless. At last she

"But how on earth did your people come across her?"

"Captain Hayes-Billington is distantly connected with some friends. The
Hayes-Billingtons were looking for a paying guest, I was anxious to go
to India, my aunt liked Mrs. Hayes-Billington--and so here I am."

Mrs. Ashe said no more on this subject, but I gathered that she did
not approve of my chaperon, also that the feeling was mutual. The two
ladies "looked down their noses" on the rare occasions when they met
face to face.

Mrs. Ashe and I had many talks as we sat together on deck on lovely
moonlight nights. Steaming down the Red Sea the water was like glass,
but no sooner had we left Aden than I learnt the meaning of the word
"monsoon." Directly we abandoned the shelter of the coast we were
struck by the full force of what to me seemed a hurricane. It burst
upon us suddenly at luncheon time; at the first lurch of the _Asphodel_
all the knives and plates and glasses slid off the table, and oh! how
we rolled and wallowed! We rolled all the way over to Bombay, the rain
descended in torrents, and the knocking about, the clinging, and the
crawling were horribly uncomfortable. Our _Asphodel_ was what is called
"a wet boat," her decks were continually swept by seas, and she groaned
and shuddered like some stricken animal.

I must confess that I was by no means sorry when the voyage came to an
end and we stepped upon the Ballard Pier, in the animated and highly
coloured city of Bombay. Here we did not delay more than a few hours,
which we spent at the Taj Mahal Hotel, and then drove to Victoria
Station to pursue our journey.

Bombay gave me my first sight of the ancient and picturesque East. I
was fascinated by the quaint native craft at the quays, the crowds
of people in gay and varied costumes, the painted bullock carts, the
jingling trams packed so tightly, the fine imposing public buildings
and the beautiful bay--"Bon Bahia" indeed!

The ascent of the great Bore Ghât was to me a most thrilling and
impressive experience. How we went up, up, up, and how we went down,
down, down! What dizzy views of the plains as we crept along precipices
and turned the most paralysing angles! Finally, after steady travelling
by rail and tonga, we found ourselves at our journey's end--the hill
station of Silliram.

It was pouring the traditional "cats and dogs" when we arrived, and
here Captain Hayes-Billington awaited us at the tonga office, his
broad, good-looking face wet with rain and wreathed in smiles.

It appeared that he had secured a small bungalow, collected a few
servants, and done, he declared, "his best to give us a flying
start." The bungalow, which was named "The Dovecot," was old and
dilapidated, surrounded by a deep veranda and a small garden or
compound which separated us from a high road, at present swimming in
mud. Accommodation in "The Dovecot" consisted of four rooms, viz.
drawing-room, dining-room and two bedrooms, to each of which was
attached a ruinous bathroom; for tub, a half barrel of primitive age.
The smaller of the bedrooms was naturally apportioned to me, and here,
with the aid of an English-speaking ayah, I began to unpack my small
baggage and endeavoured to make myself at home. Coming across from
Aden I had learnt the true meaning of the word "monsoon." Arriving in
Silliram, I received a practical illustration of the word "rains!"

It was not merely rain, but a cataract that battered on the roof,
roared down the gutters and made large ponds in our little compound.
Silliram was situated on a spur of the ghâts about 4,000 feet above
the plains, but for the moment one could see nothing of the place. The
atmosphere appeared to consist entirely of a wet white mist; the roads
were ankle deep in red mud, the valleys filled with masses of what
looked like cotton-wool clouds. Europeans on ponies and disguised in
mackintoshes occasionally splashed by our gate, and the natives went
about with long bare legs, the remainder of their persons entirely
shrouded in brown blankets.

It was now that I began to see the best side of Captain
Hayes-Billington. Always loud and boisterous, he was nevertheless
wonderfully good-tempered, cheerful and considerate, and eagerly
disposed to make the best of everything. He was also surprisingly
energetic, and helped his wife and myself to furbish up our shabby
little bungalow. I gathered that we might soon expect a number of
visitors, but that it was our business, being the last comers, to sally
forth and call upon the station.

We made an expedition to the native bazaar during a few hours' "break,"
waded about from shop to shop, and picked up some necessities and odds
and ends of decorations wherewith to furnish our abode. We bought
bamboo chairs, phoolcarries, and pallampores; muslin for curtains;
crockery, mats, a few cheap rugs, and a couple of reliable lamps. We
also--oh, great adventure!--hired a piano. I stood by awestruck whilst
Mrs. Hayes-Billington bargained and gesticulated--talking all the while
in the most fluent Hindustani, and ruthlessly cheapening every article.
Meanwhile, her husband looked on, now and then making suggestions,
indicating deficiencies, and exhibiting the deepest interest in every

With the fruits of this excursion the Hayes-Billingtons at once set
to work to "do up" the rickety old bungalow, to which undertaking I
gladly lent a hand. Somehow it reminded me of dressing a stage for
private theatricals, such as we had at school. The dreary, damp little
drawing-room, its walls streaked with green, was now hung with stamped
cotton; the mouldy matting was replaced, and gay rugs laid here and
there. Bamboo furniture, a couple of second-hand chairs, a black and
gold table, and a paper screen effected a grand transformation.

I contributed photographs in silver frames, my books and silk
cushions, to help in the embellishment, and with flowers and a couple
of lamp shades we all agreed that the little room was "quite top hole."

We also made a few alterations in the dining-room, cast out the rotten
matting and some broken chairs, and now considered ourselves in a
position to receive company. I had taken part in all these arrangements
_con amore_, for I realised that I had thrown in my lot with the
Hayes-Billingtons, and was bound to consider myself as one of the
family. In a way, I liked them both; he, strange to say, the better of
the two. He was always so cheery, optimistic and busy. He told me he
had heard of a smart pony that he was going to buy for me by and by,
and said I must ask my brother to run up soon and pay us a visit. For
her part she did her best to make me comfortable and to break the shock
of squalid appointments, the, to me, unusual cooking--and undesirable
insects! I could see that she was anxious we should mix in society and
that I should have what she called "a really festive time."

"You must know, my dear girl," she explained, "I am as much a stranger
in this part of the world as yourself. I have always been up north,
where the natives, the climate, and the manners and customs are
altogether different. I shall certainly miss our nice cold weather, but
as Bertie has got this good appointment in the Deccan that will be some
compensation. He is obliged to go down in a few days, so you and I will
have to take care of one another," and she put her arm round my neck
and kissed me.

In spite of her endearments and affection I always realised that there
was a certain amount of reserve about my chaperon. She never talked
of the past, except in a general way, but greatly preferred to throw
herself into the future--especially my future--which was kind of her!

I did not grumble audibly or make disparaging comments, but so far,
with regard to India, I was painfully disillusioned and overwhelmed
with disappointment. As I sat in the driest spot I could find in a
leaking veranda I asked myself, where was the sun? Was this wet, cloudy
country the gorgeous East? We had been five whole days at Silliram
and as yet it had never ceased to rain. Captain Hayes-Billington had
paddled out as far as the club and library, put down our names for
both, brought back some news, and cheered us with promises of finer

"This is just an extraordinarily bad break they say," he announced with
a broad smile; "but the glass is going up and we shall have the sun out
and everything all right to-morrow or next day."

The servants ministering to "The Dovecot" were a strange and
motley crew. The butler was a Portuguese half-caste from Goa, who
had previously been in the service of Captain Hayes-Billington;
the Mohammedan cook, a bearded individual in a red turban. My
English-speaking Madrassee ayah was sympathetic and even motherly;
she turned out the frogs that hopped about my room, destroyed several
promising nests of white ants, and slew a venomous-looking black
scorpion. The old woman informed me that she had been twice to England
with ladies and children.

"England," she said, "plenty good food, good beer but plenty much
stairs; journey there very bad, specially the Biscay river, too much
jumping that Biscay river!"

I gathered that she was considerably impressed by the style and
quantity of my outfit; but, on the other hand, she openly despised the

"This too much bad bungalow," she declared, "too old, too cheap, too
far from bazaar and the club gur, and all the big mem sahibs."

But of this drawback I had not yet had an opportunity of judging.

By the end of a week Captain Hayes-Billington had taken his departure.
His wife seemed unaffectedly sorry; I think they were really attached
to one another--almost like a newly-married couple.

They had one rather irritating habit: that of conversing in Hindustani.
They spoke it fluently, although they assured me that they had got very
rusty at home and were now talking it for practice. Occasionally I had
an instinctive and disagreeable feeling that sometimes, in my very
presence, they were discussing _me_!



Captain Hayes-Billington's prediction was fulfilled; a welcome "break"
brought us perfect weather, and at last we were enabled to dispense
with umbrellas and goloshes, and sally forth to see the place. Silliram
was situated on a high plateau, and, as we emerged from a by-path and
stood near a celebrated "point," a world of absolute peace and beauty
lay beneath us. The precipices which overhung the low country were
heavily wooded and clothed with masses of trees, flowering creepers,
orchids and a luxuriant variety of gigantic exotic ferns. The plains
which stretched so far below resembled a faintly coloured map, or
some delicate piece of embroidery, gradually fading away into a misty
blue distance. The atmosphere after the rains was so extraordinarily
crystal-clear that we could see for miles, and even trace the outlines
of distant towns, forests and rivers. Overhead a few lazy clouds threw
their shadows on the wonderful scene, possibly jealous of such beauty
and endeavouring to obscure it.

It was no doubt owing to its lofty situation that Silliram dried up
rapidly; the roads were no longer merely red mud, the cascades of
running water ceased to brawl, and the all-reviving sun had apparently
brought the whole population into the open air--also their wardrobes.
In almost every compound one noticed long strings of male and female
garments fluttering in the breeze.

After our walk to the view Mrs. Hayes-Billington and I bravely ventured
into the club. Among the crowd each face we saw was that of a stranger.
Apparently we were the only outsiders, everyone else seemed to be

I took courage from my chaperon, who was evidently well used to Indian
clubs and club ways, and securing seats and a table she issued an order
for tea and bread and butter.

"Not buffalo butter," she amended imperiously.

I noticed a number of girls, various soldierly-looking young men,
some few matrons and oldish officers with grey hairs, but no really
elderly people. There was bridge, badminton in a covered court,
tennis, a reading-room and a supply of refreshments. I could not but
see that we were observed with interest; who would not look at Mrs.
Hayes-Billington? She was unusually animated and in good spirits, and
we sat over our tea cups for some time absorbed in our surroundings,
enjoying this pleasant change from our damp little "Dovecot."

As we walked back Mrs. Hayes-Billington remarked:

"To-morrow I will order a conveyance of some sort, we will put on our
smartest frocks and pay a round of calls from twelve to two. Bertie got
a list from the club baboo. We will begin with the general's wife, the
commissioner's wife, the padre's wife, and so on. I think I had better
write your name on my cards, and then everyone will know that we are
living together and that you are under my wing."

"Yes," I assented, "of course, that will be best."

"I hope they will all be out; this calling is a mere matter of form.
As soon as visits have been exchanged, we shall be invited to the
general's at homes, the club dances, picnics and tennis parties, and
you will have no end of a good time."

The following morning, arrayed in our best afternoon frocks, we started
out in an ancient victoria to make our round of calls--in short, "to
wait upon the station." The general's wife and daughter were at home.
They proved to be charming people, and the girl, who was my age, and
I took to one another on the spot. Our other calls were more or less
satisfactory; we dropped our names into the many "Not at home" boxes,
and having dispersed twenty cards returned to "The Dovecot" and tiffin,
in a condition of complete exhaustion.

The result of our effort was an immediate shower of pasteboards or
visitors, and we were soon in the midst of a whirl of hill gaiety.
We went to tennis parties, picnics, and dances. My companion was
impressively sedate and correct in her manner--this was not the Mrs.
Hayes-Billington with whom I had travelled in the _Asphodel_! She was
also an admirable bridge and tennis player, had an unfailing supply of
agreeable small talk, and was one of the most popular married women in
the station.

My chaperon was an excellent manager, and thoroughly understood
Anglo-Indian housekeeping and the art of cutting down the cook's
accounts. We lived carefully and economically, but nevertheless
entertained in a quiet way; we gave little tiffins and dinners before a
club dance, to young men and girls--though our dining-room was a crush
with six. On these occasions the table was beautifully decorated by
Mrs. Hayes-Billington, and some of the sweets and the savouries were
made by her on a handy charcoal stove in the back veranda. She had a
deft way of doing things; everything turned out by her delicate fingers
seemed so dainty and complete, whether it was a toque, a pincushion, or
some toothsome dish. Although Mrs. Hayes-Billington invariably spoke of
herself as "a genteel pauper," I had a shrewd impression that once upon
a time she had been accustomed to wealth and luxury. Her wardrobe was
plain and inexpensive, but she possessed beautiful lace, the remains of
various gorgeous gowns, a gold-mounted dressing-bag which had evidently
seen much service, a string of pearls and remarkably fine diamonds.
Also she was a notable dressmaker, and refurbished and altered some of
the satins and brocades, with the aid of a clever _dirzee_; he sat in
the veranda from morning till night, sewing, pinning, copying, making
marvellous use of his toes for holding breadths of stuff, and was armed
with the most formidable pair of scissors I had ever beheld.

The outcome of these exertions were picturesque teagowns and evening
toilettes, gracefully worn by Mrs. Hayes-Billington at our weekly
bridge party, when young men dropped in after dinner for a rubber and a

On such occasions I did not take a hand; the stakes were too high and
the rubbers were so long--sometimes the clock struck one before I
heard the break-up of the party. In a house like ours, with the walls
possibly made of old packing-cases, every sound was audible.

My chaperon was a first-rate bridge player; she smoked unlimited
cigarettes, used slangy expressions and was more at ease and in
"mental undress" than Aunt Mina would have approved. However, she was
undoubtedly happy; as I watched her eager radiant face I could not
help thinking of some poor pot-bound thirsty flower that had at last
received freedom and moisture!

The young men worshipped my companion; no doubt they were flattered by
her notice and her sympathetic manner; she was always so beautiful, so
vital and so gay. Once or twice I found myself wondering at what she
saw in _them_. They were very young and, even in my callow opinion,
rather dull and uninteresting. I came upon the answer to this question
(if answer it was) in rather an unexpected form. One morning, after one
of these weekly parties, I happened to open the old bureau in order
to hunt for a piece of sealing-wax, and there, stuffed under bridge
markers, cards and scraps of paper covered with figures, I discovered
coins and notes to the amount of three hundred rupees!

I must confess that the find was a shock. I had never seen what
is called "real gambling." Was this the first nod from our family
skeleton, or was it merely the housekeeping funds accidentally muddled
up with cards and paper? Mrs. Hayes-Billington was so foolishly
careless of money and jewellery, and rarely kept them under lock and
key. The only possessions she ever locked up were her letters.

The general's daughter and I became companions and fast friends. We
went sketching together, though our poor attempts were libels on the
wonderful scenery we attempted to transfer to paper. Besides Dolly Dane
there were numbers of nice girls in the station. For instance, Belinda
and Sylvia Brabazon, known as "Billy" and "Silly"--for India is no
respecter of names!--a plain little couple, matchless tennis players
and cotillion leaders, tirelessly good-natured and energetic. Their
mother, an amazingly vigorous matron, looked like their elder sister.
Colonel Brabazon's activities were confined to collecting butterflies,
and telling "good" stories in the club smoking-room. No picnics or
dances were considered complete without his belongings.

The commissioner's wife, Mrs. Clayson, a kindly but lethargic lady,
was weighed down by the cares of a large small family, and took no
part save that of spectator in any social gaieties. Then there were
Major and Mrs. Wray of the Grey Hussars, a particularly smart couple,
who enjoyed the reputation of giving the best dinners in Silliram, to
which none but what I may call the "_crème de la crème_" were invited.

I regret to add that Mrs. Wray figuratively closed her doors on the
commissariat, uncovenanted and subordinate railway and telegraph
service. She, however, did not close her doors on us, but was Mrs.
Hayes-Billington's chief friend, at which I was not surprised, as there
were certain points in common between them. They had dealt at the same
London shops, employed the same Court milliner, used the same soap, and
were equally devoted to bridge.

In all my life I had never enjoyed myself so thoroughly as during
these weeks at an Indian hill station. The weather was perfect; the
clear exhilarating mountain air raised my spirits to the highest
pitch, and when I woke in the morning it was always with the feeling
that something delightful was going to happen during the day, and
this sensation was usually justified. I had hired a pony from the
bazaar--fortunately my new saddle fitted him perfectly--and joined
riding parties and picnics all over the plateau. The hard red roads and
overgrown lanes wound among wonderful ferns and woods. Here were my
old friends the oak and the willow; the delicate tamarind and stately
peepul I now saw for the first time. Our expeditions were generally to
points commanding clear-cut views of the far-away plains, or the purple
gloom of valleys beneath our feet. At some of these "points" we had
picnics, _chotah hazree_, tiffin, or afternoon tea, as the case might

Besides such rural excursions there were tennis tournaments, small
club dances, and active preparations for the great event of the
season--theatricals, which were got up by the general and his wife.
The piece selected, _The Scrap of Paper_, was undoubtedly ambitious,
but where is the amateur who does not soar? The rôles of the Marquise
and Suzanne were undertaken by Mrs. Wray and Mrs. Hayes-Billington,
and the piece required constant rehearsal. As I had been selected to
take the small part of a servant who comes in and dusts a chair, I was
always present, and, behind the scenes, was immensely interested and

Mrs. Hayes-Billington's performance filled me with a glow of personal
pride. My chaperon was what might be called "a born actress." It also
transpired that she had played in this piece on former occasions.

Dolly Dane was cast for Mathilde, and as our parts were insignificant
we had the pleasure of looking on and watching the others perform. Mrs.
Hayes-Billington was admirable, Mrs. Wray was also good. In spite of
their close friendship I thought I could discern a certain amount of
rivalry between these ladies. The general himself, and one or two of
our most prominent young men, were in the cast. The date of the great
gala night was fixed to take place within a fortnight, and after this,
alas! the season would begin to wane.

In almost every letter I sent to Ronnie I begged him to come up and see
Silliram and me, holding out such inducements as _The Scrap of Paper_
and the Bachelors' Club dance.

"I am longing to see you," I said, "and also for you to see me, and to
judge how splendidly I am getting on in India. Already I know a little
Hindustani, I can fold and put on a pugaree, and chaffer with the
hawkers as to the manner born."

But my invitation fell flat. Ronnie wrote that he could not possibly
get leave; the rifle meeting was coming on, also the polo tournament,
and a general inspection. He was simply worked to death. Later he might
be able to get away. Meanwhile he was delighted to hear that I was
having such a ripping time.

Mrs. Hayes-Billington and I had a good many men callers; one day among
these, Mr. Balthasar, a friend of Captain Hayes-Billington, presented
himself. He was a foreigner--that is to say, not English. His dark skin
was in surprising contrast to a pair of very light grey eyes, which he
rolled about incessantly. He had thick black lashes, a bullet head, fat
clean-shaven face, good features, beautiful hands and a stout, supple
figure. Also he was remarkably well groomed and carried himself with an
air of confident assurance.

I noticed a slight hint of patronage in his manner towards Mrs.
Hayes-Billington, which, with a gracious dignity, she speedily
suppressed. He talked with a sort of soft drawl, and informed us he had
come from the mines, and had just run up to Silliram to confer with a
well-known engineer, and was returning the following day. Our visitor
paid me conspicuous attention, his restless eyes constantly rolled in
my direction, and he accepted an invitation to dine with flattering
alacrity. When he had departed in a motor Mrs. Hayes-Billington said:

"That is one of the directors of the Katchoocan Gold Mines, where
Bertie works; he is what is called 'a big pot,' notable for getting
valuable concessions from the Nizam's Government. His call was an
honour. I believe he is a Greek--anyway, a Levantine of some sort--and
enormously rich. I must send to the bazaar and the shops and prepare a
really smart dinner--oysters and pomfret, and get some wine from the
club, and a tin of caviare. If I entertain him well it may be of use to
Bertie. I believe he plays bridge, so I shall ask another man, Captain
Learoyd, I think, and be sure you put on a becoming frock."

The little dinner proved a success; it was cooked to admiration. The
great man expanded and made himself agreeable, and hinted that he would
do great things for "B.B.," as he called Captain Hayes-Billington.
Subsequently at bridge I was his partner, and I positively could
not endure the way he stared--precisely as if I were an uncertain
investment about which he was making up his mind. At the same time he
played bridge with skill; was cool, subtly cunning, and had a clear
memory of every card. We won two rubbers, to his obvious satisfaction.
He and Captain Learoyd played for money, and I think he pocketed about
ten rupees, a mere nothing to a millionaire, but he was as pleased as
if it had been thousands.

"I look upon our success as a good omen, Miss Lingard. You and I are
first-rate partners. How would you like to take me on for life?" he
asked boisterously.

"Not at all," I replied brusquely, as I turned my back upon him and
moved away. I disliked Mr. Balthasar particularly--his boasting, his
grand air, the way in which he looked round our cheap little room--and
appeared to see through our makeshifts--also the style in which he
had stuck his glass in his eye and peered into the entrées at dinner.
He was insupportable, and after I had tidied away the bridge cards I
withdrew into my own apartment and put myself to bed. It was a long
time before I heard his motor moving off, and immediately afterwards
Mrs. Hayes-Billington came into my room and said:

"He has been waiting on for _ages_! Why did you go away and never come

"Because he is too appallingly awful!" I rejoined with energy. "I never
saw such manners. I never met such a detestable, odious creature. I
felt inclined to throw things at him, and I sincerely hope I may never
see him again!"

"He hopes very much that he may see _you_ again. He has taken an
extraordinary fancy to 'my friend Miss Lingard,' and says if I will
bring you down to stay at the mines he will put us up--"

"He will never put _me_ up," I interrupted, "and nothing would induce
me to put up with him!"

For a moment Mrs. Hayes-Billington stood gravely contemplating me with
her wonderful dark eyes.

"Ah well," she said at last, "I grant you that he is a bounder, but
then on the other hand he is enormously rich."

"My dear chaperon!" I exclaimed, "surely you are not thinking of trying
to make a match for me with a fat foreigner who must be fifty years of
age! I would rather be dead than married to such a horror!"

She nodded her head expressively and went slowly out of the room.

As a rule our young men callers were officers upon leave, a nice,
cheery set, my partners at dances and tennis. We were always at home on
Sunday afternoons, and Mrs. Hayes-Billington and I were most regular
attendants at the little hill church in the mornings. One particular
afternoon two of our habitués brought a stranger, a certain Captain
Vesey. Somehow he was not of the usual type of our visitors, who were
simple, unaffected, and genial. This was a fair man, with a long,
faded face and a querulous expression. After the first introduction he
appeared to freeze into a solid block of ice, and was reserved almost
to silence. I noticed him looking hard at Mrs. Hayes-Billington, and,
although he reclined in a well-cushioned cane chair and was offered
the very best orange pekoe tea and hot cakes, he scarcely contributed
a word to the conversation and was obviously dissatisfied with his
company and his surroundings. Possibly my name had escaped him,
for when someone addressed me as "Miss Lingard" he became faintly

"I know a namesake of yours in the 'Lighthearts.' Any relation?"

"Yes," I answered shortly, "he is my brother."

"Your _brother_," he repeated incredulously.

"Is it so very astonishing?"

"Um--er----" he stammered, "I had no idea that Ronnie Lingard had a
sister out here."

"I only arrived six weeks ago--I came with Mrs. Hayes-Billington."

"Oh, did you?"

"I wanted Ronnie to come here for even a week, but he is so busy and so
hard-worked he says it is impossible."

"Oh yes--impossible--quite, quite impossible," he muttered, as if
talking to himself, and then he got up rather suddenly and took an
abrupt departure.

There was certainly something strange about Captain Vesey. He had
forgotten his gloves and he had not touched his tea. The two young
men who had brought him exchanged glances and grins and one of them
exclaimed: "Sunstroke!"

"I hope you don't mind him, Mrs. Hayes-Billington," he added
apologetically, "but Vesey is the most eccentric old bird."

"So it seems," she rejoined with a laugh, "and I have not the slightest
wish to put salt on his tail!"

The great day of our theatricals was approaching. The evening before
it took place we had a full-dress rehearsal--a _répétition générale_,
French fashion--at the theatre, to which at least half of the people
came, bidden or unbidden, but everyone was more or less interested in
the performance. If they were not acting their friends or relations
were taking part, or they had lent properties, garments, furniture, or
given assistance in dressing and making up.

The little theatre was almost full. I made this discovery by peeping
through that indispensable hole in the curtain. Mrs. Dane, the
general's wife, was already seated in the middle of the front row, and
with her was a lady, a rather austere-looking, middle-aged woman whom
I had never seen before, also a grey-haired gentleman, presumably her
husband. I may add that the _crème de la crème_ of the station were
present at this rehearsal, but every one of them would be there the
next evening, honourably paying their ten rupees a ticket. Rather a
high price, but then it was for a local charity.

I must admit that I was highly excited, being about to make my first
appearance on the stage. I dressed myself as a smart parlourmaid;
my face had been beautifully painted by Major Wray--who was quite an
artist in this line--and I was ready!

After some delay the curtain rose on Mathilde and her companion.
Dolly acquitted herself well (although she had been nearly crying
with stage fright). I had helped to attire the Marquise; she looked
magnificent and wore her diamonds. Having played my own little part
and accomplished my dusting I went round to the front to enjoy the

The good-natured Brabazons made room for me between them in the second
row, just behind Mrs. Dane and the general, who turned about to
compliment me. At this moment the Marquise appeared upon the stage,
and received a round of applause. I noticed the strange lady in front
examining her programme and whispering to her husband; then she turned
her attention to the actors, and looked at the Marquise (the cynosure
of all eyes) with a sort of fixed glare. The play was going splendidly,
the prompter's voice was rarely heard. The chief honours fell to my
chaperon, whose acting was simply magnificent.

During the interval between the second and third acts, I noticed Mrs.
Dane and the strange lady engaged in earnest conversation, and caught
the name "Mrs. de Lacy." I also observed that Mrs. Dane seemed very
much perturbed and upset.

_The Scrap of Paper_ ended in a triumph. There were repeated calls
before the curtain, which were accepted by the Marquise and Suzanne,
who appeared, curtsied hand in hand, and received a boisterous ovation.
This delightful evening concluded with a little supper-party at the
Wrays', and it was long after one o'clock in the morning before I found
myself in bed.

As the result of such dissipation I was not a very early riser--neither
was Mrs. Hayes-Billington. Verbal messages are uncertain in India, and
even to someone in the same house you send a pencilled note or "chit."
I had received a chit to say "Have an awful headache, do not expect to
see me till quite late. D. B."

I spent the remainder of the morning in writing letters, doing a little
mending, and finishing an engrossing novel. At tiffin, of which I
partook in solitude, the _chokra_ was my sole attendant, and when I
inquired for Fernandez, our factotum, he replied, "Missie done send
Fernandez with one telegram. Fernandez stopping all the time in bazaar."

As our letters had arrived, I concluded that my chaperon had received
some important news, and never gave the matter another thought.

Strange to say that morning there were none of the usual visitors; a
certain number of our intimates and neighbours generally looked in, in
passing, to ask questions, make engagements, exchange bits of news,
and to borrow or to lend. To-day not a soul appeared! The veranda
was a desert, save for the _dirzee_ and myself. This did not strike
me as odd, because most people of our acquaintance were fagged after
the previous night's excitement, and were no doubt "lying low" in
anticipation of the evening's entertainment.

Towards four o'clock I put on my tennis shoes, took my racket and
sauntered off to the club, where I had engaged to make up a set with
Dolly Dane. I found already awaiting me Dolly, Captain Learoyd and the
padre. I noticed that they were talking eagerly together, but ceased
abruptly as I approached within earshot, and there seemed none of the
usual eagerness about starting a game.

"What is the matter?" I asked. "You all look so very grave. Is anyone
dead--or has there been an accident?"

"Well--er--no accident," said the padre, and he glanced significantly
at Dolly, who, taking my arm, led me aside.

"My dear Eva," she began. "I am sorry to say I've the most _awful_
thing to tell you," and she paused.

"Oh do be quick!" I urged. "It's my brother--is he ill?"

"No, no," she replied, with a jerk of impatience. "It's about Mrs.
Hayes-Billington, your chaperon. It seems that she is the heroine of a
terrible divorce case. She was a Mrs. de Lacy; her husband had a civil
appointment up in the Punjab. She was always lovely, but outrageously
fast. Four years ago she ran away with an officer up in Cashmere. Mrs.
Hancock, who is staying with us, knew all about it and nearly had a
fit last evening when she saw the notorious Mrs. de Lacy taking the
principal part in Mother's theatricals."

"Oh, Dolly," I gasped, "it cannot be true!"

"But it is," she reiterated, "and the case was so scandalous and
shameless, that the Hancocks are astonished that she had the audacity
ever to return to India. They say she is already beginning in her
old style, turning the heads of young men, and having horrid little
card parties. It is a fearful shock for the whole station. Mother has
written to her. There will be no theatricals, the notice has been
posted up on the board this morning. Of course she must have got hold
of you under false pretences. Mother says you are to come to us at
once. W. will send down for your things."

"It's all very dreadful," I said. "I feel completely stunned. Still, I
don't think I ought to leave Mrs. Hayes-Billington like that."

"But you must, my dear," urged Dolly imperatively. "It is too dreadful
for a girl like you to be associated with such a person. What an
impostor she is! Poor Mrs. Wray is in a state of collapse--fainting
fits; the doctor has been to see her. The committee have taken Mrs.
Hayes-Billington's name off the list in the library and the club, and
the sooner she takes herself out of Silliram the better! Come into the
club with me," continued Dolly; "I want to fetch my scarf, and I will
walk back with you to 'The Dovecot,' and, if you like, help you to put
your things together?"

I made no reply. I felt as if someone had banged me upon the head,
and I followed Dolly into the club, feeling extraordinarily dazed and
nervous. Fortunately it was not yet tea-time, and the place was nearly

As we passed a great black-board, on which notices were fastened, my
companion pointed with her tennis racket and I read, inscribed in very
large letters:

 "Owing to unforeseen circumstances, the performance of _The Scrap of
 Paper_ will not now take place. L. J. Bowen, Sec. Dramatic Society."



With considerable difficulty and various feeble excuses I released
myself from Dolly's assiduities, promising to send her a chit as soon
as I had collected my thoughts, and to let her know what I intended to
do with respect to this social avalanche.

As I walked back alone to the bungalow I told myself that it was a
strange coincidence that I had been within the last six months involved
in the uprooting of two homes, "The Roost," and now "The Dovecot."
Was there something malignant and destructive in my personality? That
such a scandal should be placed to the credit of Mrs. Hayes-Billington
seemed a crazy, incredible idea. She was domestic and prudent,
apparently devoted to Bertie, careful of offending Mrs. Grundy, and
totally unlike my lurid mental picture of a _divorcée_. Then I suddenly
recalled Colonel Armadale on the _Asphodel_, and as I was endeavouring
to piece past and present experiences into one whole, I became aware
that a tonga and a pair of smoking ponies were standing in front of
"The Dovecot," and beheld Ronnie hurrying towards me with a white
excited face, on which I could not help noticing a large splash of
mud! Judging by his appearance he had travelled far and fast.

"Oh, Ronnie," I exclaimed, "how glad I am to see you!" and I flung my
arms round his neck and hugged him. "Why did you not let me know you
were coming?"

"Walk down the road a bit--walls have ears! Such an awful business,
Eva, and to think of Aunt Mina letting you in for it--to think of your
being chaperoned by Mrs. de Lacy! Good Lord!"

"Yes, I know," I replied, "Dolly Dane has just told me. The whole
station is reeling from the shock. For my own part I feel as if I were

"Wake up then," he said sharply, "you must get out of this at once.
I'd a letter from Vesey two days ago and I have been travelling hard
ever since. It appears that when he was calling here he recognised Mrs.
Hayes-Billington as Mrs. de Lacy, a notorious _divorcée_. Four years
ago her case was the scandal of the whole Punjab, and here she is, in
another region, and under another name, doing the respectable matron
and chaperoning _my sister_. It's a pretty awful debut for you, Evie!"

"Somehow I cannot believe it," I broke in. "I've had such a happy time,
and Mrs. Hayes-Billington has always been so kind to me, so careful of
appearances, and----"

"Just a wolf in sheep's clothing," interrupted my brother, "a regular
bad lot! De Lacy was a political agent, and she, as Mrs. de Lacy, was
celebrated for her extraordinary good looks and her extravagant love
affairs. You must get your things packed and be ready to start with me
to-morrow morning at nine o'clock. I have ordered the same tonga. Just
put a few things together--your heavy baggage and the ayah can follow."

"But to where? Where are you taking me?"

"Why, to Secunderabad, of course. As soon as I got Vesey's letter and
had pulled myself together, I dashed over to the colonel's wife and
showed it to her. She said at once that you must come to her. Yes, she
really is a thundering good sort. Later on a captain's quarters, near
to the C.O.'s, will be vacant, and there you and I can set up house. It
will be made a special case, and she has undertaken to talk over the
old man."

"Oh, how delightful, Ronnie!" I exclaimed. "What a piece of good

"Yes, rather," he assented emphatically. "It looks as if your
presentiment were likely to come off."

"What am I to say to Mrs. Hayes-Billington?" I asked after a pause.

"Is she up, and visible?"

"I think so, by this time; I have not seen her all day, she has had a
most dreadful headache."

"Well, I must have a jaw with her. Yes, I must. I won't sneak you out
of her house without an explanation, and I intend to give her a jolly
good bit of my mind."

"Oh, Ronnie--_must_ you?"

"Yes, I must," he rejoined, as we entered the bungalow; "which is the

As I pointed to it in silence he pushed open the door and entered.
Mrs. Hayes-Billington, who was crouching over the fire, turned on him
a ghastly face, and I realised in a second that she was aware of his
errand. Then like a coward I retreated and went away to break the news
of my impending departure to the ayah.

"Missie going--me, too, going to-morrow morning!" she exclaimed.

I must confess that I rather expected a scene, but the ayah accepted
the news with staggering unconcern. Mary was evidently accustomed to
these hasty departures. She was a Deccanee woman, she informed me, and
not sorry to return to her own country. With astonishing celerity she
began to collect my various and scattered belongings, to sort and to
fold. Natives love the excitement and hurry-scurry of a hasty move. A
native cook welcomes, rather than otherwise, an unexpected addition to
a dinner; a butler is never more in his element than when improvising
a hasty _tamasha_, an abruptly arranged _shikar_ party, or an early
morning supper!

Presently Ronnie knocked peremptorily at my door and said:

"It's all right. She says of course you must go--she is leaving too.
Now mind you eat a good dinner and get to bed early, for it's a beastly
long journey. Ta ta!"

I did my utmost to do justice to my solitary meal, though I experienced
sensations both varied and strange. I felt as if I were sitting among
ruins, or as if I had been expelled from school, or was standing on
the edge of a steep precipice gazing down into the unknown.

After dinner I received yet another little note from Mrs.
Hayes-Billington. "Do come and see me in my room. D. B."

In fear and trepidation I accepted the invitation, but did not, as I
anticipated, find my chaperon in sackcloth and ashes and tears, but
as calm as usual, only deathly pale. She looked a beautiful, tragic
figure, as she stood in the middle of the room, wrapped in an old pink
tea gown. Like myself, I could see that she was making preparations for
an imminent departure. Before she uttered a word she walked over and
closed the door--most of our doors stuck, or rattled--then she turned
about and faced me.

"Eva, I am most frightfully sorry that this has happened, more for your
sake than mine--although to me it means social ruin. You have been a
dear girl, so simple and so loyal; I am really fond of you, and as I
would not like you to think worse of me than is necessary I have sent
for you to tell you my true story."

As she concluded, she indicated a chair, into which I sank in silence,
but she still continued to pace about the room.

"You must know," she began, "that I was the daughter of a West
Country parson. When I was eighteen years of age Robert de Lacy,
who was fishing in the neighbourhood, saw me in church and fell in
love with my face on the spot. He soon contrived to make my father's
acquaintance and mine. He was fifteen years older than I was, and had
a fine appointment in Northern India. As his furlough was nearly ended
we were married after a month's acquaintance. I was not in love with
him but in love with the idea of going to India--always the land of
my dreams--also thankful to be released from a detestable stepmother
and a hateful country groove. India enchanted me; in her I was neither
disappointed nor disillusioned--but then as the wife of a wealthy
civilian I saw the country from its best aspect. I had numbers of
servants, horses, and crowds of appreciative friends. We entertained a
good deal. At nineteen I was queen of the station! My husband, who was
exceedingly proud of me, loaded me with jewels and lovely clothes. At
first I was happy--my home and children were all in all to me."

"Children!" I ejaculated.

"Oh, yes, I have two boys; the elder is seventeen. They were sent to
England when they were about three years old. My husband had certain
fixed ideas. One of them was that no child should remain in India after
that age. Another, that a woman's place was with her husband. He did
not care about home life; his work and big game shooting absorbed all
his interests, but it was _my_ duty to remain at my post as mistress of
his house. In the hot weather he sent me to the hills, or to Cashmere,
and himself went away on shooting trips into Nepaul or Tibet.

"Except as a sort of ornamental figurehead, I believe Robert soon grew
tired of me. I had not been well educated; I could sing, and act, and
dance, but none of these accomplishments appealed to _him_. He liked
a woman who was deeply read, who could talk politics, statistics,
Indian famines, and so on, and when we were alone, without guests, we
would spend whole days scarcely exchanging a word; and thus I lived,
in a sense, solitary--my soul starving. My good looks, which were
famous, were something of a drawback; they made me too conspicuous;
women were afraid of me. On the other hand, men were my slaves. I had
numbers of admirers, and to fill my idle hours I embarked on harmless
flirtations, merely _pour passer les temps_--and so the years passed.
Then up in Cashmere amid the most romantic and exquisite scenery, I met
my other self--my twin soul. He was in a cavalry regiment stationed at
Umballa. Well, I need not dwell on this. You have never seen Cashmere
or Gulmerg, 'the meadows of roses,' or the Dal Lake, by a full moon;
or breathed an atmosphere trembling with an appeal, or looked into
the blue eyes of Rupert Vavasour. After struggling for a whole year I
listened to him, and the end of it was that we went away together to
Japan." She caught her breath, and paused for a moment--standing with
her back to me.

I felt myself blushing violently, and was conscious of a sort of
undeserved, shamefaced embarrassment.

"Our elopement was not a nine days' wonder," she resumed, "but a whole
season's talk! Of course I was divorced. We went to Italy to await
the decree nisi, hoping to marry and be happy ever afterwards. Rupert
had given up the army and we intended to live abroad until our story
was forgotten. But at Florence he got fever, and, to my indescribable
anguish, died within a week. His people hurried out from home, ignored
me altogether, and wound up his affairs. Captain Vavasour was immensely
wealthy, but had made no will, and I, neither wife nor widow, was
thrown upon the world, almost destitute. My own people would not
receive me, excepting one old aunt, who, like myself, was very poor,
and I lived with her until she died. How often and often I wished
that I was dead too! I used to walk about the streets of London, with
nowhere to go, with no one to speak to, and entirely without friends.
I realised then all the loneliness, misery, and despair of a lost dog!
I had no interest in free museums, picture galleries, or libraries; my
tastes did not tend toward Botticelli prints or blue Hawthorn china;
inanimate objects bored me to death, but I hungered and starved for the
society to which I had been accustomed, when one lived and experienced
thrills! For years I breathed an atmosphere of change, excitement, and
luxury; this poverty-stricken, dull isolation was insupportable. The
friends I had known and entertained in my palmy days passed me by with
blank faces, and people of shady character, who would have welcomed
me with open arms, I avoided like the black plague. It was a case of
Mohammed's coffin! Then last summer I made the acquaintance of Bertie.
It all came about through the loan of an umbrella. I had recovered my
looks, and he fell in love with me and asked me to marry him. Of course
I told him my story, but it made no difference. Bertie is a truly
unselfish man and has been more than good to me. Then I longed with a
sort of aching to see the East again, and finding that his work was in
the south, where I did not know a soul, and as it was four years since
the divorce, I ventured to return to India, hoping that I could make
a fresh start. I was getting on, as you know, and beginning to feel
so happy and safe, enjoying the old familiar life and surroundings,
when Mrs. Hancock descended from that former existence and shattered
my house of cards. She beheld me acting the principal character in a
play she had once seen me appear in in Peshawar--evidently received in
society, and instantly signed my social death warrant. Although she
sat in the front row, strange to say I had not noticed her, and I was
unaware of my sentence until I received a note from Mrs. Dane early
this morning. I wired at once to Bertie. Poor old fellow! I know he
will be dreadfully cut up; he will take me away as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, I shall remain 'purdah' until I go down to the mines, and
will never, never again endeavour to show my face in Indian society."

All the time she talked she had been walking to and fro; suddenly she
halted before me and said:

"_I_ always said it was a risk bringing you with us, but Bertie thought
otherwise, and then your aunt was so frantically urgent, the money was
such a temptation, and you were a nice girl, not at all modern, and I
hoped and prayed that I would never be found out. I must explain about
Colonel Armadale. No doubt, you, like everyone else, thought I flirted
with him on board that dreadful old tub. He is a dear old friend and
godfather to my elder boy. He meets Bob and his brother whenever he
likes, but I, although I am their mother, never. He told me a great
deal about them, and that Hugh, the younger, is brilliantly clever;
his father is immensely proud of him. The child's only drawback is
that he resembles _me_! Although I have not seen my boys I have seen
my husband. Not very long before I came out he and a lady sat directly
behind me in the stalls of a theatre. Another time we met face to face
in the street, looked at one another--and passed on.

"Well now, Evie, you will not think too badly of me, will you--perhaps,
some day, you may forgive me?"

"I forgive you now," I said, rising; "indirectly you have done me a
very good turn, for in future I am to live with Ronnie. I am really
sorry that this has happened to you, and I must tell you that since I
came to Silliram I have enjoyed every day of the time we have spent
here together."

"And never for a moment suspected that I had a past?"

"Yes, I did think there was something mysterious about you--you were so
reserved about your affairs. I thought you had somehow or other come
down in the world, and naturally did not care to talk about it. You
always said you were poor--but you had some costly possessions. Your
diamonds and your pearls----"

"Those pearls are sham!" she interrupted. "I sold my string for
seven hundred pounds, and lived on it for years. Well, Evie, as
you are making an early start to-morrow morning, I must not detain
you any longer. Will you write to me sometimes?--'Care of Captain
Hayes-Billington, the Katchoocan Mines,' will always find me, and I
shall get so few letters."

"Yes," I replied, "I will certainly write."

"Well then, good-bye, my dear girl. I wish you all happiness, joy and
good fortune."

As she kissed me I felt her tears upon my face, and when I had wrenched
open the door and blundered out of the room I was crying too.



From the nearest railway station to Silliram, our journey south
was both monotonous and dusty. The country we passed through was
disappointingly flat and uninteresting; a reddish brown plain, broken
here and there by serrated hills of red sandstone, which at times gave
the illusive impression of castles, battlements and fortresses.

During our long _tête-à-tête_, Ronnie and I had found plenty to say
to one another on many subjects, besides lengthy discussions on Aunt
Mina's delinquencies and Mrs. Hayes-Billington's past. With respect to
these topics Ronnie was forcibly eloquent.

"Of course Aunt Mina wanted to get rid of you at any price, although
she wrote me a gushing letter, saying she had made the most delightful
arrangements for your happiness; but as far as she was really
concerned, you might have gone to the devil!--and you _did_ go to the
devil in one way when you set up house with Mrs. Hayes-Billington! The
more I think of it, the more furious I feel. To have been chaperoned
and brought out by such a woman is enough to blast the name of any
girl; and if one of the Secunderabad cats were to get hold of this
story you would be simply down and out! The sound thing to do is to
pretend you have only just arrived from England, and drop those weeks
in 'The Dovecot' out of your life."

"That's all very fine, Ronnie," I protested, "but it's not so easy
to drop bits of one's life like that. Numbers of people knew me at
Silliram. Supposing some of them were to come down here?"

"Not much fear of that," he answered emphatically. "The Silliram crowd
seldom travel south--their beat is Bombay."

"After all, Mrs. Hayes-Billington is not such a coal-black sheep," I
urged. "In many ways she is a good soul, generous and unselfish, and
never says a nasty thing about anyone. I believe lots of women have
been divorced and are allowed to creep back into society by degrees."

"My good girl, don't talk about what you don't understand! Mrs.
Hayes-Billington's case broke the record. Of course her reputation as a
beauty made her rather conspicuous, her track was strewn with victims.
There is a legend that more than one silly fool committed suicide on
account of her. The man she went off with was enormously rich--it
was an absolutely mercenary affair. However, he didn't marry her,
and left her to prey about the world. Apparently she picked up with
Hayes-Billington, who by all accounts is a thundering ass!"

"The man Mrs. Hayes-Billington ran away with could not marry her
because he died," I explained impressively.

"Oh, did he? Well, I don't see that that makes much difference," was
Ronnie's amazing reply. "Although you made such a bad start I expect
you and I will have a real good time housekeeping together, won't we,
old girl?"

"I hope so," I replied. "I have learnt a little about prices and
things, and a few words of Hindustani."

"Oh, you don't want Hindustani at Secunderabad. Most of the natives
speak and write English. My butler was with a married couple before he
came to me; he will help you to run the show, and will tell you all
about the Hali sicca rupee, which is worth ninety-six dubs--a dub is
like a scrap off an old copper kettle. We shall fix up No. 30 quarter
in grand style, and have our little dinners and bridge parties. Mrs.
Soames will take you out, and I have a ripping pony that you can ride.
You'd think to look at her--I mean Mrs. Soames, not the pony--that she
was a stiff-necked old maid, as narrow-minded as they make 'em, but she
really is awfully kind and soft, and does so enjoy being a colonel's
wife in India, and entertaining the regiment and fussing over soldiers'
wives. 'James' is bound to take to you. Between ourselves, it's my
opinion that James would like to flirt a bit in his hours of ease. You
will like Major and Mrs. Mills, our only other married couple, beside
the quartermaster, though Mrs. Mills is wrapped up in her nursery and

Before we reached Wadi Junction, I had received an outline of what my
future friends, amusements and duties were likely to be, as described
in an offhand sketchy manner by my brother.

As we changed on to the Nizam's State Railway, Ronnie met a racing
acquaintance, and, with many apologies, they both retired into a
smoking carriage--there to discuss important forthcoming events;
meanwhile I made a sort of toilet, arranged my hair and hat, and dusted
my frock, in order to assure a presentable appearance on arrival.

At Secunderabad station we were met by Mrs. Soames herself; a slight,
smartly-dressed, elderly woman, with a long thin face and an immense
unnatural looking fringe. She gave me a cordial welcome, and soon we
were trotting up towards Trimulgherry behind a pair of fast bay cobs.
After the usual journey talk, I said: "It is so very, very kind of you
to take me in--a sort of waif and stray."

"Why of course," she replied, "I am only too glad to come to your
rescue. Your brother is one of my favourites, he _is_ such a dear
fellow. Although so popular he is so thoughtful and unspoiled, and
when he brought me Captain Vesey's letter I saw at once that there was
nothing for it but that he must go and fetch you here. By and by we
shall settle you into a nice quarter, close to ours, and I will be your
chaperon. No, no, you really must not thank me so much. I am fond of
girls, and I shall be delighted to have your company. Just one little
word of caution," extending as she spoke an exquisitely gloved hand,
"do not mention Mrs. Hayes-Billington here. If it leaked out that you
had been brought to India and associated with such a disreputable
character, the result might be most distressing. Although the largest
station in India, Secunderabad is extraordinarily proper and correct. I
have been here for three years and we have not had _one_ scandal! There
is the club," she broke off, "our great rendezvous for tennis, dances,
bridge--and, I think I may call it, the heart of the station."

I leant forward, and gazed at an imposing two-storey building on my
left, which stood in a spacious and well planted compound. Then, bowing
to people on horseback, Mrs. Soames continued:

"You ride of course?"

"Yes, I love it," I answered promptly, "Mrs. Hayes-Billington and I
hired ponies by the week, and rode everywhere."

"My dear girl, _please_ don't mention that woman's name," she protested
in a plaintive voice.

"Well, may I say something, just for once? I do not think she was
really so dreadfully to blame--her children were taken away--she was so
much alone--I cannot help feeling sorry for her."

"What are you saying? _Sorry_ for her!"

"Yes, she told me her story the night before I left; it was not so
bad--but rather sad----"

"She threw dust in your eyes of course!" interrupted my companion,
bristling up and speaking with great asperity. "Those abandoned
creatures make themselves out to be martyrs of circumstances; and
indeed, my dear, I should not be discussing such a woman with a girl
like you. Now here we are, and there is James awaiting us."

As she spoke, we were whirled in between two gate piers and came to a
standstill before a solidly built bungalow, with a round, bowed sort
of veranda. With hospitable agility, Colonel Soames sprang down the
steps to greet me and handed me out of the victoria. He was a wiry
little man, with keen granite grey eyes, a small sandy moustache, and a
remarkably square jaw. Judging by his figure and youthful appearance,
he might have been a mere captain instead of the officer commanding a
notable regiment.

I was conducted into a perfectly appointed quarter, a C.O.'s
bungalow--light, airy, and furnished to suit the climate. My room was
not large, but looked most attractive, with its white bed, pink rugs,
and pretty flowered chintz.

"Now make yourself quite at home," said Mrs. Soames, "we have a few
people dining, but, if you feel too tired after your journey, as soon
as we go into the drawing-room, you can just slip away."

Fortunately my clever ayah Mary had squeezed quite a goodly amount
of raiment into a small trunk, and I was able to appear in a smart
black evening gown, for which my hopeful aunt had paid no less a sum
than twenty guineas. It seemed to me that there was a crowd in the
drawing-room as I entered, but we only mustered twelve, including
Ronnie and myself. I heard Mrs. Soames inform her guests that I was
"just out from home!" Her tone and glance implied that I had arrived no
later than yesterday, and I was plied with all sorts of questions by
the two men between whom I sat at the dinner table with respect to the
latest books, plays and news. As I gave rather vague and unsatisfactory
answers, I'm afraid they looked upon me as a stupid sort of girl,
or perhaps ascribed my lame replies to my strangeness in this new
environment, or the fatigue of a journey from Bombay. So apparently my
six weeks at Silliram were to be as though they were not, and I was
beginning my career in Secunderabad with a smothered scandal and a

The dinner party, as a dinner, was a great success. The cooking,
waiting, appointments, and flowers could not have been bettered
at Torrington; these native servants were certainly more deft and
light-footed than Baker and his subordinates.

I slept soundly in the delightful "Europe" bed, between lavender
scented sheets. This airy solid bungalow (_pucka_ built) was a
delicious change from the damp and mouldy "Dovecot." The hours of the
house were early and of military punctuality, and seven o'clock found
me sitting in the veranda, having _chota-hazri_ with my hostess, who
was, as usual, full of animation and conversation.

As she talked I watched the _bheesti_ and a _mali_ working in the
garden; the former with his great _mussick_ filling waterpots and
the latter sitting on his heels, wrapped in a _cumblie_, digging very
deliberately among tomato plants. My hostess explained to me that our
lines were what is called "in the entrenchment," although the officers'
quarters were outside the fosse and the barracks. These were built back
to back, thus ensuring absolute privacy, and each had its own large
compound. She pointed out the double-storey mess-house, which faced us
across a maidan, and was dimly seen through clumps of flaming "gold
mohur" and other trees. Not far to the left of the mess-house lay the
jail, which was castellated, and known by the name of "Windsor Castle."
Then, taking me by the arm, she led me to a corner of the veranda
and introduced me to yet another scene. Behind our quarters lay the
Trimulgherry bazaar, overlooked by its celebrated "Gun Rock." This was
merely a large piece of granite, shaped precisely like a cannon, and
apparently laid and ready to blow the place to pieces. Presumably it
had been in this position for hundreds of years.

On his way from parade Ronnie dashed in to visit me. This was the first
time I had seen him in his uniform. He looked very smart and soldierly
and was riding a perfect darling of a pony, a bright bay with black

"I just dropped in to find out if you were alive after yesterday,"
he said. "You look all right. I believe Mrs. Soames is taking you to
call on the ladies of the regiment this morning. Only Mrs. Mills, the
major's wife, and the quartermaster's old woman; afterwards, she is
sure to bring you down to the club and show you who's who. I am playing
polo up at Bolarum, but keep your pecker up--I'll see you again before
dinner," and he wheeled about his pony, and was gone.



The station club, "the very heart of the community," as described by
Mrs. Soames, lay about two miles from our lines. As we drove down there
behind our spanking Australian cabs, my chaperon, who was a great
talker, enlarged upon the subject.

"Our club," she remarked, "is capitally situated just half way between
the cantonments and Hyderabad city, close to the parade ground, shops
and cemetery, with roads diverging in every direction; a modern but
not very dignified building, as you see. Its businesslike outline and
platform verandas have led scoffers to compare it to a railway station,
and hint that it is the work of a railway engineer, who desired to
raise a monument to the glory of his line! In this idea there may be
a touch of professional jealousy; anyway, 'handsome is that handsome
does.' The club is supplied with the latest improvements in the matter
of ventilation and comfort. No London club has better billiard tables,
more luxurious armchairs, or a superior cook. We women are not suffered
to set foot in it, except on special occasions, such as receptions
and balls; mankind are a greedy, selfish pack, who keep the best of
everything for themselves! Well, here we are!" as we turned abruptly
into a large enclosure. "It's rather early," she continued, "I see the
bullock bandy with the band has only just arrived, so we may as well
sit in the carriage for a little longer and I will point you out the
chief objects of interest."

"Yes, please do," I said, "everything, as you may suppose, is new
to me. What is the small building where I see so many ladies on the

"That, my dear, is the 'morghi-khana,' or hen house; a humble offshoot
of the larger establishment, where the ladies of the station forgather
to read papers, exchange news and play bridge, for, as I have already
told you, we are sternly debarred from the parent premises--so amusing!"

"And what," I inquired, "is the round raised platform with the tea
table and chairs? It looks like a large white cake."

"It is called a 'chabutra,' and was originally intended for a
bandstand--you see one in every station. People make use of them for
tea and talk; they are raised a foot or two off the ground, and keep
you nicely out of the way of snakes. Thank goodness we don't have many
in Secunderabad--the dry climate doesn't suit them."

As Mrs. Soames imparted information, I had been using my eyes and
absorbing my new surroundings. In comparison with the club at Silliram,
this was as a city to a village! Dozens of men and women passed to and
fro, some making for the club, some for the _morghi-khana_. Many of the
men were in polo kit or flannels; the women as a rule were remarkably
smart, their frocks and hats were undoubtedly imported, and had no
connection with the _dirzee_ or bazaar. There were numbers of motor
cars as well as carriages in the compound, and the road beyond was
thronged with vehicles continually passing up and down.

"Did you notice the three ladies who have just settled themselves at
the tea-table?" said Mrs. Soames. "They are always early birds, and are
no doubt waiting for bridge or friends. Shall I tell you about them, as
you will meet them every day?"

"Yes, do, if you please," I replied, as I glanced over at the trio.
Mrs. Soames gave a little preliminary cough, and began:

"The elderly woman, in the creased tussore costume and toque three
sizes too large, is Mrs. Lakin. She is not nearly so old as she
looks, but the struggle on small means, separation from her children,
unhealthy stations, and the burden and heat of the East, have aged her.
She comes of a good old Indian family, and was born in the country. At
last she has emerged from her early difficulties; her daughters are
married, and her husband commands a regiment. Mrs. Lakin is one of the
old type of mem-sahibs, now almost extinct, who speak the language
fluently, and know the bazaar prices to a dub. Her servants have grown
grey in her service, her animals are fat and well liking; she is the
soul of hospitality, and the most unselfish and sincere of women--her
one weakness is auction bridge," and Mrs. Soames concluded this little
sketch with a complacent smirk.

"So much for Mrs. Lakin," I said, "and now for the smart lady with a
white aigrette in her hat."

"That is Mrs. Belmont, a typical modern mem-sahib. Her husband is in
the Tea-Green Hussars. She had a huge fortune--made, it is said, in
glue--and affects to loathe India, which she scorns as a paradise of
the middle-classes--her own _milieu_ as it happens! Unlike Mrs. Lakin
she does not know her retinue by sight. To her, one black man is
precisely the same as another. Her housekeeping is in the hands of a
magnificent butler, who is amassing a fortune; her personal attendant,
a Europe maid--_such_ a mistake out here--is amassing admirers, and
enjoying the time of her life. Mrs. Belmont is a good many years older
than her husband, but wonderfully well preserved, and, considering her
class, really quite presentable."

Here I recognised the inflexible attitude of a county lady towards the
heiress of thousands made in glue.

"The third on the chabutra is Mrs. Potter," continued my companion. "If
you listen you can hear her voice, and her loud rollicking laugh. She
is also known as the 'Daily She Mail,' and 'Slater's,' as she is an
inveterate, I may say, official newsmonger. Be sure that you are _very_
careful what you say to her."

"Yes, but I don't see how _I_ can give her much news."

"My dear, you personify news! She will pick your brain in ten minutes;
she will know all about your family, your fortune, your tastes,
and possibly the price of your hat! It is marvellous how she gets
hold of the first tidings of such events as the movements of troops,
engagements, quarrels or scandals; and the worst of it is, that in many
cases her information is correct. Some say she has a friend at the Post
Office; others, that she owes much to her ayah's circle at the bazaar,
or that Joe Potter, her husband, has his ear to the ground in the
city--where he is a vague 'something.' They live in a fine bungalow in
Secunderabad, but have no claim to any social standing. All the same,
Mrs. Potter goes everywhere; her card is filled the moment she appears
at a dance, she is never 'left out' of any entertainment, and people
propitiate her with craven attentions. It is much safer to be her
friend than her enemy, for she uses her pen as well as her tongue, and
supplies sharp unsigned articles to the press. Well, now I have given
you an outline of one or two personalities. Here comes Mrs. Wolfe, that
handsome dark woman in the yellow car. She is the wife of an official
at Chudderghat, and that is a stranger with her. Let us get out now,
and hurry over to the chabutra, or we won't get good seats."

We ascended the steps of the white cake without any undignified haste,
and Mrs. Soames formally presented me to Mesdames Lakin, Belmont and
Potter, as "My friend Miss Lingard." We all bowed and smiled at one
another, and fresh tea was ordered from a bearded butler.

As my chaperon was exchanging civilities with the ladies already
established, Mrs. Wolfe and her companion joined us. Mrs. Wolfe was
a tall elegant woman, with magnificent black eyes and an intensely
animated expression.

"This," she announced, with a comprehensive wave of her hand, "is my
cousin Miss Payne. Sally Payne, who, after her arduous labours in
globe-trotting, has come to enjoy a domestic holiday with me."

Mrs. Belmont raised her glasses and considered the new-comer with an
air of grave appraisement. A little woman with reddish hair, sharp
features and a pale clever face; she wore a well-cut white linen, a
Panama hat, and carried in a white gloved hand a gold-handled sunshade.

Miss Payne bowed all round with self-possessed grace, seated herself,
and began to take off her gloves.

"Just arrived?" said Mrs. Potter brusquely.

"Yes, only yesterday morning."

Then she glanced at me and said, "We came up from Wadi in the same
train. You were the girl in that delightful blue silk dust cloak; it
made me _so_ envious. When you tire of it, please let me have the first

"Yes, certainly," I answered, in the same key, "but I do not propose to
part with it yet."

Mrs. Potter's swift glance gave me to understand she would deal with me
presently, but that just now she was particularly interested in Miss
Payne, and she once more addressed her:

"Did I not see you at the Cinderella?" she inquired in her judicial

"Guilty!" admitted the stranger. "My cousin dragged me there, but I
enjoyed it immensely. What 'go' there was about it!"

"Yes, it was a good dance," agreed Mrs. Potter, "though one of the band
had a fit, and the ice-cream ran short; but on the whole, everything
was thoroughly well done."

"And what heaps of dancing men and pretty women!"

"Yes, we were just about to discuss the beauties of the
evening--'present company always included!'" and Mrs. Potter glanced at
Mrs. Belmont with her beautiful complexion, and then at Mrs. Wolfe with
her animated, vivid face.

"Oh, pray don't mind _me_," protested Miss Payne, coolly accepting the
implied compliment. "At forty I am past the beauty stage. Last night a
worried-looking man rushed up to me and asked where he could find my
daughter? Imagine such a question for a respectable English spinster!"

"I expect he took you for Mrs. Hastings," suggested Mrs. Soames, "her
hair is the same shade."

"Well, I'll make it my business to look out for Mrs. Hastings, and see
myself as others see me. I must confess, if I had been endowed with
a daughter, I'd have chosen that delightful vision in rose-coloured

"Oh, Miss Warren!" said Mrs. Potter with a sniff. "As it happens, she
has no mother. Yes, she looked well enough, but her dress--an old
one dyed--was too remarkable, especially as she danced with the same
partner most of the evening!"

"Where was her chaperon?" inquired Miss Payne, as she helped herself to
two lumps of sugar.

"Probably she had none," was the startling reply.

"What!" cried Miss Payne, brandishing the empty sugar tongs. "I know
that chaperons are extinct at home--the bicycle killed them--but I'd no
idea that India was so emancipated."

"I'm afraid we are," replied Mrs. Potter. "I heard some violent kissing
last evening behind the screen where my partner and I were sitting out,
and I happened to see the couple later--a girl and a married man!"

"Oh, really!" protested Miss Payne with mock horror, "I shall be
obliged to retire. I am _much_ too young for this kind of conversation!"

Then she looked across at me and burst out laughing.

"What do _you_ say?"

This question drew upon me the immediate notice of Mrs. Potter.
Hitherto I had been sitting a little in the background, now she turned
round and favoured me with special attention.

"And you arrived yesterday, did you not?"

"Yes," I acknowledged with meek humility.

She stared at me so hard that I felt quite out of countenance, and
could not find anything else to say.

"You are Captain Lingard's sister, I believe? How nice it is for him to
have you out here!"

"And very nice for me--to be with him," I murmured.

"Your first visit, of course?" she was proceeding, when my chaperon
interposed, and, moving a little nearer, asked Mrs. Potter a question
about an imminent bridge tournament, and I was for the moment released.
I confess I rather envied the independence of Miss Payne, who, having
finished tea, had courageously betaken herself to the library.

Mrs. Lakin, hitherto engaged in cutting up cake and waiting on the
company, now took a seat beside me and proceeded to break the ice. I
noticed that her complexion was a pale biscuit colour, and her blue
eyes looked faded, but she had a sweet expression--perhaps once upon a
time she had been pretty.

"So I hear you are a new-comer. I wonder what you will think of India."

"So far, I like it immensely," I answered.

"There have been wonderful changes since I set foot in the country.
That was thirty years ago. Then this club was a small affair, and stood
farther down where the shop is now. Everything is made so comfortable
in these days. People rush backwards and forwards to England for a few
weeks' holiday. Formerly it was a wonderful thing if you got home once
in five or six years. All the same, I liked those times best."

"Did you!" I exclaimed. "But why?"

"Well, it's not altogether because everything was quarter the price,
though of course that does make a difference, especially when you have
a large family. Things were quieter and easier. Generals did not come
hustling round when they were least expected, and you and your friends
were left in a station for three or four years instead of being whipped
off as now at a moment's notice. The servants were a superior class,
and one grew attached to them, and almost every girl that came to India
was bound to find a husband."

"And that is all changed, I understand."

"Oh yes, it's as difficult to get off a girl here as it is elsewhere.
In these days when the exchange is so low, sending home money is
ruination--people bring out their families, and the country is
overrun with paying guests, and this, in India, so famous once for
hospitality! My two girls are married--not grand matches, but to really
good fellows--and I must confess I miss them. My husband and I are
alone--just Darby and Joan. I am sorry to say that his time will soon
be up, he will be retired, and we go home for good next spring."

"Then you love India?" I said.

She nodded expressively, and added:

"You see I was born out here, as were my father and mother before
me. We come of families who have made their home in India for many
generations--educated of course in England, they all return like homing
pigeons to the Army, to the Civil Service, and to many other posts.
India draws them--they _all_ hear the East a-calling."

"And so you will be really sorry to retire?"

"Yes," she admitted, "and if we can't stand it we will return and
settle down in the hills. I can see us in England, probably established
in some London suburb, in a little house, with smoky chimneys, the
boiler always out of order, two servants--saying they've too much
to do--ourselves with nothing to do, no interests, and none of our
accustomed comforts. My! I don't like to think of it! I have heard such
tales from friends who have gone back to England, and find the change
awful, especially the climate."

"Oh," I exclaimed astonished, "you do surprise me."

"Yes," she answered. "Give me the ordinary honest hot weather out
here. You know where you are; when the heat or rains are due, and when
they cease. It is so much better than your capricious sun one day
and snow the next, and your desperate English winters. Most English
die in winter, and no wonder! You are staying with Mrs. Soames," she
continued. "Your brother is in Colonel Soames's regiment; they are
going home in the spring like ourselves."

This announcement gave me a shock. I understood that there might be
a move from Secunderabad, but I never realised that it would be to
England, or that I might find myself back at Torrington, before the
year was out. As I pondered the subject Mrs. Lakin suddenly rose, in
answer to a frantic signal from another matron.

"Bridge," she said, turning to me with a triumphant smile, "they have
got up a rubber at last!"

Then she descended somewhat heavily, and hurried away to the

"A good soul, but oh, what clothes!" said Mrs. Potter, looking after
the retreating figure. "It is whispered that they are chosen by an
envious old maid sister-in-law. I can see a world of spite in that
short-waisted gown and the pantomime toque; and yet the poor lady is
pleased, and tells us that _now_ she gets everything from home."

"Never mind the clothes," put in Mrs. Wolfe, "when the woman inside
them is a jewel. She is a sort of godmother to half the station."

Seeing that I had been abandoned by Mrs. Lakin, Mrs. Potter again
turned to talk to me.

"As you have only just arrived, you have seen nothing of India so far
except railway stations?"

I coloured with guilt, and nodded a deceitful assent.

Mrs. Potter's quick black eyes looked me up and down, and then she

"I dare say you will have a very good time. This is a most interesting
place, if you care for that sort of thing; and you can see something of
all conditions of men, Asiatic and European. There is, as you know, the
great city of Hyderabad, which we may not enter without a pass. Then
comes Chudderghat, where the Politicals and the Resident live; he has
the finest Residency in India. There are also colleges and the convent
of the Holy Rosary. Next we have Secunderabad itself, all shops, and
bazaars, and fine old bungalows. That brings us here. Up your way the
Army is sprinkled about--artillery and engineers, cavalry and line;
this is the largest garrison in India--and now you have the place in a

"Who are these people?" I inquired, as I observed close to the
_chabutra_ several handsome dark young men getting out of a large motor.

"Oh, they are some of the Nizam's entourage, mostly noblemen and
officers of the Golconda Lancers. They have been playing polo with the
Lighthearts' team. Your brother is their captain. Of course, you must
feel rather strange at first, not knowing a soul in the place!"

"Yes," I answered. I could not say why, but I found it difficult to
talk to Mrs. Potter; her sharp eyes seemed to stab me like knives.

"But you will soon know everybody," she continued, with a little air of
patronage. "Out here we are all supposed to be in the same set. The set
in Secunderabad is embodied by the club--to be a member is our social
hall-mark. All the rest are, so to speak, in outer darkness--where I
believe there's a good deal of gnashing of teeth!"

As she was speaking I happened to glance towards the entrance through
which people were still coming and going, and there I beheld someone
who was not a stranger. It was Captain Falkland, attended by Kipper.



Captain Falkland presented a striking appearance in his A.D.C. uniform,
mounted on a fine black horse. He looked thoroughly at home in the

"Behold that faithless man!" cried Mrs. Wolfe excitedly; "how _am_ I to
get hold of him?"

"I suppose the general has been inspecting something, as he is on
duty," said Mrs. Potter, "and there is the dog that is always at his

"Lord Runnymede's only son is dead," observed a lady, who was now
one of the company on "the cake." "He was always a poor consumptive
creature, and Captain Falkland is the next heir. What a chance for some

"Oh, he's not a marrying man," declared Mrs. Wolfe with brisk decision;
"he bars girls, and naturally he would never think of one of our
'spins' out here."

In answer to an agitated signal with a newspaper, Captain Falkland
approached. He was now on foot.

"Oh, I've been trying to catch your eye for ages," screamed Mrs. Wolfe.
"You never answered my chit, and you know you half promised to take me
on the lake to-morrow. Do; come and have tiffin first."

He shook his head, and, before he had time to speak, she hastily added:

"Oh then, I'll meet you at the boathouse! I don't intend to let you
off. An hour's rowing on the Hussain Saugur will be _so_ good for you!"

Just at this moment Captain Falkland's eye caught mine, and he

"Miss Lingard! Well, I am astonished. When did you come out?"

I was prevented from answering by Kipper, who had also recognised me,
and sprang into my lap in a state of hysterical delight, ruining my
nice clean white linen with the red dust off his paws.

"So you and Miss Lingard have already met?" said Mrs. Soames, and I
noticed that Mrs. Wolfe honoured me with a piercing stare.

"Oh yes, we knew one another at home," he replied, and then this bold
man stepped up and took a chair on "the cake"--the one just vacated by
Mrs. Lakin.

"When did you arrive?" he repeated.

"Only the other day," rejoined Mrs. Soames, evidently afraid that I
would give myself away, and I sat by in helpless acquiescence. "Miss
Lingard is staying with me."

"Kip is awfully pleased to see you," he said, addressing me

"Yes, isn't it nice of him?--and it is more than six months since we
parted. He was once my property," I added, looking over at my chaperon.

After this evidently unexpected announcement there was a significant
pause, and some of the ladies exchanged glances.

"How did you leave them at Torrington?" inquired my neighbour.

"Oh, very well, thank you. They all came to see me off from London."

"What steamer did you come out in?" demanded Mrs. Potter, but I
pretended not to hear, and said:

"Dora is married, as I dare say you know, and Bev has decided to go
into the Diplomatic Service."

"Sorry for the Service," muttered Captain Falkland.

"I wonder if you came out in the _Modena_?" persisted Mrs. Potter,
who I could see was boiling over with questions, but Mrs. Soames, an
efficient general, now rose and said:

"I promised to look for a book for Jimmy, and I had nearly forgotten
it--something to do with military law--arrived in the last batch. Come
along, Miss Lingard, and I will show you the library."

Captain Falkland rose to attend upon us, but was instantly arrested
by Mrs. Wolfe, who figuratively flung herself upon him. She was one
of those women who triumphantly capture the attention of men--be they
never so wary--and thrust the rest of her sex ruthlessly aside. We
left her holding her prey by the sheer force of her volubility, and
talking with surpassing gesticulation and animation; but presently with
surprising adroitness he managed to escape and joined us.

"So you and Miss Lingard were acquainted in England?" said my chaperon.

"Oh, rather--we are connections. My people and Miss Lingard's have
lived within a few miles of one another for centuries. The Falklands
and the Lingards are old and trusted friends."

"How amusing! I had no idea of this," said Mrs. Soames; nor had the
poor deceived lady any idea that the speaker and I had only spoken to
one another on two occasions!

"You must come and dine with us," she continued hospitably, "just a
quiet little family dinner."

As they were arranging the day and hour, I stood aloof talking to Kip,
and was astonished to behold yet another familiar face and form. Could
I believe my eyes? There was Mr. Balthasar descending from an imposing
grey motor.

He crossed the compound quickly and accosted Ronnie, who had just
ridden in from polo; they talked eagerly together as the latter
dismounted and his pony was led away. I noticed that Ronnie took Mr.
Balthasar familiarly by the arm and spoke to him earnestly for some
minutes, whilst from time to time Balthasar nodded his close-shaven
bullet head in emphatic agreement. Undoubtedly Balthasar had heard of
my arrival, had possibly seen me and informed Ronnie of our former
meeting, and Ronnie had pledged him to silence. Now, including Captain
Vesey, there were four people who held the secret of my past.

As Mrs. Soames and I moved towards our victoria, escorted by Captain
Falkland, Ronnie took a few steps towards us, but his companion stood
stock-still, and looked at me as blankly as if he had never seen me
before. Then one of his thick black lashes quivered slightly. Yes, it
was an unmistakable wink!

As our carriage wheeled about to thread its way among a crowd of other
vehicles I beheld Mrs. Wolfe "descend upon the fold." She seized the
helpless A.D.C. and carried him off in triumph to the _morghi-khana_.

The next afternoon Mrs. Soames and I drove up to the polo ground to
witness a match, in which Ronnie greatly distinguished himself. He was
captain of the regimental team, rode splendidly, and was remarkably
well mounted. I could see that he was an important factor in the local
polo world. I noticed Mrs. Lakin in a dreadful old phaeton, drawn by a
bony chestnut horse. As she caught sight of us she waved her hand with

"Isn't she a funny old thing?" said Mrs. Soames. "She lives down at
Begumpett, where her husband commands a regiment, and she dresses
like a caretaker, but is such a good, generous woman, so kind to the
natives, Eurasians, and poor whites. She spends on others--saves on
herself. To my certain knowledge she has had that toque ever since I
came to the station. If anyone is ill, it's Mrs. Lakin to the front; if
anyone is in trouble, they turn to Mrs. Lakin. Her husband is a smart,
well-set-up man, and looks years younger than his dowdy wife. Their
bungalow is on the style of forty years ago, quite a curiosity. They
have queer old furniture and Argand lamps, but give capital dinners
in the good solid style; everything in the most lavish profusion.
Masses of servants, dozens of courses, wonderful curries, and such
tender mutton! She is the secretary of our Mutton Club. It is really
an historical object lesson to dine with the Lakins, and to learn how
things were done--say at the time of the battle of Plassey."

"I wish she would invite me to dinner," I replied. "She is a nice,
confidential, motherly old thing, adores India, and cannot endure the
idea of leaving the country."

"No, I dare say not," said Mrs. Soames; "all her children were born
and most of her relations are buried out here. Her sons and daughters
are scattered about this Presidency. I don't suppose she has anyone
belonging to her at home, and would be rather at a loose end in
Bayswater or West Kensington."

"She might write her memoirs," I suggested, and here Ronnie and several
of his friends surrounded our carriage and claimed our attention.

The night that Captain Falkland dined with the Soameses the only
other guests were Major and Mrs. Mills, the chaplain and his wife,
and ourselves--a somewhat sober party. I must confess that I took
unusual pains with my appearance. My ayah and luggage had arrived.
Captain Falkland had never seen me in full war paint, that is to say
in evening dress, for at what he called the "beanfeast" I had worn
a demi-toilette. I think Mrs. Soames was a little impressed by the
fact of our former acquaintance; at any rate, she sent us in to dinner
together, and we talked away gaily.

We discoursed about Torrington and Beke, the "Beetle," and also the
"Plough and Harrow."

"That was a ghostly old place," he remarked. "I spent two nights there
and heard the most extraordinary noises, as if someone was ploughing up
and down the passages."

"Oh, how amusing!" exclaimed Mrs. Soames.

"Surely you don't believe in ghosts?" I said.

"No, I'm not sure that I do," he replied, "although we own one
ourselves--appearance guaranteed only to members of the family--but
I have a sort of sneaking belief in those horrible things called

"An Elemental--what is that?" I asked.

"Oh, a sort of half ghost, half reptile, a hideous animal--or even a
too frightful vegetable! Germans call them 'House devils.' They are the
most modern and fashionable article, and have entirely cut out the old
sheeted spectre and clanking chains business."

"And what do they _do_?"

"All manner of hateful tricks; for instance, supposing you've laid down
a book or an umbrella for a moment, you turn about, and it's gone!
After a protracted search and considerable loss of time and temper,
behold it once more before your eyes! Say you have discovered something
important in a newspaper and particularly wish to show it to a friend,
you may hunt the paper through and through until you're nearly crazy,
and there's not a sign of it. That's the work of an Elemental. When you
have written, with painful labour, a most particular letter and tip
over the ink--Elemental again! Or when you are late and in a terrific
hurry, and your only collar stud jumps out of your hand, rolls away and
falls into a hole in the floor, you tear your hair, and delight the
Elemental! Some go so far as to say that bruises and pinches for which
we cannot account come from the same quarter."

"Horrible!" I said. "I'd a thousand times sooner have to deal with a

"Well, yes," he replied, "they only sit outside the window and howl and
wail; but they will never wail for _you_, as you are not Irish."

"No," I said, "I rather wish I were."

"Do you, my dear girl?" said Mrs. Soames. "How very amusing!"

"They are an attractive nation, a most happy-go-lucky lot," resumed my
partner. "I sometimes go over there to hunt with a friend. The very
last time I crossed I told the porter to label my luggage for Bristol.
Luckily, I caught him just in time as he was pasting on 'London.' I
asked him what the dickens he meant? 'Shure, yer honour,' he replied
quite calmly, 'I'm bound to put _something_ on--and these is the only
ones I have!' He seemed to think he was doing his duty, and looked so
genial and so pleased with me that I believe I gave him sixpence."

"It's wonderful how _you_ get Captain Falkland to talk," said Mrs.
Mills when we forgathered in the drawing-room; "with me he is generally
as dumb as a fish."

"He is an example of a man who makes a little conversation go a long
way," said Mrs. Soames. "Rather a drawback for an aide-de-camp.
However, what he does say is generally to the point, and he has the
most beautiful manners. He must have learnt them from his mother Lady
Louisa--she belongs to the old school, and is as proud as Lucifer! I
don't envy the unfortunate girl who will be her daughter-in-law. I do
not think that in her eyes anyone short of a princess will be a fitting
match for her dear Brian; however, he is a nice fellow, and one of
those rare, unselfish individuals who enjoy listening to other people."

"Then I should imagine he has a thoroughly happy time with Mrs. Wolfe,"
said the major's wife. "She must nearly talk his head off, and with
her great black eyes, enormous mouth and flashing teeth, she sometimes
looks as if she were going to _eat_ him!"

It was painfully evident that this lady was no favourite with Mrs.

"Oh, she just talks as easily as she breathes," declared Mrs. Soames
good-naturedly. "It's her second nature. She is a brilliantly clever
woman, and _so_ amusing."

"Well, I much prefer her cousin Miss Payne," declared Mrs. Mills; "she
is really unique; so original, independent, and interested in the whole
world. Mrs. Wolfe is merely interested in herself and her admirer for
the time being; she cannot exist without some attaché. Whether he likes
it or not she has a way of annexing a man that there is no resisting.
Her tactics are excessively bold and open. If she takes a fancy to
any particular individual his struggles are useless; he is condemned
to dance, to ride, to boat, and to play tennis with her, until she is
tired of his society."

"But it's all so absolutely harmless," protested Mrs. Soames. "Mabel
Wolfe is an excellent wife; her three children are at home, and I
suppose she thinks, being young and gay, that she is entitled to some

"I don't know what you call 'entitled,'" rejoined Mrs. Mills, "but I
know for a fact that she was at the bottom of the breaking off of the
Wallington-Allan engagement, and there was 'distraction' if you like! I
grant you that she has a wonderfully animated manner. Her descriptions
are vivid, her 'take offs' are inimitable. She entertains the men,
and they like her, but, for my part, for a woman with three little
children----" She paused abruptly as the lords of creation were now
sauntering in, and the subject of Mrs. Wolfe and her shortcomings was
postponed to another occasion.

After some desultory conversation, Mrs. Soames uttered the words
"A little music," and I was conducted to the piano--a rich-toned
Schiedmayer--and Colonel Soames begged me to sing something he had
heard me trying over that morning.

After one song I was urged to many. My efforts were unexpectedly
appreciated. Captain Falkland was evidently fond of music; he stood
by the piano turning over the leaves, and begging for his special
favourites, and I was retained at the instrument until it was ten
o'clock, the hour for the departure of our guests--all early birds.

"Are you riding in the mornings, Mrs. Soames?" inquired Captain
Falkland, as he was about to take leave.

"Yes, to be sure I am," she replied briskly.

"Well then, if I may, I will call in on Thursday and take my chance. We
might have a gallop round Moul Ali racecourse."

On Thursday, which was the garrison holiday, a large riding party
assembled outside our quarters. Colonel and Mrs. Soames, Major and Mrs.
Mills, Ronnie and his greatest friend in the regiment, Mr. Arkwright,
Captain Gloag, the adjutant, Captain Falkland, Colonel Grey (a colonel
of the artillery in Trimulgherry--not very far from our lines), his two
daughters and myself.

The Misses Grey, Emily and Mabel, were not remarkably pretty, but
were very popular in the station. Their mother being dead, their
father enacted the part of an effective chaperon. He was a wonderfully
dapper, active little widower, and looked young to be the father of
these well-grown young women, was a capital tennis player and an
indefatigable dancer. It was certainly rather hard upon the girls that
he laid such heavy toll upon them for partnership on tennis court or
in ballroom. At every dance it was an unwritten law that each had to
reserve three dances for her parent. As they danced beautifully their
young men friends considered this claim an outrageous exercise of
parental authority. Certainly the little colonel danced amazingly well.
If by any chance one of the girls "cut" her father's waltz, domestic
matters would be more or less disagreeable for some time. In all other
respects he was a pattern to chaperons.

Moul Ali, an otherwise forsaken racecourse, was often the scene of
morning and evening gallops, and the forlorn, dilapidated stand made a
suitable resort for _chotah hazri_, afternoon teas, or even moonlight
suppers. The course and stand were the sole attraction to people from
the cantonments, as this portion of the Deccan is surprisingly ugly,
and has to depend for its beauty on sunset and moonlight effects.
The land is barren, covered with low-growing shrub and enormous red
sandstone boulders of every size and shape. So numerous are these
that there is a native legend to the effect that when the Creator had
completed His work, He discharged all the rubbish in this part of the
world. For miles and miles it is a sea of stones, with not even a palm
or a mango tope to break the monotony.

On this particular Thursday morning the sun was scarcely over the
horizon when we moved off _en masse_. I rode with Colonel Soames. Our
way lay along a rough cart track, full of ruts and rocks, bordered with
bleached jungle grass and thorny, leafless bushes. At last we arrived
at our destination and there let ourselves and our horses "out." How I
enjoyed that delightful gallop with the fresh morning air beating in
my face! Captain Falkland's great waler and my stud-bred raced along
together side by side, and we were soon far ahead of the rest of the

"Your animal has a turn of speed; that was a good stretcher," he
remarked, as we subsided to a walk. "You love riding, I can see."

"Yes," I replied; "and here it is all so nice and free. One is, as it
were, off the road," and I waved my hand at the enormous stretch of
open country.

"That's so," he assented. "There are no farmers to head you off new
wheat, but it's pretty bad going. You have not yet come across any of
our big nullahs." Then turning round, so as almost to look me straight
in the face, "I say, do tell me, now we are by ourselves, how you
happened to come out to India."

"I wanted to come," I replied. "I have always longed to see the East."

"That you particularly wanted anything would be no reason for your
getting it, if I know Mrs. Lingard. Rather the other way I should say;
so tell me the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth."

"Well then, the real reason----" Here I came to a full stop.

"Yes, go on please--the _real_ reason."

"Was Beverley," I brought out with an effort. "He was so horribly fond
of me."

"Good Lord!" exclaimed my companion. "What a way to put it!"

"And although I couldn't endure him, and snubbed him fiercely on every
occasion, still my aunt was afraid----" And again I hesitated.

"That you might be tempted? Yes, I see."

"There were no grounds for her fears I do assure you, but when Aunt
Mina saw a chance of shipping me to India, naturally she seized upon
it--and of course I was only too glad to come."

"Did she ship you to your brother?" inquired my companion.

"Well--no--not exactly," I stammered.

"Oh, then, there _is_ something behind!"

"There is," I admitted.

"Nothing much, I'll bet my boots. You haven't it in you to keep a
deadly secret."

"I'm not so sure," I replied. "For all you know to the contrary, I may
deserve the kettle. I heard you talking to Mrs. Potter about truth."

"Yes, I hope I didn't put my foot in it? Truth, between you and me and
the doorstep, is not her _most_ prominent virtue. Now, you have it
written all over your face; you couldn't tell a lie if you tried."

"Please don't hurl these compliments at me," I protested, "especially
as I don't deserve them. I may not tell a lie--but I might _act_ one!"

"What do you mean?" he demanded, reining up suddenly; and Kip, who had
caught us up at last, sat down to pant.

"I do not see why I should explain. You seem to expect me to tell you
everything about myself and my affairs as a matter of course. On your
side, you divulge nothing."

"I am not as good at talking as you are and I have but little to say
for myself. Possibly, like the parrot, I think the more. Perhaps,
some day, I may tell you something that I would never say to another
soul. Although you and I have met so seldom, we know one another
extraordinarily well, and if there is any truth in the fashionable
doctrine of Theosophy, we were united by a close tie in some former
existence. Do you know I had that feeling when we passed one another on
Slacklands Marsh? Well now, won't you tell me the great secret?"

"Yes," I agreed, "but not at present. Do you see," I continued,
pointing over at the stand rendezvous, "everyone is there
already!--they are waving what looks like a tablecloth."

"By Jove, so they are!" he exclaimed, as we put our horses into a
canter. "All right, then," and he looked at me expressively, "your
thrilling story must be continued in our next!"



When we dismounted at the stand we found that _chotah hazri_ had
already started, and was, so to speak, half-way round the course. As
I received my teacup from her hands, I gathered that my chaperon was
displeased with me--my tardy arrival was not "amusing." Perhaps she
thought that I had made myself too conspicuous in riding off and having
a long _tête-à-tête_ with Captain Falkland, although we _were_ old
friends; therefore, on the way home I carefully avoided his company and
gave him no opportunity of resuming our conversation, keeping close to
Major Mills and Ronnie.

Within a week of my arrival at Secunderabad I seemed to have slipped
into my place in the station as Mrs. Soames's guest and Captain
Lingard's sister, and as they were both popular everything was made
pleasant for me. My singing was extravagantly praised. I loved music,
but satisfaction in my own performances had hitherto been cheapened and
damped, especially by Aunt Mina, who had no ear, and assured me that
my execution on the piano was all right, but my singing was far too
dramatic and theatrical, also that I _screamed_ like a curlew!

We had tennis, riding parties, dinners, dances, sports on the Futeh
Maidan, and boating excursions on the lake. Besides this, there was
plenty of work for the garrison--manœuvres, night attacks, field
days and route marching. As the weather was now cool, the general, a
particularly active soldier, kept his staff incessantly occupied, and
I saw but little of Captain Falkland. On the other hand, I saw far too
much of Mr. Balthasar. He appeared to be continually about the club,
and had been actually introduced to me by Ronnie!

I felt secretly comforted when Mrs. Soames agreed with me that he was
"a most odious person."

"Of course, my dear," she said, "he is in the club, and that says all.
He has lots of money and subscribes to everything, has a fine house
down in Chudderghat, gives men's dinner parties, and is said to have
extraordinary influence in the city--not of London, but of Hyderabad.
All the same, in my opinion, he is just an adventurer, but he is
received at the Residency, and Secunderabad people have him at their
houses. He shall never enter mine! He gives me the idea of being some
horrible human bloodsucker, and I believe--though I dare not say it in
public--that he is a money-lender."

Mrs. Soames was very intimate with Lady Dynevor, the wife of the
Resident. We frequently went down to Chudderghat to tiffin and
to tennis parties, and I was taken to see something of the great
Mohammedan city: for instance, the Char Minar, the Nizam's palace (the
finest in India), standing on a high terrace; the façade, a double row
of Corinthian columns, the interior with its marble stairs, statues and
treasures--truly the Palace Beautiful!

At the Residency I made the acquaintance of a delightful Mohammedan
lady. Her name was Zora; she came to tiffin when there were no men,
arriving in a closed car and heavily veiled. She was no darker than an
Italian, and very handsome. Her figure was slight and willowy, and she
was undoubtedly the most graceful creature I had ever seen. Her father,
a Nawab of great wealth, was one of the ministers to the Nizam; she was
his only daughter--and a widow. Zora was an accomplished musician, and
played the piano magnificently. As she spoke English fluently we soon
became friends. Zora informed me that she had often been in England,
where she dressed and went about precisely like other people, and was
often taken for an Italian!

"I used to go to your theatres, dinners and garden parties, and enjoyed
myself immensely. In London I often rode on the top of a motor-bus, but
as soon as I come back to India I become _gosha_."

Mrs. Soames and I visited her at her father's palace, an imposing
abode, with many servants in livery, wide staircases and long
corridors, the floors of which were covered with white linen. Zora's
own apartments were furnished English fashion, though there were divans
piled with cushions, and wonderful Persian rugs; here, too, was a
splendid Steinway piano, a writing-table, Chesterfield couches, and
bookcases crammed with French and English books.

At tea-time we were joined by her father (the minister), a handsome
elderly man with suave, courteous manners and an expressive voice. He
spoke English perfectly, talked with ease, and told us many interesting
things about the city. The Nawab had two sons who had been educated at
Harrow and were now in the Nizam's forces, but I could see that Zora
the beautiful was the pride of his life.

I had now been a whole month with Mrs. Soames, and made many
acquaintances--for instance, all the officers of the "Lighthearts"--and
began to feel myself almost one of the regiment. I had also been made
known to most of the people at the club and a number of girls--among
these my particular friends were Emily and Mabel Grey, and we met
almost daily.

As Quarter No. 30 was vacant I insisted upon moving into it. I hated to
feel as if I were imposing, though I believe Mrs. Soames really liked
me; I did my best to help her in every way I could, by writing notes,
reading aloud--as her sight was indifferent--going messages down to the
bazaar when she was busy, and shopping at Cursetjee's or Spencer's and
various places in Oxford Street, Secunderabad. I liked Colonel Soames,
too, but somehow he resembled the countryman and the claret--one never
got much "forrarder." I rode with him, danced with him, and sang to
him, but he was often preoccupied and inaccessible, and had no real
interest in the world beyond the regiment. The regiment was his
fetish; its fitness, smartness and fame were all he cared for, and I
could see that he ruled his officers and men with an iron hand, encased
in a somewhat thin velvet glove.

Hospitable Mrs. Soames was reluctant to part with me, although I was
to be such a near neighbour. Quarter 30, or the end bungalow, faced
towards Trimulgherry Rock. Our abode was a good size; three large lofty
rooms, and two slips at either side. The compound was considerable;
the late occupant had kindly started a vegetable garden, our avenue
was lined with cork trees in flower, and the whole front veranda was
enshrouded in luxuriant creeper. With fresh matting and pretty bamboo
furniture, chintzes, cushions, and solid indispensables, Ronnie and I
made the end bungalow very nice indeed. He took great pains in hanging
pictures, putting up heads, and fixing draperies. Kind Mrs. Soames lent
me some plate just for the time, as she had more than she wanted, and
I could return it to her when the regiment went home. This was a move
which I could not bear to contemplate, but I kept my thoughts to myself.

Ronnie and I instituted a most happy ménage. We shopped together in
Oxford Street, and there picked up glass and china, lamps and stores.
Our stables held a smart dog-cart and horse, my stud-bred grey and
Ronnie's three polo ponies, which he also hacked. Our household
consisted of a cook and _tannyketch_ (an individual who carries the
market basket, plucks fowl, and is, in short, the kitchen slavey).
There was Michael the big butler, a dressing _chokra_, my ayah--now
happily situated in one of our go-downs, with a whole brood of
relations--and the usual _mali_ and _bheesti_, etc.

I had invested in a ponderous account book with a lock and key, and was
the household purse-bearer. We boldly adventured on little luncheons
and dinners; numbers of people called, and, if we had been so disposed,
we could have dined out nearly every night. On Sundays we always had
supper at the colonel's. I sat with Mrs. Soames in the garrison church,
accompanied her to dances, and though I now was a "Miss Sahib" with an
establishment of my own, was still more or less under her friendly wing.

Besides Mabel and Emily Grey and Mrs. Mills, I had two friends who were
a considerable contrast, Zora and Mrs. Lakin. Ronnie and I had dined at
the Lakins'--a most overwhelming repast--and now and then Mrs. Lakin
herself came to see me and gave me hints about housekeeping and kept me
well posted in the proper price of ghee and charcoal. I could see that
she took a motherly interest in me, now that her own girls were far
afield, and I was grateful for the same.

Mrs. Wolfe had honoured me with a visit, so had Mrs. Potter. I
instinctively felt that she did not accept me for what I may call "my
face value." To use a common but disagreeable expression, I think
she figuratively "smelt a rat"! Our interview was a long series of
sharp questions and nervous answers, and I was nearly exhausted and
at my wits' end, when, to my great relief, Ronnie and his friend Mr.
Arkwright made their appearance and she took her departure.

Among my other visitors was Zora, who came by special appointment when
I was alone, and we mutually enjoyed music, tea and conversation.
Captain Falkland also called, and one who was not equally welcome--Mr.
Balthasar. I think when I beheld his great big grey motor turning into
the compound, I would have said "Durwaza bund," only that Ronnie, who
seemed surprisingly excited, cried:

"By Jove!--here's old Balthasar!--just the very man I wanted to see."

He was just the man I did _not_ want to see, but naturally I was
bound to be civil in my own house, and although he oozed affability
and admiration at every pore, I was not softened. No! Could I ever
forgive his insolent wink? However, Ronnie and he appeared to be on
excellent terms, and he accompanied my brother into his little office
or writing-room, there to confer together on some important subject,
which they declared would not interest me. Later, as Ronnie was obliged
to go to barracks, I was left to entertain Mr. Balthasar alone.

After discussing a recent gymkhana, Ronnie's prowess in the
Loyd-Lindsay and tent-pegging, he worked the conversation round to

"Do you ever hear from your friends there?" he inquired.

"I do not know that I have any friends there at present," I answered
evasively. "All the people I knew have gone down to the plains."

"I was over at the Katchookan Mines last week for a couple of days and
put up with the Hayes-Billingtons," he continued.

"Oh, did you? How is she?" I asked.

"She looked awfully seedy--no beauty _now_, so thin and faded. It's a
horrible hole for a woman; nothing to do, hardly a soul to speak to.
Billington is in the mines all day, and of course for a lady accustomed
to a very--er--er--flash sort of life, as she was, when Mrs. de Lacy,
it must be a sort of hell on earth--minus the company. She was asking
for you; she seems awfully fond of you. I say," and he hitched his
chair a few inches closer and lowered his voice, "it's a pity that
your people at home were so slack about making inquiries, eh?" Here he
rolled his pale grey eyes at me. "It's an awful handicap for a girl
to start out in this country as the companion of a woman of loose

I clenched my hands tightly, but held my tongue.

"Luckily for you," he continued, "the matter has been kept dark down
here. There are only one or two people in the know, and I am one of
them, and, my dear young lady, you can always rely on _me_." As he
made this unctuous announcement he patted me on the arm with odious
familiarity. "Your brother and I are tremendous pals; he is an awfully
clever chap, and I would do more than that for him--and for _you_--but
you must not be so stand-off, you know--let us be friends, _great_
friends. Ronnie must bring you down to tiffin and I will show you my
little bungalow, and you will let me take you for some drives in my new
car. Perhaps you would like to go out to the mines one day and see Mrs.

These astounding invitations almost took my breath away, and as I was
endeavouring to invent some polite excuse he resumed. "Not a soul need
know about the little expedition; it's only a run of a hundred miles,
and if we went next week--there is a full moon."

"Thank you very much," I said at last, "but I could not possibly
accompany you to see Mrs. Hayes-Billington, although I am really sorry
for her loneliness."

"Then why not come, my dear young lady? Your visit would do her so much
good. It would be a charity, for, upon my soul, she looks as if her
heart were breaking. No one except your brother will ever hear of our
trip. It will be quite under the rose! Come, come! Why not do good by

"I am afraid I do not care to do anything by stealth," I answered

"And what about false pretences?" he demanded, now changing his tone,
and once more patting me on the arm.

"What do you mean?" I asked sharply.

"Well, here is a beautiful young lady"--he rolled his eyes
expressively--"she is the belle of Secunderabad--as even the women
allow. She shines like a star; the station is full of her praises, she
is so sweet and unspoiled; so simple and so _innocent_! Her singing and
her dancing are the admiration of everyone who has the happiness to be
in her company. She is supposed to have just arrived from England--yet
all the time the poor foolish people are being deceived. Previous to
her arrival here, the beautiful innocent young lady has been living in
a hill station with a notoriously bad woman. Of course I shall keep all
this as secret as the grave--but, my darling girl, what are you going
to do for _me_?"

For a moment I was too stunned to speak or to stir. At last I got up,
walked over to the door leading into the veranda, and beckoning to our
butler, said:

"Please order this gentleman's car!"

Then I turned my back on Mr. Balthasar and retired to my own apartment,
feeling, as Mrs. Paget-Taylor had once expressed it, "completely



Our modest ménage at No. 30 was a very happy one, at any rate for
the first three months. We were like a pair of children playing at
housekeeping, and often when we sat down to dinner at our daintily
arranged table we would nod and laugh at one another, for somehow it
all seemed unreal and too good to be true. Here was indeed "a place in
the sun."

I looked carefully after Ronnie's comforts, ordered his favourite
dishes, and was always up early, ready to give him _chotah hazri_ in
our shady veranda before he rode off to parade. I did my utmost to
entertain his friends, especially Roger Arkwright, who soon became my
friend as well. He was a tall fair young man, with square shoulders
and a pleasant square face. He came in and out as often as he pleased
and we called him "The tertium quid." I wondered if, occasionally,
his visits were not nicely timed so as to meet Mabel and Emily
Grey--especially Mabel--who were often with me, practising new songs or
just running over merely to idle and talk. However that may be, Roger
Arkwright gave me valuable help with our garden. We had a splendid show
of roses in pots, and a respectable amount of lettuce and tomatoes.
He also took a personal and greedy interest in my flock of ducks,
who every morning, after their early breakfast, departed _en masse_
for some distant pond, returning quacking and hungry at sundown. So
punctual were they that one could almost set a watch by these worthy
and business-like birds.

Mrs. Mills, my next-door neighbour, would often step over the wall
dividing our compounds and bring her work and talk to me. She had two
small children with her and a boy at home, about whom she was always
anxious, as he was a delicate little fellow and had no grannies. The
Millses were not well off; she often discussed ways and means, the
cook's accounts and bazaar bills, and I agreed with her that in the
East rupees seemed to vanish like mists in the sun!

"You see," she said, "this is a smart regiment and the mess bills are
heavy. The colonel will have everything done in the most expensive
style, and when I see the monthly amount my heart goes into my
boots--and yet I don't want to be mean; as George says, 'the reputation
of the regiment and its traditions must come before everything else.'
For you it is all right, of course, as you and Ronnie have lots of

"I don't know about that," I answered. "Speaking for myself, I have
just a hundred and fifty pounds a year, besides an allowance from my

"Oh, but your brother is well known to be wealthy. Why, last year he
gave three thousand rupees for a polo pony! He offers prizes for the
men's sports, he entertains at the club, and is always most generous
and open-handed."

To all of which statements I could but assent. Ronnie and I did not
interfere with each other's arrangements, or rather I never interfered
with his. We rode together, drove down to the club in the afternoon,
and at balls danced the first waltz. When at home we were rarely alone;
there was sure to be somebody dropping in for breakfast, lunch or
dinner. In India these casual guests make practically no difference
in the menu, just a little more water to the soup, another cutlet and
another savoury. My cook was really a treasure; we were on excellent
terms; I never cut him down, or weighed his purchases, or fined him,
as Mrs. Mills did her man, and he took a real pride in his work. I,
too, cooked, and had installed a small stove in the back veranda,
where Mabel Grey and I experimented with recipes and made delicious
meringues, rock cakes, and original savouries. The little dinners at
No. 30 enjoyed quite a regimental reputation. Sometimes Ronnie dined at
mess--always on Guest Night--sometimes there was a bachelor dinner at
the club. On these occasions I dined with the Millses or the Soameses,
or enjoyed in preference a quiet meal (such as a poached egg) at home,
made up accounts and worked off arrears of correspondence. Somehow, now
that I led such a busy life, with continual goings out and comings in,
I was exceedingly thankful to have a short breathing space. Ronnie,
too, had rarely a spare minute; what with parades, orderly room,
guards, rifle-shooting, arranging polo matches, and playing cricket, he
was always busy. Sometimes I had known him to sit up in his little den
writing till midnight.

All our lives we had been the best of friends and comrades. Sad to
relate, our first difference of opinion was about Mr. Balthasar. One
evening Ronnie came home from the club looking alarmingly put out. At
first I thought he might have had a bad evening at bridge, or that
one of the polo ponies had broken down, but I knew I should hear all
about it after dinner, when we smoked in the veranda--I too enjoyed a
cigarette, an accomplishment I had learnt from Mrs. Hayes-Billington. I
took to it by her advice on one of our gloomy, depressing wet days. She
declared that smoking soothed the nerves. So far as I knew I had not
any nerves to soothe, but I snatched at a new experience!

As soon as we were comfortably installed in two deep chairs Ronnie

"I say, I've an awfully big crow to pluck with you, old girl."

"All right," I answered gaily. "I have got a bag to put the feathers
in--now show me the crow?"

"I met Balthasar in the club this evening. He has been away for a week
or two; he was frightfully black with me for some reason, and then,
when I asked him why he had the hump, it all came out! It seems that
that day when he called upon you to pay his respects in full state,
and was talking to you and advising you with regard to a certain
affair--of course I mean Mrs. Hayes-Billington--you actually rose and
summoned your servant and turned him out of the house! Now I want an

"And you shall have it," I answered with some heat, and then as rapidly
and as forcibly as I could find words I poured out my wrath and the
whole tale. I spoke of Balthasar's insinuations, his vague threats,
his loathsome familiarity, and his audacious suggestion that I should
accompany him to the mines to see Mrs. Hayes-Billington. I declared
that when he threatened me and insinuated that I was in his power and
living under false pretences, I naturally got up and commanded Michael
to send for his car. At last I ceased, breathless. For a moment Ronnie
did not speak, but I felt instinctively that he was impressed by my

"I see," he said, "the fellow lost his head--I know he admires you

At this announcement I stamped my foot--old style.

"But, Sis, you must remember that he is a foreigner and make
allowances; they are all so hasty and emotional. Balthasar assured me
he had come to see you with the kindest intentions, and that you threw
him out of the house as if he were a mad dog! He says he shall never
forget the way you drew yourself up and looked at him."

"I am delighted to hear that," I answered heartlessly. "I hope I have
planted an evergreen in his memory, and that I may never see him again."

"Oh well, for that matter," and Ronnie gave a rather nervous cough,
"it would not do for you and him to be really at daggers drawn, for
he has been awfully useful to me; in fact, I may say I am under some
obligation to him. And so are you, old girl, if he continues to keep
his mouth shut."

"Oh, my dear Ronnie," I protested, "_why_ should we have anything to do
with such a horror? I'd a thousand times rather be under an obligation
to Baker, the butler at Torrington."

"Yes, but that's a different affair. He is one of our own race; and,
if it comes to obligations, I have borrowed a sov. from Baker before
now! These Levantines are different; so emotional and sensitive, and
childishly thin-skinned. With them you are either black or white. I
prefer to be on good terms with Balthasar. He works many strings in the
financial world--half the people here run after him----"

"And the other half run away from him," I supplemented.

"Well, anyhow, he gets stacks of invitations; he is our local
Rothschild, and quite an _ami de la maison_ at the Residency."

"I can hardly believe that," I said rudely; "and anyway, he is not, you
will admit, what we would call a _white_ man."

"I can tell you this, Sis, that his face was grey with rage when he
was talking to me this evening. Look here," and Ronnie rose and stood
before me with his hands in his pockets, "you will have to patch up a
truce with old Balthasar, and I will bear the olive-branch. We can ask
him up to lunch or dinner to soothe his wounded feelings, and you must
put your fastidiousness in your pocket and assume a virtue if you have
it not! I say, I don't often ask you to do something--but I do beg of
you to oblige me in this one thing, as a great favour."

His expression was so grave and anxious that I could not but yield.

"All right, Ronnie, you know I never can refuse you anything. I will do
my best to smother my feelings and, much as I loathe him, be civil to
Balthasar in order to please you."

Then Ronnie kissed me warmly, and said:

"That's a good old girl! I dare say he rubbed you the wrong way. He's
not a bad sort, I assure you, and rather a friend of mine. Now, I'll
tell you of a friend of yours who always rubs _me_ the wrong way--it's
that fellow Falkland! I can't stand his slow, deliberate manner. Of
course the women here have spoiled him and run after him because
he'll have a title some day; and he's such a strait-laced beggar,
thinks gambling is wrong, at least for anything more than eight annas
a hundred at bridge. He doesn't bet, and he scowls if you tell him a
sultry story; and this comes well from a fellow who is in the fastest
cavalry regiment in India!"

"I don't agree with you about Captain Falkland," was my bold reply.
"I'm sure he's not a bit of a prig, and I think he's right about
betting, when many of the young fellows here have no money to spare.
However, you keep your friend and I'll keep mine."

"All right," agreed Ronnie, "only don't let's invite them here
together, for I happen to know that they hate one another like poison.
And now I'm going to send off a chit to Balthasar. I'll tell him you're
very sorry, but that he quite misunderstood you; you were going out to
tiffin at the general's with Mrs. Soames, and were already late."

"What a frightful story!" I exclaimed.

"Oh, it'll be all right," said Ronnie as he passed into the
drawing-room. "I expect he'll take it with a grain of salt."



It was the middle of November, months had flown like weeks, and
days like hours. The annual great ball at the Residency was
imminent. For a ball no more auspicious place could possibly be
selected than the splendid Durbar Hall, with its fine teak floor and
crystal chandeliers--said to have been "borrowed" from the French
at Pondicherry. Everyone on Government House list had received
invitations, and guests were flocking not only from the city of
Hyderabad and the cantonments, but from Raichore and even far distant
Poona. I had a lovely new ball-dress held in reserve for this supreme
occasion. It was the white and silver gown which I had worn when Mrs.
Hayes-Billington told me that I was "lovely." Of course she was a
flatterer, but, whatever I might be, I don't think there could be any
question with respect to my frock.

Just as my toilet was completed and I was taking "a last fond look"
the ayah introduced an enormous bouquet on a tray. It was not my style
of bouquet in the least--tight in structure and overpowering as to
perfume; moreover, I had grave suspicions as to the donor.

I inspected it, sniffed at it, and then handed it back to the ayah and
told her that she might keep it for herself.

"What for I doing such stupid nonsense?" she asked in her most
querulous key. "I putting in missie's bath tub for to-night; to-morrow
the mali will arrange in best vases in drawing-room."

"I do not wish to see the flowers again," I replied impatiently, "take
them away--_throw_ them away!"

Whilst I was still commanding, and she entreating, my official chaperon
called for me in the brougham. Ronnie and the colonel had driven down
together in the dog-cart. It was rather a long journey to Chudderghat,
and when we arrived at the Residency we found the great steps
encompassed with such a crowd of carriages and motors that we were
obliged to wait for a quarter of an hour before it came to our turn.

The scene in the ballroom was dazzling. Such brilliant functions are
rarely witnessed in England; putting aside the vast well-proportioned
hall, its blazing chandeliers and banks of tropical flowers and palms,
the company was unique--crowds of pretty women and girls in fresh smart
gowns, officers in all sorts of uniform, from the ordinary volunteer
in black and silver to a gorgeous Golconda Lancer. There were present
many nobles from the city, wearing magnificent satin and brocade coats
encrusted with gold embroidery, their turbans glittering with aigrettes
of diamonds, their throats encircled with enormous pearls, their
belts a mass of precious stones. These--members of the Court of the
Nizam--were merely ornamental and dignified spectators.

Most of the other guests were swinging round and round to the strains
of a delightful waltz, swaying and revolving in time to the beguiling
violins. What a riot of colour and movement, of costumes and figures!

With difficulty we made our way to the end of the room to speak to
Lady Ryder, and there we halted for a moment and looked about us. A
waltz was over and people were walking about or talking in groups. I
noticed Mrs. Lakin in a much-creased black velvet, old-fashioned Swami
ornaments and two-button kid gloves.

"She hasn't had a new dress since she married her daughters," explained
Mrs. Soames, who was herself excessively smart in a mauve confection
direct from Jay's. "She rarely goes out," she continued, "but feels it
a duty to be present on this occasion. I expect she will sneak off home
before supper."

Mrs. Wolfe flared by in a wonderful orange garment; she was looking
unusually brilliant, her black eyes blazing with excitement. Partners
were beginning to discover me, and in a short time my programme was
crowded, even "extra extras" were bespoke. The band was playing
another delicious waltz, and I was soon swimming round with Ronnie, an
absolutely perfect partner--we always danced the first waltz together.
My next was with Roger Arkwright; after him with Captain Gloag the
adjutant, a stiff formal individual who invariably wore a harassed and
careworn expression. Captain Gloag was succeeded by Captain Falkland,
who had coolly put himself down for two waltzes and the supper dance.
Although we had met pretty often at polo, tennis parties, gymkhanas and
the boat club, yet, since that day at Moul Ali, we had never had any
really serious conversation. Recently he had been away with the general
on a tour of inspection, and had only returned to Secunderabad on the
night of the ball.

Just towards the end of our second waltz we were resting after a
long round, looking on at the gay and whirling crowd and remarking
on various people. There was Colonel Grey gyrating with Mabel, and
Roger Arkwright leaning against the wall following the couple with an
expression that was all but murderous. Suddenly I was accosted by Mr.
Balthasar, glossy, prosperous and heavily scented, wearing an enormous
diamond as a shirt-stud, and a pair of skin-tight lavender gloves. We
had in a way patched up a truce, and he had actually dined with us at
No. 30--but not to meet my present partner. Having bowed himself before
me, he said:

"As I was so unfortunate as to find your programme full, my very good
friend your brother has given me his second dance, which I think is
number fourteen?"

For a moment I was speechless with annoyance, and then I said: "I
didn't know there were such things as second-hand dances."

"Oh, yes, when charming young ladies are in great demand such things
can be arranged. Will you not dance number fourteen with me?"

"What is it?" I asked brusquely, "a square?"

"No, it is a waltz."

Now, I found myself in a most disagreeable dilemma. For Ronnie's sake
I must not offend this creature; for the sake of my own self-respect
nothing would induce me to waltz with him.

"You may have a square, number thirteen," I said haughtily. Balthasar
rolled his eyes alarmingly, and became a shade more sallow, but rallied
and said:

"Thank you, Miss Lingard; half a loaf is better than no bread," and
without another word he retired.

During this little scene Captain Falkland had stood beside me in rigid
silence. I thought he might have helped me out. In some ways an A.D.C.
is expected to be ready with expedients. But no, he remained stiff and
immovable, as if he had been a figure in armour.

"Just one more turn before the band stops," he said, and I was whirled

When the waltz was over we strolled into the great veranda to look for
seats, and came to a large chintz-covered lounge on which Sally Payne
was enthroned in conspicuous solitude. As usual, she was beautifully
dressed and wore a string of fine and unquestionably real pearls. When
we approached she patted the seat beside her, and I sat down.

"Hallo, Sally!" said Captain Falkland. "Patience on a monument, and all
alone! What does it mean?"

"It means that I have sent my partner to fetch me an ice. Did you
know that Captain Falkland and I are cousins?"--addressing me. "He did
not recognise me at first because I had changed my name, although I
am still 'an unappropriated blessing.' Formerly I was Sally Rivers.
A relation died and left me a fortune"--and she touched her pearls
significantly--"and the name of Payne. So for once pain brought
pleasure! I remember Falkland as a dreadful little boy. I had not seen
him for twenty years until the other day; he has grown up better than I

"Sorry I can't return the compliment, Sally," he broke in. "It is most
unseemly for you to be privateering round the world all by yourself."

"By no means," she rejoined. "I led a very pinched, narrow sort of life
for years, and now I'm having my little fling. Some day perhaps I may
settle down. After my forty-fifth birthday has passed I shall marry the
first man that asks me. There! You are both witnesses. Miss Lingard,
you haven't spoken a word. A penny for your thoughts?"

"I have been thinking that we are all related," I answered. "Captain
Falkland pretends that the Falklands and the Lingards are cousins."

"Pretends!" he expostulated, "I do like that! Allow me to refer you to
the family pedigree."

"If Captain Falkland and I are cousins and you are his cousin, and Mrs.
Wolfe is your cousin--we must belong to the same tribe!"

"Very well, Miss Lingard," said Sally, "in future I shall call you
by your Christian name, and when I die you must promise to go into
second mourning. Ah, here comes my ice at last! Strawberry, I hope. And
now you, my two nice new cousins, may pass on"; and without further
discussion we took her at her word.

Captain Falkland had put himself down on my card for the supper dance,
and I was just about to go in to supper with Roger Arkwright when he
appeared, and stood before me and said:

"May I have the honour of taking you in?"

"I have promised Mr. Arkwright."

"But you are engaged to me for the supper dance. You must have supper
before the dance--otherwise how is it a supper dance?"

"That is a funny argument," exclaimed Roger, and he glanced at Falkland
and laughed.

I don't exactly know how it came to pass, but my cavalier
good-naturedly relinquished me, and I presently found myself walking
away in company with Captain Falkland. As we passed down a corridor
I saw approaching a rather striking pair, a tall man in uniform and
a tall girl in white. As we came nearer I discovered, with a mental
start, that the couple were ourselves!

"I had no idea it was a mirror," I exclaimed. "I thought we were
meeting two strangers."

"Yes, a study in gold and silver," he replied, referring to the gold
on his uniform and the silver on my dress. "Now that we have seen
ourselves as others see us, what is your opinion?"

I found this question rather embarrassing, and made no reply, but I
could not help recognising the fact that we had made an effective

The supper-room proved to be crowded; it looked as if every chair and
every knife and fork were in use. After steering me through blocks of
guests and waiters my partner managed to secure two places by squeezing
in at the corner of a table occupied by a large and noisy party,
including Mrs. Potter; by bad luck Captain Falkland's seat was next to
hers. I say "bad luck," as I knew they were as inimical to one another
as cat and dog. He was never to be seen in her train. For her part, if
she found an opening for giving him a nasty thrust she did not overlook
it. It was her openly expressed opinion that "he was a shockingly bad
A.D.C., and totally wanting in manners and tact." Fortunately this
verdict was not supported by the station.

As we talked together of trivial matters I was aware that all the time
Mrs. Potter, though ostensibly carrying on a conversation with her
neighbour, was listening to every word we said and only waiting for
an opportunity to burst into our _tête-à-tête_. Presently she made an
intrusive remark, and instantly she and my partner began to spar. I
did not take any share in the conflict, but talked to a major in the
Tea-Green Lancers, who was on my left--a most amusing neighbour, and
the best amateur actor in southern India. As we talked and chaffed I
found myself enacting the rôle of Mrs. Potter, and endeavouring to
overhear what she and Captain Falkland were talking about. Their
voices were low, and among scores of other tongues and the crash
of the band near by I was not particularly successful. I gathered
that repeatedly he attempted to cut short her flow of speech, but
such efforts were paralysed by her tireless volubility. At last her
companions began to move; they were giving parting toasts. Turning to
my friend with lifted champagne glass I heard Mrs. Potter say:

"Come now, a pledge, Captain Falkland!"

"All right then, I will," he answered in a tone of angry decision, and
lifting his glass and looking her full in the face I distinctly heard:

    "Here's to the light that lies in woman's eyes!
        And lies--and lies--and _lies_!"

"How dare you!" she exclaimed in a furious undertone. "How dare you
insult me!"

"I mentioned no names," he replied in his coolest manner; "you asked
for a toast, and I gave the first that came into my head."

Mrs. Potter listened to his lame explanation with an expression of
concentrated ferocity, then hastily collecting her party she turned her
back upon him and left the supper-room in what was a most realistic
presentment of high dudgeon!

"I could not help overhearing your toast," I said as soon as I had
recovered my partner.

"I suppose not. Now, thank goodness, we shall have elbow room. May I
get you some quails in aspic?"

"No, thank you," I replied, "I've had soup, and I never eat at a ball.
I believe you have driven Mrs. Potter away, and made her your enemy for

"She was always _that_," he answered with amazing nonchalance; "she
knows me, and I know her. She cannot spare infants in arms or even
the dead. What a tongue! Mrs. Potter does not leave a feather on any
woman in the station. In the good old days she would have found herself
sitting in the public stocks."

"Who is she so particularly down on this evening--a friend of yours, I

"Yes, if you will allow me to call you so."

"So then she was talking of _me_!"

"Yes, you will laugh when you hear her latest. She warns me that you
have a mysterious past; that you came out to India and lived with some
disreputable people long before you dawned on Secunderabad. I gave her
one for her nob, I can tell you!"

For a moment I could not think of any appropriate reply, and at last I
brought out Mrs. Soames's well-worn expression, "How amusing!"

"Yes, isn't it? Well, now shall we go and dance, or are you dead tired?"

"I'm never tired of dancing," I answered, as I rose and collected
gloves and fan.

"And what about me?" he said. "I was on horseback the whole of
yesterday, an early inspection and long railway journey to-day, letters
and telegrams to answer on arrival, gobble down dinner, dress, come
here and reel off a dozen duty dances. I tell you what! I know a nice
cosy nook up in the gallery where we can sit and talk, or rather you
shall talk and I will listen."

"You are reckoning without me," I protested. "I don't think I'm as
great a chatterbox as I used to be."

By this time we had ascended into a gallery which commanded a splendid
view of the hall, and as I sat down Captain Falkland turned to me and

"I say, Miss Lingard, I can't stand that fellow Balthasar. I can't
imagine what your brother sees in him."

"Neither can I."

"Well, I gathered as much from the way you choked him off just now, and
flung a square dance at his head."

"I wouldn't have even given him that but that Ronnie has asked me to be
civil to him. I think it's something to do with racing and that they
have a mutual interest in a speculation."

"Ah! My own impression of Balthasar is that he is a wrong 'un, a
sort of parasite hanging on to the Nawabs in the city, and squeezing
out money and concessions for his schemes in gold and coal. He has
a bad influence over young fellows. Gets them down to his house in
Chudderghat and encourages them to gamble and drink champagne--and I
can't stand seeing him talk to a woman. As he was jabbering to you this
evening I felt half-inclined to knock him down and wring his neck."

"That would indeed be strong measures!" I answered with a laugh.
"Ronnie says that, making all allowances for his foreign blood, he is
not such a bad fellow."

"He is a _beast_!" declared my companion with vicious energy. "Don't
let's talk about him any more. And now," suddenly sinking into the
chair beside me, "behold, this is the hour and the moment for you to
tell me that _secret_."

"Must I really?" I asked with a start.

"Yes, I've hardly been able to sleep for thinking of it," and he
laughed. "You know you broke off just in the most interesting place
that morning we rode on the racecourse at Moul Ali."

"And that was ages ago," I said. "Fancy restless nights for weeks--how
too dreadful!"

"Well, now, please put an end to my misery and impart your awful tale."

"It is rather awful," I said gravely, "and I believe you will be

"Oh, no fear of that," he answered. "It would be absolutely impossible
for _you_ to shock _me_."

"Well then, you shall judge," I said. "There is never smoke without
fire. Mrs. Potter has some grounds for her story," and sitting up
and grasping my fan tightly in both hands, I turned towards him and
continued with my usual volubility. I described the visit of the
Hayes-Billingtons; her extraordinary beauty and charm, my aunt's
fascination and temptation; how Mrs. Hayes-Billington and I had come
out together in the _Asphodel_.

"Why, she's just a ditcher," he interrupted.

"If that means a horrid old tub, she was," I assented, "but Captain
and Mrs. Hayes-Billington could not afford the P. and O."

I next proceeded to draw an attractive, not to say rosy, picture of the
delights of Silliram--tennis tournaments, dancing and picnics. Then I
came to a full stop and an appreciable silence ensued.

At last Captain Falkland said abruptly:

"So you were up there for six whole weeks and have never said a word
about it?"

"There is a reason for it," I answered, looking at him steadily.
"Ronnie and Mrs. Soames know, and so by great bad luck does Mr.
Balthasar. He was at Silliram and dined with us one night."

"Well, for Heaven's sake hurry on and tell me this mysterious reason,
before I go clean mad."

For a moment I paused, figuratively to pull myself together. At last I

"Did you ever hear of a Mrs. de Lacy?"

"Why do you ask?" he said sharply. "What can _you_ know about her?"

"Only--that Mrs. Hayes-Billington was formerly Mrs. de Lacy."

On hearing this announcement Captain Falkland turned hastily round so
as to confront me face to face; he looked almost pale.

"_What_ did you say?" he demanded, speaking in a hard voice, strangely
unlike his usual tone.

"Exactly what I have told you," I replied. "Of course I need not assure
you we never knew this at Torrington, but you can't very well ask a
lady for her reference or character as if she were a housemaid. Mrs.
Hayes-Billington was received with open arms at Silliram, she became a
great social success, and was taking the principal part in _The Scrap
of Paper_ when one of the audience recognised her and gave her away."

"So I should hope. Fancy that woman daring to undertake to chaperon a
young girl! Well, tell me what happened next?"

"A man who called on us recognised her and wrote down to Ronnie. He
arrived the very morning after the explosion and took me off at once.
The whole station was shaken to its foundation; there was a tremendous
social earthquake, and Mrs. Hayes-Billington was cast out of the club
just as if she had been a live cobra. I may confess to you that in my
heart I pitied her. Like some drowning creature she had struggled to
the bank, but was seized and flung back into deep water."

"_Now_ I can understand why Mrs. Soames was so anxious to conceal the
date of your arrival in India," he observed, entirely ignoring my
protest, "and so far she has been wonderfully successful."

"Mr. Balthasar may give me away," I suggested.

"In that case, I'll shoot him! But he won't. More likely he'll try and
blackmail you. If he does, just hand him over to me."

"Did you ever hear of Mrs. de Lacy?" I inquired.

"Hear of her!" he repeated. "Why, I knew her. She ran away with
Vavasour of my regiment. We met her up in Cashmere. She certainly was
extraordinarily beautiful, and he went clean off his head. As far as
looks and manners went, she snuffed out every woman in the place--like
the sun among a box of matches. Her husband was a tough old civilian,
who left her, by all accounts, to run her own rig--her career was
erratic and notorious."

"I don't think she was really so black as she was painted."

"_Don't_ you?" he said, considering me with amused, sarcastic eyes.

"She was always very nice to me," I persisted, "and somehow I could not
imagine her otherwise."

"Oh, she was 'very nice' to lots of people! I agree with you there. She
was so awfully nice to old Holliday the judge, that he gave her----" He
paused and said: "Well, well, well, we will let bygones go and say no
more about her, but I'd give ten pounds to see your Aunt Mina's face
when she hears the history of your chaperon! I must say I blame her for
the whole thing. It all came from her indecent haste to get you out of
the country. However, every cloud has a silver lining, and it was a
very nice silver cloud that brought you down here to _me_."

As he spoke he took my fan in his hand and was about to say something
more. I felt my heart galloping like a fire engine, when I heard soft
footsteps and a rustle behind us; Mrs. Wolfe and her partner had
invaded our retreat.

"Oh, you dreadful, faithless man!" she exclaimed, dangling her
programme before Captain Falkland, who sprang to his feet. "I'm afraid
I shall be obliged to report you to the general for conduct unbecoming
an officer and a gentleman. Our dance has already begun, so do come
along! Captain Stainforth will take charge of Miss Lingard, who is no
doubt also hiding from her own legitimate partner!"

As Mrs. Wolfe concluded, she put her white-gloved hand under Captain
Falkland's arm and led him unresistingly away.

Her taunt was based on truth! I met my "legitimate partner" as I
entered the ballroom. The poor man had been hunting for me everywhere,
and as we prepared to launch into the vortex I noticed my late
companion and a yellow gown whirling together in the middle of the
room. He and I did not exchange another word that evening, though once
or twice--especially in my set of lancers with Balthasar--I noticed him
watching me fixedly. It was four o'clock in the morning, and a sort
of green light of dawn was glimmering along the horizon, when Mrs.
Soames and I drove away from the Residency. I was very, very tired;
as I sank into my corner of the carriage I felt like a limp rag doll.
Mrs. Soames, on the contrary, was unusually brisk and lively. She had
enjoyed supper, not once, but twice, whilst I had tasted nothing but an
ice and a cup of soup, and that was scarcely sufficient to sustain even
a girl in hard training for six hours' incessant dancing.

"My dear," said my companion, "you were an immense success. I don't
mean to flatter you--the young men will do that--but I quite agree with
Lady Ryder, when she said you looked like the princess in a fairy tale.
Wasn't it amusing?"

"Oh, Mrs. Soames," I murmured, in an exhausted voice.

"I saw that you gave a square dance to that dreadful Balthasar, but I
must confess that you did not look as if you were enjoying yourself.
More like the goddess of war with a drawn sword in your hand, or our
dear Lady Disdain--so amusing!"

"I hated dancing with him," I said peevishly, "but Ronnie likes me to
be civil to everybody."

"I danced twice with Ronnie; he is a dear, good fellow, and never
forgets that an old married woman may still enjoy a waltz. Jim went
home about one, but I, as you see, played the conscientious chaperon.
Thank goodness to-morrow will be Thursday, and there will be no parade,
and everyone can enjoy a Europe morning."

"I feel as if I could stay in bed all day," I murmured.

"No, no, my dear," protested my companion, "you must come to tiffin
with me. We will talk over the ball; how everyone looked and behaved,
and you shall tell me about your partners, and which of them you liked

As the ayah was undressing me that morning, she asked me in a drowsy

"Where got missie's fan?"

Where indeed! Then I suddenly remembered how Captain Falkland had taken
it away. What had he done with it? There are no pockets in uniform. In
the surprise caused by Mrs. Wolfe's sudden descent upon us he must have
stuffed it into the breast of his coat. I rather hoped that he would
keep it!



Two days after the ball, Captain Falkland called at No. 30 and left
my fan with a nice little note, and I must admit that I was sincerely
sorry to have missed him.

We were now beginning to make a certain amount of preparation for a
move; the regiment had been three years in Secunderabad and was due to
go to England by the season's reliefs. Many people were sending round
their auction lists, their _dirzees_ were contriving warm clothes
suitable for an English winter, horses and traps had been bespoke, and
most of the polo ponies were already sold.

"There is no use," said the colonel (who always gripped time by the
forelock), "in leaving everything to the last moment, and we shall
probably find ourselves on the high seas some time in February."

I confess that I could not endure this prospect, although I prudently
kept my own counsel. Already I had learnt that it is unpardonable to
announce that you are not delighted to go back to England, but would
much prefer to remain in India. With respect to this guilty secret
Mrs. Lakin and I were of one mind. I should mention that after all I
had only enjoyed the best of India, and I loved the country; I had
never experienced a hot season, and had only seen the bright side of
life--beautiful Silliram, imposing Hyderabad, the dignified noblemen of
the Nizam's Court, and the warm-hearted Anglo-Indian community.

At this time--which was shortly before Christmas--Ronnie was unusually
busy. He rarely had a spare hour to ride with me of a morning, or
to drive me down to the tennis courts. The colonel was "so beastly
fussy," he said, and there was such a lot to do when a regiment was
under orders for home. Ronnie was often late for dinner, as he would
gallop down to the club for a game of rackets or billiards--"something
to work off orderly room and red tape"--and there he often forgot both
time--and me!

One evening I was sitting in the drawing-room, patiently awaiting his
return, when I heard someone ride up, and called out: "Oh, Ronnie, I'm
afraid your dinner is a cinder!"

As there was no reply I looked over my shoulder and, to my amazement,
beheld Captain Falkland standing in the doorway. It was after eight
o'clock. What could have brought him? Perhaps he had come to break the
news of an accident to my brother--who rode and drove at headlong speed.

"Has anything happened?" I asked, springing to my feet.

"Nothing to anyone that concerns you," he answered; "only to _me_."

"I hope it is not serious?" I said, feeling not a little bewildered by
this late visit. "Won't you sit down?"

"I had a cable from home," he began, and I knew from his voice that he
was nervous. "My father has had a paralytic seizure, and I'm off to
England to-night. The general has been most awfully kind about it,"
he paused for a moment, and then went on: "I need scarcely say that I
could not leave the country without saying good-bye to _you_."

I felt my face glowing, and murmured a civility that was I am afraid

"You remember," he continued, "that morning at Moul Ali when I declared
I would say something to you that I could never tell to another soul.
Well, now I am here to say it. I have come to ask if you will be my

For a moment I felt almost stunned by this unexpected question, and
then filled with a sense of exquisite tremulous joy.

"I have always been in love with you, as you may have guessed, and I've
rushed up here in this abrupt unceremonious fashion to put my fate to
the touch before I go home. What is my answer to be--Yes or No?"

"They say you will be a lord some day," I remarked irrelevantly. "I--I
would never do for a countess."

"I entirely disagree with that; but don't meet troubles half-way. My
cousin is hale and hearty and only sixty-five; I may die before him.
I'm afraid I'm rushing you, but I should like to know before I leave
that you belonged to me; and yet probably I am a presumptuous idiot,
and you may not care a straw about me. I know I'm not the only fellow
that is in love with you, and I've heard you called the prettiest girl
in India."

I could not restrain a wild hysterical laugh as I exclaimed:

"You are nearly as bad as Mrs. Soames--she compared me to a fairy

"I'm sure you are a good fairy, who will make allowances and forgive
this precipitate descent on you; and now without any more figures of
speech--can you give me your answer?"

I looked up at him and met his anxious dark eyes. The "yes" was
trembling on my lips when Michael our big butler flung back the curtain
or _purdah_ between the drawing-room and dining-room and said:

"The captain sending salaam, dining at club." Glancing interrogatively
at my companion he added: "This gentleman dining with missy?"

"No, no," protested my late caller, "I have only a few minutes to
spare. Shall we go into the veranda?" was his bold suggestion.

I rose without a word and led the way.

"I am taking silence for consent," he said, and there, in the scented
darkness, he drew me into his arms and kissed me.

Sitting hand in hand in the dim light we talked, and how the time flew!
A few minutes became half an hour. I was surprisingly silent for me,
thrilled with the dawn of first love and the vibrant attraction of my
companion's voice.

"I may return before long," he said. "All depends on my father; under
any circumstances you will be home in February, and then we will be
married. Meanwhile, I will leave you in charge of Kipper."

"Yes, if you like to put it in that way," I answered gaily. "And about
our engagement?"

"It is 'done finish,' as they say out here."

"I would rather it was not given out yet. Time enough when you return
or I go home."

"I see," he answered; "you think if you were ticketed 'Engaged,' you
would lose half your fun!"

"No indeed," I protested indignantly, "but I should hate all the talk;
it is not as if you were to be here--that would be different."

"Yes, very different indeed," and he gave an audible sigh.

"People might say that it was not true--and--and----"

"You have a humble opinion of the lovely Miss Lingard," he interrupted
with a laugh, "but if you insist I could put up a notice in the club,
signed and witnessed; and the general might allow it to be mentioned in
orders. I say, Eva, you _are_ a little goose."

"I wonder what your people will think? I'm sure Aunt Mina won't give me
a good 'chit,' and you know I've no money."

"Don't talk of money," he protested impatiently, "when every second
now is worth gold to me. I shall have you, you will have me, and I
feel sure we shall be awfully happy together. We must tell one or two
friends here about our engagement; for instance, Mrs. Graham and Mrs.

"Yes, I should like to tell Mrs. Soames--I know she will be so
pleased--and, of course, Ronnie."

"I'm not sure that _he_ will be so pleased--somehow your brother and
I have never hit it off. I know he is immensely popular and a capital
sportsman. I believe he thinks me a prig--which I'm not. I'm a bit
older and steadier, that's all. By the way, darling, do you know that I
am fourteen years your senior?"

"As if it mattered!" I retorted with scorn.

"Not now, no doubt, but later--much later--you must promise not to
throw my bald head and grey hairs in my face."

I burst out laughing.

"Captain Falkland--no, I mean Brian--how can you talk such nonsense!"

"I suppose because I'm so happy; if the poor pater were all right I'd
not have a wish left! By the way, about Ronnie, you must influence
him, my little girl. I hear of high play, racing bets and wild-cat
speculations. Try to get hold of the purse strings, and do your level
best to cut him loose from that repulsive ruffian Balthasar."

"I'll try, but lately Ronnie is so changed; not the least like

"Then be a good fairy, and turn him into a reformed prince of brothers.
I'm giving you one commission--another and more important one is, to
take great care of your precious self, my little sweetheart; be happy,
write to me by every mail, and think of me every hour."

"You may be sure I shall do that."

"I often wondered if you ever cast me a thought after I came to India.
Certainly you never answered my letter."

"I cast you many thoughts," I admitted, "and often wished that we might
meet. As for your letter, this is the first I have heard of it."

"It won't be the last! Your aunt shall hear of it, too. It was properly
addressed to Miss Eva Lingard, Torrington Park. Well, now, time is up."

"Must you go?" I pleaded impulsively, laying a detaining hand on his
arm. "Oh, we have had such a few minutes'----" I could not control my

"Happiness," he supplemented. "I must have another inspection before I
am off," and he took my arm and led me back into the full light of our
kerosene wall lamps. "I know my mother will love you, Eva, and I want
to carry away your picture in my mind, and describe you faithfully.
Well, it has to come--our good-bye!"

Brian's eyes and voice expressed something I had never known
before--the deep emotion of a reserved man; and his parting kiss told
me all that his lips found it impossible to utter.

Then he summoned his syce and horse, and, without another word or
glance, cantered out of the compound. I listened to the ring of hoofs
till they grew fainter and fainter, then died away completely in the
distance. Rejecting the butler's sonorous invitation: "Dinner ready
on the table!" I retired into my own room in a strange, anomalous
condition; rapturously happy yet desperately miserable. Presently I sat
down on the side of my bed and enjoyed a thoroughly exhaustive cry.



When I whispered my news to Mrs. Soames she instantly ejaculated her
usual formula:

"Oh, _how_ amusing!"

The colonel's lady was no less delighted than surprised, and as full
of excitement and importance as if the match was one of her own
contrivance. She was anxious that we should make the engagement known.
I saw her cast a longing glance at her writing-table, and knew that she
was eager to send nice little notes to Lady Ryder, Mrs. Wolfe and Mrs.
Mills, but against such a proclamation I set my face, and implored her
to keep the matter, at least for the present, a dead secret.

Of course I took Ronnie into my confidence; at first he looked
scornfully incredulous, then stupefied.

"I never dreamt it would come to that!" he said at last. "I can't think
how you two made it up. I never saw you much together."

His feelings were contradictory, I could see. He was not pleased--and
yet again he was pleased.

"You will take the _pas_ of Aunt Mina," he remarked. "Won't she be
furious? And, of course, in a way it's a grand match. The Falkland
family is as old as the hills, and as proud as Lucifer, but I could
never cotton to Falkland, he has such strained ideas of honour.
You must never discuss a woman in public, and all that sort of
old-fashioned twaddle. I think you are right to keep the engagement
dark as he is not here. Envious people might say that the whole thing
only existed in your imagination, and, as I have already observed, you
and he were never very chummy--although I now remember that he used
to ride up to church here on Sunday evenings, and always sit where he
could see you."

The news of Captain Falkland's sudden departure for England made quite
a stir at the club. Mrs. Soames assured me that everyone was talking
about it and saying all manner of nice things about him. In spite of
his rather slow manner it appeared that he had a very active brain.
The general and Mrs. Graham were completely lost without him, as he
had been invaluable to both, as a smart officer and a tactful A.D.C.,
never mixing uncongenial people or sending guests into dinner in wrong
seniority and thereby causing much heart-burning and enmity.

As I did not appear at the club for two or three days, having a bad
cold, I was honoured by a visit of inspection from Mrs. Potter. She
came ostensibly to see Mrs. Soames, and dropped in on me on the way in
her fine motor-car. She found me sitting in the veranda with Kipper on
my lap, and I think the spectacle startled her not a little.

As I ushered her into the drawing-room she said,

"As I was up in this part of the world I thought I would just look in
on you. I heard at the club that you were rather seedy."

"Only a cold and a little touch of fever; I shall be well by to-morrow."

"Is that _all_ that ails you?" and she looked at me with a malicious
glance and added: "Someone told me that it was a serious heart attack!"

I laughed. I think my laugh annoyed her, for she said:

"And so your friend Captain Falkland has gone! That _was_ a sudden

"I believe his father is very ill."

"I wonder," she murmured meditatively; "or was it just an excuse to
clear out of a compromising fix and a dangerous neighbourhood?"

As I saw that she was bent on being excessively spiteful and
disagreeable I remained silent.

"I see you have got his dog," she continued. "Love me love my dog, eh?"

"The dog was originally mine," I said.

"Ah, then I suppose you both love him! So you and Captain Falkland know
one another at home?"


"It is doubtful if he will ever come out again. We shall all miss him
tremendously. Do tell me, is it true that your brother is not going
home with the regiment, but is trying _very_ hard to get into the
Indian Army?"

"I don't know," I answered, "but I do not think it's the least likely,
or he would certainly have told me."

"Ah, my dear," she said, "brothers don't tell their sisters everything,
and possibly you have your girlish secrets from him. I think you have
some small trifle up your sleeve--a little mystery about your coming to

"I came to India in the usual way," I answered, "by sea."

"And were a most delightful importation! Well, now I must be going. As
you have a sore throat you really should not talk. Au revoir! I suppose
you will turn up at the club in a day or two?" and with a smiling
farewell she swept out.

It seemed to me about this period that my happy time was coming to
an end. It was not only that Brian Falkland had gone home and that
I missed him dreadfully--missed the pleasure of looking forward to
meeting him--I even missed the little disappointments when he failed to
appear. The sun did not shine so brightly, nor were the skies now so
blue; also I was haunted by the unpleasant presentiment that trouble
was approaching. Ronnie was changed. He was strangely altered in the
last few months. His spirits were fitful--sometimes he was too noisy,
talkative, and excited; sometimes so silent and in such a mood of
black depression that I feared he was sickening for an illness. To my
anxious inquiries the invariable reply was, "Only a touch of fever."
His face was paler, there were lines about his mouth, his eyes had
lost their glance of irresistible gaiety; he often looked haggard
and worried--especially, I noticed, after he received cables and
telegrams. At night I could hear him pacing the compound long, long
after he had ostensibly retired to bed. Ronnie, who had always been so
polite and considerate to our servants, was now impatient, irritable
and overbearing. I had known him to throw a boot at the _chokra_ and an
oath at Michael.

Although I was secretly miserable I followed Lizzie's sage advice, and
kept my trouble to myself, nor did I, such was my moral cowardice,
venture to appeal to or question my brother, but maintained our
intercourse on the ordinary everyday level. Since my early youth at
Torrington I had a shrinking horror of scenes and rows, and once when I
had thrown out a timid feeler it had been brusquely repulsed.

Money, with which Ronnie was once so lavish, had now undoubtedly
become scarce. When I asked for my monthly allowance for wages and
bazaar I was put off with an impatient excuse. The mere hint at the
payment of bills appeared to exasperate him, and so, for shame's sake,
I settled the smaller accounts and servants' wages out of my own
pocket. Hitherto I had shared expenses, contributing ten pounds a month
towards housekeeping, and this I handed over intact to my brother.
Shop bills, bazaar bills, that I thought he had paid, now poured in in
shoals, and the club account was appalling. A talk with Roger Arkwright
made me even more uneasy. He joined me one day as I rode back from
Secunderabad, and after a little commonplace conversation began rather

"I say, Miss Lingard, you will forgive me if I am taking a most awful
liberty--you know that Ronnie and I are old friends and schoolfellows,
and all that sort of thing. Just lately I'm afraid he has got his money
affairs into a hopeless hash. He won't listen to a word I say, and
though I don't like doing it I feel obliged to ask you to try to get
him to take a pull. He gambles."

"Only at bridge--for small sums."

"You can lose very heavily at bridge," said Roger gravely, "and also at
poker. Ronnie plays high at the club, and also down at Balthasar's."

"Balthasar's!" I echoed in dismay.

"Yes, fellows drive down there, dine, and play chemin de fer. On these
occasions I'm afraid Ronnie tells you that he's on guard, or dining
at some mess. He is not our old Ronnie; no, he has come under some
bad influence this last year. Don't you notice how he has changed and
aged, and that he's not half as cheery as he used to be? He has become
so terribly restless, and seems always in a condition of feverish
excitement. I believe he and that chap Fox, of the Tea-Green Lancers,
who has loads of coin, cable home and back horses, and lately I fancy
they have both been rather badly hit."

"This is terrible!" I gasped at last. "I knew that Ronnie was short
of money lately, and he certainly does not look himself; but I never
dreamt of what you have just told me."

"It's partly the fault of Fox," he replied, "who eggs him on and has
a bottomless purse. I think there is a sort of rivalry between them.
Ronnie has always been so popular, with his polo and rackets, quite a
celebrity in his way, and inclined to be a bit extravagant. Then he
went home last year and, apparently, got hold of a good sum of money.
Well, I'm afraid from all I hear that he has come to the end of that
now. The colonel has had hints of his debts and I am told is rather
uneasy in his mind, and if something, or someone, does not interfere,
Ronnie will find himself in hot water. I believe he has borrowed money
from that fellow Balthasar."

I felt so shaken that I could not speak--only stare at my companion
with what, no doubt, was a face of horror.

"Always remember you can rely on me, Miss Lingard," continued Roger.
"Whatever happens I will stick by him--and here he is now," as Ronnie
cantered up behind us with his pony in a lather.

"You look as if you'd come far and fast," said Roger, with a quick
change of manner.

"Yes, I've just been down to Chudderghat," he answered, "something to
do with the next gymkhana on the Futeh Maidan."

I felt positively certain that this was an untruth. Ronnie had been
down to interview Balthasar. As I rode towards home I made no attempt
to join in the conversation. My mind was in a tumult. What was I to say
to Ronnie? How could I economise and help him? I would send away the
_dirzee_ and one of the table servants. I had nearly a thousand rupees
with Bunsi Lal the banker. I must speak to Ronnie about his affairs
without delay, and was screwing up my courage to the sticking-point--as
Ronnie was always so irritable whenever I mentioned money. But as
it happened I need not have troubled myself, for as soon as Roger
Arkwright had cantered off towards his own quarters Ronnie turned and
attacked me.

"I know what's coming!" and his face was livid; "you and that fellow
Arkwright have been laying your heads together about _me_."

"Do you mind if we did?" I rejoined courageously--but my voice was

"Yes I do. Now understand, I won't have either of you meddling in my
affairs. What's he been saying?"

"That you gamble."

"That I gamble," mimicking my voice. "And if I do?"

"He says you have lost a great deal of money; that you go to
Balthasar's to play chemin de fer, and are heavily in debt. Oh, Ronnie
dear, don't be so hard and reserved, so unlike yourself with _me_," I
pleaded. "I have money at the bank--do let me help you! I shall sell
Tommy Atkins and economise in every possible way. Do take me into your
confidence--for, after all, there are only the two of us."

"Well, since you put it like that, as the professor used to say, I
don't mind telling you that I _do_ owe some thousands of rupees.
Balthasar has got me out of a pretty big hole, and I shall be able to
settle up everything before long and be clear."

"Oh Ronnie--how splendid!" I exclaimed, now inexpressibly relieved.

"Yes--if Collarette wins the Calcutta Cup; and if not I shall pull
through somehow. I cannot think how my affairs are known; the
morghi khana is a hotbed of gossip--those women have tongues of fire.
The colonel was quite shirty with me yesterday about my mess bill, and
Mrs. Soames, who always takes her cue from him, was as cool as ice
when I met her at the boat club. But don't be uneasy, old girl," he
concluded, as he assisted me to dismount. "I shall go slow for a bit
and it will all be as right as rain."

But _I_ was not so sure. I was sensible of gathering clouds, and that
very day I drew my balance from the bank, cleared off the hateful
bazaar bills and wrote home for more money. Letters from Brian were
such a comfort now; they gave me great happiness and support. He had
written from Bombay, Aden and Port Said. These epistles were not long
but they were most satisfactory, and written in the clear deliberate
hand that accorded with himself.

For a week or two, so far as bills and money troubles were concerned,
there was a great calm. I had not sold Tommy Atkins, and I rode,
played tennis, and went about as usual. I noticed, however, that Mrs.
Soames was by no means so intimate or confidential as formerly. On the
contrary, she had adopted an attitude of freezing reticence. I think
she was painfully exercised in her mind. On the one hand she saw her
protégée the future Countess of Runnymede (a match that when made
public would glorify her as a chaperon), and on the other was Ronnie,
her former chief favourite, in deep disgrace with her autocratic
husband. Although nothing serious had been said or done there was a
coolness; we were no longer invited to supper on Sundays, and at an
afternoon club dance Mrs. Soames refused to honour Ronnie with her
usual waltz!

During these socially grey days I received the following letter from
Mrs. Hayes-Billington. It was written in a feeble and almost illegible

 "MY DEAR EVA,--I have to thank you for your kind, cheerful little
 notes, but I am past cheering. I seem to have arrived at the end of
 all things. My health has been on the wane ever since I came to this
 awful place, and I am glad to say that I shall not be here long. As
 it is, hours seem endless. I have no companions, nothing to do but
 lie and think; I close my eyes and contemplate the days that are no
 more, and the people to whom _I_ am no more. I live some happy scenes
 over and over again. Then I open my eyes to find myself alone and
 dying, and the worst of it is that I suppose I have deserved my fate.
 I offended Mrs. Grundy and she has killed me! Poor old Bertie, he will
 be sorry. I cannot tell you how kind and unselfish he is, but he is
 obliged to stick to his work, which claims his time like an insatiable
 monster, and it is reported that the mine is not paying. How I wish I
 could see your bright, happy face once more! but I know that such a
 wish is folly. Good-bye, my dear girl, try and think of me as kindly
 as you can. Bertie will write to you when all is over.

          "D. B."

I must confess that this letter made me shed tears.

After the scene with Balthasar, when he told me of Mrs.
Hayes-Billington's loneliness and illness, I had written to her pretty
often, and sent her newspapers, books and sweets--remembering how she
loved chocolate. I wondered what Brian would say if he were to come in
and find me weeping over a letter from Mrs. Hayes-Billington. Perhaps
Ronnie was right, and Brian was a _little_ bit straitlaced.

Another letter that I had recently received was of much more cheerful
character. It came from Lizzie Puckle. She wrote to announce that she
was about to marry a Canadian engineer, and was sailing for Montreal
in a month's time. I was delighted for Lizzie's sake that she, too,
was about to flap her wings and see the world--but sorry for myself.
Somehow Canada seemed so far away, and I felt as if she were about to
pass out of my life entirely.

       *       *       *       *       *

At last the sword that I half dreaded fell! The beginning of the
trouble was an order from headquarters announcing that the regiment was
not to be relieved for twelve months. This was a blow to some, a relief
to others, and a surprise to all. There was a hasty cancelling of sales
and a general readjustment of plans. I wrote the news home to Brian
and said: "As your father is so much better, I shall look forward to
seeing you here very soon." I felt that in a crisis, or the storm that
was approaching, he would be my mainstay. I had always realised that
Brian was a strong man.

Immediately after the order respecting reliefs was known, I was
conscious of a still greater change in Ronnie. Collarette had been
ignominiously defeated; this was a serious blow, and our financial
affairs were far from flourishing. I disposed of two of my best
scarcely known or worn frocks to the Greys, dismissed the _mali_, and
left off sugar and claret; but to cope with our difficulties was beyond
my powers. Instinctively I grasped this truth, and my spirits, once so
high and exuberant, now fell to zero.

One Sunday night I noticed that Ronnie, who had been out all day and
returned an hour late for dinner, was looking unusually haggard and
dejected. He scarcely uttered a word or ate a morsel, but swallowed two
very stiff pegs, and when the meal was over rose and said abruptly:

"I have a lot of work to do, Sis; do not mind me but go to bed, and on
no account sit up."

Obediently I retired into my room and put on a dressing-gown, and as
soon as the ayah had brushed my hair dismissed her. There was not the
slightest use in attempting to go to bed, for I knew that I could not
sleep. I was oppressed with a premonition of some imminent disaster; so
acute was this sensation, that it seemed as if the horror were actually
present in the bungalow. I tried to read, but the attempt was a
failure; then I got up and crept into the dining-room. Ronnie's office
and dressing-room opened out of it and I peeped in. He was sitting with
his back to me at a table, his head resting on his hands; I wondered if
he were asleep. At any rate, he was totally unaware of my presence, and
I crept away as stealthily as a thief in the night.

In an hour's time I returned, resolved to insist upon his going to bed.
On this occasion I made no attempt at concealment, but boldly pushed
back the purdah till the rings jingled.

Ronnie heard my footfall on the matting, and started. As he turned
about, I felt my heart contract, for I saw that his face had a ghastly,
glazed appearance, and that he held a revolver in his hand.



"Good God, Eva!" exclaimed Ronnie. "What do you mean by creeping on me
like this?"

My answer was to throw myself with all my force upon his wrist and
wrench the revolver out of his hand. He rose unsteadily, and stared at
me. The expression on his face was something inhuman and terrible--and
I could see that he was trembling from head to foot.

"Give it here!" he commanded hoarsely. "You _must_--and clear out--it
will be all over in a couple of minutes!"

I made no reply, but held the weapon behind my back in a vice-like grip.

"Eva, do you hear me?--give it back," he reiterated, seizing my arm and
shaking it violently.

"Hear _me_ first," I panted breathlessly. "Oh, Ronnie, how can you
think of doing such an awful thing? Have you the heart to leave me out
here all alone to face--whatever you shrink from?"

His expression changed, the rigidity relaxed, and he dropped my arm
with a hasty gesture.

"Think, Ronnie, of death--and what it means."

"My dear Eva, I have been thinking of nothing else the last two hours.
At seven-and-twenty there's a big bit of life due, but I have no
alternative. I'm in a hideous fix, and there is only one way out."

"There must be another," I said; "this one is the coward's path. Oh,
Ronnie, I implore you to take me into your confidence. _What_ has

"The family curse has overtaken me--that's all."


"Yes. What's bred in the bone there's no getting away from--it is part
of oneself."

"Two heads are better than one. It may be the case of the mouse and the
lion. Promise me that you will put this idea out of your head. Listen.
I will make some hot coffee at the stove, and we will go and sit out in
the veranda and you shall tell me _everything_. But before I leave you
I must have your promise," and I looked him full in the eyes.

"All right," he agreed. "I give you my word, and you can go and make
the coffee. You are a level-headed girl, and perhaps you may be able to
see some glimmer of light in the darkness."

I glanced fearfully round the room trying to discover if there were
any other weapon, then I went back into my own apartment and hid the
revolver; returning, I lit the oil stove and prepared the coffee. As
soon as it was ready I brewed two large cups and took one to Ronnie,
who was standing by the table in the dining-room.

"I feel better for that," he said, "it clears my head. The other thing
would have cleared my head too."

"Oh, don't!" I expostulated. "How can you?"

"Come on, then. Shall we sit in the veranda?"

I rather shrank from this suggestion, remembering my happy half-hour
with Brian. That had been a love tale; now I was probably about to
listen to a history containing the elements of life and death.

"No, let us go into the compound and walk up and down--it is a lovely
warm night."

"Day," he corrected. "In another half-hour we shall see the dawn."

We strolled to the gate in silence, and came to a full stop. Kip, who
had accompanied us, much astonished at our proceedings, settled down on
the tail of my dressing-gown and curled himself up for sleep.

"Well, Sis," said Ronnie, drawing a long breath, "I'll tell you
everything now. You and I have always been such tremendous pals, that
I suppose you think you know me, but you've only seen my best side.
Even as a small boy I had a taste for gambling and betting--if the
stake was only a few coppers or stamps. All the same, I did well at
school and at Sandhurst, where, as you know, I passed out first, and
got the sword. Before I was launched upon my own, Uncle Horace gave me
a tremendous talking-to; told me our family history and warned me that
the vice of gambling was in the Lingard blood. Cards were my father's
curse--betting is mine! Even in my teens I followed racing with the
deepest interest, and could have passed a pretty stiff examination in
'Ruff's Guide to the Turf.' The first few years I spent out here I was
just as happy as a king. I was awfully keen and liked the Service;
I'd heaps of friends, four hundred a year besides my pay, and I took
to polo like a duck to water. At gymkhanas and small race meetings I
was extraordinarily lucky, riding my own ponies and winning all before
me. Racing people offered me mounts--you see I'm a light weight and can
ride--so I got mixed up with the turf and was gradually sucked into the
whirlpool. I backed horses at Lucknow and Calcutta, and on the whole
did well. This regiment is not a racing one--they go in for cricket and
polo--but I found a kindred spirit in Fox of the Tea-Green Lancers. He
has tons of money, is mad keen about racing, and we used to go shares
in cables and expenses--for we both backed horses at home. Once I
pulled off a double event on the Lincolnshire and Grand National, and
bought new ponies, gave champagne dinners at the club, and made a great
splash. Well, I wasn't long a winner, but had some truly awful facers."

He paused for a moment and then continued:

"It was one of these facers that took me home last year. I'd been
nibbling at my capital for some time, and, as I wanted to handle ready
coin, I sold out a lot of stock. Naturally I made the most of my leave
in England--at Ascot and Goodwood. Lately my luck has been dead out,
and yet, like all gamblers, I have been fighting and striving like mad
to get my own back, and have gone in up to my neck!"

"Why did you not tell me? I might have helped you," I broke in.

"No, no, Sis, you could not do anything. Balthasar has given me a
hand a couple of times; he is a money-lender--under the rose--the
financial pose is all rot. He gives ripping dinners with top-hole
champagne--afterwards his guests play poker and chemin de fer; it is
all kept dark. He has, as I say, helped me out once or twice, but
somehow, since you and he had that scrap I have a feeling that he is no
longer my jovial and open-handed ally, but as hard as the Gun Rock!"

Here Ronnie came to a dead stop, and appeared to be suddenly engrossed
in his own sombre reflections.

"But what is it _now_?" I ventured. "What has brought your affairs to
such a terrible crisis?"

"Crisis indeed!" he echoed, turning to face me, and in the soft light
of an Indian night I could see that his face was convulsed with
emotion. "Eva, you will be horrified when I tell you that--I have laid
hands on the regimental funds!"

"Oh, Ronnie!" I gasped.

"You may well say, 'Oh, Ronnie!' That's the awful part of the whole
thing--my rage for gambling goaded me to mad recklessness; that and the
sudden change in the reliefs have done for me."

"But what have the reliefs to say to _you_?" I stammered.

"You know we were all supposed to be going home in February and
everyone was selling off. We sold our polo ponies for a long price, and
the sum was set aside for a team at home."

"Yes, yes--I know that."

"The canteen fund was rich, and the colonel was holding over a big
surplus towards setting up in our next station."

"How could----" I began.

"Just let me go on--you'll soon understand," interrupted Ronnie. "The
polo money was taken over by Mills, our treasurer; he lodged it, in
spite of the colonel, in a bank. It's in a way a private fund, and the
C.O. could not stop him. Mills is dead keen about coin, being poor and
thrifty; he said even for six weeks four per cent. was worth having."

I leant heavily against the gate. How much longer would these details
torture me?

"Mills and the colonel had a regular set-to over the business; I heard
them arguing in the anteroom. The colonel is shy of local banks and
temporary investments--he was once badly hit up north--so he insisted
on keeping the canteen funds locked up in the safe in the orderly
room--and I stole them."

"You--stole--them!" I repeated in a whisper.

"Yes, but only under the most frightful pressure. You see I knew all
about this money. I have been acting adjutant whilst Gloag got a
month's leave to see his people in the Neilgherries. I counted over the
canteen notes, reported all correct, stuffed them into a drawer in the
safe, and never gave them another thought till last week. Then the mail
brought me a letter from my London bookie, saying that I must pay up my
losses--about £400--or be posted and run in. He gave me a fortnight's
grace. I hadn't a penny in the bank--in fact I'm overdrawn. On the
other hand, I had a splendid book on the Calcutta races and was
confident I'd get home on Collarette. Meanwhile, I was at my wits'
end to find the ready money for Hawkins. I knew if I was posted that
it meant ruin; then some little black devil whispered: 'What about
that canteen money? It won't be wanted for a couple of months; you
can settle up with Hawkins, and the Calcutta winnings will refund the
loan. It would only be an extra big risk and gamble.' To make a long
story short, I took the coin; I told myself it was only a loan, and
everything combined to make the job dead easy."

Here Ronnie paused; his voice sounded husky, as if his throat were dry.
For my part, I could not have spoken if my life had depended on it.

"For two or three days I struggled," he went on. "I am not a hardened
scoundrel. I fought off the temptation, but I was pinned fast between
the devil and the deep sea. If I did not pay my debts of honour, I
would be smashed; and if the canteen money was suddenly missed and had
not been replaced, I was also smashed. At last I gave in. Late one
sultry afternoon, I happened to be alone in the orderly room copying
the summary of evidence for a court martial; the head clerk had
finished and I had given him leave to depart. All the time my pen was
scratching along the paper it seemed to say, 'Take it! take it! Here is
your chance.' You know the orderly room is in the old barracks, where,
by all accounts, queer things have happened. There was something in
the warm atmosphere that relaxed my will. Although I saw nothing, I
felt acutely sensible of a dominating other-world presence between
me and the window. Eva, I'll swear that some sort of evil spirit was
urging me to take my chance and just _one_ more risk!

"For a good while I hesitated. At last I got up and closed the door
into the clerks' room, and when I took the keys and opened the safe, I
declare my heart was thumping like a motor engine. The money was in a
small drawer; ten days before I had counted over the notes and reported
'all correct,' and I knew that a sum of seven thousand rupees was
intact. I drew out the dingy bundle, greasy and discoloured--but good
paper for all that--thrust it into my pocket, and locked the safe. Once
the deed was actually accomplished, I felt relieved and even cheerful.
Next morning I gave the notes to Bunsi Lal's agent, in exchange for a
cheque on London."


"So that load was off my back; and then I hedged in case Collarette
failed me, and wrote by the same mail to Uncle Horace, begging him
to lend me five hundred pounds. I told him that it was a case of the
most terrible necessity, and implored him not to fail me. I expect his
answer in ten days--but by then it'll be too late. Collarette, as you
know, ran a cur; she shut up in the last fifty yards. Then followed the
bomb about our reliefs being cancelled. Last, and worst of all, Mills
came to me on Saturday and said: 'That canteen money is going to be
invested after all; I've been telling the colonel we may as well get
some interest this next six months, it is to be made over to Loughton
and Law on deposit receipt. I suppose they'll give four per cent., so
will you let me have it, Ronnie, and I'll fix it up? A bit over seven
thousand rupees, isn't it?'

"I declare to you, Sis, that I felt as if the sky had fallen in. That
was Saturday, and here is Monday. If I cannot put the money back in the
safe--or rather produce it and pretend I've taken it out--by Wednesday
morning, I'm done for. I shall be convicted of making away with the
regimental funds, be tried by court martial and cashiered. _My_
alternative was better than that!"

"Oh, Ronnie, Ronnie, don't say it!" I protested in agony.

"Just fancy my being proved to be a regular 'budmash' and thief--if
I were out of it all things would be hushed up. I'd just have been
bundled into a hole in the cemetery--and nothing _said_. I know the
colonel would move heaven and earth to smother the scandal. He thinks
so much of the reputation of the regiment, and if one of his officers
were to be tried by court martial, and the case came out in all the
papers, it would turn his hair white."

"And so you have only until the day after to-morrow," I faltered at
last. "Something must be done--can't I cable and get out money?"

"No," he replied, "there would be no end of formalities; anyway it
would be too late. My one chance is _Balthasar_. I sounded him about
a loan, but I must confess that he was not responsive--even though I
talked of big interest. He is my only hope. I clutch at him as my very
last straw. He said he might turn up here to-morrow afternoon, and I
believe if you were really most awfully nice to him he would come to
the rescue--it's just my one chance."

I clenched my hands tightly on the top bar of the gate; the prospect
was too hideous. That I should have to put forth my utmost efforts
to cajole and mollify my most detested acquaintance was, indeed, an
overwhelming enterprise--and yet, looking over the whole situation, it
seemed to me that in Balthasar's assistance lay our only road of escape.

"I will do my best," I murmured at last.

"Oh, if you will do _that_, you will certainly pull me through. I know
you dislike him and I hate asking you to influence him, but you see my
position is desperate. Perhaps you might bring a little light into the
darkness; and there," he said, pointing, "the light is coming. I see
the pale dawn beginning to creep along the horizon--I shall accept it
as a good omen. And now, my dear sister, I will turn in and get some
sleep. I have not closed my eyes for three whole nights. I shall want
to have all my wits about me when Balthasar appears, though it is _you_
who will deal with him." So saying he kissed my bare arm and strode off
towards the bungalow.

But I still remained leaning over the gate, trying to face things and
to realise the situation. I seemed to take no count of time; I felt
as if I had been turned into a block of stone. If Ronnie could get
the loan and pay the canteen money he would be relieved from an awful
situation, though, from what I could gather, he would be obliged to
leave the "Lighthearts." (It was not a regiment in which a captain
could exist upon his pay.) I would stay with him as long as possible,
and see him through his trouble. He would probably exchange into the
Indian Service and I would return home. That was the best side. On
the other--the worst--supposing that Balthasar still remained hard as
a stone? Ronnie would be tried by court martial and disgraced. I too
would be disgraced and ruined socially. As for Brian Falkland, how
could he marry a girl whose brother had been convicted of stealing?
There must be an end to that, and I buried my face in my hands and
rested my head upon the top bar of the gate. I believe I remained in
this position for a long time, but at last I was disturbed by the
ducks. They had disposed of their breakfast and were now quacking and
waddling all round me, urgent that I should bestir myself and suffer
them to pass forth.



As I leant against the gate, with my head resting upon my arms, I felt
bowed to the earth with abject misery and quaking fear. It was as if an
impenetrable black cloud had suddenly descended on my life, and blotted
out every gleam of hope and happiness. From this sort of hideous
nightmare I was aroused not only by the ducks but also by a bugle call;
the early-rising world of India would soon be afoot, and I wrenched
myself back into the present actual moment and turned towards the
bungalow, which faced a by-road. No one had noticed me so far, beyond a
few passing market coolies and the _tannyketch_, whose affair it was to
provide for the poultry.

As soon as I had entered my room I removed the revolver from its
temporary hiding-place, and buried it in a large tub of hydrangeas that
stood outside my door; then I threw off my dressing-gown and scrambled
into bed. I usually rose early, and too soon Mary ayah would appear,
bringing me tea and toast. Already I heard her anklets jingling, and
feigned sleep. I endeavoured to make the pretence real, as a strenuous
day and a dreadful ordeal lay before me, but I found it impossible to
rest. My head seemed to throb and burn; I imagined I could feel it
thumping on the pillow, and no wonder! My brain was racked in torture,
striving to find some clear, straight road out of our difficulties--for
Ronnie's difficulties were mine. I lay thinking hard for nearly an
hour, and then rose and felt considerably refreshed after my bath and
breakfast. Ronnie had sent me a little note to say, "I expect to be on
the ranges till four o'clock. _He_ will be here about three."

Evidently I would have to meet Balthasar alone. Perhaps after all
it would be best. I spent the morning in making out a list of the
contents of the bungalow in a long narrow bazaar book supplied by the
cook. Pencil in hand, I carefully counted up our glass and china, our
pictures, ornaments, furniture--even the very ducks--and in short
everything available for "a sale," for, of course, if Ronnie were now
penniless, we must speedily shift our quarters.

All this business occupied my mind and kept me from thinking, yet now
and then I was seized by a horrible sort of mental nausea. How was I to
beg from Balthasar--to implore, to abase myself--and to succeed? As the
dreadful hour approached my heart beat fast. Oh, how much I would have
preferred to be about to face a surgical operation! However, I made a
great effort to prepare for the ordeal and to look my best. I waved
and re-dressed my hair, and selected a pretty pale blue summer muslin
over silk far too smart for the occasion, but I knew it was becoming.
As I looked in the glass I saw that my cheeks were unusually pink, my
eyes unusually bright. Outwardly all was well; inwardly I was on the
verge of a terrible outburst of tears, and tears were the last thing I
must yield to, that was certain! Balthasar was not the sort of man who
would be touched by these. I started violently as I heard the hoot of a
motor, and rushed to my little medicine chest and fortified myself with
a dose of sal volatile--a detestable expedient, but it might give me
composure and courage--how badly I needed both!

When I entered the drawing-room our visitor was already in the veranda,
and as he strutted in I instantly realised that here was the Balthasar
of Silliram--truculent, overbearing and hateful.

"Is your brother here?" he asked, after our first greeting, rolling his
eyes all over the room in search, no doubt, of Ronnie.

"No, he has been on the ranges all day," I replied, "but I expect him
home shortly."

"He asked me to come and see him on most particular business."
Balthasar spoke with an injured air as he sat down and carefully
hitched up the knees of his trousers. "Well, this is a nice affair," he
continued, "your brother has no doubt told you that he has been playing
the very devil?"

"I am afraid he has been imprudent," I murmured.

"You call it imprudent?" raising his voice. "Well, I call it by another
name, and the fine young gentleman wants me to lend a hand with a big
cheque in it to pull him out of a hole."

"I am sure you are kinder than you make yourself out to be, Mr.
Balthasar. Can you not help him?" I ventured timidly.

"No; why should I?" knitting his black brows. "He would go ahead and
back horses. What a young fool! Only for me he would have been in
big trouble before this. I have lent money--certainly it has been
repaid--but then there was the risk. No, no; I can do no more."

"Then in that case, why did you come?" I asked with a touch of temper.
"I believe Ronnie was trusting to you for assistance."

He looked momentarily taken aback and then replied in his slow drawl:

"I came just to see how he was going to work his head out of the noose,
and also because it gave me a chance of meeting _you_, which is always
such a pleasure."

"You say that you have lent Ronnie money before and been repaid. Can
you not do so again? I believe you are a very rich man, Mr. Balthasar,
and a sum that would be salvation to Ronnie is a mere trifle to you."

"Where is my security?" he demanded sharply.

"I can give security. I have money in England. See," I said, rising and
going to the table; "here is a letter I have written to my bankers,
asking them to sell out stock, and remit the amount to me."

"Oh, oh! Then you are of age?"

"Yes, I was twenty-one a week ago."

"Ah, I should not take you for more than eighteen." And he stared at
me with a solemn air of deliberate speculation. "Your fair hair and
skin belong to the _teens_."

"Won't you lend Ronnie the money now?" I pleaded, anxious to divert the
conversation from my personal appearance, "and I will repay you, as you
can see, at once. You may, if you please, cable to my bankers, and----"

"How much do you want?" he interrupted abruptly.

"Four hundred pounds."

"And when?"

"To-night--to-morrow it may be too late."

"Oh, oh!" And he gave a horrible sort of chuckle. "Then matters are
serious." He sat for a moment contemplating his neat patent leather
shoes. At last he said:

"Well, supposing I do advance this will you give me a formal paper,
stamped and witnessed?"

"Of course I will," I answered eagerly, "and be most grateful to you
for your kindness."

"Grateful!" he repeated, with cynical insolence. "My dear young lady,
gratitude is of no value in business--but I'll give the cheque."

"Not a cheque, if you please, but money; notes will be best."

"All right," he agreed, "you shall have the money in notes. I will send
it up to-night by ten o'clock, in charge of a special messenger."

"Oh, thank you, thank you--how good of you!" I began.

But again he interrupted me with a wave of his beautifully manicured

"Besides a speedy return of this large sum I must call upon you for
something extra in the way of--shall we say--interest? No, not money,
but--er--consideration and appreciation. You have always held me off;
can I ever forget my dance with you at the Residency ball, or the
memory of what happened in this very room?"

Something in the tone of his voice and the peculiar expression of his
eyes frightened me. My hands were locked in my lap that he might not
see how they were shaking.

"Do please forgive me," I pleaded tremulously. "I was a proud child
with a fiery temper, and I'm afraid I cannot always control myself."

"You have openly snubbed me, my beautiful young lady, and to tell me
you have a temper and are sorry is of no use. You must be prepared to
pay me in my own coin."

I waited in agony to hear my sentence.

"Oh, you need not go so white," suddenly leaning over and stroking my
cheek; "I prefer the pretty roses." As I recoiled he added, "And the
payment I require is a mere nothing. In the eyes of the whole station
you have always scorned me in your cool, haughty English manner. Now,
you shall appear in public as my dear friend, make what is called 'a
demonstration,' and let all the world see that we are on the very best
of terms. My new motor is here. Go and put on your smartest hat and
come with me, and show yourself in my company. First of all, we will
drive up to the polo at Bolarum. There is a big match to-day--the
Hussars and the city team. From there we will run down to the Hussain
Saugur and look on at a boat race. Afterwards we will go to the club
and have a nice little tea together, and then I will bring you home.
How do you like the programme?" His interrogative grin was frankly

How could I like the programme? I was aware that to be seen in
Balthasar's great grey motor would, so far as the world was concerned,
cast me socially into outer darkness. Everyone would believe that we
were engaged. This motor drive round Secunderabad and its principal
resorts would amount to the precise equivalent of an announcement in
the London _Morning Post_. My heart sank. I was painfully alive to
the effect of this ostentatious tour, and realised my hateful fate. I
was the slave who was about to be dragged at the conqueror's chariot
wheels; nevertheless, I resolved to make the sacrifice for Ronnie.
After all, it would not be of such deadly consequence, since he and
I would soon disappear from the station. As I rose to get ready my
companion said:

"If you will draw up your acknowledgment of the money and receipt now,
I can take it with me. It is merely a form, and I'll send up a trusty
messenger to-night."

Strange to say, some lingering sense of prudence compelled me to reply,
"I will have it all quite ready when your messenger comes."

"How suspicious we are!" he exclaimed with a shrug. "Well, run along,
my beautiful young lady, and put on your best hat--the one with the
white feathers; it looks so nice and honeymoony. Ha! ha! ha!"

I believe our retinue could scarcely believe their eyes, when they
beheld me come forth and, though every fibre in my being rebelled
against the situation, take my place beside Balthasar sahib in his
great grey car. Soon we were gliding towards the R.A. lines and away
to the polo ground. I met, alas! many of my acquaintances; there were
the Greys and their father, General and Mrs. Graham and Major and Mrs.
Mills--riding. Their stares of incredulity were as so many stabs. At
the polo other people also gazed--my friends with amazement and it
seemed to me a sort of incredulous horror. One or two men strolled
over, and accosted me, and talked perfunctorily of the game and the
weather. I believe they really came to see if they could believe their
senses, or if it was somebody faintly resembling me who was sitting
there beside Balthasar. My hateful companion discoursed in a loud,
guttural voice; bragged of his new car and its cost, and said that
"with a little practice, a lady," here he nodded familiarly at me,
"would _soon_ learn to drive it."

I was too paralysed to repudiate the suggestion, but my face probably
spoke volumes. In Balthasar's car I could sympathise but too acutely
with the sensations of a rabbit in a snake house! Presently, when all
the world and his wife had enjoyed every opportunity of beholding me,
we went away at great speed down to the boathouse, where I was once
more placed on show! Finally we drove to the club, and there, in the
most conspicuous place that he could select, Balthasar and I had tea.
Every eye was upon us, and as he kept muttering: "Talk, talk, talk;
try and look as if you were enjoying yourself! If you don't play the
game and do _your_ share, you can't expect _me_ to do mine," I was
compelled to chatter any nonsense that my dazed brain could invent,
whilst he lolled in a chair, enacting the part of a complacent and
well-entertained potentate. People who knew me well nodded, but no one
approached, except good kind Mrs. Lakin, who came over to where we were
seated, and said:

"I am going up to Trimulgherry, my dear" (which remark was a most
barefaced untruth, as her home was in the opposite direction), "and I
can give you a lift, so that you won't be taking Mr. Balthasar out of
his way, and there is a little matter I want to consult you about."

"It is too good of you, my dear madam," replied my companion in his
most unctuous voice, "but Miss Lingard is in my charge. She _loves_
motoring, and I am sure you would not wish to cut short her pleasure."

Vanquished Mrs. Lakin, with a sympathetic glance at me, withdrew in
helpless silence, and was presently lumbering out of the compound in
her dilapidated victoria.

By and by, when the club had scattered to bridge, billiards, or
the library, I was relieved from my rack and carried back to the
cantonment. As I stepped out of the car I said, in a tone of humble

"I know I've not been good company, but I am sure you must realise that
I am most dreadfully unhappy about my brother."

"Yes, yes, of course," he assented; "he is an infernal young ass."

"And you will keep your promise," I added, resting my hand on the
car; "we may rely on you? You _will_ send it by messenger as soon as

"Of course, you may rely on me," he answered impatiently; "my clerk
will be with you at ten o'clock to-night. I'll see you again before
long," and he signed to the chauffeur to proceed.

After this agonising experience I felt mentally prostrated, and sank
exhausted into a long chair in the veranda. Ronnie, now at home, came
quickly forward, and when I said "It is all right," the relief in the
expression of his drawn, worn face was some recompense to me.

After dinner we sat out in the compound, watched the dancing fireflies
and listened to the distant band, for it was "guest night" at the mess.

"He said the clerk would be here at ten o'clock." I repeated this more
than once--the announcement seemed to give me confidence. "It will be
all in notes," I added.

"So much the better," said Ronnie. "In fact nothing else would do.
I'll take it up early to-morrow, get hold of the key, stick it into the
safe, and hand it over to the old man. Oh, _what_ a load off my mind!"

Ten o'clock struck and we listened intently; in the still Indian night
there were no sounds but the distant barking of a dog, the stamping of
a pony in the stable and the thrumming of tom-toms in the Trimulgherry
bazaar. Eleven o'clock--oh that agonised hour of long-drawn suspense!
At last a _gurra_ sounded twelve distinct strokes.

"Eva," said Ronnie, suddenly breaking our poignant silence, "that
black-hearted devil has played _you_ false, and ruined _me_!"

"Don't give up yet," I said, "as soon as it's light take my receipt and
Tommy and gallop down to Chudderghat and fetch the money yourself."

"Right O!" he agreed eagerly. "Yes, it's our one chance. I shall have
to be back before orderly-room, which is at eight o'clock."

Long before eight o'clock Ronnie had returned, and I knew at once that
the worst had happened! With a ghastly, rigid face he staggered into
the veranda, as Tommy Atkins, dripping with sweat, was led away.

"The whole thing was a fraud--a devilish fraud!" said Ronnie, as he
leant against a pillar and mopped his face. "Balthasar was not there.
He left the station last night, and no one knows where he has gone or
when he will return. He always had his knife into you, Eva, ever since
the day you turned him out. Get me a peg; I must try and pull myself
together before I go to the orderly-room and face the music. Hallo,
here is Gloag!" he exclaimed, and to my astonishment Captain Gloag
rode into the compound. He pulled up at the steps, threw the reins to
a syce, and clanked into the drawing-room, where we followed him in

"Good morning, Miss Lingard," he said, looking more wooden-faced than
ever. "Good morning, Lingard. Ahem--I've come on a rather unpleasant
duty. Your presence is required in the orderly-room. The colonel has
told me to receive your sword, and to place you under close arrest."

With a face as wooden as the adjutant's, and without a word, Ronnie
went inside in search of his sword, and Captain Gloag turned to me and

"This is pretty awful for you, Miss Lingard. There has been some sort
of mystery about the canteen funds, so the safe in the orderly-room was
opened this morning--the drawer and the partition in which Lingard was
understood to keep the notes was found empty. The safe has two keys; he
had one when acting adjutant. Of course he _may_ be able to explain all
this, but the colonel is in a terrible state--regimental funds should
never be removed."

Here Ronnie appeared with his sword and handed it over in silence.

"Better start at once," said the adjutant. "Will you send for your

Ronnie gave the order, but otherwise remained dumb, and in less than
five minutes I saw him ride away with Captain Gloag, who carried his
sword in the sight of all spectators--our servants, and the Millses'
servants--every one of whom realised what this portended as well as I
did myself.



After the departure of Ronnie I sat as if stunned; possibly I could not
have felt more utterly wretched had he been dead. Indeed, it almost
seemed to me as if there were an element of death in the bungalow, such
was the silence. Not a sound to be heard, except the dripping of a tap
and a casual lizard pattering on the matting; all the servants (and
other people's servants) were collected in our cookhouse, discussing
the catastrophe. As a rule the usual daily routine is carried on, no
matter what trouble overtakes a household, and presently I saw the
butler preparing breakfast in the dining-room. Then he came to the
door, salaamed with both hands, and said:

"Please, missie, to come and take something. Last night missie no
dinner having; missie will be sick, and that plenty bad business for

This was true. If I were to collapse I would be of no use, nor able to
face the struggle and strain which lay before me. I accepted the kind
advice of Michael, ate a little breakfast and felt better. If Ronnie
was about to fall into this awful trouble, I must consider how I could
best assist him. I had already written home for money; I would arrange
for the sale of everything, and if the worst came to the worst, we
should have to go away somewhere together and hide our heads until the
first fury of the storm had abated.

It was now ten o'clock, and Ronnie had not yet returned. As I was
pacing up and down the veranda, a prey to misery and impatience, I
heard a light step in the drawing-room, and there was Mrs. Mills.
Without a word she took me in her arms and kissed me, and I could see
that she had been crying.

"My poor dear child," she sobbed, "I have heard all. George has just
returned from the orderly-room, and we want to know what we can do to
help you. We are so desperately sorry for you. So is everyone."

"You must not be too hard on Ronnie," I protested, "but a little sorry
for him too."

"Yes, yes," she said; "we all liked him so much, and were so proud of
him too. It's that dreadful gambling--he's not the first young man that
it has ruined."

"Ruined!" I repeated.

"Yes," she answered, "at least in a way. The canteen money is gone and
he can offer no explanation. The colonel is nearly beside himself, and
your brother will have to stand a general court martial. Meanwhile he
is to be confined to his quarters in close arrest. There will be an
officer in charge of him and a sentry on duty, day and night."

I attempted to speak, but my voice completely failed me.

"Under these circumstances, dear, you cannot remain here. These are
the colonel's instructions, and George and I wish you to come to us at

"You are most awfully kind," I replied, "and of course I will not
remain if it is irregular, but before I do anything I should like to
have a talk with Ronnie."

"Very well, I expect he will be back directly. Do tell your ayah to
pack up your things. George says you are to have his room; he will move
into a tent in the compound."

"You are more than good, dear Mrs. Mills, and I will let you know my
plans. Here comes Ronnie," I exclaimed, as he and one of his brother
officers entered the veranda together. Mrs. Mills hastily disappeared
over the wall into her own premises, and as I could not face Ronnie's
companion in my present state of mind I withdrew towards my room and
beckoned to my brother to follow me.

"Can I speak to my sister for a moment, Carr?" he inquired.

"Oh yes, by all means," replied Mr. Carr, who I must confess looked
excessively uncomfortable--yes, and miserable.

Ronnie then led the way into his den and drew the purdah, but no one
could overhear us, as the little room was entirely cut off from the
veranda. I sat down and waited for him to speak. As he leant against
the wall he looked almost death-like. The wear and tear of the last
few months had entirely dimmed his good looks; his eyes were sunken,
and there were great hollows in his cheeks.

"I went up there," he began in a husky voice, "and found that
_everything_ was known. The colonel ordered me to explain, but if I
had been shot I couldn't have uttered a word! How could I describe the
frightful temptation that overpowered me when I fingered that roll of
greasy notes and firmly believed that I'd be the winner of more than
double the money before they could be missed? If I had been posted
at home--just think of it, and uncle's feelings--I should have been
obliged to leave my London club, not to speak of the regiment; so,
as you know, I took the bull by the horns, grabbed the coin and gave
the notes to Bunsi Lal in exchange for a cheque on London; then, by
infernal bad luck it appears that one of these notes was passed in
the bazaar--a thousand rupee note which was peculiarly marked. Fryer
the paymaster spotted it, and smelt a thousand rats, and no doubt he
gave the C.O. a hint, hence these--er--tears. I wrote the whole story
home to uncle. His answer is due in ten days. Whatever it may be, it
comes too late now. Well, in the orderly-room I made no defence; just
stood there tongue-tied. At the court martial, of course, I'll have an
advocate--but all the same I'm bound to get the boot! The colonel is
beside himself--in a stone-cold rage--for it seems that no officer of
the 'Lighthearts' has ever before been court-martialled."

I nodded my head, and Ronnie continued:

"Carr or another will be on duty, and so you must turn out, as _you_
are not under close arrest; and I hope you will get away from the
regimental lines. It will be rather awkward for everyone if you are
hereabouts, though I know that the Millses wish to take you in."

"Yes," I replied, "Mrs. Mills has been here."

"You must go to someone outside the regiment, to the Greys, the
Babingtons or the Campbells, to await the finding of the court martial,
and then you and I will clear out. I say, I wonder how Falkland will
take it?"

To this I made no reply--the thought of Brian was agonising.

"If I know him--and yet I don't know him--I believe this business will
make no difference. If I were a thief--well I _am_ a thief--let's say
a murderer, I believe he would stick to you all the same--he is that

"Do you think so?" I murmured tremulously.

"Yes, sure, and now to business. I'll get Arkwright to sell the stable,
Cursetjee is to take the auction. I know you've made an inventory, and
that thanks to you we have no small bills. If you happen to have any
money, you might give it to Michael to run the house, as I shall always
have a fellow here on duty. I understand that they will do their best
to assemble a court martial soon, but a general court martial with a
brigadier as president takes time--at the earliest it will be three

"How dreadful!" I exclaimed. "What ages to wait in suspense. Do you
suppose you will be what is called--cashiered?"

"Bound to," he answered curtly.

After a moment I said:

"I have a hundred rupees I will give to Michael, for which he will
account to you. I suppose I shall be allowed to come and see you?"

"Yes," he replied, "and you had better come after dark."

"Well, whatever happens, Ronnie, remember that _I_ shall stick to you
through thick and thin."

"Then if you do, you will be an awful fool! I shall only drag you down.
When this business is over, I'll go to the colonies or South America,
and you must return home and marry Falkland."

At this moment the ayah pulled back the curtain. She had a chit in her

"For missie," she said, coming forward. I opened the note; it was from
Mrs. Lakin, and ran:

 "DEAR GIRL,--I have heard of your great trouble, and am so sorry for
 you both. You must come to me to-day. I shall fetch you about three
 o'clock, and bring a cart for your luggage. Down here at Begumpett
 we are out of the world, and you can just be as quiet as you please.
 There are only my husband and myself. We are, as you know, neither
 young nor smart, only dull and old-fashioned, but we'll do our
 best to take care of you and will look upon you as one of our own
 girls.--Yours in affectionate sympathy,

          "LUCINDA J. LAKIN."

"That's the place for you!" said Ronnie, who had been reading the note
over my shoulder, "she's a rare good sort, and you'll be out of the way
of prying eyes and the talk. Lord! _how_ people will talk! Old Mother
Lakin is one of the best. You can get her to bring you up and see me of
an evening. And now I must go back to Carr; he is bound to be starving
for his breakfast. He or another officer will have this room, so tell
your old ayah to hurry up and pack. Well, Eva," and his voice shook,
as he put his hand suddenly on my shoulder and looked me straight in
the face, "I must say this is beastly hard on _you_." Then he kissed me
with burning hot lips, and swung back into the sitting-room.

In order to prepare for Ronnie's guard, Mary ayah and I worked
vigorously for hours, and put together and packed my multitude of
belongings. This task accomplished, I interviewed Michael and the
cook, wrote business letters to Cursetjee and Spencer, and when Mrs.
Lakin called she found me ready to accompany her. As we drove out of
the compound I turned to look back on the bungalow with its cork tree
avenue and veranda veiled in creepers, for three months the abode of
happiness, and the theatre of so many experiences: the scenes with
Balthasar, with Brian, and with Ronnie.

Kind Mrs. Lakin did not attempt to make conversation as we rolled along
side by side behind a shabby coachman and an ancient screw, but from
time to time she pressed my hand with silent and comforting sympathy.

On the steps of his house Colonel Lakin received me as if nothing
particular had happened and I was a visitor whom he delighted to
honour. My room was prepared, and oh, how comfortable! Such large down
pillows, such deep roomy chairs and a delightful sofa. Most of the
furniture, I subsequently learned, had been bought from Deschamps in
Madras, when Colonel and Mrs. Lakin started housekeeping, and since
then had travelled hundreds--I may say thousands--of miles over the
Madras Presidency. On this inviting couch I lay down to rest, worn out
between emotion and the loss of sleep. Dusk had come and I must have
enjoyed more than the traditional forty winks, when the ayah announced:

"Mem sahib Soames."

The heavy chick was thrust aside and Mrs. Soames entered without
apology. The moment I saw her I sprang up.

"My dear child," she began, "I simply _had_ to come and see you." She
put her arms round my neck and kissed me. "I am just heart-broken,
though, after all, what am I to you?"

We sat down together on the sofa, and she held my hand in hers.

"Ronnie must have been mad, poor boy; but gambling is like a disease,
it is in the blood. My grandfather had it, and only for the mercy of
my mother's fortune we would certainly have all been in the workhouse.
Ronnie is the last young man I'd have dreamt of getting into such
trouble. I would have fetched you the moment I heard of----" and
she stammered "of--of----" then wisely abandoned the detail. "James,
although he likes you immensely, said it would be better if you were
not in our lines. You could not help seeing and hearing things that
might jar and pain you. So dear Mrs. Lakin is quite the right person
to receive you, but Eva--you believe, don't you, that I am always your
sincere and loving friend?"

"Yes," I replied, "I am quite sure of that."

"James is frantic," she resumed. "I have never seen him in such a
condition; he cannot eat, he cannot rest, he paces up and down the
dining-room like some caged animal. There has never been a scandal or
a court martial in the regiment--at least, not within the memory of
man--and he takes this affair most fearfully to heart. He says it will
be in all the papers at home, and that if he had done the deed himself
he could not feel the disgrace more acutely. Oh, if I had only known
that your brother wanted a loan I'd have lent him the money without
hesitation. He was always one of my best boys--and I do try to help
them. If he had just given me one little hint--and you, my dear?"
turning to me.

"I knew nothing, dreamt of nothing, till the night before last, when I
found Ronnie with a revolver in his hand." Here I broke down and sobbed
in her arms.

When I had somewhat recovered and was able to speak more coherently, I
told my friend the story of Balthasar's revenge and perfidy.

"Oh, you poor, poor darling!" she cried. "How dared he? I heard that
you had been seen with him in his car, but did not believe it; and so
you sacrificed yourself to Balthasar's vanity and malice, and all for
nothing. Well now," drying her own tears, "I shall come and see you
again, of course, and we will lay our heads together and make plans. If
there is anyone I can write to, any possible thing that I can do, you
have only to send me a line by one of Mrs. Lakin's chuprassies. Now I
am afraid, dear, it is getting late and I must go."

Mrs. Mills, Zora, the Greys, and various other friends came to see me.
Their visits were most kindly meant, but undeniably painful for them
and for me. It was not as if I had lost Ronnie by death; I had been
separated from him by disgrace, and their condolences were vague and

How I longed to hide myself and be alone, although Mrs. Lakin's company
was never unwelcome. Her large heart overflowed with tactful human
kindness, and I was treated as something between a spoilt child and
a pampered invalid, and oh, the solid comfort of her ménage! What
well-oiled wheels in all departments; what soft-footed servants, what
cream, eggs, and butter (Mrs. Lakin had her own cows and poultry); but
in these days I could not eat, and supported existence on tea and toast.

Every evening about sundown my friend took me for long drives into
the country; the boulder-strewn plains looked soft and beautiful in
the moonlight, and as we bowled along behind the old chestnut--a
surprisingly free goer--she told me tales of former days, on purpose,
no doubt, to keep my thoughts from dwelling--as they did--on the one
subject. She also related the history of scandals, social convulsions,
courts martial and civil trials, beside which Ronnie's iniquities were
pale and insignificant. The kind woman exerted herself in this manner
in order to cheer me and give my future a less hopeless outlook.

Colonel Lakin was also active on my behalf. He got rid of our ponies
and cart, Ronnie's guns and saddlery, all for a good price; and Zora's
eldest brother bought my dear Tommy Atkins and promised him a happy

On several occasions I had visited Ronnie, and found him more like his
normal self and less depressed.

"Now that I have no anxieties and nothing to _hide_, I feel better and
I can sleep," he announced. "Arkwright tells me that I have a capital
chap as my advocate, and I must say the fellows in the regiment have
been extraordinarily forbearing and staunch. Grimes sends down the
papers, Waller brought me a box of the best Havana cigars, and I go for
a drive every evening when there's no one about. The one thing that
I cannot stand is the sentry always in evidence. I believe the court
martial will soon assemble now. They are bringing members from Bellary,
Poona and Bangalore, and I don't suppose it will last longer than a
couple of days. Is it not extraordinary that I've had neither letter
nor cheque from Uncle Horace?"

"Not when you remember that all his correspondence is overlooked by
Aunt Mina."

"And she always pretended to be so fond of me--and now, as far as she
is concerned, I may drop into the pit."

"Well, you and I will drop down together," I declared. "Keep up your
heart--they say the troubles we most fear are those that never happen."

Alas, the dreaded event arrived only too soon. I heard of the date
from my kind friend Colonel Lakin. The members assembled, and sat in
the regimental ante-room. On the first day the business was chiefly
technical and formal; the second held Ronnie's fate, and it seemed to
me to be as long as an average week. I had declined to go for my usual
evening drive, but waited within doors for the return of Colonel Lakin,
who would bring us the result of the finding.

It was late when he returned to Begumpett and the wheels of his
dog-cart rumbled under the lofty porch. Mrs. Lakin was awaiting him
in the veranda, but I was too anxious and shaken to venture beyond
my room. In a condition of breathless tension I heard him enter the
drawing-room and exchange a few words with his wife. Rooms in the
Madras Presidency are merely separated by thick curtains, with a wide
space open at the top, and as I overheard her sharp exclamation I was a
little prepared when she came to me with a troubled face and said:

"Dear child, I don't know _how_ I am to tell you, but they have found
your brother guilty of the misappropriation of regimental funds----"
She paused, and the tears ran down her cheeks as she added in a broken
voice: "They have given him two years' imprisonment."

As soon as I had grasped the real meaning of this speech I seemed to
feel as if I were crumbling to pieces, and sank on the ground in a dead



As a special favour I was granted permission to have an interview with
Ronnie before he was removed, not to "Windsor Castle," as Secunderabad
jail was nicknamed--for the regiment had protested--but to Bangalore, a
second-class establishment.

"I wish to goodness they were going to _hang_ me!" was the first thing
Ronnie said, and there was agony in his voice. "I swear I do--only for
you and Uncle. Well, Eva, you must go home and try to make the best of

"What! and leave you out here?" I cried. "No, indeed, I shall live at
Bangalore until your time is up."

"Now that is the very craziest nonsense; you must return to Torrington
and marry Falkland."

For the moment I failed to think of an appropriate answer. Why remind
poor Ronnie that as the sister of a convict I could never be Brian's
wife, or presume to enter his proud and exclusive family?

"I do not wish to marry," I muttered at last, and then hastily turned
the subject by asking him if he wanted money.

"No, no," he replied, "a paternal government provides everything, kit
and all, and I start to-morrow under escort. It was decent of them to
let you see me, and in my own clothes. Good-bye, dear old girl; you've
been a real brick to me. Now I implore you to take your own line and
not bother any more about your scamp of a brother. Do you remember when
we sat on the bridge at Beke and had presentiments, and I swore that
I was going to make the name of Lingard famous? I've jolly well done

"Don't say such things," I burst out hysterically.

"I'll behave like a lamb," he continued, "and possibly receive some
indulgence, but I'm bound to be the only officer and gentleman among a
very queer crowd, and I hope the prison diet will put an end to me long
before my term is out."

At this moment a man whom I had never seen before entered and
signalled that the time was up, and we embraced in silence. The next
morning I was informed that my brother had been taken away by night,
the authorities sparing him as much publicity as possible. Having
ascertained that Ronnie had really departed, I proceeded to lay my own
plans before Mrs. Lakin, who protested in long and eloquent speeches
packed with objections; but my mind was made up, my decision immovable.

"Dearest, kindest Mrs. Lakin," I said, "Ronnie and I are all in all to
one another; where he goes _I_ go."

"What--to jail?"

"No; but perhaps I can find some quiet family in Bangalore who will be
absolute strangers to me and my affairs. I can see Ronnie from time
to time, and send him books and papers--he will like to feel that I am
near him."

"But this is sheer madness, my dear child! You don't know a soul in

"So much the better," I replied with significant emphasis.

"If even one of my girls was there--but Susan is at Trichinopoly and
Alice at Saugor."

"Do, do help me," I urged, and slid down from my chair and laid my
hands on her knees. "I would like to start to-morrow."

My petition was backed up by Zora, who at this propitious moment had
called to see me, and warmly approved of my project. That a woman
should make the most absolute sacrifice for a man was naturally her own
(the Mohammedan) point of view.

"Eva is right," she declared. "Imagine the comfort and joy her
visits will be to that poor fellow, cut off from all his friends
and associates. I should think Eva could find a home in some quiet
family--not perhaps in her own class--and she can steal away quietly
from here, and no one need know what has become of her--only we two. I
can take her the whole way to Wadi in my car; the ayah will go ahead
with luggage and wait there--and so Miss Lingard will disappear."

"Two years in some back-road bungalow in Bangalore will be a sheer
sacrifice of Eva's youth; of course she should go home to her people,"
protested Mrs. Lakin, who had sacrificed so much herself.

"But I have no near relations except Ronnie," I announced; "we are
orphans. Do you know Bangalore?"

"To be sure I do, my dear. It was there I was married--in Trinity

"Then probably you can tell me of some people who would receive me?"

"Oh, as for that, I could. I know a nice old widow, who was my mother's
English maid and married a half-caste clerk. She is comfortably off,
lives in the infantry lines, and has no family."

"It seems to be just the place for me!" I exclaimed.

"No, no," she protested. "I won't have any hand in your crazy scheme."

"Oh, dear Mrs. Lakin, don't say that. If you do, I shall be living in
Bangalore, possibly with people you might not approve of--unless you or
Zora can suggest something better."

"I do know people down there," she admitted, "but they are in your own

"That would never answer," I rejoined. "They would want references and
to hear all about me and my business--even supposing they'd receive me
as a paying guest."

I could see that Mrs. Lakin was relenting by degrees when she said:

"Even if you _did_ go to Mrs. de Castro, it would take a couple of
weeks to make arrangements."

"But you can telegraph--'reply paid,'" I suggested.

"I can't imagine why you're in such a hurry to get away; I know the
rules, and you won't see your brother for at least three months."

"Oh, I'll see him before that," I replied with conviction, "even if I
have to go on my knees to the governor."

"And, my dear Eva, you have not the faintest idea of what you are
undertaking. Mrs. de Castro will not charge you more than thirty
rupees a month, but everything will be very coarse and rough. Native
vegetables, bad bazaar bread, second-class fish, and _goat_!"

"I don't mind in the least," I answered recklessly.

"Well, I suppose a wilful girl must have her way," and after long
persistent arguments and an inexhaustible amount of persuasion I
prevailed on my kind friend to write to her Bangalore acquaintance on
my behalf.

By return of post we received a reply from Mrs. de Castro, saying that
she would "be glad of the young woman's company--and money for her

When the shock of the verdict had somewhat abated, I wrote several
important letters; it was a new experience for me to be relying solely
on myself. First I wrote to my bankers, and instructed them to pay
to Colonel Soames the sum of four hundred pounds, the amount of the
missing canteen money. I felt a great sense of relief as I closed and
addressed this missive; at least the regiment would not experience
any pecuniary loss--it was their good name which had suffered. My
next letter was to my uncle. I sent him a long, detailed and truthful
account of the whole tragedy; carefully pointing out every extenuating
circumstance, and endeavouring to touch his heart. So far he had not
answered Ronnie's appeal, but I was determined that he should take
notice of mine. Ronnie's cry was for money--mine for sympathy and
forgiveness. I also wrote to Mrs. Paget-Taylor, and implored her to
use her influence to soften my uncle and aunt with respect to my
brother; and last, but not least, I wrote to Brian. Without any attempt
at softening facts, I related the history of Ronnie's temptation and
disgrace. I said in the course of the letter:

 "Ronnie is already a convict in Bangalore jail. I know that this news
 will shock you; the whole affair fell upon me as a thunderbolt. It has
 all come from Ronnie's passion for gambling, which I honestly believe
 is his only failing, but has brought him, as the world can see, to
 the most frightful grief. I am sure you will remember how popular he
 was with crowds of friends. Well, at the present moment he has not a
 single one in the world except myself, and of course I shall stick to
 him. He would to me under similar circumstances. Ronnie was always
 the best and kindest of brothers. This sudden and dreadful trouble
 will, of course, put an end to our engagement. My dearest Brian,
 how could you possibly marry the sister of a convict, who is serving
 his sentence, and whose case has rung through every club and every
 regiment--not to speak of the whole Press? I cannot express to you
 what this blight on my future costs me. I know that you will be sorry
 for me, and perhaps a little sorry for Ronnie. Please do not write, it
 would only make matters worse, for I can never come into your life,
 and must do my best to put all thoughts of you out of my mind. I leave
 here in a few days to await in some quiet place, and among total
 strangers, the date of Ronnie's release."

Now that my correspondence had been dispatched by the English mail,
I began to make arrangements for departure, and here I had an active
assistant in Zora. My scheme had her enthusiastic approval. By her
instructions all my pretty, smart dresses, jewellery and dainty
belongings were duly collected, packed, and sent away to be stored
under her father's roof till better days dawned. For the next two years
I would have no occasion for smart frocks or ball gowns, and with only
a modest outfit in two boxes I was ready for my journey. Under my
present circumstances I did not require an ayah, and old Mary and I
separated with mutual regrets. As for the Lakins, they could not have
been kinder or more sympathetic if I had been their own daughter. The
evening before I departed the colonel beckoned me mysteriously into his
office, and told me in a low voice that if I wanted money I was to be
sure to apply to him.

"I know," he added, "that you have a bit the sale brought you, and I
have paid it, as you wished, into the Bank of Madras; but later on, if
you find yourself getting a little low, you've only to drop me a line,
just the same as if you were one of our girls."

I endeavoured to thank him, but he would not listen to me; on the
contrary, he insisted on my listening to _him_.

"I must tell you that I do not approve of this step you are taking--no
more does Lucy. Of course old Jane de Castro will look after you,
but you will find her a dull companion, and I do not see how you can
possibly hold on with her for more than a few months. I can enter into
your feelings in wishing to be near your brother, but I am sure you
ought to think a little of yourself, and after you have seen him and
cheered him up a bit, you really should go home."

I listened to his advice with profound respect, but I was sensible that
nothing would induce me to accept it. Mrs. Lakin, too, had provided me
with a generous supply of admonition and warnings; and also endowed
me with a basket of provisions that would have kept a hungry family
for a week. She exhorted me to write to her continually, and actually
threatened to come down to Bangalore in order to see with her own eyes
how I was getting on.

In the midst of our leave-taking talk and Mrs. Lakin's last
instructions, Zora's big motor glided into the compound. My boxes
were placed upon the roof--a tiffin basket also--and Zora herself
accompanied me down to Wadi, closely veiled. She gave me much sweet
sympathy and many wise injunctions, saw me into a comfortable carriage
in the Madras mail, and behold me launched into a new world!

Before my departure I had written to Mrs. Soames, Mrs. Mills, and other
friends, bidding them farewell, thanking them for all their kindness.
To poor Mrs. Lakin I deputed the heavy and thankless task of explaining
my flight. In answer to numerous inquiries she assured her questioners
that I had insisted on leaving, in spite of all that she could urge or
do, but the truth was, I could not endure to remain in Secunderabad. I
had been very mysterious about my destination and address; my desire
was, if possible, to be absolutely forgotten. For all these stories may
my good kind friend be absolved.

It was naturally assumed that I had taken flight to England, until Mrs.
Potter announced in the _morghi khana_ that I had been seen on the
road to Wadi in Balthasar's great grey motor with luggage on the top,
_and not alone_. Moreover, it was an incriminating coincidence that
Balthasar himself had disappeared from Chudderghat on the very same



After changing at two junctions, and a tedious but eventless journey,
Kipper and I arrived in Bangalore, and drove off in a dusty, shuttered
gharry to 202 Infantry Lines, the abode of Mrs. de Castro.

Bangalore itself lies chiefly around a maidan or parade ground about a
mile long, bordered with a ride and trees, and encircled and traversed
by the principal roads in the station. Parallel to the maidan are the
infantry lines; they lie behind what once were infantry barracks, and
are now commissariat stores. Formerly the bungalows were occupied by
officers, but these quarters--like the barracks--have passed into
a different use, and are rented by clerks, shopkeepers and railway
subordinates. Number 202 was large and old and gloomy, situated in a
small compound with two entrances, flanked by imposing gate piers,
but there were no gates. The front of the bungalow was completely
veiled by an enormous lattice-work porch, covered with flowering
creepers--wine-coloured bougainvillea and blue masses of "morning
glory." The little drive was full of ruts, the steps up to the veranda
were lined with many pots of caladiums and maidenhair; evidently these
had been recently watered, for the first sensation I received, with
respect to my new residence, was an all-pervading smell of wet earth.

As we rumbled up and came to a noisy halt a little old woman shuffled
out of the doorway directly facing the steps; and as I descended from
the gharry she exclaimed in a shrill, querulous voice:

"So you have brought a _dog_!"

I hastened to assure her that I could vouch for Kip's good conduct, and
that he would be no trouble whatever to her.

"But what about my cats?" she snapped. "By the look of him I should say
he would trouble _them_."

Again I declared that I would be guarantee for his behaviour.

"And you're a lady!" she continued in the same complaining key. "Miss
Lucy never told me that."

"I hope it is no drawback?"

"Well, it is in a way," was her unexpected reply. "I'm not a lady
myself. I was a lady's maid, and I've been looking for a nice homely
girl who would read to me, and run to the bazaar, and be a sort of

"I think I can manage all that," I replied, and turned to pay off the

The small amount of my luggage undoubtedly mollified my landlady, and
having assured me that I had given the _gharriwan_ double his fare,
with considerable pomp and circumstance she preceded me into the
drawing-room, which, as in most old bungalows, opened directly upon the
veranda. Her air implied that she was now about to exhibit something
superior and out of the common. What a room! The middle of it was
occupied by a vast round ottoman, hard--I subsequently learned--as
stone, covered with the most hideous black and green cretonne I
had ever beheld. The floor had recently been matted with cheap and
odoriferous matting. The walls were coloured a blinding blue and hung
with fearful chromos. Between the walls, the matting, and the new
cretonne, I gathered that this terrible apartment had been recently,
as it is called, "done up." There were a few cane chairs, a blackwood
table, and an old cottage piano with a faded red silk front.

In order to reach my quarters we passed through a network of small
empty chambers to a room which was large and very bare. A little bed
was as an island in space, the dressing-table was also small, a camp
chest of drawers the sole accommodation for my wardrobe. As I glanced
around this desert of an apartment, I resolved to supply myself
immediately with a writing-table and an arm-chair.

I soon discovered that Mrs. de Castro kept but few servants. The
so-called "boy," a man of forty, combined the offices of cook and
waiter. To me the food was unfamiliar, and consisted of peculiar
pillau, tank fish, and curries of the most startling varieties; our
fruit was pomegranates and custard-apples.

Everything, however, was beautifully neat and clean, and as soon as
Mrs. de Castro had resigned herself to her disappointment in finding me
a _lady_ we settled down together on the most amicable terms.

My hostess must have been about seventy. Her sight was rather bad,
but otherwise she was by no means decrepit--in fact, was surprisingly
active for her age. I let her see at once that I was resolved to be
independent--to go out and come in precisely as I pleased; at the same
time, I was willing to read aloud the _Bangalore Herald_, to write a
chit, or even to carry a message into the bazaar--which lay at the end
of our road. She quite took to Kip, who soon established himself in
a very secure position in the house, and we three got on together so
well that at the end of a week I do not think a casual visitor would
have discovered that I had not been living in Infantry Lines for years.
My landlady seldom went out, save on Sunday across the maidan to St.
Mark's Church, but she gave me ample directions, and I soon found my
way about our immediate neighbourhood.

My first distant expedition was to see at least the exterior of the
jail. I think Mrs. de Castro was not a little astonished at my anxiety
to know its whereabouts.

"The jail is nothing to look at," she said. "You go into the Cubbon
Park--there's a sight for you! Some day I'll hire a gharry and take you
down to the Lal Bagh gardens."

I had been debating in my own mind whether I would tell this good
woman the whole truth and nothing but the truth. As a friend of "Miss
Lucy's," in other words Mrs. Lakin (to whose mother she had been maid),
I had some claim upon her interest and loyalty. She entertained a
number of visitors, chiefly women, the wives of shopkeepers, clerks,
railway guards and sergeants--a particular set of her own. These
swarmed in of an afternoon to have a cup of coffee in the veranda and
enjoy a bit of a talk, importing all the latest and raciest bazaar
gossip, in which Mrs. de Castro took the most eager interest. Naturally
to such people I was an object of the liveliest curiosity; with
respect to me, I believe these poor puzzled women floundered about in
a very quagmire of conjecture. I avoided them as far as possible, but
nevertheless I could not wholly evade them, and their questions and
hints were exceedingly sharp. With Mrs. de Castro sharing my secret I
was convinced that I could hold them at bay, and accordingly made up my
mind to speak. One morning as we sat at breakfast, I began abruptly:

"Mrs. de Castro, I am sure you wonder what I am doing here, a stranger
to the place. There is not a soul that I know in the whole of Mysore,
save one. You will also be wondering why I am often asking questions
about the jail? Now I will tell you the reason--my brother is there."

"What!" she cried, "the new superintendent?"

"No, I am sorry to say he is undergoing a two years' sentence--his name
is Captain Lingard."

"Oh lor!" she cried, lifting up her withered hands, "do you tell me so?
I heard about the officer from my husband's nephew, who is head warder.
And so that's what's brought you to the station. Dear, dear, dear!
What's he been a-doin' of?"

"It was about money," I replied.

"Ay," she answered sagely, "it is always money or women."

"My brother took funds belonging to the regiment, intending to repay
them, but before he could do so they were missed."

"Ah," she exclaimed, "and then the fat was in the fire! Jail," she
continued, "is a terrible place for a young gentleman--indeed, it's not
very what you may call homey for anyone."

"I believe it will break my brother's heart," I said. "I have told you
this, Mrs. de Castro, because I think you feel kindly towards me."

"To be sure, to be sure," she mumbled.

"And I want you to keep this dreadful thing a dead secret?"

"I'll do my best, and I'll do anything for Miss Lucy's friend; but the
women who come here are just chock full of curiosity. They can see
what you are, and they think it mighty queer your living in this small
humble way. Well, I must compose some sort of a fairy tale to tell

"Tell them that I'm eccentric," I suggested; "that I come to you to be
very, very quiet--tell them that I'm writing a book."

"Yes, yes, that'll do splendidly, and you can have your writing-table
put in one of the little rooms, and keep yourself as much to yourself
as you please, whilst I throw dust in their eyes."

"I think I shall go up to the jail this evening," I said. "I've been
here a fortnight, and have never made it out yet."

"No, no, early to-morrow would be your best time. Not that you would
_see_ him--don't you run away with that notion; but you might chance on
Mr. Hodson, the superintendent, about nine o'clock, and get a few words
with him, and as you're so nice spoken--and so nice looking--perhaps he
might make things a bit easy."

The next morning after I had had my early tea--at Mrs. de Castro's it
was not tea but excellent Mysore coffee--I tied up the reproachful
Kipper in the veranda, and received instructions as to the route from
my hostess, who escorted me to the entrance, still wearing a bed jacket
and red felt slippers.

"You'll just go round this corner"--(ours was a corner house)--"up
on to the Cubbon Road, past the magazine, and then turn into the
Petta Road; walk along that till you come to Government Offices, the
D.P.W.--my husband was a clerk in them--go round that corner, and
you'll find yourself on the way that leads to the racecourse--the
jail is on your left. The whole distance isn't more than a mile and a
quarter. I expect people will think it strange to see a nice-looking
young lady like you tramping about in the dust all by herself;
they'll be wondering who you are, and what's your business. I'm sure
Mrs. Cotton and Mrs. Dicks, my neighbours, will do their dead best to
dig it out of me, but I can be as close as a snail. Well, well," she
concluded, "mind you don't stay out too long in the sun." And with this
adjuration she left me.



I had resolved on, yet dreaded, this expedition, knowing that to see
even the outside of the place where Ronnie was imprisoned would fill
me with sickening horror; but the longer I deferred the excursion the
more reluctant I should be to face it. I reasoned down my antipathy
and shrinking, and urged myself not to be a fool. Was I not living in
Bangalore solely to be near Ronnie? And I wished him to know what would
surely comfort him: that I was within reach.

It was a delightfully fresh morning as I started forth and took a short
cut over the maidan. In the distance I noticed a regiment on parade and
a number of people riding. As I made my way across the track a girl
passed me, galloping along with a radiant face. How she was enjoying
herself! Six weeks ago and I had been as she! but now, I seemed to have
lost my identity.

Leaving the maidan behind me, I turned into the Petta Road and, at the
end of a short walk, found myself outside the precincts of the jail.
After considerable delay I was admitted by a warder, ushered into a
large, bare, whitewashed room, and invited to state my business.

"I wish to see the superintendent," I murmured.

"The superintendent is engaged, but perhaps the deputy will give you an

"Very well," I assented, "but if it were possible I should feel obliged
if the superintendent could see me even for a moment."

After waiting for about half an hour I was escorted to an office, in
the middle of which was a large table, and sitting at it a stout,
elderly, dark man in a sort of blue serge undress, with letters on his
collar. He looked up interrogatively as I entered, and said:

"About the vegetables, I presume, madam?" (All Indian jails supply

"No," I replied in a faint and tremulous key. "I have called to inquire
about my brother, Captain Lingard?"

The superintendent hastily pushed back his chair and rose; he appeared
too astonished to articulate, and gazed at me in a sort of dull

"I am staying in Bangalore in order to be near him," I continued.

"With friends?" he asked at last.

"Oh no, just lodging with a woman in the Infantry Lines, Mrs. de

"Yes, I know, her nephew has a post here. You are not staying for any
time, I presume?"

"Yes, I am."

"But what about your relatives in England--will they think it suitable?"

I made no reply. I had come to ask questions, not to supply information.

"About my brother--how is he?"

"Ah, it's a sad business--such a nice young fellow!"

"Is he at all--at all--reconciled?" I faltered.

"No, he is taking it terribly hard--does not eat, does not speak, and
they say he does not sleep. He has lost seven pounds in weight; if he
goes on like this we must put him in hospital."

"What does he have to eat?" I inquired.

The official turned about, took down a card from the wall and, without
a word, handed it to me for reference. Glancing over it I read: "Every
European prisoner is provided with a tin plate, mug and spoon. The
following is the daily dietary, prescribed for a European prisoner on
hard labour."

"_Hard labour!_" I read aloud, and looked at the official
interrogatively, who nodded in reply.

The list further continued: "Bread 24 oz., rice 8 oz., beef or fish
10 oz., vegetables 8 oz., tea 1/4 oz., sugar 1/2 oz., salt 3/4 oz.,
condiments ditto, milk 4 oz."

"Quite a liberal diet," remarked the superintendent, as I returned the

"And is my brother really doing hard labour?"

"Oh, yes; he is a fine muscular young fellow, the exercise will be good
for him. Just at the moment he is pounding coco-nuts with a wooden
mallet. After a time, if he conducts himself well, he will be made a
convict warder."

"What is that?"

"He is given authority over the other prisoners, and does no work
himself. He preserves discipline, is among the convicts day and night,
and has charge of his own ward. Of course he receives no pay and wears
the prison dress; eats the same food, and is subject to discipline
himself. Being an educated man, your brother, if he behaves well, is
bound to get a billet either as warder, or to keep the jail books, or
superintend the carpenters' shops."

"How soon will he get one of these posts?" I inquired.

"Not for some time, I'm afraid."

"When may I see him?"

"In about ten weeks. Every three months prisoners are allowed to
receive visitors."

"Ten weeks!" I repeated. "Oh, do let me have one word with him _now_;
do, I implore you."

"My dear young lady, I dare not break the rules," he protested, "though
I pity you from the bottom of my heart."

"But think of him, cut off from everything--everything he has been used
to, absolutely friendless, and cast among natives and criminals. He
has no idea that I am in Bangalore. Surely I may send him one line to
comfort him?"

"No, no, no, that would be against all rules."

"It's like beating with bare hands on a stone wall," I cried in
despair. "It makes me frantic to realise that I am within a few yards
of my brother, and may not see him!"

"Well, if it comes to that, I might stretch a point," said the
superintendent. "He may not see you, but if you think you can bear it,
I might let you have a peep at _him_."

"Oh, thank you, thank you a thousand times."

"All right then, if you will not be upset, I'll take you up to a place
where you can get a glimpse of the yard."

As he concluded, the kindly superintendent rose, opened a door, and
ushered me along some bare stone passages. Then we passed through
a large room, where convicts were working at hand looms, weaving
various beautiful Indian carpets. They seemed to be really interested
and engrossed in their work, which looked exceedingly intricate and
tedious. My escort halted before one loom where two men were working,
and pointed out a lovely blue and cream carpet, about half completed.

"This has been commissioned by an English countess," he explained. "It
has taken six months' work, so far; most of the carpets on the looms
are already sold; this is a particularly fine specimen, and we are very
proud of it."

He said something to the workers in their own language, and they
received his comments with wide and appreciative grins.

But I had come to see Ronnie--not carpets--and I think my companion
instinctively felt that I had no wish to linger; so he soon escorted
me out of the department into another section. As we proceeded, he
informed me that at the moment they had five hundred inmates in the
prison, mostly men, who did all the domestic and garden work, besides
weaving carpets and making tents and gunny bags.

"This is the central jail," he added, "the only one in the province;
the rest are merely district jails and lock-ups. You would be surprised
at the number of old people that are confined in India. They are
sworn in by their families, in place of younger men, who are the real
criminals, and they are fairly well provided for for the rest of their

To which statement--mentioned in the most casual manner--I listened
with indignant horror.

I was also not a little moved by the number of convicts we encountered
as we went along the stone passages. Every one of them wore irons
on his legs, which clanked as he walked. Both prisoners and warders
glanced at me furtively as I passed. Lady customers were no doubt
occasionally to be seen in the carpet department, but _I_ was in the
division reserved for hard labour criminals and the most desperate
characters. At last we reached a flight of steep steps, and climbed
into a little room overlooking a yard, which was enclosed with high
spiked walls. Here a number of prisoners were thumping coco-nuts with
wooden mallets, "to make coir," as my companion explained to me. They
wore cotton coats, drawers, and caps stamped with that significant mark
the broad arrow, and every man was fettered from ankle to knee. As my
eyes roved anxiously among the crowd I realised that they were all
natives of the country except one--one with a rigid white face, who was
pounding away with a sort of mechanical ferocity.

At first I did not recognise him, and thought with a little dart of
relief, "Here at least is a companion for Ronnie;" and then I realised
that it was Ronnie himself! Changed, oh, incredibly changed, in two
short weeks! I was so horrified and so suddenly unstrung that, almost
in spite of myself, I screamed out "Ronnie!" I saw him look up, but I
think the steady thumping of the wooden mallets had deadened my cry. My
companion, who was extremely angry, seized me by the arm and drew me
forcibly out of the room.

"There you see, that is what I get for my kindness!" he said
indignantly. "It will be a lesson."

"Oh, forgive me, _do_ forgive me," I sobbed. "I couldn't help it." And
then I leant against the wall and wept. I think this was almost the
bitterest moment of my whole life. There was my brother, the image of
despair, working out his sentence within those tall ugly walls, out
off from everything he had ever cared for. I believe my tears somewhat
appeased the superintendent.

"Don't take on, don't take on. Come away down to my room," he said,
"and pull yourself together a bit."

As soon as we had reached this haven, he offered me a chair and sent
for a glass of water, and when I was more composed he said:

"I was afraid you might be upset."

"Of course I am, my brother looks as if he were dying."

"He looks badly, I grant you--they all do at first--I mean the
Europeans. It isn't often we have them--not for years. A private was
hanged ages ago, for shooting his comrade in the barrack room. I
remember as if it was yesterday, the escort marching him up from cells
just after daybreak one December morning, and the band playing the Dead
March in 'Saul.'"

I shuddered involuntarily.

"This is only a second class jail," he resumed. "Serious cases are
sent elsewhere. Your brother was moved down here for two reasons; the
authorities did not wish to have him so near the regimental lines as
Secunderabad jail. Every time a Tommy went by 'Windsor Castle' he would
think 'One of our captains is lying in there.' Another thing, the
Bangalore climate is less trying; we have no real hot weather, and of
course there are no punkahs in jails. It's just a year ago since I saw
Captain Lingard playing here in the polo tournament. There wasn't one
to touch him! He seemed to have complete command of his ponies, and
his strokes were a wonder. I little thought that his next visit to the
station would be to _me_."

"No; who could have dreamt of such a thing? It all seems like a hideous

"Look here, Miss Lingard, as far as I can I will help your brother,
but to show partiality to one man because he is of my own race would
upset all discipline, and lose me influence and authority. As it is, I
have an unruly crowd to deal with; we've had more than one unpleasant
outbreak. I believe there is one thing I can do for you--I will
overstep my rules for once, and will give your brother a message."

"Will you? That really _is_ kind."

"Well, what shall I say?"

"Give him my love, and tell him that I am in Bangalore, and hope to
see him on the first visiting day. Tell him that I am living with a
respectable old widow, and that he is never, never out of my thoughts.
Ask him to try and look at the bright side of things and to think of
the future, when we shall be together, and all this trouble will have
passed over like a thunderstorm. May I send him books?"

"No, but he can have the use of the prison library, such as it is."

"Should I be allowed to present books to the prison library? As you so
seldom have a European here, your stock must be rather low."

"That is so," he admitted. "I don't do much reading myself, but I
think the books there are nearly all missionary stuff, sent in from
somebody's sale. You might be allowed to present a few, and you could
forward them through me. You must cheer up a bit," he added; "after
all, the two years will soon run round."

"Two years of a living death," I protested; "what an awful punishment
for a momentary madness! My brother was dreadfully in debt, the money
tempted him; he meant of course to replace it, but there was no time.
It has been paid back now."

"Yes; I understand that it was gambling brought Captain Lingard to
this. It has landed a good many natives here--chiefly Burmese and
Malays. The Burman is an inveterate gambler, so are Chinamen. Most of
our local cases are village brawls, theft and murder. Well now," he
said, rising, "I must ask you to excuse me; this is my very busy time.
Would you like me to send for a gharry?"

I had intended to walk back, but I now felt so utterly shattered
that this feat would be impossible, so I thankfully accepted the
superintendent's offer, and was presently being bowled away to Infantry

All that day I lay on my bed prostrate, for I now acutely realised the
weight of Ronnie's sentence. Would he ever survive to complete it?
Could that convict with the fixed white face and the sunken staring
eyes be my handsome, cheery brother?

I think Mrs. de Castro understood that I had recently received a
terrible shock. She brought me her recipe for all trouble--a cup of the
most excellent coffee--as well as a bottle of eau-de-Cologne with which
to bathe my throbbing head. Kip also was tenderly attentive. He knew
that I was in some sore grief; his eloquent eyes spoke volumes, and he
licked my hand from time to time, doing all in his power to offer me
his dumb sympathy.

No doubt it was the reaction from all I had gone through, culminating
in my visit to the jail and sight of Ronnie as a convict, but after
this expedition I broke down. I did not actually become a bedridden
invalid, but I seemed to have lost all energy. I could not eat, I slept
badly, and I was subject to exhaustive fits of crying. Mrs. de Castro
was seriously concerned, and endeavoured to feed me, dose me, and scold
me into a more cheerful frame of mind. She explained, with much wisdom,
that I could do no good to my brother by starving and fretting and
ruining my health.

One morning she threw two letters on my writing-table and said:

"These have just come by the dâk, and I expect _they'll_ cheer you a

I glanced at them, and saw they had been readdressed by Mrs. Lakin. The
first I seized upon and opened was from Brian, which said:

 "MY DARLING EVA,--By bad luck I missed writing to you last week, but
 it happened to be the day of my father's operation; my mother was
 dreadfully anxious and upset, and I forgot the Indian mail. My poor
 little girl, all this trouble about your brother has been a terrible
 affair for you, but I do not see why it should be the means of
 breaking off our engagement, nor will _I_ ever consent to it. As Mrs.
 Falkland you will have done with the name and association of Lingard,
 and even if people remembered that your brother had been tried and
 convicted, instead of being censorious they would be sincerely sorry
 for you. I am, as you expected, also sorry for your brother. When I
 was out at Secunderabad I could not help seeing the way things were
 going, and once or twice I tried to give him a hint, but it was no
 use. I also had an idea of talking to you on the subject, but on
 second thoughts I decided it was better not to disturb you, and I
 did not expect matters would have come to a crisis so soon. I also
 consoled myself with the saying that 'half the troubles in this world
 are those that never happen.' This trouble unfortunately _has_ come
 off! I think you are foolish in remaining out in India--whereabouts
 you do not say. Just at first I know that your brother will not be
 allowed to see a visitor, so your presence in the country won't be
 much good to him. No doubt he will be promoted into a post where he
 need not mix with the worst class of criminals. I wish it were in
 my power to do something to alleviate his horrible condition, or to
 reduce the term, but no doubt his own conduct and character will
 effect that. My poor little girl, I cannot tell you how acutely I feel
 for you; I know that this trouble is heart-breaking. I will write next
 mail, and I implore you when you receive this to cable your address,
 and send me a letter to say that second thoughts are best, and you are
 returning home to

          "Your always devoted,

This letter I read over three times before I opened the next. It gave
me courage and a momentary gleam of happiness; nevertheless, I was
determined to remain in Bangalore and stick to Ronnie. Supposing I were
to go home as Brian suggested, and abandon Ronnie to his fate; in spite
of my fiancé's comforting words I believed that all my acquaintances
would look upon me coldly and obviously strive to keep the subjects of
brothers, convicts and jail out of their conversation.

My next letter was from Aunt Mina:

 "DEAR EVA,--Your uncle has deputed me to answer your letter, and I
 commence it by saying that although we have a knave in the family, we
 see no reason to tolerate a _fool_. Your brother, who has blackened
 the Lingard name, disgraced us and you, is the knave, but you,
 who have rushed after him, leaving the shelter of your friends at
 Secunderabad, are acting like a fool. You must return home _at once_.
 Your uncle, who stands in the place of a parent to you, desires me
 to say that there is to be no question of this. We expect you to
 start within a week from the date on which you receive this letter.
 You will, of course, come to Torrington and make your home here. We
 understand that you have paid up the money of the canteen fund. Your
 uncle had intended to do this. He desires me to say that a cheque for
 your passage home will be lodged; you are to return by the P. & O.,
 and will be met at Southampton. Should you refuse to obey, and set
 your face against our plans, the hundred a year allowance will cease;
 not only this, but your future proceedings will be of no further
 interest to this family and we shall look upon you as much dead to us
 as is your brother. I know you are always inclined to be headstrong,
 and to wild and impulsive actions, but on this occasion I sincerely
 hope your recent experience will have taught you _humility_ and
 common sense. We are inclined to fear that _you_ may have contributed
 to Ronnie's disaster. A girl of your age, with no experience of India,
 possibly spent extravagantly and incurred large bills. Apparently
 it is only since _you_ have lived with Ronnie that he has come to
 grief. Of course our conjectures may be mistaken--I am sure I hope
 so. This terrible family scandal has tried us greatly. The case was
 in every newspaper, with a _portrait_; and at present--speaking for
 myself--I do not care to go about and meet my neighbours. However,
 dear Mrs. Paget-Taylor is, as usual, a wonderful consoler and a tower
 of strength. By this day month, at the latest, we shall look for your
 arrival. I see that the _Malwa_ sails on the 27th.

          "Your affectionate aunt,
                              "WILHELMINA LINGARD."

I did not read _this_ letter over three times, but giving way to one of
my childish passions I tore it into little bits, and then, while the
fit was still upon me, sat down and dashed off what I have no doubt was
considered a most intemperate reply. I refused absolutely to return to
England, and said that I was satisfied to take my place beside Ronnie
and be repudiated by the family; their money I did not want--and I
remained faithfully, Eva Lingard.

Thus I was now cut off from my few relations, and had, with my own
hands, barred the doors of Torrington.



Without a day's delay I sent down to Higginbotham's in Madras and
ordered a large supply of books. When these arrived I scribbled in
some of them in French, hoping that Ronnie might discover my messages.
I implored him to make the best of everything (as I was doing), not
to lose heart, but to look forward to better days when we would be
always together. I assured him that as soon as permitted I would go to
see him, and that I was "keeping up," and he must do the same. Then I
packed up the parcel and dispatched it to the jail by a coolie, with a
note to the superintendent reminding him of his promise to allow me to
add to the library. I had written as cheerfully as I could, but though
I assured Ronnie that I was "keeping up," I regret to say this was not
the truth. In spite of the consolations offered by Kip and Mrs. de
Castro, I was abjectly miserable, a wraith of my former self. My face
looked small and pinched and my eyes were sore from secret weeping,
for always in my mind I saw Ronnie's expression of absolute despair,
and ever in my ears sounded the "chink, chink, chink" of the convicts'

Such was my depression that Mrs. de Castro was roused to what were,
for her, desperate and expensive remedies. Almost every afternoon she
hired a second-class gharry from the bazaar, and carried me out to
"eat the air." Once we drove down to the celebrated Lal Bagh, those
beautiful gardens, said to have been laid out by Hyder Ali. I confess
that I enjoyed this excursion, although I skulked in out-of-the-way
paths, for fear of meeting some of the fashionable European community.
Mrs. de Castro understood this attitude; her sympathy was full of
insight, and our future drives were in directions where one was not
likely to come across any of the gay world from the cantonments. We
went expeditions to Cleveland Town and round the Ulsoor Tank, but the
cantonment bazaar and shops were a magnet that proved irresistible to
my companion. Many a half-hour I would sit in the gharry, whilst she
bargained over a couple of yards of calico, a bar of soap, or a tin of
biscuits--speaking Tamil as her native tongue.

If she came off best these proceedings afforded her as much pleasure
as if she had been to a play or a concert, possibly more. Her haunts
were not the modern European emporium, but out-of-the-way streets and
alleys near the grain market, and the Arale-Petta--both busy scenes of
bartering and traffic.

Occasionally I accompanied her into these places, and whilst she
chaffered, what strange discoveries I made, as I poked round in the
dim interiors! Sometimes it was piles of ancient "tinned" soups and
vegetables, that may have been on the premises for half a century;
sometimes it was dusty piles of old books, broken furniture, spotted
prints, chairs with the stuffing coming out, the remains of chandeliers
(so dear to the Oriental heart), and now and then a really good piece
of furniture, such as a Chippendale seat, or a French mirror, covered
with dust and cobwebs--possibly wondering what _they_ were doing in
_cette galère_.

These expeditions were no doubt undertaken for my health and with a
view to raising my spirits, but I cannot say that they accomplished
their object. Now and then we walked in the Cubbon Park, and every
Sunday I accompanied my landlady to church. In the mornings, as I
exercised Kipper along the least frequented roads, although I was
plainly and even shabbily dressed, I noticed that people stared hard
at me. In India, stray and solitary females are exceptional. There one
belongs to a family and household, and is bound to have some _raison
d'être_ for residing in the country. To meet a strange English girl,
whose appearance was unfamiliar, at bandstand or social gatherings, and
who had apparently no other companion than a fox-terrier, gave those
who encountered me legitimate reason to stare and to wonder.

Many inquiries were made by Mrs. de Castro's circle. It was evident
from her disclosures that they were not entirely satisfied with her
tales of my eccentricity and book writing. I promptly realised that the
less mystery about me in our household the better. I had no objection
to associating with Mrs. de Castro's neighbours and set, and made
it my business of an afternoon to come into the veranda and help to
make coffee and conversation, and to hand about "hoppers" and rock
cakes. After all, it was the least I could do in acknowledgment of my
hostess's well-meant kindnesses, such as the drives to the bazaar, and
the packets of peppermint, the little bunches of monthly roses and
oleanders with which she endowed me. I could not take an active part
in discussing bazaar prices, nor enjoy succulent particulars of the
whims and shortcomings of other ladies and their families in Infantry
Lines and St. John's Hill. It was a matter of indifference to me, nor
was I in the least excited to learn that "Mrs. Captain Watson had had
five ayahs in a fortnight," but on the subject of dress my foot was
more or less upon my native heath, and I was in a position to offer
Mrs. Sergeant Mullins and Mrs. Conductor Cooper some really useful
information; I was also prepared to lend them a pattern blouse and "the
new skirt." By this generosity I captured their hearts!

"You're not very dressy, and you don't go out much yourself," remarked
Mrs. Batt, the wife of a retired sapper--a nice-looking elderly woman,
with sharp grey eyes and an assertive manner--to me, one of the most
formidable of the company.

"No," I replied, returning her challenge, and looking her straight in
the face; "Mrs. de Castro may possibly have told you that I have come
to Bangalore for complete quiet and retirement. I know no one here,
which under the circumstances is the greatest advantage. I have lately
experienced an overwhelming sorrow."

Mrs. Batt coolly inspected me up and down; no, I was not wearing

"And," I continued, "I am not disposed to return to England--at

I believe this statement satisfied the company. With one consent they
very naturally attributed my melancholy and reserve to a love affair
that had gone wrong, which idea after all had a substantial basis--my
love affair _had_ gone wrong--but, unfortunately, that was only a
part of my trouble. It is an undeniable fact that all womenkind are
interested in affairs of the heart, and my new acquaintances accorded
me their unspoken sympathy. For this I had no doubt to thank their
natural kind-heartedness, but perhaps my generosity in the matter of
advice and patterns may have had a little weight. In future, however,
Mrs. de Castro was no longer submitted to the "question torture." I
was received as an acknowledged member of her set, and she was left
in peace. I made myself as useful to my landlady as possible; read
her the _Bangalore Herald_ from end to end, wrote her notes, played
draughts and trimmed her Sunday toque. Considering our respective
ages, education and station, we really got on together amazingly well.
She had been most loyal to me. I can never forget how once, when Mrs.
Cotton touched upon my tragedy, and began: "They _do_ say there's
an English officer in the jail--such a handsome fellow too----" she
cleverly turned the subject with a fresh and startling scandal. I had
impressed upon her that if any of the military people--who of course
were aware of my brother's fate--came to dream of my presence in
Bangalore I would depart within the hour. I was quite sure, I added,
that if they _did_ know they would be only too kind to me, but their
kindness, however well meant, I should not yet be able to endure. My
wound was still so raw that I shrank from even a touch of sympathy.

The _dâk-wallah's_ arrival with his big brown wallet invariably excited
my interest. From time to time he brought me letters from Mrs. Lakin.
On one occasion her dispatch was so heavy as to require five annas
postage, as it enclosed others. One was from Captain Hayes-Billington,
to tell me that his wife had passed away. It was apparently written in
great distress, the thin cheap paper blistered with tears:

 "She asked me to be sure and let _you_ know; Dulcie was always fond
 of you. Ever since she came down here she has been failing, and by
 degrees just faded away out of life. She was glad to go--but _I_ am

Mrs. Lakin, who was my constant correspondent, announced in her letter
that they were leaving Secunderabad immediately:

 "My dear, such an uprooting after thirty years in India! I cannot bear
 to think of how our poor household gods will be scattered. Some, such
 as the Deschamps furniture, I intend to take home; some I shall send
 to the girls. One of them will give the old chestnut horse a stall
 and a feed. I have endowed my ayah and butler with a cow apiece, and
 distributed my poultry among the women in the lines--but what am I
 to do about your letters? I enclose two. How are your correspondents
 to find you? Here it is generally believed that you have returned
 to London; even Mrs. Soames is off the scent. She intends when the
 regiment does go home to look up your relatives and discover your

Mrs. de Castro was always gratified when I had a letter from "Miss
Lucy," as she still called her. The letter invariably contained kind
messages to "Jane."

"It seems only the other day since she came out to India," she remarked
(when I told her the news), "and now she's going home for good. I
remember her, such a slim young lady with lovely blue eyes and curly
hair. It was not long before Mr. Lakin fell in love with her. He was
only a lieutenant in a Madras Native Infantry regiment, but in spite of
all her father and mother could say (and they said a _lot_) she would
have him; and they took a little bungalow at thirty rupees a month at
St. John's Hill. Well, the match didn't turn out so badly after all.
Colonel Lakin will have a good pension, and after their long spell out
here they'll enjoy themselves in England."

Before Mrs. Lakin returned to "enjoy herself in England" she enclosed
me another letter, which was from Brian. It said:

 "MY DARLING EVA,--You are making me miserable. I cannot understand
 why you do not write to me, and I have no idea where you are, so send
 this to care of your good friend Mrs. Lakin. Probably you are hiding
 in some little hill station, for the hot weather will by this time be
 upon you. But why hide from _me_? Why not trust me as I trust you? I
 had an anonymous epistle from Secunderabad recently, announcing that
 you had been seen driving all over the place in Balthasar's motor, and
 that it was well known that you had actually left the place in his
 company. I need not tell you that I didn't believe one word of this.
 I put the poisonous letter in the fire and would have liked to do the
 same with the writer! You will probably have seen the announcement
 of my father's death in the papers; he passed away a fortnight ago;
 to the last we had hopes. My mother is completely broken down, and I
 have no end of family matters to get through. Only for my mother's
 health, and most urgent business, I would go out to India in the place
 of this letter. Last week I motored over to Torrington, thinking that
 I might glean news of you, but I was astonished to find that you
 were as much in their black books as your brother. I wonder what you
 have been doing, Eva? I asked the question point blank, but as our
 engagement has never been given out, they evidently thought me guilty
 of unpardonable cheek, and implied that their family affairs were no
 business of mine--they let me see it too! They are taking the court
 martial, etc., terribly to heart, and are going abroad for six months
 with the idea of living the whole thing down. If they didn't make so
 much of it themselves, other people would soon let it drop. I hear
 from Secunderabad from time to time; the general impression there
 seems to be that you are in England. I am told that the Lakins are
 coming home, so that I can no longer write to you to their address.
 Surely you will answer _this_!

          "Your, as always, devoted and faithful

I was much surprised one afternoon to see a carriage and pair drive
under our porch--Mrs. de Castro's visitors came in gharries or on foot.
She rushed to me with a scared face, waving a visiting card in her hand.

"It's Mrs. Hodson, the wife of the superintendent of the jail; she's
asking to see you!"

All sorts of dreadful visions passed through my mind. Could Ronnie be
dead, and had she come to break the news?

"Show her into my little room," I said--one of the bare apartments I
had fixed up with a writing-table, a few cheap chairs and a couple of
rugs. Here I sat, read, and worked--nothing would induce me to frequent
the dismal drawing-room.

Presently Mrs. Hodson was ushered in; a plain pale woman, with a long
thoughtful face and a pleasant smile.

"I hope you won't think that I have taken a liberty," she said, "but
my husband thought that perhaps you might like to make my acquaintance."

"It is most kind of you," I murmured; "won't you sit down?"

"You do not know anyone here, nor wish to know them, I understand, but
still perhaps you will make an exception of me. You might like to come
up and sit in our lovely garden and feel that you are near him, and
that we are always ready to befriend you both."

"You are _very_ kind," I repeated. "Can you tell me how he is?"

"Yes, he is more resigned. Since he has had your message and those
books you sent to the library he seems more cheerful, and is no longer
losing weight. As he is steady they have made him a convict warder,
so now the rules are relaxed. You will be able to see him to-morrow
afternoon, and I will send the carriage for you."

I was so overpowered by this unexpected news that for a moment I could
not speak.

"There was a fortnight yet," I stammered at last.

"That is true, but a convict warder has privileges, and sees his
friends oftener than once in three months. You look so white and sad,
I wonder if you would care to come for a drive with me? Yes, and we
will take your dog, and go up past the racecourse along the Nundy Droog
Road, where you will get plenty of air, and scarcely meet a soul."

"I should like it immensely," I said, springing up, "and I'll fetch my

As I left the room, I nearly collided with Mrs. de Castro, who was
bearing in with her own hands a tray of cakes and coffee. There was no
avoiding this refreshment, and I could see that she was extremely proud
of entertaining the wife of the jail superintendent in her own house.

I enjoyed that drive more than anything for a very long time. The
fresh air and the swift motion revived me. How different from rumbling
along in a gharry with my landlady, who preferred excursions into the
bazaar, or down St. John's Hill, and had no taste whatever for the open
country! We passed cheery parties of riders coming from the racecourse;
among them I recognised a man I had seen at Silliram, and hastily
turned away my face. Mrs. Hodson was not a steady talker like Mrs.
Soames, or my former self, but she opened her mind to me and took me
into her confidence.

"In one way you and I are both in the same boat," she said. "You shrink
from society because of your brother's trouble--society shrinks from
me because I, an Englishwoman, and well born, have married a Eurasian
or Anglo-Indian, as they are now called. I have never, never regretted
the step, excepting that it cuts me off from women of my own class.
They will talk to me, and even come to my house, and admire my garden,
but between us all the time a great gulf is fixed. I was a governess
out here; my health broke down, and I was almost penniless when Richard
Hodson came to my rescue--or rather his sister did. Ultimately we were
married, and in my way I am happy. If I had one or two real women
friends I'd have nothing left to wish for. At first the jail and the
convicts depressed me. The 'chink, chink, chink' of the irons moving
to and fro about the garden got on my nerves, but now I do not seem to
hear them! To-morrow you must come and see my garden. I wanted so much
to have your brother to work in it; it's healthier and more interesting
than making gunny bags, but when my husband spoke to him he said that
nothing would induce him to show himself out of doors."

The next afternoon Mrs. Hodson's pretty victoria arrived to carry me to
the jail. My heart was thumping hard as we drove along, and when I got
out and was received by the superintendent I was trembling so much that
I could scarcely walk. However, I managed to crawl to the room where
prisoners received their friends and there I found Ronnie awaiting me.

At first he bore up wonderfully, but for my part I was so overcome
that I could only weep and murmur, "Ronnie! Ronnie!" At last he too
broke down. The spectacle of a man crying is inexpressibly tragic. I
thrust my own miseries aside and did my utmost to console him. I felt
something like a nurse comforting a child that has hurt itself. "What
was the use of anything?" he murmured, why look forward? He was branded
for life; wherever he went the horror would follow; no nice girl would
ever marry _him_! After a time, when we were more collected, he said
in his old peremptory style:

"Now you know, Eva, it's all wrong your being out here. I won't allow
you to sacrifice yourself for me. You really must and shall go home."

"But I can't go home," I replied, "I've cut myself adrift from
Torrington. They said if I remained in India they would drop me
altogether, so you see I've burned my boats! Even if I were to humble
myself, they would never, never receive me."

"Falkland will receive you," declared my brother, "you have not sent
him one of your fiery letters?"

"I have never sent him any letter at all."

"How's that? You have done one mad thing in pitching your tent at
Bangalore, although I know it has been for my sake. You will be still
madder if you break off with Falkland, who honestly is a rattling good
fellow. If only I'd taken his hints and pulled up a bit I wouldn't be
here now, a disgrace to myself and to you."

"Never mind me," I protested, "but tell me how you are getting on?"

"How can I get on until I get out?" he replied with a touch of his
former manner. "I still have to serve one year eight months and two
days. I must say the superintendent is a white man, although his colour
_is_ a bit dusky. He keeps me as much apart from the rabble as he can,
and now I've promotion I am a sort of official myself. When I first
came here, Sis, if I'd seen any means of committing suicide I'd have
taken my own life. I was so hopelessly, abjectly miserable; the more I
thought, the worse I felt; but do you know, one day, when I was in the
very deepest depths of black despair in the labour yard, I distinctly
heard your voice calling me, and that gave me a wonderful 'buck up,'
and reminded me that I wasn't altogether alone in the world."

I debated in my own mind whether I would tell him that he had really
heard me or not, and I decided against it. Somehow I instinctively felt
that he would hate to know that I had witnessed him doing hard labour
in company with thieves and murderers.

"Did you find my little notes in the books?" I asked. "Writing in that
way was, I know, deceitful, but I hoped you would come across some of
my scribbling."

"Yes, I did, rather--and that cheered me no end. Knowing that you were
in the station, and that I would see you, raised me out of the Slough
of Despond."

"There," I exclaimed, "so I _was_ right to come after all!"

"Do you know anybody in the station?" he inquired.

"No, not a soul! I lie low all the time. I associate with Mrs. de
Castro's friends--sergeants' wives and the wives of telegraph clerks,
and so on."

"Mrs. de Castro's friends!" he exclaimed.

"Yes, and I like them," I said, "they know that I have some trouble and
are most truly kind and sympathetic. It's a very good thing to see
another side of life."

"By Jove, Eva, you have seen a good many sides of life, what with Beke,
the old professor, and Mrs. Hayes-Billington, and now _my_ crash--your
experience has been extraordinarily varied."

"I said that I know nobody here, and no one knows me, but the other
Sunday in church I thought I caught a glimpse of Sally Payne. I don't
think she recognised me, and I sneaked out before the sermon. She
_has_ been here, because in reading the _Bangalore Herald_ I saw among
the list of guests at the West End Hotel, 'Miss Payne and maid.' I
was always fond of Sally," I added, "and I think she liked me. Do you
remember we arrived in Secunderabad on the very same day?"

"I wish she could take you out of Bangalore," said Ronnie. "Because
my life is spoiled there is no reason that yours should be. You have
helped me over the first bad bit, and I shall rub along all right now.
If I have any luck I might get something taken off my sentence. The
superintendent talked about putting me in the office to do the jail
accounts, but I'd rather have my present job. I'm more independent, and
I'd hate having to sit and write all day long."

"Are they troublesome, your ward?" I asked.

"No, not with me. You see, I understand order and discipline from being
in the Service. I stand no nonsense, and soon wheel them into line, but
they _are_ a rough lot. Some such powerful murderous-looking brutes."

I was telling Ronnie about the superintendent's wife, how she had taken
me out to drive, and invited me to sit in her garden as often as I
liked, when a warder entered, salaamed, and said:

"Sorry, Miss Sahib--the time is up."



My new acquaintances, Mr. and Mrs. Hodson, were both very kind to me;
she frequently called to take me for a drive into the country (Hibbal
way). Afterwards we sat in her delightful garden with its spreading
grass plots, clumps of bamboo and loquat trees, and profusion of
English flowers. The sole drawback to this Elysium was the presence of
convicts, clanking to and fro, as they watered and worked among the
vegetables; but I suppose in time one grows accustomed to anything--as
it is said of poor eels, with respect to their skins!

Thanks to Mr. Hodson, I had several private interviews with Ronnie. I
was permitted to give him cigarettes, and to supply him with papers. He
no longer gave way to an unreasoning frenzy of despair, but was more
like his former self; his eyes had their old boyish look, and had lost
their dull, glazed appearance. I had now been four months at Bangalore;
the time had crawled like centuries, and as I gazed into my glass I
told myself that I was almost unrecognisable. Undoubtedly the shocks
I had received since I left England had told upon my appearance. My
face was white and very thin, and my hair, of which I had once been
rather proud, looked lank and dead. After all, although I kept up a
certain amount of cheerfulness with Mrs. de Castro and her friends,
I sometimes wondered that I was still alive. No one but myself knew
of the nights and nights when I lay awake for hours or paced about my
room. The weather was hot and I would have much preferred to walk in
the compound, but for my not unnatural fear of snakes and bandicoots.
A want of sleep, want of appetite, and a want of hope were my three
chief ailments. I had to bear up against not one, but _two_ heavy
troubles. The overwhelming disgrace of my brother and the collapse of
our little home; the cruelty of relations who had closed their ears
to our appeals. Sometimes, with a sort of rage, I told myself that
had Uncle cabled out the money to Ronnie, he would have saved him in
time. Here was surely a sufficient load for one pair of shoulders. But
besides all this, a grief that affected me even more acutely was the
loss of my lover; this was a personal ache that nothing could deaden or
alleviate. It had been my own fault that our correspondence had lapsed,
but to what could it have tended after all? Brian and I could never
be anything to one another. He was naturally the soul of generosity
and chivalry, but we would have to face the Falkland family, public
opinion and general discredit. How could Lady Louisa--said to be the
incarnation of pride--receive a daughter-in-law whose brother was a
convict, the subject of a notorious military scandal? Much as Brian
might care for me, I could never be anything but a millstone round his

Sometimes my feelings got the better of my convictions, and an
intolerable longing surged up in my heart. At night I would sit down
and pour out my soul in long letters. These letters gave me a wonderful
amount of temporary relief, but when I read them over in the cool light
of morning I invariably destroyed them. I had not had a line from Brian
for more than six weeks, and such is the perversity of human nature,
now that he had ceased to write to me I felt an almost irrepressible
temptation to write to him! Nevertheless I did not yield to it, though
I often debated the question--to write or not to write? Even if I
wrote, and assured him, as before, that all was at an end between
us, but that I was in Bangalore, and would be glad to hear from him
occasionally--to what good would this tend? It was far better and wiser
to drop entirely out of his life, but this resolve did not conduce to
happiness or even consolation.

Kipper's spirits were undoubtedly affected by my own condition of
hopeless depression--it may have been the effect of a brain wave--but
at any rate whenever we took our walks abroad he no longer bounded
exuberantly in front of me, barking from purest _joie de vivre_, and
challenging all creation from lizards to camels. Now he kept sedately
to heel like a sober elderly dog, obviously on duty and in sole charge
of an elderly mistress. When indoors he lay motionless beside my chair
or bed, following my movements with anxious and adoring eyes, and
occasionally heaving tremendous sighs.

He found his simple relaxation in killing bandicoots (a rat-like
creature with a blunt repulsive face) and in the visits of the tall
yellow and white pariah, who lived next door. I must confess that this
intimacy filled me with amazement. At Beke, Kipper had kept coldly
aloof from the society of his own kind, and had cruelly and even
painfully snubbed the advances of second-rate dogs. If these could
but behold him now!--abandoned to the fascination and blandishments
of a hideous spotted alien, resembling a low class overgrown lurcher;
rolling with him luxuriously in the dust, running mad puppy circles,
and playing hide and seek among the shrubs and oleander bushes in Mrs.
de Castro's compound! I will say this for Kipper, he never returned the
visits of his playfellow, and had still some lingering sense of _les
convenances_ and etiquette for "Europe" terriers.

Once, when the "Pi" had the audacity to join us in our walk, and came
prancing towards us with a "Hallo, well met!" expression on his cunning
long face, Kipper realised that he must draw the line here, and after
a word or two in nosy dog talk, the intruder accepted a hint, and

One evening we had been for a constitutional far beyond the high ground
and racecourse, and I returned to the de Castro bungalow dusty, thirsty
and tired, looking forward, I confess, to a good cup of Neilgherry tea.
As we entered the veranda, Kip stood for a second motionless, and then
flew like a wild creature into the cave-like drawing-room, and I said
to myself:

"The Pi is there, lying in wait for him! He must _not_ be allowed into
the house."

I was about to follow and eject the intruder, when Mrs. de Castro came
forward in a state of unusual excitement and with much nodding and
gesticulation informed me in a mysterious whisper:

"A lame gentleman has called to see you. He came in a motor. I told him
that you were out, but he said he would wait; and he has been sitting
in the drawing-room for more than an hour."

"Unfortunate wretch!" I thought to myself, "who can it be?"

Well, there was no use in speculating, I would soon see. Perhaps some
friend of Ronnie's? As I entered the drawing-room--which was dim even
at noonday--a tall man, leaning on a stick, came hobbling towards me,
and as he approached the door I saw, to my stupefaction, that it was

"Eva," he exclaimed, "so I have found you!"

I was so overwhelmed with astonishment and joy that I was obliged to
sit down, and then, like the poor, weak fool that I was, I immediately
began to cry. Brian drew up a chair beside me, seated himself, and
gripped my nearest hand.

"You did not suppose," he said, "that I was going to allow you to slip
out of my life like that, did you? I told you once upon a time that I
was tenacious. I did not tell you then, but I say to you now, that
the day we met on Slackland's Flats--looking into your eyes, I beheld
my destiny--and to my destiny I hold fast. I would have been here six
weeks ago or less, but I was smashed up in a motor accident--concussion
and a broken leg--simple fracture--and so they kept me in a nursing
home, whether I liked it or not. As soon as I could stand I escaped and
came out by the mail--and here I am!"

"How did you find me?" I faltered.

"Tell me first, are you glad to see me--as glad as Kipper?"

"Yes," I answered, "so very, very glad--though your coming can make
no difference in one way. Do tell me how you found that I was in

"It was through that little brick, Sally Payne. She is as sharp as
they make 'em, and she had an idea that, instead of burying yourself
in a hill station, or going home, you had followed your brother down
to Bangalore. She said it would be so like you--and she was right.
Sally saw you on her way to the Neilgherries; she stayed here for a
few days looking about. She heard from her maid, who heard from her
ayah, who heard it in the bazaar, that 'a tall young English lady
lodging in Infantry Lines had apparently no friends--and there was
something mysterious about her.' Then one Sunday she caught sight of
you in church, and cabled to me at once; and now, Eva, I suppose you
understand that I have come out on purpose to take you home?"

"No, no!" I protested; "I cannot desert Ronnie. Think of it--how could

"From what I know of Ronnie he will never agree to such an unnecessary
sacrifice. How is he getting on?"

"At first he wanted to kill himself, but since he has seen me he has
recovered a little. The superintendent is as lenient and thoughtful
as he dare venture; and, after all, a European prisoner, especially
if he is well behaved and gives no trouble, may have a little more
margin than, say, a murderer from the West Coast. Ronnie is now a
convict warder. I saw him three days ago, and he seemed to be in better

"I wonder if I may be allowed to visit him?"

"Oh, yes, I am sure you may."

"I am also sure, from what I know of your brother, that he has no wish
for you to remain in this country. Come now, answer me--tell me the
truth--what does he say?"

"He urges me to return to England, but I know I am a comfort to him.
Even if I would go Torrington is closed to me. They gave me my choice
of remaining here, or having a home with them. Aunt Mina wrote that if
I stayed in India on Ronnie's account they washed their hands of me for
ever and ever."

"But, my dear Eva, Torrington is not the _only_ home that is open to
you in England. What about mine?"

"And your people, and your mother?" I asked.

"My mother sees eye to eye with me in this. I have brought you a letter
from her. She knows all about you, and admires your devotion, as you
will see. Now, my dear Eva, I should like to see _you_. This room is
nearly pitch dark, and, by Jove!--what a room it is! But apparently
your old landlady thinks no end of it; she has been sitting here part
of the time to keep me company, and has told me the price of every
single piece of furniture. She also told me, what interests me far
more, that she is very fond of you, and what was a shock--that she
does not think you are long for this world! Now call a fellow to bring
lamps; I should like to be able to judge for myself!"

In two or three minutes our factotum staggered in with a lamp in each
hand. As soon as he had hung one on the wall, placed the other on the
round table, and enjoyed a thoroughly exhaustive stare at Brian, he

"Now," said my companion, "take off your hat."

As I removed it unquestioningly and faced him in silence, I saw his
eyes open, his lips close tightly; there was not the slightest doubt
that the awful change in my appearance had administered a shock! I was
painfully conscious that of my former prettiness not a trace remained.
Brian rose, stick in hand, turned his back upon me, and limped towards
the door. Yes, I was a wreck--apparently the sight had been too
overwhelming; but surely he was not about to leave me like _that_? I
hurried after him, and discovered that it was merely a manœuvre to
conceal his emotion.

"My poor little girl," he murmured in a broken voice, "every word of
the whole terrible story is written in your face."

He gathered me into his arms, and for once I shed tears of happiness.



Hospitable Mrs. de Castro gave Brian a pressing invitation to remain
to dinner and share "pot luck," represented, as I happened to know, by
brain cutlets and Bombay toast--no fare for an invalid. He was about
to accept with effusion, when he caught my swift signal of unqualified
horror and murmured a polite excuse. At half-past seven a motor brought
his man-servant to escort him to the West End Hotel, and he departed
with reluctance, assuring me that he "would be round first thing in the

"My, but that gentleman do set store by you," announced Mrs. de Castro,
as soon as he was out of sight. "All the questions he asked about
your health! I told him as your hair was falling in handsful, enough
to stuff a cushion, and you could not abide your food, and your dress
bodies were taken in inches round the waist, and the skirts just
a-slipping off you. My word, but he was in a way. He says he has come
to take you home."

"Oh no, Mrs. de Castro," I protested with emphasis. "I shall stay here."

"How could you have the heart to say no to a fellow with such lovely
eyes? I'm sure _I_ never could--and he was just counting the weary time
till you come back, looking at his watch every two minutes. Well, I'm
thinking you have a hard heart. Your brother has had his turn--has the
other no claim?"

The next morning Brian had a long interview with Ronnie--our good
friend Mr. Hodson being present--and when in the early afternoon we
went for a motor drive Brian told me the gist of their conference.

"Ronnie is anxious for you to return to England with me. On this point
he and I are absolutely agreed," announced my companion. "I have
assured him that I shall pull every string I can reach to get his
sentence reduced. I may be mistaken, but I have an impression that
three months' hard labour for a gentleman means as much as six to a
working coolie, and I am sure the indignity bites in ten times more
deeply. As soon as Ronnie is released we will give him a real good
start in the colonies. Meanwhile the Hodsons will keep a kindly eye on
him, and he will feel that you and I are working like niggers on his

This conversation took place as we sped into the open country, and
Brian said:

"I am doing all the talking. What has happened to my prize chatterbox?"

"Neither a prize nor a chatterbox now," I replied.

"Well, I hope you will return to your old form. Already you look a
shade better, and you have laughed once. Have you read my mother's

"I have indeed. It is too, too kind--I shall treasure it always."

"She _is_ a dear old Mum, I must say! Well now, shall we turn round and
go to the Lal Bagh?"

"Yes, if you like, but why the Lal Bagh?"

"My father often talked of it when he had a reminiscent fit. He was
quartered here forty-three years ago. His regiment was the Blue
Hussars; their band played at the Lal Bagh, and all the beauty and
fashion processed about like peacocks."

"No beauty and fashion are to be seen there now, only nurses and
soldiers and Eurasians--except on show days, at long intervals. Polo
and golf and the club have combined to write 'Ichabod' over the Lal

"Well, let us go and see it all the same. I'd like to walk, or rather
hobble, round in the pater's footsteps."

The Lal Bagh, or Red Garden, said to have been laid out by Hyder Ali,
is an immense straggling enclosure, full of wonderful exotic plants and
great trees shading long walks; it also contains many cages of wild

This exhibition never appealed to me. I always felt so sorry for the
animals; they looked, as a rule, hungry and miserable. We turned,
therefore, in another direction and I gave my arm to Brian, who leant
on me and his stick. Presently we found our way to the terrace and
a seat. Here there was no one to disturb our _tête-à-tête_. We were
entirely surrounded by the beauties of Nature; a wonderful profusion
of sweet-scented flowering creepers, these and the palms, ferns, and
forest trees in Hyder Ali's old garden seemed to envelop us in an
atmosphere of enchantment and peace.

There was the blazing "Sally Bindon," the "Flame of the Jungle," the
yellow Burmese forest flower, and the rose-pink "Antigone," with its
clusters of blossoms, each and all draping trees and walls in our
immediate vicinity. The cloudless sky was of a deep turquoise blue,
the air soft and balmy, bulbuls sang in the rose bushes, brilliant
butterflies and dragon-flies darted to and fro; the silence was
languorous with serenity and ecstasy. We were in another world, far,
far away from shame, disgrace and misery. As I sat absorbed in the
scene and my own thoughts I was considerably startled to hear Brian say:

"Well, now, Eva our next step is to be married!"

"What!" I exclaimed, "but surely not here--not in India?"

"Why not in India? You could not return with me by train and ship as
Miss Lingard! 'Miss Lingard and maid, Captain Falkland and valet'--how
do you think that would look? And what would Mrs. Potter say? No, no, I
shall fix it all up with the chaplain. You won't want any trousseau or
wedding reception--for the latter, Heaven be praised! Sally Payne shall
come down from Ooty, and give you away."

"She has done that already," I remarked.

"And are you not obliged to her? Anyway, _I_ am in her debt for life.
We will invite the Hodsons and Mrs. de Castro, and have what is called
a 'quiet wedding.' No presents, no favours, no cake."

"I see you have it all cut and dried," I said; "you have taken my
breath away."

"I don't know about your breath," he replied, "but I shall certainly
take you--or what remains of you--away. On our journey home we will
stop in Switzerland for a time, and there, among the mountains, you may
be able to pick up your spirits and recover your youth. Otherwise your
miserable white face may be attributed to _me_."

"I suppose the last four or five months have left a mark upon me.
Somehow I don't think I can ever look or feel as I used to do until
Ronnie is free."

"There is four o'clock striking," said Brian, "and no doubt you will be
thirsting for tea. Shall we go?"

"Yes, you have had a long day for an invalid, and I am sure Mrs. de
Castro, who is much taken with 'my gentleman friend,' has made a cake
in your honour."

"All right," he said rising, "we can do the fort to-morrow, and just
take a run round the station and the barracks before we steer for
Infantry Lines."

As we rolled smoothly along my companion urged me to give him an answer
to the question of a speedy wedding. I could see his point of view;
business matters in England claimed his attention; he also declared I
must have an immediate change of climate. I begged to have a day or two
to consider the question and to talk it over with Ronnie.

When we drove under the lattice-work porch I was amazed to find Mrs.
Hodson on the steps. At a second glance I saw that she looked paler
than ever and was evidently unnerved.

"There has been an accident to your brother," she began the instant
the car stopped, "and I have come to fetch you," pointing to where her
victoria was drawn up at the side of the bungalow.

"We can all go up in the motor," said Brian promptly, "it will take us
there in five minutes. Please get in, Mrs. Hodson," and he made room
for her.

Without a second's hesitation she accepted his offer, sat down beside
me, and seized my hand. Then I knew for certain that the matter was
serious; people invariably took me by the hand when tragedy was

"Tell me," I whispered with dry lips.

"We have been searching for you since three o'clock. There was a bad
outbreak this afternoon in your brother's ward. Several notorious
characters fell upon others with whom they had a blood feud; they
fought with their spades and mallets, and one powerful brute, a Moplah,
wrenched off his irons and battered a warder to death. Your brother
fought like ten heroes--so much for an English gentleman! Finally he
overpowered the ringleader, but a cowardly blow on the back of his head
struck him to the ground at the very moment when the riot was quelled.
I am afraid Captain Lingard is badly hurt; he is in the infirmary,
and besides the jail doctor we have sent for the civil surgeon. All
that is possible has been done. He has a fine constitution and may
recover--while there is life, there is hope." She paused for breath and
added, inconsequently: "I am thankful that Captain Falkland is here."

For my own part I felt so utterly crushed that I was speechless. A five
minutes' run had brought us to the jail, and at the entrance we were
met by Mr. Hodson. We followed him in dead silence into the infirmary,
and there, on a low cot behind a screen, we found Ronnie. One glance
was sufficient to tell me that he had received his death blow. He would
very soon be _free_!

Two doctors were with him, a half-caste nurse was hovering about, and
the chaplain had been summoned. Yes, these good kind people had done
all that was possible. I could see by his eyes that Ronnie recognised
me; with an effort he said, in a strange, far-away voice: "It's the
order of release, Sis--and the best way out of it."

"No, no, Ronnie, _don't_ say that," I protested as I sank on my knees
beside him.

"Yes," he continued faintly, "I've nothing to live for; nothing to
leave--not even a _name_. Don't put it on the stone--and nothing to
wish for"; with a feeble gesture he beckoned to Brian, and laid my hand
in his; in a scarcely audible whisper, he added, "but _this_."

Then he slowly closed his eyes and relapsed into unconsciousness.
Within half an hour the unfortunate soul of Ronald Lingard had effected
its escape.

We heard full details of the outbreak and of Ronnie's heroic courage
and exertions; how he and two or three convicts and one warder held
the whole gang at bay, and how by desperate gallantry he had saved the
lives of two venerable Brahmans from Conjeveram, forfeiting his own in
the effort.

Through the kindness of Mrs. Hodson I remained in her quarters that
night, and the next morning Brian and I, and the Hodsons, followed a
very plain wooden coffin to the station cemetery. It may be thought
that for one who had such a cloud on his character, and no alluring
future, this resting-place was better for Ronnie than for him to go
forth from prison and encounter the buffets of a stern implacable
world. To me it was otherwise; I had hoped that in another country my
brother would have made a fresh start, and in a new and happier life
have eventually lived down and redeemed his past.

In obedience to his request the stone over his grave is nameless. On it
is merely inscribed:

  R. M. L.


Brian, the practical and energetic, undertook all business
arrangements, and also distributed gifts to those who had shown any
kindness or sympathy to the late convict, R. Lingard.

Mrs. de Castro was made proud and happy with a silver teapot and a
gramophone (to enliven her receptions); to Mrs. Hodson he presented a
jewelled watch bracelet with an appropriate inscription from B. and E.

Not very long after Ronnie's death Brian and I were married. Our
wedding took place precisely as foretold during that hour of
enchantment in Hyder Ali's garden, and immediately after the ceremony,
accompanied by Kipper, we left Bangalore for Bombay.



Transcriber's Note:

Obvious typographical errors have been corrected.

Known changes have been made as follows:

  Page 41
      roots within the last week changed to
      routs within the last week

  Page 253
      I usually rode early changed to
      I usually rose early

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "Quicksands" ***

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