Part 5 out of 9
endure its rather terrible imposition of hands without too glaring a loss
of prestige and popularity! Might not Damaris' childish infatuation
offer a solution of that haunting problem, always supposing the
infatuation could be revived, be recreated?
Ah! what a double-dyed idiot she had been yesterday, in permitting
feeling to outrun judgment!--With the liveliest satisfaction Henrietta
could have boxed her own pretty ears in punishment of her passing
weakness.--Yet surely time still remained wherein to retrieve her error
and restore her ascendency. Damaris might be unusually clever; but she
was also finely inexperienced, malleable, open to influence as yet. Let
Henrietta then see to it, and that without delay or hesitation, bringing
to bear every ingenious social art, and--if necessary--artifice, in which
long practice had made her proficient.
To begin with she would humble herself by writing a sweet little letter
to Damaris. In it she would both accuse and excuse her maladroitness of
yesterday, pleading the shock of so unlooked-for a coming together and
the host of memories evoked by it.--Would urge how deeply it affected
her, overcame her in fact, rendering her incapable of saying half the
affectionate things it was in her heart to say. She might touch on the
subject of Damaris' personal appearance again; which, by literally taking
her breath away, had contributed to her general undoing.--On second
thoughts, however, she decided it would be politic to avoid that
particular topic, since Damaris was evidently a little shy in respect of
her own beauty.--Henrietta smiled to herself.--That is a form of shyness
exceedingly juvenile, short-lived enough!
Marshall should act as her messenger, she being--as she could truthfully
aver--eager her missive might reach its destination with all possible
despatch. A letter, moreover, delivered by hand takes on an importance,
makes a claim on the attention, greater than that of one received by
post. There is a personal gesture in the former mode of transmission by
no means to be despised in delicate operations such as the present--"I
want to set myself right with you _at once_, dearest child, in case, as I
fear, you may have a little misunderstood, me yesterday. Accident having
so strangely restored us to one another, I long to hold you closely if
you will let me do so."--Yes, it should run thus, the theme embroidered
with high-flashing colour of Eastern reminiscence--the great subtropic
garden of the Sultan-i-bagh, for example, its palms, orange grove and
lotus tank, the call of the green parrots, chant of the well-coollie and
creak of the primitive wooden gearing, as the yoke of cream white oxen
trotted down and laboriously backed up the walled slope to the well-head.
Mrs. Frayling set herself to produce a very pretty piece of sentiment,
nicely turned, decorated, worded, and succeeded to her own
satisfaction. Might not she too, at this rate, claim possession of the
literary gift--under stress of circumstance? The idea was a new one. It
And what if Damaris elected to show this precious effusion to
her father, Sir Charles? Well, if the girl did, she did. It might
just conceivably work on him also, to the restoration of
past--infatuation?--Henrietta left the exact term in doubt. But her hope
of such result was of the smallest. Exhibition of a tombstone was the
most she could count upon.--More probably he would regard it critically,
cynically, putting his finger through her specious phrases. She doubted
his forgiveness of a certain act of virtuous treachery even yet;
although he had, in a measure, condoned her commission of it by making
use of her on one occasion since, namely, that of her bringing Damaris
back twelve years ago to Europe. But whether his attitude were cynical
or not, he would hold his peace. Such cogent reasons existed for silence
on his part that if he did slightly distrust her, hold her a little
cheap, he would hardly venture to say as much, least of all to
Damaris.--Venture or condescend?--Again Mrs. Frayling left the term in
doubt and went forward with her schemes, which did, unquestionably just
now, add a pleasing zest to life.
The innocent subject of these machinations received both the note and its
bearer in a friendly spirit, though she was already, as it happened, rich
in letters to-day. The bi-weekly packet from Deadham--addressed in Mary
Fisher's careful copy-book hand--arrived at luncheon time, and
contained, among much of apparently lesser interest, a diverting
chronicle of Tom Verity's impressions and experiences during the first
six weeks of his Indian sojourn. The young man's gaily self-confident
humour had survived his transplantation. He wrote in high feather, quite
unabashed by the novelty of his surroundings, yet not forgetting to pay
honour where honour was due.
"It has been 'roses, roses all the way' thanks to Sir Charles's
introductions, for which I can never be sufficiently grateful," he told
her. "They have procured me no end of delightful hospitality from the
great ones of the local earth, and really priceless opportunities of
getting into touch with questions of ruling importance over here. I am
letting my people at home know how very much I owe, and always shall owe,
to his kindness in using his influence on my behalf at the start."
Damaris glowed responsive to this fine flourish of a tone, and passed the
letter across the small round dinner table to her father. Opened a fat
packet, enclosed in an envelope of exaggerated tenuity, from Miss
Felicia, only to put it aside in favour of another letter bearing an
Italian stamp and directed in a, to her, unfamiliar hand.
This was modest in bulk as compared with Miss Felicia's; but while
examining it, while touching it even, Damaris became aware of an inward
excitement, of a movement of tenderness not to be ignored or denied.
Startled by her own prescience, and the agitation accompanying it, she
looked up quickly to find Carteret watching her; whereupon, mutely,
instinctively, her eyes besought him to ask no questions, make no
comment. For an appreciable space he kept her in suspense, his glance
holding and challenging hers in close observation. Then as though,
not without a measure of struggle, granting her request, he smiled
at her, and, turning his attention to the contents of his plate,
quietly went on with the business of luncheon. Damaris meanwhile,
conscience-stricken--she couldn't tell why--by this silent interchange
of intelligence, this silent demand on his forbearance, on his
connivance in her secrecy, laid the letter face downwards on the white
Later, Sir Charles Verity being busy with his English correspondence and
Carteret having disappeared--gone for a solitary walk, as she divined,
being, as she feared, not quite pleased with her--she read it in the
security of her bedroom, seated, for greater ease, upon the polished
parquet floor just inside an open, southward-facing French window, where
the breeze coming up off the sea gently fanned her face.
The letter began without preamble:
"We made this port--Genoa--last night. All day we have been discharging
cargo. Half my crew has gone ashore, set on liquoring and wenching after
the manner of unregenerate sailor-men all the world over. The other half
follows their bad example to-morrow, as we shall be lying idle in honour
of the Christmas festival. On board discipline is as strict as I know how
to make it, but ashore my hand is lifted off them. So long as they turn
up on time they are free to follow their fancy, even though it lead them
to smutty places. My own fancies don't happen to lie that way, for which
I in nowise praise myself. It is an affair of absence of inclination
rather than overmuch active virtue. I am really no better than they,
seeing I yield to the only temptation which takes me--the temptation to
write to you. I have resisted it times out of number since I bade you
good-bye at The Hard. But Christmas-night turns one a bit soft and
craving for sight and touch of those who belong to one. So much I dare
say, though I go back on nothing I said to you then about the keeping up
of decent barriers. Only being Christmas-night-soft I give myself the
licence of a holiday--for once. The night is clear as glass and the city
rises in a great semicircle, pierced by and outlined in twinkling lights,
right up to the ring of forts crowning the hills, where the sky begins--a
sky smothered in stars. I have been out, on deck, looking at it all, at
the black masts and funnels of the ships ranging to right and left
against the glare of the town, and at the oily, black water, thick with
floating filth and garbage and with wandering reflections like jewels and
precious metals on the surface of it--the rummiest mixture of fair and
foul. And then, all that faded out somehow--and I saw black water again,
but clean this time and with no reflections, under a close-drawn veil of
falling rain; and I felt to lift you out of the boat and carry you in
across the lawn and up to your room. And then I could not hold out
against temptation any longer, but came here into my cabin and sat down
to write to you. The picture of you, wet and limp and helpless in my
arms, is always with me, stamped on the very substance of my brain, as is
the other picture of you in the drawing-room lined with book-cases, where
we found one another for the second time. Found one another in spirit, I
mean; an almost terribly greater finding than the first one, because it
can go on for ever as it belongs to the part of us which does not die.
That is my faith anyhow. To-morrow morning I will go ashore and into one
of those big, tawdry Genoa churches, and listen to the music, standing in
some quiet corner, and think about you and renew my vows to you. It won't
be half bad to keep Christmas that way.
"I don't pretend to be a great letter-writer, so if this one has
funny fashions to it you must forgive both them and me. I write as I
feel and must leave it so. The voyage has been good, and my poor old
tub has behaved herself, kept afloat and done her best, bravely if a
bit wheezingly, in some rather nasty seas. When we are through here I
take her across to Tripoli and back along the African coast to
Algiers, then across to Marseilles. I reckon to reach there in six
weeks or two months from now. You might perhaps be willing to write a
line to me there--to the care of my owners, Messrs. Denniver, Holland
& Co. Their office is in the Cannebiere. I don't ask you to do this,
but only tell you I should value it more than you can quite
know.--Now my holiday is over and I will close down till next
Christmas-night--unless miracles happen meanwhile--so good-bye.--Here
is a boatload of my lads coining alongside, roaring with song and as
drunk as lords.--God bless you. In spirit I once again kiss your dear
feet. Your brother till death and after.
Dazed, enchanted, held captive by the secular magic pertaining to those
who "go down to the sea in ships" and ply their calling in the great
waters, held captive, too, by the mysterious prenatal sympathies which
unite those who come of the same blood, Damaris stayed very still,
sitting child-like upon the bare polished floor, while the wind murmured
through the spreading pines, shading the terrace below, and gently fanned
her throat and temples.
For Faircloth's letter seemed to her very wonderful, alike in its vigour,
its simplicity and--her lips quivered--its revelation of loving.--How he
cared--and how he went on caring!--There were coarse words in it, the
meaning of which she neither knew nor sought to know; but she did not
resent them. The letter indeed would have lost some of its living force,
its convincing reality, had they been omitted. They rang true, to her
ear. And just because they rang true the rest rang blessedly true as
well. She gloried in the whole therefore, breathing through it a larger
air of faith and hope, and confident fortitude. The kindred qualities of
her own heart and intelligence, the flush of her fine enthusiasm, sprang
to meet and join with the fineness of it, its richness of promise and of
For a time mind and emotion remained thus in stable and exalted
equilibrium. Then, as enchantment reached its necessary term and her
apprehensions and thought began to work more normally, she badly wanted
someone to speak to. She wanted to bear witness, to testify, to pour
forth both the moving tale and her own sensations, into the ear of some
indulgent and friendly listener. She--she--wanted to tell Colonel
Carteret about it, to enlist his interest, to read him, in part at least,
Darcy Faircloth's letter, and hear his confirmation of the noble spirit
she discerned in it, its poetry, its charm. For the dear man with the
blue eyes would understand, of that she felt confident, understand
fully--and it would set her right with him, if, as she suspected, he was
not somehow quite pleased with her. She caressed the idea, while, so
doing, silence and concealment grew increasingly irksome to her. Oh! she
wanted to speak--and to her father she could not speak.
With that both Damaris' attitude and expression changed, the glory
abruptly departing. She got up off the floor, left the window, and sat
down very soberly, in a red-velvet covered arm-chair, placed before the
flat stone hearth piled with wood ashes.
There truly was the fly in the ointment, the abiding smirch on the
otherwise radiant surface--as she now hailed it--of this strangely moving
fraternal relation. The fact of it did come, and, as she feared, would
inevitably continue to come between her and her father, marring to an
appreciable degree their mutual confidence and sympathy. At Deadham he
had braced himself to deal with the subject in a spirit of rather
magnificent self-abnegation. But the effort had cost him more than she
quite cared to estimate, in lowered pride and moral suffering. It had
told on not only his mental but his physical health. Now that he was in
great measure restored, his humour no longer saturnine, he no longer
remote, sunk in himself and inaccessible, it would be not only
injudicious, but selfish, to the verge of active cruelty, to press the
subject again upon his notice, to propose further concessions, or further
recognition of its existence. She couldn't ask that of him--ten thousand
times no, she couldn't ask it--though not to ask it was to let the breach
in sympathy and confidence widen silently and grow.
So much was sadly clear to her. She unfolded Faircloth's letter and read
it through a second time, in vain hope of discovering some middle way,
some leading. Read it, feeling the first enchantment but all
cross-hatched now and seamed with perplexity and regret. For decent
barriers must stand, he declared, which meant concealment indefinitely
prolonged, the love of brother and sister wasted, starved to the mean
proportions of an occasional furtive letter; sacrificed, with all its
possibilities of present joy and future comfort, to hide the passage of
long-ago wrongdoing in which it had its source.
Her hesitation went a step behind this presently, arguing as to how that
could be sin which produced so gracious a result. It wasn't logical an
evil tree should bear such conspicuously good fruit. Yet conscience and
instinct assured her the tree was indeed evil--a thing of license, of
unruly passion upon which she might not look. Had it not been her first
thought--when Faircloth told her, drifting down the tide-river in the
chill and dark--that he must feel sad, feel angry having been wronged by
the manner of his birth? He had answered "yes," thereby admitting the
inherent evil of the tree of which his existence was the fruit--adding,
"but not often and not for long," since he esteemed the gift of life too
highly to be overnice as to the exact method by which he became possessed
of it. He palliated, therefore, he excused, but he did not deny.
By this time Damaris' mind wheeled in a vicious circle, perpetually
swinging round to the original starting-point. The moral puzzle proved
too complicated for her, the practical one equally hard of solution. She
stood between them, her father and her brother. Their interests
conflicted, as did the duty she owed each; and her heart, her judgment,
her piety were torn two ways at once. Would it always be thus--or would
the pull of one prove conclusively the stronger? Would she be compelled
finally to choose between them? Not that either openly did or ever would
strive to coerce her. Both were honourable, both magnanimous. And, out of
her heart, she desired to serve both justly and equally--only--only--upon
youth the pull of youth is very great.
She put her hands over her eyes, shrinking, frightened. Was it possible
she loved Darcy Faircloth best?
A knocking. Damaris slipped the letter into the pocket of her dress, and
rising crossed the room and opened the door.
Hordle stood in the pale spacious corridor without. He presented Marshall
Wace's card. The gentleman, he said rather huffily, had called, bringing
a message from Mrs. Frayling as Hordle understood, which he requested to
deliver to Miss Damaris in person. He begged her to believe he was in no
hurry. If she was engaged he could perfectly well wait.--He would do so
in the hotel drawing-room, until it was convenient to her to allow him a
few minutes' conversation.
So, for the second time, this young man's intrusion proved by no means
unwelcome, as offering Damaris timely escape. She went down willingly
to receive him. Yesterday he struck her as a pleasant and agreeable
person--and of a type with which she was unacquainted. It would be
interesting to talk to him.--She felt anxious, moreover, to learn what
Henrietta, lovely if not entirely satisfactory Henrietta, could
BLOWING OF ONE'S OWN TRUMPET PRACTISED AS A FINE ART
The slender little Corsican horses, red-chestnut in colour and active as
cats, trotted, with a tinkle of bells, through the barred sunshine and
shadow of the fragrant pine and cork woods. The road, turning inland,
climbed steadily, the air growing lighter and fresher as the elevation
increased--a nip in it testifying that January was barely yet out. And
that nip justified the wearing of certain afore-mentioned myrtle-green,
fur-trimmed pelisse, upon which Damaris' minor affections were, at this
period, much set. Though agreeably warm and thick, it moulded her bosom,
neatly shaped her waist, and that without any defacing wrinkle. The broad
fur band at the throat compelled her to carry her chin high, with a not
unbecoming effect. Her cheeks bloomed, her eyes shone bright, as she sat
beside Mrs. Frayling in the open victoria, relishing the fine air, the
varying prospect, her own good clothes, her companion's extreme
prettiness and lively talk.
This drive, the prelude to Henrietta's campaign, presented that lady at
her best. The advantage of being--as Henrietta--essentially artificial,
is that you can never, save by forgetful lapse into sincerity, be untrue
to yourself. Hence what a saving of scruples, of self-accusation, of
self-torment! Her plans once fixed she proceeded to carry them out with
unswerving ease and spontaneity. She refused to hurry, her only
criterion of personal conduct being success; and success, so she
believed, if sound, being a plant of gradual growth. Therefore she gave
both herself and others time. Once fairly in the saddle, she never
strained, never fussed.
Her cue to-day was to offer information rather than to require it.
Curious about many things she might be; but gratification of her
curiosity must wait. Damaris, on her part, listened eagerly, asking
nothing better than to be kept amused, kept busy, helped to forget.--Not
Faircloth's letter--very, very far from that!--but the inward conflict of
opposing loves, opposing duties, which meditation upon his letter so
distractingly produced. Relatively all, outside that conflict and the
dear cause of it, was of small moment--mere play stuff at best. But her
brain and conscience were tired. She would be so glad, for a time, only
to think about play stuff.
"I want you to go on being kind to Marshall Wace," Henrietta in the
course of conversation presently said. "He told me how charmingly you
received him yesterday, when he called with my note. He was so pleased.
He is exaggeratedly sensitive owing to unfortunate family complications
in the past."
Damaris pricked up her ears, family complications having latterly
acquired a rather painful interest for her.
"Poor man--I'm sorry," she said.
"His mother, a favourite cousin of my husband, General Frayling, married
an impossible person--eloped with him, to tell the truth. Her people, not
without reason, were dreadfully put out. The children were brought up
rather anyhow. Marshall did not go to a public school, which he imagines
places him at a disadvantage with other men. Perhaps it does. Men always
strike me as being quaintly narrow-minded on that subject. Later he was
sent to Cambridge with the idea of his taking Orders and going into the
Church. My husband's elder brother, Leonard Frayling, is patron of
several livings. He would have presented Marshall to the first which fell
vacant, and thus his future would have been secured. But just as he was
going up for deacon's orders, Marshall, rather I can't help feeling like
a goose, developed theological difficulties. They were perfectly genuine,
I don't doubt; but they were also singularly ill-timed--a little earlier,
a little later, or not at all would have been infinitely more convenient.
So there he was, poor fellow, thrown on the world at three-and-twenty
with no profession and no prospects; for my brother-in-law washed his
hands of him when the theological difficulties were announced. Marshall
tried bear-leading; but people are not particularly anxious to entrust
their boys to a non-public school man afflicted by religious doubts. He
thought of making use of his really exquisite voice and becoming a public
singer; but the training is fearfully expensive, and so somehow that plan
also fell through. For a time I am afraid he was really reduced to great
straits, with the consequence that he broke down in health. Through
friends, my husband got to hear of Marshall's miserable
circumstances--shortly after our marriage it was--and felt it incumbent
upon him to go to the rescue."
Henrietta paused, thereby giving extra point to what was to follow, and
pulled the fur rug up absently about her waist.
"For the last eighteen months," she said, "Marshall has practically
made his home with us. The arrangement has its drawbacks, of course.
For one thing the General and I are never alone, and that is a trial to
us both. Two's company and three's none. When a husband and wife are
really devoted they don't want always to have a third wheel to the
Then, as if checking further and very natural inclination to repining,
she looked round at Damaris, smiling from behind her thick white net veil
with most disarming sweetness.
"No--no--I'm not naughty. I don't mean to complain about it," she
prettily protested. "For I do so strongly feel if one sets out to do good
it shouldn't be by driblets, with your name, in full, printed in
subscription lists against every small donation. You should plump for
your _protege_, and that with the least ostentation possible. The General
and I are careful not to let people know Marshall stays with us as a
guest. It is rather a slip speaking of it even to you; but I can trust
you not to repeat what I say. I am sure of that."
Damaris laid a hand fondly, impulsively upon the elder woman's knee.
"For certain you can trust me. For certain anything you say to me is just
between our two selves. I should never dream of repeating it."
"There speaks the precious downy owl of long ago," Mrs. Frayling brightly
cried, "bustling up in defence of its own loyalty and honour. Ah!
Damaris, how very delicious it is to have you with me!"
For, her main point having been made, she now adroitly discarded pathos.
Another word regarding her philanthropic harbourage of the young man,
Marshall Wace, remained to be spoken--but not yet. Let it come in later,
naturally and without hint of insistence.
"We must be together as much as possible during the next few weeks," she
went on--"as often as Sir Charles can be persuaded to spare you to me.
Whether the General and I shall ever make up our minds to settle down in
a home of our own, where I could ask you to stay with us, I don't know.
I'm afraid we are hopelessly nomadic. Therefore I am extra anxious to
make the most of the happy accident which has thrown us together, anxious
to get every ounce possible of intercourse out of it.--We quite
understand you have luncheon with me on Thursday, don't we?--and that you
stay and help me through the afternoon. I am always at home on Thursdays
to the neighbours. They aren't all of them conspicuously well-bred or
exciting; but I have learnt to take the rough with the smooth, the boring
along with the gifted and brilliant. India is a good school in which to
learn hospitality. The practise of that virtue becomes a habit. And I for
one quite refuse to excuse myself from further exercise of it on coming
back to Europe. The General feels with me; and we have laid ourselves out
to be civil to our compatriots here at St. Augustin this winter. A few
people were vexatiously stiff and starched at first; but each one of them
has given in, in turn. They really do, I believe, appreciate our little
"Who wouldn't give in to you Henrietta?" Damaris murmured.
Whereupon Mrs. Frayling delicately beamed on her; and, agreeable
unanimity of sentiment being thus established, conversation between the
two ladies for a while fell silent.
The little chestnut horses, meantime, encouraged with "Oh he-s" and "Oh
la-s" by their driver, trotted and climbed, climbed and trotted, until
the woodland lay below and the Signal de la Palu was reached. A wide
level space on a crest of the foot-hills--with flag staff bearing the
valorous tricolor, and rustic log-built restaurant offering
refreshment--opening upon the full splendour of the Maritime Alps.
Damaris stepped out of the carriage, and, patting the near horse on the
neck in passing, went forward across the sparse turf, starred with tiny
clear coloured flowers, to the edge of the platform.
The Provencal coachman, from his perch on the box-seat of the victoria,
his rough-caste crumpled countenance sun-baked to the solid ruddy brown
of the soil of his own vineyard, followed her movements with approving
glances.--For she was fresh as an opening rose the young English _Mees_,
and though most elegant, how agile, how evidently strong!
Innocent of the admiration she excited, Damaris stood absorbed, awed
even, by the grandeur of the scene. Many hundred feet below, the rent
chasm down which it took its course steeped in violet gloom, the
milk-white waters of an ice-fed river impetuously journeyed to the
fertile lowlands and the sea. Opposite, across the gorge, amazingly
distinct in the pellucid atmosphere, rose the high mountains, the
undefiled, untrodden and eternal snows. Azure shadow, transparent,
ethereal, haunted them, bringing into evidence enormous rounded shoulder,
cirque, crinkled glacier, knife-edge of underlying rock.
They belonged to the deepest the most superb of life, this rent gorge,
these mountains--like Faircloth's letter. Would beautiful and noble
sights, such as these, always in future give her an ache of longing for
the writer of that letter, for the romance, the poetry, of the
unacknowledged relation he bore to her? Tears smarted hot in Damaris'
eyes, and resolutely, if rather piteously, she essayed to wink them away.
For to her it just now seemed, the deepest, the most superb of life was
also in great measure the forbidden. The ache must be endured, then, the
longing go unsatisfied, since she could only stay the pain of them by
doing violence to plain and heretofore fondly cherished, duties.
But her tears defied the primitive process of winking. Not so
cheaply could she rid herself of their smart and the blurred
distorted vision they occasioned. She pulled out her handkerchief
petulantly and wiped them. Then schooled herself to a colder, more
moderate and reasonable temper.
And, so doing, her thought turned gratefully to Mrs. Frayling. For
mercifully Henrietta was here to help fill the void; to, in a manner,
break her fall. Henrietta didn't belong to the depths or the heights,
that she regretfully admitted. With the eternal snows she possessed
little or nothing in common. But, at a lower, more everyday level, had
not she a vast amount to offer, what with her personal loveliness, her
social cleverness, her knowledge of the world and its ways? She might not
amount to the phoenix of Damaris' childhood's adoration; but she was very
friendly, very diverting, delightfully kind. Damaris honestly believed
all these excellent things of her.--She had been stupidly fastidious
three days ago, and failed to do Henrietta justice. What she had
learned--by chance--this afternoon, of Henrietta's unselfishness and
generous treatment of Marshall Wace bore effectively convincing witness
to the sweetness of her disposition and kindness of her heart. Damaris
felt bound to make amends for that unspoken injustice, of which she now
repented. How better could she do so than by giving herself warmly,
without reserve or restraint, in response to the interest and attention
Henrietta lavished upon her?--At eighteen, to be wooed by so finished and
popular a person was no mean compliment.--She wouldn't hold back,
suspicious and grudging; but enjoy all Henrietta so delightfully offered
to the uttermost.
And there, as though clenching the conclusion thus arrived at, Mrs.
Frayling's voice gaily hailed her, calling:
"Damaris, Damaris, here is our tea--or rather our coffee. Come, darling
child, and partake before it gets cold."
So after a brief pause, spent in determined looking, the girl bowed her
head in mute farewell; and turned her back perhaps courageously, perhaps
unwisely and somewhat faithlessly, upon the mountains, and the rare
mysteries of their untrodden snows. She went across the sparse turf,
starred with tiny clear, coloured flowers, her face stern, for all its
youthful bloom and softness, her eyes meditative and profound.
The owner of the log-built restaurant, a thick-set, grizzled veteran of
the Franco-Prussian war, the breast of his rusty velveteen jacket proudly
bearing a row of medals, stood talking to Mrs. Frayling, hat in hand. His
right foot had suffered amputation some inches above the ankle, and he
walked with the ungainly support of a crutch-topped peg-leg strapped to
the flexed knee.
As Damaris approached the carriage, he swept back the fur rug in
gallantly respectful invitation; and, so soon as she ensconced herself on
the seat beside Henrietta, bending down he firmly and comfortably tucked
it round her. He declared, further, as she thanked him, it an honour in
any capacity to serve her, since had not Madame, but this moment, so
gracefully informed him of the commanding military career of the
Mademoiselle's father, possessor of that unique distinction the Victoria
Cross--a person animated, moreover, as Madame reported, by sincere
sympathy for the tragic sorrows of well-beloved and so now cruelly
Damaris heard, in this singing of her father's praises, a grateful
reconciling strain. She found it profitable, just now, to recall the
heroic deeds, the notable achievements which marked his record. Her
coffee tasted the more fragrant for it, the butter the fresher, the
honey the sweeter wherewith she spread the clean coarse home-baked bread.
She ate, indeed, with a capital appetite, the long drive and stimulating
air, making her hungry. Possibly even her recent emotion contributed to
that result; for in youth heartache by no means connotes a disposition
towards fasting, rather does diet, generous in quantity, materially
assist to soothe its anguish.
This meal, in fact, partaken of in the open, alone with Henrietta,
object of her childhood's idolatry--the first they had shared since
those remote and guileless years--assumed to Damaris a sacramental
character, though of the earthly and mundane rather than transcendental
kind. Its communion was one of good fellowship, of agreement in
cultivation of the lighter social side; which, upon our maiden's part,
implied tacit consent to conform to easier standards than those until
now regulating her thought and action, implied tacit acceptance of
Henrietta as example and as guide.
Whether the latter would have found cause for self-congratulation, could
she have fathomed the precise cause of this apparently speedy conquest
and speedy surrender, is doubtful; since it, in fact, took its rise less
in the fascination of devotion given, than in that of devotion denied.
She happened to be here on the spot at a critical juncture, and thus to
catch the young girl's heart on the rebound. That was all--that, joined
with Damaris' instinctive necessity to play fair and pay in honest coin
for every benefit received.
So much must be said in extenuation of our nymph-like damsel's apparent
subjection to levity--a declension which, in the sequel and in certain
quarters, went neither unnoticed nor undeplored. But to labour this point
is to forestall history. Immediately her change of attitude announced its
existence innocently enough. For the sacramental meal once consumed, and
courteous parting words bestowed upon the valiant soldier broken in his
country's wars, the coachman mounted the box, and gathering up the reins,
with "Ho he's" and "ho la's," swung his horses half round the level and
plunged them over the hill-side, along a steep woodland track, leading by
serpentine twists and curves down to join the Corniche Road--a blonde
ribbon rimming the indentations of the five-mile distant coast.
Damaris steadied herself well back on the seat of the carriage as it
swayed and bumped over ruts and tree-roots to the lively menace of its
springs. She studiously kept her face turned towards her companion, a
myrtle-green shoulder as studiously turned towards the view. For she
found it wiser not even to glance in that direction, lest rebellious
regrets and longings should leap on her across the violet-blotted abyss
from out those shining Alpine citadels. While to strengthen herself in
allegiance to Mrs. Frayling and to, what may be called, the lighter side,
she pushed one hand into that lady's muff and coaxed the slender
pointed-fingers hiding in the comfortable pussy-warmth within.
"Tell me stories, Henrietta, please," she entreated, "about all the
people whom you've asked to your party on Thursday. Dress them up for me
and put them through their paces, so that I may know who they all are
when I see them and make no mistakes, but behave to them just as you
would wish me to."
"Gradate your attentions and not pet the wrong ones?"
Mrs. Frayling gave gentle squeeze for squeeze in the pussy-warmth,
laughing a trifle impishly.
"You sinful child," she said--"Gracious, what jolts--my spine will soon
be driven through the top of my skull at this rate!--Yes, sinful in
tempting me to gibbet my acquaintances for your amusement."
"But why gibbet them? Aren't they nice, don't you care for them?"
"Prodigiously, of course. Yet would you find it in the least interesting
or illuminating if I indexed their modest virtues only?"
"I think the old soldier found it both interesting and illuminating when
you indexed my father's virtues just now."
"Sir Charles's virtues hardly come under the head of modest ones," Mrs.
Frayling threw off almost sharply. "Give me someone as well worth
acclaiming and I'll shout with the best! But you scarcely quote your
father as among the average, do you?--The people whom you'll meet on
Thursday compared to him, I'm afraid, are as molehills to the mountains
yonder. If I described them by their amiable qualities alone they'd be as
indistinguishable and as insipid as a row of dolls. Only through their
aberrations, their unconscious perfidies, iniquities, do they develop
definiteness of outline and begin to live. Oh! nothing could be unkinder
than to whitewash them. Take Mrs. Callowgas, for instance, with one eye
on the Church, the other on the world. The permanent inconsistency of her
attitude, as I may say her permanent squint, gives her a certain _cachet_
without which she'd be a positive blank.--She is most anxious to meet
you, by the way, and Sir Charles--always supposing he is self-sacrificing
enough to come--because she knows connections of his and yours at
Harchester, a genial pillar of the Church in the form of an Archdeacon,
in whom, as I gather, her dear dead Lord Bishop very much put his trust."
"Tom Verity's father, I suppose," Damaris murmured, her colour rising,
the hint of a cloud too upon her brow.
"And who may Tom Verity be?" Mrs. Frayling, noting both colour and cloud,
"A distant cousin. He stayed with us in the autumn just before he went
out to India. He passed into the Indian Civil Service from Oxford at the
top of the list."
"Praiseworthy young man."
"Oh! but you would like him, Henrietta," the girl declared. "He is very
clever and very entertaining too when"--
"Well, when he doesn't tease too much. He has an immense amount to talk
about, and very good manners."
"Also, when he does not tease too much?--And you like him?"
"I don't quite know," Damaris slowly said. "He did not stay with us
long enough for me to make up my mind. And then other things happened
which rather put him out of my head. He was a little conceited, perhaps,
"Not unnaturally, being at the top of the pass list. But though other
things put him out of your head, he writes to you?"
In the pussy-warmth within her muff, Mrs. Frayling became sensible
that Damaris' hand grew unresponsive, at once curiously stiff and
"He has written twice. Once on the voyage out, and again soon after he
arrived. The--the second letter reached me this week."
Notwithstanding sunshine, the eager air, and lively bumping of the
descent, Henrietta observed the flush fade, leaving the girl white as
milk. Her eyes looked positively enormous set in the pallor of her face.
They were veiled, telling nothing, and thereby--to Mrs. Frayling's
thinking--betraying much. She scented a situation--some girlish
attachment, budding affair of the heart.
"My father gave Tom Verity letters of introduction, and he wanted us to
know how kindly he had been received in consequence."
"Most proper on his part," Mrs. Frayling said.
She debated discreet questioning, probing--the establishment of herself
in the character of sympathetic confidante. But decided against that. It
might be impolitic, dangerous even, to press the pace. Moreover the young
man, whatever his attractions, might be held a negligible quantity in as
far as any little schemes of her own were concerned at present, long
leave and reappearance upon the home scene being almost certainly years
distant.--And, just there, the hand within the muff became responsive
once more, even urgent in its seeking and pressure, as though appealing
for attention and tenderness.
"Henrietta, I don't want to be selfish, but won't you go on telling me
stories about your Thursday party people?--I interrupted you--but it's
all new, you see, and it interests me so much," Damaris rather
Mrs. Frayling needed no further inducement to exercise her really
considerable powers of verbal delineation. Charging her palette with
lively colours, she sprang to the task--and that with a sprightly
composure and deftness of touch which went far to cloak malice and rob
flippancy of offence.
Listening, Damaris brightened--as the adroit performer intended she
should--under the gay cascade of talk. Laughed at length, letting finer
instincts of charity go by the wall, in her enjoyment of neatly turned
mockeries and the sense of personal superiority they provoked. For
Henrietta's dissection of the weaknesses of absent friends, inevitably
amounted to indirect flattery of the friend for whose diversion that
process of dissection was carried out.
She passed the whole troop in review.--To begin with Miss Maud Callowgas,
in permanent waiting upon her ex-semi-episcopal widowed mother--in age a
real thirty-five though nominal twenty-eight, her muddy complexion,
prominent teeth and all too long back.--Her designs, real or imagined,
upon Marshall Wace. Designs foredoomed to failure, since whatever his
intentions--Henrietta smiled wisely--they certainly did not include Maud
Callowgas's matrimonial future in their purview.
Herbert Binning followed next--the chaplain who served the rather staring
little Anglican church at Le Vandou, a suburb of St. Augustin much
patronized by the English in the winter season, and a chapel somewhere in
the Bernese Oberland during the summer months. Energetic, athletic, a
great talker and squire of dames--in all honesty and correctness, this
last, well understood, for there wasn't a word to be breathed against the
good cleric's morals. But just a wee bit impressionable and flirtatious,
as who might not very well be with such a whiney-piney wife as Mrs.
Binning, always ailing; what mind she might (by stretch of charity) be
supposed to possess exclusively fixed upon the chronic irregularities of
her internal organs? Recumbency was a mania with her and she had a
disconcerting habit of wanting to lie down on the most inconveniently
unsuitable occasions.--To mitigate his over-flowing energies, which cried
aloud for work, Mr. Binning took pupils. He had two exceptionably nice
boys with him this winter, in the interval between leaving Eton and going
up to Oxford, namely, Peregrine Ditton, Lord Pamber's younger son, and
Harry Ellice, a nephew of Lady Hermione Twells. They were very well-bred.
Their high spirits were highly infectious. They played tennis to
perfection and Harry Ellice danced quite tidily into the
bargain.--Damaris must make friends with them. They were her
contemporaries, and delightfully fresh and ingenuous.
Lady Hermione herself--here Henrietta's tone conveyed restraint, even
comparative reverence--who never for an instant forgot she once had
reigned over some microscopic court out in the far Colonial
wilderness, nor allowed you to forget it either. Her glance half
demanded your curtsy. Still she was the "real thing" and, in that,
eminently satisfactory--genuine _grande dame_ by right both of birth
and of training.
"She won't condescend to tell me so, being resolved to keep me very much
in my proper place," Henrietta continued; "but I learned yesterday from
Mary Ellice--Harry's sister, who lives with her--that she is intensely
desirous to meet Sir Charles. She wants to talk to him about Afghanistan
and North-west Frontier policy. A brother of hers it appears was at one
time in the Guides; and she is under the impression your father and
Colonel Carteret would have known him.--By the way, dearest child, they
do mean to honour me, those two, don't they, with their presence on
"Of course they will, since you asked them. Why, they love to come
and see you."
"Do they?" Mrs. Frayling said--"Anyhow, let us hope so. I can trust
Carteret's general benevolence, but I am afraid your father will be
unutterably bored with my rubbishing little assembly."
"But, of course, he'll be nice to everybody too--as tame and gentle as
possible with them all to please you, don't you see, Henrietta."
"Ah! no doubt, all to please me!" she repeated. And fell to musing,
while the carriage, quitting at last the rough forest track, rattled out
on to the metalled high road, white in dust.
Here the late afternoon sun still lay hot. The booming plunge of the
tideless sea, breaking upon the rocks below, quivered in the quiet air.
Henrietta Frayling withdrew her hands from her muff, unfastened the
collar of her sable cape. The change from the shadowed woods to this
glaring sheltered stretch of road was oppressive. She felt strangely
tired and spent. She trusted Damaris would not perceive her uncomfortable
state and proffer sympathy. And Damaris, in fact, did nothing of the
sort, being very fully occupied with her own concerns at present.
Half a mile ahead, pastel-tinted, green-shuttered houses--a village of a
single straggling street--detached themselves in broken perspective from
the purple of pine-crowned cliff and headland beyond. Behind them the
western sky began to grow golden with the approach of sunset. The road
lead straight towards that softly golden light--to St. Augustin. It led
further, deeper into the gold, deeper, as one might fancy, into the heart
of the coming sunset, namely to the world-famous seaport of Marseilles.
Damaris sought to stifle remembrance of this alluring fact, as soon as it
occurred to her. She must not dally with it--no she mustn't. To in
anywise encourage or dwell on it, was weak and unworthy, she having
accepted the claims of clearly apprehended duty. She could not go back on
her decision, her choice, since, in face of the everlasting hills, she
had pledged herself.
So she let her eyes no longer rest on the high-road, but looked out to
sea--where, as tormenting chance would have it, the black hull of a big
cargo boat, steaming slowly westward, cut into the vast expanse of blue,
long pennons of rusty grey smoke trailing away from its twin rusty-red
Hard-pressed, the girl turned to her companion, asking abruptly,
inconsequently--"Is that every one whom you expect on Thursday,
For some seconds Mrs. Frayling regarded her with a curious lack of
intelligent interest or comprehension. Her thoughts, also, had run
forward into the gold of the approaching sunset; and she had some
difficulty in overtaking, or restraining them, although they went no
further than the Grand Hotel; and--so to speak--sat down there all of a
piece, on a buff-coloured iron chair, which commanded an uninterrupted
view of four gentlemen standing talking before the front door.
"On Thursday?" she repeated--"Why Thursday?"--and her usually
skilful hands fumbled with the fastening of her sable cape. Their
helpless ineffectual movements served to bring her to her senses,
bring her to herself.
"Really you possess an insatiable thirst for information regarding my
probable guests, precious child," she exclaimed. "All--of course not. I
have only portrayed the heads of tribes as yet for your delectation. We
shall number many others--male and female--of the usual self-expatriated
British rank and file.--Derelicts mostly."
Lightly and coldly, Henrietta laughed.
"Like, for example, the General and myself. Wanderers possessed of a
singularly barren species of freedom, without ties, without any
sheet-anchor of family or of profession to embarrass our movements,
without call to live in one place rather than another. All along this
sun-blessed Riviera you will find them swarming, thick as flies,
displaying the trumpery spites and rivalries through which, as I started
by pointing out to you, they can alone maintain a degree of individuality
and persuade themselves and others they still are actually alive."
Shocked at this sudden bitterness, touched to the quick by generous pity,
regardless of possible onlookers--here in the village street, where the
hoof-beats of the trotting horses echoed loud from the house-walls on
either side--Damaris put her arms round Henrietta Frayling, clasping,
"Ah! don't, Henrietta," she cried. "Don't dare to say such ugly,
lying things about your dear self. They aren't true. They're absurdly,
scandalously untrue.--You who are so brilliant, so greatly admired,
who have everyone at your feet! You who are so kind too,--think of all
the pleasure you have given me to-day, for instance--and then think
how beautifully good you've been, and all the time are being, to poor
Whether Mrs. Frayling's surprising lapse into sincerity and bald
self-criticism were intentional, calculated, or not, she was undoubtedly
quick to see and profit by the opening which Damaris' concluding words
"How sweet you are, darling child! How very dear of you to scold me
thus!" she murmured, gently disengaging herself and preening her
feathers, somewhat disarranged by the said darling child's
"I know it is wrong to grumble. Yet sometimes--as one grows older--one
gets a dreadful sense that the delights of life are past; and that
perhaps one has been overscrupulous, over-timid and so missed the
best.--That is one reason why I find it so infinitely pleasing to have
you with me--yet pathetic too perhaps.--Why? Well, I don't know that I am
quite at liberty to explain exactly why."
Henrietta smiled at her long, wistfully and oh! so sagely.
"And, indirectly, that reminds me I am most anxious you should not
exaggerate, or run off with any mistaken ideas about my dealings with
poor Marshall Wace. I don't deny I did find his constantly being with us
a trial at first. But I am reconciled to it. A trifle of discipline,
though screamingly disagreeable, is no doubt sometimes useful--good for
one's character, I mean. And I really have grown quite attached to him.
He has charming qualities. His want of self-confidence is really his
worst fault--and what a trivial one if you've had experience of the
horrid things men can do, gamble, for example, and drink."
Henrietta paused, sighed. The yellow facade of the Grand Hotel came into
sight, a pale spot amid dark trees in the distance.
"And Marshall, poor fellow," she continued, "is more grateful to me,
that I know, than words can say. So do like him and encourage him a
little--it would be such a help and happiness to me as well as to him,
IN WHICH HENRIETTA PULLS THE STRINGS
Mrs. Frayling's afternoon party passed off to admiration. But this by no
means exhausted her social activities. Rather did it stimulate them; so
that, with Damaris' amusement as their ostensible object and excuse, they
multiplied exceedingly. Henrietta was in her native element. Not for
years had she enjoyed herself so much. This chaperonage, this vicarious
motherhood, was rich in opportunity. She flung wide her nets, even to the
enmeshing of recruits from other larger centres, Cannes, Antibes and
Nice. This more ambitious phase developed later. Immediately our
chronicle may address itself to the initial Thursday, which, for our
nymph-like maiden, saw the birth of certain illusions destined to all too
lengthy a span of life.
Luncheon at the villa--or as Henrietta preferred it called, The
Pavilion--set in the grounds of the Hotel de la Plage and dependent for
service upon that house--was served at mid-day. This left a considerable
interval before the advent of the expected guests. Mrs. Frayling refused
to dedicate it to continuous conversation, as unduly tiring both for
Damaris and for herself. They must reserve their energies, must keep
fresh. Marshall Wace was, therefore, bidden to provide peaceful
entertainment, read aloud--presently, perhaps, sing to them at such time
as digestion--bad for the voice when in process--might be supposed
complete. The young man obeyed, armed with Tennyson's _Maud_ and a volume
of selected lyrics.
His performance fairly started General Frayling furtively vanished in
search of a mild _siesta_. It inflated his uxorious breast with pride to
have his Henrietta shine in hospitality thus. But his lean shanks
wearied, keeping time to the giddy music. Wistfully he feared he must be
going downhill, wasn't altogether the man he used to be, since he found
the business of pleasure so exhaustingly strenuous. And that was beastly
unfair to his lovely wife--wouldn't do, would not do at all, by Gad!
Therefore did he vanish into a diminutive and rather stuffy smoking-room,
under the stairs, unfasten his nankeen waistcoat, unfasten his
collar-stud, doze and finally, a little anxiously, sleep.
Whatever Marshall Wace's diffidence in ordinary intercourse, it
effectually disappeared so soon as he began to declaim or to recite. The
histrionic in him declared itself, rising dominant. Given a character to
impersonate, big swelling words to say, fine sentiments to enunciate, he
changed to the required colour chameleon-like. You forgot--at least the
feminine portion of his audience, almost without exception, forgot--that
his round light-brown eyes stared uncomfortably much; that his nose, thin
at the root and starting with handsome aquiline promise, ended in a
foolish button-tip. Forgot that his lips were straight and compressed,
wanting in generous curves and in tenderness--an actor's mouth,
constructed merely for speech. Forgot the harsh quality of the triangular
redness on either cheek, fixed and feverish. Ceased to remark how the
angle of the jaw stood away from and beyond the sinewy, meagre neck, or
note the rise and fall of Adam's apple so prominent in his throat.--No
longer were annoyed by the effeminate character of the hands, their
retracted nails and pink, upturned finger-tips, offering so queer a
contrast to the rather inordinate size of his feet.
For the voice rarely failed to influence its hearers, to carry you indeed
a little out of yourself by its variety of intonation, its fire and
fervour, its languishing modulations, broken pauses, yearning melancholy
of effect. The part of the neurotic hero of the--then--Laureate's poem,
that somewhat pinch-beck Victorian Hamlet, suited our young friend,
moreover, down to the ground. It offered sympathetic expression to his
own nature and temperament; so that he wooed, scoffed, blasphemed,
orated, drowned in salt seas of envy and self-pity, with a simulation of
sincerity as convincing to others as consolatory to himself.
And Damaris, being unlearned in the curious arts of the theatre, listened
wide-eyed, spellbound, until flicked by the swishing skirts of fictitious
emotion into genuine, yet covert, excitement. As the reading progressed
Henrietta Frayling's presence increasingly sank into unimportance. More
and more did the poem assume a personal character, of which, if the
reader were hero, she--Damaris--became heroine. Marshall Wace seemed to
read not to, but definitely at her; so that during more than one ardent
passage, she felt herself go hot all over, as though alone with him, an
acknowledged object of his adoring, despairing declarations. This she
shrank from, yet--it must be owned--found stirring, strangely and not
altogether unpleasantly agitating. For was not this _protege_ of
Henrietta's--whom the latter implored her to encourage and treat
kindly--something of a genius? Capable of sudden and amazing
transformation, talking to you with a modesty and deference agreeably
greater than that of most young men of his age; then, on an instant,
changing at will, and extraordinarily voicing the accumulated wrongs,
joys and sorrows of universal humanity? Could Henrietta, who usually
spoke of him in tones of commiseration, not to say of patronage, be aware
how remarkable he really was? Damaris wondered; regarding him, meanwhile,
with innocent respect and admiration. For how tremendously much he must
have experienced, how greatly he must have suffered to be able to portray
drama, express profound emotion thus! That the actor's art is but
glorified make-believe, the actor himself too often hollow as a drum,
though loud sounding as one, never for an instant occurred to her. How
Therefore when Mrs. Frayling--recollecting certain mysteries of the
toilet which required attention before the arrival of her expected
guests--brought the performance to an abrupt termination, Damaris felt a
little taken aback, a little put about, as though someone should be
guilty of talking millinery in church.
For--"Splendid, my dear Marshall, splendid," the lady softly yet
emphatically interrupted him. "To-day you really surpass yourself. I
never heard you read better, and I hate to be compelled to call a halt.
But time has flown--look."
And she pointed to the blue and gold Sevres clock upon the mantelpiece.
"Miss Verity is an inspiring auditor," he said, none best pleased at
being thus arbitrarily arrested in midcourse. "For whatever merit my
reading may have possessed, your thanks are due to her rather than to me,
He spoke to the elder woman. He looked at the younger. With a nervous yet
ponderous movement--it was Marshall Wace's misfortune always to take up
more room than by rights belonged to his height and bulk--he got on to
his feet. Inattentively let drop the volume of poems upon a neighbouring
table, to the lively danger of two empty coffee cups.
The cups rattled. "Pray be careful," Mrs. Frayling admonished him with
some sharpness. The performance had been prolonged. Not without intention
had she effaced herself. But, by both performance and effacement, she had
been not a little bored, having a natural liking for the limelight. She,
therefore, hit out--to regret her indiscretion the next moment.
"Nothing--nothing," she prettily added. "I beg your pardon, Marshall, but
I quite thought those cups would fall off the table--So stupid of me."
The fixed red widened, painfully inundating the young man's countenance.
He was infuriated by his own awkwardness. Humiliated by Mrs. Frayling's
warning, of which her subsequent apology failed to mitigate the disgrace.
And that this should occur just in the hour of satisfied vanity, of
agreeable success--and before Damaris! In her eyes he must be miserably
But his misfortunes worked to quite other ends than he anticipated. For
Damaris came nearer, her expression gravely earnest as appealing to him
not to mind, not to let these things vex him.
"I have never heard anyone read so beautifully," she told him. "You make
the words come alive so that one sees the whole story happening. It is
wonderful. I shall always remember this afternoon because of your
reading--and shall long to hear you again--often, I know, long for that."
Wace bowed. This innocent enthusiasm was extremely assuaging to his
"You have but to ask me, Miss Verity. I shall be only too honoured,
too happy to read to you whenever you have leisure and inclination
But here Mrs. Frayling put her arm round Damaris' waist, affectionately,
laughingly, and drew her towards the door.
"Come, come, darling child--don't be too complimentary or Marshall will
grow unbearably conceited.--You'll put on flannels, by the way, Marshall,
won't you?" she added as an after-thought.
"I shall not play tennis this afternoon," he answered, his nose in the
air. "There will be plenty for a change of setts without me. I am not
good enough for Binning and his two young aristocrats, and I don't choose
to make sport for the Philistines by an exhibition of my ineptitude. I
have no pretentious to being an athlete."
"Nonsense, Marshall, nonsense," she took him up quickly, conscious his
reply was not in the best taste. "You wilfully underrate yourself."
Then later, as, still entwined, she conducted Damaris upstairs to her
"There you have the position in a nutshell," she said. "Still am I not
right? For hasn't he charm, poor dear fellow, so very much cleverness--so
really gifted isn't he?"
And as the girl warmly agreed:
"Ah! I am so very glad you appreciate him.--And you have yet to hear
him sing! That takes one by storm, I confess--Unhappy Maud
Callowgas!--But you see how frightfully on edge he is--how he turns off
for no valid reason, imagines himself a failure, imagines himself out
of it? In point of fact he plays a quite passable game of tennis--and
you heard what he said? These fits of depression and self-depreciation
amount to being tragic. One requires endless tact to manage him and
save him from himself."
Henrietta paused, sighed, sitting on the stool before her toilette table,
neatly placing tortoiseshell hairpins, patting and adjusting her bright
"I could have bitten my tongue out for making that wretched slip about
the coffee cups; but I was off my guard for once. And like all artistic
people Marshall is a little absent-minded--absorbed to the point of not
seeing exactly what he is doing.--Poor young man, I sometimes tremble for
his future. Such a highly strung, sensitive nature amounts almost to a
curse. If he got into wrong hands what mightn't the end be?--Catastrophe,
for he is capable of fatal desperation. And I must own men--with the
exception of my husband who is simply an angel to him--do not always
understand and are not quite kind to him. He needs a wise loving woman to
develop the best in him--there is so very much which is good--and to
"Well," Damaris said, and that without suspicion of irony, "dearest
Henrietta, hasn't he you?"
Mrs. Frayling took up the ivory hand-glass, and sitting sideways on the
dressing-stool, turned her graceful head hither and thither, to obtain
the fuller view of her back hair.
"Me? But you forget, I have other claims to satisfy. I can't look after
him for ever. I must find him a wife I suppose; though I really shall be
rather loath to give him up. His gratitude and loneliness touch me so
much," she said, looking up and smiling, with a little twist in her
mouth, as of playful and unwilling resignation, captivating to see.
By which cajoleries and expression of praiseworthy sentiment, Henrietta
raised herself notably in Damaris' estimation--as she fully intended to
do. Our maiden kissed her with silent favour; and, mysteries of the
toilette completed, more closely united than ever before--that is, since
the date of the elder's second advent--the two ladies, presenting the
prettiest picture imaginable, went downstairs again, gaily, hand in hand.
Tall and slim, in the black and white of his evening clothes, Colonel
Carteret leaned his shoulder against an iron pillar of the verandah of
the Hotel de la Plage, and smoked, looking meditatively down into the
moonlit garden. Through the range of brightly lighted open windows
behind him came the sound of a piano and stringed instruments, a subdued
babble of voices, the whisper of women's skirts, and the sliding rush of
To-night marked the culmination and apex of Henrietta Frayling's social
effort. It was mid-March, mid-Lent--which last fact she made an
excuse--after taking ecclesiastical opinion on the subject, namely, that
of Herbert Binning, the Anglican chaplain--for issuing invitations to a
Cinderella dance. Damaris Verity, it appeared, had never really, properly
and ceremoniously "come out"--a neglect which Henrietta protested should
be repaired. Positively, but very charmingly, she told Sir Charles it
must. She only wished the affair could be on a larger, more worthy scale.
This was, after all, but a makeshift--the modest best she could arrange
under the circumstances. But he--Sir Charles--must not refuse. It would
give her such intense pleasure to have the darling child make her
official _debut_ under her, Henrietta's, auspices. The hours would of
necessity be early, to avoid disturbance of the non-dancing residents in
the hotel. But, if the entertainment were bound to end at midnight, it
could begin at a proportionately unfashionable hour. For once _table
d'hote_ might surely be timed for six o'clock; and the dining-room--since
it offered larger space than any other apartment--be cleared, aired, and
ready for dancing by a quarter-past eight.--Henrietta unquestionably had
a way with her; proprietors, managers, servants alike hastening obedient
to her cajoling nod.--Thanks to importations by road and rail, from other
coast resorts, she reckoned to muster sixteen to twenty couples.--A
rubbishing apology at best, in the matter of a "coming out" ball, for a
girl of Damaris' position and deserts--no one could know that better than
she, Henrietta, herself did!
"A poor thing but mine own," she quoted, when enlarging upon the scheme
to Charles Verity. "But as at Easter we are fated to scatter, I suppose,
and go our several roads with small promise of reunion, you must really
be gracious, dear friend, and, for old sake's sake, give in to my
desires. It's my last chance, for heaven knows how long--not impossibly
Carteret happened to be present during the above conversation. Had he
not, it may be doubted whether it would ever have taken place--with this
dash of affecting reminiscence in any case. Allusions to a common past
were barred for excellent reasons, as between these two persons, save
strictly in public. Even so it struck him as a humorous piece of audacity
on the lady's part. Her effrontery touched on the colossal! But it
succeeded, always had done so.--In his judgment of Henrietta, Carteret
never failed to remember, being compact of chivalry and of truthfulness,
that he had once on a time been a good half in love with her
himself.--All the same he was not sure her close association with Damaris
met with his approval.
That association had grown, Jonah's gourd-like, during the last six
weeks, until, as he rather uneasily noted, the two were hardly ever
apart. Luncheons, teas, picnics, excursions, succeeded one another.
Afternoons of tennis in the hotel grounds, the athletic gregarious
Binning and his two pupils, Peregrine Ditton and Harry Ellice in
attendance. Sometimes the latter's sister, Mary Ellice, joined the
company--when Lady Hermione condescended to spare her--or the long-backed
Miss Maud Callowgas. Afternoons of reading and song, too, supplied by
Marshall Wace.--Carteret felt self-reproachful, yet knew his charity
too often threatened to stop short of the young man Wace--though the
beggar had a voice to draw tears from a stone, plague him!--At intervals,
all-day expeditions were undertaken to Monte Carlo, or shopping raids
upon Cannes or Nice.
Yes, verily--as he reflected--Henrietta Frayling did keep the ball
rolling with truly Anglo-Indian frivolity and persistence, here in the
heart of Europe! And was that altogether wholesome for Damaris? He
delighted to have the beautiful young creature enjoy herself, spread her
wings, take her place among the courted and acclaimed. But he prized her
too highly not to be ambitious for her; and would have preferred her
social education to be conducted on more dignified and authorized lines,
in the great world of London, namely, or Paris. When all came to all,
this was hardly good enough.
No one, he honestly admitted, trumpeted that last truth more loudly than
Henrietta--at times. Nevertheless she went on and on, making the business
of this rather second-rate pleasure-seeking daily of greater importance.
How could Damaris be expected to discriminate, to retain her sense of
relative values, in the perpetual scrimmage, the unceasing rush? Instinct
and nobility of nature go an immensely long way as preservatives--thank
God for that--still, where you have unsophistication, inexperience, a
holy ignorance, to deal with, it is unwise to trust exclusively to their
saving grace. Even the finest character is the safer--so he supposed--for
some moulding and direction in its first contact with the world, if it is
to come through the ordeal unscathed and unbesmirched. And to ask such
moulding and direction of Henrietta Frayling was about as useful as
asking a humming-bird to draw a water-cart.
He was still fond of Henrietta and derived much silent entertainment from
witnessing her manoeuvres. But he was under no delusion regarding her. He
considered her quite the most selfish woman of his acquaintance, though
also one of the most superficially attractive. Hers was a cold, not a
hot selfishness, refined to a sort of exquisiteness and never for an
instant fleshly or gross. But that selfishness, in its singleness of
purpose, made her curiously powerful, curiously capable of influencing
persons of larger and finer spirit than herself--witness her ascendency
over Charles Verity during a long period of years, and that without ever
giving, or even seriously compromising, herself.
Into whoever she fixed her dainty little claws, she did it with an eye to
some personal advantage. And here Carteret owned himself puzzled--for
what advantage could she gain from this close association with Damaris?
The girl's freshness went, rather mercilessly, to show up her fading.
At times, it is true, watching her pretty alacrity of manner, hearing her
caressing speech, he inclined to give her the benefit of the doubt,
believe her self-forgetful, her affection genuine, guiltless of design or
after-thought. If so, so very much the better! He was far from grudging
her redemption, specially at the hands of Damaris.--Only were things, in
point of fact, working to this commendable issue? With the best will in
the world to think so, he failed to rid himself of some prickings of
anxiety and distrust.
And from such prickings he sensibly suffered to-night, as he leaned his
shoulder against the iron pillar of the verandah at the Hotel de la
Plage, and looked down into the _claire obscure_ of the moonlit gardens,
while over the polished floor of the big room at his back, the rhythmical
tread of the dancers' feet kept time to the music of piano and sweet
wailing strings.--For that a change showed increasingly evident in
Damaris he could not disguise from himself. In precisely what that change
consisted it was not easy to say. He discovered it more in an attitude of
mind and atmosphere than in outward action or even in words said. But she
was not quite the same as the grave and steadfast young creature who had
asked his help for her father, and indirectly for herself, in the moist
chill of the November twilight at The Hard--and who, receiving promise
of such help, had darted away over the drenched lawn in company with the
wildly gambolling cats alternately pursuing and pursued. Nor was she
quite the same as when he had walked with her, through the resounding
Paris streets, to pay her devoirs to her former guardians and teachers at
the convent school; and, later returning, had spoken to her of the safety
of religion, the high worth of the doctrine and practice of a definite
Her relation to her father appeared--and this pained Carteret--to lack
its old intimacy, its intensity of consideration and tenderness. Her
interest in the child of his brain, his belated literary experiment, was
less sustained and spontaneous. How could it flourish in its former
proportions when she was so much away, so often absent from morning till
night?--Not without leave though, for she scrupulously asked permission
before answering Henrietta's gay call and taking part in that lady's
junketings and jaunts. Sir Charles never refused the requested
permission; but, while granting it, did he not tend to retreat into his
former sardonic humour, fall into long silences, become inaccessible
again and remote? The book went forward; yet, more than once recently,
Carteret had questioned whether his friend would ever get himself fairly
delivered of the admirable volume were not he--Carteret--permanently at
hand to act midwife. An unpleasant idea pursued him that Sir Charles
went, in some strange fashion, in fear of Damaris, of her criticism, her
judgment. Yet fear seemed a hatefully strong and ugly word to employ as
between a father and daughter so straitly, heretofore, bound to one
another in love.
And then--there lay the heart of the worry, proving him only too likely a
graceless jealous middle-age curmudgeon, a senile sentimentalist, thus
did he upbraidingly mock himself--were there not signs of Damaris
developing into a rather thorough paced coquette? She accepted the homage
offered her with avidity, with many small airs and graces--_a la_
Henrietta--of a quite novel sort. Old General Frayling--poor pathetic old
warrior--was her slave. Peregrine Ditton, Harry Ellice, even the cleric
Binning--let alone the permanently self-conscious, attitudinizing
Wace--with other newer acquaintances, English and foreign, ran at her
heels. And she let them run, bless her, even encouraged their running by
turns of naughty disdain and waywardness. She was fatal to boys--that was
in the natural course of things. And fatal to those considerably older
The music flew faster and faster--stopped with a shriek and a crash.
Laughing, talking, the dancers streamed out of the hot brightly lighted
room into the soft peace, the delicate phantasy of the colourless
Carteret drew back, flattening himself against the iron pillar in the
shadow, as they passed down the steps into the garden below; the women's
pale airy forms and the men's dark ones, pacing the shining paths in
groups and couples, between the flower-beds, under the flat-headed pines,
the shaggy-stemmed palms and towering eucalyptus, in and out massed banks
of blossoming shrubs and dwarf hedges of monthly roses.
Midway in the light-hearted procession came Damaris, Peregrine Ditton on
one side of her, Harry Ellice on the other. Leaving the main alley, the
trio turned along a path, running parallel to the verandah, which opened
into a circle surrounding the stone basin of a tinkling fountain,
immediately below Colonel Carteret's post of solitary observation.
Damaris carried the demi-train of her white satin gown over her arm,
thereby revealing a wealth of lace frilled petticoat, from beneath
which the toes of her high-heeled, white satin shoes stepped with a
pretty measured tread. The two boys, leaning a little towards one
another, talked across her, their voices slightly raised in argument,
not to say dispute.
"I call it rotten mean to bag my dance like that, I tell you.--Go
away?--No I swear I won't go away, won't budge one blessed inch unless
Miss Verity actually orders me to. If my dance was stolen, all the more
reason I should have her to talk to now as a sort of make-up. So you
just clear out, if you please, my good chap, and leave the field to your
elders and betters. Remove your superfluous carcass till further
notice.--Vamoose, my son, do you hear?"
This excitedly from Peregrine Ditton. They reached the fountain. Damaris
stayed her measured walk, and stood gazing at the jet of water in its
uprush and myriad sparkling fall. Ellice answered chaffingly yet with an
underlying growl; and the dispute threatened to wax warm. But the girl
heeded neither disputant, her attention rapt in watching the play of the
Throughout the evening she had easily been chief centre of attraction,
besieged by partners. And those not only her present rival attendants or
Marshall Wace; but by Mrs. Frayling's various importations, plus Mr.
Alban Titherage--a fat, smart and very forthcoming young London
stock-broker, lately established, in company of a pretty, silly,
phthisis-stricken wife, at the Grand Hotel. Very much mistress of
herself, Damaris had danced straight through the programme with an air of
almost defiant vivacity. Now, as it seemed, her mood had changed and
sobered. For presently Colonel Carteret saw her bosom heave, while she
fetched a long sigh and, raising her head, glanced upwards, her great
eyes searching the shadowed space of the verandah.
The cool lunar brightness flooded her upturned face, her bare neck and
arms, the glittering folds of her satin gown. She was exceedingly fair to
look upon just now. For an appreciable length of time her glance met
Carteret's and held it; giving him--though the least neurotic of men,
calm of body and of mind--a strange sensation as of contact with an
electric current which tingled through every nerve and vein. And this,
although he perceived that, dazzled by the moonlight, she either did not
see or quite failed to recognize him. An expression of disappointment,
akin, so he read it, to hope defeated, crossed her face. She lowered her
eyes, and moved slowly forward along the path, the boys on either side
her. Again Peregrine Ditton took up his tale--in softened accents though
still as one sorely injured and whose temper consequently inclines not
unjustly to the volcanic.
"Upon my honour, I think you might have given me just a minute's law,
Miss Verity," he protested. "It was no fault of mine being late. Maud
Callowgas kept me toddling to the most unconscionable extent. First she
wanted an ice, and then a tumbler of lemon squash; and then she lost her
fan, or pretended she did, and expected me to hunt for the beastly thing.
I give you my word I was as rude as sin, in hope of shaking her off; but
she didn't, or wouldn't, see what I was driving at. There was no getting
away from her. I tell you she sticks like a burr, that girl, once she
lays hold of you. Octopuses aren't in it. Her power of adhesion is
something utterly frantic "--
Here Ellice cut in with a doubtless scathing though, to Carteret,
inaudible remark, at which Damaris laughed outright; and the fresh young
voices trailed away in the distance alternately mocking and remonstrant.
As he listened, still conscious of contact with that surprising electric
current, Carteret found himself taking stock of his own forty-nine years
with swift and lively repugnance. To accept the sum of them, and the
limitations and restrictions that sum is currently supposed to entail,
proved just now astonishingly difficult. Damaris, as beheld in the
fantastic loveliness of the moonlight, her searching, unseeing eyes
meeting and dwelling upon his own, the look of disappointment and defeat
crossing her sweetly serious countenance, wrought upon him begetting a
dangerous madness in his blood. That it was dangerous and a madness, and
therefore promptly to be mastered and ejected, he would not permit
himself an instant's doubt. Yet it very shrewdly plagued him, daring even
to advance specious arguments upon its own behalf.
For, when he came to consider matters, was he not in perfect health, more
sound and fit than many a man but half his age? And were not his
fortunes just now at a specially happy turn, his sister, Mrs. Dreydel,
having lately been blessed with a windfall, in the shape of yearly
income, which--did he so choose--relieved him of much expenditure on her
account. Her eldest son had received his commission. The three younger
boys had done well as to scholarships thereby materially reducing the
cost of their education. Never had he, Carteret, been so free to consult
his private desires; and never, as he knew too profoundly well, had his
desires taken so definite and delicious a form. Nevertheless it remained
a madness to be mastered, to be ejected.--His last thought, as his first,
pronounced it that.
Unconsciously, pushed by this stress of rather turbulent sensations,
Carteret walked the length of the verandah and drew up in the full glare
of the moonlight. From here he could see the curve of the shore; and,
beyond the quay and esplanade and last scattered houses of the little
town, the lighthouse marking the tip of the western horn of the bay. He
could hear the soft stealthy plunge and following rush of the sea up the
white shelving beach. Could hear also--less soothing sound--through the
open windows of the drawing-room of the Pavilion, just across the garden,
Marshall Wace singing, with all the impassioned fervour of his rich and
well-trained baritone, a ballad, then much in vogue, entitled "The Lost
Chord." The words, to Carteret's thinking, were futile, meaning anything,
everything, or nothing, according to your private interpretation of them.
But as to the fine quality and emotional appeal of the voice there could
not be two opinions, as it palpitated thus in the mild night air. Was
Damaris Verity a member of the singer's devout audience? Were her hands
among those which now enthusiastically applauded the conclusion of the
song? Under his breath, slowly, gently but most comprehensively, Carteret
swore. And felt all the better for that impious exercise, even amused at
this primitive expression of his moral and sentimental disturbance, and
so on the high-road, as he fondly imagined, to capture his habitual
attitude of charity and tolerance once again. But heaven had further
trial of his fortitude and magnanimity, not to say his good honest horse
sense, in store to-night.
For, as the clapping of hands died down, the whisper of a woman's dress,
upon the asphalt of the verandah just behind him, caught his ear, and
Damaris came rapidly towards him.
"So you are here after all, dear Colonel Sahib," she cried. "I felt you
were when I was down there looking at the fountain. It sort of pulled at
me with remindings of you ages and ages ago, in the gardens of the club
at Bhutpur--when you brought me a present--a darling little green jade
elephant in a sandalwood box, as a birthday gift from Henrietta. Later
there was a terrible tragedy. An odious little boy broke my elephant, on
purpose, and broke my heart along with it."
Carteret made a determined effort over himself, taking her up lightly.
"But not altogether past mending, dear witch--judging by existing
"Ah! I'm none so sure of that," Damaris answered him back with a pretty
quickness--"if it hadn't been for you. For I was very ill, when you came
again to the Sultan-i-bagh--don't you remember?--the night of the riots
and great fires in the Civil Lines and Cantonments, just at the breaking
of the monsoon."
"Yes, I remember," he said.
And wondered to himself--thereby gaining ease and a measure of
tranquillity, inasmuch as he thought of another man's plight rather than
of his own--whether Damaris had knowledge of other occurrences, not
unallied to tragedy, which had marked that same night of threatened
mutiny and massacre and of bellowing tempest, not least among them a vow
made by her father, Charles Verity, and made for her sake.
"The whole story comes back in pictures," she went on, "whenever I look
at fountains playing, because of the water-jets in the canal in the
Bhutpur club garden where you gave me Henrietta's present. You see it all
dates from then. And it came back to me specially clearly just now,
partly because I felt lonely--"
"Lonely?--How lonely," he smilingly interjected, "with a goodly youth as
a protector on either hand?"
"Yes--lonely," Damaris repeated, ignoring the allusion to her devoted if
irascible escort. "Dance music always makes one rather sad--don't you
think so? It seems to ache with everything one wants and hasn't got; and
the ache goes on.--I turned homesick for--for India, and for my green
jade elephant I used to love so dreadfully much.--I've all that is left
of him, still wrapped in the same rice paper in the same sandalwood box
you brought him in, put away with my best treasures in my own room at
She came nearer, stood beside him, bending down a little as she rested
her hands on the top of the iron balustrade of the verandah, while her
eyes followed the curve of the bay to where the lighthouse rose, a
black column with flashing headpiece, above the soft glitter of the
"And homesick, Colonel Sahib, for you," she said.
"For me?" he exclaimed almost involuntarily, roughly startled out of his
partially recovered tranquillity and ease.
"Yes"--she said, looking up at him. "Isn't that quite natural, since
you have stepped in so often to help me when things have gone rather
wrong?--I knew you must be somewhere quite close by. I sort of felt
you were there. And you were there--weren't you? Why did you hide
Carteret could not bring himself immediately to answer. He was perplexed,
infinitely charmed, distrustful, all at once--distrustful, though for
very different reasons, both of himself and of her.
"Are things, then, going rather wrong now?" he asked presently.
For he judged it wise to accept her enigmatic speech according to its
most simple and obvious interpretation. By so doing he stood, moreover,
to gain time; and time in his existing perplexity appeared to him of
"That's just what I'm not sure about." Damaris spoke slowly, gravely, her
glance again fixed upon the beacon light set for the safety of passing
ships on the further horn of the bay. "If I could be sure, I should know
what to do--know whether it is right to keep on as--as I am. Do you see?"
But what, at this juncture, Carteret did, in point of fact, most
consciously see was the return of Henrietta Frayling's scattered guests,
from the Pavilion and other less fully illuminated quarters, towards the
main building of the hotel. From the improvised ball-room within chords
struck on the piano and answering tuning of strings invited to the
renewal of united and active festivity. In the face of consequently
impending interruption he hazarded a trifle of admonition.
"Dearest witch, you elect to speak in riddles," he gently told her. "I am
in the dark as to your meaning; so, if I am guilty of uttering
foolishness, you must pardon me. But I own I could wish--just a
bit--that, in some particulars, you wouldn't keep on--I quote your own
words--as you are, or rather have been just lately."
"Why?" she asked, without moving.
"Because, to be quite honest with you, I am not altogether satisfied
about your father. I am afraid he is getting back into the habit of mind
we set out to cure him of, you and I, last November."
Damaris sprang to attention.
"And I haven't noticed it. I Wouldn't stop to notice it. I have been too
busy about my own concerns and have neglected him."
Arrayed in her spotless virgin finery, her head carried proudly, though
her eyes were sombre with self-reproach, self-accusation, and her lips
quivered, she confronted Carteret. And his clean loyal soul went out to
her in a poignant, an exquisite, agony of tenderness and of desire. He
would have given his right hand to save her pain. Given his life gladly,
just then, to secure her welfare and happiness; yet he had struck
her--for her own good possibly--possibly just blindly, instinctively, in
self-defence. He tried to shut down the emotion which threatened to
betray him and steady on to the playfully affectionate tone of their
customary intercourse; but it is to be feared the effort lacked
convincingness of quality.
"No--no," he said, "you take it altogether too hard. You exaggerate, dear
witch, to the point of extravagance. You have been less constantly with
your father than usual--you're the delight of his life after all, as you
must very well know--and inevitably he has missed you. Nothing worse than
that. The damage, such as it is, can easily be repaired."
"Ah! but the damage, as you call it, starts behind all that in something
else--something older, much deeper down, of which I doubt whether any
lasting reparation is possible. I did try to repair it. All my going out
with Henrietta, and this rushing about lately, began in that
trying--truly it did, Colonel Sahib. And then I suppose I got above
myself--as poor Nannie used to say--and came to care for the rushing
about just for its own sake"--
"My dance, I believe, Miss Verity."
The speaker, Mr. Alban Titherage--well-groomed, rosy and
self-complacent--pulled down the fronts of his white waistcoat. He
inclined to distinct rotundity of person, and the garment in question,
though admirable in cut, showed, what with the exertions of dancing, a
damnable tendency, as he expressed it, to "ride up."
"And my dance next afterwards, Miss Verity"--this from Peregrine Ditton,
his youthful, well-bred, if somewhat choleric, countenance presenting
itself over the top of the stock-broker's smooth and not conspicuously
Damaris looked from one to the other of these claimants for her favour,
with instant and very becoming composure.
"I'm dreadfully sorry," she told them collectively, "but surely there is
some mistake. Both those next dances--they are the last, I'm afraid, too,
aren't they?--belong to Colonel Carteret."
"The deuce they do!" Ditton exploded, turning scarlet. With a cocked eye
and a jaunty movement of the head Mr. Titherage shot out his right shirt
cuff, and pointed a stout forefinger at certain hieroglyphics inscribed
on its glossy surface.
"Your name, Miss Verity, and written with an indelible pencil, to the
permanent embellishment of my best party-going linen and witness to your
"I can only repeat I am dreadfully sorry," Damaris said, with a becoming
air of concern, "if the confusion has arisen through my fault. But"--
She appealed to Carteret.
"They always were your dances, weren't they?"
"Without doubt," he affirmed.
Amusedly and very kindly he smiled upon the angry boy and portly young
man, although the beat of his pulse was accelerated and his throat felt
"I am sure you understand how impossible it is for me to release Miss
Verity from her promise," he said courteously. "Would you willingly do so
yourselves, were the positions reversed and either of you happy enough to
stand in my shoes at this moment?"
Titherage gave a fat good-tempered laugh.
"By George, you have me there, Colonel. Under such A1 circumstances catch
me making way for a stranger! Not if I know it."
With which he attempted jovially to put his arm through that of his
companion in misfortune and lead Ditton away. But the latter flung off
from him with a petulant, half-smothered oath; and, his back very
straight, his walk very deliberate, pushed through the cheerfully
discoursing throng into the ball-room.
Damaris turned about, resting her hands on the top of the iron balustrade
again and gazed out to sea. Her breath came with a catch in it.
"Colonel Sahib," she said, proudly if just a trifle brokenly, "are
Then recovering control of senses and of sense--"But, dear witch," he
asked her--"since when, if I may venture to enquire, have you become an
adept in the fine art of--well--lying?"
Damaris looked around, her face irradiated by laughter.
"And you played up, oh! so beautifully quick! I was a teeny bit afraid
you might fail me. For the idea came all of a minute, there wasn't time
to warn you. And that was fortunate perhaps--for me. You might have had
scruples. And I was obliged to do it. After talking about the things
which really matter, I couldn't dance with that vulgar little man
again--or with those jealous boys. They had an idiotic quarrel, actual
quarrel, down in the garden. It displeased me. I told them so, and left
them, and came here to find you--because of the fountain and the sort of
home-sickness it gave me."
Between laughing and crying, Damaris held out her hands, the white
moonlight covering her.
"Oh! I am tired of rushing about," she said. "Come and dance with
me--it's nonsense to tell me you can't dance, and that you've forgotten
how, because you have danced once this evening already--with Henrietta. I
watched you and you dance better than anybody."
"With Henrietta--that's rather a different matter!"
"I should hope it was," Damaris took him up naughtily. "But dance with
me, and then, then please take me home. Yes," as he tried to speak. "I
know I had arranged to stay the night at the Pavilion. But I'll find some
excuse to make to Henrietta--Haven't you just told me I'm proficient in
lying?--You were going to walk back? Why shouldn't I walk with you? I
won't be five minutes changing into my day clothes. It would be so
fascinating down on the shore road at night. And I should get quiet all
inside of me. I am tired of rushing about, Colonel Sahib, it hasn't been
She stopped breathless, her hands pressed over her lace and satin
"Now come and dance,--oh! so beautifully, please, come and dance."
TELLING HOW DAMARIS DISCOVERED THE TRUE NATURE OF A CERTAIN SECRET TO THE
DEAR MAN WITH THE BLUE EYES
The beat of a tideless sea, upon the shore, is at once unrestful and
monotonous; in this only too closely resembling the beat of the human
heart, when the glory of youth has departed. The splendid energy of the
flow and grateful easing of the ebb alike are denied it. Foul or fair,
shine or storm, it pounds and pounds--as a thing chained--without
relief of advance or of recession, always at the same level, always in
the same place.
Suspicion of this cheerless truth was borne in upon Carteret
as--bare-headed, his overcoat upon his arm, the night being singularly
mild and clement--he walked with Damaris through the streets of the
silent town. The dwellers in St. Augustin, both virtuous or otherwise,
had very effectually retired to their beds behind drawn curtains, closed
shutters, locked doors, and gave no sign. Vacancy reigned, bringing in
its train an effect of suspense and eeriness, causing both our friends
involuntarily to listen, with slightly strained hearing, for sounds which
did not come. Once a cat, nimble and thin, streaked out of a cavernous
side-alley across the pallor of the pavement and cobbled roadway, to be
swallowed up in a black split--knife narrow, as it seemed--between the
blank house fronts opposite. And once, as they turned into the open space
of the Grand Place--unreal and stark with its spidery framework of
stalls, set up ready for to-morrow's market, under the budding plane
trees--they encountered a tired gendarme making his round, picturesque of
aspect in _kepi_ and flowing cloak. His footsteps brisked up, as he met
and treated them to a discreetly sympathetic and intelligent
observation, only to lag again wearily as soon as they had passed.
These were the sole creatures in St. Augustin, save themselves, visibly
alive and awake. Yet whether other beings, other presences, unmaterial,
imponderable, intangible, did not walk the streets along with them, is
open to doubt. More than once Damaris shrank close to Carteret, startled
by and apprehensive of she knew not what. For who dare say in such a
place what leavings-over there may not be from times pre-Christian and
remote, when mighty Rome ruled, and the ancient gods bore sway over that
radiant coast? On the outskirts of St. Augustin you may visit a fine
amphitheatre, still perfect save for some ruin along the upper tier of
seats; and in the centre of the town, within a stone's throw of the
somewhat gloomy cathedral church, may trace the airy columns and portions
of the sculptured architrave of a reputed temple of Venus, worked into
the facade of the municipal buildings.
Turning out of the Grande Place by an avenue on the right, Damaris and
Carteret gained the esplanade following the curve of the bay. Here a
freshness of the sea pleasantly accosted them along with that unrestful,
monotonous trample of waves upon the beach.
Not until they reached this stage of the homeward journey, and, setting
their faces eastward, paced the pale level asphalt of this wide
promenade, did any sustained effort of conversation arise. Thus far they
had proffered fugitive remarks only, lapsing speedily into somewhat
constrained silence. For a coldness, or shyness, might appear to have
sprung up between them, oddly holding them asunder in thought and moral
attitude after the close association of the dance--a reaction from its
contact so surprisingly more intimate than any they had yet experienced,
from that harmonious rhythmic unity of purpose and of movement which, in
dancing, alike excites emotion quasi-physical, and so alluringly serves
to soothe and allay the emotion it excites.
These aspects of their association affected Damaris but dimly, since
speaking a language of which she barely knew the alphabet. Carteret they
took in a different measure. He read their direction and potency with
clear understanding, the insidious provocations and satisfactions of them
printed in large type. With a rush, his youth returned and troubled him.
Or was it the phantom of youth merely? His heart-beats but the beat of a
tideless sea. He feared as much.--Oh, these tardy harvests, these tardy
harvests--are they not to most men a plague rather than a benison, since,
in honour and fine feeling, so abominably perilous to reap!
For the greater promotion of calm and of sanity he welcomed the young
girl's change of dress. The powder-blue walking suit, with belted jacket
and kilted skirt, brought her more within the terms of their ordinary
intercourse. But the impression of the fair young body, lately so close
against his own, clothed in bride-like raiment, fresh as an opening
flower and vaguely fragrant, could not easily be dispelled. Strive as he
might to put it from him, the impression remained recurrent. Therefore it
must not be held to Carteret's discredit if his senses took part with his
nobler affections just now, against his considered judgment; or that he
fared badly at the hands of the sea-born goddess--worshipped hero in her
temple in ancient days, with music, with dance and with nameless rites of
sex, when the moon rode high heaven at the full, even as to-night.
Her influence was still abroad, and in his flesh Carteret shrewdly
suffered it; yet neither basely nor bestially, being clean of life and of
spirit. He whipped himself even, with rather sorry humour, seeing, in
Damaris' willingness to entrust herself thus to his sole care in the
midnight loneliness, a handsomer compliment to his morals than to his
manhood. How little, bless her, she knew what stuff men are made
of!--therein underrating her acquaintance with fact, as her conversation
presently and surprisingly proved to him.
The revelation began in all apparent innocence--for:
"I'm not ungrateful to Henrietta," Damaris said, breaking silence softly
yet abruptly, as speaking to herself rather than addressing him, in
apology and argument. "And I'm dreadfully sorry to have vexed her--for
she was vexed with me for not staying at the Pavilion to-night, as I
promised. She was really quite cross."
"She will get over that--never fear," Carteret answered off the surface.
"Still it troubles me to have vexed her. I must have seemed so
unreasonable, making silly sounding excuses--because I could not explain
to her why I really wanted so much to go home."
"You find a limit to the dear lady's powers of comprehension or of
sympathy?" he asked, again off the surface.
"I suppose I must do so, because there are things it never occurs to one
to speak of to Henrietta."
"Whole cartloads of them," Carteret comprehensively agreed.
"And yet I don't know why."
"Don't you? Well, I think I do perhaps know why; and knowing, I must
confess to being not altogether sorry your confidences are restricted,
dear witch, in that particular direction."
The use of the pet name, though involuntary--possibly on that very
account--eased his fever. Clearly he must get back to their former
relation. Rejoice in her beauty, in her sweet faith and dependence, love
her--yes--he admitted the word,--but for God's sake keep the physical
side out of the business. Damaris' easily-aroused loyalty, meanwhile,
"Oh, but we've just been Henrietta's guests," she said, with a pretty
mingling of appeal and rebuke--"and it seems hardly kind, does it, to
find faults in her. She has been beautifully good to me all this time,
ending up with this dance which she gave on purpose to please me."
"And herself also," Carteret returned.
--Yes decidedly he felt better, steadier, to the point of now trusting
himself to look at his companion, notwithstanding the strange influences
abroad in the magical moonlight, with his accustomed smiling,
half-amused indulgence. The unremitting trample of the waves, there on
the right, made for level-headedness actually if a little
mercilessly--so he thought.
"I don't wish to be guilty of taking Mrs. Frayling's name in vain a
second time," he went on--"you've pulled me up, and quite rightly, for
doing so once already--but depend upon it, she enjoyed her ball every
morsel as much as you did. In respect of the minor delights of existence,
she slumbers not nor sleeps, our perenially charming and skilful
"You think she enjoyed it too? I am glad."
Then after an interval of silence, her whole figure alert, her
"See there--see there, Colonel Sahib--yes, far, far out to sea--aren't
those the lights of a ship?"
"Yes," he answered--"creeping westward--bound for Toulon, most likely, or
possibly for Marseilles."
And he would have moved forward. But Damaris unaccountably lingered.
Carteret waited a good three to four minutes to suit her convenience; but
the delay told on him. The night and hour down here by the shore, on the
confines of the silent town, were too full of poetry, too full of
suggestion, of the fine-drawn excitement of things which had been and
might not impossibly again be. It was dangerous to loiter, and in such
company, though waves might beat out a constant reminder with merciless
pertinacity upon the beach.
"Come, dear witch, come," he at last urged her. "We still have more than
a mile to go and a pretty stiff hill to climb. It grows late, you will be
abominably tired to-morrow. Why this fascination for a passing steamer,
probably some unromantic, villainously dirty old tramp too, you would not
condescend to look at by daylight."
"Because,"--Damaris began. She came nearer to him, her expression
strangely agitated.--"Oh! Colonel Sahib, if I could only be sure it
wasn't treacherous to tell you!"
"Tell me what? One of the many things it would never occur to you to
confide to Mrs. Frayling?" he said, trying to treat her evident emotion
lightly, to laugh it off.
"To Henrietta? Of course not. It would be unpardonable, hateful to tell
She flushed, her face looking, for the moment, dark from excess of
"You are the only person I could possibly tell."
Carteret moved aside a few steps. He too felt strangely agitated. Wild
ideas, ideas of unholy aspect, presented themselves to him--ideas, again,
beyond words entrancing and sweet. He fought with both alike, honestly,
manfully. Returned and took Damaris' hand quietly, gently in both his.
"Look here, dear witch," he said, "all this evening a--to me--unknown
spirit has possessed you. You haven't been like yourself. You have made
me a little anxious, a little alarmed on your account."
"Oh! it isn't only this evening," she caught him up. "It has been going
on for weeks."
"So I have seen--and that is not good for you, isn't for your happiness.
So, if I am--as you say--the only person you care to acquaint with this
matter, had not you better tell me here and now? Better worry yourself no
more with mysteries about it, but let us, once and for all, have the
"I should be thankful," Damaris said simply, looking him in the eyes--"if
I could be sure I wasn't sacrificing some one else--their pride I
For a few seconds Carteret paused, meeting her grave and luminous
"I think you may risk it," he said. "I promise you this some-one-else's
honour shall be sacred to me as my own. Without your direct request no
word of what you choose to tell me will ever pass my lips."
"Ah! I'm very sure of that,"--Her smile, her voice bore transparent
testimony to a faith which went, somewhat giddily, not only to her
hearer's heart but to his head. "It isn't a question of your repeating
anything; but of your thinking differently of some one you care for very
much--and who is almost as dependent on you, Colonel Sahib, as I am
myself. At least I fear you might.--Oh! I am so perplexed, I'm in such
a maze," she said. "I've nothing to go on in all this, and I turn it
over and over in my mind to no purpose till my head aches. You see I
can't make out whether this--the thing which began it all and happened
oh! long ago--is extraordinary--one which you--and most people like
you--in your position, I mean--would consider very wrong and
disgraceful; or whether it often happens and is just accepted, taken for
granted, only not talked about."
Carteret felt cold all down his spine. For what, in God's name, could
this supremely dear and--as he watched her grave and sweetly troubled
countenance--supremely lovely child, be driving at?
"And I care so dreadfully much," she went on. "It is the story of the
darling little green jade elephant over again--like its being broken and
spoilt. Only now I'm grown up I don't give in and let it make me ill.
There was a time even of that--of illness, I mean--at first just before
you came to The Hard last autumn. But I wouldn't suffer it, I would not
let the illness go on. I got over that. But then a second crisis occurred
soon after we came here; and I thought Henrietta's kindness opened a way
out. So I rushed about whenever and wherever she invited me to rush. But
as I told you this evening--just before we had our two dances, you
"Am I likely to forget!" Carteret murmured under his breath.
"The rushing about has not proved a success. I thought it would help to
stifle certain longings and keep me nearer to my father--more at one with
him. But it didn't, it made me neglect him. You see--you see"--the words
were dragged from her, as by active suffering and distress of mind--"I
had to choose between him and another person. One cannot serve two
masters. I choose him. His claim was the strongest in duty. And I love to
see him satisfied and peaceful. He always ranked first in everything I
felt and did ever since I can remember; and I so want him to stay first.
But I have been pulled two ways, and seem to have got all astray somehow
lately. I haven't been really true to myself any more than to him--only
frivolous and busy about silly pleasures."
"Don't let the frivolity burden your precious conscience," Carteret
comfortably told her, touched by the pathos of her self-reproach. For her
sincerity was surely, just now, unimpeachable and she a rare creature
indeed! Love, he could less than ever banish; but surely he might utterly
banish distrust and fear?--"As frivolity goes, dear witch, and greed of
pleasure, yours have been innocent enough both in amount and in quality,
"I should like to believe so--but all that's relative, isn't it? The real
wrongness of what you do, depends upon the level of rightness you start
from, I mean."
"Insatiable casuist!" Carteret tenderly laughed at her.
And with that, by common though unspoken consent, they walked
Even while so doing, however, both were sensible that this resumption of
their homeward journey marked a period in, rather than the conclusion of,
their conversation. Some outside compelling force--so in any case it
appeared to Carteret--encompassed them. It was useless to turn and
double, indulge in gently playful digression. That force would inevitably
make them face the innermost of their own thought, their own emotion, in
the end. In obedience to which unwelcome conviction, Carteret presently
brought himself to ask her:
"And about this other person--for we have wandered a bit from the point
at issue, haven't we?--whose interests as I gather clash, for some
reason, with those of your father, and whose pride and honour you are so
jealously anxious to safeguard."
"His pride, yes," Damaris said quickly, her head high, a warmth in her
tone. "His honour is perfectly secure, in my opinion."
"Whose honour is in danger then?--Dear witch, forgive me, but don't you
see the implication?"
Damaris looked around at him with unfathomable eyes. Her lips parted, yet
she made no answer.
After a pause Carteret spoke again, and, to his own hearing, his voice
sounded hoarse as that of the tideless sea upon the beach yonder.
"Do you mean me to understand that the conflict between your father's
interests and those of this other person--this other man's--arise from
the fact that you love him?"
"Yes," Damaris calmly declared.
"Love him,"--having gone thus far Carteret refused to spare himself. He
turned the knife in the wound--"Love him to the point of marriage?"
There, the word was said. Almost unconsciously he walked onward without
giving time for her reply.--He moistened his lips, weren't they dry as a
cinder? He measured the height to which hope had borne him, to-night, by
the shock, the positive agony of his existing fall. At the young girl,
_svelte_ and graceful, beside him, he could not look; but kept his eyes
fixed on the mass of the wooded promontory, dark and solid against the
more luminous tones of water and of sky, some half-mile distant. Set high
upon the further slope of it, from here invisible, the Grand Hotel
fronted--as he knew--the eastward trending coast. Carteret wished the
distance less, since he craved the shelter of that friendly yellow-washed
caravanserai. He would be mortally thankful to find himself back there,
and alone, the door of his bachelor quarters shut--away from the beat of
the waves, away from the subtle glory of this Venus-ridden moon now
drawing down to her setting. Away, above all, from Damaris--delivered
from the enchantments and perturbations, both physical and moral, her
delicious neighbourhood provoked.
But from that fond neighbourhood, as he suddenly became aware, he was in
some sort delivered already. For she stopped dead, with a strange choking
cry; and stood solitary, as it even seemed forsaken, upon the wide grey
whiteness of the asphalt of the esplanade. Behind her a line of
lamps--pale burning under the moonlight--curved, in perspective, with the
curving of the bay right away to the lighthouse. On her left the crowded