Part 5 out of 7
But presently he came back to his senses. Very gently he put her from
"It's not right," he stammered unsteadily. "I can't accept this from
you. Dear, you must let me go away. . . . I can't spoil your beautiful
life by joining it to mine!"
She drew his arm about her shoulders again.
"You will spoil it if you go away. Oh! Garth, you dear, foolish man!
When will you understand that love is the only thing that matters? If
you had committed all the sins in the Decalogue, I shouldn't care!
You're mine now"--jealously--"my lover. And I'm not going to be thrust
out of your life for some stupid scruple. Let the past take care of
itself. The present is ours. And--and I love you, Garth!"
It was difficult to reason coolly with her arms about him, her lips so
near his own, and his great love for her pulling at his heart. But he
made one further effort.
"If you should ever regret it, Sara?" he whispered. "I don't think I
could bear that."
She looked at him with steady eyes.
"You will not have it to bear," she said. "I shall never regret it."
Still he hesitated. But the dawn of a great hope grew and deepened in
"If you could be content to live here--at Far End . . . It is just
possible!" He spoke reflectively, as though debating the matter with
himself. "The curse has not followed me to this quiet little corner of
the earth. Perhaps--after all . . . Sara, could you stand such a life?
Or would you always be longing to get out into the great world? As
I've told you, the world is shut to me. There's that in my past which
blocks the way to any future. Have you the faith--the /courage/--to
Her eyes, steadfast and serene, met his.
"I have courage to face anything--with you, Garth. But I haven't
courage to face living without you."
He bent his head and kissed her on the mouth--a slow, lingering kiss
that held something far deeper and more enduring than mere passion.
And Sara, as she kissed him back, her soul upon her lips, felt as
though together they had partaken of love's holy sacrament.
"Beloved"--Garth's voice, unspeakably tender, came to her through the
exquisite silence of the moment--"Beloved, it shall be as you wish.
Whether I am right or wrong in taking this great gift you offer me--
God knows! If I am wrong--then, please Heaven, whatever punishment
there be may fall on me alone."
A SUMMER IDYLL
The summer, of all seasons of the year, is very surely the perfect
time for lovers, and to Sara the days that followed immediately upon
her engagement to Garth Trent were days of unalloyed happiness.
These were wonderful hours which they passed together, strolling
through the summer-foliaged woods, or lazing on the sun-baked sands,
or, perhaps, roaming the range of undulating cliffs that stretched
away to the west from the headland where Far End stood guard.
During those hours of intimate companionship, Sara began to learn the
hidden deeps of Garth's nature, discovering the almost romantic
delicacy of thought that underlay his harsh exterior.
"You're more than half a poet, my Garth!" she told him one day.
"A transcendental fool, in other words," he amended, smiling. "Well"--
looking at her oddly--"perhaps you're right. But it's too late to
improve me any. As the twig is bent, so the tree grows, you know."
"I don't want to improve you," Sara assured him promptly. "I shouldn't
like you to be in the least bit different from what you are. It
wouldn't be my Garth, then, at all."
So they would sit together and talk the foolish, charming nonsense
that all lovers have talked since the days of Adam and Eve, whilst
from above, the sun shone down and blessed them, and the waves,
lapping peacefully on the shore, murmured an /obbligato/ to their
Looking backward, in the bitter months that followed when her
individual happiness had been caught away from her in a whirlwind of
calamity, and when the whole world was reeling under the red storm of
war, Sara could always remember the utter, satisfying peace of those
golden days of early July--an innocent, unthinking peace that neither
she nor the world would ever quite regain. Afterwards, memory would
always have her scarred and bitter place at the back of things.
Sara found no hardship now in receiving the congratulations of her
friends--and they fell about her like rain--while in the long,
intimate talks she had with Garth the fact that he would never speak
of the past weighed with her not at all. She guessed that long ago he
had been guilty of some mad, boyish escapade which, with his
exaggerated sense of honour and the delicate idealism that she had
learned to know as an intrinsic part of his temperamental make-up, he
had magnified into a cardinal sin. And she was content to leave it at
that and to accept the present, gathering up with both hands the
happiness it held.
She had written to Elisabeth, telling her of her engagement, and, to
her surprise, had received the most charming and friendly letter in
"Of course," wrote Elisabeth in her impulsive, flowing hand with
its heavy dashes and fly-away dots, "we cannot but wish that it
had been otherwise--that you could have learned to care for Tim--
but you know better than any one of us where your happiness lies,
and you are right to take it. And never think, Sara, that this is
going to make any difference to our friendship. I could read
between the lines of your letter that you had some such foolish
thought in your mind. So little do I mean this to make any break
between us that--as I can quite realize it would be too much to
ask that you should come to us at Barrow just now--I propose
coming down to Monkshaven. I want to meet the lucky individual who
has won my Sara. I have not been too well lately--the heat has
tried me--and Geoffrey is anxious that I should go away to the sea
for a little. So that all things seem to point to my coming to
Monkshaven. Does your primitive little village boast a hotel? Or,
if not, can you engage some decent rooms for me?"
The remainder of the letter dealt with the practical details
concerning the proposed visit, and Sara, in a little flurry of joyous
excitement, had hurried off to the Cliff Hotel and booked the best
suite of rooms it contained for Elisabeth.
On her way home she encountered Garth in the High Street, and
forthwith proceeded to acquaint him with her news.
"I've just been fixing up rooms at the 'Cliff' for a friend of mine
who is coming down here," she said, as he turned and fell into step
beside her. "A woman friend," she added hastily, seeing his brows knit
"So much the better! But I could have done without the importation of
any friends of yours--male or female--just now. They're entirely
"Well, I'm glad Mrs. Durward is coming, because--"
"/Who/ did you say?" broke in Garth, pausing in his stride.
"Mrs. Durward--Tim's mother, you know," she explained. She had
confided to him the history of her brief engagement to Tim.
Trent resumed his walk, but more slowly; the buoyancy seemed suddenly
gone out of his step.
"Don't you think," he said, speaking in curiously measured tones,
"that, in the circumstances, it will be a little awkward Mrs.
Durward's coming here just now?"
Sara disclaimed the idea, pointing out that it was the very
completeness of Elisabeth's conception of friendship which was
bringing her to Monkshaven.
"When does she come?" asked Trent.
"On Thursday. I'm very anxious for you to meet her, Garth. She is so
thoroughly charming. I think it is splendid of her not to let my
broken engagement with Tim make any difference between us. Most
mothers would have borne a grudge for that!"
"And you think Mrs. Durward has overlooked it?"--with a curious smile.
Sara enthusiastically assured him that this was the case.
"I wonder!" he said meditatively. "It would be very unlike Elis--
unlike any woman"--he corrected himself hastily--"to give up a fixed
idea so easily."
"Well"--Sara laughed gaily. "Nowadays you can't /compel/ a person to
marry the man she doesn't want--nor prevent her from marrying the man
"I don't know. A determined woman can do a good deal."
"But Elisabeth isn't a bit the determined type of female you're
evidently imagining," protested Sara, amused. "She is very beautiful
and essentially feminine--rather a wonderful kind of person, I think.
Wait till you see her!"
"I'm afraid," said Trent slowly, "that I shall not see your charming
friend. I have to run up to Town next week on--on business."
"Oh!" Sara's disappointment showed itself in her voice. "Can't you put
He halted outside a tobacconist's shop. "Do you mind waiting a moment
while I go in here and get some baccy?"
He disappeared into the shop, and Sara stood gazing idly across the
street, watching a jolly little fox-terrier enjoying a small but meaty
bone he had filched from the floor of a neighbouring butcher's shop.
His placid enjoyment of the stolen feast was short-lived. A minute
later a lean and truculent Irish terrier came swaggering round the
corner, spotted the succulent morsel, and, making one leap, landed
fairly on top of the smaller dog. In an instant pandemonium arose, and
the quiet street re-echoed to the noise of canine combat.
The little fox-terrier put up a plucky fight in defence of his prior
claim to the bone of contention, but soon superior weight began to
tell, and it was evident that the Irishman was getting the better of
the fray. The fox-terrier's owner, very elegantly dressed, watched the
battle from a safe distance, wringing her hands and calling upon all
and sundry of the small crowd which had speedily collected to save her
darling from the lions.
No one, however, seemed disposed to relieve her of this office--for
the Irishman was an ugly-looking customer--when suddenly, like a
streak of light, a slim figure flashed across the road, and flung
itself into the /melee/, whist a vibrating voice broke across the
uproar with an imperative: "Let /go/, you brute!"
It was all over in a moment. Somehow Sara's small, strong hands had
separated the twisting, growling, biting heap of dog into its
component parts of fox and Irish, and she was standing with the little
fox-terrier, panting and bleeding profusely, in her arms, while one or
two of the bystanders--now that all danger was past--drove off the
"Oh! But how /brave/ of you!" The owner of the fox-terrier rustled
forward. "I can't ever thank you sufficiently."
Sara turned to her, her black eyes blazing.
"Is this your dog?" she asked.
"Yes. And I'm sure"--volubly--"he would have been torn to pieces by
that great hulking brute if you hadn't separated them. I should never
Garth, coming out of the tobacconist's shop across the way, joined the
little knot of people just in time to hear Sara answer cuttingly, as
she put the terrier into its owner's arms--
"You've no business to /have/ a dog if you've not got the pluck to
look after him!"
As she and Trent bent their steps homeward, Sara regaled him with the
full, true, and particular account of the dog-fight, winding up
"Foul women like that ought not to be allowed to take out a dog
licence. I hate people who shirk their responsibilities."
"You despise cowards?" he asked.
"More than anything on earth," she answered heartily.
He was silent a moment. Then he said reflectively--
"And yet, I suppose, a certain amount of allowance must be made for--
"It seems to me it depends on what your duty demands of you at the
moment," she rejoined. "Nerves are a luxury. You can afford them when
it makes no difference to other people whether you're afraid or not--
but not when it does."
"And from what deeps did you draw such profound wisdom?" he asked
Sara laughed a little.
"I had it well rubbed into me by my Uncle Patrick," she replied. "It
was his /Credo/."
"And yet, I can understand any one's nerves cracking suddenly--after a
"I don't think yours would," responded Sara contentedly, with a vivid
recollection of their expedition to the island and its aftermath.
"Possibly not. But I suppose no man can be dead sure of himself--
"Will you come in?" asked Sara as they paused at Sunnyside gate.
"Not to-day, I think. I had better begin to accustom myself to doing
without you, as I am going away so soon"--smiling.
"I wish you were not going," she rejoined discontentedly. "I so wanted
you and Elisabeth to meet. /Must/ you go?"
"I'm afraid I must. And it's better that I should go, on the whole. I
should only be raging up and down like an untied devil because Mrs.
Durward was taking up so much of your time! Let her have you to
herself for a few days--and then, when I come back, I shall have you
to /myself/ again."
PATCHES OF BLUE
Elisabeth frowned a little as she perused the letter which she had
that morning received from Sara. It contained the information that
rooms in her name had been booked at the Cliff Hotel, and further,
that Sara was much disappointed that it would be impossible to arrange
for her to meet Garth Trent, as he was leaving home on the Wednesday
prior to her arrival.
Trent's departure was the last thing Elisabeth desired. Above all
things, she wanted to meet the man whom she regarded as the stumbling-
block in the path of her son, for if it were possible that anything
might yet be done to further the desire of Tim's heart, it could only
be if Elisabeth, as the /dea ex machina/, were acquainted with all the
pieces in the game.
She must know what manner of man it was who had succeeded in winning
Sara's heart before she could hope to combat his influence, and, if
the feet of clay were there, she must see them herself before she
could point them out to Sara's love-illusioned eyes. Should she fail
of making Trent's acquaintance, she would be fighting in the dark.
Elisabeth pondered the matter for some time. Finally, she dispatched a
telegram, prepaying a reply, to the proprietor of the Cliff Hotel, and
a few hours later she announced to her husband that she proposed
antedating her visit to Monkshaven by three days.
"I shall go down the day after to-morrow--on Monday," she said.
"Then I'd better send a wire to Sara," suggested Geoffrey.
"No, don't do that. I intend taking her by surprise." Elisabeth smiled
and dimpled like a child in the possession of a secret. "I shall go
down there just in time for dinner, and write to Sara the same
Major Durward laughed with indulgent amusement.
"What an absurd lady you are still, Beth!" he exclaimed, his honest
face beaming adoration. "No one would take you to be the mother of a
"Wouldn't they?" For a moment Elisabeth's eyes--veiled, enigmatical as
ever--rested on Tim's distant figure, where he stood deep in the
discussion of some knotty point with the head gardener. Then they came
back to her husband's face, and she laughed lightly. "Everybody
doesn't see me through the rose-coloured spectacles that you do,
"There are no 'rose-coloured spectacles' about it," protested Geoffrey
energetically. "No one on earth would take you for a day more than
thirty--if it weren't for the solid fact of Tim's six feet of bone and
Elisabeth jumped up and kissed her husband impulsively.
"Geoffrey, you're a great dear," she declared warmly. "Now I must run
off and tell Fanchette to pack my things."
So it came about that on the following Tuesday, Sara, to her
astonishment and delight, received a letter from Elisabeth announcing
her arrival at the Cliff Hotel.
"Why, Elisabeth is already here!" she exclaimed, addressing the family
at Sunnyside collectively. "She came last night."
Selwyn looked up from his correspondence with a kindly smile.
"That's good. You will be able, after all, to bring off the projected
meeting between Mrs. Durward and your hermit--who, by the way, seems
to have deserted his shell nowadays," he added, twinkling.
And Sara, blissfully unaware that in this instance Elisabeth had
abrogated to herself the rights of destiny, responded smilingly--
"Yes. Fate has actually arranged things quite satisfactorily for
Half an hour later she presented herself at the Cliff Hotel, and was
conducted upstairs to Mrs. Durward's sitting-room on the first floor.
Elisabeth welcomed her with all her wonted charm and sweetness. There
was a shade of gravity in her manner as she spoke of Sara's
engagement, but no hint of annoyance. She dwelt solely on Tim's
disappointment and her own, exhibiting no bitterness, but only a
rather wistful regret that another had succeeded where Tim had failed.
"And now," she said, drawing Sara out on to the balcony, where she had
been sitting prior to the latter's arrival, "and now, tell me about
the lucky man."
Sara found it a little difficult to describe the man she loved to the
mother of the man she didn't love, but finally, by dint of skilful
questioning, Elisabeth elicited the information she sought.
"Forty-three!" she exclaimed, as Sara vouchsafed his age. "But that's
much too old for you, my dear!"
Sara shook her head.
"Not a bit," she smiled back.
"It seems so to me," persisted Elisabeth, regarding her with judicial
eyes. "Somehow you convey such an impression of youth. You always
remind me of spring. You are so slim and straight and vital--like a
young sapling. However, perhaps Mr. Trent also has the faculty of
youth. Youth isn't a matter of years, after all," she added
"Now go on," she commanded, after a moment. "Tell me what he looks
Sara laughed and plunged into a description of Garth's personal
"And he's got queer eyes--tawny-coloured like a dog's," she wound up,
"with a quaint little patch of blue close to each of the pupils."
Elisabeth leaned forward, and beneath the soft laces of her gown the
rise and fall of her breast quickened perceptibly.
"Patches of blue?" she repeated.
"Yes--it sounds as though the colours had run, doesn't it?" pursued
Sara, laughing a little. "But it's really rather effective."
"And did you say his name was Trent--Garth Trent?" asked Elisabeth.
She had gone a little grey about the mouth, and she moistened her lips
with her tongue before speaking. There was a tone of incredulity in
"Yes. It's not a beautiful name, is it?" smiled Sara.
"It's rather a curious one," agreed Elisabeth with an effort. "I'm
really quite longing to meet this odd man with the patchwork eyes and
the funny name."
"You shall see him to-day," Sara promised. "Audrey Maynard is giving a
picnic in Haven Woods, and Garth will be there. You will come with us,
"I think I must," replied Elisabeth. "Although"--negligently--"picnics
are not much in my line."
"Oh, Audrey's picnics aren't like other people's," rejoined Sara
reassuringly. "She runs them just as she runs everything else, on
lines of combined perfection and informality! The lunch will be the
production of a French chef, and the company a few carefully selected
"Very well, I'll come--if you're sure Mrs. Maynard won't object to the
introduction of a complete stranger."
Sara regarded her affectionately.
"Have you ever met any one who 'objected' to you yet?" she asked with
Elisabeth made no answer. Instead, she pointed to the Monk's Cliff,
where the grey stone of Far End gleamed in the sunlight against its
dark background of trees.
"Who lives there?" she asked. Sara's eyes followed the direction of
her hand, and she smiled.
"/I'm/ going to live there," she answered. "That's Garth's home."
"Oh-h!" Elisabeth drew a quick breath. "It's a grim-looking place,"
she added, after a moment. "Rather lonely, I should imagine."
"Garth is fond of solitude," replied Sara simply, and she missed the
swift, searching glance instantly leveled at her by the hyacinth eyes.
When at length she took her departure, it was with a promise to return
later on with Molly and Dr. Selwyn, so that they could all four walk
out to Haven Woods together--since the doctor had undertaken to get
through his morning's rounds in time to join the picnicking party.
Elisabeth accompanied her visitor to the head of the stairs, and then,
returning to her room, stepped out on to the balcony once more. For a
long time she stood leaning against the balustrade, gazing
thoughtfully across the bay to that lonely house on the slope of the
"Garth Trent!" she murmured. "/Trent/! . . . And eyes with patches of
blue in them! . . . Heavens! Can it possibly be? /Can/ it be?"
There was a curious quality in her voice, a blending of incredulity
and distaste, and yet something that savoured of satisfaction--almost
Across her mental vision flitted a memory of just such eyes--gay,
laughing, love-lit eyes, out of which the laughter had been suddenly
THE CUT DIRECT
It was a merry party which had gathered together in the shady heart of
Haven Woods. The Selwyns, Sara and Elisabeth, Miles Herrick and the
Lavender Lady were all there, and, in addition, there was a large and
light-hearted contingent from Greenacres, where Audrey was
entertaining a houseful of friends. Only Garth had not yet arrived.
Two young subalterns on leave and a couple of pretty American sisters,
all of them staying at Greenacres, were making things hum, nobly
seconded in their efforts by Miles Herrick, who had practically
recovered from his sprained ankle and one of whose "good days" it
chanced to be.
Every one seemed bubbling over with good-humour and high spirits, so
that the dell re-echoed to the shouts of jolly laughter, while the
birds, flitting nervously hither and thither, wondered what manner of
creatures these were who had invaded their quiet sanctuary of the
woods. And presently, when the whole party gathered round the white
cloth, spread with every dainty that the inspired mind of Audrey's
chef had been able to devise, and the popping corks began to punctuate
the babble of chattering voices, they took wing and fled
incontinently. They had heard similar sharp, explosive sounds before,
and had noted them as being generally the harbingers of sudden death.
"Where's that wretched hermit of yours, Sara?" demanded Audrey gaily.
"I told him we should lunch at one, and it's already a quarter-past.
Ah!"--catching sight of a lean, supple figure advancing between the
trees--"Here he is at last!"
A shout greeted Garth's approach, and the uproarious quartette
composed of the two subalterns and the girls from New York City
pounded joyously with their forks upon their plates, creating a
perfect pandemonium of noise, Miles recklessly participating in the
clamorous welcome, while the Lavender Lady fluttered her handkerchief,
and Sara and Audrey both hurried forward to meet the late comer. In
the general excitement nobody chanced to observe the effect which
Trent's appearance had had upon one of the party.
Elisabeth had half-risen from the grassy bank on which she had been
sitting, and her face was suddenly milk-white. Even her lips had lost
their soft rose-colour, and were parted as if an exclamation of some
kind had been only checked from passing them by sheer force of will.
Out of her white face, her eyes, seeming so dark that they were almost
violet, stared fixedly at Garth as he approached. Their expression was
as masked, as enigmatical as ever, yet back of it there gleamed an odd
light, and it was as though some curious menace lay hidden in its
quiet, slumbrous fire.
The little group composed of Audrey, Sara, and Garth had joined the
main party now, and Garth was shaking eager, outstretched hands and
laughingly tossing back the shower of chaff which greeted his tardy
Then Sara, laying her hand on his arm, steered him towards Elisabeth.
Some one who had been standing a little in front of the latter,
screening her from Trent's view, moved aside as they approached.
"Garth, let me introduce you to Mrs. Durward."
The smile that would naturally have accompanied the words was arrested
ere it dawned, and involuntarily Sara drew back before the instant,
startling change in Garth's face. It had grown suddenly ashen, and his
eyes were like those of a man who, walking in some pleasant place,
finds all at once, that a bottomless abyss has opened at his feet.
For a full moment he and Elisabeth stared at each other in a silence
so vital, so pregnant with some terrible significance, that it
impacted upon the whole prevailing atmosphere of care-free jollity.
A sudden muteness descended on the party, the laughing voices trailing
off into affrighted silence, and in the dumb stillness that followed
Sara was vibrantly conscious of the hostile clash of wills between the
man and woman who had, in a single instant, become the central figures
of the little group.
Then Elisabeth's voice--that amazingly sweet voice of hers--broke the
"Mr.--Trent"--she hesitated delicately before the name--"and I have
And quite deliberately, with a proud, inflexible dignity, she turned
her back upon him and moved away.
Sara never forgot the few moments that followed. She felt as though
she were on the brink of some crisis in her life which had been slowly
drawing nearer and nearer to her and was now acutely imminent, and
instinctively she sought to gather all her energies together to meet
it. What it might be she could not guess, but she was sure that this
declared enmity between the man she loved and the woman who was her
friend preluded some menace to her happiness.
Her eyes sought Garth's in horror-stricken interrogation.
"What is it? What does she mean?" she demanded swiftly, in a
breathless undertone, instinctively drawing aside from the rest of the
He laughed shortly.
"She means mischief, probably," he replied. "Mrs. Durward is no friend
Sara's eyes blazed.
"She shall explain," she exclaimed impetuously, and she swung aside,
meaning to follow Elisabeth and demand an explanation of the insult.
But Garth checked her.
"No," he said decidedly. "Please do nothing--say nothing. For Audrey's
sake we can't have a scene--here."
"But it's unpardonable----"
"Do as I say," he insisted. "Believe me, you will only make things
worse if you interfere. I will make my apologies to Audrey and go. For
my sake, Sara"--he looked at her intently--"go back and face it out.
Behave as if nothing had happened."
Compelled, in spite of herself, by his insistence, Sara reluctantly
assented and, leaving him, made her way slowly back to the others.
A disjointed buzz of talk sprayed up against her ears. Every one
rushed into conversation, making valiant, if quite fruitless efforts
to behave as though nothing out of the ordinary had occurred, while, a
little apart from the main group, Elisabeth stood alone.
Meanwhile Trent sought out his hostess, and together they moved away,
pausing at last beneath the canopy of trees.
"No words can quite meet what has just occurred," he said formally. "I
can only express my regret that my presence here should have
occasioned such a /contretemps/."
Although the whole brief scene had been utterly incomprehensible to
her, Audrey intuitively sensed the bitter hurt underlying the harshly
spoken words, and the outraged hostess was instantly submerged in the
"I am so sorry about it, Garth," she said gently, "although, of
course, I don't understand Mrs. Durward's behaviour."
"That is very kind of you!" he replied, his voice softening. "But
please do not visit your very natural indignation upon Mrs. Durward. I
alone am to blame, I ought never to have renounced my role of hermit.
Unfortunately"--with a brief smile of such sadness that Audrey felt
her heart go out to him in a sudden rush of sympathy--"my mere
presence is an abuse of my friends' hospitality."
"No, no!" she exclaimed quickly. "We are all glad to have you with us
--we were so pleased when--when at last you came out of your shell,
Garth"--with a faint smile.
"Still the fact remains that I am outside the social pale. I had no
business to thrust myself in amongst you. However--after this--you may
rest assured that I shan't offend again."
"I decline to rest assured of anything of the kind," asserted Audrey
with determination. "Don't be such a fool, Garth--or so unfair to your
friends. Just because you chance to have met a women who, for some
reason, chooses to cut you, doesn't alter our friendship for you in
the very least. What Mrs. Durward may have against you I don't know--
and I don't care either. /I/ have nothing against you, and I don't
propose to give any pal of mine the go-by because some one else
happens to have quarreled with him."
Trent's eyes were curiously soft as he answered her.
"Thank you for that," he said earnestly. "All the same, I think you
will have to make up your mind to allow your--friend, as you are good
enough to call me, to go to the wall. You, and others like you,
dragged him out, but, believe me, his place is not in the centre of
the room. There are others besides Mrs. Durward who would give you the
reason why, if you care to know it."
"I don't care to know it," responded Audrey firmly. "In fact, I should
decline to recognize any reason against my calling you friend. I don't
intend to let you go, nor will Miles, you'll find."
"Ah! Herrick! He's a good chap, isn't he?" said Trent a little
"We all are--once you get to know us," returned Audrey, persistently
cheerful. "And Sara--Sara won't let you go either, Garth."
His sensitive, bitter mouth twisted suddenly.
"If you don't mind," he said quickly, "we won't talk about Sara. And I
won't keep you any longer from your guests. It was--just like you--to
take it as you have done, Audrey. And if, later on, you find yourself
obliged to revise your opinion of me--I shall understand. And I shall
not resent it."
"I'm not very likely to do what you suggest."
He looked at her with a curious expression on his face.
"I'm afraid it is only too probable," he rejoined simply.
He wrung her hand, and, turning, walked swiftly away through the wood,
while Audrey retraced her footsteps in the direction of the dell.
She was feeling extremely annoyed at what she considered to be Mrs.
Durward's hasty and inconsiderate action. It was unpardonable of any
one thus to spoil the harmony of the day, she reflected indignantly,
and then she looked up and met Elisabeth's misty, hyacinth eyes, full
of a gentle, appealing regret.
"Mrs. Maynard, I must beg you to try and pardon me," she said,
approaching with a charming gesture of apology. "I have no excuse to
offer except that Mr. Trent is a man I--I cannot possibly meet." She
paused and seemed to swallow with some difficulty, and of a sudden
Audrey was conscious of a thrill of totally unexpected compassion.
There was so evidently genuine pain and emotion behind the hesitating
"I am sorry you should have been distressed," she replied kindly. "It
has been a most unfortunate affair all round."
Elisabeth bestowed a grateful little smile upon her.
"If you will forgive me," she said, "I will say good-bye now. I am
sure you will understand my withdrawing."
"Oh no, you mustn't think of such a thing," cried Audrey hospitably,
though within herself she could not but acknowledge that the
suggestion was a timely one. "Please don't run away from us like
"It is very kind of you, but really--if you will excuse me--I think I
would prefer not to remain. I feel somewhat /bouleversee/. And I am so
distressed to have been the unwitting cause of spoiling your charming
"Of course, if you would really rather go----" she began.
"I would rather," persisted Elisabeth with a gentle inflexibility of
purpose. "Will you give a message to Sara for me?" Audrey nodded. "Ask
her to come and see me to-morrow, and tell her that--that I will
explain." Suddenly she stretched out an impulsive hand. "Oh, Mrs.
Maynard! If you knew how much I dread explaining this matter to Sara!
Perhaps, however"--her eyes took on a thoughtful expression--"Perhaps,
however, it may not be necessary--perhaps it can be avoided."
A sense of foreboding seemed to close round Audrey's heart, as she met
the gaze of the beautiful, enigmatic eyes. What was it that Elisabeth
intended to "explain" to Sara? Something connected with Garth Trent,
of course, and it was impossible, in view of the attitude Elisabeth
had assumed, to hope that it could be aught else than something to his
"If an explanation can be avoided, Mrs. Durward," she said rather
coldly, "I think it would be much better. The least said, the soonest
mended, you know," she added, looking straight into the baffling eyes.
The two women, all at once antagonistic and suspicious of each other,
shook hands formally, and Elisabeth took her way through the woods,
while Audrey rejoined her neglected guests and used her best
endeavours to convert an entertainment that threatened to become a
failure into, at least, a qualified success. By dint of infinite tact,
and the loyal cooperation of Miles Herrick, she somehow achieved it,
and the majority of the picnickers enjoyed themselves immensely.
Only Sara felt as though a shadow had crept out from some hidden place
and cast its grey length across the path whereon she walked, while
Miles and Audrey, discerning the shadow with the clear-sighted vision
of friendship, were filled with apprehension for the woman whom they
had both learned to love.
A MIDNIGHT VISITOR
Judson crossed the hall at Far End and, opening the front door, peered
anxiously out into the moonlit night for the third time that evening.
Neither he nor his wife could surmise what had become of their master.
He had gone away, as they knew, with the intention of joining a picnic
party in Haven Woods, but he had given no instructions that he wished
the dinner-hour postponed, and now the beautiful little dinner which
Mrs. Judson had prepared and cooked for her somewhat exigent employer
had been entirely robbed of its pristine delicacy of flavour, since it
had been "keeping hot" in the oven for at least two hours.
"Coming yet?" queried Mrs. Judson, as her husband returned to the
The latter shook his head.
"Not a sign of 'im," he replied briefly.
Ten minutes later, the house door opened and closed with a bang, and
Judson hastened upstairs to ascertain his master's wishes. When he
again rejoined the wife of his bosom, his face wore a look of genuine
"Something's happened," he announced solemnly. "Ten years have I been
in Mr. Trent's service, and never, Maria, never have I seen him look
as he do now."
"What's he looking like, then?" demanded Mrs. Judson, pausing with a
saucepan in her hand.
"Like a man what's been in hell," replied her husband dramatically.
"He's as white as that piece of paper"--pointing to the sheet of
cooking paper with which Mrs. Judson had been conscientiously removing
the grease from the chipped potatoes. "And his eyes look wild. He's
been walking, too--must have walked twenty miles or thereabouts, I
should think, for he seems dead beat and his boots are just a mask of
mud. His coat's torn and splashed, as well--as if he'd pushed his way
through bushes and all, without ever stopping to see where he was
"Then he'll be wanting his dinner," observed Mrs. Judson practically.
"I'll dish it up--'tisn't what you might call actually spoiled as
"He won't have any. 'Judson,' he says to me, 'bring me a whisky-and-
soda and some sandwiches. I don't want nothing else. And then you can
lock up and go to bed.' "
"Well, then, bless the man, look alive and get the whisky-and-soda and
a tray ready whiles I cut the sandwiches," exclaimed the excellent
Mrs. Judson promptly, giving her bemused spouse a push in the
direction of the pantry and herself bustling away to fetch a loaf of
"Right you are. But I was so took aback at the master's appearance,
Maria, you could have knocked me down with a feather. I wonder if his
young lady's given him his congy?" he added reflectively.
Mrs. Judson did not stay to discuss the question, but set about
preparing the sandwiches, and a few minutes later Judson carried into
Trent's own particular snuggery an attractive-looking little tray and
placed it on a table at his master's elbow.
The man had not been far out in his reckoning when he opined that his
master had walked "twenty miles or thereabouts." When he had quitted
Haven Woods, Garth had started off, heedless of the direction he took,
and, since then, he had been tramping, almost blindly, up hill and
down dale, over hedges, through woods, along the shore, stumbling
across the rocks, anywhere, anywhere in the world to get away from the
maddening, devil-ridden thoughts which had pursued him since the brief
meeting with a woman whose hyacinth eyes recalled the immeasurable
anguish of years ago and threatened the joy which the future seemed to
His face was haggard. Heavy lines had graved themselves about his
mouth, and beneath drawn brows his eyes glowed like sombre fires.
Judson paused irresolutely beside him.
"Shall I pour you out a whisky, sir?" he inquired.
Trent started. He had been oblivious of the man's entrance.
"No. I'll do it myself--presently. Lock up and go to bed," he answered
But Judson still hesitated. There was an expression of affectionate
solicitude on his usually wooden face.
"Better have one at once, sir," he said persuasively. "And I think
you'll find the chicken sandwiches very good, sir, if you'll excuse my
For a moment a faint, kindly smile chased away the look of intense
weariness in Garth's eyes.
"You transparent old fool, Judson!" he said indulgently. "You're like
an old hen clucking round. Very well, make me a whisky, if you will,
and give me one of those superlative sandwiches."
Judson waited on him contentedly.
"Anything more to-night, sir? Shall I close the window?" with a
gesture towards the wide-open window near which his master sat.
Garth shook his head, and, when at last the manservant had reluctantly
taken his departure, he remained for a long time sitting very still,
staring out across the moon-washed garden.
Presently he stirred restlessly. Glancing round the room, his eyes
fell on his violin, lying upon the table with the bow beside it just
as he had laid it down that morning after he had been improvising, in
a fit of mad spirits, some variations on the theme of Mendelssohn's
He took up the instrument and struck a few desultory chords. Then,
tucking it more closely beneath his chin, he began to play--a broken,
fitful melody of haunting sadness, tormented by despairing chords,
swept hither and thither by rushing minor cadences--the very spirit of
pain itself, wandering, ghost-like, in desert places.
Upstairs Judson turned heavily in his bed.
"Just hark to 'im, Maria," he muttered uneasily. "He fair makes my
flesh creep with that doggoned fiddle of his. 'Tis like a child crying
in the dark. I wish he'd stop."
But the sad strains still went on, rising and falling, while Garth
paced back and forth the length of the room and the candles flickered
palely in the moonlight that poured in through the open window.
Suddenly, across the lawn a figure flitted, noiseless as a shadow. It
paused once, as though listening, then glided forward again, slowly
drawing nearer and nearer until at last it halted on the threshold of
Garth, for the moment standing with his back towards the window,
continued playing, oblivious of the quiet listener. Then, all at once,
the feeling that he was no longer alone, that some one was sharing
with him the solitude of the night, invaded his consciousness. He
turned swiftly, and as his glance fell upon the silent figure standing
at the open window, he slowly drew his violin from beneath his chin
and remained staring at the apparition as though transfixed.
It was a woman who had thus intruded on his privacy. A scarf of black
lace was twisted, hood-like, about her head, and beneath its fragile
drapery was revealed the beautiful face and haunting, mysterious eyes
of Elisabeth Durward. She had flung a long black cloak over her
evening gown, and where it had fallen a little open at the throat her
neck gleamed privet-white against its shadowy darkness.
The mystical, transfiguring touch of the moon's soft light had
eliminated all signs of maturity, investing her with an amazing look
of youth, so that for an instant it seemed to Trent as though the
years had rolled back and Elisabeth Eden, in all the incomparable
beauty of her girlhood, stood before him.
He gazed at her in utter silence, and the brooding eyes returned his
The words burst from him at last in a low, tense whisper, and, as if
the sound broke some spell that had been holding both the man and
woman motionless, Elisabeth stepped across the threshold and came
Trent made a swift gesture--almost, it seemed, a gesture of aversion.
"Why have you come here?" he demanded hoarsely.
She drew a little nearer, then paused, her hand resting on the table,
and looked at him with a strange, questioning expression in her eyes.
"This is a poor welcome, Maurice," she observed at last.
He winced sharply at the sound of the name by which she had addressed
him, then, recovering himself, faced her with apparent composure.
"I have no welcome for you," he said in measured tones. "Why should I
have? All that was between us two . . . ended . . . half a life-time
"No!" she cried out. "No! Not all! There is still my son's happiness
to be reckoned."
"Your son's happiness?" He stared at her amazedly. "What has your
son's happiness to do with me?"
"Everything!" she answered. "Everything! Sara Tennant is the woman he
"And have you come here to blame me for the fact that she does not
return his love?"--with an accent of ironical amusement.
"No, I don't blame you. But if it had not been for you she would have
married him. They were engaged, and then"--her voice shook a little--
"you came! You came--and robbed Tim of his happiness."
Trent smiled sarcastically.
"An instance of the grinding of the mills of God," he said lightly.
"You robbed me--you'll agree?--of something I valued. And now--
inadvertently--I have robbed you in return of your son's happiness. It
appears"--consideringly--"an unusually just dispensation of
Providence. And the sins of the parents are visited on the child, as
is the usual inscrutable custom of such dispensations."
Elisabeth seemed to disregard the bitter gibe his speech contained.
She looked at him with steady eyes.
"I want you--out of the way," she said deliberately.
"Indeed?" The indifferent, drawling tone was contradicted by the
sudden dangerous light that gleamed in the hazel eyes. "You mean you
want me--to pay--once more?"
She looked away uneasily, flushing a little.
"I'm afraid it does amount to that," she admitted.
"And how would you suggest it should be done?" he inquired composedly.
Her eyes came back to his face. There was an eager light in them, and
when she spoke the words hurried from her lips in imperative demand.
"Oh, it would be so easy, Maurice! You have only to convince Sara that
you are not fit to marry her--or any woman, for that matter! Tell her
what your reputation is--tell her why you can never show yourself
amongst your fellow men, why you live here under an assumed name. She
won't want to marry you when she knows these things, and Tim would
have his chance to win her back again."
"You mean--let me quite understand you, Elisabeth"--Trent spoke with
curious precision--"that I am to blacken myself in Sara's eyes, so
that, discovering what a wolf in sheep's clothing I am, she will break
off our engagement. That, I take it, is your suggestion?"
Beneath his searching glance she faltered a moment. Then--
"Yes," she answered boldly. "That is it."
"It's a charming programme," he commented. "But it doesn't seem to me
that you have considered Sara at all in the matter. It will hardly add
to her happiness to find that she has given her heart to--what shall
we say?"--smiling disagreeably--"to the wrong kind of man?"
"Of, of course, she will be upset, /disillusionnee/, for a time. She
will suffer. But then we all have our share of suffering. Sara cannot
hope to be exempt. And afterwards--afterwards"--her eyes shining--"she
will be happy. She and Tim will be happy together."
"And so you are prepared to cause all this suffering, Sara's and mine
--though I suppose"--with a bitter inflection--"that last hardly
counts with you!--in order to secure Tim's happiness?"
"Yes," significantly, "I am prepared--to do anything to secure that."
Trent stared at her in blank amazement.
"Have you /no/ conscience?" he asked at last. "Have you never had
She looked at him a little piteously.
"You don't understand," she muttered. "You don't understand. I'm his
mother. And I want him to be happy."
He shrugged his shoulders.
"I am sorry," he said, "that I cannot help you. But I'm afraid Tim's
happiness isn't going to be purchased at my expense. I haven't the
least intention of blackening myself in the eyes of the woman I love
for the sake of Tim--or of twenty Tims. Please understand that, once
and for all."
He gestured as though to indicated that she should precede him to the
window by which she had entered. But she made no movement to go.
Instead she flung back her cloak as though it were stifling her, and
caught him impetuously by the arm.
"Maurice! Maurice! For God's sake, listen to me!" Her voice was
suddenly shaken with passionate entreaty. "Use some other method,
then! Break with her some other way! If you only knew how I hate to
ask you this--I who have already brought only sorrow and trouble into
your life! But Tim--my son--he must come first!" She pressed a little
closer to him, lifting her face imploringly. "Maurice, you loved me
once--for the sake of that love, grant me my boy's happiness!"
Quietly, inexorably, he disengaged himself from the eager clasp of her
hand. Her beautiful, agonized face, the vehement supplication of her
voice, moved him not a jot.
"You are making a poor argument," he said coldly. "You are making your
request in the name of a love that died three-and-twenty years ago."
"Do you mean"--she stared at him--"that you have not cared--at all--
since?" She spoke incredulously. Then, suddenly, she laughed. "And I--
what a fool I was!--I used to grieve--often--thinking how you must be
He smiled wryly as at some bitter memory.
"Perhaps I did," he responded shortly. "Death has its pains--even the
death of first love. My love for you died hard, Elisabeth--but it
died. You killed it."
"And you will not do what I ask for the sake of the love you--once--
gave me?" There was a desperate appeal in her low voice.
He shook his head. "No," he said, "I will not."
She made a gesture of despair.
"Then you drive me into doing what I hate to do!" she exclaimed
fiercely. She was silent for a moment, standing with bowed head, her
mouth working painfully. Then, drawing herself up, she faced him
again. There was something in the lithe, swift movement that recalled
a panther gathering itself together for its spring.
"Listen!" she said. "If you will not find some means of breaking off
your engagement with Sara, then I shall tell her the whole story--tell
her what manner of man it is she proposes to make her husband!"
There was a supreme challenge in her tones, and she waited for his
answer defiantly--her head flung back, her whole body braced, as it
were, to resistance.
In the silence that followed, Trent drew away from her--slowly,
repugnantly, as though from something monstrous and unclean.
"You wouldn't--you /couldn't/ do such a thing!" he exclaimed in low,
appalled tones of unbelief.
"I could!" she asserted, though her face whitened and her eyes
flinched beneath his contemptuous gaze.
"But it would be a vile thing to do," he pursued, still with that
accent of incredulous abhorrence. "Doubly vile for /you/ to do this
"Do you think I don't know that--don't realize it?" she answered
desperately. "You can say nothing that could make me think it worse
than I do already. It would be the basest action of which any woman
could be guilty. I recognize that. And yet"--she thrust her face,
pinched and strained-looking, into his--"/and yet I shall do it/. I'd
take that sin--or any other--on my conscience for the sake of Tim."
Trent turned away from her with a gesture of defeat, and for a moment
or two he paced silently backwards and forwards, while she watched him
with burning eyes.
"Do you realize what it means?" she went on urgently. "You have no way
out. You can't deny the truth of what I have to tell."
"No," he acknowledged harshly. "As you say, I cannot deny it. No one
knows that better than yourself."
Suddenly he turned to her, and his face was that of a man in uttermost
anguish of soul. Beads of moisture rimmed his drawn mouth, and when he
spoke his voice was husky and uneven.
"Haven't I suffered enough--paid enough?" he burst out passionately.
"You've had your pound of flesh. For God's sake, be satisfied with
that! Leave--Garth Trent--to build up what is left of his life in
The roughened, tortured tones seemed to unnerve her. For a moment she
hid her face in her hands, shuddering, and when she raised it again
the tears were running down her cheeks.
"I can't--I can't!" she whispered brokenly. "I wish I could . . . you
were good to me once. Oh! Maurice, I'm not a bad woman, not a wicked
woman . . . but I've my son to think of . . . his happiness." She
paused, mastering, with an effort, the emotion that threatened to
engulf her. "Nothing else counts--/nothing/! If you go to the wall,
"So I'm to pay--first for your happiness, and now, more than twenty
years later, for your son's. You don't ask--very much--of a man,
He had himself in hand now. The momentary weakness which had wrenched
that brief, anguished appeal from his lips was past, and the dry scorn
of his voice cut like a lash, stinging her into hostility once more.
"I have given you the chance to break with Sara yourself--on any
pretext you choose to invent," she said hardly. "You've refused--" She
hesitated. "You do--still refuse, Maurice?" Again the note of
pleading, of appeal in her voice. It was as though she begged of him
to spare them both the consequences of that refusal.
He bowed. "Absolutely."
She sighed impatiently.
"Then I must take the only other way that remains. You know what that
He stooped, and, picking up her cloak which had fallen to the floor,
held it for her to put on. He had completely regained his customary
indifference of manner.
"I think we need not prolong this interview, then," he said
Elisabeth drew the cloak around her and moved slowly towards the
window. Outside, the tranquil moonlight still flooded the garden, the
peaceful quiet of the night remained all undisturbed by the fierce
conflict of human wills and passions that had spent itself so
"One thing more"--she paused on the threshold as Trent spoke again--
"You will not blacken the name of--"
"/No/!" It was as though she had struck the unuttered word from his
lips. "Did you think I should? Those who bear it have suffered enough.
There's no need to drag it through the mire a second time."
With a quick movement she drew her cloak more closely about her, and
stepped out into the garden. For a moment Garth watched her crossing
the lawns, a slender, upright, swiftly moving shadow. Then a clump of
bushes, thrusting its wall of darkness into the silver sea of
moonlight, hid her from his sight, and he turned back into the room.
Stumblingly he made his way to the chimney-piece, and, resting his
arms upon it, hid his face.
For a long time he remained thus, motionless, while the grandfather
clock in the corner ticked away indifferently, and one by one the
candles guttered down and went out in little pools of grease.
When at last he raised his face, it looked almost ghastly in the
moonlight, so lined and haggard was it, and its sternly set expression
was that of a man who had schooled himself to endure the supreme ill
that destiny may hold in store.
"Of course, there could be but one ending to it all. The man to whom
you have promised yourself--Garth Trent--was court-martialled and
As she finished speaking, Elisabeth's hands, which had been tightly
locked together upon her knee, relaxed and fell stiffly apart, cramped
with the intensity of their convulsive pressure.
Sara sat silent, staring with unseeing eyes across the familiar bay to
that house on the cliff where lived the man whose past history--that
history he had guarded so strenuously and completely from the ears of
their little world--had just been revealed to her.
Mentally she was envisioning the whole scene of the story which
hesitatingly--almost unwilling, it seemed--Elisabeth had poured out.
She could see the lonely fort on the Indian Frontier, sparsely held by
its indomitable little band of British soldiers, and ringed about on
every side by the hill tribes who had so suddenly and unexpectedly
risen in open rebellion. In imagination she could sense the hideous
tension as day succeeded day and each dawning brought no sign of the
longed-for relief forces. Indeed, it was not even known if the
messengers sent by the officer in command had got safely through to
the distant garrison to deliver his urgent message asking succour. And
each evening found those who were besieged within the fort with
diminished rations, and diminished hope, and with one or more dead to
mark the enemy's unceasing vigilance.
And then had come the mysterious apparent withdrawal of the tribesmen.
For hours no sign of the enemy had been seen, nor a single fugitive
shot fired when one or other of the besieged had risked themselves at
an unguarded aperture, whereas, until that morning, for a man to show
himself, even for a moment, had been to court almost certain death.
Could the rebels have received word of the approach of a relieving
force, whispers of a punitive expedition on its way, and so stolen
stealthily, discreetly away in the silence of the night?
The hearts of the little beleaguered force rose high with hope, but
again morning drew to evening without bringing sight or sound of
succour. Only the enemy persisted in that strange, unbroken silence,
and, at last, a hasty council of war was held within the fort, and
Garth Trent, together with a handful of men, had been detailed to make
Sara could picture the little party stealing out on their dangerous
errand--dangerous, indeed, if the withdrawal of the tribesmen were but
a bluff, a scheme devised to lull the besieged into a false sense of
security in order to attack them later at a greater disadvantage. And
then--the sudden spit of a rifle, a ringing fusillade of shots in the
dense darkness! The reconnaissance party had run into an ambuscade!
Sara could guess well the frayed nerves, the low vitality of men who
were short of food, short of sleep, and worn with incessant watching
night and day. But-- Could it be possible that Englishmen had flinched
at the crucial moment--lost their nerve and fled in wild disorder?
Englishmen--who held the sacred trust of empire in their hands--to
show the white feather to a horde of rebel natives! It was
inconceivable! Sara, reared in the great tradition by that gallant
gentleman, Patrick Lovell, refused to credit it.
She drew a long, shuddering breath.
"I don't believe it," she said.
Elisabeth looked at her with a pitying comprehension of the blow she
had just dealt her.
"I'm afraid," she said gently, almost deprecatingly, "that there is no
questioning the finding of the court-martial. Garth must have lost his
head at the unexpectedness of the attack. And panic is a curious,
unaccountable kind of thing, you know."
"I don't believe it," reiterated Sara stubbornly.
Elisabeth bent forward.
"My dear," she said, "there is no possibility of doubt. Garth was
wounded; they brought him in afterwards--/shot in the back/! . . . Oh!
It was all a horrible business! And the most wretched part of it all
was that in reality they were only a few stray tribesmen whom our men
had encountered. Perhaps Garth thought they were outnumbered--I don't
know. But anyway, coming on the top of all that had gone before, the
surprise attack in the darkness broke his nerve completely. He didn't
even attempt to make a stand. He simply gave way. What followed was
just a headlong scramble as to who could save his skin first! I shall
never forget Garth's return after--after the court-martial." She
shuddered a little at the memory. "I--I was engaged to him at the
time, Sara, and I had no choice but to break it off. Garth was
Sara's drooping figure suddenly straightened.
"/You--you/--were engaged to Garth?" she said in a queer, high voice.
"Yes"--simply. "I had promised to marry him."
Sara was silent for a long moment. Then--
"He never told me," she muttered. "He never told me."
"No? It was hardly likely he would, was it? He couldn't tell you that
without telling you--the rest."
Sara made no answer. She felt stunned--beaten into helpless silence by
the quiet, inexorable voice that, bit by bit, minute by minute, had
drawn aside the veil of ignorance and revealed the dry bones and
rottenness that lay hidden behind it.
"I don't believe it!" she had cried in a futile effort to convince
herself by the sheer reiteration of denial. But she /did/ believe it,
nevertheless. The whole miserable story tallied too accurately with
the bitterly significant remarks that Garth himself had let fall from
time to time.
That day of the dog-fight, for instance. What was it he had said? "/A
certain amount of allowance must be made for nerves/."
And again: "/I suppose no man can be dead sure of himself--always/."
The implication was too horribly clear to be evaded.
He had told her, moreover, that he was a man who had made a shipwreck
of his life, that in a moment of folly--a moment of funk she knew now
to be the veridical description!--he had flung away the whole chances
of his life. The man whom she had loved, and, in her love, idealized,
had proved himself, when the test came, that most despicable of
things, a coward! The pain of realization was almost unbearable.
Suddenly, across the utter desolation of the moment there shot a
single ray of hope. She turned triumphantly to Elisabeth.
"But if it were true that Garth--had shown cowardice, why was he not
shot? They shoot men for cowardice"--grimly.
"There are many excuses to be made for him, Sara," replied Elisabeth
"Excuses! For cowardice!" The low-spoken words were icy with a biting
contempt. "I'm afraid I could not find them."
"The court-martial did, nevertheless. At the trial, the 'prisoner's
friend'--in this instance, Garth's colonel, who was very fond of him
and had always thought very highly of him--pleaded extenuating
circumstances. Garth's youth, his previous good record, the conditions
of the moment--the continuous mental and physical strain of the days
preceding his sudden loss of nerve--all these things were urged by the
'prisoner's friend,' and the sentence was commuted to one of
"It would have been better if he had been shot," said Sara dully. Then
suddenly she clapped both hands to her mouth. "Ah--h! What am I
saying? Garth! . . . Garth! . . ."
She stumbled to her feet, her white, ravaged face turned for a moment
yearningly towards Far End, where it stood bathed in the mocking
morning sunlight. Then she spun half-round, groping for support, and
fell in a crumpled heap on the floor.
When Sara came to herself again, she was lying on the bed in
Elisabeth's room at the hotel. Some one had drawn the blinds, shutting
out the crude glare of the sunlight, and in the semi-darkness she
could feel soft hands about her, bathing her face with something
fragrantly cool and refreshing. She opened her eyes and looked up to
find Elisabeth's face bent over her--unspeakably kind and tender, like
that of some Madonna brooding above her child.
"Are you feeling better?" The sweet, familiar voice roused her to the
realization of what had happened. It was the same voice that, before
unconsciousness had wrapped her in its merciful oblivion, had been
pouring into her ears an unbelievably hideous story--a nightmare tale
of what had happened at some far distant Indian outpost.
The details of the story seemed to be all jumbled confusedly together
in Sara's mind, but, as gradually full consciousness returned, they
began to sort themselves and fall into their rightful places, and all
at once, with a swift and horrible contraction of her heart, the truth
knocked at the door of memory.
She struggled up on to her elbow, her eyes frantically appealing.
"Elisabeth, was it true? Was it--all true?"
In an instant Elisabeth's hand closed round hers.
"My dear, you must try and face it. And"--her voice shook a little--
"you must try and forgive me for telling you. But I couldn't let you
marry Garth Trent in ignorance, could I?"
"Then it is true? Garth was court-martialled and--and cashiered?" Sara
sank back against her pillows. Still, deep within her, there flickered
a faint spark of hope. Against all reason, against all common sense
the faith that was within her fought against accepting the bitter
knowledge that Garth was guilty of what was in her eyes the one
Unpardonable! The word started a new and overwhelming train of
thought. She remembered that she had told Garth she did not care what
sin he had been guilty of, had forced him to believe that nothing
could make any difference to her love for him, to her willingness to
become his wife, and share his burden. Yet now, now that the hidden
thing in his life had been revealed to her, she found herself
shrinking from it in utter loathing! Her promises of faith and loyalty
were already crumbling under the strain of her knowledge of the truth.
She flinched from the recognition of the fact, seeking miserably to
palliate and excuse it. When she had given Garth that impetuous
assurance of her confidence, she had not, in her crudest imaginings,
dreamed of anything so hideous and ignoble as the actual truth had
proved to be. Vaguely, she had deemed him outcast for some big,
reckless sin that by the splendour of its recklessness almost earned
its own forgiveness.
And instead--/this/! This drab-hued, pitiful weakness for which she
could find no pardon in her heart.
Through the turmoil of her thoughts she became conscious that
Elisabeth was stooping over her, answering her wild incredulous
"Yes, it is true," she was saying steadily. "He was court-martialled
and cashiered. But, if you still doubt it, ask him yourself, Sara."
Sara's hands clenched themselves. Her eyes were feverishly brilliant
in her white, shrunken face.
"Yes, I'll ask him myself." She panted a little. "You must be wrong--
there must be some horrible mistake somewhere. I've been mad--mad to
believe it for a single moment." She slipped from the bed to her feet,
and stood confronting Elisabeth with a kind of desperate defiance. "Do
you hear what I say?" she said loudly. "I don't believe it. I will
never believe it till Garth himself tells me that it is true."
"Oh, my dear"--Elisabeth shrank away a little, but her eyes were kind
and infinitely pitying. Sara felt frightened of the pitying kindness
in those eyes--its rejection of Garth's innocence was so much stronger
than any asseveration of mere words. Vaguely she heard Elisabeth's
patient voice: "I think you are right. Ask him yourself--but, Sara, he
will not be able to deny it."
"You sent for me, and I am here."
The brusque, curt speech sounded a knell to the faint hope which Sara
had been tending whilst she waited for Garth's coming. His voice, the
dogged expression of his face, the chill, brief manner, each held its
grievous message for the woman who had learned to recognize the signs
of mental stress in the man she loved.
"Yes, I sent for you," she said. "I--I--Garth, I have seen Elisabeth."
"Yes?" Just the one brief monosyllable in response, uttered with a
slightly questioning inflection. Nothing more.
Sara twisted her hands together. There was something unapproachable
about Garth as he stood there--quiet, inflexible, waiting to hear what
she had to say to him.
With an effort she began again.
"She has told me of something--something that happened to you, in the
"Yes? Quite a great deal happened--in my past. What was it, in
particular, that she told you?"
The mocking quality in his tones stung her into open accusation.
"She told me that you had been court-martialled and cashiered from the
Army--for cowardice." The words came slowly, succinctly.
"Ah--h!" He drew his breath sharply, and a grey shadow seemed to
spread itself over his face.
Sara waited--waited with an intensity of longing that was well-nigh
unendurable--for either the indignant denial or the easy, mirthful
scorn wherewith an innocent man might be expected to answer such a
But there came neither of these. Only silence--an endless, agonizing
silence, while Garth stood utterly motionless, looking at her, his
face slowly greying.
It was impossible to interpret the expression of his eyes. There was
neither anger, nor horror, nor pleading in their cool indomitable
stare, but only a hard, bright impenetrability, shuttering the soul
behind it from the aching gaze of the woman who waited.
In that silence, Sara's flickering hope that the accusation might
prove false went out in blinding darkness. She /knew/, now--knew it as
certainly as though Garth had answered her--that he was unable to deny
it. Still, she would brace herself to hear it--to endure the ultimate
anguish of words.
"Is it true?" she questioned him. "Is it true that you were--cashiered
At last he spoke.
"Yes," he said. "It is true." His voice was altogether passionless,
but something had come into his face, into his whole attitude, which
denied the calm passivity of his reply. The soul of the man--a soul in
ineffable extremity of suffering--was struggling for expression,
striving against the rigid bonds of the motionless body in which his
iron will constrained it.
Sara could sense it--a tormented flame shut in a casing of steel--and
she was swept by a torrent of uttermost pity and compassion.
"Garth! Garth! But there must have been some explanation! . . . You
weren't in your right senses at the moment. Ah! Tell me----" She broke
off, her voice failing her, her arms outflung in a passion of
As she leaned towards him, a tremor seemed to run through his entire
body--the tremor of leaping muscles straining against the leash. His
hands clenched slowly, the nails biting into the bruised flesh. Then
he spoke, and his voice was ringing and assured--arrogantly so. The
tortured soul within him had been beaten back once more into its
"I was quite in my right senses--that night on the Frontier--never
more so, believe me"--and his lips twisted in a curious, enigmatical
smile. "And as far as explanations--excuses--are concerned, the court-
martial made all that were possible. I--I was not shot, you see!"
There was something outrageous in the open derision of the last words.
He flung them at her--as though taunting, gibing at the impulse to
compassion which had swayed her, sending her tremulously towards him
with imploring, outstretched hands.
"The quality of mercy was not strained in the least," he continued.
"It fell around me like the proverbial gentle rain. I've quite a lot
to be thankful for, don't you think?"--brutally.
"I--I don't know what to think!" she burst out. "That you--/you/
should fall so low--so shamefully low."
"A man will do a good deal to preserve a whole skin, you know," he
"Why do you speak like that?" she demanded in sharpened tones. "Do you
want me to think worse of you than I do already?"
He took a step towards her and stood looking down at her with those
bright, hard eyes.
"Yes, I do," he said decidedly. "I want you to think as badly of me as
you possibly can. I want you to realize just what sort of a blackguard
you had promised to marry, and when you've got that really clear in
your mind, you'll be able to forget all about me and marry some
cheerful young fool who hasn't been kicked out of the Army."
"As long as I live I shall never--be able--to forget that I loved--a
coward." The words came haltingly from her lips. Then suddenly her
shaking hands went up to her face, as though to shut him from her
sight, and a dry, choking sob tore its way through her throat.
He made a swift stride towards her, then checked himself and stood
motionless once more, in the utter quiescence of deliberately arrested
movement. Only his hands, hanging stiffly at his sides, opened and
shut convulsively, and his eyes should have been hidden. God never
meant any man's eyes to wear that look of unspeakable torment.
When at last Sara withdrew her hands and looked at him again, his face
was set like a mask, the lips drawn back a little from the teeth in a
way that suggested a dumb animal in pain. But she was so hurt herself
that she failed to recognize his infinitely greater hurt.
"I think--I think I hate you," she whispered.
His taut muscles seemed to relax.
"I hope you do," he said steadily. "It will be better so."
Something in the quiet acceptance of his tone moved her to a softer,
more wistful emotion.
"If it had been anything--anything but that, Garth, I think I could
have borne it."
There was a depth of appeal in the low-spoken words. But he ignored
it, opposing a reckless indifference to her softened mood.
"Then it's just as well it wasn't 'anything but that.' Otherwise"--
sardonically--"you might have felt constrained to abide by your rash
promise to marry me."
His eyes flashed over her face, mocking, deriding. He had struck where
she was most vulnerable, accusing where her innate honesty of soul
admitted she had no defence, and she winced away from the speech
almost as though it had been a blow upon her body.
It was true she had given her promise blindly, in ignorance of the
facts, but that could not absolve her. It was not Garth who had forced
the promise from her. It was she who had impetuously offered it, never
conceiving such a possibility as that he might be guilty of the one
sin for which, in her eyes, there could be no palliation.
"I know," she said unevenly. "I know. You have the right to remind me
of my promise. I--I blame myself. It's horrible--to break one's word."
She was silent a moment, standing with bent head, her instinct to be
fair, to play the game, combating the revulsion of feeling with which
the knowledge of Garth's act of cowardice had filled her. When she
looked up again there was a curious intensity in her expression, wanly
"Marriage for us--now--could never mean anything but misery." The
effort in her voice was palpable. It was as though she were forcing
herself to utter words from which her inmost being recoiled. "But I
gave you my promise, and if--if you choose to hold me to it--"
"I don't choose!" He broke in harshly. "You may spare yourself any
anxiety on that score. You are free--as free as though we had never
met. I'm quite ready to bow to your decision that I'm not fit to marry
A little caught breath of unutterable relief fluttered between her
lips. If he heard it, he made no sign.
"And now"--he turned as though to leave her--"I think that's all that
need be said between us."
"It is not all"--in a low voice.
"What? Is there more still?" Again his voice held an insolent irony
that lashed her like a whip. "Haven't you yet plumbed the full depths
of my iniquity?"
"No. There is still one further thing. You said you loved me?"
"I did--I do still, if such as I may aspire to so lofty an emotion."
"It was a lie. Even"--her voice broke--"even in that you deceived me."
It seemed as though the tremulously uttered words pierced through his
armour of sneering cynicism.
"No, in that, at least, I was honest with you." The bitter note of
mockery that had rung through all his former speech was suddenly
absent--muted, crushed out, and the quiet, steadfast utterance carried
conviction even in Sara's reeling faith, shaking her to the very soul.
"But . . . Elisabeth? . . . You loved her once. And love--can't die,
"No," he said gravely. "Love can't die. But what I felt for Elisabeth
was not love--not love as you and I understand it. It was the mad
passion of a boy for an extraordinarily beautiful woman. She was an
ideal--I invested her with all the qualities and spiritual graces that
her beauty seemed to promise. But the Elisabeth I loved--didn't
exist." He drew nearer her and, laying his hands on her shoulders,
looked down at her with eyes that seemed to burn their way into the
inmost depths of her being. "Whatever you may think of me, however low
I may have fallen in your sight, believe me in this--that I have loved
you and shall always love you, utterly and entirely, with my whole
soul and body. It has not been an easy love--I fought against it with
all my strength, knowing that it could only carry pain and suffering
in its train for both of us. But it conquered me. And when you came to
me that day, so courageously, holding out your hands, claiming the
love that was unalterably yours--when you came to me like that, a
little hurt and wounded because I had been so slow to speak my love--I
yielded! Before God, Sara! I had been either more or less than a man
had I resisted!"
The grip of his hands upon her shoulders tightened until it was actual
pain, and she winced under it, shrinking away from him. He released
her instantly, and she stood silently beside him, battling against the
longing to respond to that deep, abiding love which neither now, nor
ever again in life, would she be able to doubt.
That Garth loved her, wholly and completely, was an incontrovertible
fact. She no longer felt the least lingering mistrust, nor even any
prick of jealousy that he had once loved before. That boyish passion
of the senses for Elisabeth was not comparable with this love which
was the maturer growth of his manhood--a love that could only know
fulfillment in the mystic union of body, soul, and spirit.
But this merely served to deepen the poignancy of the impending
parting--for that she and Garth must part she recognized as
Loving each other as men and women love but once in a lifetime, their
love was destined to be for ever unconsummated. They were as
irrevocably divided as though the seas of the entire world ran between
Wearily, in the flat, level tones of one who realizes that all hope is
at an end, she stumbled through the few broken phrases which cancelled
the whole happiness of life.
"It all seems so useless, doesn't it--your love and mine? . . . You've
killed something that I felt for you--I don't quite know what to call
it--respect, I suppose, only that sounds silly, because it was much
more than that. I wish--I wish I didn't love you still. But perhaps
that, too, will die in time. You see, you're not the man I thought I
cared for. You're--you're something I'm /ashamed/ to love--"
"That's enough!" he interrupted unsteadily. "Leave it at that. You
won't beat it if you try till doomsday."
The pain in his voice pierced her to the heart, and she made an
impulsive step towards him, shocked into quick remorse.
"Garth . . . I didn't mean it!"
"Oh yes, you meant it," he said. "Don't imagine that I'm blaming you.
I'm not. You've found me out, that's all. And having discovered
exactly how contemptible a person I am, you--very properly--send me
He turned on his heel, giving her no time to reply, and a moment later
she was alone. Then came the clang of the house door as it closed
behind him. To Sara, it sounded like the closing of a door between two
worlds--between the glowing past and the grey and empty future.
The consternation created at Sunnyside by the breaking off of Sara's
engagement had spent itself at last. Selwyn had said but little, only
his saint's eyes held the wondering, hurt look that the inexplicable
sins of humanity always had the power to bring into them.
Characteristically, he hated the sin but overflowed in sympathy for
"Poor devil!" he said, when the whole story of Trent's transgression
and its consequences had been revealed to him. "What a ghastly stone
to hang round a man's neck for the term of his natural life! If they'd
shot him, it would have been more merciful! That would at least have
limited the suffering," he went on, taking Sara's hand and holding it
in his strong, kindly one a moment. "Poor little comrade! Oh, my dear"
--as she shrank instinctively--"I'm not going to talk about it--I know
you'd rather not. Condolence platitudes were never in my line. But my
pal's troubles are mine--just as she once made mine hers."
Jane Crab's opinions were enunciated without fear or favour, and, in
defiance of public opinion, she took her stand on the side of the
sinner and maintained it unwaveringly.
"Well, Miss Sara," she affirmed, "unless you've proof as strong as
'Oly Writ, as they say, I'd believe naught against Mr. Trent. Bluff
and 'ard he may be in 'is manner, but after the way he conducted
himself the night Miss Molly ran away, I'll never think no ill of 'im,
not if it was ever so!"
Sara smiled drearily.
"I wish I could feel as you do, Jane dear. But--Mrs. Durward /knows/."
"Mrs. Durward! Huh! One of them tigris women I calls 'er," retorted
Jane, who had formed her opinion with lightning rapidity when
Elisabeth made a farewell visit to Sunnyside before leaving
Monkshaven. "Not but what you can't help liking her, neither," went on
Jane judicially. "There's something good in the woman, for all she
looks at you like a cat who thinks you're after stealing her kittens.
But there! As the doctor--bless the man!--always says, there's good in
everybody if so be you'll look for it. Only I'd as lief think that
Mrs. Durward was somehow scared-like--too almighty scared to be her
natchral self, savin' now and again when she forgets."
To Mrs. Selwyn, the breaking off of Sara's engagement, and the manner
of it, signified very little. She watched the panorama of other
people's lives unfold with considerably less sympathetic concern than
that with which one follows the ups and downs that befall the
characters in a cinema drama, since they were altogether outside the
radius of that central topic of unfailing interest--herself.
The only way in which recent events impinged upon her life was in so
far as the rupture of Sara's engagement would probably mean the
indefinite prolongation of her stay at Sunnyside, which would
otherwise have ended with her marriage. And this, from Mrs. Selwyn's
egotistical point of view, was all to the good, since Sara had
acquired a pleasant habit of making herself both useful and
entertaining to the invalid.
Molly's emotions carried her to the other extreme of the compass.
Since the night when she had realized that she had narrowly missed
making entire shipwreck of her life, thanks to the evil genius of
Lester Kent, her character seemed to have undergone a change--to have
deepened and expanded. She was no longer so buoyantly superficial in
her envisagement of life, and the big things reacted on her in a way
which would previously have been impossible. Formerly, their
significance would have passed her by, and she would have floated
airily along, unconscious of their piercing reality.
Side by side with this increase of vision, there had developed a very
deep and sincere affection for both Garth and Sara based, probably, in
its inception, on her realization that whatever of good, whatever of
happiness, life might hold for her, she would owe it fundamentally to
the two who had so determinedly kept her heedless feet from straying
into that desert from which there is no returning to the pleasant
paths of righteousness. A censorious world sees carefully to that, for
ever barring out the sinner--of the weaker sex--from inheriting the
So that to this new and awakened Molly the abrupt termination of
Sara's engagement came as something almost too overwhelming to be
borne. She did not see how Sara /could/ bear it, and to her youthful
mind, mercifully unwitting that grief is one of the world's
commonplaces, Sara was henceforth haloed with sorrow, set specially
apart by the tragic circumstances which had enveloped her.
Unconsciously she lowered her voice when speaking to her, infusing a
certain specific sympathy into every small action she performed for
her, shrank from troubling her in any way, and altogether, in her
youth and inexperience, behaved rather as though she were in a house
of mourning, where the candles yet burned in the chamber of death and
the blinds shut out the light of day.
At last Sara rebelled, although compassionately aware of Molly's
"Molly, my angel, if you persist in treating me as though I had just
lost the whole of my relatives in an earthquake or a wreck at sea, I
shall explode. I've had a bad knock, but I don't want it continually
rubbing into me. The world will go on--even although my engagement is
broken off. And /I'm/ going on."
It was bravely spoken, and though Sara was inwardly conscious that in
the last words the spirit, for the moment, outdistanced the flesh, it
served to dissipate the rather strained atmosphere which had prevailed
at Sunnyside since the rupture of her engagement had become common
So, figuratively speaking, the blinds were drawn up and life resumed
its normal aspect once again.
It had fallen to the lot of Audrey Maynard to carry the ill-tidings to
Rose Cottage. Sara had asked her to acquaint their little circle with
the altered condition of affairs, and Audrey had readily undertaken to
perform this service, eager to do anything that might spare Sara some
of the inevitable pinpricks which attend even the big tragedies of
"The whole affair is incomprehensible to me," said Audrey at last, as
she rose preparatory to taking her departure. There seemed no object
in lingering to discuss so painful a topic. "It's--oh! It's heart-
Miss Livinia departed hastily to do a little weep in the seclusion of
her room upstairs. She hardly concerned herself with the enormity of
Garth's offence. She was old, and she saw only romance shattered into
fragments, youth despoiled of its heritage, love crucified. Moreover,
the Lavender Lady had never been censorious.
"What is your opinion, Miles?" asked Audrey, when she had left the
Herrick had been rather silent, his brown eyes meditative. Now he
looked up quickly.
"About the funking part of it? As I wasn't on the spot when the affair
took place, I haven't the least right to venture an opinion."
Audrey looked puzzled.
"I don't see why not. You can't get behind the verdict of the court-
"Trials have been known where justice went awry," said Miles quietly.
"There was a trial where Pilate was judge."
"Do you mean to say you doubt the verdict?"--eagerly.
"No, I was not meaning quite that in this case. But, because the law
says a man is a blackguard, when I'd stake my life he's nothing of the
kind, it doesn't alter my opinion one hair's-breadth. The verdict may
have been--probably, almost certainly, /was/--the only verdict that
could be given to meet the facts of the case. But still, it is
possible that it was not a just verdict--labelling as a coward for all
time a man who may have had one bad moment when his nerves played him
false. There are other men who have had their moment of funk, but, as
the matter never came under the official eyes, they have made good
since--ended up as V.C.'s, some of 'em. Facts are often very foolish
things, to my mind. Motives, and circumstances, even conditions of
physical health, are bound to play as big a part as facts, if you're
going to administer pure justice. But the army can't consider the
super-administration of justice"--smiling. "Discipline must be
maintained and examples made. Only--sometimes--it's damn bad luck on
It was an unusually long speech for Miles to have been guilty of, and
Audrey stood looking at him in some surprise.
"Miles, you're rather a dear, you know. I believe you're almost as
strongly on Garth's side as Jane Crab."
"Is Jane?" And Herrick smiled. "She's a good old sport then. Anyhow, I
don't propose to add my quota to the bill Trent's got to pay, poor
Audrey's face softened as she turned to go.
"One can't help feeling pitifully sorry for him," she admitted. "To
have had Sara--and then to have lost her!"
There was a whimsical light in Herrick's eyes as he answered her.
"But, at least," he said, "he /has/ had her, if only for a few days."
Audrey paused with her hand upon the latch of the door.
"I imagine Garth--asked for what he wanted!" she observed, and
vanished precipitately through the doorway.
"Audrey!" Miles started up, but, by the time he reached the house
door, she was already disappearing through the gateway into the road
and beyond pursuit.
"She must have /run/!" he commented ruefully to himself as he returned
to the sitting-room.
This discovery seemed to afford him food for reflection. For a long
time he sat very quietly in his chair, apparently arguing out with
himself some knotty point.
Nor had his thoughts, at the moment, any connection with the recent
discussion of Garth Trent's affairs. It was only after the Lavender
Lady had returned, a little pink about the eyelids, that the
recollection of the original object of Mrs. Maynard's visit recurred
Simultaneously, his brows drew together in a sudden concentration of
thought, and an inarticulate exclamation escaped him.
Miss Livinia looked up from the delicate piece of cobwebby lace she
"What did you say, dear?" she asked absently.
"I didn't say anything," he smiled back at her. "I was thinking rather
hard, that's all, and just remembered something I had forgotten.
The Lavender Lady looked a trifle mystified.
"I don't think I quite understand, Miles dear."
Herrick, on his way to the door, stooped to kiss her.
"Neither do I, Lavender Lady. That's just the devil of it," he
He passed out of the room and upstairs, presently returning with a
couple of letters, held together by an elastic band, in his hand.
They smelt musty as he unfolded them; evidently they had not seen the
light of day for a good many years. But Miles seemed to find them of
extraordinary interest, for he subjected the closely written sheets to
a first, and second, and even a third perusal. Then he replaced the
elastic band round them and shut them away in a drawer, locking the
A couple of days later, Garth Trent received a note from Herrick,
asking him to come and see him.
"You haven't been near us for days," it ran. "Remember Mahomet and the
mountain, and as I can't come to you, look me up."
The letter, in its quiet avoidance of any reference to recent events,
was like cooling rain falling upon a parched and thirsty earth.