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The Incomplete Amorist by E. Nesbit

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go away and he knew it. And his picture was not finished. Could he
possibly leave that incomplete? The thought pricked sharply. He had
not made much progress with the picture in these last days. It had
been pleasanter to work at the portrait of Betty. If he moved to the
next village? Yes, that must be thought over.

He spent the day thinking of that and of other things.

The Reverend Cecil Underwood stood where he was left till the man he
had struck had passed out of sight. Then the cane slipped through his
hand and fell rattling to the ground. He looked down at it curiously.
Then he reached out both hands vaguely and touched the shaft of the
plough. He felt his way along it, and sat down, where they had sat,
staring dully before him at the shadows in the shed, and at the steady
fall of the rain outside. Betty's mackintosh was lying on the floor.
He picked it up presently and smoothed out the creases. Then he
watched the rain again.

An hour had passed before he got stiffly up and went home, with her
cloak on his arm.

Yes, Miss Lizzie was in her room--had a headache. He sent up her
breakfast, arranging the food himself, and calling back the maid
because the tray lacked marmalade.

Then he poured out his own tea, and sat stirring it till it was cold.

She was in her room, waiting for him to send for her. He must send for
her. He must speak to her. But what could he say? What was there to
say that would not be a cruelty? What was there to ask that would not
be a challenge to her to lie, as the serpent had lied?

"I am glad I struck him," the Reverend Cecil told himself again and
again; "_that_ brought it home to him. He was quite cowed. He could do
nothing but bow and cringe away. Yes, I am glad."

But the girl? The serpent had asked him to be gentle with her--had
dared to ask him. He could think of no way gentle enough for dealing
with this crisis. The habit of prayer caught him. He prayed for

Then quite suddenly he saw what to do.

"That will be best," he said; "she will feel that less."

He rang and ordered the fly from the Peal of Bells, went to his room
to change his old coat for a better one, since appearances must be
kept up, even if the heart be breaking. His thin hair was disordered,
and his tie, he noticed, was oddly crumpled, as though strange hands
had been busy with his throat. He put on a fresh tie, smoothed his
hair, and went down again. As he passed, he lingered a moment outside
her door.

Betty watching with red eyes and swollen lips saw him enter the fly,
saw him give an order, heard the door bang. The old coachman clambered
clumsily to his place, and the carriage lumbered down the drive.

"Oh, how cruel he is! He might have spoken to me _now_! I suppose he's
going to keep me waiting for days, as a penance. And I haven't really
done anything wrong. It's a shame! I've a good mind to run away!"

Running away required consideration. In the meantime, since he was out
of the house, there was no reason why she should not go downstairs.
She was not a child to be kept to her room in disgrace. She bathed her
distorted face, powdered it, and tried to think that the servants,
should they see her, would notice nothing.

Where had he gone? For no goal within his parish would a hired
carriage be needed. He had gone to Sevenoaks or to the station.
Perhaps he had gone to Westerham--there was a convent there, a
Protestant sisterhood. Perhaps he was going to make arrangements for
shutting her up there! Never!--Betty would die first. At least she
would run away first. But where could one run to?

The aunts? Betty loved the aunts, but she distrusted their age. They
were too old to sympathise really with her. They would most likely
understand as little as her step-father had done. An Inward Monitor
told Betty that the story of the fortune-telling, of the seven stolen
meetings with no love-making in them, would sound very unconvincing to
any ears but those of the one person already convinced. But she would
not be shut up in a convent--no, not by fifty aunts and a hundred

She would go to Him. He would understand. He was the only person who
ever had understood. She would go straight to him and ask him what to
do. He would advise her. He was so clever, so good, so noble. Whatever
he advised would be _right_.

Trembling and in a cold white rage of determination, Betty fastened on
her hat, found her gloves and purse. The mackintosh she remembered had
been left in the shed. She pictured her step-father trampling fiercely
upon it as he told Mr. Vernon what he thought of him. She took her
golf cape.

At the last moment she hesitated. Mr. Vernon would not be idle. What
would he be doing? Suppose he should send a note? Suppose he had
watched Mr. Underwood drive away and should come boldly up and ask for
her? Was it wise to leave the house? But perhaps he would be hanging
about the church yard, or watching from the park for a glimpse of her.
She would at least go out and see.

"I'll leave a farewell letter," she said, "in case I never come back."

She found her little blotting-book--envelopes, but no paper. Of
course! One can't with dignity write cutting farewells on envelopes.
She tore a page from her diary.

"You have driven me to this," she wrote. "I am going away, and in time
I shall try to forgive you all the petty meannesses and cruelties of
all these years. I know you always hated me, but you might have had
some pity. All my life I shall bear the marks on my soul of the bitter
tyranny I have endured here. Now I am going away out into the world,
and God knows what will become of me."

She folded, enveloped, and addressed the note, stuck a long hat-pin
fiercely through it, and left it, patent, speared to her pin-cushion,
with her step-father's name uppermost.

"Good-bye, little room," she said. "I feel I shall never see you

Slowly and sadly she crossed the room and turned the handle of the
door. The door was locked.

Once, years ago, a happier man than the Reverend Cecil had been Rector
of Long Barton. And in the room that now was Betty's he had had iron
bars fixed to the two windows, because that room was the nursery.

* * * * *

That evening, after dinner, Mr. Vernon sat at his parlour window
looking idly along the wet bowling-green to the belt of lilacs and the
pale gleams of watery sunset behind them. He had passed a disquieting
day. He hated to leave things unfinished. And now the idyll was ruined
and the picture threatened,--and Betty's portrait was not finished,
and never would be.

"Come in," he said; and his landlady heavily followed up her tap on
his door.

"A lady to see you, Sir," said she with a look that seemed to him to
be almost a wink.

"A lady? To see me? Good Lord!" said Vernon. Among all the thoughts of
the day this was the one thought that had not come to him.

"Shall I show her in?" the woman asked, and she eyed him curiously.

"A lady," he repeated. "Did she give her name?"

"Yes, Sir. Miss Desmond, Sir. Shall I shew her in?"

"Yes; shew her in, of course," he answered irritably.

And to himself he said:

"The Devil!"



If you have found yourself, at the age of eighteen, a prisoner in your
own bedroom you will be able to feel with Betty. Not otherwise. Even
your highly strung imagination will be impotent to present to you the
ecstasy of rage, terror, resentment that fills the soul when locked
door and barred windows say, quite quietly, but beyond appeal: "Here
you are, and here, my good child, you stay."

All the little familiar objects, the intimate associations of the
furniture of a room that has been for years your boudoir as well as
your sleeping room, all the decorations that you fondly dreamed gave to
your room a _cachet_--the mark of a distinctive personality,--these
are of no more comfort to you than would be strange bare stone walls
and a close unfamiliar iron grating.

Betty tried to shake the window bars, but they were immovable. She
tried to force the door open, but her silver buttonhook was an
insufficient lever, and her tooth-brush handle broke when she pitted
it in conflict against the heavy, old-fashioned lock. We have all read
how prisoners, outwitting their gaolers, have filed bars with their
pocket nail-scissors, and cut the locks out of old oak doors with the
small blade of a penknife. Betty's door was only of pine, but her
knife broke off short; and the file on her little scissors wore itself
smooth against the first unmoved bar.

She paced the room like a caged lioness. We read that did the lioness
but know her strength her bars were easily shattered by one blow of
her powerful paw. Betty's little pink paws were not powerful like the
lioness's, and when she tried to make them help her, she broke her
nails and hurt herself.

It was this moment that Letitia chose for rapping at the door.

"You can't come in. What is it?" Betty was prompt to say.

"Mrs. Edwardes's Albert, Miss, come for the Maternity bag."

"It's all ready in the school-room cupboard," Betty called through the
door. "Number three."

She resisted an impulse to say that she had broken the key in the lock
and to send for the locksmith. No: there should be no scandal at Long
Barton,--at least not while she had to stay in it.

She did not cry. She was sick with fury, and anger made her heart beat
as Vernon had never had power to make it.

"I will be calm. I won't lose my head," she told herself again and
again. She drank some water. She made herself eat the neglected
breakfast. She got out her diary and wrote in it, in a handwriting
that was not Betty's, and with a hand that shook like totter-grass.

"What will become of me? What has become of _him_? My step-father must
have done something horrible to him. Perhaps he has had him put in
prison; of course he couldn't do that in these modern times, like in
the French revolution, just for talking to some one he hadn't been
introduced to, but he may have done it for trespassing, or damage to
the crops, or something. I feel quite certain something has happened
to him. He would never have deserted me like this in my misery if he
were free. And I can do nothing to help him--nothing. How shall I live
through the day? How can I bear it? And this awful trouble has come
upon him just because he was kind to another artist. The world is
very, very, very cruel. I wish I were dead!" She blotted the words and
locked away the book. Then she burnt that farewell note and went and
sat in the window-seat to watch for her step-father's return.

The time was long. At last he came. She saw him open the carriage door
and reach out a flat foot, feeling for the carriage step. He stepped
out, turned and thrust a hand back into the cab. Was he about to hand
out a stern-faced Protestant sister, who would take her to Westerham,
and she would never be heard of again? Betty set her teeth and waited
anxiously to see if the sister seemed strong. Betty was, and she would
fight for her liberty. With teeth and nails if need were.

It was no Protestant sister to whom the Reverend Cecil had reached his
hand. It was only his umbrella. Betty breathed again.

Well, now at least he'll come and speak to me: he must come himself;
even _he_ couldn't give the key to the servants and say: "Please go
and unlock Miss Lizzie and bring her down!"

Betty would not move. "I shall just stay here and pretend I didn't
know the door was locked," said she.

But her impatience drove her back to the caged-lioness walk and when
at last she heard the key turn in the door she had only just time to
spring to the window-seat and compose herself in an attitude of
graceful defiance.

It was thrown away.

The door only opened wide enough to admit a dinner tray pushed in by a
hand she knew. Then the door closed again.

The same thing happened with tea and supper.

It was not till after supper that Betty, gazing out on the pale watery
sunset, found it blurred to her eyes. There was no more hope now. She
was a prisoner. If He was not a prisoner he ought to be. It was the
only thing that could excuse his silence. He might at least have gone
by the gate or waved a handkerchief. Well, all was over between them,
and Betty was alone in the world. She had not cried all day, but now
she did cry.

* * * * *

Vernon always prided himself on having a heart for any fate, but this
was one of the interviews that one would rather have avoided. All day
he had schooled himself to resignation, had almost reconciled himself
to the spoiling of what had promised to be a masterpiece. Explications
with Betty would brush the bloom off everything. Yet he must play the
part well. But what part? Oh, hang all meddlers!

"Miss Desmond," said the landlady; and he braced his nerves to meet a
tearful, an indignant or a desperate Betty.

But there was no Betty to be met; no Betty of any kind.

Instead, a short squarely-built middle-aged lady walked briskly into
the room, and turned to see the door well closed before she advanced
towards him.

He bowed with indescribable emotions.

"Mr. Eustace Vernon?" said the lady. She wore a sensible short skirt
and square-toed brown boots. Her hat was boat-shaped and her abundant
hair was screwed up so as to be well out of her way. Her face was
square and sensible like her shoulders, and her boots. Her eyes dark,
clear and near sighted. She wore gold-rimmed spectacles and carried a
crutch-handled cane. No vision could have been less like Betty.

Vernon bowed, and moved a chair towards her.

"Thank you," she said, and took it. "Now, Mr. Vernon, sit down too,
and let's talk this over like reasonable beings. You may smoke if you
like. It clears the brain."

Vernon sat down and mechanically took out a cigarette, but he held it

"Now," said the square lady, leaning her elbows on the table and her
chin on her hands, "I am Betty's aunt."

"It is very good of you to come," said Vernon helplessly.

"Not at all," she briskly answered. "Now tell me all about it."

"There's nothing to tell," said Vernon.

"Perhaps it will clear the ground a little if I say at once that I
haven't come to ask your intentions, because of course you haven't
any. My reverend brother-in-law, on the other hand, insists that you
have, and that they are strictly dishonourable."

Vernon laughed, and drew a breath of relief.

"I fear Mr. Underwood misunderstood,--" he said, "and--"

"He is a born misunderstander," said Miss Julia Desmond. "Now, I'm
not. Light your cigarette, man; you can give me one if you like, to
keep you in countenance. A light--thanks. Now will you speak, or shall

"You seem to have more to say than I, Miss Desmond."

"Ah, that's because you don't trust me. In other words, you don't know
me. That's one of the most annoying things in life: to be really an
excellent sort, and to be quite unable to make people see it at the
first go-off. Well, here goes. My worthy brother-in-law finds you and
my niece holding hands in a shed."

"We were not," said Vernon. "I was telling her fortune--"

"It's my lead now," interrupted the lady. "Your turn next. He being
what he is--to the pure all things are impure, you know--instantly
draws the most harrowing conclusions, hits you with a stick.--By the
way, you behaved uncommonly well about that."

"Thank you," said Vernon, smiling a little. It is pleasant to be

"Yes, really very decently, indeed. I daresay it wouldn't have hurt a
fly, but if you'd been the sort of man he thinks you are--However
that's neither here nor there. He hits you with a stick, locks the
child into her room--What did you say?"

"Nothing," said Vernon.

"All right. I didn't hear it. Locks her in her room, and wires to my
sister. Takes a carriage to Sevenoaks to do it too, to avoid scandal.
I happen to be at my sister's, on my way from Cairo to Norway, so I
undertake to run down. He meets me at the station, and wants me to go
straight home and blackguard Betty. But I prefer to deal with

"You mean--"

"I mean that I know as well as you do that whatever has happened has
been your doing and not that dear little idiot's. Now, are you going
to tell me about it?"

He had rehearsed already a form of words in which "Brother artists"
should have loomed large. But now that he rose, shrugged his shoulders
and spoke, it was in words that had not been rehearsed.

"Look here, Miss Desmond," said he, "the fact is, you're right. I
haven't any intentions--certainly not dishonourable ones. But I was
frightfully bored in the country, and your niece is bored, too--more
bored than I am. No one ever understands or pities the boredom of the
very young," he added pensively.


"Well, that's all there is to it. I liked meeting her, and she liked
meeting me."

"And the fortune-telling? Do you mean to tell me you didn't enjoy
holding the child's hand and putting her in a silly flutter?"

"I deny the flutter," he said, "but--Well, yes, of course I enjoyed
it. You wouldn't believe me if I said I didn't."

"No," said she.

"I enjoyed it more than I expected to," he added with a frankness that
he had not meant to use, "much more. But I didn't say a word of
love---only perhaps--"

"Only perhaps you made the idea of it underlie every word you did
speak. Don't I know?" said Miss Desmond. "Bless the man, I've been
young myself!"

"Miss Betty is very charming," said he, "and--and if I hadn't met

"If you hadn't met her some other man would. True; but I fancy her
father would rather it had been some other man."

"I didn't mean that in the least," said Vernon with some heat. "I
meant that if I hadn't met her she would have gone on being bored, and
so should I. Don't think me a humbug, Miss Desmond. I am more sorry
than I can say that I should have been the means of causing her any

"'Causing her unhappiness,'--poor little Betty, poor little trusting
innocent silly little girl! That's about it, isn't it?"

It was so like it that he hotly answered:

"Not in the least."

"Well, well," said Miss Desmond, "there's no great harm done. She'll
get over it, and more's been lost on market days. Thanks."

She lighted a second cigarette and sat very upright, the cigarette in
her mouth and her hands on the handle of her stick.

"You can't help it, of course. Men with your coloured eyes never can.
That green hazel--girls ought to be taught at school that it's a
danger-signal. Only, since your heart's not in the business any more
than her's is--as you say, you were both bored to death--I want to ask
you, as a personal favour to me, just to let the whole thing drop. Let
the girl alone. Go right away."

"It's an unimportant detail, and I'm ashamed to mention it," said
Vernon, "but I've got a picture on hand--I'm painting a bit of the

"Well, go to Low Barton and put up there and finish your precious
picture. You won't see Betty again unless you run after her."

"To tell the truth," said Vernon, "I had already decided to let the
whole thing drop. I'm ashamed of the trouble I've caused her and--and
I've taken rooms at Low Barton."

"Upon my word," said Miss Desmond, "you are the coldest lover I've
ever set eyes on."

"I'm not a lover," he answered swiftly. "Do you wish I were?"

"For Betty's sake, I'm glad you aren't. But I think I should respect
you more if you weren't quite so arctic."

"I'm not an incendiary, at any rate," said he, "and that's something,
with my coloured eyes, isn't it?"

"Well," she said, "whatever your temperature is, I rather like you. I
don't wonder at Betty in the least."

Vernon bowed.

"All I ask is your promise that you'll not speak to her again."

"I can't promise that, you know. I can't be rude to her. But I'll
promise not to go out of my way to meet her again." He sighed.

"As, yes--it is sad--all that time wasted and no rabbits caught."
Again Miss Desmond had gone unpleasantly near his thought. Of course
he said:

"You don't understand me."

"Near enough," said Miss Desmond; "and now I'll go."

"Let me thank you for coming," said Vernon eagerly; "it was more than
good of you. I must own that my heart sank when I knew it was Miss
Betty's aunt who honoured me with a visit. But I am most glad you
came. I never would have believed that a lady could be so reasonable

"And gentlemanly?" said the lady. "Yes,--it's my brother-in-law who is
the old woman, poor dear! You see, Mr. Vernon, I've been running round
the world for five and twenty years, and I've kept my eyes open. And
when I was of an age to be silly, the man I was silly about had your
coloured eyes. He married an actress, poor fellow,--or rather, she
married him, before he could say 'knife.' That's the sort of thing
that'll happen to you, unless you're uncommonly careful. So that's
settled. You give me your word not to try to see Betty?"

"I give you my word. You won't believe in my regret--"

"I believe in that right enough. It must be simply sickening to have
the whole show given away like this. Oh, I believe in your regret!"

"My regret," said Vernon steadily, "for any pain I may have caused
your niece. Do please see how grateful I am to you for having seen at
once that it was not her fault at all, but wholly mine."

"Very nicely said: good boy!" said Betty's aunt. "Well, my excellent
brother-in-law is waiting outside in the fly, gnashing his respectable
teeth, no doubt, and inferring all sorts of complications from the
length of our interview. Good-bye. You're just the sort of young man I
like, and I'm sorry we haven't met on a happier footing. I'm sure we
should have got on together. Don't you think so?"

"I'm sure we should," said he truly. "Mayn't I hope--"

She laughed outright.

"You have indeed the passion for acquaintance without introduction,"
she said. "No, you may _not_ call on me in town. Besides, I'm never
there. Good-bye. And take care of yourself. You're bound to be bitten
some day you know, and bitten badly."

"I wish I thought you forgave me."

"Forgive you? Of course I forgive you! You can no more help making
love, I suppose--no, don't interrupt: the thing's the same whatever
you call it--you can no more help making love than a cat can help
stealing cream. Only one day the cat gets caught, and badly beaten,
and one day you'll get caught, and the beating will be a bad one,
unless I'm a greater fool than I take myself for. And now I'll go and
unlock Betty's prison and console her. Don't worry about her. I'll see
that she's not put upon. Good night. No, in the circumstances you'd
better _not_ see me to my carriage!"

She shook hands cordially, and left Vernon to his thoughts.

Miss Desmond had done what she came to do, and he knew it. It was
almost a relief to feel that now he could not try to see Betty however
much he wished it,--however much he might know her to wish it. He
shrugged his shoulders and lighted another cigarette.

* * * * *

Betty, worn out with crying, had fallen asleep. The sound of wheels
roused her. It seemed to rain cabs at the Rectory to-day.

There were voices in the hall, steps on the stairs. Her door was
unlocked and there entered no tray of prisoner's fare, no reproachful
step-father, no Protestant sister, but a brisk and well-loved aunt,
who shut the door, and spoke.

"All in the dark?" she said. "Where are you, child?"

"Here," said Betty.

"Let me strike a light. Oh, yes, there you are!"

"Oh, aunt,--has he sent for you?" said Betty fearfully. "Oh, don't
scold me, auntie! I am so tired. I don't think I can bear any more."

"I'm not going to scold you, you silly little kitten," said the aunt
cheerfully. "Come, buck up! It's nothing so very awful, after all.
You'll be laughing at it all before a fortnight's over."

"Then he hasn't told you?"

"Oh, yes, he has; he's told me everything there was to tell, and a lot
more, too. Don't worry, child. You just go straight to bed and I'll
tuck you up, and we'll talk it all over in the morning."

"Aunty," said Betty, obediently beginning to unfasten her dress, "did
he say anything about _Him_?"

"Well, yes--a little."

"He hasn't--hasn't done anything to him, has he?"

"What could he do? Giving drawing lessons isn't a hanging matter,

"I haven't heard anything from him all day,--and I thought--"

"You won't hear anything more of him, Betty, my dear. I've seen your
Mr. Vernon, and a very nice young man he is, too. He's frightfully cut
up about having got you into a row, and he sees that the only thing he
can do is to go quietly away. I needn't tell you, Betty, though I
shall have to explain it very thoroughly to your father, that Mr.
Vernon is no more in love with you than you are with him. In fact he's
engaged to another girl. He's just interested in you as a promising

"Yes," said Betty, "of course I know that."



"It's all turned out exactly like what I said it was going to, exactly
to a T," said Mrs. Symes, wrapping her wet arms in her apron and
leaning them on the fence; "if it wasn't that it's Tuesday and me
behindhand as it is, I'd tell you all about it."

"Do the things good to lay a bit in the rinse-water," said Mrs. James,
also leaning on the fence, "sorter whitens them's what I always say. I
don't mind if I lend you a hand with the wringing after. What's turned
out like you said it was going to?"

"Miss Betty's decline." Mrs. Symes laughed low and huskily. "What did
I tell you, Mrs. James?"

"I don't quite remember not just at the minute," said Mrs. James; "you
tells so many things."

"And well for some people I do. Else they wouldn't never know nothing.
I told you as it wasn't no decline Miss Betty was setting down under.
I said it was only what's natural, her being the age she is. I said
what she wanted was a young man, and I said she'd get one. And what do
you think?"

"I don't know, I'm sure."

"She did get one," said Mrs. Symes impressively, "that same week, just
as if she'd been a-listening to my very words. It was as it might be
Friday you and me had that little talk. Well, as it might be the
Saturday, she meets the young man, a-painting pictures in the
Warren--my Ernest's youngest saw 'em a-talking, and told his mother
when he come home to his dinner."

"To think of that, and me never hearing a word!" said Mrs. James with
frank regret.

"I knew it ud be 'Whistle and I'll come to you, my lad,'" Mrs. Symes
went on with cumbrous enjoyment, "and so it was. They used to keep
their rondyvoos in the wood--six o'clock in the morning. Mrs. Wilson's
Tom used to see 'em reg'lar every day as he went by to his work."

"Lor," said Mrs. James feebly.

"Of course Tom he never said nothing, except to a few friends of his
over a glass. They enjoyed the joke, I promise you. But old George
Marbould--he ain't never been quite right in his head, I don't think,
since his Ruby went wrong. Pity, I always think. A great clumsy
plain-faced girl like her might a kept herself respectable. She hadn't
the temptation some of us might have had in our young days."

"No indeed," said Mrs. James, smoothing her hair, "and old
George--what silliness was he up to this time?"

"Why he sees the two of 'em together one fine morning and 'stead of
doing like he'd be done by he ups to the Vicarage and tells the old
man. 'You come alonger me, Sir,' says he, 'and have a look at your
daughter a-kissin' and huggin' up in Beale's shed, along of a perfect
stranger.' So the old man he says, 'God bless you,'--George is proud
of him saying that--and off he goes, in a regular fanteague, beats the
young master to a jelly, for all he's an old man and feeble, and shuts
Miss up in her room. Now that wouldn't a been _my_ way."

"No, indeed," said Mrs. James.

"I should a asked him in," said Mrs. Symes, "if it had been a gell of
mine, and give him a good meal with a glass of ale to it, and a tiddy
drop of something to top up with, and I'd a let him light his nasty
pipe,--and then when he was full and contented I'd a up and said,
'Now my man, you've 'ad time to think it over, and no one can't say as
I've hurried you nor flurried you. But it's time as we began talking.
So just you tell me what you're a-goin to do about it. If you 'ave the
feelings of a man,' I'd a said 'you'll marry the girl.'"

"Yes, indeed," said Mrs. James with emotion.

"Instead of which, bless your 'art, he beats the young man off with a
stick, like as if he was a mad dog; and young Miss is a goin' to be
sent to furrin parts to a strick boardin' school, to learn her not to
have any truck with young chaps."

"'Ard, I call it," said Mrs. James.

"An' well you may--crooil 'ard. How's he expect the girl to get a
husband if he drives the young fellers away with walking-sticks? Pore
gell! I shouldn't wonder but what she lives and dies a maid, after
this set-out."

"We shall miss 'er when she goes," said Mrs. James.

"I don't say we shan't. But there ain't no one as you can't get on
without if you're put to it And whether or not, she's going to far
foreign parts where there ain't no young chaps."

"Poor young thing," said Mrs. James, very sympathetic. "I think I'll
drop in as I'm passing, and see how she takes it"

"If you do," said Mrs. Symes, unrolling her arms, white and wrinkled
with washing, to set them aggressively on her lips, "it's the last
word as passes between us, Mrs. James, so now you know."

"Lord, Maria, don't fly out at me that way." Mrs. James shrank back:
"How was I to know you'd take it like that?"

"Do you suppose," asked Mrs. Symes, "as no one ain't got no legs
except you? _I'm_ a going up, soon as I've got the things on the line
and cleaned myself. I only heard it after I'd got every blessed rag in
soak, or I'd a gone up afore."

"Mightn't I step up with you for company?" Mrs. James asked.

"No, you mightn't. But I don't mind dropping in as I come home, to
tell you about it. One of them Catholic Nunnery schools, I expect,
which it's sudden death to a man but to set his foot into."

"Poor young thing," said Mrs. James again.

* * * * *

Betty was going to Paris.

There had been "much talk about and about" the project. Now it was to

There had been interviews.

There was the first in which the elder Miss Desmond told her
brother-in-law in the plain speech she loved exactly what sort of a
fool he had made of himself in the matter of Betty and the

When he was convinced of error--it was not easily done--he would have
liked to tell Betty that he was sorry, but he belonged to a generation
that does not apologise to the next.

The second interview was between the aunt and Betty. That was the one
in which so much good advice was given.

"You know," the aunt wound up, "all young women want to be in love,
and all young men too. I don't mean that there was anything of that
sort between you and your artist friend. But there might have been.
Now look here,--I'm going to speak quite straight to you. Don't you
ever let young men get monkeying about with your hands; whether they
call it fortune-telling or whether they don't, their reason for doing
so is always the same--or likely to be. And you want to keep your
hand--as well as your lips--for the man you're going to marry. That's
all, but don't you forget it. Now what's this I hear about your
wanting to go to Paris?"

"I did want to go," said Betty, "but I don't care about anything now.
Everything's hateful."

"It always is," said the aunt, "but it won't always be."

"Don't think I care a straw about not seeing Mr. Vernon again," said
Betty hastily. "It's not that."

"Of course not," said the aunt sympathetically.

"No,--but Father was so hateful--you've no idea. If I'd--if I'd run
away and got married secretly he couldn't have made more fuss."

"You're a little harsh--just a little. Of course you and I know
exactly how it was, but remember how it looked to him. Why, it
couldn't have looked worse if you really _had_ been arranging an

"He _hadn't_ got his arm around me," insisted Betty; "it was somewhere
right away in the background. He was holding himself up with it."

"Don't I tell you I understand all that perfectly? What I want to
understand is how you feel about Paris. Are you absolutely off the

"I couldn't go if I wasn't."

"I wonder what you think Paris is like," mused the aunt. "I suppose
you think it's all one wild razzle-dazzle--one delirious round of--of
museums and picture galleries."

"No, I don't," said Betty rather shortly.

"If you went you'd have to work."

"There's no chance of my going."

"Then we'll put the idea away and say no more about it. Get me my
Continental Bradshaw out of my dressing-bag: I'm no use here. Nobody
loves me, and I'll go to Norway by the first omnibus to-morrow

"Don't," said Betty; "how can you say nobody loves you?"

"Your step-father doesn't, anyway. That's why I can make him do what I
like when I take the trouble. When people love you they'll never do
anything for you,--not even answer a plain question with a plain yes
or no. Go and get the Bradshaw. You'll be sorry when I'm gone."

"Aunt Julia, you don't really mean it."

"Of course not. I never mean anything except the things I don't say.
The Bradshaw!"

Betty came and sat on the arm of her aunt's chair.

"It's not fair to tease me," she said, "and tantalise me. You know how
mizzy I am."

"No. I don't know anything. You won't tell me anything. Go and get--"

"Dear, darling, pretty, kind, clever Aunt," cried Betty, "I'd give my
ears to go."

"Then borrow a large knife from cook, and sharpen it on the front
door-step! No--I don't mean to use it on your step-father. I'll have
your pretty ears mummified and wear them on my watch-chain. No--mind
my spectacles! Let me go. I daresay it won't come to anything."

"Do you really mean you'd take me?"

"I'd take you fast enough, but I wouldn't keep you. We must find a
dragon to guard the Princess. Oh, we'll get a nice tame kind puss-cat
of a dragon,--but that dragon will not be your Aunt Julia! Let me go,
I say. I thought you didn't care about anything any more?"

"I didn't know there could be anything to care for," said Betty
honestly, "especially Paris. Well, I won't if you hate it so, but oh,
aunt--" She still sat on the floor by the chair her aunt had left, and
thought and thought. The aunt went straight down to the study.

"Now, Cecil," she said, coming briskly in and shutting the door,
"you've made that poor child hate the thought of you and you've only
yourself to thank."

"I know you think so," said he, closing the heavy book over which he
had been stooping.

"I don't mean," she added hastily, for she was not a cruel woman,
"that she really hates you, of course. But you've frightened her, and
shaken her nerves, locking her up in her room like that. Upon my word,
you are old enough to know better!"

"I was so alarmed, so shaken myself--" he began, but she interrupted

"I didn't come in and disturb your work just to say all that, of
course," she said, "but really, Cecil, I understand things better than
you think. I know how fond you really are of Betty."

The Reverend Cecil doubted this; but he said nothing.

"And you know that I'm fond enough of the child myself. Now, all this
has upset you both tremendously. What do you propose to do?"

"I--I--nothing I thought. The less said about these deplorable affairs
the better. Lizzie will soon recover her natural tone, and forget all
about the matter."

"Then you mean to let everything go on in the old way?"

"Why, of course," said he uneasily.

"Well, it's your own affair, naturally," she spoke with a studied air
of detachment which worried him exactly as it was meant to do.

"What do you mean?" he asked anxiously. He had never been able wholly
to approve Miss Julia Desmond. She smoked cigarettes, and he could not
think that this would have been respectable in any other woman. Of
course, she was different from any other woman, but still--. Then the
Reverend Cecil could not deem it womanly to explore, unchaperoned, the
less well-known quarters of four continents, to penetrate even to
regions where skirts were considered improper and side-saddles were
unknown. Even the nearness of Miss Desmond's fiftieth birthday hardly
lessened at all the poignancy of his disapproval. Besides, she had not
always been fifty, and she had always, in his recollection of her,
smoked cigarettes, and travelled alone. Yet he had a certain
well-founded respect for her judgment, and for that fine luminous
common-sense of hers which had more than once shewn him his own
mistakes. On the rare occasions when he and she had differed he had
always realized, later, that she had been in the right. And she was
"gentlemanly" enough never once to have said: "I told you so!"

"What do you mean?" he asked again, for she was silent, her hands in
the pockets of her long coat, her sensible brown shoes sticking
straight out in front of her chair.

"If you really want to know, I'll tell you," she said, "but I hate to
interfere in other people's business. You see, I know how deeply she
has felt this, and of course I know you have too, so I wondered
whether you hadn't thought of some little plan for--for altering the
circumstances a little, so that everything will blow over and settle
down, so that when you and she come together again you'll be better
friends than ever."

"Come together again," he repeated, and the paper-knife was still
restless, "do you want me to let her go away? To London?"

Visions of Lizzie, in unseemly low-necked dresses surrounded by crowds
of young men--all possible Vernons--lent a sudden firmness to his
voice, a sudden alertness to his manner."

"No, certainly not," she answered the voice and the manner as much as
the words. "I shouldn't dream of such a thing. Then it hadn't occurred
to you?"

"It certainly had not."

"You see," she said earnestly, "it's like this--at least this is how I
see it: She's all shaken and upset, and so are you, and when I've
gone--and I must go in a very little time--you'll both of you simply
settle down to thinking over it all, and you'll grow farther and
farther apart!"

"I don't think so," said he; "things like this always right themselves
if one leaves them alone. Lizzie and I have always got on very well
together, in a quiet way. We are neither of us demonstrative."

"Now Heaven help the man!" was the woman's thought. She remembered
Betty's clinging arms, her heartfelt kisses, the fervency of the voice
that said, "Dear darling, pretty, kind, clever Aunt! I'd give my ears
to go." Betty not demonstrative! Heaven help the man!

"No," she said, "I know. But when people are young these thinks

"They won't with her," he said. "She has a singularly noble nature,
under that quiet exterior."

Miss Desmond drew a long breath and began afresh.

"Then there's another thing. She's fretting over this--thinks now that
it was something to be ashamed of; she didn't think so at the time, of

"You mean that it was I who--"

This was thin ice again. Miss Desmond skated quickly away from it
with, "Well, you see, I've been talking to her. She really _is_
fretting. Why she's got ever so much thinner in the last week."

"I could get a locum," he said slowly, "and take her to a Hydropathic
Establishment for a fortnight."

"Oh dear, oh dear!" said Miss Desmond to herself. Aloud she said:
"That _would_ be delightful, later. But just now--well, of course it's
for you to decide,--but it seems to me that it would be better for you
two to be apart for a while. If you're here alone together--well, the
very sight of you will remind each other--That's not grammar, as you
say, but--"

He had not said anything. He was thinking, fingering the brass bosses
on the corners of the divine Augustine, and tracing the pattern on the
stamped pigskin.

"Of course if you care to risk it," she went on still with that fine
air of detachment,--"but I have seen breaches that nothing could heal
arise in just that way."

Two people sitting down together and thinking over everything they had
against each other."

"But I've nothing against Lizzie."

"I daresay not," Miss Desmond lost patience at last, "but she has
against you, or will have if you let her stay here brooding over it.
However if you like to risk it--I'm sorry I spoke." She got up and
moved to the door.

"No, no," he said hastily, "do not be sorry you spoke. You have given
me food for reflection. I will think it all over quietly and--and--"
he did not like to talk about prayers to Miss Desmond somehow,
"and--calmly and if I see that you are right--I am sure you mean most
kindly by me."

"Indeed I do," she said heartily, and gave him her hand in the manly
way he hated. He took it, held it limply an instant, and repeated:

"Most kindly."

He thought it over for so long that the aunt almost lost hope.

"I have to hold my tongue with both hands to keep it quiet. And if I
say another word I shall spoil the song," she told Betty. "I've done
my absolute best. If that doesn't fetch him, nothing will!"

It had "fetched him." At the end of two interminable days he sent to
ask Miss Desmond to speak to him in the study. She went.

"I have been thinking carefully," he said, "most carefully. And I feel
that you are right. Perhaps I owe her some amends. Do you know of any
quiet country place?"

Miss Desmond thought Betty had perhaps for the moment had almost
enough of quiet country places.

"She is very anxious to learn drawing," he said, "and perhaps if I
permitted her to do so she might understand it as a sign that I
cherish no resentment on account of what has passed. But--"

"I know the very thing," said the Aunt, and went on to tell of Madame
Gautier, of her cloistral home in Paris where she received a few
favoured young girls, of the vigilant maid who conducted them to and
from their studies, of the quiet villa on the Marne where in the
summer an able master--at least 60 or 65 years of age--conducted
sketching parties, to which the students were accompanied either by
Madame herself, or by the dragon-maid.

"I'll stand the child six months with her," she said, "or a year even.
So it won't cost you anything. And Madame Gautier is in London now.
You could run up and talk to her yourself."

"Does she speak English?" he asked, anxiously, and being reassured
questioned further.

"And you?" he asked. And when he heard that Norway for a month and
then America en route for Japan formed Miss Desmond's programme for
the next year he was only just able to mask, with a cough, his deep
sigh of relief. For, however much he might respect her judgment, he
was always easier when Lizzie and her Aunt Julia were not together.

He went up to town, and found Madame Gautier, the widow of a French
pastor, established in a Bloomsbury boarding-house. She was a woman
after his own heart--severe, simple, earnest. If he had to part with
his Lizzie, he told himself in the returning train, it could be to no
better keeper than this.

He himself announced his decision to Betty.

"I have decided," he said, and he spoke very coldly because it was so
very difficult to speak at all, "to grant you the wish you expressed
some time ago. You shall go to Paris and learn drawing."

"Do you really mean it?" said Betty, as coldly as he.

"I am not in the habit of saying things which I do not mean."

"Thank you very much," said Betty. "I will work hard, and try that the
money shan't be wasted."

"Your aunt has kindly offered to pay your expenses."

"When do I go?" asked Betty.

"As soon as your garments can be prepared. I trust that I shall not
have cause to regret the confidence I have decided to place in you."

His phrasing was seldom well-inspired. Had he said, "I trust you, my
child, and I know I shan't regret it," which was what he meant, she
would have come to meet him more than half-way. As it was she said,
"Thank you!" again, and left him without more words. He sighed.

"I don't believe she is pleased after all; but she sees I am doing it
for her good. Now it comes to the point her heart sinks at the idea of
leaving home. But she will understand my motives."

The one thought Betty gave him was:

"He can't bear the sight of me at all now! He's longing to be rid of
me! Well, thank Heaven I'm going to Paris! I will have a grass-lawn
dress over green, with three rows of narrow lace insertion, and a hat
with yellow roses and--oh, it can't be true. It's too good to be true.
Well, it's a good thing to be hated sometimes, by some people, if they
only hate you enough!"

* * * * *

"'So you're going to foreign parts, Miss,' says I."

Mrs. Symes had flung back her bonnet strings and was holding a
saucerful of boiling tea skilfully poised on the fingers of one hand.
"'Yes, Mrs. Symes,' says she, 'don't you wish you was going too?' she
says. And she laughed, but I'm not easy blinded, and well I see as she
only laughed to 'ide a bleedin' 'art. 'Not me, Miss,' says I; 'nice
figure I should look a-goin' to a furrin' boardin' school at my time
of life.'

"'It ain't boardin' school,' says she. 'I'm a-going to learn to paint
pictures. I'll paint your portrait when I come home,' says she, and
laughs again--I could see she done it to keep the tears back.

"'I'm sorry for you, Miss, I'm sure,' I says, not to lose the chance
of a word in season, 'but I hope it'll prove a blessing to you--I do

"'Oh, it'll be a blessing right enough,' says she, and keeps on
laughing a bit wild like. When the art's full you can't always stop
yourself. She'd a done better to 'ave a good cry and tell me 'er
troubles. I could a cheered her up a bit p'raps. You know whether I'm
considered a comfort at funerals and christenings, Mrs. James."

"I do," said Mrs. James sadly; "none don't know it better."

"You'd a thought she'd a bin glad of a friend in need. But no. She
just goes on a-laughing fit to bring tears to your eyes to hear her,
and says she, 'I hope you'll all get on all right without me.'"

"I hope you said as how we should miss her something dreadful," said
Mrs. James anxiously, "Have another cup."

"Thank you, my dear. Do you take me for a born loony? Course I did.
Said the parish wouldn't be the same without her, and about her pretty
reading and all. See here what she give me."

Mrs. James unrolled a violet petticoat.

"Good as new, almost," she said, looking critically at the hem.
"Specially her being taller'n me. So what's not can be cut away, and
no loss. She kep' on a-laughing an' a-smiling till the old man he come
in and he says in his mimicking way, 'Lizzie,' says 'e, 'they're
a-waitin' to fit on your new walkin' costoom,' he says. So I come
away, she a-smiling to the last something awful to see."

"Dear, dear," said Mrs. James.

"But you mark my words--she don't deceive _me_. If ever I see a
bruised reed and a broken 'art on a young gell's face I see it on
hers this day. She may laugh herself black in the face, but she won't
laugh me into thinking what I knows to be far otherwise."

"Ah," said Mrs. James resignedly, "we all 'as it to bear one time or
another. Young gells is very deceitful though, in their ways, ain't

Book 2.--The Man



"Some idiot," remarked Eustace Vernon, sipping Vermouth at a little
table, "insists that, if you sit long enough outside the Cafe de la
Paix, you will see everyone you have ever known or ever wanted to know
pass by. I have sat here for half-an-hour--and--_voila_."

"You met me, half an hour ago," said the other man.

"Oh, _you_!" said Vernon affectionately.

"And your hat has gone off every half minute ever since," said the
other man.

"Ah, that's to the people I've known. It's the people I've wanted to
know that are the rarity."

"Do you mean people you have wanted to know and not known?"

"There aren't many of those," said Vernon; "no it's--Jove, that's a
sweet woman!"

"I hate the type," said the other man briefly: "all clothes--no real
human being."

The woman was beautifully dressed, in the key whose harmonies are only
mastered by Frenchwomen and Americans. She turned her head as her
carriage passed, and Vernon's hat went off once more.

"I'd forgotten her profile," said Vernon, "and she's learned how to
dress since I saw her last. She's quite human, really, and as charming
as anyone ought to be."

"So I should think," said the other man. "I'm sorry I said that, but I
didn't know you knew her. How's trade?"

"Oh, I did a picture--well, but a picture! I did it in England in the
Spring. Best thing I've done yet. Come and see it."

"I should like to look you up. Where do you hang out?"

"Eighty-six bis Rue Notre Dame des Champs," said Vernon. "Everyone in
fiction lives there. It's the only street on the other side that
authors seem ever to have dreamed of. Still, it's convenient, so I
herd there with all sorts of blackguards, heroes and villains and what
not. Eighty-six bis."

"I'll come," said the other man, slowly. "Do you know, Vernon, I'd
like awfully to get at your point of view--your philosophy of life?"

"Haven't you got one, my dear chap!--'sufficient unto' is my motto."

"You paint pictures,", the other went on, "so very much too good for
the sort of life you lead."

Vernon laughed.

"My dear Temple," he said, "I live, mostly, the life of a vestal

"You know well enough I'm not quarrelling with the way you spend your
evenings," said his dear Temple; "it's your whole outlook that doesn't
match your work. Yet there must be some relation between the two,
that's what I'd like to get at."

There is a bond stronger than friendship, stronger than love--a bond
that cannot be forged in any other shop than the one--the bond between
old schoolfellows. Vernon had sometimes wondered why he "stood so
much" from Temple. It is a wonder that old schoolfellows often feel,

"The subject you've started," said he, "is of course, to me, the most
interesting. Please develop your thesis."

"Well then, your pictures are good, strong, thorough stuff, with
sentiment--yes, just enough sentiment to keep them from the brutality
of Degas or the sensualism of Latouche. Whereas you, yourself, seem to
have no sentiment."

"I? No sentiment! Oh, Bobby, this is too much! Why, I'm a mass of it!

"Yes, ask any woman of your acquaintance. That's just it--or just part
of it. You fool them into thinking--oh, I don't know what; but you
don't fool me."

"I haven't tried."

"Then you're not brutal, except half a dozen times in the year when
you--And I've noticed that when your temper goes smash your morals go
at the same time. Is that cause or effect? What's the real you like,
and where do you keep it?"

"The real me," said Vernon, "is seen in my pictures, and--and
appreciated by my friends; you for instance, are, I believe, genuinely
attached to me."

"Oh, rot!" said Bobby.

"I don't see," said Vernon, moving his iron chair to make room for two
people at the next table, "why you should expect my pictures to rhyme
with my life. A man's art doesn't rhyme with his personality. Most
often it contradicts flatly. Look at musicians--what a divine art, and
what pigs of high priests! And look at actors--but no, one can't; the
spectacle is too sickening."

"I sometimes think," said Temple, emptying his glass, "that the real
you isn't made yet. It's waiting for--"

"For the refining touch of a woman's hand, eh? You think the real me
is--Oh, Temple, Temple, I've no heart for these childish imaginings!
The real me is the man that paints pictures, damn good pictures, too,
though I say it."

"And is that what all the women think?

"Ask them, my dear chap; ask them. They won't tell you the truth."

"They're not the only ones who won't. I should like to know what you
really think of women, Vernon."

"I don't think about them at all," lied Vernon equably. "They aren't
subjects for thought but for emotion--and even of that as little as
may be. It's impossible seriously to regard a woman as a human being;
she's merely a dear, delightful, dainty--"


"Well, yes--or rather a very delicately tuned musical instrument. If
you know the scales and the common chords, you can improvise nice
little airs and charming variations. She's a sort of--well, a penny
whistle, and the music you get depends not on her at all, but on your
own technique."

"I've never been in love," said Temple; "not seriously, I mean," he
hastened to add, for Vernon was smiling, "not a life or death matter,
don't you know; but I do hate the way you talk, and one of these days
you'll hate it too."

Miss Desmond's warning floated up through the dim waters of half a

"So a lady told me, only last Spring," he said. "Well, I'll take my
chance. Going? Well, I'm glad we ran across each other. Don't forget
to look me up."

Temple moved off, and Vernon was left alone. He sat idly smoking
cigarette after cigarette, and watched the shifting crowd. It was a
bright October day, and the crowd was a gay one.

Suddenly his fingers tightened on his cigarette,--but he kept the
hand that held it before his face, and he bent his head forward.

Two ladies were passing, on foot. One was the elder Miss Desmond--she
who had warned him that one of these days he would be caught--and the
other, hanging lovingly on her aunt's arm, was, of course, Betty. But
a smart, changed, awakened Betty! She was dressed almost as
beautifully as the lady whose profile he had failed to recognise, but
much more simply. Her eyes were alight, and she was babbling away to
her aunt. She was even gesticulating a little, for all the world like
a French girl. He noted the well-gloved hand with which she emphasized
some point in her talk.

"That's the hand," he said, "that I held when we sat on the plough in
the shed and I told her fortune."

He had risen, and his feet led him along the road they had taken. Ten
yards ahead of him he saw the swing of the aunt's serviceable brown
skirt and beside it Betty's green and gray.

"I am not breaking my word," he replied to the Inward Monitor. "Who's
going out of his way to speak to the girl?"

He watched the brown gown and the green all the way down the Boulevard
des Capucines, saw them cross the road and go up the steps of the
Madeleine. He paused at the corner. It was hard, certainly, to keep
his promise; yet so far it was easy, because he could not well recall
himself to the Misses Desmond on the ground of his having six months
ago involved the one in a row with her relations, and discussed the
situation afterwards with the other.

"I do wonder where they're staying, though," he told himself. "If one
were properly introduced--?" But he knew that the aunt would consider
no introduction a proper one that should renew his acquaintance with

"Wolf, wolf," he said, "let the fold alone! There's no door for you,
and you've pledged your sacred word as an honourable wolf not to jump
any more hurdles."

And as he stood musing, the elder Miss Desmond came down the church
steps and walked briskly away.

Some men would, doubtless, have followed her example, if not her
direction. Vernon was not one of these. He found himself going up the
steps of the great church. He had as good a right to go into the
Madeleine as the next man. He would probably not see the girl. If he
did he would not speak. Almost certainly he would not even see her.

But Destiny had remembered Mr. Vernon once more. Betty was standing
just inside the door, her face upturned, and all her soul in her eyes.
The mutterings of the organ and the voices of boys filled the great
dark building.

He went and stood close by her. He would not speak. He would keep his
word. But she should have a chance of speaking. His eyes were on her
face. The hymn ended. She exhaled a held breath, started and spoke.

"You?" she said, "_you_?" The two words are spelled alike. Spoken,
they are capable of infinite variations. The first "you" sent Vernon's
blood leaping. The second froze it to what it had been before he met
her. For indeed that little unfinished idyll had been almost forgotten
by the man who sat drinking Vermouth outside the Cafe de la Paix.

"How are you?" he whispered. "Won't you shake hands?"

She gave him a limp and unresponsive glove.

"I had almost forgotten you," she said, "but I am glad to see
you--because--Come to the door. I don't like talking in churches."

They stood on the steps behind one of the great pillars.

"Do you think it is wise to stand here?" he said. "Your aunt might see

"So you followed us in?" said Betty with perfect self-possession.
"That was very kind. I have often wished to see you, to tell you how
much obliged I am for all your kindness in the Spring. I was only a
child then, and I didn't understand, but now I quite see how good it
was of you."

"Why do you talk like that?" he said. "You don't think--you can't
think it was my fault?"

"Your fault! What?"

"Why, your father finding us and--"

"Oh, _that_!" she said lightly. "Oh, I had forgotten that! Ridiculous,
wasn't it? No, I mean your kindness in giving so many hours to
teaching a perfect duffer. Well, now I've seen you and said what I had
to say, I think I'll go back."

"No, don't go," he said. "I want to know--oh, all sorts of things! I
can see your aunt from afar, and fly if she approaches."

"You don't suppose," said Betty, opening her eyes at him, "that I
shan't tell her I've seen you?"

He had supposed it, and cursed his clumsiness.

"Ah, I see," she went on, "you think I should deceive my aunt now
because I deceived my step-father in the Spring. But I was a child
then,--and besides, I'm fond of my aunt."

"Did you know that she came to see me?"

"Of course. You seem to think we live in an atmosphere of deceit, Mr.

"What's the matter with you?" he said bluntly, for finer weapons
seemed useless. "What have I done to make you hate me?"

"I hate you? Oh, no--not in the least," said Betty spitefully. I am
very grateful to you for all your kindness."

"Where are you staying?" he asked.

"Hotel Bete," said Betty, off her guard, "but--"

The "but" marked his first score.

"I wish I could have called to see your aunt," he said carelessly,
"but I am off to Vienna to-morrow."

Betty believed that she did not change countenance by a hair's

"I hope you'll have a delightful time," she said politely.

"Thanks. I am sure I shall. The only consolation for leaving Paris is
that one is going to Vienna. Are you here for long?"

"I don't know." Betty was on her guard again.

"Paris is a delightful city, isn't it?"

"Most charming."

"Have you been here long?"

"No, not very long."

"Are you still working at your painting? It would be a pity to give
that up."

"I am not working just now."

"I see your aunt," he said hurriedly. "Are you going to send me away
like this? Don't be so unjust, so ungenerous. It's not like you--my
pupil of last Spring was not unjust."

"Your pupil of last Spring was a child and a duffer, Mr. Vernon, as I
said before. But she is grateful to you for one thing--no, two."

"What's the other?" he asked swiftly.

"Your drawing-lessons," she demurely answered.

"Then what's the one?"

"Good-bye," she said, and went down the steps to meet her aunt. He
effaced himself behind a pillar. In spite of her new coldness, he
could not believe that she would tell her aunt of the meeting. And he
was right, though Betty's reasons were not his reasons.

"What's the good?" she asked herself as she and her aunt walked across
to their hotel. "He's going away to-morrow, and I shall never see him
again. Well, I behaved beautifully, that's one thing. He must simply
loathe me. So that's all right! If he were staying on in Paris, of
course I would tell her."

She believed this fully.

He waited five minutes behind that pillar, and then had himself driven
to the Rue Notre Dame des Champs, choosing as driver a man with a
white hat, in strict accordance with the advice in Baedeker, though he
had never read any of the works of that author.

This new Betty, with the smart gown and the distant manner, awoke at
the same time that she contradicted his memories of the Betty of Long
Barton. And he should not see her again. Of course he was not going to
Vienna, but neither was he going to hang round the Hotel Bete, or to
bribe Franz or Elise to smuggle notes to Miss Betty.

"It's never any use trying to join things on again," he told himself.
"As well try to mend a spider's web when you have put your boot
through it."

'No diver brings up love again
Dropped once
In such cold seas!'

"But what has happened? Why does she hate me so? You acted very
nicely, dear, but that wasn't indifference. It was hatred, if ever
I've seen it. I wonder what it means? Another lover? No--then she'd be
sorry for me. It's something that belongs to me--not another man's
shadow. But what I shall never know. And she's prettier than ever,
too. Oh, hang it!"

His key turned in the lock, and on the door-mat shewed the white
square of an envelope--a note from the other woman, the one whose
profile he had not remembered. She was in Paris for a time. She had
seen him at the Paix, had wondered whether he had his old rooms, had
driven straight up on the chance of being able to leave this--wasn't
that devotion?--and would he care to call for her at eight and they
could dine somewhere and talk over old times? One familiar initial,
that of her first name, curled in the corner and the card smelt of
jasmine--not of jasmine-scent in bottles, but of the real flower. He
had never known how she managed it.

Vernon was not fond of talking over old times, but Betty would be
dining at the Hotel Bete--some dull hole, no doubt; he had never heard
of it. Well, he could not dine at the Bete, and after all one must
dine somewhere. And the other woman had never bored him. That is a
terrible weapon in the hands of a rival. And Betty had been most
unjust. And what was Betty to him, anyway? His thoughts turned to the
American girl who had sketched with him in Brittany that Summer. Ah,
if she had not been whisked back to New York by her people, it would
not now be a question of Betty or of the Jasmine lady. He took out
Miss Van Tromp's portrait and sat looking at it: it was admirable, the
fearless poise of the head, the laughing eyes, the full pouting lips.
Then Betty's face and the face of the Jasmine lady came between him
and Miss Van Tromp.

"Bah," he said, "smell, kiss, wear--at last throw away. Never keep a
rose till it's faded." A little tide of Breton memories swept through

"Bah," he said again, "she was perfectly charming, but what is the use
of charm, half the world away?"

He pulled his trunk from the front of the fire-place, pushed up the
iron damper, and made a little fire. He burned all Miss Van Tromp's
letters, and her photograph--but, from habit, or from gratitude, he
kissed it before he burned it.

"Now," said he as the last sparks died redly on the black embers, "the
decks are cleared for action. Shall I sentimentalise about
Betty--cold, cruel, changed Betty--or shall I call for the Jasmine

He did both, and the Jasmine lady might have found him dull. As it
happened, she only found him _distrait_, and that interested her.

"When we parted," she said, "it was I who was in tears. Now it's you.
What is it?"

"If I am in tears," he roused himself to say, "it is only because
everything passes, 'tout lasse, tout passe, tout casse.'"

"What's broken now?" she asked; "another heart? Oh, yes! you broke
mine all to little, little bits. But I've mended it. I wanted
frightfully to see you to thank you!

"This is a grateful day for women," thought Vernon, looking the

"Why, for showing me how hearts are broken," she explained; "it's
quite easy when you know how, and it's a perfectly delightful game. I
play it myself now, and I can't imagine how I ever got on before I
learned the rules."

"You forget," he said, smiling. "It was you who broke my heart. And
it's not mended yet."

"That's very sweet of you. But really, you know, I'm very glad it was
you who broke my heart, and not anyone else. Because, now it's mended,
that gives us something to talk about. We have a past. That's really
what I wanted to tell you. And that's such a bond, isn't it? When it
really _is_ past--dead, you know, no nonsense about cataleptic
trances, but stone dead."

"Yes," he said, "it is a link. But it isn't the past for me, you know.
It can never--"

She held up a pretty jewelled hand.

"Now, don't," she said. "That's just what you don't understand. All
that's out of the picture. I know you too well. Just realize that I'm
the only nice woman you know who doesn't either expect you to make
love to her in the future or hate you for having done it in the past,
and you'll want to see me every day. Think of the novelty of it."

"I do and I do," said he, "and I won't protest any more while you're
in this mood. Bear with me if I seem idiotic to-night--I've been
burning old letters, and that always makes me like a funeral."

"Old letters--mine?"

"I burned yours long ago."

"And it isn't two years since we parted! How many have there been

"Is this the Inquisition or is it Durand's?"

"It's somewhere where we both are," she said, without a trace of
sentiment; "that's good enough for me. Do you know I've been married
since I saw you last? _And_ left a widow--in a short three months it
all happened. And--well I'm not very clever, as you know, but--can you
imagine what it is like to be married to a man who doesn't understand
a single word you say, unless it's about the weather or things to eat?
No, don't look shocked. He was a good fellow, and very happy till the
motor accident took him and left me this."

She shewed a scar on her smooth arm.

"What a woman it is for surprises! So he was very happy? But of course
he was."

"Yes, of course, as you say. I was a model wife. I wore black for a
whole year too!"

"Why did you marry him?"

"Well, at the time I thought you might hear of it and be disappointed,
or hurt, or something."

"So I am," said Vernon with truth.

"You needn't be," said she. "You'll find me much nicer now I don't
want to disappoint you or hurt you, but only to have a good time, and
there's no nonsense about love to get in the way, and spoil

"So you're--But this isn't proper! Here am I dining with a lady and I
don't even know her name!"

"I know--I wouldn't put it to the note. Didn't that single initial
arouse your suspicions? Her name? Her title if you please! I married
Harry St. Craye. You remember how we used to laugh at him together."

"That little--I beg your pardon, Lady St. Craye."

"Yes," she said, "De mortuis nil nisi bonum: of the dead nothing but
the bones. If he had lived he would certainly have beaten me. Here's
to our new friendship!"

"Our new friendship!" he repeated, raising his glass and looking in
her eyes. Lady St. Craye looked very beautiful, and Betty was not
there. In fact, just now there was no Betty.

He went back to his room humming a song of Yvette Guilbert's. There
might have been no flowering May, no buttercup meadows in all the
world, for any thought of memory that he had of them. And Betty was a
thousand miles away.

That was at night. In the morning Betty was at the Hotel Bete, and the
Hotel Bete was no longer a petty little hotel which he did not know
and never should know. For the early post brought him a letter which

"I am in Paris for a few days and should like to see you if you can
make it convenient to call at my hotel on Thursday."

This was Tuesday.

The letter was signed with the name of the uncle from whom Vernon had
expectations, and at the head of the letter was the address:

"Hotel Bete,
Cite de Retraite,
Rue Boissy d'Anglais."

"Now bear witness!" cried Vernon, appealing to the Universe, "bear
witness that this is _not_ my fault!"



Vernon in those two days decided that he did not wish to see Betty
again. She was angry with him, and, though he never for an instant
distrusted his power to dissipate the cloud, he felt that the lifting
of it would leave him and her in that strong light wherein the frail
flower of sentiment must wither and perish. Explications were fatal to
the delicate mystery, the ethereal half-lights, that Vernon loved.
Above all things he detested the _trop dit_.

Already a mood of much daylight was making him blink and shrink. He
saw himself as he was--or nearly--and the spectacle did not please
him. The thought of Lady St. Craye was the only one that seemed to
make for any sort of complacency. The thought of Temple rankled oddly.

"He likes me, and he dislikes himself for liking me. Why does he like
me? Why does anyone like me? I'm hanged if I know!"

This was the other side of his mood of most days, when the wonder
seemed that everyone should not like him. Why shouldn't they?
Ordinarily he was hanged if he knew that.

He had expected a note from Lady St. Craye to follow up his dinner
with her. He knew how a woman rarely resists the temptation to write
to the man in whom she is interested, even while his last words are
still ringing in her ears. But no note came, and he concluded that
Lady St. Craye was not interested. This reassured while it piqued.

The Hotel Bete is very near the Madeleine, and very near the heart of
Paris--of gay Paris, that is,--yet it might have been a hundred miles
from anywhere. You go along the Rue Boissy, and stopping at a gateway
you turn into a dreary paved court, which is the Cite de la Retraite.
Here the doors of the Hotel Bete open before you like the portals of a
mausoleum. There is no greeting from the Patronne; your arrival gives
rise to no pleasant welcoming bustle. The concierge receives you, and
you see at once that her cheerful smile is assumed. No one could
really be cheerful at the Hotel Bete.

Vernon felt as though he was entering a family vault of the highest
respectability when he passed through its silent hall and enquired for
Mr. James Vernon.

Monsieur Vernon was out. No, he had charged no one with a billet for
monsieur. Monsieur Vernon would doubtless return for the dejeuner; it
was certain that he would return for the diner. Would Monsieur wait?

Monsieur waited, in a little stiff salon with glass doors, prim
furniture, and an elaborately ornamental French clock. It was silent,
of course. One wonders sometimes whether ornamental French Ormolu
clocks have any works, or are solid throughout. For no one has ever
seen one of them going.

There were day-old English papers on the table, and the New York
Herald. Through the glass doors he could see everyone who came in or
went out. And he saw no one. There was a stillness as of the tomb.

Even the waiter, now laying covers for the dejeuner, wore list
slippers and his movements were silent as a heron's ghost-gray flight.

He came to the glass door presently.

"Did Monsieur breakfast?"

Vernon was not minded to waste two days in the pursuit of uncles. Here
he was, and here he stayed, till Uncle James should appear.

Yes, decidedly, Monsieur breakfasted.

He wondered where the clients of the hotel had hidden themselves. Were
they all dead, or merely sight-seeing? As his watch shewed him the
approach of half-past twelve he found himself listening for the tramp
of approaching feet, the rustle of returning skirts. And still all was
silent as the grave.

The sudden summoning sound of a bell roused him from a dreamy wonder
as to whether Betty and her aunt had already left. If not, should he
meet them at dejeuner? The idea of the possible meeting amused more
than it interested him. He crossed the hall and entered the long bare
salle a manger.

By Heaven--he was the only guest! A cover was laid for him only--no,
at a distance of half the table for another. Then Betty and her aunt
had gone. Well, so much the better.

He unfolded his table-napkin. In another moment, doubtless, Uncle
James would appear to fill the vacant place.

But in another moment the vacant place was filled--and by Betty--Betty
alone, unchaperoned, and bristling with hostility. She bowed very
coldly, but she was crimson to the ears. He rose and came to her
holding out his hand.

With the waiter looking on, Betty had to give hers, but she gave it in
a way that said very plainly:

"I am very surprised and not at all pleased to see you here."

"This is a most unexpected pleasure," he said very distinctly, and
added the truth about his uncle.

"Has Monsieur Vernon yet returned?" he asked the waiter who hovered
anxiously near.

"No, Monsieur was not yet of return."

"So you see," his look answered the speech of her hand, "it is not my
doing in the least."

"I hope your aunt is well," he went on, the waiter handing baked eggs
the while.

"Quite well, thank you," said Betty. "And how is your wife? I ought to
have asked yesterday, but I forgot."

"My wife?"

"Oh, perhaps you aren't married yet. Of course my father told me of
your engagement."

She crumbled bread and smiled pleasantly.

"So _that's_ it," thought Vernon. "Fool that I was to forget it!"

"I am not married," he said coldly, "nor have I ever been engaged to
be married."

And he ate eggs stolidly wondering what her next move would be. It was
one that surprised him. For she leaned towards him and said in a
perfectly new voice:

"Couldn't you get Franz to move you a little more this way? One can't
shout across these acres of tablecloth, and I've heaps of things to
tell you."

He moved nearer, and once again he wronged Betty by a mental
shrinking. Was she really going to own that she had resented the news
of his engagement? She was really hopeless. He began to bristle

[Illustration: "'Ah, don't be cross!' she said"]

"Anything you care to tell me will of course be of the greatest
possible interest," he was beginning, but Betty interrupted him.

"_Ah, don't be cross_!" she said. "I know I was perfectly horrid
yesterday, but I own I was rather hurt."

"Hold back," he adjured her, inwardly, "for Heaven's sake, hold back!"

"You see," she went on, "you and I were such good friends--you'd been
so kind--and you told me--you talked to me about things you didn't
talk of to other people,--and when I thought you'd told my step-father
a secret of yours that you'd never told me, of course I felt
hurt--anyone would have."

"I see," said he, beginning to.

"Of course I never dreamed that he'd lied, and even now I don't see--"
Then suddenly she did see and crimsoned again.

"He didn't lie," said Vernon carefully, "it was I. But I would never
have told him anything that I wouldn't have told you--nor half that I
did tell you."

The waiter handed pale meat.

"Yes, the scenery in Brittany is most charming; I did some good work
there. The people are so primitive and delightful too."

The waiter withdrew, and Betty said:

"How do you mean--he didn't lie?"

"The fact is," said Vernon, "he--he did not understand our friendship
in the least. I imagine friendship was not invented when he was young.
It's a tiresome subject, Miss Desmond; let's drop it--shall we?"

"If you like," said she, chilly as December.

"Oh, well then, just let me say it was done for your sake, Miss
Desmond. He had no idea that two people should have any interests in
common except--except matters of the heart, and the shortest way to
convince him was to tell him that my heart was elsewhere. I don't like
lies, but there are some people who insist on lies--nothing else will
convince them of the truth. Here comes some abhorrent preparation of
rice. How goes it with art?"

"I have been working very hard," she said, "but every day I seem to
know less and less."

"Oh, that's all right! It's only that every day one knows more and
more--of how little one does know. You'll have to pass many milestones
before you pass out of that state. Do they always feed you like this

"Some days it's custard," said Betty, "but we've only been here a

"We're friends again now, aren't we?" he questioned suddenly.

"Yes--oh, yes!"

"Then I may ask questions. I want to hear what you've been doing since
we parted, and where you've been, and how you come to Paris--and where
your aunt is, and what she'll say to me when she comes in."

"She likes you," said Betty, "and she won't come in, but Madame
Gautier will. Aunt Julia went off this morning--she couldn't delay any
longer because of catching the P. & O. at Brindisi; and I'm to wait
here till Madame Gautier comes at three. Auntie came all the way back
from America to see whether I was happy here. She _is_ a dear!"

"And who is Madame Gautier? Is she also a dear? But let's have our
coffee in the salon--and tell me everything from the beginning."

"Yes," said Betty, "oh, yes!"

But the salon window was darkened by a passing shape.

"My uncle, bless him!" said Vernon. "I must go. See, here's my card!
Won't you write and tell me all about everything? You will, won't

"Yes, but you musn't write to me. Madame Gautier opens all our
letters, and friendships weren't invented when she was young either.

Vernon had to go towards the strong English voice that was filling the
hall with its inquiries for "Ung Mossoo--ung mossoo Anglay qui avoir
certainmong etty icy ce mattan."

Five minutes later Betty saw two figures go along the pavement on the
other side of the decorous embroidered muslin blinds which, in the
unlikely event of any happening in the Cite de la Retraite, ensure its
not being distinctly seen by those who sojourn at the Hotel Bete.

Betty instantly experienced that feminine longing which makes women
write to lovers or friends from whom they have but now parted, and she
was weaker than Lady St. Craye. There was nothing to do. Her trunks
were packed. She had before her two hours, or nearly, of waiting for
Madame Gautier. So she wrote, and this is the letter, erasures and
all. Vernon, when he got it, was most interested in the erasures here
given in italics.

Dear Mr. Vernon:

I am very glad we are good friends again, and I should like to tell
you everything that has happened. (_After you, after he--when my
step-father_). After the last time I saw you (_I was very unhappy
because I wanted to go to Paris_) I was very anxious to go to Paris
because of what you had said. My aunt came down and was very kind.
(_She told me_) She persuaded my step-father to let me go. I think
(_we_) he was glad to get rid of me, for (_somehow_) he never did
care about me, any more than I did about him. There are a great many
(_other_) things that he does not understand. Of course I was wild
with joy and thought of nothing but (_what you_) work, and my aunt
brought me over. But I did not see anything of Paris then. We went
straight on to Joinville where Madame Gautier has a villa, and
(_we_) my aunt left me there, and went to Norway. It was all very
strange at first, but I liked it. Madame Gautier is very strict; it
was like being at school. Sometimes I almost (_forgot_) fancied that
I was at school again. There were three other girls besides me, and
we had great fun. The Professor was very nice and encouraging. He is
very old. So is everybody who comes to the house--(_but_) it
(_was_) is jolly, because when there are four of you everything is
so interesting. We used to have picnics in the woods, and take it in
turn to ride in the donkey-cart. And there were musical evenings
with the Pastor and the Avocat and their wives. It was very amusing
sometimes. Madame Gautier had let her Paris flat, so we stayed at
Joinville till a week ago, and then my Aunt walked in one day and
took me to Paris for a week. I did enjoy that. And now aunt has
gone, and Madame Gautier is taking the inventory and getting the
keys, and presently she will come for me, I shall go with her to the
Rue Vaugirard, Number 62. It will be very nice seeing the other
girls again and telling them all about (_everything_) my week in
Paris. I am so sorry that I shall not have the pleasure of seeing
you again, but I am glad we met--because I do not like to think my
friends do not trust me.

Yours sincerely,

Betty Desmond.

That was the letter which Betty posted. But the first letter she wrote
was quite different. It began:

"You don't know, you never will know what it is to me to know that
you did not deceive me. My dear friend, my only friend! And how I
treated you yesterday! And how nobly you forgave me. I shall see you
again. I must see you again. No one else has ever understood me."
And so on to the "True and constant friend Betty."

She burned this letter.

"The other must go," she said, "that's the worst of life. If I sent
the one that's really written as I feel he'd think I was in love with
him or some nonsense. But a child who was just in two syllables might
have written the other. So _that's_ all right."

She looked at her watch. The same silver watch with which she had once
crossed the hand of one who told her fortune.

"How silly all that was!" she said. "I have learned wisdom now. Nearly
half-past three. I never knew Madame late before."

And now Betty began to watch the windows for the arrival of her
chaperone; and four o'clock came, and five, but no Madame Gautier.

She went out at last and asked to see the Patronne, and to her she
explained in a French whose fluency out-ran its correctness, that a
lady was to have called for her at three. It was now a quarter past
five. What did Madame think she should do?

Madame was lethargic and uninterested. She had no idea. She could not
advise. Probably Mademoiselle would do well to wait always.

The concierge was less aloof.

But without doubt Madame, Mademoiselle's friend had forgotten the
hour. She would arrive later, certainly. If not, Mademoiselle could
stay the night at the hotel, where a young lady would be perfectly
well, and go to Madame her friend in the morning.

But Betty was not minded to stay the night alone at the Hotel Bete.
For one thing she had very little money,--save that in the fat
envelope addressed to Madame Gautier which her aunt had given her. It
contained, she knew, the money to pay for her board and lessons during
the next six months,--for the elder Miss Desmond was off to India,
Japan and Thibet, and her horror of banks and cheques made her very
downright in the matter of money. That in the envelope was all Betty
had, and that was Madame Gautier's. But the other part of the
advice--to go to Madame Gautier's in the morning? If in the morning,
why not now?

She decided to go now. No one opposed the idea much. Only Franz seemed
a little disturbed and the concierge tepidly urged patience.

But Betty was fretted by waiting. Also she knew that Vernon and his
uncle might return at any moment. And it would perhaps be awkward for
him to find her there--she would not for the world cause him a
moment's annoyance. Besides he might think she had waited on the
chance of seeing him again. That was not to be borne.

"I will return and take my trunks," she said; and a carriage was

There was something very exhilarating in driving through the streets
of Paris, alone, in a nice little carriage with fat pneumatic tires.
The street lamps were alight, and the shops not yet closed. Almost
every house seemed to be a shop.

"I wonder where all the people live," said Betty.

The Place de la Concorde delighted her with its many lamps and its
splendid space.

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