Part 5 out of 7
She did not feel happy without him. The Inward Monitor grew more and
more insistent. She caught herself wondering how Temple, with the
serious face and the honest eyes, would regard the lies, the
trickeries, the whole tissue of deceit that had won her her chance of
following her own art, of living her own life.
Vernon understood, presently, that not even that evening at Thirion's
could give the key to this uncomforting change. He had not seen Lady
St. Craye since the night of the kiss.
It was after the fourth flat dinner with Betty that he said good-night
to her early and abruptly, and drove to Lady St. Craye's.
She was alone. She rose to greet him, and he saw that her eyes were
dark-rimmed, and her lips rough.
"This is very nice of you," she said. "It's nearly a month since I saw
"Yes," he said. "I know it is. Do you remember the last time? Hasn't
that taught you not to play with me?"
The kiss was explained now. Lady St. Craye shivered.
"I don't know what you mean?" she said, feebly.
"Oh, yes, you do! You're much too clever not to understand. Come to
think of it, you're much too everything--too clever, too beautiful,
too charming, too everything."
"You overwhelm me," she made herself say.
"Not at all. You know your points. What I want to know is just one
thing--and that's the thing you're going to tell me."
She drew her dry lips inward to moisten them.
"What do you want to know? Why do you speak to me like that? What have
"That's what you're going to tell me."
"I shall tell you nothing--while you ask in that tone."
"Won't you? How can I persuade you?" his tone caressed and stung.
"What arguments can I use? Must I kiss you again?"
She drew herself up, called wildly on all her powers to resent the
insult. Nothing came at her call.
"What do you want me to tell you?" she asked, and her eyes implored
the mercy she would not consciously have asked.
He saw, and he came a little nearer to her--looking down at her
upturned face with eyes before which her own fell.
"You don't want another kiss?" he said. "Then tell me what you've been
saying to Miss Desmond."
There was a silence.
"Come, my pretty Jasmine lady, speak the truth."
"I will: What a brute you are!"
"So another lady told me a few months ago. Come, tell me."
"Why should I tell you anything?" She tried to touch her tone with
"Because I choose. You thought you could play with me and fool me and
trick me out of what I mean to have--"
"What you mean to have?"
"Yes, what I mean to have. I mean to marry Miss Desmond--if she'll
"_You_--mean to marry? Saul is among the prophets with a vengeance!"
The scorn came naturally to her voice now.
Vernon stood as if turned to stone. Nothing had ever astonished him so
much as those four words, spoken in his own voice, "I mean to marry."
He repeated them. "I mean to marry Miss Desmond, if she'll have me.
And it's your doing."
"Of course," she shrugged her shoulders. "Naturally it would be. Won't
you sit down? You look so uncomfortable. Those French tragedy scenes
with the hero hat in one hand and gloves in the other always seem to
me so comic."
That was her score, the first. He put down the hat and gloves and came
towards her. And as he came he hastily sketched his plan of action.
When he reached her it was ready formed. His anger was always short
lived. It had died down and left him competent as ever to handle the
He took her hands, pushed her gently into a chair near the table, and
sat down beside her with his elbows on the table and his head in his
"Forgive me, dear," he said. "I was a brute. Forgive me--and help me.
No one can help me but you."
It was a master-stroke: and he had staked a good deal on it. The stake
was not lost. She found no words.
"My dear, sweet Jasmine lady," he said, "let me talk to you. Let me
tell you everything. I can talk to you as I can talk to no one else,
because I know you're fond of me. You are fond of me--a little, aren't
you--for the sake of old times?"
"Yes," she said, "I am fond of you."
"And you forgive me--you do forgive me for being such a brute? I
hardly knew what I was doing."
"Yes," she said, speaking as one speaks in dreams, "I forgive you."
"Thank you," he said humbly; "you were always generous. And you always
"Wait--wait. I'll attend to you presently," she was saying to her
heart. "Yes, I know it's all over. I know the game's up. Let me pull
through this without disgracing myself, and I'll let you hurt me as
much as you like afterwards."
"Tell me," she said gently to Vernon, "tell me everything."
He was silent, his face still hidden. He had cut the knot of an
impossible situation and he was pausing to admire the cleverness of
the stroke. In two minutes he had blotted out the last six
months--months in which he and she had been adversaries. He had thrown
himself on her mercy, and he had done wisely. Never, even in the days
when he had carefully taught himself to be in love with her, had he
liked her so well as now, when she got up from her chair to come and
lay her hand softly on his shoulder and to say:
"My poor boy,--but there's nothing for you to be unhappy about. Tell
me all about it--from the very beginning."
There was a luxurious temptation in the idea. It was not the first
time, naturally, that Vernon had "told all about it" with a
sympathetic woman-hand on his shoulder. He knew the strategic value of
confidences. But always he had made the confidences fit the
occasion--serve the end he had in view. Now, such end as had been in
view was gained. He knew that it was only a matter of time now, before
she should tell him of her own accord, what he could never by any
brutality have forced her to tell. And the temptation to speak, for
once, the truth about himself was overmastering. It is a luxury one
can so very rarely afford. Most of us go the whole long life-way
without tasting it. There was nothing to lose by speaking the truth.
Moreover, he must say something, and why not the truth? So he said:
"It all comes of that confounded habit of mine of wanting to be in
"Yes," she said, "you were always so anxious to be--weren't you? And
you never were--till now."
The echo of his hidden thought made it easier for him to go on.
"It was at Long Barton," he said,--"it's a little dead and alive place
in Kent. I was painting that picture that you like--the one that's in
the Salon, and I was bored to death, and she walked straight into the
composition in a pink gown that made her look like a La France rose
that has been rained on--you know the sort of pink-turning-to-mauve."
"And it was love at first sight?" said she, and took away her hand.
"Not it," said Vernon, catching the hand and holding it; "it was just
the usual thing. I wanted it to be like all the others."
"Like mine," she said, looking down on him.
"Nothing could be like _that_," he had the grace to say, looking up at
her: "that was only like the others in one thing--that it couldn't
last.--What am I thinking of to let you stand there?"
He got up and led her to the divan. They sat down side by side. She
wanted to laugh, to sing, to scream. Here was he sitting by her like a
lover--holding her hand, the first time these two years, three years
nearly--his voice tender as ever. And he was telling her about Her.
"No," he went on, burrowing his shoulder comfortably in the cushions,
"it was just the ordinary outline sketch. But it was coming very
nicely. She was beginning to be interested, and I had taught myself
almost all that was needed--I didn't want to marry her; I didn't want
anything except those delicate delightful emotions that come before
one is quite, quite sure that she--But you know."
"Yes," she said. "I know."
"Then her father interfered, and vulgarized the whole thing. He's a
parson--a weak little rat, but I was sorry for him. Then an aunt came
on the scene--a most gentlemanly lady,"--he laughed a little at the
recollection,--"and I promised not to go out of my way to see Her
again. It was quite easy. The bloom was already brushed from the
adventure. I finished the picture, and went to Brittany and forgot the
whole silly business."
"There was some one in Brittany, of course?"
"Of course," said he; "there always is. I had a delightful summer.
Then in October, sitting at the Cafe de la Paix, I saw her pass. It
was the same day I saw you."
"Before or after you saw me?"
"Then if I'd stopped--if I'd made you come for a drive then and there,
you'd never have seen her?"
"That's so," said Vernon; "and by Heaven I almost wish you had!"
The wish was a serpent in her heart. She said: "Go on."
And he went on, and, warming to his subject, grew eloquent on the
events of the winter, his emotions, his surmises as to Betty's
emotions, his slow awakening to the knowledge that now, for the first
time--and so on and so forth.
"You don't know how I tried to fall in love with you again," he said,
and kissed her hand. "You're prettier than she is, and cleverer and a
thousand times more adorable. But it's no good; it's a sort of
"You never were in love with me."
"No: I don't think I was: but I was happier with you than I shall ever
be with her for all that. Talk of the joy of love! Love hurts--hurts
damnably. I beg your pardon."
"Yes. I believe it's painful. Go on."
He went on. He was enjoying himself, now, thoroughly.
"And so," the long tale ended, "when I found she had scruples about
going about with me alone--because her father had suggested that I was
in love with her--I--I let her think that I was engaged to you."
"That is too much!" she cried and would have risen: but he kept her
"Ah, don't be angry," he pleaded. "You see, I knew you didn't care
about me a little bit: and I never thought you and she would come
across each other."
"So you knew all the time that I didn't care?" her self-respect
clutched at the spar he threw out.
"Of course. I'm not such a fool as to think--Ah, forgive me for
letting her think that. It bought me all I cared to ask for of her
time. She's so young, so innocent--she thought it was quite all right
as long as I belonged to someone else, and couldn't make love to her."
"And haven't you?"
"Never--never once--since the days at Long Barton when it had to be
'made;' and even then I only made the very beginnings of it. Now--"
"I suppose you've been very, very happy?"
"Don't I tell you? I've never been so wretched in my life! I despise
myself. I've always made everything go as I wanted it to go. Now I'm
like a leaf in the wind--_Pauvre feuille desechee_, don't you know.
And I hate it. And I hate her being here without anyone to look after
her. A hundred times I've had it on the tip of my pen to send that
doddering old Underwood an anonymous letter, telling him all about
"Her step-father.--Oh, I forgot--I didn't tell you." He proceeded to
tell her Betty's secret, the death of Madame Gautier and Betty's bid
"I see," she said slowly. "Well, there's no great harm done. But I
wish you'd trusted me before. You wanted to know, at the beginning of
this remarkable interview," she laughed rather forlornly, "what I had
told Miss Desmond. Well, I went to see her, and when she told me that
you'd told her you were engaged to me, I--I just acted the jealous a
little bit. I thought I was helping you--playing up to you. I suppose
I overdid it. I'm sorry."
"The question is," said he anxiously, "whether she'll forgive me for
that lie. She's most awfully straight, you know."
"She seems to have lied herself," Lady St. Craye could not help
"Ah, yes--but only to her father."
"That hardly counts, you think?"
"It's not the same thing as lying to the person you love. I wish--I
wonder whether you'd mind if I never told her it was a lie? Couldn't I
tell her that we were engaged but you've broken it off? That you found
you liked Temple better, or something?"
She gasped before the sudden vision of the naked gigantic egotism of a
man in love.
"You can tell her what you like," she said wearily: "a lie or two more
or less--what does it matter?"
"I don't want to lie to her," said Vernon. "I hate to. But she'd never
understand the truth."
"You think _I_ understand? It _is_ the truth you've been telling me?"
He laughed. "I don't think I ever told so much truth in all my life."
"And you've thoroughly enjoyed it! You alway did enjoy new
"Ah, don't sneer at me. You don't understand--not quite. Everything's
changed. I really do feel as though I'd been born again. The point of
view has shifted--and so suddenly, so completely. It's a new Heaven
and a new earth. But the new earth's not comfortable, and I don't
suppose I shall ever get the new Heaven. But you'll help me--you'll
advise me? Do you think I ought to tell her at once? You see, she's so
different from other girls--she's--"
"She isn't," Lady St. Craye interrupted, "except that she's the one
you love; she's not a bit different from other girls. No girl's
different from other girls."
"Ah, you don't know her," he said. "You see, she's so young and brave
and true and--what is it--Why--"
Lady St. Craye had rested her head against his coat-sleeve and he knew
that she was crying.
"What is it? My dear, don't--you musn't cry."
"I'm not.--At least I'm very tired."
"Brute that I am!" he said with late compunction. "And I've been
worrying you with all my silly affairs. Cheer up,--and smile at me
before I go! Of course you're tired!"
His hand on her soft hair held her head against his arm.
"No," she said suddenly, "it isn't that I'm tired, really. You've told
the truth,--why shouldn't I?" Vernon instantly and deeply regretted
"You're really going to marry the girl? You mean it?"
"Then I'll help you. I'll do everything I can for you."
"You're a dear," he said kindly. "You always were."
"I'll be your true friend--oh, yes, I will! Because I love you,
Eustace. I've always loved you--I always shall. It can't spoil
anything now to tell you, because everything _is_ spoilt. She'll never
love you like I do. Nobody ever will."
"You're tired. I've bothered you. You're saying this just
"I'm saying it because it's true. Why should you be the only one to
speak the truth? Oh, Eustace--when you pretended to think I didn't
care, two years ago, I was too proud to speak the truth then. I'm not
proud now any more. Go away. I wish I'd never seen you; I wish I'd
never been born."
"Yes, dear, yes. I'll go" he said, and rose. She buried her face in
the cushion where his shoulder had been.
He was looking round for his hat and gloves--more uncomfortable than
he ever remembered to have been.
As he reached the door she sprang up, and he heard the silken swish of
her gray gown coming towards him.
"Say good-night," she pleaded. "Oh, Eustace, kiss me again--kindly,
not like last time."
He met her half-way, took her in his arms and kissed her forehead very
gently, very tenderly.
"My dearest Jasmine lady," he said, "it sounds an impertinence and I
daresay you won't believe it, but I was never so sorry in my life as I
am now. I'm a beast, and I don't deserve to live. Think what a beast I
am--and try to hate me."
She, clung to him and laid her wet cheek against his. Then her lips
implored his lips. There was a long silence. It was she--she was
always glad of that--who at last found her courage, and drew back.
"Good-bye," she said. "I shall be quite sane to-morrow. And then I'll
When he got out into the street he looked at his watch. It was not yet
ten o'clock. He hailed a carriage.
"Fifty-seven Boulevard Montparnasse," he said.
He could still feel Lady St. Craye's wet cheek against his own. The
despairing passion of her last kisses had thrilled him through and
He wanted to efface the mark of those kisses. He would not be haunted
all night by any lips but Betty's.
He had never called at her rooms in the evening. He had been careful
for her in that. Even now as he rang the bell he was careful, and when
the latch clicked and the door was opened a cautious inch he was
ready, as he entered, to call out, in passing the concierge's door not
Miss Desmond's name, but the name of the Canadian artist who occupied
the studio on the top floor.
He went softly up the stairs and stood listening outside Betty's door.
Then he knocked gently. No one answered. Nothing stirred inside.
"She may be out," he told himself. "I'll wait a bit."
At the same time he tapped again; and this time beyond the door
something did stir.
Then came Betty's voice:
"_Qui est la_?"
"It's me--Vernon. May I come in?"
A moment's pause. Then:
"No. You can't possibly. Is anything the matter?"
"No--oh, no, but I wanted so much to see you. May I come to-morrow
"You're sure there's nothing wrong? At home or anything? You haven't
come to break anything to me?"
"No--no; it's only something I wanted to tell you."
He began to feel a fool, with his guarded whispers through a locked
"Then come at twelve," said Betty in the tones of finality.
He heard an inner door close, and went slowly away. He walked a long
way that night. It was not till he was back in his rooms and had
lighted his candle and wound up his watch that Lady St. Craye's kisses
began to haunt him in good earnest, as he had known they would.
* * * * *
Lady St. Craye, left alone, dried her eyes and set to work, with heart
still beating wildly to look about her at the ruins of her world.
The room was quiet with the horrible quiet of a death chamber. And yet
his voice still echoed in it. Only a moment ago she had been in his
arms, as she had never hoped to be again--more--as she had never been
"He would have loved me now," she told herself, "if it hadn't been for
that girl. He didn't love me before. He was only playing at love. He
didn't know what love was. But he knows now. And it's all too late!"
But was it?
A word to Betty--and--
"But you promised to help him."
"That was before he kissed me."
"But a promise is a promise."
"Yes,--and your life's your life. You'll never have another."
She stood still, her hands hanging by her sides--clenched hands that
the rings bit into.
"He will go to her early to-morrow. And she'll accept him, of course.
She's never seen anyone else, the little fool."
She knew that she herself would have taken him, would have chosen him
as the chief among ten thousand.
"She could have Temple. She'd be much happier with Temple. She and
Eustace would make each other wretched. She'd never understand him,
and he'd be tired of her in a week."
She had turned up the electric lights now, at her toilet table, and
was pulling the pins out of her ruffled hair.
"And he'd never care about her children. And they'd be ugly little
She was twisting her hair up quickly and firmly.
"I _have_ a right to live my own life," she said, just as Betty had
said six months before. "Why am I to sacrifice everything to
her--especially when I don't suppose she cares--and now that I know I
could get him if she were out of the way?"
She looked at herself in the silver-framed mirror and laughed.
"And you always thought yourself a proud woman!"
Suddenly she dropped the brush; it rattled and spun on the polished
She stamped her foot.
"That settles it!" she said. For in that instant she perceived quite
clearly and without mistake that Vernon's attitude had been a
parti-pris: that he had thrown, himself on her pity of set purpose,
with an end to gain.
"Laughing at me all the time too, of course! And I thought I
understood him. Well, I don't misunderstand him for long, anyway," she
said, and picked up the hair brush.
"You silly fool," she said to the woman in the glass.
And now she was fully dressed--in long light coat and a hat with, as
usual, violets in it. She paused a moment before her writing-table,
turned up its light, turned it down again.
"No," she said, "one doesn't write anonymous letters. Besides it would
be too late. He'll see her to-morrow early--early."
The door of the flat banged behind her as it had banged behind Vernon
half an hour before. Like him, she called a carriage, and on her lips
too, as the chill April air caressed them, was the sense of kisses.
And she, too, gave to the coachman the address:
Fifty-seven Boulevard Montparnasse.
THE TRUTH WITH A VENGEANCE.
In those three weeks whose meetings with Vernon had been so lacking in
charm there had been other meetings for Betty, and in these charm had
not been to seek. But it was the charm of restful, pleasant
companionship illuminated by a growing certainty that Mr. Temple
admired her very much, that he liked her very much, that he did not
think her untidy and countrified and ill-dressed, and all the things
she had felt herself to be that night when Lady St. Craye and her furs
had rustled up the staircase at Thirion's. And she had dined with Mr.
Temple and lunched with Mr. Temple, and there had been an afternoon at
St. Cloud, and a day at Versailles. Miss Voscoe and some of the other
students had been in the party, but not of it as far as Betty was
concerned. She had talked to Temple all the time.
"I'm glad to see you've taken my advice," said Miss Voscoe, "only you
do go at things so--like a bull at a gate. A month ago it was all that
ruffian Vernon. Now it's all Mr. Go-to-Hell. Why not have a change?
Try a Pole or a German."
But Betty declined to try a Pole or a German.
What she wanted to do was to persuade herself that she liked Temple as
much as she liked Vernon, and, further, that she did not care a straw
Of course it is very wrong indeed to talk pleasantly with a young man
when you think you know that he might, just possibly, be falling in
love with you. But then it is very interesting, too. To be loved, even
by the wrong person, seems in youth's selfish eyes to light up the
world as the candle lights the Japanese lantern. And besides, after
all, one can't be sure. And it is not maidenly to say "No," even by
the vaguest movements of retreat, to a question that has not been
asked and perhaps never will be.
And when she was talking to Temple she was not thinking so much of
Vernon, and of her unselfish friendship for him, and the depth of her
hope that he really _would_ be happy with that woman.
So that it was with quite a sick feeling that her days had been robbed
of something that made them easier to live, if not quite worth living,
that she read and reread the letter that she found waiting for her
after that last unsuccessful dinner with the man whom Temple helped
her to forget.
You will see by the letter what progress friendship can make in a
month between a young man and woman, even when each is half in love
with some one else.
"Sweet friend," said the letter: "This is to say good-bye for a
little while. But you will think of me when I am away, won't you?
I am going into the country to make some sketches and to think. I
don't believe it is possible for English people to think in Paris.
And I have things to think over that won't let themselves be thought
over quietly here. And I want to see the Spring. I won't ask you to
write to me, because I want to be quite alone, and not to have even
a word from my sweet and dear friend. I hope your work will go well.
Betty, in bed, was re-reading this when Vernon's knock came at her
door. She spoke to him through the door with the letter in her hand.
And her real thought when she asked him if he had come to break bad
news was that something had happened to Temple.
She went back to bed, but not to sleep. Try as she would, she could
not keep away the wonder--what could Vernon have had to say that
wanted so badly to get itself said? She hid her eyes and would not
look in the face of her hope. There had been a tone in his voice as he
whispered on the other side of that stupid door, a tone she had not
heard since Long Barton.
Oh, why had she gone to bed early that night of all nights? She would
never go to bed early again as long as she lived!
What?--No, impossible! Yes. Another knock at her door. She sprang out
of bed, and stood listening. There was no doubt about it. Vernon had
come back. After all what he had to say would not keep till morning. A
wild idea of dressing and letting him in was sternly dismissed. For
one thing, at topmost speed, it took twenty minutes to dress. He would
not wait twenty minutes. Another knock.
She threw on her dressing gown and ran along her little passage--and
stooped to the key-hole just as another tap, discreet but insistent,
rang on the door panel.
"Go away," she said low and earnestly. "I can't talk to you to-night
_whatever it is_. It must wait till the morning."
"It's I," said the very last voice in all Paris that she expected to
hear, "it's Lady St. Craye.--Won't you let me in?"
"Are you alone?" said Betty.
"Of course I'm alone. It's most important. Do open the door."
The door was slowly opened. The visitor rustled through, and Betty
shut the door. Then she followed Lady St. Craye into the sitting-room,
lighted the lamp, drew the curtain across the clear April night, and
stood looking enquiry--and not looking it kindly. Her lips were set in
a hard line and she was frowning.
She waited for the other to speak, but after all it was she who broke
"Well," she said, "what do you want now?"
"I hardly know how to begin," said Lady St. Craye with great truth.
"I should think not!" said Betty. "I don't want to be disagreeable,
but I can't think of anything that gives you the right to come and
knock me up like this in the middle of the night."
"It's only just past eleven," said Lady St. Craye. And there was
another silence. She did not know what to say. A dozen openings
suggested themselves, and were instantly rejected. Then, quite
suddenly, she knew exactly what to say, what to do. That move of
Vernon's--it was a good one, a move too often neglected in this
cynical world, but always successful on the stage.
"May I sit down?" she asked forlornly.
Betty, rather roughly, pushed forward a chair.
Lady St. Craye sank into it, looked full at Betty for a long minute;
and by the lamp's yellow light Betty saw the tears rise, brim over and
fall from the other woman's lashes. Then Lady St. Craye pulled out her
handkerchief and began to cry in good earnest.
It was quite easy.
At first Betty looked on in cold contempt. Lady St. Craye had counted
on that: she let herself go, wholly. If it ended in hysterics so much
the more impressive. She thought of Vernon, of all the hopes of these
months, of the downfall of them--everything that should make it
impossible for her to stop crying.
"Don't distress yourself," said Betty, very chill and distant.
"Can you--can you lend me a handkerchief?" said the other
unexpectedly, screwing up her own drenched cambric in her hand.
Betty fetched a handkerchief.
"I haven't any scent," she said. "I'm sorry."
That nearly dried the tears--but not quite: Lady St. Craye was a
Betty watching her, slowly melted, just as the other knew she would.
She put her hand at last on the shoulder of the light coat.
"Come," she said, "don't cry so. I'm sure there's nothing to be so
Then came to her sharp as any knife, the thought of what there might
"There's nothing wrong with anyone? There hasn't been an accident or
The other, still speechless, conveyed "No."
"Don't," said Betty again. And slowly and very artistically the flood
was abated. Lady St. Craye was almost calm, though still her breath
caught now and then in little broken sighs.
"I _am_ so sorry," she said, "so ashamed.--Breaking down like this.
You don't know what it is to be as unhappy as I am."
Betty thought she did. We all think we do, in the presence of any
grief not our own.
"Can I do anything?" She spoke much more kindly than she had expected
"Will you let me tell you everything? The whole truth?"
"Of course if you want to, but--"
"Then do sit down--and oh, don't be angry with me, I am so wretched.
Just now you thought something had happened to Mr. Vernon. Will you
just tell me one thing?--Do you love him?"
"You've no right to ask me that."
"I know I haven't. Well, I'll trust you--though you don't trust me.
I'll tell you everything. Two years ago Mr. Vernon and I were
This was not true; but it took less time to tell than the truth would
have taken, and sounded better.
"We were engaged, and I was very fond of him. But he--you know what he
is about Women?"
"No," said Betty steadily. "I don't want to hear anything about him."
"But you must.--He is--I don't know how to put it. There's always some
woman besides the One with him. I understand that now; I didn't then.
I don't think he can help it. It's his temperament."
"I see," said Betty evenly. Her hands and feet were very cold. She was
astonished to find how little moved she was in this interview whose
end she foresaw so very plainly.
"Yes, and there was a girl at that time--he was always about with her.
And I made him scenes--always a most stupid thing to do with a man,
you know; and at last I said he must give her up, or give me up. And
he gave me up. And I was too proud to let him think I cared--and just
to show him how little I cared I married Sir Harry St. Craye. I might
just as well have let it alone. He never even heard I had been married
till last October! And then it was I who told him. My husband was a
brute, and I'm thankful to say he didn't live long. You're very much
shocked, I'm afraid?"
"Not at all," said Betty, who was, rather.
"Well, then I met Him again, and we got engaged again, as he told you.
And again there was a girl--oh, and another woman besides. But this
time I tried to bear it--you know I did try not to be jealous of you."
"You had no cause," said Betty.
"Well, I thought I had. That hurts just as much. And what's the end of
it all--all my patience and trying not to see things, and letting him
have his own way? He came to me to-night and begged me to release him
from his engagement, because--oh, he was beautifully candid--because
he meant to marry you."
Betty's heart gave a jump.
"He seems to have been very sure of me," she said loftily.
"No, no; he's not a hairdresser's apprentice--to tell one woman that
he's sure of another. He said: 'I mean to marry Miss Desmond if she'll
"How kind of him!"
"I wish you'd heard the way he spoke of you."
"I don't want to hear."
"_I_ had to. And I've released him. And now I've come to you. I was
proud two years ago. I'm not proud now. I don't care what I do. I'll
kneel down at your feet and pray to you as if you were God not to take
him away from me. And if you love him it'll all be no good. I know
"But--supposing I weren't here--do you think you could get him back?"
"I know I could. Unless of course you were to tell him I'd been here
to-night. I should have no chance after that--naturally. I wish I knew
what to say to you. You're very young; you'll find someone else, a
better man. He's not a good man. There's a girl at Montmartre at this
very moment--a girl he's set up in a restaurant. He goes to see her.
You'd never stand that sort of thing. I know the sort of girl you are.
And you're quite right. But I've got beyond that. I don't care what he
is, I don't care what he does. I understand him. I can make allowances
for him. I'm his real mate. I could make him happy. You never
would--you're too good. Ever since I first met him I've thought of
nothing else, cared for nothing else. If he whistled to me I'd give up
everything else, everything, and follow him barefoot round the world."
"I heard someone say that in a play once," said Betty musing.
"So did I," said Lady St. Craye very sharply--"but it's true for all
that. Well--you can do as you like."
"Of course I can," said Betty.
"I've done all I can now. I've said everything there is to say. And if
you love him as I love him every word I've said won't make a scrap of
difference. I know that well enough. What I want to know is--_do_ you
The scene had been set deliberately. But the passion that spoke in it
was not assumed. Betty felt young, school-girlish, awkward in the
presence of this love--so different from her own timid dreams. The
emotion of the other woman had softened her.
"I don't know," she said.
"If you don't know, you don't love him.--At least don't see him till
you're sure. You'll do that? As long as he's not married to anyone,
there's just a chance that he may love me again. Won't you have pity?
Won't you go away like that sensible young man Temple? Mr. Vernon told
me he was going into the country to decide which of the two women he
likes best is the one he really likes best! Won't you do that?"
"Yes," said Betty slowly, "I'll do that. _Look_ here, I am most
awfully sorry, but I don't know--I can't think to-night. I'll go right
away--I won't see him to-morrow. Oh, no. I can't come between you and
the man you're engaged to," her thoughts were clearing themselves as
she spoke. "Of course I knew you were engaged to him. But I never
thought. At least--Yes. I'll go away the first thing to-morrow."
"You are very, very good," said Lady St. Craye, and she meant it.
"But I don't know where to go. Tell me where to go."
"Can't you go home?"
"No: I won't. That's too much."
"Go somewhere and sketch."
"Yes,--but _where_?" said poor Betty impatiently.
"Go to Grez," said the other, not without second thoughts. "It's a
lovely place--close to Fontainebleau--Hotel Chevillon. I'll write it
down for you.--Old Madame Chevillon's a darling. She'll look after
you. It _is_ good of you to forgive me for everything. I'm afraid I
was a cat to you."
"No," said Betty, "it was right and brave of you to tell me the whole
truth. Oh, truth's the only thing that's any good!"
Lady St. Craye also thought it a useful thing--in moderation. She
"I'll never forget what you're doing for me," she said. "You're a girl
in thousand. Look here, my dear: I'm not blind. Don't think I don't
value what you're doing. You cared for him in England a little,--and
you care a little now. And everything I've said tonight has hurt you
hatefully. And you didn't know you cared. You thought it was
friendship, didn't you--till you thought I'd come to tell you that
something had happened to him. And then you _knew_. I'm going to
accept your sacrifice. I've got to. I can't live if I don't. But I
don't want you to think I don't know what a sacrifice it is. I know
better than you do--at this moment. No--don't say anything. I don't
want to force your confidence. But I do understand."
"I wish everything was different," said Betty.
"Yes. You're thinking, aren't you, that if it hadn't been for Mr.
Vernon you'd rather have liked me? And I know now that if it hadn't
been for him I should have been very fond of you. And even as it is--"
She put her arms round Betty and spoke close to her ear.
"You're doing more for me than anyone has ever done for me in my
life," she said--"more than I'd do for you or any woman. And I love
you for it. Dear brave little girl. I hope it isn't going to hurt very
badly. I love you for it--and I'll never forget it to the day I die.
Kiss me and try to forgive me."
The two clung together for an instant.
"Good-bye," said Lady St. Craye in quite a different voice. "I'm sorry
I made a scene. But, really, sometimes I believe one isn't quite sane.
Let me write the Grez address. I wish I could think of any set of
circumstances in which you'd be pleased to see me again."
"I'll pack to-night," said Betty. "I hope _you'll_ be happy anyway. Do
you know I think I have been hating you rather badly without quite
"Of course you have," said the other heartily, "but you don't now. Of
course you won't leave your address here? If you do that you might as
well not go away at all!"
"I'm not quite a fool," said Betty.
"No," said the other with a sigh, "it's I that am the fool.
You're--No, I won't say what you are. But--Well. Good night, dear. Try
not to hate me again when you come to think it all over quietly."
Dear Mr. Vernon. This is to thank you very much for all your help
and criticism of my work, and to say good-bye. I am called away
quite suddenly, so I can't thank you in person, but I shall never
forget your kindness. Please remember me to Lady St. Craye. I
suppose you will be married quite soon now. And I am sure you will
both be very happy.
Yours very sincerely,
This was the letter that Vernon read standing in the shadow of the
arch by the concierge's window. The concierge had hailed him as he
hurried through to climb the wide shallow stairs and to keep his
appointment with Betty when she should leave the atelier.
"But yes, Mademoiselle had departed this morning at nine o'clock. To
which station? To the Gare St. Lazare. Yes--Mademoiselle had charged
her to remit the billet to Monsieur. No, Mademoiselle had not left any
address. But perhaps chez Madame Bianchi?"
But chez Madame Bianchi there was no further news. The so amiable
Mademoiselle Desmond had paid her account, had embraced Madame,
and--Voila! she was gone. One divined that she had been called
suddenly to return to the family roof. A sudden illness of Monsieur
her father without doubt.
Could some faint jasmine memory have lingered on the staircase? Or was
it some subtler echo of Lady St. Craye's personality that clung there?
Abruptly, as he passed Betty's door, the suspicion stung him. Had the
Jasmine lady had any hand in this sudden departure?
"Pooh--nonsense!" he said. But all the same he paused at the
"I am desolated to have deranged Madame,"--gold coin changed
hands.--"A lady came to see Mademoiselle this morning, is it not?"
"No, no lady had visited Mademoiselle to-day: no one at all in
"Nor last night--very late?"
"No, monsieur," the woman answered meaningly; "no visitor came in last
night except Monsieur himself and he came, not to see Mademoiselle,
that understands itself, but to see Monsieur Beauchesne an troisieme.
No--I am quite sure--I never deceive myself. And Mademoiselle has had
no letters since three days. Thanks a thousand times, Monsieur. Good
She locked up the gold piece in the little drawer where already lay
the hundred franc note that Lady St. Craye had given her at six
o'clock that morning.
"And there'll be another fifty from her next month," she chuckled.
"The good God be blessed for intrigues! Without intrigues what would
become of us poor concierges?"
For Vernon Paris was empty--the spring sunshine positively
distasteful. He did what he could; he enquired at the Gare St. Lazare,
describing Betty with careful detail that brought smiles to the lips
of the employes. He would not call on Miss Voscoe. He made himself
wait till the Sketch Club afternoon--made himself wait, indeed, till
all the sketches were criticised--till the last cup of tea was
swallowed, or left to cool--the last cake munched--the last student's
footfall had died away on the stairs, and he and Miss Voscoe were
alone among the scattered tea-cups, blackened bread-crumbs and torn
Then he put his question. Miss Voscoe knew nothing. Guessed Miss
Desmond knew her own business best.
"But she's so young," said Vernon; "anything might have happened to
"I reckon she's safe enough--where she is," said Miss Voscoe with
"But haven't you any idea why she's gone?" he asked, not at all
expecting any answer but "Not the least."
But Miss Voscoe said:
"I have a quite first-class idea and so have you."
He could but beg her pardon interrogatively.
"Oh, you know well enough," said she. "She'd got to go. And it was up
to her to do it right now, I guess."
Vernon had to ask why.
"Well, you being engaged to another girl, don't you surmise it might
kind of come home to her there were healthier spots for you than the
end of her apron strings? Maybe she thought the other lady's apron
strings 'ud be suffering for a little show?"
"I'm not engaged," said Vernon shortly.
"Then it's time you were," the answer came with equal shortness.
"You'll pardon me making this a heart-to-heart talk--and anyway it's
no funeral of mine. But she's the loveliest girl and I right down like
her. So you take it from me. That F.F.V. Lady with the violets--Oh,
don't pretend you don't know who I mean--the one you're always about
with when you aren't with Betty. _She's_ your ticket. Betty's not.
Your friend's her style. You pass, this hand, and give the girl a
"I really don't understand--"
"I bet you do," she interrupted with conviction. "I've sized you up
right enough, Mr. Vernon. You're no fool. If you've discontinued your
engagement Betty doesn't know it. Nor she shan't from me. And one of
these next days it'll be borne in on your friend that she's _the_ girl
of his life--and when he meets her again he'll get her to see it his
way. Don't you spoil the day's fishing."
"You have all the imagination of the greatest nation in the world,
Miss Voscoe," he said. "Thank you. These straight talks to young men
are the salt of life. Good-bye."
"You haven't all the obfuscation of the stupidest nation in the
world," she retorted. "If you had had you'd have had a chance to find
out what straight talking means--which it's my belief you never have
yet. Good-bye. You take my tip. Either you go back to where you were
before you sighted Betty, or if the other one's sick of you too, just
shuffle the cards, take a fresh deal and start fair. You go home and
spend a quiet evening and think it all over."
Vernon went off laughing, and wondering why he didn't hate Miss
Voscoe. He did not laugh long. He sat in his studio, musing till
it was too late to go out to dine. Then he found some biscuits
and sherry--remnants of preparations for the call of a picture
dealer--ate and drank, and spent the evening in the way recommended
by Miss Voscoe. He lay face downward on the divan, in the dark, and
he did "think it all over."
But first there was the long time when he lay quite still--did not
think at all, only remembered her hands and her eyes and her hair, and
the pretty way her brows lifted when she was surprised or
perplexed--and the four sudden sweet dimples that came near the
corners of her mouth when she was amused, and the way her mouth
drooped when she was tired.
"I want you. I want you. I want you," said the man who had been the
Amorist. "I want you, dear!"
When he did begin to think, he moved uneasily in the dark as thought
after thought crept out and stung him and slunk away. The verses he
had written at Long Barton--ironic verses, written with the tongue in
the cheek--came back with the force of iron truth:
"I love you to my heart's hid core:
Those other loves? How can one learn
From marshlights how the great fires burn?
Ah, no--I never loved before!"
He had smiled at Temple's confidences--when Betty was at hand--to be
watched and guarded. Now Betty was away--anywhere. And Temple was
deciding whether it was she whom he loved. Suppose he did decide that
it was she, and, as Miss Voscoe had said, made her see it? "Damn,"
said Vernon, "Oh, damn!"
He was beginning to be a connoisseur in the fine flavours of the
different brands of jealousy. Anyway there was food for thought.
There was food for little else, in the days that followed. Mr.
Vernon's heart, hungry for the first time, had to starve. He went
often to Lady St. Craye's. She was so gentle, sweet, yet not too
sympathetic--bright, amusing even, but not too vivacious. He approved
deeply the delicacy with which she ignored that last wild interview.
She was sister, she was friend--and she had the rare merit of seeming
to forget that she had been confidante.
It was he who re-opened the subject, after ten days. She had told
herself that it was only a question of time. And it was.
"Do you know she's disappeared?" he said abruptly.
"_Disappeared_?" No one was ever more astonished than Lady St. Craye.
Quite natural, the astonishment. Not overdone by so much as a hair's
So he told her all about it, and she twisted her long topaz chain and
listened with exactly the right shade of interest. He told her what
Miss Voscoe had said--at least most of it.
"And I worry about Temple," he said; "like any school boy, I worry. If
he _does_ decide that he loves her better than you--You said you'd
help me. Can't you make sure that he won't love her better?"
"I could, I suppose," she admitted. To herself she said: "Temple's at
Grez. _She's_ at Grez. They've been there ten days."
"If only you would," he said. "It's too much to ask, I know. But I
can't ask anything that isn't too much! And you're so much more noble
and generous than other people--"
"No butter, thanks," she said.
"It's the best butter," he earnestly urged. "I mean that I mean it.
"When I see him again--but it's not very fair to him, is it?"
"He's an awfully good chap, you know," said Vernon innocently. And
once more Lady St. Craye bowed before the sublime apparition of the
Egoism of Man.
"Good enough for me, you think? Well, perhaps you're right. He's a
dear boy. One would feel very safe if one loved a man like that."
"Yes--wouldn't one?" said Vernon.
She wondered whether Betty was feeling safe. No: ten days are a long
time, especially in the country--but it would take longer than that to
cure even a little imbecile like Betty of the Vernon habit. It was
worse than opium. Who ought to know if not she who sat, calm and
sympathetic, promising to entangle Temple so as to leave Betty free to
become a hopeless prey to the fell disease?
Quite suddenly and to her own intense surprise, she laughed out loud.
"What is it?" his alert vanity bristled in the query.
"It's nothing--only everything! Life's so futile! We pat and pinch our
little bit of clay, and look at it and love it and think it's going to
be a masterpiece.--and then God glances at it--and He doesn't like
the modelling, and He sticks his thumb down, and the whole thing's
broken up, and there's nothing left to do but throw away the bits."
"Oh, no," said Vernon; "everything's bound to come right in the end.
It all works out straight somehow."
She laughed again.
"It's not optimism," he asserted eagerly, "it's only--well, if
everything doesn't come right somehow, somewhere, some day, what did
He bother to make the world for?"
"That's exactly what I said, my dear," said she. She permitted herself
the little endearment now and then with an ironical inflection, as one
fearful of being robbed might show a diamond pretending that it was
"You think He made it for a joke?"
"If He did it's a joke in the worst possible taste," said she, "but I
see your point of view. There can't be so very much wrong with a world
that has Her in it,--and you--and possibilities."
"Do you know," he said slowly, "I'm not at all sure that--Do you
remember the chap in Jane Eyre?--he knew quite well that that Rosamund
girl wouldn't make him the wife he wanted. Yet he wanted nothing else.
I don't want anything but her; and it doesn't make a scrap of
difference that I know exactly what sort of fool I am."
"A knowledge of anatomy doesn't keep a broken bone from hurting," said
she, "and all even you know about love won't keep off the heartache. I
could have told you that long ago."
"I know I'm a fool," he said, "but I can't help it. Sometimes I think
I wouldn't help it if I could."
"I know," she said, and something in her voice touched the trained
sensibilities of the Amorist. He stooped to kiss the hand that teased
"Dear Jasmine Lady," he said, "my optimism doesn't keep its colour
long, does it? Give me some tea, won't you? There's nothing so
wearing as emotion."
She gave him tea.
"It's a sort of judgment on you, though," was what she gave him with
his first cup: "you've dealt out this very thing to so many
women,--and now it's come home to roost."
"I didn't know what a fearful wildfowl it was," he answered smiling.
"I swear I didn't. I begin to think I never knew anything at all
"And yet they say Love's blind."
"And so he is! That's just it. My exotic flower of optimism withers at
your feet. It's all exactly the muddle you say it is. Pray Heaven for
a clear way out! Meantime thank whatever gods may be--I've got _you_."
"Monsieur's confidante is always at his distinguished service," she
said. And thus sealed the fountain of confidences for that day.
But it broke forth again and again in the days that came after. For
now he saw her almost every day. And for her, to be with him, to know
that she had of him more of everything, save the heart, than any other
woman, spelled something wonderfully like happiness. More like it than
she had the art to spell in any other letters.
Vernon still went twice a week to the sketch-club. To have stayed away
would have been to confess, to the whole alert and interested class,
that he had only gone there for the sake of Betty.
Those afternoons were seasons of salutary torture.
He tried very hard to work, but, though he still remembered how a
paint brush should be handled, there seemed no good reason for using
one. He had always found his planned and cultivated emotions strongly
useful in forwarding his work. This undesired unrest mocked at work,
and at all the things that had made up the solid fabric of one's days.
The ways of love--he had called it love; it was a name like
another--had merely been a sort of dram-drinking. Such love was the
intoxicant necessary to transfigure life to the point where all
things, even work, look beautiful. Now he tasted the real draught. It
flooded his veins like fire and stung like poison. And it made work,
and all things else, look mean and poor and unimportant.
"I want you--I want you--I want you," said Vernon to the vision with
the pretty kitten face, and the large gray eyes. "I want you more than
everything in the world," he said, "everything in the world put
together. Oh, come back to me--dear, dear, dear."
He was haunted without cease by the little poem he had written when he
was training himself to be in love with Betty:
"I love you to my heart's hid core:
Those other loves? How should one learn
From marshlights how the great fires burn?
Ah, no--I never loved before!"
"Prophetic, I suppose," he said, "though God knows I never meant it.
Any fool of a prophet must hit the bull's eye at least once in a life.
But there was a curious unanimity of prophecy about this. The aunt
warned me; that Conway woman warned me; the Jasmine Lady warned me.
And now it's happened," he told himself. "And I who thought I knew all
Miss Conway's name, moving through his thoughts, left the trail of a
Next day he breakfasted at Montmartre.
The neatest little Cremerie; white paint, green walls stenciled with
fat white geraniums. On each small table a vase of green Bruges ware
or Breton pottery holding not a crushed crowded bouquet, but one
single flower--a pink tulip, a pink carnation, a pink rose. On the
desk from behind which the Proprietress ruled her staff, enormous pink
peonies in a tall pot of Grez de Flandre.
Behind the desk Paula Conway, incredibly neat and business-like, her
black hair severely braided, her plain black gown fitting a figure
grown lean as any grey-hound's, her lace collar a marvel of fine
Dapper-waisted waitresses in black, with white aprons, served the
customers. Vernon was served by Madame herself. The clientele formed
its own opinion of the cause of this, her only such condescension.
"Well, and how's trade?" he asked over his asparagus.
"Trade's beautiful," Paula answered, with the frank smile that Betty
had seen, only once or twice, and had loved very much: "if trade will
only go on behaving like this for another six weeks my cruel creditor
will be paid every penny of the money that launched me."
Her eyes dwelt on him with candid affection.
"Your cruel creditor's not in any hurry," he said. "By the way, I
suppose you've not heard anything of Miss Desmond?"
"How could I? You know you made me write that she wasn't to write."
"I didn't _make_ you write anything."
"You approved. But anyway she hasn't my address. Why?"
"She's gone away: and she also has left no address."
"You don't think?--Oh, no--nothing _could_ have happened to her!"
"No, no," he hastened to say. "I expect her father sent for her, or
"The best thing too," said Paula. "I always wondered he let her come."
"Yes,"--Vernon remembered how little Paula knew.
"Oh, yes, she's probably gone home."
"Look here," said Miss Conway very earnestly; "there wasn't any love
business between you and her, was there?"
"No," he answered strongly.
"I was always afraid of that. Do you know--if you don't mind, when
I've really paid my cruel creditor everything, I should like to write
and tell her what he's done for me. I should like her to know that she
really _did_ save me--and how. Because if it hadn't been for her you'd
never have thought of helping me. Do you think I might?"
"It could do no harm," said Vernon after a silent moment. "You'd
really like her to know you're all right. You _are_ all right?"
"I'm right; as I never thought I could be ever again."
"Well, you needn't exaggerate the little services of your cruel
creditor. Come to think of it, you needn't name him. Just say it was a
man you knew."
But when Paula came to write the letter that was not just what she
Book 4.--The Other Man
The full sunlight streamed into the room when Betty, her packing done,
drew back the curtain. She looked out on the glazed roof of the
laundry, the lead roof of the office, the blank wall of the new
grocery establishment in the Rue de Rennes. Only a little blue sky
shewed at the end of the lane, between roofs, by which the sun came
in. Not a tree, not an inch of grass, in sight; only, in her room,
half a dozen roses that Temple had left for her, and the white
marguerite plant--tall, sturdy, a little tree almost--that Vernon had
sent in from the florist's next door but two. Everything was packed.
She would say good-bye to Madame Bianchi; and she would go, and leave
no address, as she had promised last night.
"Why did you promise?" she asked herself. And herself replied:
"Don't you bother. We'll talk about all that when we've got away from
Paris. He was quite right. You can't think here."
"You'd better tell the cabman some other station. That cat of a
concierge is sure to be listening."
"Ah, right. I don't want to give him any chance of finding me, even if
he did say he wanted to marry me."
A fleet lovely picture of herself in bridal smart travelling clothes
arriving at the Rectory on Vernon's arm:
"Aren't you sorry you misjudged him so, Father?" Gentle accents
refraining from reproach. A very pretty picture. Yes. Dismissed.
Now the carriage swaying under the mound of Betty's luggage starts for
the Gare du Nord. In the Rue Notre Dame des Champs Betty opens her
mouth to say, "Gare de Lyons." No: this is _his_ street. Better cross
it as quickly as may be. At the Church of St. Germain--yes.
The coachman smiles at the new order: like the concierge he scents an
intrigue, whips up his horse, and swings round to the left along the
prettiest of all the boulevards, between the full-leafed trees. Past
That thought, or pang, or nausea--Betty doesn't quite know what it
is--keeps her eyes from the streets till the carriage is crossing the
river. Why--there is Notre Dame! It ought to be miles away. Suppose
Vernon should have been leaning out of his window when she passed
across the street, seen her, divined her destination, followed her in
the fleetest carriage accessible? The vision of a meeting at the
"Why are you going away? What have I done?" The secret of this, her
great renunciation--the whole life's sacrifice to that life's
idol--honor, wrung from her. A hand that would hold hers--under
pretence of taking her bundle of rugs to carry.--She wished the
outermost rug were less shabby! Vernon's voice.
"But I can't let you go. Why ruin two lives--nay, three? For it is you
only that I--"
It is very hot. Paris is the hottest place in the world. Betty is glad
she brought lavender water in her bag. Wishes she had put on her other
hat. This brown one is hot; and besides, if Vernon _were_ to be at the
station. Interval. Dismissed.
Betty has never before made a railway journey alone. This gives one a
forlorn feeling. Suppose she has to pay excess on her luggage, or to
wrangle about contraband? She has heard all about the Octroi. Is
lavender water smuggling? And what can they do to you for it? Vernon
would know all these things. And if he were going into the country he
would be wearing that almost-white rough suit of his and the Panama
hat. A rose--Madame Abel de Chatenay--would go well with that coat.
Why didn't brides consult their bridegrooms before they bought their
trousseaux? You should get your gowns to rhyme with your husband's
suits. A dream of a dress that would be, with all the shades of Madame
Abel cunningly blended. A honeymoon lasts at least a month. The roses
would all be out at Long Barton by the time they walked up that
moss-grown drive, and stood at the Rectory door, and she murmured in
the ear of the Reverend Cecil: "Aren't you sorry you--"
Dismissed. And perforce, for the station was reached.
Betty, even in the brown hat, attracted the most attractive of the
porters--also, of course, the most attractable. He thought he spoke
English, and though this was not so, yet the friendly blink of his
Breton-blue eyes and his encouraging smile gave to his:
"Bourron? Mais oui--dix heures vingt. Par ici, Meess. Je m'occuperai
de vous. Et des bagages aussi--all right," quite the ring of one's
He made everything easy for Betty, found her a carriage without
company ("I can cry here if I like," said the Betty that Betty liked
least), arranged her small packages neatly in the rack, took her 50
centime piece as though it had been a priceless personal souvenir, and
ran half the length of the platform to get a rose from another
porter's button-hole. He handed it to her through the carriage window.
"_Pour egayer le voyage de Meess_. All right!" he smiled, and was
She settled herself in the far corner, and took off her hat. The
carriage was hot as any kitchen. With her teeth she drew the cork of
the lavender water bottle, and with her handkerchief dabbed the
perfume on forehead and ears.
"Ah, Mademoiselle--_De grace_!"--the voice came through the open
window beside her. A train full of young soldiers was beside her
train, and in the window opposite hers three boys' faces crowded to
look at her. Three hands held out three handkerchiefs--not very white
Betty smiling reached out the bottle and poured lavender water on each
"_Ah, le bon souvenir_!" said one.
"We shall think of the beauty of an angel of Mademoiselle every time
we smell the perfume so delicious," said the second.
"And longer than that--oh, longer than that by all a life!" cried the
The train started. The honest, smiling boy faces disappeared.
Instinctively she put her head out of the window to look back at them.
All three threw kisses at her.
"I ought to be offended," said Betty, and instantly kissed her hand in
"How _nice_ French people are!" she said as she sank back on the hot
And now there was leisure to think--real thoughts, not those broken,
harassing dreamings that had buzzed about her between 57 Boulevard
Montparnasse and the station. Also, as some one had suggested, one
She leaned back, eyes shut. Her next thought was:
"I have been to sleep."
She had. The train was moving out of a station labelled Fontainebleau.
"And oh, the trees!" said Betty, "the green thick trees! And the sky.
You can see the sky."
Through the carriage window she drank delight from the far grandeur of
green distances, the intimate beauty of green rides, green vistas, as
a thirsty carter drinks beer from the cool lip of his can--a thirsty
lover madness from the warm lips of his mistress.
"Oh, how good! How green and good!" she told herself over and over
again till the words made a song with the rhythm of the blundering
train and the humming metals.
Her station. Little, quiet, sunlit, like the station at Long Barton; a
flaming broom bush and the white of May and acacia blossom beyond prim
palings; no platform--a long leap to the dusty earth. The train went
on, and Betty and her boxes seemed dropped suddenly at the world's
The air was fresh and still. A chestnut tree reared its white blossoms
like the candles on a Christmas tree for giant children. The white
dust of the platform sparkled like diamond dust. May trees and
laburnums shone like silver and gold. And the sun was warm and the
tree-shadows black on the grass. And Betty loved it all.
"_Oh_!" she said suddenly, "it's a year ago to-day since I met
_him_--in the warren."
A shadow caressed and stung her. She would have liked it to wear the
mask of love foregone--to have breathed plaintively of hopes defeated
and a broken heart. Instead it shewed the candid face of a real
homesickness, and it spoke with convincing and abominably aggravating
plainness--of Long Barton.
The little hooded diligence was waiting in the hot white dust outside
"But yes.--It is I who transport all the guests of Madame Chevillon,"
said the smiling brown-haired bonnetless woman who held the reins.
Betty climbed up beside her.
Along a straight road that tall ranks of trees guarded but did not
shade, through the patchwork neatness of the little culture that makes
the deep difference between peasant France and pastoral England, down
a steep hill into a little white town, where vines grew out of the
very street to cling against the faces of the houses and wistaria hung
its mauve pendants from every arch and lintel.
The Hotel Chevillon is a white-faced house, with little unintelligent
eyes of windows, burnt blind, it seems, in the sun--neat with the
neatness of Provincial France.
Out shuffled an old peasant woman in short skirt, heavy shoes and big
apron, her arms bared to the elbow, a saucepan in one hand, a ladle in
the other. She beamed at Betty.
"I wish to see Madame Chevillon."
"You see her, _ma belle et bonne_," chuckled the old woman. "It is me,
Madame Chevillon. You will rooms, is it not? You are artist? All who
come to the Hotel are artist. Rooms? Marie shall show you the rooms,
at the instant even. All the rooms--except one--that is the room of
the English Artist--all that there is of most amiable, but quite mad.
He wears no hat, and his brain boils in the sun. Mademoiselle can chat
with him: it will prevent that she bores herself here in the Forest."
Betty disliked the picture.
"I think perhaps," she said, translating mentally as she spoke, "that
I should do better to go to another hotel, if there is only one man
here and he is--"
She saw days made tiresome by the dodging of a lunatic--nights made
tremulous by a lunatic's yelling soliloquies.
"Ah," said Madame Chevillon comfortably, "I thought Mademoiselle was
artist; and for the artists and the Spaniards the _convenances_ exist
not. But Mademoiselle is also English. They eat the convenances every
day with the soup.--See then, my cherished. The English man, he is not
a dangerous fool, only a beast of the good God; he has the atelier and
the room at the end of the corridor. But there is, besides the Hotel,
the Garden Pavilion, un appartement of two rooms, exquisite, on the
first, and the garden room that opens big upon the terrace. It is
there that Mademoiselle will be well!"
Betty thought so too, when she had seen the "rooms exquisite on the
first"--neat, bare, well-scrubbed rooms with red-tiled floors, scanty
rugs and Frenchly varnished furniture--the garden room too, with big
open hearth and no furniture but wicker chairs and tables.
"Mademoiselle can eat all alone on the terrace. The English mad shall
not approach. I will charge myself with that. Mademoiselle may repose
herself here as on the bosom of the mother of Mademoiselle."
Betty had her dejeuner on the little stone terrace with rickety rustic
railings. Below lay the garden, thick with trees.
Away among the trees to the left an arbour. She saw through the leaves
the milk-white gleam of flannels, heard the chink of china and
cutlery. There, no doubt, the mad Englishman was even now
breakfasting. There was the width of the garden between them. She sat
still till the flannel gleam had gone away among the trees. Then she
went out and explored the little town. She bought a blue packet of
cigarettes. Miss Voscoe had often tried to persuade her to smoke. Most
of the girls did. Betty had not wanted to do it any more for that. She
had had a feeling that Vernon would not like her to smoke.
And in Paris one had to be careful. But now--
"I am absolutely my own master," she said. "I am staying by myself at
a hotel, exactly like a man. I shall feel more at home if I smoke. And
besides, no one can see me. It's just for me. And it shows I don't
care what _he_ likes."
Lying in a long chair reading one of her Tauchnitz books and smoking,
Betty felt very manly indeed.
The long afternoon wore on. The trees of the garden crowded round
Betty with soft whispers in a language not known of the trees on the
"I am very very unhappy," said Betty with a deep sigh of delight.
She went in, unpacked, arranged everything neatly. She always arranged
everything neatly, but nothing ever would stay arranged. She wrote to
her father, explaining that Madame Gautier had brought her and the
other girls to Grez for the summer, and she gave as her address:
Chez Madame Chevillon, Pavilion du Jardin, Grez.
"I shall be very very unhappy to-morrow," said Betty that night,
laying her face against the coarse cool linen of her pillow; "to-day I
have been stunned---I haven't been able to feel anything. But
To-morrow, she knew, would be golden and green even as to-day. But she
should not care. She did not want to be happy. How could she be happy
now that she had of her own free will put away the love of her life?
She called and beckoned to all the thoughts that the green world shut
out, and they came at her call, fluttering black wings to hide the
sights and sounds of field and wood and green garden, and making their
nest in her heart.
"Yes," she said, turning the hot rough pillow, "now it begins to hurt
again. I knew it would."
It hurt more than she had meant it to hurt, when she beckoned those
black-winged thoughts. It hurt so much that she could not sleep. She
got up and leaned from the window.
She wondered where Vernon was. It was quite early. Not eleven. Lady
St. Craye had called that quite early.
"He's with _her_, of course," said Betty, "sitting at her feet, no
doubt, and looking up at her hateful eyes, and holding her horrid
hand, and forgetting that he ever knew a girl named Me."
Betty dressed and went out.
She crossed the garden. It was very dark among the trees. It would be
lighter in the road.
The big yard door was ajar. She pushed it softly. It creaked and let
her through into the silent street. There were no lights in the hotel,
no lights in any of the houses.
She stood a moment, hesitating. A door creaked inside the hotel. She
took the road to the river.
"I wonder if people ever _do_ drown themselves for love," said Betty:
"he'd be sorry then."
The night kept its promise. Betty, slipping from the sleeping house
into the quiet darkness, seemed to slip into a poppy-fringed pool of
oblivion. The night laid fresh, cold hands on her tired eyes, and shut
out many things. She paused for a minute on the bridge to listen to
the restful restless whisper of the water against the rough stone.
Her eyes growing used to the darkness discerned the white ribbon of
road unrolling before her. The trees were growing thicker. This must
be the forest. Certainly it was the forest.
"How dark it is," she said, "how dear and dark! And how still! I
suppose the trams are running just the same along the Boulevard
Montparnasse,--and all the lights and people, and the noise. And I've
been there all these months--and all the time this was here--this!"
Paris was going on--all that muddle and maze of worried people. And
she was out of it all; here, alone.
Alone? A quick terror struck at the heart of her content. An abrupt
horrible certainty froze her--the certainty that she was not alone.
There was some living thing besides herself in the forest, quite near
her--something other than the deer and the squirrels and the quiet
dainty woodland people. She felt it in every fibre long before she
heard that faint light sound that was not one of the forest noises.
She stood still and listened.
She had never been frightened of the dark--of the outdoor dark. At
Long Barton she had never been afraid even to go past the church-yard
in the dark night--the free night that had never held any terrors,
But now: she quickened her pace, and--yes--footsteps came on behind
her. And in front the long straight ribbon of the road unwound, gray
now in the shadow. There seemed to be no road turning to right or
left. She could not go on forever. She would have to turn,
sometime--if not now, yet sometime--in this black darkness, and then
she would meet this thing that trod so softly, so stealthily behind
Before she knew that she had ceased to walk, she was crouched in the
black between two bushes. She had leapt as the deer leaps, and
crouched, still as any deer.
Her dark blue linen gown was one with the forest shadows. She breathed
noiselessly--her eyes were turned to the gray ribbon of road that had
been behind her. She had heard. Now she would see.
She did see--something white and tall and straight. Oh, the relief of
the tallness and straightness and whiteness! She had thought of
something dwarfed and clumsy--dark, misshapen, slouching beast-like on
two shapeless feet. Why were people afraid of tall white ghosts?
It passed. It was a man--in a white suit. Just an ordinary man. No,
not ordinary. The ordinary man in France does not wear white. Nor in
England, except for boating and tennis and--
Flannels. Yes. The lunatic who boiled his brains in the sun!
Betty's terror changed colour as the wave changes from green to white,
but it lost not even so much of its force as the wave loses by the
change. It held her moveless till the soft step of the tennis shoes
died away. Then softly and hardly moving at all, moving so little that
not a leaf of those friendly bushes rustled, she slipped off her
shoes: took them in her hand, made one leap through the crackling,
protesting undergrowth and fled back along the road, fleet as a
She ran and she walked, very fast, and then she ran again and never
once did she pause to look or listen. If the lunatic caught her--well,
he would catch her, but it should not be _her_ fault if he did.
The trees were thinner. Ahead she saw glimpses of a world that looked
quite light, the bridge ahead. With one last spurt she ran across it,
tore up the little bit of street, slipped through the door, and
between the garden trees to her pavilion.
She looked very carefully in every corner--all was still and empty.
She locked the door, and fell face downward on her bed.
Vernon in his studio was "thinking things over" after the advice of
Miss Voscoe in much the same attitude.
"Oh," said Betty, "I will never go out at night again! And I will
leave this horrible, horrible place the very first thing to-morrow
But to-morrow morning touched the night's events with new colours from
its shining palette.
"After all, even a lunatic has a right to walk out in the forest if it
wants to," she told herself, "and it didn't know I was there, I
expect, really. But I think I'll go and stay at some other hotel."
She asked, when her "complete coffee" came to her, what the mad
gentleman did all day.
"He is not so stupid as Mademoiselle supposes," said Marie. "All the
artists are insane, and he, he is only a little more insane than the
others. He is not a real mad, all the same, see you. To-day he makes
drawings at Montigny."
"Which way is Montigny?" asked Betty. And, learning, strolled, when
her coffee was finished, by what looked like the other way.
It took her to the river.
"It's like the Medway," said Betty, stooping to the fat cowslips at
her feet, "only prettier; and I never saw any cowslips here--You
Betty would not look at her sorrow in this gay, glad world. But she
knew at last what her sorrow's name was. She saw now that it was love
that had stood all the winter between her and Vernon, holding a hand
of each. In her blindness she had called it friendship,--but now she
knew its real, royal name.
She felt that her heart was broken. Even the fact that her grief was a
thing to be indulged or denied at will brought her no doubts. She had
always wanted to be brave and noble. Well, now she was being both.
A turn of the river brought to sight a wide reach dotted with green
islands, each a tiny forest of willow saplings and young alders.
There was a boat moored under an aspen, a great clumsy boat, but it
had sculls in it. It would be pleasant to go out to the islands.
She got into the boat, loosened the heavy rattling chain and flung it
in board, took up the sculls and began to pull. It was easy work.
"I didn't know I was such a good oar," said Betty as the boat crept
swiftly down the river.
As she stepped into the boat, she noticed the long river reeds
straining down stream like the green hair of hidden water-nixies.
She would land at the big island--the boat steered easily and lightly
enough for all its size--but before she could ship her oars and grasp
at a willow root she shot past the island.
Then she remembered the streaming green weeds.
"Why, there must be a frightful current!" she said. What could make
the river run at this pace--a weir--or a waterfall?
She turned the boat's nose up stream and pulled. Ah, this was work!
Then her eyes, fixed in the exertion of pulling, found that they saw
no moving banks, but just one picture: a willow, a clump of irises,
three poplars in the distance--and the foreground of the picture did
not move. All her pulling only sufficed to keep the boat from going
with the stream. And now, as the effort relaxed a little it did not
even do this. The foreground did move--the wrong way. The boat was
slipping slowly down stream. She turned and made for the bank, but the
stream caught her broadside on, whirled the boat round and swept it
calmly and gently down--towards the weir--or the waterfall.
Betty pulled two strong strokes, driving the boat's nose straight for
the nearest island, shipped the sculls with a jerk, stumbled forward
and caught at an alder stump. She flung the chain round it and made
fast. The boat's stern swung round--it was thrust in under the bank
and held there close; the chain clicked loudly as it stretched taut.
"Well!" said Betty. The island was between her and the riverside path.
No one would be able to see her. She must listen and call out when she
heard anyone pass. Then they would get another boat and come and fetch
her away. She would not tempt fate again alone in that boat. She was
not going to be drowned in any silly French river.
She landed, pushed through the saplings, found a mossy willow stump
and sat down to get her breath.
It was very hot on the island. It smelt damply of wet lily leaves and
iris roots and mud. Flies buzzed and worried. The time was very long.
And no one came by.
"I may have to spend the day here," she told herself. "It's not so
safe in the boat, but it's not so fly-y either."
And still no one passed.
Suddenly the soft whistling of a tune came through the hot air. A tune
she had learned in Paris.
"_C'etait deux amants_."
"Hi!" cried Betty in a voice that was not at all like her voice.
"Help!--_Au secours_!" she added on second thoughts.
"Where are you?" came a voice. How alike all Englishmen's voices
seemed--in a foreign land!
"Here--on the island! Send someone out with a boat, will you? I can't
work my boat a bit."
Through the twittering leaves she saw something white waving. Next
moment a big splash. She could see, through a little gap, a white
blazer thrown down on the bank--a pair of sprawling brown boots; in
the water a sleek wet round head, an arm in a blue shirt sleeve
swimming a strong side stroke. It was the lunatic; of course it was.
And she had called to him, and he was coming. She pushed back to the
boat, leaped in, and was fumbling with the chain when she heard the
splash and the crack of broken twigs that marked the lunatic's
She would rather chance the weir or the waterfall than be alone on
that island with a maniac. But the chain was stretched straight and
stiff as a lance,--she could not untwist it. She was still struggling,
with pink fingers bruised and rust-stained, when something heavy
crashed through the saplings and a voice cried close to her:
"Drop it! What are you doing?"--and a hand fell on the chain.
Betty, at bay, raised her head. Lunatics, she knew, could be quelled
by the calm gaze of the sane human eye.
She gave one look, and held out both hands with a joyous cry.
"Oh,--it's _you_! I _am_ so glad! Where did you come from? Oh, how wet
Then she sat down on the thwart and said no more, because of the
choking feeling in her throat that told her very exactly just how
frightened she had been.
"You!" Temple was saying very slowly. "How on earth? Where are you
staying? Where's your party?"
He was squeezing the water out of sleeves and trouser legs.
"I haven't got a party. I'm staying alone at a hotel--just like a man.
I know you're frightfully shocked. You always are."
"Where are you staying?" he asked, drawing the chain in hand over
hand, till a loose loop of it dipped in the water.
"Hotel Chevillon. How dripping you are!"
"Hotel Chevillon," he repeated. "Never! Then it was _you_!"
"What was me?"
"That I was sheep-dog to last night in the forest."
"Then it was _you_? And I thought it was the lunatic! Oh, if I'd only
known! But why did you come after me--if you didn't know it _was_ me?"
Temple blushed through the runnels of water that trickled from his
"I--well, Madame told me there was an English girl staying at the
hotel--and I heard some one go out--and I looked out of the window and
I thought it was the girl, and I just--well, if anything had gone
wrong--a drunken man, or anything--it was just as well there should be
someone there, don't you know."
"That's very, very nice of you," said Betty. "But oh!"--She told him
about the lunatic.
"Oh, that's me!" said Temple. "I recognise the portrait, especially
about the hat."
He had loosened the chain and was pulling with strong even strokes
across the river towards the bank where his coat lay.
"We'll land here if you don't mind."
"Can't you pull up to the place where I stole the boat?"
"The man's not living who could pull against this stream when the
mill's going and the lower sluice gates are open. How glad I am that
I--And how plucky and splendid of you not to lose your head, but just
to hang on. It takes a lot of courage to wait, doesn't it?"
Betty thought it did.
"Let me carry your coat," said Betty as they landed. "You'll make it
He stood still a moment and looked at her.
"Now we're on terra cotta," he said, "let me remind you that we've not
shaken hands. Oh, but it's good to see you again!"
* * * * *
"Look well, my child," said Madame Chevillon, "and when you see
approach the Meess, warn me, that I may make the little omelette at
"Oh, la, la, madame!" cried Marie five minutes later. "Here it is that
she comes, and the mad with her. He talks with her, in laughing. She
carries his coat, and neither the one nor the other has any hat."
"I will make a double omelette," said Madame. "Give me still more of
the eggs. The English are all mad--the one like the other; but even
mads must eat, my child. Is it not?"
"It isn't as though she were the sort of girl who can't take care of
herself," said Lady St. Craye to the Inward Monitor who was buzzing its
indiscreet common-places in her ear. "I've really done her a good turn
by sending her to Grez. No--it's not in the least compromising for a
girl to stay at the same hotel. And besides, there are lots of amusing
people there, I expect. She'll have a delightful time, and get to know
that Temple boy really well. I'm sure he'd repay investigation. If I
weren't a besotted fool I could have pursued those researches myself.
But it's not what's worth having that one wants; it's--it's what one