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The Incomplete Amorist by E. Nesbit

Part 6 out of 7

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_does_ want. Yes. That's all."

Paris was growing intolerable. But for--well, a thousand reasons--Lady
St. Craye would already have left it. The pavements were red-hot. When
one drove it was through an air like the breath from the open mouth of
a furnace.

She kept much within doors, filled her rooms with roses, and lived
with every window open. Her balcony, too, was full of flowers, and the
striped sun-blinds beyond each open window kept the rooms in pleasant

"But suppose something happens to her--all alone there," said the
Inward Monitor.

"Nothing will. She's not that sort of girl." Her headache had been
growing worse these three days. The Inward Monitor might have had
pity, remembering that--but no.

"You told Him that all girls were the same sort of girls," said the
pitiless voice.

"I didn't mean in that way. I suppose you'd have liked me to write
that anonymous letter and restore her to the bosom of her furious
family? I've done the girl a good turn--for what she did for me. She's
a good little thing--too good for him, even if I didn't happen to--And
Temple's her ideal mate. I wonder if he's found it out yet? He must
have by now: three weeks in the same hotel."

Temple, however, was not in the same hotel. The very day of the river
rescue and the double omelette he had moved his traps a couple of
miles down the river to Montigny.

A couple of miles is a good distance. Also a very little way, as you
choose to take it.

"You know it was a mean trick," said the Inward Monitor. "Why not have
let the girl go away where she could be alone--and get over it?"

"Oh, be quiet!" said Lady St. Craye. "I never knew myself so tiresome
before. I think I must be going to be ill. My head feels like an ice
in an omelette."

Vernon, strolling in much later, found her with eyes closed, leaning
back among her flowers as she had lain all that long afternoon.

"How pale you look," he said. "You ought to get away from here."

"Yes," she said, "I suppose I ought. It would be easier for you if you
hadn't the awful responsibility of bringing me roses every other day.
What beauty-darlings these are!" She dipped her face in the fresh pure
whiteness of the ones he had laid on her knee. Their faces felt cold,
like the faces of dead people. She shivered.

"Heaven knows what I should do without you to--to bring my--my roses
to," he said.

"Do you bring me anything else to-day?" she roused herself to ask.
"Any news, for instance?"

"No," he said. "There isn't any news--there never will be. She's gone
home--I'm certain of it. Next week I shall go over to England and
propose for her formally to her step-father."

"A very proper course!"

It was odd that talking to some one else should make one's head throb
like this. And it was so difficult to know what to say. Very odd. It
had been much easier to talk to the Inward Monitor.

She made herself say: "And suppose she isn't there?" She thought she
said it rather well.

"Well, then there's no harm done."

"He doesn't like you." She was glad she had remembered that.

"He didn't--but the one little word 'marriage,' simply spoken, is a
magic spell for taming savage relatives. They'll eat out of your hand
after that--at least so I'm told."

It was awful that he should decide to do this--heart-breaking. But it
did not seem to be hurting her heart. That felt as though it wasn't
there. Could one feel emotion in one's hands and feet? Hers were ice
cold--but inside they tingled and glowed, like a worm of fire in a
chrysalis of ice. What a silly simile.

"Must you go?" was what she found herself saying. "Suppose she isn't
there at all? You'll simply be giving her away--all her secret--and
he'll fetch her home."

That at least was quite clearly put.

"I'm certain she is at home," he said. "And I don't see why I am
waiting till next week. I'll go to-morrow."

If you are pulling a rose to pieces it is very important to lay the
petals in even rows on your lap, especially if the rose be white.

"Eustace," she said, suddenly feeling quite coherent, "I wish you
wouldn't go away from Paris just now. I don't believe you'd find her.
I have a feeling that she's not far away. I think that is quite
sensible. I am not saying it because I--And--I feel very ill, Eustace.
I think I am--Oh, I am going, to be ill, very ill, I think! Won't you
wait a little? You'll have such years and years to be happy in. I
don't want to be ill here in Paris with no one to care."

She was leaning forward, her hands on the arms of her chair, and for
the first time that day, he saw her face plainly. He said: "I shall go
out now, and wire for your sister."

"Not for worlds! I forbid it. She'd drive me mad. No--but my head's
running round like a beetle on a pin. I think you'd better go now. But
don't go to-morrow. I mean I think I'll go to sleep. I feel as if I'd
tumbled off the Eiffel tower and been caught on a cloud--one side of
it's cold and the other's blazing."

He took her hand, felt her pulse. Then he kissed the hand.

"My dear, tired Jasmine Lady," he said, "I'll send in a doctor. And
don't worry. I won't go to-morrow. I'll write."

"Oh, very well," she said, "write then,--and it will all come
out--about her being here alone. And she'll always hate you. _I_ don't
care what you do!"

"I suppose I can write a letter as though--as though I'd not seen her
since Long Barton." He inwardly thanked her for that hint.

"A letter written from Paris? That's so likely, isn't it? But do what
you like. _I_ don't care what you do."

She was faintly, agreeably surprised to notice that she was speaking
the truth. "It's rather pleasant, do you know," she went on dreamily,
"when everything that matters suddenly goes flat, and you wonder what
on earth you ever worried about. Why do people always talk about cold
shivers? I think hot shivers are much more amusing. It's like a
skylark singing up close to the sun, and doing the tremolo with its
wings. I'm sorry you're going away, though."

"I'm not going away," he said. "I wouldn't leave you when you're ill
for all the life's happinesses that ever were. Oh, why can't you cure
me? I don't want to want her; I want to want you."

"I'm certain," said Lady St. Craye brightly, "that what you've just
been saying's most awfully interesting, but I like to hear things said
ever so many times. Then the seventh time you understand everything,
and the coldness and the hotness turn into silver and gold and
everything is quite beautiful, and I think I am not saying exactly
what you expected.--Don't think I don't know that what I say sounds
like nonsense. I know that quite well, only I can't stop talking. You
know one is like that sometimes. It was like that the night you hit

"I? _Hit you_?"

He was kneeling by her low chair holding her hand, as she lay back
talking quickly in low, even tones, her golden eyes shining

"No--you didn't call it hitting. But things aren't always what we call
them, are they? You mustn't kiss me now, Eustace. I think I've got
some horrid fever--I'm sure I have. Because of course nobody could be
bewitched nowadays, and put into a body that feels thick and thin in
the wrong places. And my head _isn't_ too big to get through the
door.--Of course I know it isn't. It would be funny if it were. I do
love funny things.--So do you. I like to hear you laugh. I wish I
could say something funny, so as to hear you laugh now."

She was holding his hand very tightly with one of hers. The other held
the white roses. All her mind braced itself to a great exertion as the
muscles do for a needed effort. She spoke very slowly.

"Listen, Eustace. I am going to be ill. Get a nurse and a doctor and
go away. Perhaps it is catching. And if I fall through the floor," she
added laughing, "it is so hard to stop!"

"Put your arms round my neck," he said, for she had risen and was
swaying like a flame in the wind--the white rose leaves fell in

"I don't think I want to, now," she said, astonished that it should be

"Oh, yes, you do!"--He spoke as one speaks to a child. "Put your arms
round Eustace's neck,--your own Eustace that's so fond of you."

"Are you?" she said, and her arms fell across his shoulders.

"Of course I am," he said. "Hold tight."

He lifted her and carried her, not quite steadily, for carrying a
full-grown woman is not the bagatelle novelists would have us believe

He opened her bedroom door, laid her on the white, lacy coverlet of
her bed.

"Now," he said, "you are to lie quite still. You've been so good and
dear and unselfish. You've always done everything I've asked, even
difficult things. This is quite easy. Just lie and think about me till
I come back."

He bent over the bed and kissed her gently.

"Ah!" she sighed. There was a flacon on the table by the bed. He
expected it to be jasmine. It was lavender water; he drenched her hair
and brow and hands.

"That's nice," said she. "I'm not really ill. I think it's nice to be
ill. Quite still do you mean, like that?"

She folded her hands, the white roses still clasped. The white bed,
the white dress, the white flowers. Horrible!

"Yes," he said firmly, "just like that. I shall be back in five

He was not gone three. He came back and--till the doctor came,
summoned by the concierge--he sat by her, holding her hands, covering
her with furs from the wardrobe when she shivered, bathing her wrists
with perfumed water when she threw off the furs and spoke of the fire
that burned in her secret heart of cold clouds.

When the doctor came he went out by that excellent Irishman's
direction and telegraphed for a nurse.

Then he waited in the cool shaded sitting-room, among the flowers.
This was where he had hit her--as she said. There on the divan she had
cried, leaning her head against his sleeve. Here, half-way to the
door, they had kissed each other. No, he would certainly not go to
England while she was ill. He felt sufficiently like a murderer
already. But he would write. He glanced at her writing-table.

A little pang pricked him, and drove him to the balcony.

"No," he said, "if we are to hit people, at least let us hit them
fairly." But all the same he found himself playing with the
word-puzzle whose solution was the absolutely right letter to Betty's
father, asking her hand in marriage.

"Well," he asked the doctor who closed softly the door of the bedroom
and came forward, "is it brain-fever?"

"Holy Ann, no! Brain fever's a fell disease invented by novelists--I
never met it in all _my_ experience. The doctors in novels have
special advantages. No, it's influenza--pretty severe touch too. She
ought to have been in bed days ago. She'll want careful looking

"I see," said Vernon. "Any danger?"

"There's always danger, Lord--Saint-Croix isn't it?"

"I have not the honour to be Lady St. Craye's husband," said Vernon
equably. "I was merely calling, and she seemed so ill that I took upon
myself to--"

"I see--I see. Well, if you don't mind taking on yourself to let her
husband know? It's a nasty case. Temperature 104. Perhaps her husband
'ud be as well here as anywhere."

"He's dead," said Vernon.

"Oh!" said the doctor with careful absence of expression. "Get some
woman to put her to bed and to stay with her till the nurse comes.
She's in a very excitable state. Good afternoon. I'll look in after

When Vernon had won the concierge to the desired service, had seen the
nurse installed, had dined, called for news of Lady St. Craye, learned
that she was "_toujours tres souffrante_," he went home, pulled a
table into the middle of his large, bare, hot studio, and sat down to
write to the Reverend Cecil Underwood.

"I mean to do it," he told himself, "and it can't hurt _her_ my doing
it now instead of a month ahead, when she's well again. In fact, it's
better for all of us to get it settled one way or another while she's
not caring about anything."

So he wrote. And he wrote a great deal, though the letter that at last
he signed was quite short:

My Dear Sir:

I have the honour to ask the hand of your daughter in marriage. When
you asked me, most properly, my intentions, I told you that I was
betrothed to another lady. This is not now the case. And I have
found myself wholly unable to forget the impression made upon me
last year by Miss Desmond. My income is about L1,700 a year, and
increases yearly. I beg to apologise for anything which may have
annoyed you in my conduct last year, and to assure you that my
esteem and affection for Miss Desmond are lasting and profound, and
that, should she do me the honour to accept my proposal, I shall
devote my life's efforts to secure her happiness.

I am, my dear Sir, Your obedient servant,

Eustace Vernon.

"That ought to do the trick," he told himself. "Talk of old world
courtesy and ceremonial! Anyhow, I shall know whether she's at Long
Barton by the time it takes to get an answer. If it's two days, she's
there. If it's longer she isn't. He'll send my letter on to
her--unless he suppresses it. Your really pious people are so
shockingly unscrupulous."

There is nothing so irretrievable as a posted letter. This came home
to Vernon as the envelope dropped on the others in the box at the Cafe
du Dome--came home to him rather forlornly.

Next morning he called with more roses for Lady St. Craye, pinky ones
this time.

"Milady was toujours _tres souffrante_. It would be ten days, at the
least, before Milady could receive, even a very old friend, like

The letter reached Long Barton between the Guardian and a catalogue of
Some Rare Books. The Reverend Cecil read it four times. He was trying
to be just. At first he thought he would write "No" and tell Betty
years later. But the young man had seen the error of his ways. And
L1,700 a year!--

The surprise visit with which the Reverend Cecil had always intended
to charm his step-daughter suddenly found its date quite definitely
fixed. This could not be written. He must go to the child and break it
to her very gently, very tenderly--find out quite delicately and
cleverly exactly what her real feelings were. Girls were so shy about
those things.

Miss Julia Desmond had wired him from Suez that she would be in Paris
next week--had astonishingly asked him to meet her there.

"Paris next Tuesday Gare St. Lazare 6:45. Come and see Betty via
Dieppe," had been her odd message.

He had not meant to go--not next Tuesday. He was afraid of Miss Julia
Desmond. He would rather have his Lizzie all to himself. But now--

He wrote a cablegram to Miss Julia Desmond: "Care Captain S.S. Urania,
Brindisi: Will meet you in Paris." Then he thought that this might
seem to the telegraph people not quite nice, so he changed it to:
"Going to see Lizzie Tuesday."

The fates that had slept so long were indeed waking up and beginning
to take notice of Betty. Destiny, like the most attractive of the
porters at the Gare de Lyon, "_s'occupait d'elle_."



The concierge sat at her window under the arch of the porte-cochere at
57 Boulevard Montparnasse. She sat gazing across its black shade to
the sunny street. She was thinking. The last twenty-four hours had
given food for thought.

The trams passed and repassed, people in carriages, people on
foot--the usual crowd--not interesting.

But the open carriage suddenly drawn up at the other side of the broad
pavement was interesting, very. For it contained the lady who had
given the 100 francs, and had promised another fifty on the first of
the month. She had never come with that fifty, and the concierge
having given up all hope of seeing her again, had acted accordingly.

Lady St. Craye, pale as the laces of her sea-green cambric gown, came
slowly up the cobble-paved way and halted at the window.

"Good morning, Madame," she said. "I bring you the little present."

The concierge was genuinely annoyed. Why had she not waited a little
longer? Still, all was not yet lost.

"Come in, Madame," she said. "Madame has the air very fatigued."

"I have been very ill," said Lady St. Craye.

"If Madame will give herself the trouble to go round by the other
door--" The concierge went round and met her visitor in the hall, and
brought her into the closely furnished little room with the high
wooden bed, the round table, the rack for letters, and the big lamp.

"Will Madame give herself the trouble to sit down? Would it be
permitted to offer Madame something--a little glass of sugared water?
No? I regret infinitely not having known that Madame was suffering. I
should have acted otherwise."

"What have you done?" she asked quickly. "You haven't told anyone that
I was here that night?"

"Do not believe it for an instant," said the woman reassuringly.
"'No--after Madame's goodness I held myself wholly at the disposition
of Madame. But when the day appointed passed itself without your
visit, I said to myself: 'The little affaire has ceased to interest
this lady; she is weary of it!' My grateful heart found itself free to
acknowledge the kindness of others."

"Tell me exactly," said Lady St. Craye, "what you have done."

"It was but last week," the concierge went on, rearranging a stiff
bouquet in exactly the manner of an embarrassed ingenue on the stage,
"but only last week that I received a letter from Mademoiselle
Desmond. She sent me her address."

She paused. Lady St. Craye laid the bank note on the table.

"Madame wants the address?"

"I have the address. I want to know whether you have given it to
anyone else."

"No, Madame," said the concierge with simple pride, "when you have
given a thing you have it not any longer."

"Well--pardon me--have you sold it?"

"For the same good reason, no, Madame."

"Take the note," said Lady St. Craye, "and tell me what you have done
with the address."

"This gentleman, whom Madame did not wish to know that she had been
here that night--"

"I didn't wish _anyone_ to know!"

"Perfectly: this gentleman comes without ceasing to ask of me news of
Mademoiselle Desmond. And always I have no news. But when Mademoiselle
writes me: 'I am at the hotel such and such--send to me, I pray you,
letters if there are any of them,'--then when Monsieur makes his
eternal demand I reply: 'I have now the address of Mademoiselle,--not
to give, but to send her letters. If Monsieur had the idea to cause to
be expedited a little billet? I am all at the service of Monsieur.'"

"So he wrote to her. Have you sent on the letter?"

"Alas, yes!" replied the concierge with heartfelt regret. "I kept it
during a week, hoping always to see Madame--but yesterday, even, I put
it at the post. Otherwise.... I beg Madame to have the goodness to
understand that I attach myself entirely to her interests. You may
rely on me."

"It is useless," said Lady St. Craye; "the affair _is_ ceasing to
interest me."

"Do not say that. Wait only a little till you have heard. It is not
only Monsieur that occupies himself with Mademoiselle. Last night
arrives an aunt; also a father. They ask for Mademoiselle, are
consternated when they learn of her departing. They run all Paris at
the research of her. The father lodges at the Haute Loire. He is a
priest it appears. Madame the aunt occupies the ancient apartment of
Mademoiselle Desmond."

"An instant," said Lady St. Craye; "let me reflect."

The concierge ostentatiously went back to her flowers.

"You have not given _them_ Miss Desmond's address?"

"Madame forgets," said the concierge, wounded virtue bristling in her
voice, "that I was, for the moment, devoted to the interest of
Monsieur. No. I am a loyal soul. I have told _nothing_. Only to
despatch the letter. Behold all!"

"I will give myself the pleasure of offering you a little present next
week," said Lady St. Craye; "it is only that you should say
nothing--nothing--and send no more letters. And--the address?"

"Madame knows it--by what she says."

"Yes, but I want to know if the address you have is the same that I
have. Hotel Chevillon, Grez sur Loing. Is it so?"

"It is exact. I thank you, Madame. Madame would do well to return
_chez elle_ and to repose herself a little. Madame is all pale."

"Is the aunt in Miss Desmond's rooms now?"

"Yes; she writes letters without end, and telegrams; and the
priest-father he runs with them like a sad old black dog that has not
the habit of towns."

"I shall go up and see her," said Lady St. Craye, "and I shall most
likely give her the address. But do not give yourself anxiety. You
will gain more by me than by any of the others. They are not rich. Me,
I am, Heaven be praised."

She went out and along the courtyard. At the foot of the wide shallow
stairs she paused and leaned on the dusty banisters.

"I feel as weak as any rat," she said, "but I must go through with
it--I must."

She climbed the stairs, and stood outside the brown door. The nails
that had held the little card "Miss E. Desmond" still stuck there, but
only four corners of the card remained.

The door was not shut--it always shut unwillingly. She tapped.

"Come in," said a clear, pleasant voice. And she went in.

The room was not as she had seen it on the two occasions when it had
been the battle ground where she and Betty fought for a man. Plaid
travelling-rugs covered the divans. A gold-faced watch in a leather
bracelet ticked on the table among scattered stationery. A lady in a
short sensible dress rose from the table, and the room was scented
with the smell of Hungarian cigarettes.

"I beg your pardon. I thought it was my brother-in-law. Did you call
to see Miss Desmond? She is away for a short time."

"Yes," said Lady St. Craye. "I know. I wanted to see you. The
concierge told me--"

"Oh, these concierges! They tell everything! It's what they were
invented for, I believe. And you wanted--" She stopped, looked hard at
the young woman and went on: "What you want is a good stiff brandy and
soda. Here, where's the head of the pin?--I always think it such a
pity bonnets went out. One could undo strings. That's it. Now, put
your feet up. That's right, I'll be back in half a minute."

Lady St. Craye found herself lying at full length on Betty's divan,
her feet covered with a Tussore driving-rug, her violet-wreathed hat
on a table at some distance.

She closed her eyes. It was just as well. She could get back a little
strength--she could try to arrange coherently what she meant to say.
No: it was not unfair to the girl. She ought to be taken care of. And,
besides, there was no such thing as "unfair." All was fair in--Well,
she was righting for her life. All was fair when one was fighting for
one's life--that was what she meant. Meantime, to lie quite still and
draw long, even breaths--telling oneself at each breath: "I am quite
well, I am quite strong--" seemed best.

There was a sound, a dull plop, the hiss and fizzle of a spurting
syphon, then:

"Drink this: that's right. I've got you."

A strong arm round her shoulders--something buzzing and spitting in a
glass under her nose.

"Drink it up, there's a good child."

She drank. A long breath.

"Now the rest." She was obedient.

"Now shut your eyes and don't bother. When you're better we'll talk."

Silence--save for the fierce scratching of a pen.

"I'm better," announced Lady St. Craye as the pen paused for the
folding of the third letter.

The short skirted woman came and sat on the edge of the divan, very

"Well then. You oughtn't to be out, you poor little thing."

The words brought the tears to the eyes of one weak with the
self-pitying weakness of convalescence.

"I wanted--"

"Are you a friend of Betty's?"

"Yes--no--I don't know."

"A hated rival perhaps," said the elder woman cheerfully. "You didn't
come to do her a good turn, anyhow, did you?"

"I--I don't know." Again this was all that would come.

"I do, though. Well, which of us is to begin? You see, child, the
difficulty is that we neither of us know how much the other knows and
we don't want to give ourselves away. It's so awkward to talk when
it's like that."

"I think I know more than you do. I--you needn't think I want to hurt
her. I should have liked her awfully, if it hadn't been--"

"If it hadn't been for the man. Yes, I see. Who was he?"

Lady St. Craye felt absolutely defenceless. Besides, what did it

"Mr. Vernon," she said.

"Ah, now we're getting to the horses! My dear child, don't look so
guilty. You're not the first; you won't be the last--especially with
eyes the colour his are. And so you hate Betty?"

"No, I don't. I should like to tell you all about it--all the truth."

"You can't," said Miss Desmond, "no woman can. But I'll give you
credit for trying to, if you'll go straight ahead. But first of
all--how long is it since you saw her?"

"Nearly a month."

"Well; she's disappeared. Her father and I got here last night. She's
gone away and left no address. She was living with a Madame Gautier

"Madame Gautier died last October," said Lady St. Craye--"the

"I had a letter from her brother--it got me in Bombay. But I couldn't
believe it. And who has Betty been living with?"

"Look here," said Lady St. Craye. "I came to give the whole thing
away, and hand her over to you. I know where she is. But now I don't
want to. Her father's a brute, I know."

"Not he," said Miss Desmond; "he's only a man and a very, very silly
one. I'll pledge you my word he'll never approach her, whatever she's
done. It's not anything too awful for words, I'm certain. Come, tell

Lady St. Craye told Betty's secret at some length.

"Did she tell you this?"


"He did then?"


"Oh, men are darlings! The soul of honour--unsullied blades! My word!
Do you mind if I smoke?"

She lighted a cigarette.

"I suppose _I'm_ very dishonourable too," said Lady St. Craye.

"You? Oh no, you're only a woman!--And then?"

"Well, at last I asked her to go away, and she went."

"Well, that was decent of her, wasn't it?"


"And now you're going to tell me where she is and I'm to take her home
and keep her out of his way. Is that it?"

"I don't know," said Lady St. Craye very truly, "why I came to you at
all. Because it's all no good. He's written and proposed for her to
her father--and if she cares--"

"Well, if she cares--and he cares--Do you really mean that _you'd_
care to marry a man who's in love with another woman?"

"I'd marry him if he was in love with fifty other women."

"In that case," said Miss Desmond, "I should say you were the very
wife for him."

"_She_ isn't," said Lady St. Craye sitting up. "I feel like a silly
school-girl talking to you like this. I think I'll go now. I'm not
really so silly as I seem. I've been ill--influenza, you know--and I
got so frightfully tired. And I don't think I'm so strong as I used to
be. I've always thought I was strong enough to play any part I wanted
to play. But--you've been very kind. I'll go--" She lay back.

"Don't be silly," said Miss Desmond briskly. "You _are_ a school-girl
compared with me, you know. I suppose you've been trying to play the
role of the designing heroine--to part true lovers and so on, and then
you found you couldn't."

"They're _not_ true lovers," said Lady St. Craye eagerly; "that's just
it. She'd never make him happy. She's too young and too innocent. And
when she found out what a man like him is like, she'd break her heart.
And he told me he'd be happier with me than he ever had been with

"Was that true, or--?"

"Oh, yes, it was true enough, though he said it. You've met him--he
told me. But you don't know him."

"I know his kind though," said Miss Desmond. "And so you love him very
much indeed, and you don't care for anything else,--and you think you
understand him,--and you could forgive him everything? Then you may
get him yet, if you care so very much--that is, if Betty doesn't."

"She doesn't. She thinks she does, but she doesn't. If only he hadn't
written to her--"

"My dear," said Miss Desmond, "I was a fool myself once, about a man
with eyes his colour. You can't tell me anything that I don't know.
Does he know how much you care?"


"Ah, that's a pity--still--Well, is there anything else you want to
tell me?"

"I don't want to tell anyone anything. Only--when she said she'd go
away, I advised her where to go--and I told her of a quiet place--and
Mr. Temple's there. He's the other man who admires her."

"I see. How Machiavelian of you!"--Miss Desmond touched the younger
woman's hand with brusque gentleness--"And--?"

"And I didn't quite tell her the truth about Mr. Vernon and me," said
Lady St. Craye, wallowing in the abject joys of the confessional. "And
I am a beast and not fit to live. But," she added with the true
penitent's instinct of self-defence, "I _know_ it's only--oh, I don't
know what--not love, with her. And it's my life."

"Yes. And what about him?"

"It's not love with him. At least it is--but she'd bore him. It's
really his waking-up time. He's been playing the game just for
counters all the while. Now he's learning to play with gold."

"And it'll stay learnt. I see," said Miss Desmond. "Look here, I like
you. I know we shouldn't have said all we have if you weren't ill, and
I weren't anxious. But I'm with you in one thing. I don't want him to
marry Betty. She wouldn't understand an artist in emotion. Is this
Temple straight?"

"As a yardstick."

"And as wooden? Well, that's better. I'm on your side. But--we've been
talking without the veils on--tell me one thing. Are you sure you
could get him if Betty were out of the way?"

"He kissed me once--since he's loved her," said Lady St. Craye, "and
then I knew I could. He liked me better than he liked her--in all the
other ways--before. I'm a shameless idiot; it's really only because
I'm so feeble."

She rose and stood before the glass, putting on her hat.

"I do respect a woman who has the courage to speak the truth to
another woman," said Miss Desmond. "I hope you'll get him--though it's
not a very kind wish."

Lady St. Craye let herself go completely in a phrase whose memory
stung and rankled for many a long day.

"Ah," she said, "even if he gets tired of me, I shall have got his
children. You don't know what it is to want a child. Good-bye."

"Good-bye," said Miss Desmond. "No--of course I don't."



Nothing lifts the heart like the sense of a great self-sacrifice nobly
made. Betty was glad that she could feel so particularly noble. It was
a great help.

"He was mine," she told herself; "he meant to be--And I have given him
up to her. It hurts--yes--but I did the right thing."

She thought she hoped that he would soon forget her. And almost all
that was Betty tried quite sincerely, snatching at every help, to
forget him.

Sometimes the Betty that Betty did not want to be would, quite
deliberately and of set purpose, take out the nest of hungry memories,
look at them, play with them, and hand over her heart for them to feed
on. But always when she had done this she felt, afterwards, a little
sorry, a little ashamed. It was too like the diary at Long Barton.

Consciously or unconsciously one must make some concessions to every
situation or every situation would be impossible. Temple was
here--interested, pleased to see her, glad to talk to her. But he was
not at all inclined to be in love with her: that had been only a silly
fancy of hers--in Paris. He had made up his mind by now who it was
that he cared for. And it wasn't Betty. Probably she hadn't even been
one of the two he came to Grez to think about. He was only a good
friend--and she wanted a good friend. If he were not just a good
friend the situation would be impossible. And Betty chose that the
situation should be possible. For it was pleasant. It was a shield and
a shelter from all the thoughts that she wanted to hide from.

"If she thinks I'm going to break my heart about _him_, she's
mistaken. And so's He. I must be miserable for a bit," said Betty
bravely, "but I'll not be miserable forever, so he needn't think it.
Of course, I shall never care for anyone ever again--unless he were to
love me for years and years before he ever said a word, and then I
might say I would try.--_And_ try. But fall in love?--Never again! Oh,
good gracious, there he is,--and I've not _begun_ to get ready."

Temple was whistling _Deux Amants_ very softly in the courtyard below.
She put her head out of the window.

"I shan't be two minutes," she said, "You might get the basket from
Madame; and my sketching things are on the terrace all ready strapped

The hoofs of the smart gray pony slipped and rattled on the
cobble-stones of the hotel entry.

"Au revoir: amuse yourselves well, my children." Madame Chevillon
stood, one hand on fat hip, the other shading old eyes that they might
watch the progress of the cart up the blinding whiteness of the
village street.

"To the forest, and yet again to the forest and to the forest always,"
she said, turning into the darkened billiard room. "Marie, beware,
thou, of the forest. The good God created it express for the
lovers,--but it is permitted to the devil to promenade himself there

"Those two there," said Marie--"it is very certain that they are in

"How otherwise?" said Madame. "The good God made us women that the men
should be in love with us--and afterwards, to take care of the
children. There is no other use that a man has for a woman.
Friendship? The Art?--Bah! When a man wants those he demands them of a
man. Of a woman he demands but love, and one gives it to him--one
gives it to him without question!"

The two who had departed for the forest drove on through the swimming,
spinning heat, in silence.

It was not till they reached the little old well by Marlotte that
Betty spoke.

"Don't let's work to-day, Mr. Temple," she said. "My hands are so hot
I could never hold a brush. And your sketch is really finished, you

"What would you like to do?" asked Temple: "river?"

"Oh, no,--not now that we've started for the forest! Its feelings
would be hurt if we turned back. I am sure it loves us to love it,
although it is so big--Like God, you know."

"Yes: I'm sure it does. Do you really think God cares?"

"Of course," said Betty, "because everything would be so silly if He
didn't, you know. I believe He likes us to love him, and what's more,
I believe He likes us to love all the pretty things He's made--trees
and rivers and sunsets and seas."

"And each other," said Temple, and flushed to the ears: "human beings,
I mean, of course," he added hastily.

"Of course," said Betty, unconscious of the flush; "but religion tells
you that--it doesn't tell you about the little things. It does say
about herbs of the field and the floods clapping their hands and all
that--but that's only His works praising Him, not us loving all His
works. I think He's most awfully pleased when we love some little,
nice, tiny thing that He never thought we'd notice."

"Did your father teach you to think like this?"

"Oh, dear no!" said Betty. "He doesn't like the little pretty things."

"It's odd," said Temple. "Look at those yellow roses all over that
hideous villa."

"My step-father would only see the villa. Well, must we work to-day?"

"What would you like to do?"

"I should like to go to those big rocks--the Rochers des Demoiselles,
aren't they?--and tie up the pony, and climb up, and sit in a black
shadow and look out over the green tops of the trees. You see things
when you're idle that you never see when you're working, even if
you're trying to paint those very things."

So, by and by, the gray pony was unharnessed and tied to a tree in a
cool, grassy place where he also could be happy, and the two others
took the winding stony path.

A turn in the smooth-worn way brought them to a platform overhanging
the precipice that fell a sheer thirty feet to the tops of the trees
on the slope below. White, silvery sand carpeted the ledge, and on the
sand the shadow of a leaning rock fell blue.

"Here" said Betty, and sank down. Her sketchbook scooped the sand with
its cover. "Oh, I _am_ hot!" She threw off her hat.

"You don't look it," said Temple, and pulled the big bottle of weak
claret and water from the luncheon basket.

"Drink!" he said, offering the little glass when he had filled it.

Betty drank, in little sips.

"How extraordinarily nice it is to drink when you're thirsty," she
said, "and how heavenly this shadow is."

A long silence. Temple filled and lighted a pipe. From a slope of dry
grass a little below them came the dusty rattle of grasshoppers' talk.

"It is very good here," said Betty. "Oh, how glad I am I came away
from Paris. Everything looks different here--I mean the things that
look as if they mattered there don't matter here--and the things that
didn't matter there--oh, here, they do!"

"Yes," said Temple, making little mounds of sand with the edge of his
hand as he lay, "I never expected to have such days in this world as
I've had here with you. We've grown to be very good friends here,
haven't we?"

"We were very good friends in Paris," said Betty, remembering the
letter that had announced his departure.

"But it wasn't the same," he persisted. "When did we talk in Paris as
we've talked here?"

"I talked to you, even in Paris, more than I've ever talked to anyone
else, all the same," said Betty.

"Thank you," he said; "that's the nicest thing you've ever said to

"It wasn't meant to be nice," said Betty; "it's true. Don't you know
there are some people you never can talk to without wondering what
they'll think of you, and whether you hadn't better have said
something else? It's nothing to do with whether you like them or not,"
she went on, thinking of talks with Vernon, many talks--and in all of
them she had been definitely and consciously on guard. "You may like
people quite frightfully, and yet you can't talk to them."

"Yes," he said, "but you couldn't talk to a person you disliked, could
you? Real talk, I mean?"

"Of course not," said Betty. "Do you know I'm dreadfully hungry!"

It was after lunch that Temple said:

"When are you going home, Miss Desmond?" She looked up, for his use
of her name was rare.

"I don't know: some time," she answered absently. But the question ran
through her mind like a needle drawing after it the thread on which
were strung all the little longings for Long Barton--for the familiar
fields and flowers, that had gathered there since she first saw the
silver may and the golden broom at Bourron station. That was nearly a
month ago. What a month it had been--the gleaming river, the neat
intimate simplicity of the little culture, white roads, and roses and
rocks, and more than all--trees, and trees and trees again.

And with all this--Temple. He lodged at Montigny, true. And she at
Grez. But each day brought to her door the best companion in the
world. He had never even asked how she came to be at Grez. After that
first, "Where's your party?" he had guarded his lips. It had seemed so
natural, and so extremely fortunate that he should be here. If she had
been all alone she would have allowed herself to think too much of
Vernon--of what might have been.

"I am going to England next week!" he said. Betty was shocked to
perceive that this news hurt her. Well, why shouldn't it hurt her? She
wasn't absolutely insensible to friendship, she supposed. And
sensibility to friendship was nothing to be ashamed of. On the

"I shall miss you most awfully," said she with the air of one
flaunting a flag.

"I wish you'd go home," he said. "Haven't you had enough of your
experiment, or whatever it was, yet?"

"I thought you'd given up interfering," she said crossly. At least she
meant to speak crossly.

"I thought I could say anything to you now without your--your not

"So you can." She was suddenly not cross again.

"Ah, no I can't," he said. "I want to say things to you that I can't
say here. Won't you go home? Won't you let me come to see you there?
Say I may. You will let me?"

If she said Yes--she refused to pursue that train of thought another
inch. If she said No--then a sudden end--and forever an end--to this
good companionship. "I wish I had never, never seen _Him_!" she told

Then she found that she was speaking.

"The reason I was all alone in Paris," she was saying. The reason took
a long time to expound.--The shadow withdrew itself and they had to
shift the camp just when it came to the part about Betty's first
meeting with Temple himself.

"And so," she said, "I've done what I meant to do--and I'm a hateful
liar--and you'll never want to speak to me again."

She rooted up a fern and tore it into little ribbons.

"Why have you told me all this?" he said slowly.

"I don't know," said she.

"It is because you care, a little bit about--about my thinking well of

"I can't care about that, or I shouldn't have told you, should I?
Let's get back home. The pony's lost by this time, I expect."

"Is it because you don't want to have any--any secrets between us?"

"Not in the least," said Betty, chin in the air. "I shouldn't _dream_
of telling you my secrets--or anyone else of course, I mean," she
added politely.

He sighed. "Well," he said, "I wish you'd go home."

"Why don't you say you're disappointed in me, and that you despise me,
and that you don't care about being friends any more, with a girl
who's told lies and taken her aunt's money and done everything wrong
you can think of? Let's go back. I don't want to stay here any more,
with you being silently contemptuous as hard as ever you can. Why
don't you say something?"

"I don't want to say the only thing I want to say. I don't want to say
it here. Won't you go home and let me come and tell you at Long

"You do think me horrid. Why don't you say so?"

"No. I don't."

"Then it's because you don't care what I am or what I do. I thought a
man's friendship didn't mean much!" She crushed the fern into a rough
ball and threw it over the edge of the rock.

"Oh, hang it all," said Temple. "Look here, Miss Desmond. I came away
from Paris because I didn't know what was the matter with me. I didn't
know who it was I really cared about. And before I'd been here one
single day, I knew. And then I met you. And I haven't said a word,
because you're here alone--and besides I wanted you to get used to
talking to me and all that. And now you say I don't care. No, confound
it all, it's too much! I wanted to ask you to marry me. And I'd have
waited any length of time till there was a chance for me." He had
almost turned his back on her, and leaning his chin on his elbow was
looking out over the tree-tops far below. "And now you've gone and
rushed me into asking you _now_, when I know there isn't the least
chance for me,--and anyhow I ought to have held my tongue! And now
it's all no good, and it's your fault. Why did you say I didn't care?"

"You knew it was coming," Betty told herself, "when he asked if he
might come to Long Barton to see you. You knew it. You might have
stopped it. And you didn't. And now what are you going to do?"

What she did was to lean back to reach another fern--to pluck and
smooth its fronds.

"Are you very angry?" asked Temple forlornly.

"No," said Betty; "how could I be? But I wish you hadn't. It's spoiled

"Do you think I don't know all that?"

"I wish I could," said Betty very sincerely, "but--"

"Of course," he said bitterly. "I knew that."

"He doesn't care about me," said Betty: "he's engaged to someone

"And you care very much?" He kept his face turned away.

"I don't know," said Betty; "sometimes I think I'm getting not to care
at all."

"Then--look here: may I ask you again some time, and we'll go on just
like we have been?"

"No," said Betty. "I'm going back to England at the end of the week.
Besides, you aren't quite sure it's me you care for.--At least you
weren't when you came away from Paris. How can you be sure you're sure

He turned and looked at her.

"I beg your pardon," she said instantly. "I think I didn't understand.
Let's go back now, shall we?"

"For Heaven's sake," he said, "don't let this break up everything!
Don't avoid me in the little time that's left. I won't talk about it
any more--I won't worry you--"

"Don't be silly," she said, and she smiled at him a little sadly; "you
talk as though I didn't know you."



It seemed quite dark down in the forest--or rather, it seemed, after
the full good light that lay upon the summit of the rocks, like the
gray dream-twilight under the eyelids of one who dozes in face of a
dying fire.

"Don't let's go straight back to Grez," said Betty when the pony was
harnessed, "let's go on to Fontainebleau and have dinner and drive
back by moonlight. Don't you think it would be fun? We've never done

"Thank you," he said. "You _are_ good."

His eyes met hers in the green shadow, and she was satisfied because
he had understood that this was her reply to his appeal to her "not to
avoid him in the little time there was left."

Both were gay as they drove along the golden roads, gayer than ever
they had been. The nearness of a volcano has never been a bar to
gaiety. Dinner was a joyous feast, and when it was over, and the other
guests had strolled out, Temple sang all the songs Betty liked best.
Betty played for him. It was all very pleasant, and both pretended,
quite beautifully, that they were the best of friends, and that it had
never, never been a question of anything else. The pretence lasted
through all the moonlight of the home drive--lasted indeed till the
pony was trotting along the straight avenue that leads down into Grez.
And even then it was not Temple who broke it. It was Betty, and she
laid her hand on his arm.

"Look here," she said. "I've been thinking about it ever since you
said it. And I'm not going to let it spoil anything. Only I don't want
you to think I don't understand. And I'm most awfully proud that you
should.... I am really. And I'd rather be liked by you than by

"Almost," said Temple a little bitterly.

"I don't feel sure about that part of it--really. One feels and thinks
such a lot of different things--and they all contradict everything
else, till one doesn't know what anything means, or what it is one
really--I can't explain. But I don't want you to think your having
talked about it makes any difference. At least I don't mean that at
all. What I mean is that of course I like you ever so much better now
I know that you like me, and--oh, I don't want to--I don't want you to
think it's all no good, because really and truly I don't know."

All this time she had kept her hand on his wrist.

Now he laid his other hand over it.

"Dear," he said, "that's all I want, and more than I hoped for now. I
won't say another word about it--ever, if you'd rather not,--only if
ever you feel that it is me, and not that other chap, then you'll tell
me, won't you?"

"I'll tell you now," said Betty, "that I wish with all my heart it
_was_ you, and not the other."

When he had said goodnight at the deserted door of the courtyard Betty
slipped through the trees to her pavilion. The garden seemed more
crowded with trees than it had ever been. It was almost as though new
trees from the forest had stolen in while she was at Fontainebleau,
and joined the ranks of those that stood sentinel round the pavilion.
There was a lamp in the garden room--as usual. Its light poured out
and lay like a yellow carpet on the terrace, and lent to the foliage
beyond that indescribable air of festivity, of light-heartedness that
green leaves can always borrow from artificial light.

"I'll just see if there are any letters," she told herself. "There
always might be: from Aunt Julia or Miss Voscoe or--someone."

She went along the little passage that led to the stairs. The door
that opened from it into the garden room was narrowly ajar. A slice of
light through the chink stood across the passage.


There was someone in the room. Someone was speaking. She knew the
voice. "She must be in soon," it said. It was her Aunt Julia's voice.
She stopped dead. And there was silence in the room.

Oh! to be caught like this! In a trap. And just when she had decided
to go home! She would not be caught. She would steal up to her room,
get her money, leave enough on the table to pay her bill, and _go_.
She could walk to Marlotte--and go off by train in the morning to
Brittany--anywhere. She would not be dragged back like a prisoner to
be all the rest of her life with a hateful old man who detested her.
Aunt Julia thought she was very clever. Well, she would just find out
that she wasn't. Who was she talking to? Not Madame, for she spoke in
English. To some one from Paris? Who could have betrayed her? Only one
person knew. Lady St. Craye. Well, Lady St. Craye should not betray
her for nothing. She would not go to Brittany: she would go back to
Paris. That woman should be taught what it costs to play the traitor.

All this in the quite small pause before her aunt's voice spoke again.

"Unless she's got wind of our coming and flown," it said.

"Our" coming? Who was the other?

Betty was eavesdropping then? How dishonourable! Well, it is. And she

"I hope to Heaven she's safe," said another voice. Oh--it was her
step-father! He had come--Then he must know everything! She moved,
quite without meaning to move; her knee touched the door and it
creaked. Very very faintly, but it creaked. Would they hear? Had they
heard? No--the aunt's voice again:

"The whole thing's inexplicable to me! I don't understand it. You let
Betty go to Paris."

"By your advice."

"By my advice, but also because you wanted her to be happy."

"Yes--Heaven knows I wanted her to be happy." The old man's voice was
sadder than Betty had ever heard it.

"So we found Madame Gautier for her--and when Madame Gautier dies, she
doesn't write to you, or wire to you, to come and find her a new
chaperone. Why?"

"I can't imagine why."

"Don't you think it may have been because she was afraid of you,
thought you'd simply make her come back to Long Barton?"

"It would surely have been impossible for her to imagine that I should
lessen the time which I had promised her, on account of an unfortunate
accident. She knows the depth of my affection for her. No, no--depend
upon it there must have been some other reason for the deceit. I
almost fear to conjecture what the reason may have been. Do you think
it possible that she has been seeing that man again?"

There was a sound as of a chair impatiently pushed back. Betty fled
noiselessly to the stairs. No footstep followed the movement of the
chair. She crept back.

"--when you do see her?" her aunt was asking, "I suppose you mean to
heap reproaches on her, and take her home in disgrace?"

"I hope I shall have strength given me to do my duty," said the
Reverend Cecil.

"Have you considered what your duty is?"

"It must be my duty to reprove, to show her her deceit in its full

"You'll enjoy that, won't you? It'll gratify your sense of power.
You'll stand in the place of God to the child, and you'll be glad to
see her humbled and ashamed."

"Because a thing is painful to me it is none the less my duty."

"Nor any the more," snapped Miss Desmond; "nor any the more! That's
what you won't see. She knows you don't care about her, and that's why
she kept away from you as long as she could."

"She can't know it. It isn't true."

"She thinks it is."

"Do _you_ think so? Do _you_ imagine I don't care for her? Have you
been poisoning her mind and--"

"Oh, don't let's talk about poison!" said Miss Desmond. "If she's lost
altogether it won't matter to you. You'll have done your duty."

"If she's lost I--if she were lost I should not care to be saved. I am
aware that the thought is sinful. But I fear that it is so."

"Of course," said Miss Desmond. "She's not your child--why should you
care? You never had a child."

"What have I done to you that you should try to torture me like this?"
It was her step-father's voice, but Betty hardly knew it. "For pity's
sake, woman, be quiet! Let me bear what I have to bear without your

"I'm sorry," said Miss Desmond very gently. "Forgive me if I didn't
understand. And you do really care about her a little?"

"Care about her a little! She's the only living thing I do care
for--or ever have cared for except one. Oh, it is like a woman to cast
it up at me as a reproach that I have no child! Why have I no child?
Because the woman whom Almighty God made for my child's mother was
taken from me--in her youth--before she was mine. Her name was Lizzie.
And my Lizzie, my little Lizzie that's lied and deceived us, she _is_
my child--the one _we_ should have had. She's my heart's blood. Do you
think I want to scold her; do you think I want to humble her? Do you
not perceive how my own heart will be torn? But it is my duty. I will
not spare the rod. And she will understand as you never could. Oh, my
little Lizzie!--Oh, pray God she is safe! If it please God to restore
her safely to me, I will not yield to the wicked promptings of my own
selfish affection. I will show her her sin, and we will pray for
forgiveness together. Yes, I will not shrink, even if it break my
heart--I will tell her--"

"I should tell her," said Miss Desmond, "just what you've told me."

The old man was walking up and down the room. Betty could hear every

"It's been the struggle of my life not to spoil her--not to let my
love for her lead me to neglect her eternal welfare--not to lessen her
modesty by my praises--not to condone the sin because of my love for
the sinner. My love has not been selfish.--It has been the struggle of
my life not to let my affection be a snare to her."

"Then I must say," said Miss Desmond, "that you might have been better

"Thank God I have done my duty! You don't understand. But my Lizzie
will understand."

"Yes, she will understand," cried Betty, bursting open the door and
standing between the two with cheeks that flamed. "I do understand,
Father dear! Auntie, I don't understand _you_! You're cruel,--and it's
not like you. Will you mind going away, please?"

The cruel aunt smiled, and moved towards the door. As she passed Betty
she whispered: "I thought you were _never_ going to come from behind
that door. I couldn't have kept it up much longer."

Then she went out and closed the door firmly.

Betty went straight to her step-father and put her arms round his

"You do forgive me--you will forgive me, won't you?" she said

He put an arm awkwardly round her.

"There's nothing you could do that I couldn't forgive," he said in a
choked voice. "But it is my duty not to--"

She interrupted him by drawing back to look at him, but she kept his
arm where it was, by her hand on his.

"Father," she said, "I've heard everything you've been saying. It's no
use scolding me, because you can't possibly say anything that I
haven't said to myself a thousand times. Sit down and let me tell you
everything, every single thing! I _did_ mean to come home this week,
and tell you; I truly did. I wish I'd gone home before."

"Oh, Lizzie," said the old man, "how could you? How could you?"

"I didn't understand. I didn't know. I was a blind idiot. Oh, Father,
you'll see how different I'll be now! Oh, if one of us had died--and
I'd never known!"

"Known what, my child? Oh, thank God I have you safe! Known what?"

"Why, that you--how fond you are of me."

"You didn't know _that_?"

"I--I wasn't always sure," Betty hastened to say. A miracle had
happened. She could read now in his eyes the appeal that she had
always misread before. "But now I shall always be sure--always. And
I'm going to be such a good daughter to you--you'll see--if you'll
only forgive me. And you will forgive me. Oh, you don't know how I
trust you now!"

"Didn't you always?"

"Not enough--not nearly enough. But I do now. Let me tell you--Don't
let me ever be afraid of you--oh, don't let me!" She had pushed him
gently into a chair and was half kneeling on the floor beside him.

"Have you ever been afraid of me?"

"Oh, I don't know; a little perhaps sometimes! You don't know how
silly I am. But not now. You _are_ glad to see me?"

"Lizzie," he said, "God knows how glad I am! But it's my duty to ask
you at once whether you've done anything wrong."

"Everything wrong you can think of!" she answered enthusiastically,
"only nothing really wicked, of course. I'll tell you all about it.
And oh, do remember you can't think worse of me than I do! Oh, it's
glorious not to be afraid!"

"Of me?" His tone pleaded again.

"No, no--of anything! Of being found out. I'm glad you've come for me.
I'm glad I've got to tell you everything--I did mean to go home next
week, but I'm glad it's like this. Because now I know how much you
care, and I might never have found that out if I hadn't listened at
the door like a mean, disgraceful cat. I ought to be miserable because
I've done wrong--but I'm not. I can't be. I'm really most frightfully

"Thank God you can say that," he said, timidly stroking her hair with
the hand that she was not holding. "Now I'm not afraid of anything you
may have to tell me, my child--my dear child."

* * * * *

To four persons the next day was one of the oddest in their lives.

Arriving early to take Betty to finish her sketch, the stricken Temple
was greeted on the doorstep by a manly looking lady in gold-rimmed
spectacles, short skirts, serviceable brown boots and a mushroom hat.

"I know who you are," said she; "you're Mr. Temple. I'm Betty Desmond's
aunt. Would you like to take me on the river? Betty is busy this morning
making the acquaintance of her step-father. She's taken him out in the
little cart."

"I see," said Temple. "I shall be delighted to take you on the river."

"Nice young man. You don't ask questions. An excellent trait."

"An acquired characteristic, I assure you," said Temple, remembering his
first meeting with Betty.

"Then you won't be able to transmit it to your children. That's a pity.
However, since you don't ask I'll tell you. The old man has
'persistently concealed his real nature' from Betty. You'd think it was
impossible, living in the same house all these years. Last night she
found him out. She's as charmed with the discovery as a girl child with
a doll that opens and shuts its eyes--or a young man with the nonentity
he calls his ideal. Come along. She'll spend the morning playing with
her new toy. Cheer up. You shall see her at _dejeuner_."

"_I_ do not need cheering," said the young man. And I don't want you to
tell me things you'd rather not. On the contrary--"

"You want me not to tell you the things I'd rather tell you?"

"No: I should like to tell you all about--"

"All about yourself. My dear young man, there is nothing I enjoy more;
the passion for confidences is my only vice. It was really to indulge
that that I asked you to come on the river with me."

"I thought," said Temple as they reached the landing stage, "that
perhaps you had asked me to console me for not seeing your niece this

"Thank you kindly," Miss Desmond stepped lightly into the boat. "I
rather like compliments, especially when you're solidly built--like
myself. Oh, yes, I'll steer; pull hard, bow, she's got no way on her
yet, and the stream's strong just here under the bridge. I gather that
you've been proposing to my niece."

"I didn't mean to," said Temple, pulling a racing stroke in his

"Gently, gently! The Diamond Sculls aren't at stake. She led you on, you

He rested on his oars a moment and laughed.

"What is there about you that makes me feel that I've known you all my

"Possibly it's my enormous age. Or it may be that I nursed you when you
were a baby. I have nursed one or two in my time, though I mayn't look
it.--So Betty entrapped you into a proposal?"

"Are you trying to make me angry? It's a dangerous river. Can you swim."

"Like any porpoise. But of course I misunderstand people if they won't
explain themselves. You needn't tremble like that. I'll be gentle with

"If I tremble it's with pleasure," said Temple.

"Come, moderate your transports, and unfold your tale. My ears are red,
I know, but they are small, well-shaped and sympathetic."

"Well then," said Temple; and the tale began. By the time it was ended
the boat was at a standstill on the little backwater below the pretties
of the sluices.

There was a silence.

"Well?" said Temple.

"Well," said Miss Desmond, dipping her hand in the water--"what a stream
this is, to be sure!--Well, your means are satisfactory and you seem to
me to have behaved quite beautifully. I don't think I ever heard of such
profoundly correct conduct."

"If I've made myself out a prig," said Temple, "I'm sorry. I could tell
you lots of things."

"Please spare me! Why are people always so frightfully ashamed of having
behaved like decent human beings? I esteem you immensely."

"I'd rather you liked me."

"Well, so I do. But I like lots of people I don't esteem. If I'd married
anyone it would probably have been some one like that. But for Betty
it's different. I shouldn't have needed to esteem my own husband. But I
must esteem hers."

"I'll try not to deserve your esteem more than I'm obliged," said
Temple, "but your liking--what can I do to deserve that--?"

"Go on as you've begun, my dear young man, and you'll be Aunt Julia's
favourite nephew. No--don't blush. It's an acknowledgement of a tender
speech that I always dispense with."

"Advise me," said he, red to the ears and hands. "She doesn't care for
me, at present. What can I do?"

"What most of us have to do--when we want anything worth wanting. Wait.
We're going home the day after to-morrow. If you turn up at Long Barton
about the middle of September--you might come down for the Harvest
Festival; it's the yearly excitement. That's what I should do."

"Must I wait so long as that?" he asked. "Why?"

"Let me whisper in your ear," said Miss Desmond, loud above the chatter
of the weir. "Long Barton is very dull! Now let's go back."

"I don't want her to accept me because she's bored."

"No more do I. But one sees the proportions of things better when one's
dull. And--yes. I esteem you; I like you. You are ingenuous, and
innocuous.--No, really that was a yielding to the devil of alliteration.
I mean you are a real good sort. The other man has the harmlessness of
the serpent. As for me, I have the wisdom of the dove. You profit by it
and come to Long Barton in September."

"It seems like a plot to catch her," said Temple.

"A friend of yours told me you were straight. And you are. I thought
perhaps she flattered you."

"Who?--No, I'm not to ask questions."

"Lady St. Craye."

"Do you know," he said, slowly pulling downstream, "there's one thing I
didn't tell you. I came away from Paris because I wasn't quite sure that
I wasn't in love with _her_."

"Not you," said Miss Desmond. "She'd never have suited you. And now
she'll throw herself away on the man with the green eyes and the past. I
mean Pasts. And it's a pity. She's a woman after my own heart."

"She's extraordinarily charming," said Temple with a very small sigh.

"Yes extraordinarily, as you say. And so you came away from Paris! I
begin to think _you_ have a little of the wisdom of the dove too. Pull
now--or we shall be late for breakfast."

He pulled.

* * * * *

"Now _that_," said the Reverend Cecil that evening to his sister-in-law,
"that is the kind of youth I should wish to see my Lizzie select for her

"Well," said Miss Desmond, "if you keep that wish strictly to yourself,
I should think it had a better chance than most wishes of being



To call on the concierge at Betty's old address, and to ask for news of
her had come to seem to Vernon the unbroken habit of a life-time. There
never was any news: there never would be any news. But there always
might be.

The days went by, days occupied in these fruitless gold-edged enquiries,
in the other rose-accompanied enquiries after the health of Lady St.
Craye, and in watching for the postman who should bring the answer to
his formal proposal of marriage.

To his deep surprise and increasing disquietude, no answer came. Was the
Reverend Cecil dead, or merely inabordable? Had Betty despised his offer
too deeply to answer it? The lore learned in, as it seemed, another life
assured him that a woman never despises an offer too much to say "No" to

Watch for the postman. Look at Betty's portrait. Call on the concierge.
(He had been used to dislike the employment of dirty instruments.) Call
on the florist. (There was a decency in things, even if all one's being
were contemptibly parched for the sight of another woman.) Call and
enquire for the poor Jasmine Lady. Studio--think of Betty--look at her
portrait--pretend to work. Meals at fairly correct intervals. Call on
the concierge. Look at the portrait again. Such were the recurrent
incidents of Vernon's life. Between the incidents came a padding of
futile endeavour. Work, he had always asserted, was the cure for
inconvenient emotions. Only now the cure was not available.

And the postman brought nothing interesting, except a letter, post-mark
Denver, Col., a letter of tender remonstrance from the Brittany girl,
Miss Van Tromp.

Then came the morning when the concierge, demurely assuring him of her
devotion to his interests, offered to post a letter. No bribe--and he
was shameless in his offers--could wring more than that from her. And
even the posting of the letter cost a sum that the woman chuckled over
through all the days during which the letter lay in her locked drawer,
under Lady St. Craye's bank note and the divers tokens of "_ce
monsieur's_" interest in the intrigue--whatever the intrigue might
be--its details were not what interested.

Vernon went home, pulled the table into the middle of the bare studio
and wrote. This letter wrote itself without revision.

"Why did you go away?" it said. "Where are you? where can I see you?
What has happened? Have your people found out?"

A long pause--the end of the pen bitten.

"I want to have no lies or deceit any more between us. I must tell
you the truth. I have never been engaged to anyone. But you would
not let me see you without that, so I let you think it. Will you
forgive me? Can you? For lying to you? If you can't I shall know
that nothing matters at all. But if you can forgive me--then I shall
let myself hope for impossible things.

"Dear, whether it's all to end here or not, let me write this once
without thinking of anything but you and me. I have written to your
father asking his permission to ask you to marry me. To you I want
to say that I love you, love you, love you--and I have never loved
anyone else. That's part of my punishment for--I don't know what
exactly. Playing with fire, I suppose. Dear--can you love me? Ever
since I met you at Long Barton" (Pause: what about Miss Van Tromp?
Nothing, nothing, nothing!) "I've not thought of anything but you. I
want you for my very own. There is no one like you, my love, my

"You'll write to me. Even if you don't care a little bit you'll
write. Dear, I hardly dare hope that you care, but I daren't fear
that you don't. I shall count the minutes till I get your answer. I
feel like a schoolboy.

"Dear it's my very heart I'm sending you here. If I didn't love you,
love you, love you I could write a better letter, tell you better
how I love you. Write now. You will write?

"Did someone tell you something or write you something that made you
go away? It's not true, whatever it is. Nothing's true, but that I
want you. As I've never wanted anything. Let me see you. Let me tell
you. I'll explain everything--if anyone _has_ been telling lies.

"If you don't care enough to write, I don't care enough to go on
living. Oh, my dear Dear, all the words and phrases have been used
up before. There's nothing new to _say_, I know. But what's in my
heart for you--that's new, that's all that matters--that and what
your heart might hold for me. Does it? Tell me. If I can't have your
love, I can't bear my life. And I won't.--You'll think this letter
isn't like me. It isn't, I know. But I can't help it. I am a new
man: and you have made me. Dear,--can't you love the man you've
made? Write, write, write!

"Yours--as I never thought I could be anyone's,

"Eustace Vernon."

"It's too long," he said, "most inartistic, but I won't re-write it.
Contemptible ass! If she cares it won't matter. If she doesn't, it won't
matter either."

And that was the letter that lay in the locked drawer for a week. And
through that week the watching for the postman went on--went on. And the
enquiries, mechanically.

And no answer came at all, to either of his letters. Had the Concierge
deceived him? Had she really no address to which to send the letter?

"Are you sure that you posted the letter?"

"Altogether, monsieur," said the concierge, fingering the key of the
drawer that held it.

And the hot ferment of Paris life seethed and fretted all around him. If
Betty were at Long Barton--oh, the dewy gray grass in the warren--and
the long shadows on the grass!

Three days more went by.

"You have posted the letter?"

"But yes, Monsieur. Be tranquil. Without doubt it was a letter that
should exact time for the response."

It was on the fifth day that he met Mimi Chantal, the prettiest model on
the left bank.

"Is monsieur by chance painting the great picture which shall put him
between Velasquez and Caran d'Ache on the last day?"

"I am painting nothing," said Vernon. "And why is the prettiest model in
Paris not at work?"

"I was in lateness but a little quarter of an hour, Monsieur. And behold

"It wasn't for the first time, then?"

"A nothing one or two days last week. Monsieur had better begin to paint
that _chef d'oeuvre_--to-day even. It isn't often that the prettiest
model in Paris is free to sit at a moment's notice."

"But," said Vernon, "I haven't an idea for a picture even. It is too hot
for ideas. I'm going into the country at the end of the month, to do

"To paint a picture it is then absolutely necessary to have an idea?"

"An idea--or a commission."

"There is always something that lacks! With me it is the technique that
is to seek; with you the ideas! Otherwise we should both be masters. For
you have technique both hands full; I have ideas, me."

"Tell me some of them," said Vernon, strolling along by her side. It was
not his habit to stroll along beside models. But to-day he was fretted
and chafed by long waiting for that answer to his letter. Anything
seemed better than the empty studio where one waited.

"Here is one! I have the idea that artists have no eyes. How they pose
me ever as l'Ete or La Source or Leda, or that clumsy Suzanne with her
eternal old men. As if they knew better than I do how a woman holds
herself up or sits herself down, or nurses a duck, or defends herself!"

"Your idea is probably correct. I understand you to propose that I
should paint a picture called The Blind Artist?"

"Don't do the imbecile. I propose for subject Me--not posed; me as I am
in the Rest. Is it not that it is then that I am the most pretty, the
most chic?"

"It certainly is," said he. "And you propose that I should paint you as
you appear in the Rest?"

"Perfectly," she interrupted. "Tender rose colour--it goes to a marvel
with my Cleo de Merode hair. And if you want a contrast--or one of those
little tricks to make people say: 'What does it mean?'"

"I don't, thank you," he laughed.

"Paint that white drowned girl's face that hangs behind your stove.
Paint her and me looking at each other. She has the air of felicitating
herself that she is dead. Me, I will have the air of felicitating myself
that I am alive. You will see, Monsieur. Essay but one sole little
sketch, and you will think of nothing else. One might entitle it 'The

"Or 'The Rest,'" said Vernon, a little interested. "Oh, well, I'm not
doing anything.--I'll make a sketch and give it you as a present. Come
in an hour."

* * * * *

"Auntie, wake up, wake up!" Betty, white-faced and determined, was
pulling back the curtain with fingers that rigidly would not tremble.

"Shut the door and spare my blushes," said her aunt. "What's up now?"
She looked at the watch on the bed-table. "Why its only just six."

"I can't help it," said Betty; "you've had all the night to sleep in. I
haven't. I want you to get up and dress and come to Paris with me by the
early train."

"Sit down," said the aunt. "No, not on the bed. I hate that. In this
chair. Now remember that we all parted last night in the best of
spirits, and that as far as I know nothing has happened since."

"Oh, no--nothing of course!" said Betty.

"Don't be ironical," said Miss Desmond; "at six in the morning it's
positively immoral. Tell me all--let me hear the sad sweet story of your

"Very well," said Betty, "if you're only going to gibe I'll go alone. Or
I'll get Mr. Temple to take me."

"To see the other man? That _will_ be nice."

"Who said anything about--?"

"You did, the moment you came in. Come child; sit down and tell me. I'm
not unsympathetic. I'm only very, very sleepy. And I _did_ think
everything was arranged. I was dreaming of orange blossoms and The Voice
That Breathed. And the most beautiful trousseau marked E.T. And silver
fish-knives, and salt-cellars in a case lined with purple velvet."

"Go on," said Betty, "if it amuses you."

"No, no. I'm sorry. Forgive the ravings of delirium. Go on. Poor little
Betty! Don't worry. Tell its own aunt."

"It's not a joke," said Betty.

"So I more and more perceive, now that I'm really waking up," said the
aunt, sitting up and throwing back her thick blond hair. "Come, I'll get
up now. Give me my stockings--and tell me--"

"They were under my big hat," said Betty, doing as she was told; "the
one I wore the night you came. And I'd thrown it down on the chest of
drawers--and they were underneath."

"My stockings?"

"No--my letters. Two of them. And one of them's from Him. It's a week
old. And he says he won't live if I don't love him."

"They always do," said Miss Desmond, pouring water into the basin.

"And he wants me to marry him, and he was never engaged to Lady St.
Craye; and it was a lie. I've had a letter from _her_."

"I can't understand a word you say," said Miss Desmond through

"My friend Paula, that I told you about. She never went home to her
father. Mr. Vernon set her up in a restaurant! Oh, how good and noble he
is! Here are your shoes--and he says he won't live without me; and I'm
going straight off to him, and I wouldn't go without telling you. It's
no use telling father yet, but I did think _you'd_ understand."

"Hand me that green silk petticoat. Thank you. _What_ did you think I'd

"Why that I--that it's him I love."

"You do, do you?"

"Yes, always, always! And I must go to him. But I won't go and leave
Bobbie to think I'm going to marry him some day. I must tell him first,
and then I'm going straight to Paris to find him, and give him the
answer to his letter."

"You must do as you like. It's your life, not mine. But it's a pity,"
said her aunt, "and I should send a telegram to prepare him."

"The office won't be open. There's a train at seven forty-five. Oh, do
hurry. I've ordered the pony. We'll call and tell Mr. Temple."

It was not the 7:45 that was caught, however, but the 10:15, because
Temple was, naturally, in bed. When he had been roused, and had dressed
and come out to them, in the gay terrace overhanging the river where the
little tables are and the flowers in pots and the vine-covered trellis,
Miss Desmond turned and positively fled before the gay radiance of his

"This is dear and sweet of you," he said to Betty.

"What lovely scheme have you come to break to me? But what's the matter?
You're not ill?"

"Oh, don't," said Betty; "don't look like that! I couldn't go without
telling you. It's all over, Bobbie."

She had never before called him by that name, and now she did not know
what she had called him.

"What's all over?" he asked mechanically.

"Everything," she said; "your thinking I was going to, perhaps, some
time--and all that. Because now I never shall. O, Bobbie, I do hate
hurting you, and I do like you so frightfully much! But he's written to
me: the letter's been delayed. And it's all a mistake. And I'm going to
him now. Oh,--I hope you'll be able to forgive me!"

"It's not your fault," he said. "Wait a minute. It's so sudden. Yes, I
see. Don't you worry about me, dearest, I shall be all right. May I know
who it is?"

"It's Mr. Vernon," said Betty.

"Oh, my God!" Temple's hand clenched. "No, no, no, no!"

"I am so very, very sorry," said Betty in the tone one uses who has
trodden on another's foot in an omnibus.

He had sat down at one of the little tables, and was looking out over
the shining river with eyes half shut.

"But it's not true," he said. "It can't be true! He's going to marry
Lady St. Craye."

"That's all a mistake," said Betty eagerly; "he only said that
because--I haven't time to tell you all about it now. But it was all a

"Betty, dear," he said, using in his turn, for the first time, her
Christian name, "don't do it. Don't marry him. You don't know."

"I thought you were his friend."

"So I am," said Temple. "I like him right enough. But what's all the
friendship in the world compared with your happiness? Don't marry
him--dear. Don't."

"I shall marry whom I choose," said Betty, chin in air, "and it won't be
you." ("I don't care if I am vulgar and brutal," she told herself, "it
serves him right")

"It's not for me, dear. It's not for me--it's for you. I'll go right
away and never see you again. Marry some straight chap--anyone--But not

"I am going to marry Mr. Vernon," said Betty with lofty calm, "and I am
very sorry for any annoyance I may have caused you. Of course, I see now
that I could never--I mean," she added angrily, "I hate people who are
false to their friends. Yes--and now I've missed my train."

She had.

"Forgive me," said Temple when the fact was substantiated, and the gray
pony put up, "after all, I was your friend before I--before you--before
all this that can't come to anything. Let me give you both some coffee
and see you to the station. And Betty, don't you go and be sorry about
me afterwards. Because, really, it's not your fault and," he laughed and
was silent a moment, "and I'd rather have loved you and have it end like
this, dear, than never have known you. I truly would."

The journey to Paris was interminable. Betty had decided not to think of
Temple, yet that happy morning face of his would come between her and
the things she wanted to think of. To have hurt him like that!--It hurt
her horribly; much more than she would have believed possible. And she
had been cruel. "Of course it's natural that he should say things about
Him. He must hate anyone that--He nearly cried when he said that about
rather have loved me than not--Yes--" A lump came in Betty's own throat,
and her eyes pricked.

"Come, don't cry," said her aunt briskly; "you've made your choice, and
you're going to your lover. Don't be like Lot's wife. You can't eat your
cake and have it too."

Vernon's concierge assured these ladies that Monsieur was at home.

"He makes the painting in this moment," she said. "Mount then, my

They mounted.

Betty remembered her last--her first--visit to his studio: when Paula
had disappeared and she had gone to him for help. She remembered how the
velvet had come off her dress, and how awful her hair had been when she
had looked in the glass afterwards. And Lady St. Craye--how beautifully
dressed, how smiling and superior!

"Hateful cat!" said Betty on the stairs.

"Eh?" said her aunt.

Now there would be no one in the studio but Vernon. He would be reading
over her letters--nothing in them--only little notes about whether she
would or wouldn't be free on Tuesday--whether she could or couldn't dine
with him on Wednesday. But he would be reading them over--perhaps--

The key was in the door.

"Do you mind waiting on the stairs, Auntie dear," said Betty in a voice
of honey; "just the first minute?--I would like to have it for us
two--alone. You don't mind?"

"Do as you like," said the aunt rather sadly. "I should knock if I were

Betty did not knock. She opened the studio door softly. She would like
to see him before he saw her.

She had her wish.

A big canvas stood on the easel, a stool in front of it. The table was
in the middle of the room, a yellow embroidered cloth on it. There was
food on the cloth--little breads, pretty cakes and strawberries and
cherries, and wine in tall, beautiful, topaz-coloured glasses.

Vernon sat in his big chair. Betty could see his profile. He sat there,
laughing. On the further arm of the chair sat, laughing also, a very
pretty young woman. Her black hair was piled high on her head and
fastened with a jewelled pin. The sunlight played in the jewels. She
wore a pink silk garment. She held cherries in her hand.

"_V'la cheri_!" she said, and put one of the twin cherries in her mouth;
then she leant over him laughing, and Vernon reached his head forward to

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