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The Obstacle Race by Ethel M. Dell

Part 3 out of 7

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"I suppose I am," said Green. "If you hear sounds of a serious fracas,
perhaps you will come to the rescue."

"Not to yours," she said lightly. "You are more than capable of holding
your own--anywhere."

He flashed her his sudden look. "Do you really think so? I assure you I
am considered very small fry, indeed, in this household."

"That's very good for you," said Juliet.

They mounted to the terrace that bounded the south front of the house,
and entered by a glass door that led into a conservatory. Here for a
moment Juliet paused. Her grey eyes under their level brows met his with
a friendly smile.

"I think I must leave you now, Mr. Green," she said, "and go and find
Mrs. Fielding. I expect the squire is in his study."

His answering smile was as ready as her own, but there was a secret
triumph about it that hers lacked. "Pray don't trouble any further on my
account!" he said courteously. "I can find my own way."

She threw him a nod, cool and kindly, over her shoulder, and took him at
his word. He watched her disappear into the room beyond, Columbus in
close attendance; then for a few seconds his hands went up to his face,
and he stood motionless, pressing his temples hard, feeling the blood
surging at fever heat through his veins. How marvellous she was--and
withal how gracious! How had he dared? Midsummer madness indeed! And yet
she had suffered him--had even stooped to plead with him!

A great shaft of red sunlight burst suddenly through the heaped
storm-clouds in the west. He turned and faced it, dazzled but strangely
exultant. He felt as if his whole being had been plunged into the glowing
flame. The wonder of it pulsed through and through him. As it were
involuntarily, a prayer sprang to his lips.

"O God," he said, "make me worthy!"

Then he turned, as if the glory had become too much for him, and went
into the house.

He had been well acquainted with the place from boyhood though since the
squire's marriage he had ceased to enter it unannounced. Before his
appointment to the village school, he had acted for a time as the
squire's secretary; but it had never been more than a temporary
arrangement and it had come to a speedy end when Mrs. Fielding became
mistress of the Court. Between her and her husband's protege, as she
scornfully called him, there had always existed a very decided antipathy.
She resented his presence in the house at any time, and though the squire
made it abundantly clear that he would permit no open insolence on her
part, she did not find it difficult to convey her feelings on the subject
to the man himself. He accepted the situation with a shrug and a smile,
and though he did not discontinue his visits on her account, they became
less frequent than formerly; and now generally he came and went again
without seeing her.

The room he entered was empty. He passed through it without a pause
and found himself in the great entrance hall. He crossed this to a
door on the other side and, knocking briefly, opened it without
waiting for a reply.

"Hullo!" said the squire's voice. "You, is it? How did you get here? Were
you caught in the storm?"

"No, sir, I took shelter." Green shut the door, and came forward.

Mr. Fielding was seated in a leather arm-chair with a newspaper. He
looked at his visitor over it with anything but a favourable eye.

"What have you come for?" he said.

Green halted in front of him. "I've come to make a very humble apology,"
he said, "for my boy Robin's misdemeanour."

"Have you?" growled Fielding. He sat motionless, still looking up at
Green from under heavily scowling brows. "Do you think I'm going to be
satisfied with just an apology?"

"May I sit down, please?" said Green, pulling forward a chair.

"Oh yes, sit down! Sit down and argue!" said the squire irritably.
"You're always ready with some plausible excuse for that half-witted
young scoundrel. I'll tell you what it is, Dick. If you don't get rid
of him after this, there'll be a split between us. I'm not going to
countenance your infernal obstinacy any longer. The boy is unsafe and
he must go."

Green sat, leaning forward, courteously attentive, his eyes unwavering
fixed upon his patron's irate countenance.

He did not immediately reply to the mandate, and the squire's frown
deepened. "You hear me, Dick?" he said.

Green nodded. "Yes, sir."

"Well?" Fielding's hand clenched upon the paper in exasperation.

Dick's eyes very bright, wholly undismayed, continued to meet his with
unvarying steadiness. "I'm very sorry, sir," he said. "The answer is the
same as usual. I can't."

"Won't--you mean!" There was a sound in the squire's voice like the
muffled roar of an angry animal.

Dick's black brows travelled swiftly upward and came down again. "He's my
boy, sir," he said. "I'll be responsible for all he does."

"But--damn it!" ejaculated the squire. "Making yourself responsible for a
mad dog doesn't prevent his biting people, does it? He's become a public
danger, I tell you. You've no right to let him loose on the

"No, no, sir!" Dick broke in quickly. "That's not a fair thing to say.
The boy is as harmless as any of us if he isn't baited. I knew--I knew
perfectly well--that there was a reason for what he did to-day. So there
was. I'm not going into details. Besides, he was clearly in the wrong.
But you may take it from me--he was provoked."

"Oh! Was he?" said the squire. "And who provoked him? Jack?"

Dick hesitated momentarily, then: "Yes, Jack," he said briefly. "He had
some reason, but he's such a tactless ass. He blames Robin of course.
Everyone always does."

"Except you," said the squire drily. "Oh, and Miss Moore! She makes
excuses for him at every turn."

"She would," said Dick simply.

"I don't know why," snapped Fielding. He suddenly laid a hand on the
younger man's arm, gripping it mercilessly. "Look here, Richard! Do you
want me to break you? Because that's what it's coming to. Do you hear?
That's what it's coming to. You're getting near the end of your tether."

Dick's eyes flashed with swift comprehension over the angry face before
him, and an answering flicker of anger sprang up in them for an instant;
but he kept himself in hand.

"Get me kicked out, you mean?" he said coolly. "Yes, sir, no doubt you
could if you tried hard enough. You're all powerful here, aren't you?
What you say, goes."

"It does," said Fielding grimly. "And I don't care a damn what I do when
my monkey's up. You know that, don't you?"'

"Rather!" said Dick. And suddenly the resentment died out of his face,
and he began to laugh. "All right, sir! Break me if you like! I'll come
out on top somehow."

"Confound you! Do you think you can defy me?" fumed Fielding.

"I'm sure of it," said Dick. "I can defy the whole world if I choose.
There is a certain portion of a man, you know, that can't be beat if he
plays fair, however hard he's hammered. It's the rule of the game."

"Confound you!" the squire said again, and sprang fiercely to his feet.
"Don't talk to me! You go too far. You always have. You behave as
if--as if--"

"As if I were my own master," said Dick quietly. "Well, I am that, sir.
It's the one thing in life I can lay claim to."

"And a lord of creation into the bargain, eh?" the squire flung at him,
as he tramped to the end of the room.

Dick rose punctiliously and stood waiting, a man unimposing of height and
build yet possessing that innate dignity which no adversity can impair.
He said nothing, merely stood and watched the squire with half-comic
resignation till he came tramping back.

Fielding's face as he turned was heavy with displeasure, but as his look
fell upon the offender a sudden softening began to struggle with the deep
lines about his mouth. It was like a gleam of sunshine on a dark day.

He went to Dick, and took him by the shoulder. "Confound you!" he said
for the third time. "You're just like your mother. Pig-headed as a mule,

"Are mules pig-headed?" said Dick flippantly.

The squire shook him. "Be quiet, you prig! I won't be dictated to by you.
Look here, Dick!" His voice changed abruptly. "I'm not ordering. I'm
asking. That boy is a mill-stone round your neck. Let him go! He'll be
happy enough. I'll see to that. Give him up like a dear chap! Then you'll
be free--free to chuck this absurd, farcical existence you're leading
now--free to make your own way in the world--free to marry and be happy."
Dick made a slight movement under the hand that held him, but he did not
attempt to speak. The squire went on. "You can't hope for any of those
things under existing conditions. It wouldn't be fair to ask any woman to
share your present life. It would be almost an insult with this infernal
incubus hanging on you. Can't you see my point? Can't you sacrifice your
damned obstinacy? You'd never regret it. You're ruining yourself, Dick.
Chance after chance has gone by, and you've let 'em go. But you can't
afford to go on. You're in your prime now, but let me tell you a man's
prime doesn't last. A time will come when you'll realize it's too late to
make a start, and you'll look back and curse the folly that induced you
to saddle yourself with a burden too heavy for you to bear."

He paused. Dick was looking straight before him with a set, grim face
that gave no indication of what was passing in his mind.

Again, more gently, the squire shook the shoulder under his hand. "I'm
out to make you happy, Dick. Can't you see it? For your mother's sake--as
well as your own. And there's a chance coming your way now--or I'm much
mistaken--which it would be madness to miss. This Miss Moore--she's
dropped from the skies, but she's charming, she's a lady, she's just the
woman for you. What, Dick? Think so yourself, do you? No, it's all right,
I'm not prying. But this is a chance you'll never get again. And you
can't ask her, you can't have the face to ask her, as long as you keep
that half-witted creature dangling after you. It wouldn't be right, man,
even if she'd have you. Look the thing in the face, and you'll be the
first to say so! It would be a hopeless handicap to any marriage--an
insurmountable obstacle to happiness, hers as well as yours. Don't tell
me you can't see it! You know it. You know you've no right to ask any
woman to share a burden of that kind with you. It would be manifestly
unfair--iniquitous. There! I've done. I've never spoken my mind to this
extent before. I've hoped--I've always hoped--the wretched boy would
die. But he hasn't. That sort never does. He'll live for ever. And it's a
damned shame that you should sacrifice yourself to him any longer. For
heaven's sake let him go!"

He ceased to speak, and there fell a silence so tense, so electric, that
it seemed as if it must mask something terrible. Dick's face was still
immovable, but he had the look of a man who endures unutterable things.
He had flinched once--and only once--during the squire's speech, and that
was at the first mention of Juliet. But for the rest he had stood quite
rigid, as he stood now, his lips tightly compressed, his eyes looking
straight before him.

He came out of his silence at last with a movement so sudden that it was
as if he flung aside some weight that threatened to overwhelm him. The
arrested vitality flashed back into his face. He threw back his head with
a smile, and looked the squire in the face.

"You haven't left me a leg to stand on, sir," he said. "But all the
same--I stand. There's nothing more to be said except--may I pay for
the window?"

Fielding's hand dropped from his shoulder. He flung round fiercely and
tramped to the window, swearing inarticulately.

Dick's black brows went up again to a humorous angle. He pursed his lips,
but he did not whistle.

"Do you realize that my wife might have been killed?" Fielding
growled at last.

"Oh, quite," said Dick. "I'm glad she wasn't. Ought I to congratulate

"Oh, don't be so damn funny!" Fielding jingled the money in his pocket
irritably. "You won't laugh when I turn you out."

"I wonder," said Dick.

Fielding turned sharply round upon him. "You behave as if you don't care
what I do," he said, an ugly scowl on his face. "Or perhaps you think I
won't or can't--do it."

"No, sir," Dick spoke deliberately, and though he still smiled his eyes
held the squire's with unmistakable determination. "I'm sure you can do
it. I'm equally sure you won't. And I'm surest of all that I shouldn't
care a damn if you did."

"You wouldn't care!" The squire looked furious for a moment, then he
sneered. "Oh, wouldn't you, my friend? We shall see. You'd better go
now--before I have you kicked out."

Dick's shoulders jerked with a swift tightening of the muscles. His eyes
gleamed with a fierce light though his smile remained. "I'll lay you even
odds," he said, "that if you want that done, you'll have to do it

"I'm equal to it!" flashed the squire. "You'd better not try me too far!"

"I won't try you at all, sir," Dick suddenly relaxed again. He went to
him with a pacific hand held out. "Good-bye! I'm going--now."

Fielding looked at him, looked at the extended hand, paused for a long
moment, finally took it.

"Don't want to quarrel with me, eh?" he said.

"Not without cause," said Dick.

Fielding gripped the firm, lithe hand, looking at him hard and
straight. "You're very cussed," he said slowly. "I wish I'd had the
upbringing of you."

Dick laughed. "Well, you've meddled in my affairs as long as I can
remember, sir. I don't know anyone who has had as much to do with me as
you have."

"And precious little satisfaction I've got out of it," grumbled the
squire. "You've always been a kicker." He broke off as a knock came at
the door, and turned away with an impatient fling. "Who is it? Come in!"

The door opened. Juliet stood on the threshold. The evening light fell
full upon her. She was dressed in cloudy grey that fell about her in soft
folds. Her face was flushed, but quite serene.

"Mrs. Fielding wants to know if you have forgotten dinner," she said.

The squire's face changed magically. He smiled upon Juliet. "Come in,
Miss Moore! You've met this pestilent pedagogue before, I think."

"Just once or twice," said Juliet, coming forward.

"How is the ankle?" said Green.

She smiled at him without embarrassment. "Oh, better, thank you. It was
only a wrench."

"Hurt yourself?" questioned Fielding.

"No, no. It's really nothing. I slipped in the park and nearly sprained
my ankle--just not quite," said Juliet. "And Mr. Green very kindly helped
me into shelter before the storm broke."

"Did he?" said the squire and looked at Green searchingly. "Well, Mr.
Green, you'd better stay and dine as you are here."

"You're very kind," Dick said. "I don't know whether I ought. I'm
not dressed."

"Of course you ought!" said Fielding testily. "Come on and wash! Your
clothes won't matter--we're alone. That is, if Miss Moore doesn't object
to sitting down with blue serge."

"I have no objection whatever," said Juliet. She was looking from one to
the other with a slightly puzzled expression.

"What is it?" said Fielding, pausing.

His look was kindly. Juliet laughed. "I don't know. I feel as I felt that
day you caught me trespassing. Am I trespassing, I wonder?"

"No!" said Fielding and Green in one breath.

She swept them a deep Court courtesy.

"Thank you, gentlemen! With your leave I will now withdraw."

The squire was at the door. He bowed her out with ceremony, watched her
cross the hall, then sharply turned his head. Green was watching her
also, but, keen as the twist of a rapier in the hand of a practised
fencer, his eyes flashed to meet the squire's.

Fielding smiled grimly. He motioned him forward, gripped him by the
arm, and drew him out of the ream. They mounted the shallow oak stairs
side by side.

At the top in a tense whisper Fielding spoke. "Don't you be a fool,
Richard! Don't you be a damn' fool!"

Dick's laugh had in it a note that was not of mirth. "All right, sir,
I'll do my best," he said.

It was a drawn battle, and they both knew it. By tacit consent neither
referred to the matter again.



"How like my husband!" said Mrs. Fielding impatiently, fidgeting up and
down the long drawing-room with a fretful frown on her pretty face. "Why
didn't you put a stop to it, Miss Moore? You might so easily have said
that the storm had upset me and I wasn't equal to a visitor at the
dinner-table to-night." She paused to look at herself in the gilded
mirror above the mantel-piece. "I declare I look positively haggard. I've
a good mind to go to bed. Only if I do--" she turned slowly and looked at
Juliet--"if I do, he is sure to be brutal about it--unless you tell him
you persuaded me."

Juliet, seated in a low chair, with a book on her lap, looked up with
a gleam of humour in her eyes. "But I am afraid I haven't persuaded
you," she said.

Mrs. Fielding shrugged her white shoulders impatiently. "Oh, of course
not! You only persuade me to do a thing when you know that it is the one
thing that I would rather die than do."

"Am I as bad as that?" said Juliet.

"Pretty nearly. You're coming to it. I know you are on his side all
the time. He knows it too. He wouldn't tolerate you for a moment if
you weren't."

"What a horrid accusation!" said Juliet, with a smile.

"The truth generally is horrid," said Mrs. Fielding. "How would you like
to feel that everyone is against you?"

"I don't know. I expect I should find a way out somehow. I shouldn't
quarrel," said Juliet. "Not with such odds as that!"

"How--discreet!" said Mrs. Fielding, with a sneer.

"Discretion is my watchword," smiled Juliet.

"And very wise too," said Green's voice in the doorway. "How do you do,
Mrs. Fielding? As I can't dress, I've been sent down to try and make my
peace with you for showing my face here at all. I hope you'll be lenient
for once, for really I've had a thorough bullying for my sins."

He came forward with the words. His bearing was absolutely easy though
neither he nor his hostess seemed to think of shaking hands.

She looked at him with a disdainful curve of the lips that could scarcely
have been described as a smile of welcome. "I imagine it would take a
good deal of that sort of thing to make much impression upon you, Mr.
Green," she said.

Green's eyes began to shine. He glanced at Juliet. "Really I am much more
inoffensive than you seem to think," he said. "I hope you are not going
to repeat the dose. I was hoping to secure your forgiveness for what
happened this afternoon. Believe me, no one regrets it more sincerely
than I do."

Mrs. Fielding drew herself together with a gesture of distaste. "Oh,
that! I have no desire whatever to discuss it with you. I have long
regarded your half-witted brother as a disgrace to the neighbourhood, and
my opinion is scarcely likely to be modified by what happened this

"How unfortunate!" said Green.

Again he glanced at Juliet. She lifted her eyes to his. "I am afraid I
haven't taken my share of the blame," she said. "But I think you know
that I am very sorry for Robin."

"You are always kind," he rejoined gravely.

"How could you be to blame, Miss Moore?" asked Mrs. Fielding.

Juliet turned towards her. "Because Robin and I are friends," she
explained simply. "He came here to look for me, and Jack ordered him off.
That was the origin of the trouble. And so--" she smiled--"Mr. Green
tells me it was my fault."

"He would," commented Mrs. Fielding.

She turned with the words as if Green's proximity were an offence to her,
and walked away to the window at the further end of the room.

In the slightly strained pause that followed, Juliet bent to fondle
Columbus who was sitting pressed against her and her book slid from her
lap to the ground. Green stooped swiftly and picked it up.

"What is it? May I look?"

She held out her hand for it. "It is _Marionettes_,--Dene Strange's
latest. Mrs. Fielding lent it to me."

He kept the book in his hand. "I thought you said you wouldn't read any
more of that man's stuff."

She knitted her brows a little. "Did I say so? I don't remember."

He looked down at her keenly. "You said you hated the man and his work."

She began to smile. "Well, I do--in certain moods. But I've got to read
him all the same. Everyone does."

"Surely you don't follow the crowd!" he said.

She laughed--her sweet, low laugh. "Surely I do! I'm one of them."

He made a sharp gesture. "That's just what you are not. I say, Miss
Moore, don't read this book! It won't do you any good, and it'll make
you very angry. You'll call it cynical, insincere, cold-blooded. It will
hurt your feelings horribly."

"I don't think so," said Juliet. "You forget,--I am no longer--a
marionette. I have come to life."

Again she held out her hand for the book. He gave it to her reluctantly.

"Don't read it!" he said.

She shook her head, still smiling. "No, Mr. Green, I'm not going to
let you censor my reading. I will tell you what I think of it next
time we meet."

"Don't!" he said again very earnestly.

But Juliet would not yield. She stooped again over Columbus and
fondled his ear.

Green stood looking down at her, his dark face somewhat grim, his eyes
extremely bright.

"I believe he's cross with us, Christopher." murmured Juliet. "Never
mind, old thing! We shall get over it if he doesn't. Being cross always
hurts oneself the most. We're--never cross, are we, Christopher? We
please ourselves and we please each other--always."

Columbus grunted appreciatively and leaned harder against her. He liked
to be included in the conversation.

Green suddenly bent and pulled the other ear. "You're a jolly lucky chap,
Columbus," he said. "I'll change places with you any day in the week."

Columbus smiled at him indulgently, and edged his nose onto his
mistress's knee. He knew his position was secure.

"Don't you listen to him, Christopher!" said Juliet. "He wouldn't be in
your place two minutes. If I dared to thwart him in anything, he'd turn
and rend me."

"He wouldn't," said Green decidedly. "Anyone else--perhaps, but his

Columbus yawned. The topic did not interest him. But Juliet laughed
again, and for a moment her eyes glanced upwards, meeting the man's look.

"Is that a promise?" she asked lightly.

"My word of honour," he said.

"How generous!" said Juliet. "And how rash!"

Mrs. Fielding looked round from the window and spoke fretfully. "The
storm seems to have made it more oppressive than ever," she complained.
"I believe it is coming up again."

"I hope not," said Green.

Juliet got up quietly and moved to join her--a tall woman of gracious
outlines with the poise of a princess.

"You know all about everything," she said to him, in passing. "Come and
read the weather for us!"

He followed her. They stood together at the open French window, looking
out on to the stormy sunset.

"It isn't coming back," said Green, after a pause.

Mrs. Fielding gave him a brief, contemptuous glance. Juliet regarded him
more openly, a glint of mockery in her eyes.

"You are sure to be right," she said.

He made her a bow. "Many thanks, Miss Moore! I think I am on this
occasion at least. We shall have a fine day for the Graydown races

"Are you keen on racing?" asked Juliet.

He laughed. "I've no time for frivolities of that sort."

"You could make time if you wanted to," observed Mrs. Fielding. "You are
free on Saturday."

"Am I?" said Green.

She challenged him in sudden exasperation. "Well, what do you do on your
off days?"

He considered for a moment. "I'll tell you what I'm doing to-morrow, if
you like," he said. "In the morning I hold a swimming class for all who
care to attend. In the afternoon I've got a cricket match. And in the
evening I'm running an open-air concert at High Shale with Ashcott."

"For those wretched miners!" exclaimed Mrs. Fielding.

He nodded. "Yes, and their wives and their babies. They are rather
amusing shows sometimes. We use native talent of course. I believe you
would be interested, Miss Moore."

"I am sure I should," said Juliet. "May I come to one some day?"

He faced her boldly. "Will you help at one--some day?"

"Oh, really!" broke in Mrs. Fielding. "That is too much. I am sure my
husband would never agree to that."

"I don't know why he shouldn't," said Juliet gently. "But the point
is--should I be any good?"

"You sing," said Green with confidence.

She smiled. "Who told you so?"

His brows worked humorously. "It's one of the things I know without being
told. Would you be afraid to venture yourself in that rough crowd with
only me to take care of you?"

"Not in the least," said Juliet.

"Thank you," he said. "You would certainly have no need to be. You would
have an immense reception."

"I am quite sure my husband would never allow it," said Mrs.
Fielding with a frown. "These High Shale people are so hopelessly
disreputable--such a drunken, lawless lot."

"But not beyond redemption," said Green quickly, "if anyone takes
the trouble."

She shrugged her shoulders. "There are not many people who have time to
waste over them. In any case, the responsibility lies at Lord
Wilchester's door--not ours."

"And as Lord Wilchester happens to be a rotter, they must go to the
wall," remarked Green.

"Well, it is no business of ours," maintained Mrs. Fielding. "I always
leave that sort of thing to the busybodies who enjoy it."

"What a good idea!" said Green. "Do you know I never thought of that?"

"Tell me about the cricket match!" Juliet said, intervening. "Who
is playing?"

He gave her a glance of quizzical understanding. "Oh, that's a village
affair too--Little Shale versus Fairharbour, most of them fisher-lads,
all of them sports. I have the honour to be captain of the Little
Shale team."

"You seem to be everything," she said.

"Jack of all trades!" sneered Mrs. Fielding.

Green laughed. "I was just going to say that."

"How original of you!" said Juliet. "Well, I hope you'll win."

"He is the sort of person who always comes out on top whether he wins or
loses," said Fielding, striding up the long room at the moment. "You've
not seen him play cricket yet, Miss Moore. He's a positive tornado on
the cricket-ground. To-morrow's Saturday, isn't it? Where are you
playing, Dick?"

His good-humour was evidently fully restored. He slapped a hand on
Dick's shoulder with the words. Mrs. Fielding's lips turned downwards at
the action.

"We are playing the Fairharbour crowd, sir, on Lord Saltash's ground,"
said Green. "It's in Burchester Park. You know the place don't you? It's
just above the town."

"Yes, yes, I know it. A fine place. Pity it doesn't belong to somebody
decent," said the squire.

Mrs. Fielding laughed unpleasantly. "Dear me! More wicked lords?"

Her husband looked at her with his quick frown. "I thought everybody
knew Saltash was a scoundrel. It's common talk that he's in Paris at this
moment entertaining that worthless jade, Lady Joanna Farringmore."

Juliet gave a violent start at the words. For a moment her face flamed
red, then went dead white--so white that she almost looked as if she
would faint. Then, in a very low voice, "It may be common talk," she
said, "but--I am quite sure--it isn't true."

"Good heavens!" exclaimed the squire. "My dear Miss Moore, pray forgive
me! I forgot you knew her."

She smiled at him, still with that ashen face. "Yes, I know her. At
least--I used to. And--she may have been heartless--I think she was;--but
she wasn't--that."

"Not when you knew her perhaps," said Mrs. Fielding's scornful voice. She
had no sympathy with people who regarded it as a duty to stand up for
their unworthy friends. "But since you quarrelled with her yourself on
account of her disgraceful behaviour you are scarcely in a position to
defend her."

"No--I know," said Juliet, and she spoke nervously, painfully. "But--I
must defend her on--a point of honour."

She did not look at Green. Yet instantly and very decidedly he entered
the breach. "Quite so," he said. "We are all entitled to fair
play--though we don't always get it when our backs are turned. I take off
my hat to you, Miss Moore, for your loyalty to your friends."

She gave him a quick glance without speaking.

From the door the butler announced dinner, and they all turned.

"Miss Moore, I apologize," said the squire, and offered her his arm.

She took it, her hand not very steady. "Please forget it!" she said.

He smiled at her kindly as he led her from the room, and began to speak
of other things.

Green sauntered behind with his hostess. His eyes were extremely bright,
and he made no attempt to make conversation as he went.



It was an unpleasant shock to Juliet on the following morning when
she went to Mrs. Fielding's room after breakfast to find her lying in
bed, pale and tear-stained, refusing morosely to partake of any
nourishment whatever.

Juliet always breakfasted alone, for the squire was in the habit of
taking his early ride first and coming in late for the meal. She usually
took a morning paper up with her with which to regale the mistress of the
house before she rose, but the first glance showed her that this
attention would be wholly unwelcome to-day. Even the letters that had
accompanied her breakfast tray were scattered unopened by her side.

"Why, what is the matter?" said Juliet.

"I've had--a wretched night," said Mrs. Fielding, and turned her face
into the pillow with a sob.

Her maid glanced at Juliet with raised brows, and indicated the untouched
breakfast with a shrug of helplessness.

Juliet came to the bedside. "What is it? Aren't you well?" she

"No, I'm wretched--miserable!" The words came muffled with sobs.

Juliet looked round. "All right, Cox. You can go. I will ring when you
are wanted."

Cox went, leaving the despised breakfast behind her.

Juliet turned back to the bed, and found Mrs. Fielding weeping
unrestrainedly. She bent over her, discarding all ceremony. "My dear
girl, do stop!" she said. "What on earth is the matter? You won't get
over it all day if you go on like this."

"Of course I shan't get over it!" sobbed Mrs. Fielding indignantly. "I
never do. He knows that perfectly well. He knows--that when once I'm
down--it takes me days--weeks--to get up again."

"Oh, dear!" said Juliet. "It's a quarrel, is it?"

Mrs. Fielding raised herself with a furious movement and thrust out a
white arm on which the bruises of a fierce grip were mercilessly defined.
"That's how--he--quarrels!" she said bitterly.

Juliet drew down the loose night-dress sleeve with a gentle but very
decided hand. "Don't let anyone else see it!" she said. "And don't tell
me any more unless you're sure--quite sure--you want me to know!"

"Why shouldn't you know?" said Mrs. Fielding pettishly through her
falling tears. "It's your fault in a way. At least it wouldn't have
happened if you hadn't been here--you and that horrid little cad of a

"Oh, don't put it like that!" said Juliet. "It's such a pity to offend
everybody at once. You really mustn't cry any more or you'll be ill. I'm
sure it isn't worth that."

"I don't care if I die!" cried Mrs. Fielding, with a fresh burst of
weeping. "I'm miserable--miserable! And nobody cares."

She flung herself down upon the pillow in such a paroxysm of hysterical
sobbing that Juliet actually was alarmed. She stood beside her, impotent,
unable to make herself heard, and wondering what to do. She had never
before looked upon such an abandonment of distress as she now beheld,
and since Mrs. Fielding was obviously beyond all reasoning or consolation
she was powerless to cope with it. She could only stand and wait for the
storm to spend itself.

It seemed, however, to increase rather than to abate, and she was
beginning to contemplate recalling Cox to her assistance when to her
astonishment the door suddenly opened, and Fielding himself appeared upon
the threshold.

She turned sharply, her first impulse to keep him out, for he wore an
ugly look. But in a moment she realized that the direction of affairs was
not in her control. He came straight forward with a mastery that would
brook no interference.

"Leave her to me!" he said, as he reached Juliet.

But at the first word his wife uttered so wild a shriek of alarm that
Juliet turned back to her with the swift instinct to protect. In an
instant Mrs. Fielding was clinging to her, clinging desperately,
frantically, like a terrified child.

"Oh, don't go! Oh, don't leave me!" she gasped. "Juliet! Juliet!
Stay--oh, stay!"

She could not refuse the appeal. It went straight to her heart. She put
her arms about the quivering, convulsed form and held it close.

"I can't go!" she said hurriedly to the squire.

"Stay then!" he said curtly.

Then abruptly he stooped over the trembling, hysterical woman. "Vera," he
said, "stop it at once! Do you hear me? Stop it!"

He did not raise his voice, but his words had a pitiless distinctness
that seemed somehow more forcible than any violence. Vera Fielding shrank
closer to Juliet's breast.

"Don't leave me! Don't leave me!" she moaned, still shaken from head to
foot with great sobs she could not control.

"She won't go if you behave yourself," said the squire grimly. "But if
you don't, I'm damned if I won't turn her out and deal with you myself."

"Don't be brutal!" breathed Juliet.

He gave her a swift, fierce look, but she met it unflinching and as
swiftly it fell away from her. He took one of his wife's feverish,
clutching hands and firmly held it.

"Now you listen to me!" he said. "I don't want to bully you but I can't
and won't have this sort of thing. It's damnably unfair to everybody. So
you pull yourself together and be quick about it!"

The trembling hand clenched in his grasp. "I hate you!" gasped Mrs.
Fielding furiously. "Oh, how I hate you!"

The man's mouth took an ominous downward curve. "I've heard that before,"
he said. "Now that's enough. We're not going to have a scene in front of
Miss Moore. If you can't control yourself, out she goes."

"She won't go," flashed back Mrs. Fielding. "She's on my side. Ask her if
she isn't! She won't leave me to your tender mercies again. She knows
what they are like."

"Hush!" Juliet said. "Don't you know there isn't a man living who can
stand this? Be quiet, my dear, for heaven's sake! You're making the most
hideous mistake of your life."

She spoke with most unwonted force, and again the squire's steely eyes
shot upwards, regarding her piercingly. "You're quite right," he said
briefly. "I won't stand it. I've stood too much already. Now, Vera, you
behave yourself, and stop that crying--at once!"

There was that in his tone that quelled all rebellion. Vera shrank closer
to Juliet, but she began to make some feeble efforts to subdue her wild
distress. Fielding sat on the edge of the bed, her hand firmly in his,
and waited. His expression was one of absolute and implacable
determination. He looked so forbidding and so formidable that Juliet
wondered a little at her own temerity in remaining. She decided then and
there that a serious disagreement with the squire would be too great a
tax upon any woman's strength, and she did not wonder that Vera's had
broken down under it.

Suddenly he spoke. "Has she had any breakfast?"

"Not yet," said Juliet.

"Oh, don't!" implored Vera, with a shudder.

He got up and went to the untouched tray. Juliet watched him pour out
some tea as she smoothed the tumbled hair back from his wife's forehead.

He came back with the cup in his hand. "Now," he said, "you are going to
drink this."

She lifted scared eyes to his stern face. "Edward!" she whispered.
"Don't--oh, don't look at me like that!"

He stooped over her, and put the cup to her lips. She drank, quivering,
not daring to refuse. When she had finished he brought her bread and
butter and fed her, mouthful by mouthful, while the tears ran silently
down her face.

At last he turned again to Juliet. "Miss Moore, my wife will not object
to your leaving us now."

It was a distinct command. But she hesitated to obey. Vera looked up at
her piteously, saying no word. The squire frowned heavily, his eyes
grimly, piercingly, upon Juliet.

She met his look with steady resolution. "Won't you leave her to rest for
a little while?" she said. "I think she needs it."

"Very well," he said, and though he did not look like yielding she
realized to her surprise that he had done so. He turned to the door. "I
should like a word with you in the library," he said, as he reached it.
"Please come to me there immediately!"

He was gone. Vera turned with a sob and clasped Juliet closely to her.

"He is going to send you away. I know he is," she wailed. "What shall I
do? What shall I do?"

"Lie down!" said Juliet sensibly, releasing herself to settle the tumbled
bedclothes. "Don't cry any more! Just shut your eyes and lie still!"

She laid her down upon the pillow with the words as if she had been a
child, smoothed the rumpled hair again, and after a moment bent and
kissed the hot forehead.

"Oh, thank you!" murmured Mrs. Fielding. "I'm dreadfully unhappy, Juliet.
I don't know what I shall do without you."

"Go to sleep!" said Juliet, tucking her up. "I'll come back presently.
Lie quite still till I do!"

She guessed that exhaustion would come to her aid in this particular as
she drew the curtains close and turned away to face her own ordeal.

"Come back soon!" Vera called after her as she softly shut the door.

"Presently," Juliet said again.

She realized as she descended the stairs that her heart was beating
uncomfortably hard, but she did not pause on that account. She wanted to
face the squire while her spirit was still high.

She held her head up as she entered the library where he awaited her, but
she knew within herself that it was bravado rather than fearlessness that
enabled her to face him thus. And when he turned sharply from the window
to meet her she was conscious of a moment of most undignified dread.

Whether her face betrayed her or not she never knew but she was aware in
an instant of a change in his attitude. He came straight up to her, and
suddenly her hand was in his and he was looking into her eyes with the
gleam of a smile in his own.

"Come along!" he said. "Let's have it! I'm the biggest brute you ever
came across, and you never want to set eyes on me again. Isn't that it?"

It was winningly spoken, restoring her self-confidence in a second. She
shook her head in answer.

"No. I'm not in a position to judge, and I don't think I want to be. I
have no real liking for meddling in other people's affairs."

"Very wise!" he commented. "But you won't have much choice if you decide
to stay with us. Are you going to stay?"

"Are you going to keep me?" said Juliet.

"Certainly," he returned promptly. "I regard you as the most valuable
member of the household at the present moment. Miss Moore, will you tell
me something?"

"If I can," said Juliet.

"Where did you learn such a lot about men?" he said.

She coloured a little at the question. "Well, I haven't lived with my
eyes shut all this time," she said.

"You evidently haven't," he said. "Allow me to compliment you on your
tact! Ninety-nine women out of a hundred would have taken the obvious
course of siding with their own sex against the oppressor. Why didn't
you, I wonder?"

"I'm not sure that I don't," she said, smiling faintly.

He pressed her hand and released it. "No, you don't. You've too much
sense. You know as well as I do that she deserved all she got and more.
You haven't always found her exactly easy to get on with yourself, I'll
be bound."

"I don't think you are either of you that," Juliet said quietly.

He nodded. "Now it's coming! I thought it would. No, Miss Moore, I am
not easy to get on with. I've had a rotten life all through, and it
hasn't made me very pliable." He paused, looking at her under his black
brows as if debating with himself as to how far he would take her into
his confidence. "I've been cheated of the best from the very outset," he
said, "cheated and thwarted at every turn. That sort of treatment may
suit some people, but it hasn't made an archangel of me." He fell to
pacing up and down the room, staring moodily at the floor, his hands
behind him. "Life is such an infernal gamble at the best," he said; "but
I never had a chance. It's been one damn thing after another. I've
tripped at every hurdle. I suppose you never came a cropper in your
life--don't know what it means."

"I think I do know what it means," Juliet said slowly. "I've looked on,
you know. I've seen--a good many things."

"Just as you're looking on now, eh?" said the squire, grimly smiling.
"Well, you profit by my experience--if you can! And if love ever comes
your way, hang on to it, hang on to it for all you're worth, even if you
drop everything else to do it! It's the gift of the gods, my dear, and if
you throw it away once it'll never come your way again."

"No, I know," said Juliet. She rested her arm on the mantelpiece, gravely
watching him. "I've noticed that."

"Noticed it, have you?" He flung her a look as he passed. "You've
never been in love, that's certain, never seriously I mean,--never up
to the neck."

"No, never so deep as that!" said Juliet.

He passed on to the end of the room, and came to a sudden stand before
the window. "I--have!" he said, and his voice came with an odd jerkiness
as if it covered some emotion that he could not wholly control. "I won't
bore you with details. But I loved a woman once--I loved her madly. And
she loved me. But--Fate--came between. She's dead now. Her troubles are
over, and I'm not such a selfish brute as to want her back. Yet I
sometimes think to myself--that if I'd married that woman--I'd have made
her happy, and I'd have been a better man myself than I am to-day." He
swung round restlessly, found her steady eyes upon him, and came back to
her. "The fact of the matter is, Miss Moore," he said, "I was a skunk
ever to marry at all--after that."

"It depends how you look at it," she said gently.

"Don't you look at it that way?" he said, regarding her curiously.

She hesitated momentarily. "Not entirely, no. The woman was dead and you
were alone."

"I was--horribly alone," he said.

"I don't think it was wrong of you to marry," she said. "Only--you ought
to love your wife."

"Ah!" he said. "I thought we agreed that love comes only once."

She shook her head. "Not quite that. Besides, there are many kinds of
love." Again for a second she hesitated looking straight at him. "Shall I
tell you something? I don't know whether I ought. It is almost like a
breach of confidence--though it was never told to me."

"What is it?" he said imperatively.

She made a little gesture of yielding. "Yes, I will tell you. Mr.
Fielding, you might make your wife love you--so dearly--if you cared to
take the trouble."

"What?" he said.

Her eyes met his with a faint, faint smile. "Doesn't it seem absurd," she
said, "that it should fall to me--a comparative stranger--to tell you
this, when you have been together for so long? It is the truth. She is
just as lonely and unhappy as you are. You could transform the whole
world for her--if you only would."

"What! Give her her own way in everything?" he said. "Is that what you're

"No. I'm not advising anything. I am only just telling you the truth,"
said Juliet. "You could make her love you--if you tried."

He stared at her for some seconds as if trying to read some riddle in her
countenance. "You are a very remarkable young woman," he said at last. "I
wouldn't part with you for a king's ransom. So you think I might turn
that very unreasonable hatred of hers into love, do you?"

"I am quite sure," said Juliet steadily.

"I wonder if I should like it if I did!" said the squire.

She laughed--a sudden, low laugh. "Yes. You would like it very much. It's
the last and greatest obstacle between you and happiness. Once clear
that, and--"

"Did you say happiness?" he broke in cynically.

"Yes, of course I did." Her look challenged him. "Once clear that and if
you haven't got a straight run before you--" She paused, looking at him
oddly, very intently, and finally stopped.

"Well?" he said. "Continue!"

She coloured vividly under his eyes.

"I'm afraid I've lost my thread. It doesn't really matter. You know what
I was going to say. The way to happiness does not lie in pleasing
oneself. The self-seekers never get there."

He made her a courteous bow. "Thank you, fairy god-mother! I believe you
are right. That may be why happiness is so shy a bird. We spread the net
too openly. Well," he heaved a sigh, "we live and learn." He turned to
the table and took up his riding whip. "I suppose my wife will be in bed
and sulk all day because I vetoed the Graydown Races."

"Oh, was that the trouble?" said Juliet.

He nodded gloomily. "I hate the set she consorts with at these shows.
There are some of the Fairharbour set--impossible people! But they boast
of being on nodding terms with that arch-bounder Lord Saltash, and so
everything is forgiven them."

Juliet suddenly stood up very straight. "I think I ought to tell you,"
she said, "that I know Lord Saltash. I have lived with the Farringmore
family, as you know. He is a friend of Lord Wilchester's."

The squire turned sharply. "I hope you're going to tell me also that you
can't endure the man," he said.

She made a little gesture of negation. "I never say that of anybody. I
don't feel I can afford to. Life has too many contradictions--too many
chances. The person we most despise to-day may prove our most valuable
defender to-morrow."

"Heaven forbid!" said the squire. "You wouldn't touch such pitch as that
under any circumstances. Besides, what do you want in the way of
defenders? You're safe enough where you are."

Juliet was smiling whimsically. "But who knows?" she said. "I may be
dismissed in disgrace to-morrow."

"No," he said briefly. "That won't happen. Your position here is secure
as long as you consent to fill it."

"How rash of you," she said.

"A matter of opinion!" said Fielding. "How would you like to go over and
see the cricket at Fairharbour this afternoon?"

She gave him a quick look. "Oh, is that the alternative to the races?"

He frowned. "I have already told you the races are out of the question."

"I see," said Juliet thoughtfully. "Then I am afraid the cricket-match is
also--unless Mrs. Fielding wants to go."

"I'll make her go," said squire.

"No! No! Don't make her do anything--please!" begged Juliet. "That is
just the worst mistake you could possibly make. To be honest, I would
rather--much--go to the open-air concert at High Shale this evening."

"Along with those rowdy miners?" growled the squire. "I see enough of
them on the Bench. Green of course is cracked on that subject. He'd like
to set the world in order if he could."

"I admire his enterprise," said Juliet.

He nodded. "So do I. He's cussed as a mule, but he's a goer. He's also a
gentleman. Have you noticed that?"

She smiled. "Of course I have."

"And I can't get my wife to see it," said the squire. "Just because--by
his own idiotic choice--he occupies a humble position, she won't allow
him a single decent quality. She classes them all together, when anyone
can see--anyone with ordinary intelligence can see--that he is of a
totally different standing from those brothers of his. He is on another
plane altogether. It's self-evident. You see it at once."

"Yes," said Juliet.

He moved restlessly. "I would have placed him in his proper sphere if
he'd consented to it. But he wouldn't. It's a standing grievance between
us. That fellow Robin is a millstone round his neck. Miss Moore," he
turned on her suddenly, "you have a wonderful knack of making people see
reason. Couldn't you persuade him to let Robin go?"

"Oh no!" said Juliet quickly. "It's the very last thing I would
attempt to do."

"Really!" He looked at her in genuine astonishment.

Juliet flushed. "But of course!" she said. "They belong to each other.
How could Mr. Green possibly part with him? You wouldn't--surely--think
much of him if he did?"

"I think he's mad not to," declared the squire. "But," he smiled at her,
"I think it's uncommonly kind of you to take that view, all the same.
I'll take you to that concert to-night if you really want to go."

"Will you? How kind!" said Juliet, turning to go. "But you won't mind if
I consult Mrs. Fielding first? I must do that."

He opened the door for her. "You are not to spoil her now," he said.
"She's been spoilt all her life by everybody."

"Except by you," said Juliet daringly.

And with that parting shot she left him, swiftly traversing the hall to
the stairs without looking back.

The squire stood for some seconds looking after her. She had opposed him
at practically every point, and yet she had not offended him.

"A very remarkable young woman!" he said again to himself as she passed
out of his sight. "A very--gifted young woman! Ah, Dick, my friend, she'd
make a rare politician's wife." And then another thought struck him and
he began to laugh. "And she'll be equally charming as the helpmeet of the
village schoolmaster. Egad, we can't have everything, but I think you've
found your fate."



The luncheon-gong rang through the house with a tremendous booming, and
Vera Fielding, sitting limply in a chair by her open window, closed her
eyes with drawn brows as if the sound were too much for her overwrought
nerves. The tempest of three hours before had indeed left her spent and
shaken, and an unacknowledged tincture of shame mingling with her
exhaustion did not improve matters. She had wept away her fury, and a
dull resentment sat heavily upon her. She had entered upon the second
stage of the conflict which usually lasted for some days,--days during
which complete silence reigned between her husband and herself until he
either departed to town to end the tension or his wrath boiled up afresh
cowing her into a bitter submission to his will which brought nothing but
misery to them both.

The last deep notes of the gong died away, and Vera's eyes half-opened
again. They dwelt restlessly upon the brilliant patch of garden visible
under the lowered sun-blind. The splendour of the June world without
served to increase the wretchedness of her mood by contrast. The sultry
heat seemed to weigh her down. Life was one vast oppression and bondage.
She was weary to the soul.

Juliet had gone down to aid Cox in the selection of something tempting
for her luncheon. She had every intention of refusing it whatever it was.
Who as miserable as she could bear to eat anything--unless forced to do
so by brutal compulsion?

Her head throbbed painfully. Her nerves were stretched for the sound of
her husband's step in the adjoining room. She wished she had told Juliet
to lock the communicating door, though she hardly expected him to come in
upon her a second time. Even his wrath had its limits. It seldom gathered
to its full height twice in a day.

She was trying to comfort herself with this reflection when suddenly she
heard him enter his room, and in a moment all her lassitude vanished in
so violent an agitation that she found herself gasping for breath. Still
she told herself that he would not come in. It had always been his habit
to leave her severely alone after a battle. He would not come in! Surely
he would not come in. And then the handle of the intervening door turned,
and she sank back in her chair with a sick effort to appear indifferent.

She did not look at him as he came in. Only by the quick heaving of her
breast which was utterly beyond control did she betray her knowledge of
his presence. Her face was turned away from him. She stared down into the
dazzling sunlight with eyes that saw nothing.

He came to her, halted beside her. And suddenly a warm sweet fragrance
filled the air. She looked round in spite of herself and found a bunch of
exquisite lilies-of-the-valley close to her cheek. She lifted her eyes
with a great start.


His face was red. He looked supremely ill at ease. He pushed the flowers
under her nose. "Take 'em for heaven's sake!" he said irritably. "I hate
the things myself."

She took them, too amazed for comment, and buried her face in their
perfumed depths.

He stood beside her, impatiently clicking his fingers. There fell an
uncomfortable silence, during which Vera gradually remembered her dignity
and at length laid the flowers aside. Her agitation had subsided. She sat
and waited noncommittally for the new situation to develop. Even in their
engagement days he had never brought her flowers, and any overture from
him after a quarrel was a thing unknown.

She waited therefore, not looking at him, and in a few moments, very
awkwardly, with obvious reluctance, he spoke again.

"I don't think we want to keep this up any longer, do we? Seems a bit
senseless, what? I'm ready to forget it if you are."

Again, she was taken by surprise, for his voice had a curious urgency
that made her aware that he for one had certainly had enough of it, and
there was that in her which leaped in swift response. But it was not to
be expected of her that she should be willing to bury the hatchet at a
moment's notice after the treatment she had received, and she checked the
unaccountable impulse.

"There are some things that it is not easy to forget," she said coldly.

His demeanour changed in an instant. "Oh, all right," he said, "if you
prefer to sulk!"

He swung upon his heel. In a moment he would have been gone; but in that
moment the inner force that Vera had ignored suddenly sprang above every
other emotion or consideration. She put out a quick hand and stayed him.

"I am not sulking! I never sulk! But I can't behave--all in a moment--as
if nothing had happened. Edward!"

It was her voice that held pleading now, for he made as if he would leave
her in spite of her detaining hold. She tightened her fingers on his arm.

"Edward, please!" she said.

He stopped. "Well?" he said gruffly. Then, as she said nothing
further, he turned slowly and looked at her. Her head was bent. She
was striving for self-control. Something in her attitude went straight
to the man's heart. She looked so small, so forlorn, so pathetic in
her struggle for dignity.

On a generous impulse he flung his own away. "Oh, come, my dear!" he
said, and stooping took her into his arms. "I'm sorry. There!"

She clung to him then, clung closely, still battling to check the tears
that she knew he disliked.

He kissed her forehead and patted her shoulder with a queer compunction
that had never troubled him before in his dealings with her.

"There!" he said. "There! That's all right, isn't it? We shall have Miss
Moore in directly. Where's your handkerchief?"

She found it and dried her eyes with her head against his shoulder. Then
she lifted a still quivering face to his. "Edward,--I'm--just as sorry
as you are," she said, with a catch in her voice.

He kissed her again, wondering a little at his own softened feelings.
"All right, my girl. Let's forget it!" he said. "You have a good lunch
and you'll feel better! What are they giving you? Champagne?"

"Oh no, of course not!"

"Well, why not? It's the very thing you want. Just the occasion.
What? You sit still and I'll go and see about it!" He put her down
among her cushions, but she clung to him still. "No, don't go for a
minute!" she said, with a shaky smile. "It's so good to have
you--kind to me for once."

"Good gracious!" he said, but half in jest. "Am I such a brute as
all that?"

She pushed back her sleeve and mutely showed him the marks upon her arm.

He looked, and his brows drew together. "My doing?"

She nodded. "Last night--when--when I said--something you didn't
like--about Mr. Green."

He scowled a moment longer, then abruptly stooped, took the white arm
between his hands and kissed it. "I'll get a stick and beat you the next
time," he said. "You remember that--and be decent to Green, see?"

The kiss belied the words, covering also a certain embarrassment which
Vera was not slow to perceive. Because of it she found strength to
abstain from further argument. He had undoubtedly conceded a good deal.

"I'll be decent to anyone," she said, "so long as you are decent to me."

"Hear, hear!" said the squire. "Now dry your eyes and be sensible! Miss
Moore will go for me like mad if she finds you crying again. If we don't
pull together we shall have that girl running the whole show before we
are much older, and neither of us will ever dare even to contradict the
other in her presence again. We shouldn't like that, should we?"

She laughed a little in spite of her wan countenance. "Oh, no, Edward. We
mustn't risk that." Then, with a touch of anxiety, "It wasn't Miss
Moore's idea that you should bring me flowers, was it?"

"No." The squire grinned at her suddenly. "The worthy Columbus was
responsible for that. I found him routing in the lily-bed after snails or
some such delicacy. He was so infernally busy he made me feel ashamed. So
I went down on my knees and joined him, gathered the lot,--nearly killed
myself over it, but that's an unimportant detail. Now for your
champagne! You'll feel a different woman when you've had it."

He departed, leaving his wife looking after him with an odd wistfulness
in her eyes. She was seeing him in a new light which made her feel
strangely uncertain of herself also. Was it possible that all these years
of misunderstanding, which she had regarded as inevitable, might have
been avoided after all?

A quick sigh rose to her lips as again she took his flowers and held them
against her face.



A wonderful summer evening followed the sultry day. The sun sank
gloriously behind High Shale, and a soft breeze blew in from the sea.

On the slope of the hill behind the lighthouse and above the miners'
village there stood an old thatched barn, and about this a knot of men
and youths loitered, smoking and talking in a desultory, discontented
fashion. On the other side of the barn a shrill cackling proclaimed the
presence of some of the feminine portion of the community, and the
occasional squall of a baby or a squeal of a bigger child testified to
the fact that the greater part of the village population awaited the
entertainment which Green contrived to give on the first Saturday of
every month.

He had started these concerts two winters before down in the village of
Little Shale, and they had originally been for men and boys only, but
the women had grumbled so loudly at their exclusion that Green had very
soon realized the necessity of extending a welcome to them also. So now
they flocked in a body to his support, even threatening to crowd out
the men in the winter evenings when he had to assemble his audience at
the Village Club at Little Shale. But in the summer, as a concession to
High Shale, he held his concerts, whenever feasible, up on the hill,
and practically the whole of High Shale village came to them. Little
Shale was also well represented, but he always felt that he was in
closer touch with the miners on these occasions, when he met them on
their own ground.

The two villages were apt to eye one another with scant sympathy, the
fisher population of the one and the mining population of the other
having little in common beyond the liquor which they uniformly sought at
The Three Tuns by the shore. Green never permitted any bickering, and
they were all alike in their respect for him, but a species of armed
neutrality which was very far removed from comradeship existed between
them. Fights at The Three Tuns were by no means of unusual occurrence and
the miners of High Shale were invariably spoken of with wholesale
contempt by the men along the shore.

But, thanks to Green's untiring efforts, they met on common ground at his
concerts, and any member of the audience who dared to commit any breach
of the peace on any of these occasions was summarily dealt with by Green
himself. He knew how to keep his men in hand. There was not one of them
who ever ventured to question his supremacy. He ruled them, not one of
them could have said how. Ashcott, the manager of the mine, who battled
in vain against the rising spirit of disorder and rebellion among them,
was wont to describe his influence over them as black magic. Whatever its
source it was certainly unique. None but Dick Green could spring from the
platform, seize a delinquent by his collar or the scruff of his neck, and
run him, practically unresisting, out of the assembly. His lightning
decisions were never questioned. His language, which could be forcible
upon occasion, never met with any retort. The men seemed to recognize
instinctively that it was useless to stand up to him. He could have
compelled them blindfold and with his hands behind him.

It was this quality in him, this dynamic force, restrained yet always
somehow in action, that had affected Juliet so strangely in the beginning
of their acquaintance. Like these rough miners and fisher-folk she could
not have said wherein the attraction lay, but she recognized in him that
inner fire called genius, and it drew her unaccountably, irresistibly.
Whatever the sphere to which he had been born, he was a man created to
lead, to overcome obstacles, to wrest victory from failure,--a man who
possessed the rare combination of a highly sensitive temperament and a
practically invincible courage--a man who could handle the great forces
of life with the fearless certainty of the born conqueror.

Yes, he attracted her, undoubtedly he attracted her. He stirred her to an
interest which she had believed herself too old, too jaded with the ways
of the world, ever to feel again. But she did not want to yield to the
attraction. She wanted to hold aloof for a space. She had come to this
quiet corner of the world in search of peace. She wanted to avoid the
problems of life, to get back her poise, to become an onlooker and no
longer a competitor in the maddening race from which she had so lately
withdrawn herself. She was willing to be interested, she already was
deeply interested, but only as a spectator, so she told herself. She
would not be drawn in against her will. She would stand aside and watch.

It was in this mood that she drove off with the squire on the way to the
open-air concert on the High Shale bluff on that magic June evening. Mrs.
Fielding was too weary after the many emotions of the day to accompany
them, but they left her in a tranquil frame of mind, and the squire was
in an unusually good humour. Though he had small liking for the High
Shale village people, it pleased him that Juliet should take an interest
in Green's enterprises, eccentric though they might be. And he considered
that she deserved a treat after her diplomatic handling of a very
difficult situation that morning.

"Might as well call and see if Dick would like a lift," he said, as they
neared the gates. "We've got to pass his door. I'll send Jack in."

But when they stopped at the school-house gate, a humped, familiar figure
was leaning upon it, and Jack flung an imperious question without

The squire's face darkened at the sight. "Here's that unspeakable baboon
Robin!" he growled.

Robin paid about as much attention to his brother's curt query as he
might have bestowed upon the buzzing of a fly. His dark eyes below his
shaggy thatch of hair were fixed, deeply shining, upon Juliet.

Jack muttered an impatient ejaculation under his breath and flung himself
out of the car. Before Juliet could speak a word to intervene, he had
given the gate on which Robin leant a push that sent the boy backwards
with considerable force on the grass while he himself went up the path to
the house at a run.

"Oh, what a shame!" said Juliet, a quick vibration of anger in her
deep voice.

She leaned forward sharply to open the door and spring out, but in a
second Fielding's hand caught hers, holding her back.

"No, no! Leave the young beggar alone! He's none the worse. He can pick
himself up again. Ah, and here comes Dick! He'll manage him!"

Robin was indeed struggling to his feet with a furious bellowing that
might have been heard on the shore. But Dick was quicker than he. He came
down the path, as it seemed in a single bound. He took Robin by his
swaying arms and steadied him. He spoke, quickly and decidedly, and the
roaring protest died down to a snarling, sobbing sound like the crying of
a wounded animal. Then, still holding him, Dick turned towards the car at
the gate. And Juliet saw that he was white with passion. The fierce blaze
of his eyes was a thing she would not soon forget.

He spoke with twitching lips. "No, sir. I'm not coming, thanks. I shall
go on foot over the down. It's only a quarter of the distance that way."
He drew Robin aside at the sound of Jack's approach behind him, but he
did not look at him. And Robin became suddenly and terribly silent. He
was quivering all over like a dog that is held back from his prey.

Jack gave him a look of contempt as he strode past and returned to his
seat at the wheel. And Juliet awoke to the fact that like Robin she was
trembling from head to foot.

The car shot forward. She saw the two figures no more. But the memory
of Green's face went with her, its pallor, and the awfulness of his
eyes--the red flame of his fury. Robin's unrestrained wrath was of
small account beside it. She felt as if she had never seen anger before
that moment.

She scarcely heard the squire's caustic remarks concerning Robin. She was
as one who had touched a live wire, and her whole being tingled with the
shock. The hot glitter of those onyx eyes had been to her as the sudden
revelation of a destroying force, fettered indeed, but how appalling if
once set free!

She looked forward with a curious dread to seeing him again. She wondered
if the man who drove the car so recklessly had the faintest suspicion of
the storm he had stirred up. But surely he knew Dick in all his moods! He
had probably encountered it before. They sped on through the fragrant
summer night, and she talked at random, hardly knowing what she said. If
the squire noticed her preoccupation, he made no comment. He had
conceived a great respect for Juliet.

They neared their destination at last, and Jack performed what the squire
called his favorite circus-trick, racing the car to the top of the
towering cliff and stopping dead at the edge of a great immensity of sea
and stars.

Again Juliet drew a deep breath of sheer marvelling delight, speaking no
word, held spell-bound by the wonder of the night.

"We needn't hurry," Fielding said. "They won't be starting yet."

So for a space they remained as though caught between earth and heaven,
silently drinking in the splendour.

After a long pause she spoke. "Do you often come here?"

"Not now," he said. Then, as she glanced at him: "I used to in the days
of my youth--the long past days."

And she knew by his tone, by the lingering of his words, that he had not
always come alone.

She asked no more, and presently the jaunty notes of a banjo floating up
the grassy slope told them that Green's entertainment had begun.

They left the car at the top of the rise, and walked down over the
springy turf towards the old barn about which Dick's audience were
collected. Two hurricane lamps and a rough deal table were all he had in
the way of stage property. But she was yet to learn that this man relied
upon surroundings and circumstances not at all. As she herself had said,
possibly the torch of genius burned brightest in dark places, for it was
certainly genius upon which she looked to-night.

He sat on the edge of the deal table with one leg crossed over his knee,
his dark face thrown into strong relief, intent, eager, with a vitality
that seemed to make it almost luminous. From the crowd that watched him
there came not a sound. The thought crossed Juliet's mind that the
instrument he played so cunningly might have been a harp from a fairy
palace. For there was magic in the air. He played with a delicacy that
seemed to wind itself in threads of gold about the inner fibres of the
soul. They listened to him as men bewitched.

When the music ended, a great noise went up--shouts and whistles and
cat-calls. They were wild for more. But Green knew the value of a
reserve. He laughed away the _encores_ with a careless "Presently!" and
called a young miner to him for a song. The lad sang and Green
accompanied, and again Juliet marvelled at the amazing facility of his
performance. He seemed to be able to adapt the instrument to every mood
or tone. The boy's voice was rough and untrained, but it held a certain
appeal and by sheer intuition--comradeship as it seemed--Green brought it
home to the hearers. The man's unfailing responsiveness was a revelation
to her. She believed it was the secret of his charm.

When the song was ended, a fisherman came forward and danced a hornpipe
on the table, again to the thrumming of the banjo, without which nothing
seemed complete. It was while this was in progress that a thick-set,
somewhat bulletheaded man came up and addressed the squire by name.

"We don't often see you here, Mr. Fielding."

The squire turned. "Hullo, Ashcott. Your lambs are in force to-night. How
are they behaving themselves?"

"Pretty fair," said Ashcott. "They're getting the strike rot like the
rest of the world. We shan't hold 'em for ever. If any of the Farringmore
lot turned up here, I wouldn't answer for 'em. Lord Wilchester talked of
motoring down the other day, bringing friends if you please to see the
mine, I warned him off--the damn' fool! Simply asking for trouble, as I
told him. 'Well, what's the matter?' he said. 'What do they want?'
'They'd like houses instead of pigsties for one thing,' I said. And he
laughed at that. 'Oh, let 'em go to the devil!' he said. 'I haven't got
any money to spare for luxuries of that kind.' So far as that goes I
believe he is hard up, but then look at the way they live! They'd need to
be multi-millionaires to keep it up."

The man's speech was crude, even brutal, and the girl on Fielding's other
side shivered a little and drew a pace away. It was very evident on which
side his sympathies lay. There was more than a tinge of the street ranter
in his utterance. She was glad that Fielding spared her an introduction.

She tried to turn her attention back to the entertainment, but the coarse
words hung in her memory like an evil cloud. They recalled Green's brief
condemnation of the previous evening. Evidently his point of view was the
same. He regarded the whole social system as evil. Had not the squire
told her that he wanted to reform the world?

The evening wore on, and with unfaltering resource Dick Green kept the
interest of his audience from flagging. He chose his assistants with
insight and skill, and every item on his program scored a success. His
banjo was in almost continuous demand throughout, but finally, just at
the end, he laid it aside.

He took something from his pocket; what it was Juliet could not see, but
she caught the gleam of metal in the lamp-light, and in a moment a great
buzz of pleasure spread through the crowd. And then it began--such music
as she had never dreamed of--such music as surely was never fluted save
from the pipes of Pan. A long, sweet, thrilling note like the call of a
nightingale, starting far away, drawing swiftly nearer, nearer, till she
felt as if it ended against her heart, and then all the joy of spring, of
youth, of hope, poured forth in an amazing ecstasy of silver
sound--showers of fairy notes like the dancing of tiny feet or the
lightest patter of summer rain that ever fell upon opening leaves--and
the gold-flecked sunshine that shimmered in the crystal dawning of a day
new-born. Afterwards there came the sound of waterfalls and laughing
streams and the calling of fairy voices, the tinkle of fairy laughter,
and then the sea and shoaling water--shoaling water--breaking in a
million sparkles over the rocks of an enchanted strand!

And it was to her alone that that wonder-music spoke. She and he were
wandering alone together along that fairy shore where every sea-shell
gleamed like pearl and every wave broke iridescent at their feet. The sun
shone in the sky for them alone, and the caves were mystic palaces of
delight that awaited their coming. And once it seemed to her that he drew
her close, and she felt his kisses on her lips....

Ah, surely this was the midsummer madness of which they had spoken! It
was a vision that could not last, but the wonder of it--ah, the wonder of
it!--she would carry for ever in her heart.

It ended at length, but so softly, so tenderly, that, spellbound, she
never knew when lingering sound became enduring silence. She awoke as it
were from a long dream and knew that her heart was beating with a wild
and poignant longing that was pain. Then there arose a great shouting,
and instinctively she laid her hand on Fielding's arm and drew him away.

"Had enough?" he asked.

She nodded. Somehow for the moment she could find no words. She had a
feeling as of unshed tears at her throat. Ah, what had moved him to play
to her like that? And why did it hurt her so?

She moved back up the grassy slope still with that curious sense of
pain. Something had happened to her, something had pierced her. By
that strange and faun-like power of his he had reached out and touched
her inmost soul, and she knew as she went away that she was changed.
He had cast a glittering spell upon her, and nothing could ever be the
same again.

After a space she spoke at random and Fielding made reply. With the
instinct of self-defence she maintained some species of casual
conversation during their stroll back to the waiting car, but she never
had the vaguest recollection afterwards as to what passed between them.

She was thankful to be swooping back again through the summer night. An
urgent desire for solitude was upon her. All her throbbing pulses cried
out for it. Was it but yesterday--but yesterday that she had felt so
safe? And now--

Later, alone in her room at the Court, she leaned from her open window
seeking with an almost frantic intensity to recover the peace that had
been hers. How had she lost it? She could not say. Was it the mere piping
of a flute that had reft it from her? She wanted to laugh at herself, but
could not. It was too absurd, too fantastic, for everyday, prosaic
existence, that rhapsody of the starlight, but to her it had been pure
magic. In it she had heard the call of a man's being, seeking hers, and
by every hidden chord that had vibrated in answer she knew that he had
not called in vain. That was the knowledge that pierced her--the
knowledge that she was caught--against her will,--still wildly struggling
for freedom--but caught.

It had happened so suddenly, so amazingly. Yesterday she had been
free--only yesterday--Or stay! Perhaps even then the net had been about
her feet, and he had known it. How otherwise had he spoken so
intimately--dared so much?

She drew a long, deep breath, recalling his look, his touch, his voice.
Ah! Midsummer madness indeed! But she could not stay to face it. She must
go. The way was still open behind her. She would escape as she had come,
a fugitive from the force that pursued her so relentlessly. She would not
suffer herself to be made a captive. She would go.

Again she drew a long breath, but curiously it broke, as if a sharp spasm
had gripped her heart. She stood, struggling with herself. And then
suddenly she dropped upon her knees by the sill with her arms flung wide
and her head with its cloudy mass of hair bowed low.

"O God! O God!" she whispered convulsively. "Save me from this! Help me
to go--while I can! I am so tired--so tired!"



Columbus was not accustomed to being awakened in the early June morning
and taken for a scamper when the sun was still scarcely two hours up. He
arose blinking at his mistress's behest, and but for her brisk urging he
would have turned over again and slept. But Juliet was insistent.

"I'm going down to the shore, you old sleepy-head," she told him. "Don't
you want to come?"

She herself had scarcely slept throughout the brief night, and a great
yearning for the sunshine and the sea was upon her. The solitude of the
beach drew her irresistibly. It was Sunday morning, and she knew that no
one but herself would be up for hours. She had grown to love it so, the
silence and the shining emptiness and the marvel of the sea. She could
not remember any other place that had ever attracted her in the same way.
It suited every mood.

There was a short cut across the park, and she and Columbus took it,
hastening over the dewy grass till they reached a path that led to the
cliffs and the shore. Only the larks above them and the laughing waves
before, made music in this world of the early morning. The peacefulness
of it was like a benediction.

"And before the Throne there was a sea of glass like unto crystal...."
She found herself murmuring the words, for in that morning purity it
seemed to her that the very ground beneath her feet was holy. She was
conscious of a throbbing desire to reach out to the Infinite, to bring
her troubled spirit to the Divine waters of healing.

She reached the shingly shore, and went down over the stones to the waves
breaking in the sunlight. Yes, she was tired--she was tired; but this was
peace. The tears sprang to her eyes as she stood there. What a place to
be happy in! But happiness was not for her.

After a space she turned and walked along the strand till she came to the
spot where she and Columbus had first sat together and played at being
wrecked on a desert island. And here she sat down and put her arms around
her faithful companion and leaned her head against his rough coat.

"I wish it had been true, Columbus," she said. "We were so happy
just alone."

He kissed her with all a dog's pure devotion, sensing trouble and seeking
to comfort. As he had told her many a time before, her company was really
all his soul desired. All other interests were mere distractions. She was
the only thing that counted in his world.

His earnest assurances on this point had their effect. She sat up and
smiled at him through her tears.

"Yes, I know, my Christopher," she said, and kissed him between the eyes.
"But the difficulty now is, what are we going to do?"

Columbus pondered for a few seconds, and then suggested a crab-hunt.

"Excellent idea!" said Juliet, and let him go.

But she herself sat on in the early sunshine with her chin upon her hand
for a long, long time.

The tide was coming in. The white-tipped waves broke in flashing foam
that spread almost to her feet. The sparkle of it danced in her dreaming
eyes, but it did not rouse her from her reverie.

Perhaps she was half asleep after the weary watching of the night, or
perhaps she was only too tired to notice, but when a voice suddenly spoke
behind her she started as if at an electric shock. She had almost begun
to feel that she and Columbus were indeed marooned on this wide shore.

"Are you waiting for the sea to carry you away?" the voice said. "Because
you won't have to wait much longer now."

She turned as she sat. She had heard no sound of approaching feet. The
swish of the waves had covered all beside. She looked up at him with a
feeling of utter helplessness. "You!" she said.

He turned behind her, slim, upright, intensely vital, in the morning
light. She had an impression that he was dressed in loose flannels, and
she saw a bath-towel hanging round his neck.

"You have been bathing," she said.

He laughed down at her, she saw the gleam of the white teeth in his dark
face. "I say, what a good guess! You look shocked. Is it wrong to bathe
on Sunday?"

And then quite naturally he stretched a hand to her and helped her
to her feet.

"I've been watching you for a long time," he said. "I was only a dot
in the ocean, so of course you didn't see me. I say,--tell me,--what's
the matter?"

The question was so sudden that it caught her unawares. She found herself
looking straight into the dark eyes and wondering at their steady
kindliness. She knew instinctively that she looked into the eyes of a
friend, and as a friend she spoke in answer.

"I have had rather a worrying night. I came out for a little fresh air.
It was such a perfect morning."

"And you hoped you would have the place to yourself and be able to cry
it off in comfort," he said. "I wouldn't have interfered for the world if
I hadn't been afraid that you were going to drown yourself into the
bargain. And I really couldn't bear that. There are limits, you know."

She laughed a little in spite of herself. "No, I have no intention of
drowning myself. I am not so desperate as that."

He smiled at her whimsically. "It happens sometimes unintentionally.
Let's climb up to the next shelf and sit down!"

Her hand was still in his. He kept it to help her up the tumbling stones
to a higher ridge of shingle.

"Will this do?" he asked her. "May I stay for a bit? I'll be very good."

"You always are good," said Juliet, as she sat down.

"No? Really? You don't mean that? Well, it's awfully kind of you if you
do, but it isn't true." He dropped down beside her and offered her his
cigarette-case. "I can be--I have been--a perfect devil sometimes."

"Yes. I know," she said, as she chose a cigarette.

"Oh, you know that, do you? How do you know?" He was watching her
closely, but as the faint colour mounted to her face, his eyes fell. "No,
don't tell me! It doesn't matter. Wait while I get you a match!"

He struck one and held it first for her and then for himself, his brown
hand absolutely steady. Then he turned with a certain resolution and
fixed his eyes upon the gleaming horizon.

"It was kind of you to come round to the sing-song last night," he said,
after a pause. "I hope it wasn't that that made you sleep badly."

"I enjoyed it," said Juliet, ignoring the last remark. "Your performance
was wonderful. I should think you are tired after it."

"That sort of thing doesn't tire me," he said. "There's no difficulty
about it when it goes with a swing and everybody is out to make it a
success. I shall get you to sing next time."

She shook her head. "I'm afraid not, Mr. Green."

"Why not?" He turned and looked at her again, his hand shading his eyes.

She hesitated.

"Do you mind telling me?" he said gently. "There is a reason of course?"

"Yes." Yet she smoked her cigarette in silence after the word as though
there were nothing more to be said.

He sat motionless, still with his hand over his eyes. At last "Juliet,"
he said, his voice very low, "am I being--a nuisance to you?"

She looked at him swiftly. He had uttered the name so spontaneously that
she wondered if he realized that he had made use of it.

He went on before she could find words to answer him. "I'm not a bounder.
At least I hope not. But--yesterday--last night--I hadn't got such a
firm hold on myself as usual. I began by being furiously angry--you
remember the episode at the gate--and that weakened my self-control.
Then--when I knew you were standing there listening--temptation came to
me, and I hadn't the strength to resist. You knew, didn't you? You

She nodded mutely.

"Will you forgive me?" he said.

She was silent. How could she tell him what that wild passion of music
had done to her?

He went on after a moment. "I hope you'll try anyway, because I never
meant to offend you. Only somehow I felt possessed. I had to reach
you--or die. But I didn't mean to hurt you. My dear, you do believe that,
don't you? My love is more than a selfish craving. I can do without you.
I will--since I must. But I shall go on loving you--all my life."

His voice was still very low, but it had steadied. He spoke with the
strong purpose of a man secure in his own self-mastery. He loved her, but
he made no demand upon her. He recognized that his love entitled him to
no claim. He even asked her forgiveness for having revealed it to her.

And suddenly the hot tears welled again in Juliet's eyes. She could not
speak in answer, but in a moment she stretched her hand to his.

He took it and held it close. "Don't cry!" he said gently. "I'm not
worth it. I've been a fool--no, not a fool to love you, but a three
times idiot to lose hold of myself like this. There! It's over. I'm not
going to bother you any more. And you're not going to let yourself be
bothered. What? You're not going to run away because of me, are you?
Promise me you won't!"

Her fingers closed upon his. It was almost involuntarily. "I don't think
I ought to stay," she whispered.

"I knew that was it!" He bent towards her. "Juliet! I say, please, dear,
please! If one of us must go, it must be I. But there is no need. Believe
me, there is no need. I've got myself in hand. I won't come near you--I
swear--if you don't wish it."

"But--suppose--suppose--" Her voice broke. She drew her hand free and
covered her face. "Oh, it's all so hopeless!" she sobbed. "I ought to
have managed--better."

"No, no!" In a flash his arm was round her, strong and ready; he drew
her to rest against his shoulder. "There's nothing to cry about
really--really! If you knew how I loathe myself for making you cry! But
listen! Nobody knows. Nobody's going to know. What happened last night is
between you and me alone. Only you had the key. It isn't going to make
any difference in your life. You'll go on as you were before. You'll
forget I ever dared to intrude on you. What, darling? What? Yes, you will
forget. Of course you'll forget. I'll see to it that you do.

"Oh, stop!" Juliet said, and suddenly her face was turned upwards on his
shoulder, her forehead was against his neck. "You're making the biggest
mistake of your life!"

"What?" he said, and fell abruptly silent and so tensely still that she
thought even his heart must have been arrested on the word.

For a long, long second she also was motionless, rigidly pressed to him,
then with an odd little fluttering sigh she began to withdraw herself
from the encircling arm. "I've dropped my cigarette," she said.

"Juliet!" He stooped over her; his face was close to hers. "Am I mad?
Or am I dreaming? Please make me understand! What is the mistake I
have made?"

She did not look at him, but he saw that her tears were gone and she was
faintly, tremulously smiling. "That cigarette--" she murmured. "It really
isn't safe to leave it. I don't like--playing with fire."

He bent lower. "We've got to risk something," he said, and with a
swiftness of decision that she had not expected he took her chin and
turned her face fully upwards to his own.

The colour rushed in vivid scarlet to her temples. She met his eyes for
one fleeting second then closed her own with a gasp and a blind effort to
escape that was instantly quelled. For he kissed her--he kissed
her--pressing his lips to hers closely and ever more closely, as a man
consumed with thirst draining the cup to the last precious drop.

When he let her go, she was burning, quivering, tingling from head to
foot as if an electric current were coursing through and through her. And
the citadel had fallen. She made no further attempt to keep him out.

But he did not kiss her a second time. He only held her against his
heart. "Ah, Juliet--Juliet!" he said, and she felt the deep quiver of his
words. "I've got you--now! You are mine."

She was panting, wordless, thankful to avail herself of the shelter he
offered. She leaned against him for many seconds in palpitating silence.

For so long indeed was she silent that in the end misgiving pierced him
and he felt for the downcast face. But in a moment she reached up and
took his hand in hers, restraining him.

"Not again!" she whispered. "Please not again!"

"All right. I won't," he said. "Not yet anyhow. But speak to me! Tell me
it's all right! You're not frightened?"

"I am--a little," she confessed.

"Not at me! Juliet!"

"No, not at you. At least," she laughed unsteadily. "I'm not quite
sure. You--you--I think you must let me go for a minute--to get back
my balance."

"Must I?" he said.

She lifted the hand she had taken and laid it against her cheek. "I've
got--a good deal to say to you, Dick," she said. "You've taken me so
completely by storm. Please be generous now! Please let me have--the
honours of war!"

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