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The Pool in the Desert by Sara Jeanette Duncan

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Membership, so we went back to Simla for three perfectly unnecessary
years, which we now look back upon with pleasure and regret. I fear
that we, no more than Ingersoll Armour, were quite whole-hearted
Bohemians; but I don't know that we really ever pretended to be.

3. The Hesitation of Miss Anderson.

Chapter 3.I.

When it became known that Madeline Anderson had finally decided to
go abroad for two years, her little circle in New York naturally
talked a good deal, in review, about her curious reason for never
having gone before. So much that happened afterward, so much that I
am going to tell, depends upon this reason for not going before,
that I also must talk about it and explain it; I could never bring
it out just as we went along. It would have been a curious reason
in connection with anybody, but doubly so as explaining the
behaviour of Miss Anderson, whose profile gave you the impression
that she was anything but the shuttlecock of her emotions. Shortly,
her reason was a convict, Number 1596, who, up to February in that
year, had been working, or rather waiting, out his sentence in the
State penitentiary. So long as he worked or waited, Madeline
remained in New York, but when in February death gave him his
quittance, she took her freedom too, with wide intentions and many

Earlier in his career Number 1596 had been known in New York society
as Mr. Frederick Prendergast, and for a little while he was
disapproved there on the score of having engaged himself to a Miss
Anderson, Madeline Anderson, whom nobody knew anything about. There
was her own little circle, as I have said, and it lacked neither
dignity nor refinement, but I doubt whether any member of it was
valeted from London, or could imply, in conversation, a personal
acquaintance with Yvette Guilbert. There is no need, however, to
insist that there are many persons of comfortable income and much
cultivation in New York, who would not be met by strangers having
what are called the 'best' introductions there. The best so often
fails to include the better. It may be accepted that Madeline
Anderson and her people were of these, and that she wondered
sometimes during the brief days of her engagement what it would be
like to belong to the brilliant little world about her that had its
visiting list in London, Paris, or St. Petersburg, and was immensely
entertained by the gaucheries of the great ones of the earth.

Then came, with the most unexceptionable introductions, Miss Violet
Forde, from a Sloane Square address, London. She came leaning on
the arm of a brother, the only relative she had in the world, and so
brilliant was the form of these young people that it occurred to
nobody to imagine that it had the most precarious pecuniary
foundation, must have faded and shrivelled indeed, after another
year or two of anything but hospitality as generous as that of New
York. Well-nourished and undimmed, however, it concealed for them
admirably the fact that it was the hospitality they were after, and
not the bracing climate or the desire to see the fascinating
Americans of London and Paris at home. New York found them
agreeable specimens of high-spirited young English people, and
played with them indefinitely. Miss Forde, when she sat
imperturbably on a cushion in the middle of the floor after dinner
and sang to a guitar the songs of Albert Chevalier, was an anomaly
in English decorum that was as pleasing to observe as it was amusing
to criticize.

The Americans she met delighted in drawing her out--it was a pastime
that took the lead at dinner-parties, to an extent which her hostess
often thought preposterous--and she responded with naivete and
vigour, perfectly aware that she was scoring all along the line.
Upon many charming people she made the impression that she was a
type of the most finished class of what they called 'English society
girls,' that she represented the best they could do over there in
this direction. As a matter of fact she might have sat to any of
those 'black and white' artists, who draw townish young women of
London, saying cynical things to young men in the weekly papers.
That was her type, and if you look for her picture there, you will
see that her face was very accurately oval, with eyes that knew
their value, and other features that didn't very much matter, except
in so far as they expressed a very full conception of the
satisfactions of this life, and a wide philosophy as to methods of
obtaining them.

Frederick Prendergast was unacquainted with the popular pictures I
have mentioned, having a very reasonable preference for the
illustrated papers of his own country; otherwise--there is no
telling--he might have observed the resemblance and escaped the
State prison, whither he assuredly never would have gone had he
married Madeline Anderson--as he fully intended to do when Miss
Forde came over. He was worth at that time a great deal of money,
besides being more personable than any one would have believed who
knew him as '1596.' His fiancee was never too obtrusively in
evidence, and if Miss Forde thought of Miss Anderson with any
scruple, it was probably to reflect that if she could not take care
of these things she did not deserve to have them. This at all
events was how her attitude expressed itself practically; and the
upshot was that Miss Anderson lost them. There came a day when
Frederick Prendergast, in much discomfort of mind, took to Violet
the news that Madeline had brought their engagement to an end. She,
Violet, gave him some tea, and they talked frankly of the absurd
misconception of the relations between them upon which his dismissal
was founded; and Prendergast went away much comforted and wholly
disposed to respect Miss Anderson's startling wishes. She, with
what both the others thought excellent taste, persuaded her mother
and sister to move to Brooklyn; and so far as the thoroughfares and
social theatres of New York were concerned, the city over the river
might have been a nunnery which had closed its gates upon her. It
was only in imagination that she heard Frederick Prendergast's
wedding-bells when, two months later, he was united to Miss Forde in
Grace Church, and that after the fact, their melody being brought to
her inner sense next day by the marriage notice in the 'Tribune'.

It would be painful, in view of what we know of Frederick
Prendergast, to dwell upon what Madeline Anderson undeniably felt.
Besides her emotions were not destructively acute, they only lasted
longer than any one could have either expected or approved. She
suffered for him as well; she saw as plainly as he did the first
sordid consequences of his mistake the afternoon he came to solicit
her friendship, having lost other claims; and it was then perhaps,
that her responsibility in allowing Violet Forde to spoil his life
for him began to suggest itself to her. Up to that time she had
thought of the matter differently, as she would have said,
selfishly. He was not permitted to come again; but he went away
lightened, inasmuch as he had added his burden to hers.

When a year later the national credit involved that of Prendergast's
firm, Madeline read financial articles in the newspapers with heavy
concern, surprising her family with views on 'sound money'; and
when, shortly afterward, his partners brought that unhappy young man
before the criminal courts for an irregular use of the firm's
signature, which further involved it beyond hope of extrication,
there was no moment of the day which did not find her, in spirit,
beside him there.

The case dragged on through appeal, and the decision of the lower
courts was not reversed. The day this became known the fact also
transpired that poor Prendergast would never live to complete his
ten years' term of imprisonment. He went to prison with hardly more
than one lung, and in the most favourable physical condition to get
rid of the other. Mrs. Prendergast wept a little over the
installation, and assured Frederick that it was perfectly absurd;
they were certain to get him out again; people always got people out
again in America. She took him grapes and flowers once a week for
about a month, and then she sailed for Europe. She put it about
that her stay was to be as brief as was consistent with the
transaction of certain necessary business in London; but she never
came back, and Madeline Anderson had taken her place, in so far as
the grapes and flowers were concerned, for many months, when the
announcement of his wife's death reached Prendergast in an English
paper published in Paris. About a year after that it began to be
thought singular how he picked up in health, and Madeline's mother
and sister occasionally romanced about the possibility of his
recovering and marrying her after all--they had an enormous opinion
of the artistic virtue of forgiveness--but it was not a contingency
ever seriously contemplated by Miss Anderson herself. Her
affection, pricked on by remorse, had long satisfied itself with the
duties of her ministry. If she would not leave him until he died,
it was because there was no one but herself to brighten the long day
in the prison hospital for him, because she had thrown him into the
arms of the woman who had deserted him, because he represented in
her fancy her life's only budding towards the sun. Her patience
lasted through six years, which was four years longer than any
doctor had given Frederick Prendergast to live; but when one last
morning she found an empty bed, and learned that Number 1596 had
been discharged in his coffin, she rose from the shock with the
sense of a task fully performed and a well-developed desire to see
what else there might be in the world.

She announced her intention of travelling for a year or two with a
maid, and her family expressed the usual acquiescence. It would
help her, they said, to 'shake it off'; but they said that to one
another. They were not aware--and it would have spoiled an ideal
for them if they had been--that she had shaken it off, quite
completely, into Prendergast's grave.

This was the curious reason why Miss Anderson's travels were so long

Chapter 3.II.

It was Madeline's fancy to enjoy the contrast between West and East
in all its sharpness, so she and Brookes embarked at San Francisco
for Yokohama. Their wanderings in Japan were ideal, in spite of
Brookes's ungrateful statement that she could have done with fewer
eggs and more bacon; and Madeline prolonged the appeal of the
country to her sense of humour and fantasy, putting off her
departure for India from week to week. She went at last in March;
and found herself down with fever at Benares in the middle of one
particularly hot April, two months after the last of her fellow
travellers had sailed from Bombay, haunted on her baking pillow by
pictorial views of the burning ghat and the vultures. The station
doctor, using appalling language to her punkah-coolie, ordered her
to the hills; and thus it was that she went to Simla, where she had
no intention of going, and where this story really begins.

Brookes has always declared that Providence in sending Miss Anderson
to Simla had it in mind to prevent a tragedy; but as to that there
is room for a difference of opinion: besides I can not be
anticipated by Brookes.

'It's the oddest place imaginable, and in many ways the most
delightful,' Madeline wrote to her sister Adele, 'this microcosm of
Indian official society withdrawn from all the world, and playing at
being a municipality on three Himalayan mountaintops. You can't
imagine its individuality, its airy, unsubstantial, superior poise.
How can I explain to you elderly gentlemen, whose faces express
daily electric communications with the Secretary of State, playing
tennis violently every single afternoon in striped flannels--writing
letters of admonition to the Amir all day long, and in the evening,
with the assistance of yellow wigs and make-up sticks from the
Calcutta hair-dresser, imagining that they produce things, poor
dears, only a LITTLE less well done than is done at the Lyceum?
Nothing is beyond them. I assure you they are contemplating at the
moment 'The Second Mrs. Tanqueray'. The effect of remoteness from
the world, I suppose, and the enormous mutual appreciation of people
who have watched each other climb. For to arrive officially at
Simla they have had to climb in more ways than one. . .It is all so
hilarious, so high-spirited, so young and yet, my word! what a cult
of official dignity underlying! I saw a staff-officer in full
uniform, red and white feathers and all, going to the birthday
dinner at the Viceroy's the other evening in a perambulator--
rickshaw, you know, such as they have in Japan. That is typical of
the place. All the honours and dignities--and a perambulator to put
them in--or a ridiculous little white-washed house made of mud and
tin, and calling itself Warwick Castle, Blenheim, Abbotsford! They
haven't a very good hold, these Simla residences, and sometimes they
slip fifty yards or so down the mountain-side, but the chimneys (bad
pun coming) are never any more out of drawing than they were before.

'Yet--never forget--the queer little place has a nobility, drawn I
suppose from high standards of conduct in essentials.

'. . .This matter of precedence is a bore for an outsider. I am
very tired of being taken in to dinner by subalterns, because I have
no "official position." Something of the kind was offered me, by
the way, the other day, by a little gunner with red eyelids, in the
Ordnance Department, named McDermott--Captain McDermott. He took my
declining very cheerfully, said he knew Americans didn't like
Englishmen, who hadn't been taught to pronounce their "g's," but
hoped I would change my mind before the rains, when he was goin'
down. Of course I sha'n't. The red eyelids alone. . .I am living
in a boarding-house precisely under the deodars, and have "tiffin"
with Mrs. Hauksbee every day when neither of us are having it
anywhere else. And I've been told the original of "General Bangs,"
"that most immoral man." You remember, don't you, the heliograph
incident--I needn't quote it. It really happened! and the General
still lives, none the worse--perhaps rather greater. Quite half the
people seem materializations of Kipling, and it's very interesting;
but one mustn't say so if one wants to be popular. Talking of
materializations, I saw the original of Crawford's Mr. Isaacs, too,
the other day. He used to be a diamond agent among the native
princes when Crawford knew him. When I saw him he was auctioning
off his collection of curios and things. These types of novelists
look wonderfully little impaired; I suppose it's the dry air.

'P.S.--Brookes is also quite happy. She was much struck, on
arriving, by an apparent anomaly in nature. "Have you noticed,
ma'am," said she, "how at this height all the birds are crows and

Miss Anderson described Simla exhaustively in her letters to New
York. She touched upon almost every feature, from Mrs. Mickie and
Mrs. Gammidge, whose husbands were perspiring in the Plains, and
nobody telling them anything, to the much larger number of ladies
interested in the work of the Young Women's Christian Association;
from the 'type' of the Military Secretary to the Viceroy to that of
Ali Buksh, who sold raw turquoises in a little carved shop in the
bazaar. I should like to quote more of her letters, but if I did I
should find nothing about Colonel Horace Innes, who represented--she
often acknowledged to herself--her only serious interest. Miss
Anderson took the world at its own light valuation as it came; but
she had a scale of recognitions and acceptances, which she kept
apart for the very few, and Innes had claimed a place in it the
first time they met. It seems a trifle ungrateful that she should
have left him out, since it was he who gave her a standard by which
to measure the frivolity of Simla. He went to gymkhanas--if he knew
she was going--but he towered almost pictorially above them; and
when he talked to Madeline his shoulders expressed a resentment of
possible interruptions that isolated him still further. I would not
suggest that he was superior by conviction; he was only intent,
whereas most of the other people were extremely diffused, and
discriminating, while the intimacies of the rest were practically
coextensive with Government House list. Neither, for his part,
would he admit that the tone of Simla was as wholly flippant as I
have implied. They often talked about it; he recognized it as a
feature likely to compel the attention of people from other parts of
the world; and one afternoon he asked her, with some directness, if
she could see no tragedies underneath.

'Tragedies of the heart?' she asked. 'Oh, I can not take them
seriously. The emotion is so ephemeral! A woman came to tea with
me three days ago, and made me her confessor. It was unexpected; if
it hadn't been, I wouldn't have asked her to tea. She was so
unhappy that she forgot about the rouge, and it all came off on her
handkerchief when she cried. The man likes somebody else better
this season. Well, I gave her nougat and cheap cynicisms, and she
allowed herself to be comforted! Why, the loves of kitchen-maids
are more dignified.'

They were riding on the broad four-mile road, blasted out of the
rock, that winds round Jakko. The deodars stood thick above them,
with the sunlight filtering through; a thousand feet below lay the
little square fields, yellow and green, of the King of Koti. The
purple-brown Himalayas shouldered the eye out to the horizon, and
there the Snows lifted themselves, hardly more palpable than the
drifted clouds, except for a gleam of ice in their whiteness. A low
stone wall ran along the verge of the precipice, and, looking down,
they saw tangled patches of the white wild rose of the Himalayas,
waving and drooping over the abyss.

'I am afraid,' said Innes, 'you are not even upon the fringe of the

'It's the situation as I see it.'

'Then--excuse me--you do not see deep enough. That poor lady
suffered, I suppose, to the extent of her capacity. You would not
have have increased it.'

'I don't know, I should have preferred not to measure it.'

'Besides, that was not quite the sort of thing I had in mind. I was
thinking more of the--separations.'

'Ah!' said Madeline.

'It's not fair to ask women to live much in India. Sometimes it's
the children, sometimes it's ill health, sometimes it's natural
antipathy to the place; there's always a reason to take them away.'

'Yes,' said Madeline, turning a glance of scrutiny on him. His face
was impassive; he was watching mechanically for a chance to slay a
teasing green spider-fly.

'That is the beginning of the tragedy I was thinking of. Time does
the rest, time and the aridity of separations. How many men and
women can hold themselves together with letters? I don't mean aging
or any physical change. I don't mean change at all.'

'No,' said Madeline, and this time, though her curiosity was
greater, she did not look at him.

'No. The mind could accustom itself to expect that, and so
forestall the blow, if it really would be a blow, which I doubt.
For myself, I'm pretty sure that nothing of that kind could have
much effect upon one's feeling, if it were the real thing.' He
spoke practically to himself, as if he had reasoned this out many

'Oh, no!' said Madeline.

'But separation can do a worse thing than that. It can REINTRODUCE
people, having deprived them of their mutual illusion under which
they married. If they lived together the illusion would go, I
suppose, but custom and comfort would step in to prevent a jar.
There never would be that awful revelation of indifference.'

He stopped sharply, and the hope went through Madeline's mind that
her face expressed no personal concern for him. There was a small
red stain in the brown of his cheek as he looked at her to find out,
and he added, 'I've known--in Bombay--one or two bad cases of that.
But, of course, it is the wife who suffers most. Shall we canter

'In a minute,' said Madeline, and he drew his rein again.

She could not let this be the last word; he must not imagine that
she had seen, through the simple crystal of his convictions, the
personal situation that gave them to him.

'Of course,' she said, thoughtfully, 'you know the Anglo-Indian
world and I don't. You must have observed this that you speak of
it; it sounds only too probable. And I confess it makes my little
impression very vulgar and superficial.' She turned her head and a
candid smile to him. 'All the same, I fancy that the people who are
capable of suffering much that way are the exceptions. And--I don't
care--I believe there is more cheap sentiment in this place than the
other kind. What do you think I heard a woman say the other day at
a tiffin-party? "No man has touched my heart since I've been
married," she proclaimed, "except my husband!" AT A TIFFIN-party!'

She heard the relief in Innes's laugh and was satisfied.

'How does it happen,' he said, 'that women nowadays are critical of
the world so young?'

'I shall be thirty in September, and we no longer look at society
through a tambour-frame,' she said, hardily.

'And I shall be forty-three next month, but hitherto I have known it
to produce nothing like you,' he returned, and if there was
ambiguity in his phrase there was none in his face.

Miss Anderson made with her head her little smiling gesture--Simla
called it very American--which expressed that all chivalrous speech
was to be taken for granted and meant nothing whatever; and as they
turned into the Ladies' Mile gave her horse his head, and herself a
chance for meditation. She thought of the matter again that evening
before her little fire of snapping deodar twigs, thought of it
intently. She remembered it all with perfect distinctness; she
might have been listening to a telephonic reproduction.

It was the almost intimate glimpse Innes had given her of himself,
and it brought her an excitement which she did not think of
analyzing. She wrung from every sentence its last possibility of
unconscious meaning, and she found when she had finished that it was
eleven o'clock.

Then she went to bed, preferring not to call Brookes, with the
somewhat foolish feeling of being unable to account for her evening.
Her last reflection before she slept shaped itself in her mind in
definite words.

'There are no children,' it ran, 'and her health has always been
good, he says. She must have left him after that first six months
in Lucknow, because of a natural antipathy to the country--and when
she condescended to come out again for a winter he met the different
lady he thinks about. With little hard lines around the mouth and
common conventional habits of thought, full of subservience to his
official superiors, and perfectly uninterested in him except as the
source of supplies. But I don't know why I should WANT her to be so

As a matter of fact, Mrs. Innes, travelling at the moment with the
mails from London to Bombay, was hastening to present to Miss
Anderson features astonishingly different.

Chapter 3.III.

The lady guests at Peliti's--Mrs. Jack Owen and the rest--were
giving a tea in the hotel pavilion. They had the band, the wife of
the Commander-in-Chief, the governess from Viceregal Lodge and one
little Viceregal girl, three A.D.C.'s, one member of council, and
the Archdeacon. These were the main features, moving among a
hundred or so of people more miscellaneous, who, like the ladies at
Peliti's, had come up out of the seething Plains to the Paradise of
the summer capital. The Pavilion overhung the Mall; looking down
one could see the coming and going of leisurely Government peons in
scarlet and gold, Cashmiri vendors of great bales of embroideries
and skins, big-turbaned Pahari horse-dealers, chaffering in groups,
and here and there a mounted Secretary-sahib trotting to the Club.
Beyond, the hills dipped blue and bluer to the plains, and against
them hung a single waving yellow laburnum, a note of imagination.
Madeline Anderson was looking at it when Mrs. Mickie and Mrs.
Gammidge came up with an affectionate observation upon the cut of
her skirt, after which Mrs. Mickie harked back to what they had been
talking about before.

'She's straight enough now, I suppose,' this lady said.

'She goes down. But she gives people a good deal of latitude for

'Who is this?' asked Madeline. 'I ask for information, to keep out
of her way. I find I am developing the most shocking curiosity. I
must be in a position to check it.'

The ladies exchanged hardly perceptible glances. Then Mrs. Gammidge
said, 'Mrs. Innes,' and looked as if, for the moment, at any rate,
she would withhold further judgment.

'But you mustn't avoid the poor lady,' put in Mrs. Mickie, 'simply
because of her past. It wouldn't be fair. Besides--'

'Her past?' Madeline made one little effort to look indifferent, and
then let the question leap up in her.

'My dear,' said Mrs. Gammidge, with brief impatience, 'he married
her in Cairo, and she was--dancing there. Case of chivalry, I
believe, though there are different versions. Awful row in the
regiment--he had to take a year's leave. Then he succeeded to the
command, and the Twenty-third were ordered out here. She came with
him to Lucknow--and made slaves of every one of them. They'll swear
to you now that she was staying at Shepheard's with an invalid
mother when he met her. And now she's accepted like everybody else;
and that's all there is about it.'

'There's nothing in that,' said Madeline, determinedly, 'to prove
that she wasn't--respectable.'

'N--no. Of course not,' and again the eye of Mrs. Gammidge met that
of Mrs. Mickie.

'Though, you see love,' added the latter lady, 'it would have been
nicer for his people--they've never spoken to him since--if she had
been making her living otherwise in Cairo.'

'As a barmaid, for instance,' said Madeline, sarcastically.

'As a barmaid, for instance,' repeated Mrs. Gammidge, calmly.

'But Simla isn't related to him--Simla doesn't care!' Mrs. Mickie
exclaimed. 'Everybody will be as polite as possible when she turns
up. You'll see. You knew, didn't you, that she was coming out in
the Caledonia?'

'No,' said Madeline. She looked carefully where she was going to
put her coffee-cup, and then she glanced out again at the laburnum
hanging over the plains. 'I--I am glad to hear it. These
separations you take so lightly out here are miserable, tragic.'

The other ladies did not exchange glances this time. Miss
Anderson's change of tone was too marked for comment which she might
have detected.

'Colonel Innes got the telegram this morning. She wired from
Brindisi,' Mrs. Gammidge said.

'Does he seem pleased?' asked Mrs. Mickie, demurely.

'He said he was afraid she would find it very hot coming up here
from Bombay. And, of course, he is worried about a house. When a
man has been living for months at the Club--'

'Of course, poor fellow! I do love that dear old Colonel Innes,
though I can't say I know him a bit. He won't take the trouble to
be nice to me, but I am perfectly certain he must be the dearest old
thing inside of him. Worth any dozen of these little bow-wows that
run round after rickshaws,' said Mrs. Mickie, with candour.

'I think he's a ridiculous old glacier,' Mrs. Gammidge remarked, and
Mrs. Mickie looked at Madeline and said, 'Slap her!'

'What for?' asked Miss Anderson, with composure. 'I dare say he is-
-occasionally. It isn't a bad thing to be, I should think, in
Indian temperatures.'

'I guess you got it that time, dear lady,' said Mrs. Mickie to Mrs.
Gammidge, as Madeline slipped toward the door.

'Meant to be cross, did she? How silly of her! If she gives her
little heart away like that often, people will begin to make

'The worst of that girl is,' Mrs. Mickie continued, 'that you never
can depend upon her. For days together she'll be just as giddy and
jolly as anybody and then suddenly she'll give you a nasty superior
bit of ice down the back of your neck like that. I've got her
coming to tea tomorrow afternoon,' Mrs. Mickie added, with sudden
gloom, 'and little Lord Billy and all that set are coming. They'll
throw buns at each other--I know they will. What, in heaven's name,
made me ask her?'

'Oh, she'll have recovered by then. You must make allowance for the
shock we gave her, poor dear. Consider how you would feel if Lady
Worsley suddenly appeared upon the scene, and demanded devotion from
Sir Frank.'

'She wouldn't get it,' Mrs. Mickie dimpled candidly. 'Frank always
loses his heart and his conscience at the same time. But you don't
suppose there's anything serious in this affair? Pure pretty
platonics, I should call it.'

Mrs. Gammidge lifted her eyebrows. 'I dare say that is what they
imagine it. Well, they're never in the same room for two minutes
without being aware of it, and their absorption when they get in a
corner--I saw her keep the Viceroy waiting, the other night after
dinner, while Colonel Innes finished a sentence. And then she was
annoyed at the interruption. Here's Kitty Vesey, lookin' SUCH a
dog! Hello, Kitty! where did you get that hat, where did you get
that tile? But that wasn't the colour of your hair last week,

'Don't feel any kind of a dog'--Mrs. Vesey's pout, though becoming,
was genuine. 'I'm in a perfectly furious rage, my dears, and I'm
coming home to cry, just as soon as I've had an ice. What do you
think--they won't let me have Val for Captain Wynne's part in 'The
Outcast Pearl'--they say he's been tried before, and he's a stick.
Did you ever hear of such brutes? They want me to act with Major
Dalton, and he's MUCH too old for the part.'

'Kitten,' said Mrs. Mickie, with conviction, 'Valentine Drake on the
stage would be fatal to your affection for him.'

'I don't care, I won't act with anybody else--I'll throw up the
part. Haven't I got to make love to the man? How am I to play up
to such an unkissable-looking animal as Major Dalton? I shall
CERTAINLY throw up the part.'

'Don't do anything rash, Kitty. If you do, they'll probably offer
it to me, and I warn you I won't give it back to you.'

'Oh, refuse it, like a dear! I am dying to put them in a hole.
It's jealousy, that's what it is. Goodbye, Mrs. Jack, I've had a
lovely time. Val and I have been explaining our affection to the
Archdeacon, and he says it's perfectly innocent. We're going to get
him to put it on paper to produce when Jimmy sues for a divorce,
aren't we, Val?'

'You're not going?' said Mrs. Jack Owen.

'Oh, yes, I must. But I've enjoyed myself awfully, and so has
everybody I've been talking to. I say, Mickie, dear--about tomorrow
afternoon--I suppose I may bring Val?'

'Oh, dear, yes,' Mrs. Mickie replied. 'But you must let me hold his

'I don't know which of you is the most ridiculous,' Mrs. Owen
remarked; 'I shall write to both your husbands this very night,' but
as the group shifted and left her alone with Mrs. Gammidge, she said
she didn't know whether Mrs. Vesey would be quite so chirpy three
weeks hence. 'When Mrs. Innes comes out,' she added in explanation.
'Oh, yes, Valentine Drake is quite her property. My own idea is
that Kitty won't be in it.'

Where the road past Peliti's dips to the Mall Madeline met Horace
Innes. When she appeared in her rickshaw he dismounted, and gave
the reins to his syce. She saw in his eyes the look of a person who
has been all day lapsing into meditation and rousing himself from
it. 'You are very late,' she said as he came up.

'Oh, I'm not going; at least, you are just coming away, aren't you?
I think it is too late. I'll turn back with you.'

'Do,' she said, and looked at his capable, sensitive hand as he laid
it on the side of her little carriage. Miss Anderson had not the
accomplishment of palm-reading, but she took general manual
impressions. She had observed Colonel Innes's hand before, but it
had never offered itself so intimately to her inspection. That,
perhaps, was why the conviction seemed new to her, as she thought
'He is admirable--and it is all there.'

When they got to the level Mall he kept his hold, which was a
perfectly natural and proper thing for him to do, walking alongside;
but she still looked at it.

'I have heard your good news,' she said, smiling congratulation at

'My good news? Oh, about my wife, of course. Yes, she ought to be
here by the end of the month. I thought of writing to tell you when
the telegram came, and then I--didn't. The files drove it out of my
head, I fancy.'

'Heavy day?'

'Yes,' he said, absently. They went along together in an intimacy
of silence, and Madeline was quite aware of the effort with which
she said:

'I shall look forward to meeting Mrs. Innes.'

It was plain that his smile was perfunctory, but he put it on with
creditable alacrity.

'She will be delighted. My wife is a clever woman,' he went on,
'very bright and attractive. She keeps people well amused.'

'She must be a great success in India, then.'

'I think she is liked. She has a tremendous fund of humour and
spirits. A fellow feels terribly dull beside her sometimes.'

Madeline cast a quick glance at him, but he was only occupied to
find other matters with which he might commend his wife.

'She is very fond of animals,' he said, 'and she sings and plays
well--really extremely well.'

'That must be charming,' murmured Madeline, privately iterating, 'He
doesn't mean to damn her--he doesn't mean to damn her.' 'Have you a
photograph of her?'

'Quantities of them,' he said, with simplicity.

'You have never shown me one. But how could you?' she added in
haste; 'a photograph is always about the size of a door nowadays.
It is simply impossible to keep one's friends and relations in a
pocketbook as one used to do.'

They might have stopped there, but some demon of persistence drove
Madeline on. She besought help from her imagination; she was not
for the moment honest. It was an impulse--an equivocal impulse--
born doubtless of the equivocal situation, and it ended badly.

'She will bring something of the spring out to you,' said Madeline--
'the spring in England. How many years is it since you have seen
it? There will be a breath of the cowslips about her, and in her
eyes the soft wet of the English sky. Oh, you will be very glad to
see her.' The girl was well aware of her insincerity, but only
dimly of her cruelty. She was drawn on by something stronger than
her sense of honesty and humanity, a determination to see, to know,
that swept these things away.

Innes's hand tightened on the rickshaw, and he made at first no
answer. Then he said:

'She has been staying in town, you know.'

There was just a quiver of Madeline's eyelid; it said nothing of the
natural rapacity behind. This man's testimony was coming out in
throes, and yet--it must be said--again she probed.

'Then she will put you in touch again,' she cried; 'you will
remember when you see her all the vigour of great issues and the
fascination of great personalities. For a little while, anyway,
after she comes, you will be in a world--far away from here--where
people talk and think and live.'

He looked at her in wonder, not understanding, as indeed how could

'Why,' he said, 'you speak of what YOU have done'; and before the
truth of this she cast down her eyes and turned a hot, deep red, and
had nothing to say.

'No,' he said, 'my wife is not like that.'

He walked along in absorption, from which he roused himself with
resentment in his voice.

'I can not leave such a fabric of illusion in your mind. It
irritates me that it should be there--about anybody belonging to me.
My wife is not in the least what you imagine her. She has her
virtues, but she is--like the rest. I can not hope that you will
take to her, and she won't like you either--we never care about the
same people. And we shall see nothing of you--nothing. I can
hardly believe that I am saying this of my own wife, but--I wish
that she had stayed in England.'

'Mrs. Mickie!' cried Madeline to a passing rickshaw, 'what are you
rushing on like that for? Just go quietly and peaceably along with
us, please, and tell us what Mrs. Vesey decided to do about her part
in 'The Outcast Pearl'. I'm dining out tonight--I must know.' And
Mrs. Mickie was kind enough to accompany them all the rest of the

Miss Anderson dined out, and preferred to suppose that she had no
time to think until she was on her way home along the empty road
round Jakko at eleven o'clock that night. Then it pleased her to
get out of her rickshaw and walk. There was an opulent moon, the
vast hills curving down to the plains were all grey and silvery, and
the deodars overhead fretted the road with dramatic shadows. About
her hung the great stillness in a mighty loneliness in which little
Simla is set, and it freed her from what had happened, so that she
could look at it and cry out. She actually did speak, pausing in
the little pavilion on the road where the nursemaids gather in the
daytime, but very low, so that her words fell round her even in that
silence, and hardly a deodar was aware. 'I will not go now,' she
said. 'I will stay and realize that he is another woman's husband.
That should cure me if anything will--to see him surrounded by the
commonplaces of married life, that kind of married life. I will
stay till she comes and a fortnight after. Besides, I want to see
her--I want to see how far she comes short.' She was silent for a
moment, and the moonlight played upon her smile of quiet triumph.
'He cares too,' she said; 'he cares too, but he doesn't know it, and
I promise you one thing, Madeline Anderson, you won't help him to
find out. And in five weeks I will go away and leave my love where
I found it--on a mountaintop in the middle of Asia!'

Chapter 3.IV.

Madeline did her best to make certain changes delicately,
imperceptibly, so that Innes would not, above all things, be
perplexed into seeking for their reason. The walks and rides came
to a vague conclusion, and Miss Anderson no longer kept the Viceroy
or anybody else waiting, while Innes finished what he had to say to
her in public, since his opportunities for talking to her seemed to
become gradually more and more like everybody else's. So long as
she had been mistress of herself she was indifferent to the very
tolerant and good-natured gossip of the hill capital; but as soon as
she found her citadel undermined, the lightest kind of comment
became a contingency unbearable. In arranging to make it
impossible, she was really over-considerate and over-careful. Her
soldier never thought of analyzing his bad luck or searching for
motive in it. To him the combinations of circumstances that seemed
always to deprive him of former pleasures were simply among the
things that might happen. Grieving, she left him under that
impression for the sake of its expediency, and tried to make it by
being more than ever agreeable on the occasions when he came and
demanded a cup of tea, and would not be denied. After all, she
consoled herself, no situation was improved by being turned too
suddenly upside down.

She did not wholly withdraw his privilege of taking counsel with
her, and he continued to go away freshened and calmed, leaving her
to toss little sad reflections into the fire, and tremulously wonder
whether the jewel of her love had flashed ever so little behind the
eyes. They both saw it a conspicuous thing that as those three
weeks went on, neither he nor she alluded even remotely to Mrs.
Innes, but the fact remained, and they allowed it to remain.

Nevertheless, Madeline knew precisely when that lady was expected,
and as she sauntered in the bazaar one morning, and heard Innes's
steps and voice behind her, her mind became one acute surmise as to
whether he could possibly postpone the announcement any longer. But
he immediately made it plain that this was his business in stopping
to speak to her. 'Good morning,' he said, and then, 'My wife comes
tomorrow.' He had not told her a bit of personal news, he had made
her an official communication, as briefly as it could be done, and
he would have raised his hat and gone on without more words if
Madeline had not thwarted him. 'What a stupidity for him to be
haunted by afterward!' was the essence of the thought that visited
her; and she put out a detaining hand.

'Really! By the Bombay mail, I suppose--no, an hour or so later;
private tongas are always as much as that behind the mail.'

'About eleven, I fancy. You--you are not inclined for a canter
round Summer Hill before breakfast?'

'I am terrified of Summer Hill. The Turk always misbehaves there.
Yesterday he got one leg well over the khud--I WAS thankful he had
four. Tell me, are you ready for Mrs. Innes--everything in the
house? Is there anything I can do?

'Oh, thanks very much! I don't think so. The house isn't ready, as
a matter of fact, but two or three people have offered to put us up
for a day or so until it is. I've left it open till my wife comes,
as I dare say she has already arranged to go to somebody. What are
you buying? Country tobacco, upon my word! For your men? That's
subversive of all discipline!'

The lines on his face relaxed; he looked at her with fond
recognition of another delightful thing in her.

'You give sugar-cane to your horses,' she declared; 'why shouldn't I
give tobacco to mine? Goodbye; I hope Mrs. Innes will like "Two
Gables". There are roses waiting for her in the garden, at all

'Are there?' he said. 'I didn't notice. Goodbye, then.'

He went on to his office thinking of the roses, and that they were
in his garden, and that Madeline had seen them there. He thought
that if they were good roses--in fact, any kind of roses--they
should be taken care of, and he asked a Deputy Assistant Inspector-
General of Ordnance whether he knew of a gardener that was worth

'Most of them are mere coolies,' said Colonel Innes, 'and I've got
some roses in this little place I've taken that I want to look

Next day Madeline took Brookes, and 'The Amazing Marriage', and a
lunch-basket, and went out to Mashobra, where the deodars shadow
hardly any scandal at all, and the Snows come, with perceptible
confidence, a little nearer.

'They almost step,' she said to Brookes, looking at them, 'out of
the realm of the imagination.'

Brookes said that they did indeed, and hoped that she hadn't by any
chance forgotten the mustard.

'The wind is keen off the glaciers over there--anybody would think
of a condiment,' Miss Anderson remarked in deprecation, and to this
Brookes made no response. It was a liberty she often felt compelled
to take.

The Snows appealed to Madeline even more than did Carintha, Countess
of Fleetwood, to whose fortunes she gave long pauses while she
looked across their summits at renunciation, and fancied her spirit
made strong and equal to its task. She was glad of their sanctuary;
she did not know where she should find such another. Perhaps the
spectacle was more than ever sublime in its alternative to the one
she had come away to postpone the sight of; at all events it drove
the reunion of the Inneses from her mind several times for five
minutes together, during which she thought of Horace by himself, and
went over, by way of preparation for her departure, all that had
come and gone between them. There had been luminous moments,
especially as they irradiated him, and she dwelt on these. There
was no reason why she should not preserve in London or in New York a
careful memory of them.

So the lights were twinkling all up and down and round about Simla
when she cantered back to it and it was late when she started for
the Worsleys, where she was dining. One little lighted house looked
much like another perched on the mountainside, and the wooden board
painted 'Branksome Hall, Maj.-Gen. T.P. Worsley, R.E.,' nailed to
the most conspicuous tree from the main road, was invisible in the
darkness. Madeline arrived in consequence at the wrong dinner-
party, and was acclaimed and redirected with much gaiety, which gave
her a further agreeable impression of the insouciance of Simla, but
made her later still at the Worsleys. So that half the people were
already seated when she at last appeared, and her hostess had just
time to cry, 'My dear, we thought the langurs must have eaten you!
Captain Gordon, you are not abandoned after all. You know Miss
Anderson?' when she found herself before her soup.

Captain Gordon heard her account of herself with complacence, and
declared, wiping his moustache, that a similar experience had
befallen him only a fortnight before.

'Did you ever hear the story of that absent-minded chap, Sir James
Jackson, who went to the RIGHT dinner-party by mistake?' he asked,
'and apologized like mad, by Jove! and insisted he couldn't stay.
The people nearly had to tie him down in his--' Captain Gordon
stopped, arrested by his companion's sudden and complete

'I see a lady,' interrupted Madeline, with odd distinctness,
'curiously like somebody I have known before.' Her eyes convinced
themselves, and then refused to be convinced of the inconceivable
fact that they were resting on Violet Prendergast. It was at first
too amazing, too amazing only. Then an old forgotten feeling rose
in her bosom; the hand on the stem of her wine-glass grew tense.
The sensation fell away; she remembered her emancipation, the years
arose and reassured her during which Violet Prendergast, living or
dead, had been to her of absolutely no importance. Yet there was a
little aroused tremour in her voice as she went on, 'She is on the
General's right--he must have taken her in. Can you see from where
you are sitting?'

'These narrow oval tables are a nuisance that way, aren't they? You
don't know who you're dining with till the end of the function. Oh!
I see--that's Mrs. Innes, just out, and fresh as paint, isn't she?
The Colonel'--Captain Gordon craned his head again--'is sitting
fourth from me on this side.'

'Mrs. Innes! Really!' said Madeline. 'Then--then of course I must
be mistaken.'

She removed her eyes almost stealthily from the other woman's face
and fixed them on the pattern of the table-cloth. Her brain guided
her clearly through the tumult of her perception, and no emotion
could be observed in the smiling attention which she gave to Captain
Gordon's account of the afternoon's tandem racing; but there was a
furious beating in her breast, and she thought she could never draw
a breath long enough to control it. It helped her that there was
food to swallow, wine to drink, and Captain Gordon to listen to; and
under cover of these things she gradually, consciously, prepared
herself for the shock of encounter which should be conclusive.
Presently she leaned a little forward and let her glance, in which
no outsider could see the steady recognition, rest upon the lady on
the General's right, until that person's agreeable blue eyes
wandered down the table and met it. Perhaps Madeline's own eyelids
fluttered a little as she saw the sudden stricture in the face that
received her message, and the grimace with which it uttered, pallid
with apprehension, its response to a pleasantry of General
Worsley's. She was not consummate in her self-control, but she was
able at all events to send the glance travelling prettily on with a
casual smile for an intervening friend, and bring it back to her
dinner-roll without mischief. It did not adventure again; she knew,
and she set herself to hold her knowledge, to look at it and
understand it, while the mechanical part of her made up its mind
about the entrees, and sympathized with Captain Gordon on his hard
luck in having three ponies laid up at once. She did not look
again, although she felt the watching of the other woman, and was
quite aware of the moment at which Mrs. Innes allowed herself the
reprieve of believing that at the Worsley's dinner-party at least
there would be no scandal. The belief had its reflex action, doing
something to calm her. How could there be--scandal--she asked
herself, and dismissed with relief the denunciations which crowded
vague but insistent in her brain. Even then she had not grasped the
salient points of the situation; she was too much occupied with its
irony as it affected her personally; her impressions circled
steadily round the word 'twice' and the unimaginable coincidence.
Her resentment filled her, and her indignation was like a clear
flame behind her smiling face. Robbed twice, once in New York and--
oh! preposterous--the second time in Simla! Robbed of the same
things by the same hand! She perceived in the shock of it only a
monstrous fatality, a ludicrously wicked chance. This may have been
due to the necessity of listening to Captain Gordon.

At all events it was only as she passed Colonel Innes on her way to
the drawing-room and saw ahead of her the very modish receding back
of Mrs. Innes that she realized other things--crime and freedom.

It was the reversion of power; it brought her a great exultation.
She sat down under it in a corner, hoping to be left alone, with a
white face and shining eyes. Power and opportunity and purpose--
righteous purpose!

The circumstances had come to her in a flash; she brought them up
again steadily and scrutinized them. The case was absolutely clear.
Frank Prendergast had been dead just seven months. Colonel Innes
imagined himself married four years. Violet Prendergast was a
bigamist, and Horace Innes had no wife.

That was the marvellous transcendent fact; that was what lifted her
and carried her on great pulsing waves that rolled beyond the walls
of the little fripperied drawing-room and its collection of low-
necked women, out into her life, which had not these boundaries.
She lived again in a possible world. There was no stone wall
between herself and joy.

The old Mussulman butler who offered her coffee looked at her with
aroused curiosity--here was certainly a memsahib under the favour of
God--and as she stirred it, the shadow that Violet Prendergast had
thrown upon her life faded out of her mind in the light that was
there. Then she looked up and met that lady's vivid blue eyes.
Mrs. Innes's colour had not returned, but there was a recklessness
in the lines of her mouth. In the way she held her chin, expressing
that she had been reflecting on old scores, and anticipated the
worst. Meeting this vigilance Miss Anderson experienced a slight
recoil. Her happiness, she realized, had been brought to her in the
hands of ugly circumstance.

'And so melodramatic,' she told herself. 'It is really almost
vulgar. In a story I should have no patience with it.' But she
went on stirring her coffee with a little uncontrollable smile.

A moment later she had to contemplate the circumstance that her
hostess was addressing her. Mrs. Innes wished to be introduced.
Mrs. Innes, incarnate, conscious sensation, was smiling at her,
saying that she must know so great a friend of her husband's. He
made so few friends, and she was so grateful to anybody who was good
to him. Eyes and voice tolerably in rein, aware of the situation at
every point, she had a meretricious daring; and it occurred to
Madeline, looking at her, that she was after all a fairly competent
second-class adventuress. She would not refuse the cue. It would
make so little difference.

'On the contrary, I am tremendously indebted to Colonel Innes. He
has been so very kind about ponies and jhampanies and things. Simla
is full of pitfalls for a stranger, don't you think?' And Miss
Anderson, unclosing her fan, turned her reposeful head a little in
the direction of three married schoolgirls voluble on her left.

'Not when you get to know the language. You must learn the
language; it's indispensable. But of course it depends on how long
you mean to stay.'

'I think I will learn the language,' said Madeline.

'But General Worsley told me you were leaving Simla in a fortnight.'

'Oh no. My plans are very indefinite; but I shall stay much longer
than that.'

'It is Miss Anderson, isn't it?--Miss Madeline Anderson, of New
York--no, Brooklyn?'

Madeline looked at her. 'Did not the General say so?' she asked.

'Yes, he did. But one looks to make quite sure.'

'I can understand that.'

Mrs. Innes leaned forward with one elbow on her knee.

It was not a graceful attitude, but it gave the casual air to the
conversation which was desirable.

'What are you going to do?' she said.

'My plans are as indefinite as possible, really,' Madeline returned.
'I may spend the cold weather in Calcutta, or go into camp with the
Dovedells--I should like that.'

'Mrs. Innes,' cried the nearest schoolgirl, 'we are coming tomorrow
to see all the lovely things in your boxes, may we?'

'Do, duckies. But mind, no copying of them by durzies in the
veranda. They're all Paris things--Coulter's--and you know he
doesn't copy well, does he? Oh, dear! here are the men--they always
come too soon, don't they? So glad to have had even a little chat,
Miss Anderson. I'll come and see you tomorrow. You know newcomers
in India always make the first calls. I shall find you at home,
sha'n't I?'

'By all means,' Madeline said.

Mrs. Innes crossed the room, crying out that the heat was perfectly
absurd for Simla, it must be cooler outside; and as Captain
Valentine Drake followed her into the semi-darkness of the veranda,
the three married schoolgirls looked at each other and smiled.

'Don't be naughty,' said Captain Gordon, leaning over the sofa from
behind. 'They're very dear friends, and they've been separated for
two years.'

Madeline heard this as plainly as they did. She noted disdainfully
how it all fell in.

'How absent you are tonight!' Horace Innes exclaimed, when Miss
Anderson had asked him a trivial question for the third time.

'Hush!' she said. 'Mrs. Scallepa is going to sing;' and as Mrs.
Scallepa sang she let her eyes play over him with a light in them so
tender, that once catching it the felt a sudden answering throb, and
looked again; but after that her eyes were on the floor.

'We are staying here,' he said a quarter of an hour later, as he saw
her into her rickshaw; 'and I think I must see you to your quarters.
It's very dark, and there is an ugly little slip half-way between
this and the Mall.

He ran upstairs to get his coat and stick, and a white face like an
apparition suddenly hung itself on the edge of Madeline's rickshaw-

'Don't tell him tonight,' it said, hoarsely.

'Are you ready, Colonel Innes? Then good night, everybody,' cried

She was not at all sure that she would not tell Horace Innes

Chapter 3.V.

'My wife,' said Colonel Innes, 'is looking extremely well.'

'She seems so, indeed,' Madeline replied.

'She is delighted with "Two Gables". Likes it better, she says,
than any other house we could have got.'

'What a good thing!'

'It was a record trip for the Caledonia, thirteen days from Brindisi
to Bombay. Was she telling you about the voyage?'

'No,' said Madeline impatiently, 'she didn't mention it. How shall
I tell the men to put down the hood, please? A rickshaw is
detestable with the hood up--stifling! Thanks. I beg your pardon.
The Caledonia made a good run?'

'Thirteen days. Wonderful weather, of course, which was luck for
Violet. She is an atrocious sailor.'

Madeline fancied she heard repose and reassurance in his voice. Her
thought cried, 'It is not so bad as he expected!' We can not be
surprised that she failed to see in herself the alleviation of that
first evening.

'She has brought quantities of things for the house with her,' Innes
went on, 'as well as three dachshund puppies,' and he laughed.
'Wouldn't you like one? What can we do with three--and the terrier,
and Brutus?'

'Oh, thank you, no.'

How could he laugh? How could he speak pleasantly of these intimate
details of his bondage? How could he conceive that she would

'Already she has arranged four dinner-parties! It will be a relief
not to have to think of that sort of thing--to be able to leave it
to her.'

'Mrs. Innes must have great energy. To drive all the way up from
Kalka by noon and appear at a dinner-party at night--wonderful!'

'Oh, great energy,' Horace said.

'She will take you everywhere--to all the functions. She will
insist on your duty to society.'

Madeline felt that she must get him somehow back into his slough of
despond. His freedom paralyzed her. And he returned with a
pathetic change of tone.

'I suppose there is no alternative. Violet is very good about being
willing to go alone, or with somebody else; but I never think it
quite fair on one's wife to impose on her the necessity of going
about with other men.'

'Mrs. Worsley introduced us after dinner,' said Madeline.

She kept disparagement out of her mind, but he could not help
perceiving aloofness.


The monosyllable told her sensitive ear that while he admitted her
consideration in going on with the subject, he was willing to
recognize that there was no more to say, and have done with it. She
gathered up her scruples and repugnances in a firm grasp. She would
not let him throw his own shadow, as an effectual obstacle, between
himself and liberty.

'I am going to ask you something,' she said; it might come naturally
enough from another man with whom your friendship was as candid as
it is with me; but there is an awkwardness in it from a woman. You
must believe I have a good reason. Will you tell me about your
first meeting with Mrs. Innes, when--when you became engaged?'

She knew she was daring a good deal; but when a man's prison is to
be brought down about his ears, one might as well begin, she
thought, at the foundation.

For a moment Innes did not speak, and then his words came slowly.

I find it difficult,' he said, 'to answer you. How can it matter--
it is impossible. I suppose you have heard some story, and it is
like you to want to be in a position to negative it. Ignore it
instead. She has very successfully championed herself. Believe
nothing to her disadvantage that may be said about that--that time.
I was pleased to marry her, and she was pleased to marry me. But
for God's sake don't let us talk about it!'

As he spoke Madeline saw the vivid clearness of the situation grow
blurred and confused. It was as if her point of view had suddenly
changed and her eyes failed her. Her eager impulse had beat less
and less strongly from the Worsley's door; now it seemed to shrink
away in fetters. Her eyes filled with vaguely resentful tears,
which sprang, if she could have traced them, from the fact that the
man she loved was loyal to his own mistake, and the formless
premonition that he might continue to be. She contorted her lip to
keep her emotion back, and deliberately turned away from a matter in
which she was not mistress, and which contained ugly possibilities
of buffeting. She would wait a little, and though consideration for
Violet Prendergast had nothing to do with it, she would not tell him

'I am sorry,' she said; and, after a moment, 'Did I tell you that I
have changed my plans?'

'You are not going so soon?' she took all the comfort there was in
his eagerness.

'I am not going at all for the present. I have abandoned my
intentions and my dates. I mean to drift for a little while. I
have been too--too conscientious.'

'Are you quite serious--do you mean it?'

'Indeed I do.'

'And in less than a fortnight you will not go out of one's life.
You will stay on--you summer day! It's hard to believe in luck like
that. I sent a poor devil of a sepoy a reprieve last week--one
knows now how he must have felt about it.'

'Does it make all that difference?' Madeline asked, softly.

'It makes a difference,' he answered, controlling his words, 'that I
am glad you can not conceive, since that would mean that your life
has been as barren as mine.' He seemed to refrain from saying more,
and then he added, 'You must be careful when you plant your
friendship that you mean it to stay, and blossom. It will not come
easily up by the roots, and it will leave an ugly hole.'

He was helping her out of her rickshaw, and as they followed the
servant who carried her wraps the few yards to the door, she left
her hand lightly on his arm. It was the seal, he thought, of her
unwritten bond that there should be no uprooting of the single
flower he cherished; and he went back almost buoyantly because of it
to the woman who had been sitting in the sackcloth and ashes of
misfortune, turning over the expedients for which his step might
make occasion.

By the time the monkeys began to scramble about the roof in the
early creeping of the dawn among the deodars, Madeline had groped
her way to a tolerably clear conception of what might happen. The
impeding circumstance everywhere, it must be acknowledged, was
Frederick Prendergast's coffin. The case, had convict No. 1596 been
still alive and working out his debt to society, would have been
transcendentally simple, she told herself. Even a convict has a
right--a prospective right--to his wife, and no honest man should be
compelled to retain a criminal's property. This was an odd
reflection, perhaps, to be made by Madeline Anderson, but the
situation as a whole might be described as curious. And there was
no doubt about the coffin.

Chapter 3.VI.

The veranda of which Miss Anderson's little sitting-room claimed its
section hung over the road, and it seemed to her that she heard the
sound of Mrs. Innes's arrival about ten minutes after breakfast.

On the contrary, she had spent two whole hours contemplating, with
very fixed attention, first the domestic circumstances of Colonel
Horace Innes and their possible development, and then, with a pang
of profoundest acknowledgment, the moral qualities which he would
bring to bear upon them. She was further from knowing what course
she personally intended to pursue than ever, when she heard the
wheels roll up underneath; and she had worked herself into a state
of sufficient detachment from the whole problem to reflect upon the
absurdity of a bigamist rattling forth to discuss her probable ruin
in the fanciful gaiety of a rickshaw. The circumstances had its
value though; it lightened all responsibility for the lady
concerned. As Madeline heard her jump out and give pronounced
orders for the securing of an accompanying dachshund, it did not
seem to matter so particularly what became of Violet Prendergast.

Mrs. Innes's footsteps came briskly along the veranda. Madeline
noted that there was no lagging. 'Number seven,' she said aloud; as
she passed other doors, 'Number eight--number nine! Ah! there you
are.' The door was open. 'I wouldn't let them bring up my card for
fear of some mistake. How do you do? Now please don't get up--you
look so comfortable with your book. What is it? Oh, yes, of
course, THAT. People were talking about it a good deal when I left
London, but I haven't read it. Is it good?'

'I like it,' said Madeline. She half rose as Mrs. Innes entered;
but as the lady did not seem to miss the ceremony of greeting, she
was glad to sink back in her chair.

'And how do you like Simla? Charming in many ways, isn't it? A
little too flippant, I always say--rather TOO much champagne and
silliness. But awfully bracing.'

'The Snows are magnificent,' Madeline said, 'when you can see them.
And there's a lot of good work done here.'

'Aren't they divine? I did nothing, absolutely nothing, my first
season but paint them. And the shops--they're not bad, are they,
for the size of the place? Though today, upon my soul, there
doesn't seem to be a yard of white spotted veiling among them.'

'That is annoying,' said Madeline, 'if you want spotted veiling.'

'Isn't it? Well'--Mrs. Innes take a deep breath--'you DIDN'T tell
him last night?'

'N--no,' said Madeline, with deliberation.

'I WAS grateful. I knew I could rely upon you not to. It would
have been too cruel when we have only just been reunited--dear
Horace would have had to sleep in the--'


'Well, Horace is the soul of honour. Is your ayah in there?' Mrs.
Innes nodded towards the bedroom door. 'You can not imagine what
long ears she has.'

'I have no ayah. There is only Brookes;' and as that excellent
woman passed through the room with a towel over her arm, Madeline
said, 'You can go now, Brookes, and see about that alpaca. Take the
rickshaw; it looks very threatening.'

'Maid! You ARE a swell! There are only four genuine maids in Simla
that I know of--the rest are really nurse-girls. What a comfort she
must be! THE luxury of all others that I long for; but alas! army
pay, you know. I did once bring a dear thing out with me from Nice-
-you should have seen Horace's face.'

'I couldn't very well go about quite alone; it would be

'Except that you Americans are so perfectly independent.'

'On the contrary. If I could order about a servant the way an
Englishwoman does--'

'Say you are not going to tell him! I've got such a lot of other
calls to make,' exclaimed Mrs. Innes. 'Dear Lady Bloomfield won't
understand it if I don't call today, especially after the baby.
What people in that position want with more babies I can not
comprehend. Of course you haven't noticed it, but a baby is such a
shock to Simla.'

'Don't let me keep you,' Madeline said, rising.

'But you haven't promised. Do promise, Miss Anderson. You gain
nothing by telling him, except your revenge; and I should think by
this time you would have forgiven me for taking Frederick away from
you. He didn't turn out so well! You can't still bear me malice
over that convict in Sing Sing.'

'For his sake, poor fellow, I might.'

'Coming along I said to myself, "She CAN score off me badly, but
surely she doesn't want to so much as all that." Besides, I really
only took your leavings, you know. You threw poor Fred Prendergast

'I am not prepared to discuss that,' Madeline said, at no pains to
smooth the curve out of her lip.

'Then I thought, "Perhaps--you never can tell with people--she will
think it her DUTY to make a fuss."'

'That is a possible point of view.'

'I know. You think I'm an imposter on society and I ought to be
exposed, and I suppose you could shut every door in Simla against me
if you liked. But you are a friend of my husband's, Miss Anderson.
You would not turn his whole married life into a scandal and ruin
his career?'

'Ruin his career?'

'Of course. Government is awfully particular. It mayn't be his
fault in the least, but no man is likely to get any big position
with a cloud over his domestic affairs. Horace would resign,

'Or take long leave,' Mrs. Innes added to herself, but she did not
give Madeline this alternative. A line or two of nervous irritation
marked themselves about her eyes, and her colour had faded. Her hat
was less becoming than it had been, and she had pulled a button off
her glove.

'Besides,' she went on quickly, 'it isn't as if you could do any
good, you know. The harm was done once for all when I let him think
he'd married me. I thought then--well, I had to take it or leave it-
-and every week I expected to hear of Frederick's death. Then I
meant to tell Horace myself, and have the ceremony over again. He
couldn't refuse. And all these years it's been like living on a
volcano, in the fear of meeting New York people. Out here there
never are any, but in England I dye my hair, and alter my

'Why did you change your mind,' Madeline asked, 'about telling
Colonel Innes?'

'I haven't! Why should I change my mind? For my own protection, I
mean to get things put straight instantly--when the time comes.'

'When the time comes,' Madeline repeated; and her eyes, as she fixed
them on Mrs. Innes, were suddenly so lightened with a new idea that
she dropped the lids over them as she waited for the answer.

'When poor Frederick does pass away,' Mrs. Innes said, with an air
of observing the proprieties. 'When they put him in prison it was a
matter of months, the doctors said. That was one reason why I went
abroad. I couldn't bear to stay there and see him dying by inches,
poor fellow.'

'Couldn't you?'

'Oh, I couldn't. And the idea of the hard labour made me SICK. But
it seems to have improved his health, and now--there is no telling!
I sometimes believe he will live out his sentence. Should you think
that possible in the case of a man with half a lung?'

'I have no knowledge of pulmonary disease,' Madeline said. She
forced the words from her lips and carefully looked away, taking
this second key to the situation mechanically, and for a moment
groping with it.

'What arrangement did you make to be informed about--about him?' she
asked, and instantly regretted having gone so perilously near
provoking a direct question.

'I subscribe to the "New York World". I used to see lots of things
in it--about the shock the news of my death gave him--'

A flash of hysterical amusement shot into Mrs. Innes's eyes, and she
questioned Madeline's face to see whether it responded to her
humour. Then she put her own features straight behind her
handkerchief and went on.

'And about his failing health, and then about his being so much
better. But nothing now for ages.'

'Did the "World" tell you,' asked Miss Anderson, with sudden
interest, 'that Mr. Prendergast came into a considerable fortune
before--about two years ago?'

Mrs. Innes's face turned suddenly blank. 'How much?' she exclaimed.

'About five hundred thousand dollars, I believe. Left him by a
cousin. Then you didn't know?'

'That must have been Gordon Prendergast--the engineer!' Mrs. Innes
said, with excitement. 'Fancy that! Leaving money to a relation in
Sing Sing! Hadn't altered his will, I suppose. Who could
possibly,' and her face fell visibly, 'have foreseen such a thing?'

'No one, I think,' said Madeline, through a little edged smile. 'On
that point you will hardly be criticized.'

Mrs. Innes, with clasped hands, was sunk in thought. She raised her
eyes with a conviction in them which she evidently felt to be

'After all,' she said, 'there is something in what the padres say
about our reaping the reward of our misdeeds in this world--some of
us, anyway. If I had stayed in New York--'

'Yes?' said Madeline. 'I shall wake up presently,' she reflected,
'and find that I have been dreaming melodrama.' But that was a
fantastic underscoring of her experience. She knew very well she
was making it.

Mrs. Innes, again wrapped in astonished contemplation, did not
reply. Then she jumped to her feet with a gesture that cast
fortunes back into the lap of fate.

'One thing is certain,' she said; 'I can't do anything NOW, can I?'

Madeline laid hold of silence and made armour with it. At all
events, she must have time to think.

'I decline to advise you,' she said, and she spoke with a barely
perceptive movement of her lips only. The rest of her face was

'How unkind and unforgiving you are! Must people would think the
loss of a hundred thousand pounds about punishment enough for what I
have done. You don't seem to see it. But on top of that you won't
refuse to promise not to tell Horace?'

'I will not bind myself in any way whatever.'

'Not even when you know that the moment I hear of the--death I
intend to--to--'

'Make an honest man of him? Not even when I know that.'

'Do you want me to go down on my knees to you?'

Madeline glanced at the flowered fabric involved and said, 'I
wouldn't, I think.'

'And this is to hang over me the whole season? I shall enjoy
nothing--absolutely NOTHING.' The blue eyes were suddenly eclipsed
by angry tears, which the advent of a servant with cards checked as

'Goodbye, then, dear,' cried Mrs. Innes, as if in response to the
advancing rustle of skirts in the veranda. 'So glad to have found
you at home. Dear me, has Trilby made her way up--and I gave such
particular orders! Oh, you NAUGHTY dog!'

Chapter 3.VII.

>From the complication that surged round Miss Anderson's waking hours
one point emerged, and gave her a perch for congratulation. That
was the determination she had shown in refusing to let Frederick
Prendergast leave her his money, or any part of it.

It has been said that he had outlived her tenderness, if not her
care, and this fact, which she never found it necessary to
communicate to poor Frederick himself, naturally made his desire in
the matter sharply distasteful. She was even unaware of the
disposition he had made of his ironical fortune, a reflection which
brought her thankfulness that there was something she did not know.
'If I had let him do it,' she thought, 'I should have felt compelled
to tell her everything, instantly. And think of discussing it with
her!' This was quite a fortnight later, and Mrs. Innes still
occupied her remarkable position only in her own mind and
Madeline's, still knowing herself the wife of 1596 and of 1596 only,
and still unaware that 1596 was in his grave. Simla had gone on
with its dances and dinners and gymkhanas quite as if no crucial
experience were hanging over the heads of three of the people one
met 'everywhere,' and the three people continued to be met
everywhere, although only one of them was unconscious. The women
tried to avoid each other without accenting it, exchanging light
words only as occasion demanded, but they were not clever enough for
Mrs. Gammidge and Mrs. Mickie, who went about saying that Mrs.
Innes's treatment of Madeline Anderson was as ridiculous as it was
inexplicable. 'Did you ever know her to be jealous of anybody
before?' demanded Mrs. Mickie, to which Mrs. Gammidge responded,
with her customary humour, that the Colonel had never, in the memory
of the oldest inhabitant, been known to give her occasion.

'Well,' declared Mrs. Mickie, 'if friendships--UNSENTIMENTAL
friendships--between men and women are not understood in Simla, I'd
like to be told what is understood.'

Between them they gave Madeline a noble support, for which--although
she did not particularly require it, and they did not venture to
offer it in so many words--she was grateful. A breath of public
criticism from any point of view would have blown over the toppling
structure she was defending against her conscience. The siege was
severe and obstinate, with an undermining conviction ever at work
that in the end she would yield; in the end she would go away, at
least as far as Bombay or Calcutta, and from there send to Mrs.
Innes the news of her liberation. It would not be necessary, after
all, or even excusable, to tell Horace. His wife would do that
quickly enough--at least, she had said she would. If she didn't--
well, if she didn't, nothing would be possible but another letter,
giving HIM the simple facts, she, Madeline, carefully out of the way
of his path of duty--at all events, at Calcutta or Bombay. But
there was no danger that Mrs. Innes would lose the advantage of
confession, of throwing herself on his generosity--and at this point
Madeline usually felt her defenses against her better nature
considerably strengthened, and the date of her sacrifice grow vague

Meanwhile, she was astonished to observe that, in spite of her
threat to the contrary, Mrs. Innes appeared to be enjoying herself
particularly well. Madeline had frequent occasion for private
comment on the advantages of a temperament that could find
satisfaction in dancing through whole programmes at the very door,
so to speak, of the criminal courts; and it can not be denied that
this capacity of Mrs. Innes's went far to increase the vacillation
with which Miss Anderson considered her duty towards that lady. If
she had shown traces of a single hour of genuine suffering, there
would have been an end to Madeline's hesitation. But beyond an
occasional watchful glance at conversations in which she might be
figuring dramatically, and upon which she instantly turned her back
as soon as she was perceived, Mrs. Innes gave no sign even of
preoccupation. If she had bad half-hours, they occurred between the
teas and tennises, the picnics, riding-parties, luncheons, and other
entertainments, at which you could always count upon meeting her;
and in that case they must have been short. She looked extremely
well, and her admirable frocks gave an accent even to 'Birthday'
functions at Viceregal Lodge, which were quite hopelessly general.
If any one could have compelled a revelation of her mind, I think it
would have transpired that her anxieties about Capt. Valentine Drake
and Mrs. Vesey gave her no leisure for lesser ones. These for a few
days had been keen and indignant--Captain Drake had so far forgotten
himself as to ride with Mrs. Vesey twice since Mrs. Innes's arrival-
-and any display of poverty of spirit was naturally impossible under
the circumstances. The moment was a critical one; Captain Drake
seemed inclined to place her in the category of old, unexacting
friends--ladies who looked on and smiled, content to give him tea on
rainy days, and call him by his Christian name, with perhaps the
privilege of a tapping finger on his shoulder, and an occasional
order about a rickshaw. Mrs. Violet was not an introspective
person, or she might have discovered here that the most stable part
of her self-respect was her EXIGENCE with Captain Drake.

She found out quickly enough, however, that she did not mean to
discard it. She threw herself, therefore--her fine shoulders and
arms, her pretty clothes, her hilarity, her complexion, her
eyelashes, and all that appertained to her--into the critical task
of making other men believe, at Captain Drake's expense, that they
were quite as fond of her as he was. Mrs. Vesey took opposite
measures, and the Club laid bets on the result.

The Club was not prepossessed by Captain Drake. He said too little
and he implied too much. He had magnificent shoulders, which he
bent a great deal over secluded sofas, and a very languid interest
in matters over which ordinary men were enthusiastic. He seemed to
believe that if he smiled all the way across his face, he would
damage a conventionality. His clothes were unexceptionable, and he
always did the right thing, though bored by the necessity. He was
good-looking in an ugly way, which gave him an air of restrained
capacity for melodrama, and made women think him interesting.
Somebody with a knack of disparagement said that he was too much
expressed. It rather added to his unpopularity that he was a man
whom women usually took with preposterous seriousness--all but Kitty
Vesey, who charmed and held him by her outrageous liberties. When
Mrs. Vesey chaffed him, he felt picturesque. He was also aware of
inspiring entertainment for the lookers-on, with the feeling at such
times that he, too, was an amused spectator. This was, of course,
their public attitude. In private there was sentiment, and they
talked about the tyranny of society, or delivered themselves of
ideas suggested by works of fiction which everybody simply HAD to

For a week Mrs. Innes looked on, apparently indifferent, rather
apparently not observing; and an Assistant Secretary in the Home
Department began to fancy that his patience in teaching the three
dachshund puppies tricks was really appreciated. He was an on-
coming Assistant Secretary, with other conspicuous parts, and
hitherto his time had been too valuable to spend upon ladies'
dachshunds. Mrs. Innes had selected him well. There came an
evening when, at a dance at the Lieutenant-Governor's, Mrs. Innes
was so absorbed in what the Assistant Secretary was saying to her,
as she passed on his arm, that she did not see Captain Drake in the
corridor at all, although he had carefully broken an engagement to
walk with Kitty Vesey that very afternoon, as the beginning of
gradual and painless reform in her direction. His unrewarded virtue
rose up and surprised him with the distinctness of its resentment;
and while his expression was successfully amused, his shoulders and
the back of his neck, as well as the hand on his moustache, spoke of
discipline which promised to be efficient. Reflection assured him
that discipline was after all deserved, and a quarter of an hour
later found him wagging his tail, so to speak, over Mrs. Innes's
programme in a corner pleasantly isolated. The other chair was
occupied by the Assistant Secretary. Captain Drake represented an
interruption, and was obliged to take a step towards the nearest
lamp to read the card. Three dances were rather ostentatiously
left, and Drake initialled them all. He brought back the card with
a bow, which spoke of dignity under bitter usage, together with the
inflexible intention of courteous self-control, and turned away.

'Oh, if you please, Captain Drake--let me see what you've done. All
those? But--'

'Isn't it after eleven, Mrs. Innes?' asked the Assistant Secretary,
with a timid smile. He was enjoying himself, but he had a respect
for vested interests, and those of Captain Drake were so well known
that he felt a little like a buccaneer.

'Dear me, so it is!' Mrs. Innes glanced at one of her bracelets.
'Then, Captain Drake, I'm sorry'--she carefully crossed out the
three 'V.D.'s'--'I promised all the dances I had left after ten to
Mr. Holmcroft. Most of the others I gave away at the gymkhana--
really. Why weren't you there? That Persian tutor again! I'm
afraid you are working too hard. And what did the Rani do, Mr.
Holmcroft? It's like the Arabian Nights, only with real jewels--'

'Oh, I say, Holmcroft, this is too much luck, you know. Regular
sweepstakes, by Jove!' And Captain Drake lingered on the fringe of
the situation.

'Perhaps I have been greedy,' said the Assistant Secretary,
deprecatingly. 'I'll--'

'Not in the very least! That is,' exclaimed Mrs. Violet, pouting,
'if I'M to be considered. We'll sit out all but the waltzes, and
you shall tell me official secrets about the Rani. She put us up
once, she's a delicious old thing. Gave us string beds to sleep on
and gold plate to eat from, and swore about every other word. She
had been investing in Government paper, and it had dropped three
points. "Just my damn luck!" she said. Wasn't it exquisite?
Captain Drake--'

'Mrs. Innes--'

'I don't want to be rude, but you're a dreadful embarrassment. Mr.
Holmcroft won't tell you official secrets!'

'If she would only behave!' thought Madeline, looking on, 'I would
tell her--indeed I would--at once.'

Colonel Innes detached himself from a group of men in mess dress as
she appeared with the Worsleys, and let himself drift with the tide
that brought them always together.

'You are looking tired--ill,' she said, seriously, as they sought
the unconfessed solace of each other's eyes. 'Last night it was the
Commander-in-Chief's, and the night before the dance at Peliti's.
And again tonight. And you are not like those of us who can rest
next morning--you have always your heavy office work!' She spoke
with indignant, tender reproach, and he gave himself up to hearing
it. 'You will have to take leave and go away,' she insisted,

'Leave! Good heavens, no! I wish all our fellows were as fit as I
am. And--'

'Yes?' she said.

'Don't pity me, dear friend. I don't think it's good for me. The
world really uses me very well.'

'Then it's all right, I suppose,' Madeline said, with sudden

'Of course it is. You are dining with us on the eighth?'

'I'm afraid not, I'm engaged.'

'Engaged again? Don't you WANT to break bread in my house, Miss
Anderson?' She was silent, and he insisted, 'Tell me,' he said.

She gave him instead a kind, mysterious smile.

'I will explain to you what I feel about that some day,' she said;
'some day soon. I can't accept Mrs. Innes's invitation for the
eighth, but--Brookes and I are going to take tea with the fakir's
monkeys on the top of Jakko tomorrow afternoon.'

'Anybody else, or only Brookes?'

'Only Brookes.' And she thought she had abandoned coquetry!

'Then may I come?'

'Indeed you may.'

'I really don't know,' reflected Madeline, as she caught another
glimpse of Mrs. Innes vigorously dancing the reel opposite little
Lord Billy in his Highland uniform, with her hands on her flowered-
satin hips, 'that I am behaving very well myself.'

Chapter 3.VIII.

Horace Innes looked round his wife's drawing-room as if he were
making an inventory of it, carefully giving each article its value,
which happened, however, to have nothing to do with rupees.
Madeline Anderson had been saying something the day before about the
intimacy and accuracy with which people's walls expressed them, and
though the commonplace was not new to him, this was the first time
it had ever led him to scan his wife's. What he saw may be
imagined, but his only distinct reflection was that he had no idea
that she had been photographed so variously or had so many friends
who wore resplendent Staff uniforms. The relation of cheapness in
porcelain ornaments to the lady's individuality was beyond him, and
he could not analyze his feelings of sitting in the midst of her
poverty of spirit. Indeed, thinking of his ordinary
unsusceptibility to such things, he told himself sharply that he was
adding an affectation of discomfort to the others that he had to
bear; and that if Madeline had not given him the idea it would never
have entered his mind. The less, he mused, that one had to do with
finicking feelings in this world the better. They were well enough
for people who were tolerably conditioned in essentials--he
preferred this vagueness, even with himself, in connection with his
marriage--otherwise they added pricks. Besides he had that other
matter to think of.

He thought of the other matter with such obvious irritation that the
butler coming in to say that the 'English water' was finished, and
how many dozen should he order, put a chair in its place instead,
closed the door softly again, and went away. It was not good for
the dignity of butlers to ask questions of any sort with a look of
that kind under the eyebrows of the sahib. The matter was not
serious, Colonel Innes told himself, but he would prefer by
comparison to deal with matters that were serious. He knew Simla
well enough to attach no overwhelming importance to things said
about women at the Club, where the broadest charity prevailed
underneath, and the idle comment of the moment had an intrinsic
value as a distraction rather than a reflective one as a criticism.
This consideration, however, was more philosophical in connection
with other men's wives. He found very little in it to palliate what
he had overheard, submerged in the 'Times of India', that afternoon.
And to put an edge on it, the thing had been said by one of his own
juniors. Luckily the boy had left the room without discovering who
was behind the 'Times of India'. Innes felt that he should be
grateful for having been spared the exigency of defending his wife
against a flippant word to which she had very probably laid herself
open. He was very angry, and it is perhaps not surprising that he
did not pause to consider how far his anger was due to the
humiliating necessity of speaking to her about it. She was coming
at last though; she was in the hall. He would get it over quickly.

'Goodbye!' said Mrs. Innes at the door. 'No, I can't possibly let
you come in to tea. I don't know how you have the conscience after
drinking three cups at Mrs. Mickie's, where I had no business to
take you! Tomorrow? Oh, all right if you want to VERY badly. But
I won't promise you strawberries--they're nearly all gone.'

There was the sound of a departing pony's trot, and Mrs. Innes came
into the drawing-room.

'Good heavens, Horace! what are you sitting there for like a--like a
ghost? Why didn't you make a noise or something, and why aren't you
at office? I can't tell you how you startled me.'

'It is early,' Colonel Innes said. 'We are neither of us in the
house, as a rule, at this hour.'

'Coincidence!' Violet turned a cool, searching glance on her
husband, and held herself ready. 'I came home early because I want
to alter the lace on my yellow bodice for tonight. It's too
disgusting as it is. But I was rather glad to get away from Mrs.
Mickie's lot. So rowdy!'

'And I came because I had a special reason for wanting to speak to

Mrs. Violet's lips parted, and her breath, in spite of herself, came
a little faster.

'As we are dining out tonight, I thought that if I didn't catch you
now I might not have another opportunity--till tomorrow morning.'

'And it's always a pity to spoil one's breakfast. I can tell from
your manner, mon ami, it's something disagreeable. What have I been
and gone and done?'

She was dancing, poor thing, in her little vulgar way, on hot iron.
But her eyes kept their inconsistent coolness.

'I heard something today which you are not in the way of hearing.
You have--probably--no conception that it could be said.'

'Then she has been telling other people. ABSOLUTELY the worst thing
she could do!' Mrs. Innes exclaimed privately, sitting unmoved, her
face a little too expectant.

'You won't be prepared for it--you may be shocked and hurt by it.
Indeed, I think there is no need to repeat it to you. But I must
put you on your guard. Men are coarser, you know, than women; they
are apt to put their own interpretation--'

'What is it?'

There was a physical gasp, a sharpness in her voice that brought
Innes's eyes from the floor to her face.

'I am sorry,' he said, 'but--don't overestimate it, don't let it
worry you. It was simply a very impertinent--a very disagreeable
reference to you and Mr. Holmcroft, I think, in connection with the
Dovedell's picnic. It was a particularly silly thing as well, and I
am sure no one would attach any importance to it, but it was said
openly at the Club, and--'

'Who said it?' Mrs. Innes demanded.

A flood of colour rushed over her face. Horace marked that she

'I don't know whether I ought to tell you, Violet. It certainly was
not meant for your ears.'

'If I'm not to know who said it, I don't see why I should pay any
attention to it. Mere idle rumour--'

Innes bit his lip.

'Captain Gordon said it,' he replied.

'Bobby Gordon! DO tell me what he said! I'm dying to know. Was he
very disagreeable? I DID give his dance away on Thursday night.'

Innes looked at her with the curious distrust which she often
inspired in him. He had a feeling that he would like to put her out
of the room into a place by herself, and keep her there.

'I won't repeat what he said.' Colonel Innes took up the 'Saturday

'Oh, do, Horace! I particularly want to know.'

Innes said nothing.

'Horace! Was it--was it anything about Mr. Holmcroft being my
Secretariat baa-lamb?'

'If you adorn your guess with a little profanity,' said Innes,
acidly, 'you won't be far wrong.'

Mrs. Violet burst into a peal of laughter.

'Why, you old goose!' she articulated, behind her handkerchief; 'he
said that to ME.'

Innes laid down the 'Saturday Review'.

'To you!' he repeated; 'Gordon said it to you!'

'Rather!' Mrs. Violet was still mirthful. 'I'm not sure that he
didn't call poor little Homie something worse than that. It's the
purest jealousy on his part--nothing to make a fuss about.'

The fourth skin which enables so many of us to be callous to all but
the relative meaning of careless phrases had not been given to
Innes, and her words fell upon his bare sense of propriety.

'Jealous,' he said, 'of a married woman? I find that difficult to

Violet's face straightened out.

'Don't be absurd, Horace. These boys are always jealous of somebody
or other--it's the occupation of their lives! I really don't see
how one can prevent it.'

'It seems to me that a self-respecting woman should see how. Your
point of view in these matters is incomprehensible.'

'Perhaps,' Violet was driven by righteous anger to say, 'you find
Miss Anderson's easier to understand.'

Colonel Innes's face took its regimental disciplinary look, and,
though his eyes were aroused, his words were quiet with repression.

'I see no reason to discuss Miss Anderson with you,' he said. 'She
has nothing to do with what we are talking about.'

'Oh, don't you, really! Hasn't she, indeed! I take it you are
trying to make me believe that compromising things are said about
Mr. Holmcroft and me at the Club. Well, I advise you to keep your
ears open a little more, and listen to the things said about you and
Madeline Anderson there. But I don't suppose you would be in such a
hurry to repeat them to HER.'

Innes turned very white, and the rigidity of his face gave place to
heavy dismay. His look was that of a man upon whom misfortune had
fallen out of a clear sky. For an instant he stared at his wife.
When he spoke his voice was altered.

'For God's sake!' he said, 'let us have done with this pitiful
wrangling. I dare say you can take care of yourself; at all events,
I only meant to warn you. But now you must tell me exactly what you
mean by this that you have said--this--about--'

'The fat's in the fire,' was Mrs. Innes's reflection.

'Certainly, I'll tell you--'

'Don't shout, please!'

'I mean simply that all Simla is talking about your affair with Miss
Anderson. You may imagine that because you are fifteen years older
than she is things won't be thought of, but they are, and I hear
it's been spoken about at Viceregal Lodge. I KNOW Lady Bloomfield
has noticed it, for she herself mentioned it to me. I told her I
hadn't the slightest objection, and neither have I, but there's an
old proverb about people in glass houses. What are you going to

Colonel Innes's expression was certainly alarming, and he had made a
step toward her that had menace in it.

'I am going out,' he said, and turned and left her to her triumph.

Chapter 3.IX.

She--Violet--had unspeakably vulgarized it, but it must be true--it
must be, to some extent, true. She may even have lied about it, but
the truth was there, fundamentally, in the mere fact that it had
been suggested to her imagination. Madeline's name, which had come
to be for him an epitome of what was finest and most valuable, most
to be lived for, was dropping from men's lips into a kind of an
abyss of dishonourable suggestion. There was no way out of it or
around it. It was a cloud which encompassed them, suddenly
blackening down.

There was nothing that he could do--nothing. Except, yes, of
course--that was obvious, as obvious as any other plain duty.
Through his selfishness it had a beginning; in spite of his
selfishness it should have an end. That went without saying. No
more walks or rides. In a conventional way, perhaps--but nothing
deliberate, designed--and never alone together. Gossip about
flippant married women was bad enough, but that it should concern
itself with an unprotected creature like Madeline was monstrous,
incredible. He strode fiercely into the road round Jakko, and no
little harmless snake, if it had crawled across his path, would have

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