Part 3 out of 5
"Don't mind me, my dear chap," he remarked, "read your letters." And they
went on into the sitting-room.
"I want just to look at this one--it is from John Ardayre whom we met
to-night," and Denzil opened it casually--"I wonder what he is writing to
me about, he did not say anything at dinner."
He read the short communication and exclaimed: "Good God!" and then
checked himself. He was obviously stirred, and Verisschenzko watched him
narrowly. Anything to do with John must concern Amaryllis, and therefore
was of profound interest to himself.
"No bad news, I hope?" he said.
Denzil was gazing into the fire, and there was a look of wonderment and
even rapture upon his face.
"Oh! No--rather splendid--" He felt quite the strangest emotion he had
ever experienced in his life. His usual serene self-confidence and easy
flow of words deserted him, and Verisschenzko, watching him, began to
link certain things in his mind.
"Tell me, what did you think of your cousin, Lady Ardayre?" he asked
casually, as though the subject was irrelevant.
"Amaryllis?" and Denzil almost started from a reverie. "Oh, yes, of
course, she is a lovely creature, is not she, Stépan?"
Verisschenzko narrowed his eyes.
"I have told you that I adore her--but with the spirit--if it were
not so, she would appeal very strongly to the flesh--Yes?--Did you
not feel it?"
"She is longing to understand life, she is groping; why do you not set
about her education, Denzil?"
"That is the husband's business."
"Not in this case. I consider it is yours; you are the right mate
for her. John Ardayre is a good fellow, but he stands for nothing in
the affair. Why did you waste your time upon Harietta, when time is
"I was given no choice."
"But afterwards, in the hall?"
It was quite evident to Verisschenzko that the mention of Amaryllis was
causing his friend some unexplainable emotion.
"You did not even exert yourself, then. Why, Denzil?"
Denzil lit a cigarette.
"I thought her awfully attractive--it is the first time I have ever seen
her--as you know."
"And that was a reason for remaining silent and as stiff as a poker in
manner! You English are a strange race!"
Denzil smiled--if Stépan only knew everything, what would he say!
"You were made for each other. If I were you, I would not lose a
"My dear old boy, you seem quite to forget that the girl has a husband
of her own!"
"Not at all, it is for that reason--just because of that husband. I shall
say no more, you are quite intelligent enough to understand."
"You think it is all right then for a woman to have a lover?" Denzil
smiled as he curled rings of smoke. "It is curious how the most
honourable among us has not much conscience concerning such things."
Verisschenzko knocked off his cigarette ash and spoke contemplatively:
"The world would be an insupportable place for women, if he had! But
whatever the moral aspect of the matter is in general, circumstances
arise which alter the point, and that is where the absurd ticketing
system hampers suitable action. A thing is ticketed 'dishonourable.'
Pah! it is sometimes, and it is not at others--there is no hard and
Denzil stretched himself--he was always interested in Verisschenzko's
reasonings and prepared to listen with enjoyment:
"The general idea is that a man should not make love to another man's
wife. Man professes this as a creed, and the law enforces it and punishes
him if he is found out doing so. And if he acted up to this creed as he
does about stealing goods and behaving like a gentleman over business
matters, all might be well, but unfortunately that seldom occurs, because
there is that strong; instinct which is the base of all things working in
him, and which does not work in regard to any other point of
honour--i.e., the unconscious desire to re-create his, species, so that
this one particular branch of moral responsibility cannot be measured,
judged, or criticised from the same standpoint as any other. No laws can.
alter human nature, or really control a man's actions when a natural
force is prompting him unless stern self-analysis discovers the truth to
the man, and so permits his spirit to regain dominion. The best chance
would be to resist the first feeling of attraction which a woman
belonging to another man aroused before it had actually obtained a hold
upon his senses--but the percentage of men who do this must be very
small. Some resist--or try to resist the actual possession of the woman
from moral motives, but many more from motives of expediency and fear of
consequences. Then to salve conscience the mass of men ride a high moral
stalking horse, and write and speak condemnation of every back-sliding,
while their own behaviour coincides with the behaviour they are
criticising. The hypocrisy of the thing sickens me; no one ever looks any
question straight in the face, denuded of its man-made sophistries. And
few realise that a woman is a creature to be fought for--it is
prehistoric instinct, and if she can't be obtained in fair fight then you
secure her by strategy. And if a man cannot keep her once he has secured
her, it is up to him. If I had a wife, I should take good care that she
_desired_ no other man--but if I bored her, or was a cold and bad lover,
I should not expect the other men not to try and take her from
me--because I should know this was a natural instinct with them--like
taking food. It would probably be no temptation to most of us to steal
gold lying about in a room, even if we were poor, but a hideous
temptation to refrain from eating a tempting dish if we were starving
with hunger and it was before us--and if a woman did succumb to some new
passion I should blame myself, not her."
"Jealousy is a natural instinct, though," he said, "and although there
would be not much profit in trying to hold a woman who no longer cared,
one could not help being mad about it."
"Of course not--that is the sense of personal possession which is
affronted. Vanity is deeply wounded, and so the power to analyse cause
and result sleeps. But this attitude which men take up of neglecting a
woman and then expecting her to be faithful still is quite ridiculous,
and without logic; they are as usual fogged by convention and can't see
Verisschenzko's rough voice was keen--compelling.
"Another of your windmills to fight!"
"I am always fighting convention and shams. Get down to the meaning of a
thing, and if its true significance coincides with the convention which
surrounds it, then let that hold, but if convention is a super-imposed
growth, then amputate it and study the thing without it."
"I suppose a man marries a woman nine times out of ten because he cannot
obtain her in any other way; then when he has become indifferent by
possession, he still thinks that she should remain devoted to him. You
are right, Stépan, it is very illogical."
"Club the creature, or keep her in a cage if you want fidelity through
fear, but don't expect it if you allow her to remain at large and
neglected, and don't be such an ass as to imagine that your friends won't
act just as you yourself would act were she some one's else wife. If a
woman has that quality in her which arouses sex, married or single, I
never have observed that men refrained from making love to her."
"All this means that you consider I am quite at liberty to make love to
Denzil threw his cigarette end into the fire:
"Well, for once you are wrong, Stépan, in your usually perfect
deductions," he got up from his chair. "There is a reason in this
case which makes the thing an absolute impossibility; under no
possible circumstance while John is alive could I make the smallest
advance towards Amaryllis! There is another point of honour involved
in the affair."
Verisschenzko felt that here was some mystery which he had yet to
elucidate, the links in the chain were visible up to a point, but he then
became baffled by the incontestable fact that Denzil had seen Amaryllis
that evening for the first time!
"If this is so, then it is a very great pity," he announced, after a
moment or two's thought. "Were the times normal, we might leave all to
Fate and trust to luck, but if you are killed and John is killed, it
will be a thousand pities for Ferdinand to be the head of the family.
A creature like that will not enlist, he will be safe while you risk
Denzil went over to the window, apparently to get out a fresh box of
cigars which were in a cabinet near.
"John writes to-night that there is the chance of an heir after all--so
perhaps we need not worry," he said, his voice a little hoarse with
feeling. "I was so awfully glad to hear this--we all loathe the thought
Verisschenzko actually was startled, and also he was strangely moved.
"When I saw my lady Amaryllis to-night that idea came to me, only as I
believed it was quite an impossibility--I dismissed it--It is a war
miracle then?" and he smiled enquiringly.
The cigar box was selected and Denzil had once more resumed his seat in a
big chair before either of them spoke again.
"I perfectly understand that there is some mystery here, Denzil--and that
you cannot tell me--and equally I cannot ask you any questions, but it
may be that in the days that are coming I could be of assistance to you.
I have some very curious information which I am holding concerning
Ferdinand Ardayre in his activities. You can always count on me--"
Verisschenzko rose from his chair, stirred deeply with the thoughts which
were coursing through his brain.
"Denzil--I love that woman--I am absolutely determined that I shall not
do so in any way but in spirit--I long for her to be happy--protected.
She has an exquisite soul--I would have given her to you with
contentment. You are her counterpart upon this plane--"
Denzil remained silent, he had never seen Stépan so agitated. The
situation was altogether very unusual. Then he asked:
"Do you think Ferdinand will make some protest then?"
"It is possible."
"But there is absolutely nothing to be said, the fact of there being a
child refutes all the old rumours."
"In every way," a flush had mounted to Denzil's forehead.
"You know Lemon Bridges?" Verisschenzko suggested.
"Yes--why do you ask?"
"He is a remarkably clever surgeon. It is said that he is also a
gentleman; if this news surprises him he will not express his feelings
Stépan was observing his friend with the minutest scrutiny now, while he
spoke lazily once more as though upon a casual topic bent, and he saw
that a lightning flash of anxiety passed through Denzil's eyes.
"I do not see how any one can have a word to say about the matter," and
he lit his cigar deliberately. "John is awfully pleased--"
"And so am I--and so are you, and so will be the lady Amaryllis. Thus we
can only wish for general happiness, and not anticipate difficulties
which may never occur. When is the event to happen?"
"The beginning of next May," Denzil announced, without hesitation, and
then the flush deepened, for he suddenly remembered that John had not
mentioned any date in his letter!
The subject was growing embarrassing, and he asked, so as to change it:
"What is your friend, Madame Boleski, doing now, Stépan?"
"She is receiving news from Germany which I shall endeavour to have her
transmit to me, and I have some suspicion that she is transmitting any
information which she can pick up here to Germany, but I cannot yet be
sure. When I am, then I shall have no mercy. She would betray any country
for an hour's personal pleasure or gain. I have not yet discovered who
the man was at the Ardayre ball--I told you about it, did I not? Just
then more important matters pressed and I could not follow up the clue."
"She is certainly physically attractive, and all the things she says are
so obvious and easy, she is quite a rest at a dinner, but Lord! think of
spending one's life with a woman like that!" and Denzil smiled.
"There are very few women whom it would be possible to contemplate in
calmness spending one's life with, because one's own needs change, and
the woman's also. The tie is a galling bond unless it can be looked at
with common sense by both--but I think men are quite as illogical as
women over it, and of such an incredible vanity! It is because we have
mixed so much sentiment into such a simple nature-act that all the
bothers arise, and men are unjust over every thing to do with women.
All men think, for instance, that a woman must not deceive her lover
and, at the same time that she is appearing to be his faithful
mistress, take another for her pleasure and diversion in secret. A man
would look upon this and rightly as a dishonourable betrayal because it
would wound his vanity and lower his personal prestige. But the
illogical part is that he would not hesitate to do the same thing
himself, and would never see the matter in the light of a betrayal,
because the Creator has happily equipped him with a rhinoceros hide
which enables him never to feel stings of self-contempt when viewing
his own actions towards the other sex."
Denzil laughed aloud.
"You are hard on us, Stépan, but I dare say you are right."
"It is just custom and convention which make us think ourselves such
gods. Had woman had the same chance always, who knows what she might not
have become by now! Everything is ticketed, it is called by a name and
put down under such and such a heading--women are 'weak' and 'illogical'
and 'unreliable' and men are 'brave' and 'sound' and 'to be
trusted'--tosh! in quantities of cases--and if so, why so? Women are
wonderful beings in many ways--of a courage! The way they bear things so
gladly for men--think of their suffering when they have children. You
don't know about it probably, men take all this as a matter of
course--but I saw my sister die--after hours of it--"
Denzil moved his arm rather suddenly and upset the glass of lemon squash
on a little table near.
Verisschenzko observed this, but went on without a break:
"It is agony for them under the best conditions, and sometimes they
become divine over it. Amaryllis will be divine--I hope John will take
care of her--"
A look of concern came into Denzil's face, and Verisschenzko watched him.
Could any one be more attractive as a splendid mate for Amaryllis, he
thought. He crushed down all feeling of human jealousy. His intuition
would probably reveal all the mystery to him presently, and meanwhile if
he could forward any scheme which would be for the good of Amaryllis and
the security of the family, he would do so.
"I must leave you now, old man," he said, looking at his watch. "I have a
rendezvous with Harietta. I shall have to play the part of an ardent
lover and cannot yet wring her neck."
When Denzil was alone, he stood gazing into the fire.
"That John should take care of her?"--but John was going out to
fight--and so was he--and they might both be killed--What then?
"Stépan knows, I am certain," he thought, "and he is true as steel; he
must stand by her if we don't come back."
And then his thoughts flew to the vision of her sitting opposite him at
the table, with her sweet eyes turned to his now and then, the faint
violet shadows beneath them and the transparent exquisiteness of her skin
telling their own story by the added, fragile beauty. Oh! what
unutterable joy to hold her in his arms and whisper passionate love words
in her little ears, to live again the dream of her dainty head lying
prone there on his breast. Every pulse in his being throbbed to bursting,
seeming almost to suffocate him.
"Amaryllis--Sweetheart!" he whispered aloud, and then started at his
He paced up and down the room, clenching his hands. The family might go
on, but the two members of it must endure the pain of renunciation.
Which was the harder to bear, he wondered--his part of hopeless memory
and regret, or John's of forced denial and abstinence?
In all the world, no situation could be more strange or more cruel.
He had felt deeply about it before he had seen Amaryllis. He thought of
the myth of Eros and Psyche. His emotions had been much as Psyche's
before she lit the lamp. And now the lamp had been lighted--his eyes had
seen what his arms had clasped, the reality was more lovely than his
dream, and passion was kindled a hundredfold. It swept him off his feet.
He forgot war and the horror of the time, he forgot everything except
that he longed for Amaryllis.
"She is mine, absolutely mine," he said wildly. "Not John's."
And then he remembered his promise, given before any personal equation
had entered into the affair.
Never to take advantage of the situation--afterwards!
And what would the child be like? A true Ardayre, of course--they would
say that it had harked back, perhaps, to that Elizabethan Denzil whom
his father had told him was his exact portrait in the picture gallery
He could have laughed at the sardonic humour of everything if he had not
been too overcome with passionate desire to retain any critical sense.
Then he sat down and forced himself to realise what it meant--parenthood.
Not much to a man, as a rule. He had looked upon those occult stirrings
of the spirit of which he had read as romantic nonsense. It was a natural
thing and all right if a man had a place for him to wish to have a
son--but otherwise, sentimentality over such things was such rot!
And yet now he found himself thrilling with sentiment. He would like to
talk to Amaryllis all about it, and listen to her thoughts, too. And then
he remembered the many discussions with Verisschenzko upon the theory of
re-birth and of the soul's return again and again until its lessons are
learned on this plane of existence, and he wondered what soul would
animate the physical form of this little being who would be his and hers.
And suddenly in his mental vision the walls of the room seemed to fade,
and he was only conscious of a vastness of space, and knew that for this
brief moment he was looking into eternity and realising for the first
time the wonder of things.
* * * * *
Meanwhile Verisschenzko had returned to the Carlton and was softly
walking down the passage towards the Boleskis' rooms. The ante-room door
was at the corner, and as he was about ten yards from it a man came out
and strode rapidly towards the lift down the corridor at right angles,
but the bright light fell upon his face for an instant, and Verisschenzko
saw that it was Ferdinand Ardayre.
He waited where he was until he heard the lift doors shut, and even then
he paced up and down for a time before he entered the sitting-room. There
must be no suspicion that he had encountered the late visitor.
"Darling Brute, here you are!" Harietta cried delightedly, rising from
her sofa and throwing herself into his arms. "I've packed Stanislass off
to the St. James' to play piquet. I have been all alone waiting for you
for the last hour--I began to fear you would not come."
Verisschenzko looked at her, with his cynical, humorous smile, whose
meaning never reached her. He took in the transparent garments which
hardly covered her, and then he bent and picked up a man's handkerchief
which lay on a table near.
"_Tiens_! Harietta!" he remarked lazily. "Since when has Stanislass taken
to using this very Eastern perfume?" and he sniffed with disgust.
The wide look of startled innocence grew in Madame Boleski's hazel eyes.
"I believe Stanislass must have got a mistress, Stépan. I have
noticed lately these scents on his things--as you know, he never used
"The handkerchief is marked with 'F.A.' I suppose the _blanchisseuse_
mixes them in hotels. Let us burn the memento of a husband's straying
fancies then; the taste in perfumes of his inamorata is anything but
refined," and Verisschenzko tossed the bit of cambric into the fire which
sparkled in the grate.
"I've lots of news to tell you, Darling Brute--but I shan't--yet! Have
you come to England to see that bit of bread and butter--or--?"
But Verisschenzko, with a fierce savagery which she adored, crushed her
in his arms.
On the Tuesday morning after the Carlton dinner, fate fell upon Denzil
and Amaryllis in the way the jade does at times, swooping down upon
them suddenly and then like a whirlwind altering the very current of
their destiny. It came about quite naturally, too, and not by one of
those wildly improbable situations which often prove truth to be
stranger than fiction.
Amaryllis was settled in an empty compartment of the Weymouth express at
Paddington. She had said good-bye to John the evening before, and he had
returned to camp. She was going back to Ardayre, and feeling very
miserable. Everything had been a disillusion. John's reserve seemed to
have augmented, and she had been unable to break it down, and all the
new emotions which she was trembling with and longing to express, had
Presumably John must be pleased at the possibility of having a son since
it was his heart's desire; but it almost seemed as though the subject
embarrassed him! And all the beautiful things which she had meant to say
to him about it remained unspoken.
He was stolidly matter-of-fact.
What could it all mean?
At last she had become deeply hurt and had cried with a tremour in her
voice the morning before he left her:
"Oh! John, how different you have become; it can't be the same you who
once called me 'Sweetheart' and held me so closely in your arms! Have I
done anything to displease you, dearest? Aren't you glad that I am going
to have a baby?"
He had kissed her and assured her gravely that he was glad--overjoyed.
And his eyes had been full of pain, and he had added that he was stupid
and dull, but that she must not mind--it was only his way.
"Alas!" she had answered and nothing more.
She dwelt upon these things as she sat in the train gazing out of the
window on the blank side.
Yes. Joy was turning into dead sea fruit. How moving her thoughts had
been when coming up to meet him!
The marvel of love creating life had exalted her and she had longed to
pour her tender visionings into the ears of--her lover! For John had been
thus enshrined in her fond imagination!
The whole idea of having a child to her was a sacred wonder with little
of earth in it, and she had woven exquisite sentiment round it and had
dreamed fair dreams of how she would whisper her thoughts to John as she
lay clasped to his heart; and John, too, would be thrilled with
exaltation, for was not the glorious mystery his as well--not hers alone?
Now everything looked grey.
Tears rose in her eyes. Then she took herself to task; it was perhaps
only her foolish romance leading her astray once more. The thought
might mean nothing to a man beyond the pride of having a son to carry
on his name. If the baby should be a little girl John might not care
for it at all!
The tears brimmed over and fell upon a big crimson carnation in her coat,
a bunch of which John had ordered to be sent her, and which were now
safely reposing in a card-board box in the rack above her head.
Fortunately she had the carriage to herself. No one had attempted to get
in, and they would soon be off. To be away from London would be a relief.
Then her thoughts flew to Verisschenzko; he had told her that
circumstances in his country might require his frequent presence in
England for the next few months.
She would see him again. What would he tell her to do now? Conquer
emotion and look at things with common sense.
The picture of the dinner at the Carlton then came back to her, and the
face of Denzil across the table, so like, and yet so unlike John!
If Denzil had a wife would he be cold to her? Was it in the nature of
At the very instant the train began to move the carriage was invaded by a
man in khaki who bounded in and almost fell by her knees, and with a
cheery 'Just done it, Sir!' the guard flung in a dressing-bag and slammed
the door, and she realised with conscious interest that the intruder was
"How do you do? By Jove. I am awfully sorry," and he held out his hand.
"I nearly lost the train and I am afraid I have bundled in without asking
leave. I am going down to Bath to say good-bye to my mother. I say, do
forgive me if I startled you," and he looked full of concern.
Amaryllis laughed; she was nervous and overstrung.
"Your entrance was certainly sudden and in this non-stop to Westbury we
shall have to put up with each other till then--shall you mind?"
"Awfully--Must I say that the truth would be that I am enchanted!"
Fortune had flung him these two hours. He had not planned them, his
conscience was clear, and he could not help delight rushing through him.
Two hours with her--alone!
There are some blue eyes which seem to have a spark of the devil lurking
in them always, even when they are serious. Denzil's were such eyes.
Women found it difficult to resist his charm, and indeed had never tried
very hard. Life and its living, knowledge to acquire, work to do, beasts
to hunt, had not left him too much time to be spoiled by them
fortunately, and he had passed through several adventures safely and had
never felt anything but the most transient emotion, until now looking at
Amaryllis sitting opposite him he knew that he was in love with this
dream which had materialised.
Amaryllis studied him while they talked of ordinary things and the war
news and when he would go out. She felt some strong attraction drawing
her to him. Her sense of depression left her. She found herself noticing
how the sun which had broken through a cloud turned his immaculately
brushed hair into bronze. She did a little modelling to amuse herself,
and so appreciated balance and line.
Everything in Denzil was in the right place, she decided, and above all
he looked so peculiarly alive. He seemed, indeed, to be the reality of
what her imagination had built up round the personality of John in the
weeks of their separation. Denzil believed that he was talking quite
casually, but his glance was ardent, and atmosphere becomes charged when
emotions are strong no matter how insignificant words may be. Amaryllis
_felt_ that he was deeply interested in her.
"You know my friend Verisschenzko well, it seems," she said presently.
"Is not he a fascinating creature? I always feel stimulated when I am
with him, and as if I must accomplish great things."
"Stépan is a wonder--we were at Oxford together--he can do anything he
desires. He is a musician and an artist and is chock full of common
sense, and there's not a touch of rot. He would have taken honours if he
had not been sent down."
Amaryllis wanted to know about this, and listened amazedly to the story
of the mad freak which had so scandalised the Dons.
She had recovered from her nervousness, she was natural and delightful,
and although the peculiar situation was filling Denzil with excitement
and emotion, he was too much a man of the world to experience any _gêne_.
So they talked for a while with friendliness upon interesting things.
Then a pause came and Amaryllis looked out of the window, and Denzil had
time to grow aware that he must hold himself with a tighter hand, a sense
almost of intoxication had begun to steal over him.
Suddenly Amaryllis grew very pale and her eyelids flickered a little; for
the first time in her life she felt faint.
He bent forward in anxiety as she leaned her head against the
"Oh! what is it, you poor little darling! what can I do for you?" he
exclaimed, unconscious that he had used a word of endearment; but even
though things had grown vague for her Amaryllis caught the tenderly
pronounced 'darling' and, physically ill as she felt, her spirit thrilled
with some agreeable surprise. He came nearer and pushing up the padded
divisions between the seats, he lifted her as though she had been a baby
and laid her flat down. He got out his flask from his dressing bag and
poured some brandy between her pale lips, then he rubbed her hands,
murmuring he knew not what of commiseration. She looked so fragile and
helpless and the probable reason of her indisposition was of such
infinite solicitude to himself.
"To think that she is feeling like that because--Ah!--and I may not even
kiss her and comfort her, or tell her I adore her and understand." So his
Presently Amaryllis sat up and opened her eyes. She had not actually
fainted, but for a few moments everything had grown dim and she was not
certain of what had happened, or if she had dreamed that Denzil had
spoken a love word, or whether it was true--she smiled feebly.
"I did feel so queer," she explained. "How silly of me! I have never felt
faint before--it is stupid"--and then she blushed deeply, remembering
what certainly must be the cause.
"I am going to open the window wide," he said, appreciating the blush,
and let it down. "You ought not to sit with your back to the engine like
that, let us change sides."
He took command and drew her to her feet, and placed her gently in his
vacant seat; then he sat down opposite her and looked at her with
"I sit that way as a rule because of avoiding the dust, but, of course,
it was that. I am not generally such a goose though--it is the nastiest
feeling that I have ever known."
"You poor dear little girl," his deep voice said. "You must shut your
eyes and not talk now."
She obeyed, and he watched her intently as she lay back with her eyes
closed, the long lashes resting upon her pale cheeks. She looked childish
and a little pathetic, and every fibre of his being quivered with desire
to protect her. He had never felt so profoundly in his life--and the
whole thing was so complicated. He tried to force himself to remember
that he was not travelling with _his_ wife whom he could take care of and
cherish because she was going to have _his_ child, but that he was
travelling with John's wife whom he hardly knew and must take no more
interest in than any Ardayre would in the wife of the head of the family!
He could have laughed at the extraordinary irony of the thing, if it had
not been so moving.
Verisschenzko, had he been there and known the circumstances, would have
taken joy in analysing what nature was saying to them both!
Amaryllis was only conscious that Denzil seemed the reality of her dream
of John, and that she liked his nearness--and Denzil only knew that he
loved her extremely and must banish emotion and remember his given word.
So he pulled himself together when she sat up presently and began
talking again, and gradually the atmosphere of throbbing excitement
between them calmed. They spoke of each other's tastes and likings and
found many to be the same. Then they spoke of books, and each discovered
that the other was sufficiently well read to be able to discuss varied
An understanding and sympathy had grown up between them before they
reached Westbury, and yet Denzil was really trying to keep his word in
the spirit as well as the letter.
Amaryllis felt no constraint--she was more friendly than she would have
been with any other man she knew so slightly. Were they not cousins, and
was it not perfectly natural!
They talked of Oxford and of the effect it had upon young men, and again
they spoke of Stépan and of the dream he and Denzil shared.
"You will go into Parliament, I suppose, when you come back from the
war?" she remarked at last. "If you have dreams they should become
"That is what I intend to do. The war may last a long time though--but it
ought to teach one something, and England will be a vastly different
place after it, and perhaps the younger men who have fought may have a
"You have pet theories, of course."
"I suppose so--I believe that the first great step will be to give the
people better homes--the housing question is what I am going to devote my
energy to. I am sure it is the root of nearly every evil. Every man and
woman who works should have the right to a good home. I have two supreme
interests--that is one, and the other is elimination of the wastrels and
the unfit. I am quite ruthless, perhaps, you will think. But there is
such a sickening lot of mawkish sentiment mixed up with nearly every
scheme to benefit workers. I agree with Stépan who always preaches: Get
down to the commonsense point of view about a thing. Prune the convention
and religion and sentimentality first and then you can judge."
Amaryllis thought for a moment; her eyes became wide and dreamy, and her
charmingly set head was a little thrown back. Denzil took in the line of
her white throat and the curve of her chin--it was not weak. Why was it
that women with the possibilities of this one always seemed to be some
other man's property! He had never come across such charm in girls. Or
was it that marriage developed charm?
They neither of them spoke for a minute or two, each busy with
"I want to do something," Amaryllis said at last, "not, only just make
shirts and socks," and then the pink flushed her cheeks again suddenly as
she remembered that she would not be fit for more strenuous work for
quite a long time--and then the war would be over, of course.
Denzil thought the same thing without the last qualification. He was
under no delusions as to the speedy end of strife.
He could not help visioning the wonderful interest the hope of a son
would be to him if she really were his wife--how filled with supreme
sympathy and tenderness would be the months coming on. How they would
talk together about their wishes and the mystery and the glory of the
evolution of life. And here she had blushed at some thought concerning
it, and no words must pass between them about this sacred thing. He
longed to ask her many questions--and then a pang of jealousy shook him.
She would confide to John, not to him, all the emotions aroused by the
thought of the child--then. He wondered what she would do in the winter
all alone. Had she relations she was fond of? He wished that she knew his
Mother, who was the kindest sweetest lady in the world. He said aloud:
"I would like you to meet my Mother. She is going to be at Bath for a
month. She is almost an invalid with rheumatism in her ankle where she
broke it five years ago. I believe you would get on."
"I should love to--it is not an impossible distance from us. I will go
over to see her, if you will tell her about me--so that she won't think
some stranger is descending upon her some day!"
"She will be so pleased," and he thought that he would be happier knowing
that they were friends.
"Does she mean a great deal to you? Some mothers do," and she
sighed--her own was less than emptiness--they had never been near, and
now her stepfather and the step-family claimed all the affection her
mother could feel.
"She is a great dear--one of my best friends," and his eyes beamed. "We
have always been pals--because I have no brothers and sisters I suppose
she spoilt me!"
"I daresay you were quite a nice little boy!" Amaryllis smiled--"and it
must be divine to have a son--I expect it would be easy to spoil one."
Denzil clasped his hands rather tightly--she looked so adorable as she
said that, her eyes soft with inward knowledge of her great hope. How
impossible it all was that they must remain strangers--casual cousins and
"It must be an awful responsibility to have children," he said, watching
her. "Don't you think so?"
The pink flared up again as she answered a rather solemn "Yes."
Then she went on, a little hurriedly:
"One would try to study their characters and lead them to the highest
good, as gardeners watch over and train plants until they come to
perfection. But what funny, serious things we are talking about," and she
gave a little, nervous laugh--"Like two old grandfather philosophers."
"It is rather a treat to talk seriously; one so seldom has the chance to
meet any one who understands."
"To understand!" and she sighed. "Alas--How quite perfect life would
be--" and then she stopped abruptly. If she continued her words might
contain a reflection upon John.
Denzil bent forward eagerly--what had she been going to say?
She saw his blue attractive eyes gazing at her so ardently and some
delicious thrill passed through her. But Denzil recovered himself, and
leaned back in his seat--while he abruptly changed the conversation by
"I have never seen Ardayre. I would love to look at our common ancestors.
My father used to say there was an Elizabethan Denzil who was rather like
me. I suppose we are all stamped with the same brand."
"I know him!" Amaryllis cried delightedly. "He is up at the end of the
gallery in puffed white satin and a ruff. Of course, you must come and
see him; he has exactly the same eyes."
"The whole family are alive I believe--we were a tenacious lot!"
"If you and John both get leave at Christmas you must come with him and
spend it at Ardayre--I shall have made your Mother's acquaintance by
then, and we must persuade her too."
He gave some friendly answer--while he felt that John might not endorse
this invitation. If the places were reversed, how would he himself act?
Difficult as the situation was for him, it was infinitely harder for
John. Then the train stopped at Westbury.
Denzil had got out to get some papers which he had been to hurried to
secure at Paddington tipping the guard on the way, so that an old
gentleman who showed signs of desiring to enter was warded off to another
compartment. Thus when the train re-started, they were again left alone.
Amaryllis had partially recovered and was looking nearly her usual self,
but for the violet shadows beneath her eyes. She glanced at the papers
which he handed to her, and Denzil retired behind the Times. He wanted
to think; he must not let himself slip out of hand. He must resolutely
stamp out all the emotion that she was causing him; he despised weakness
of any sort.
He thought of Verisschenzko's words about laws being powerless to control
a man's actions, when a natural force is prompting him, unless he uses
self-analysis, and so by gaining knowledge permits the spirit to conquer.
He recollected that he had transgressed often without a backward thought
in past days with other women, but now his honour was engaged even apart
from his firm belief in Stépan's favourite saying, that a man must never
sully the wrong thing. Then the argument they had often had about
indulgences came to him, and the truth of the only possibility of their
enjoyment being while they remained servants, not masters.
He had had his indulgences in the two hours to Westbury, and had very
nearly let it conquer him, more than once, and now he must not only curb
all friendly words and delightful dalliance with forbidden topics, but he
must _feel_ no more passion.
He made himself read the war news and try to visualize the grim reality
behind the official phrasing of the communiqués. And gradually he became
calm, and was almost startled when Amaryllis, who had been watching him
furtively and had begun to wonder if he was really so interested in his
paper, said timidly:
"Will you pull the window up a little? It seems to be growing cold."
She noticed that his lips were set firmly and that an abstracted
expression had grown in his eyes.
Then Denzil spoke, now quite naturally and about the war, and
deliberately kept the conversation to this subject, until Amaryllis lay
back again in her corner and closed her eyes.
"I am going to have a little sleep," she said.
She too had begun to realise that in more personal investigation of
mutual tastes there lay some danger. She had become conscious of the fact
that she was very interested in Denzil--and there he was, not really the
least like John!
They were silent for some time, and were nearing Frome when he spoke. He
had been deliberating as to what he ought to do? Get out and leave her,
to catch his connection to Bath, or sacrifice that and see her safely to
her destination and perhaps hire a motor from Bridgeborough?
This latter was his strong desire and also seemed the only chivalrous
thing to do when she still looked so pale, but--
"Here we are almost at Frome," he said.
Her eyes rounded with concern. It would be horrid to be alone. She had
left her maid in London for a few days' holiday.
"You change here for Bath," she faltered a little uncertainly.
He decided in a second. He could not be inhuman! Duty and desire were
"Yes--but I am coming on with you. I shall not leave you until I see you
safely into your own motor. I can hire one perhaps then, to take me on
the rest of the way."
She was relieved--or she thought it was merely relief, which made a
sudden lifting in her heart!
"How kind of you. I do feel as if I did not like the thought of being by
myself, it is so stupid of me--But you can't hire a motor from
Bridgeborough which would get you to Bath before dark! They are wretched
things there. You must come with me to Ardayre; it is on the Bath road,
you know--and we can have a late lunch, and and then I'll send you on in
the Rolls Royce. You will be there in an hour--in time for tea."
This was a tremendous fresh temptation. He tried to look at it as though
it did not in reality matter to him more than the appearance suggested.
Had there been no emotion in his interest in Amaryllis, he would not have
hesitated, he knew.
Then it was only for him to conquer emotion and behave as he would do
under ordinary circumstances--it would be a good test of his will.
"All right--that's splendid, and I shall be able to see Ardayre!"
It was when they were in Amaryllis's own little coupé very close to each
other that strong temptation assailed Denzil. He suddenly felt his
pulses throbbing wildly and it was with the greatest difficulty he
prevented himself from clasping her in his arms. He tried to look out of
the window and take an interest in the park, which was entered very soon
after leaving the station. He told himself Ardayre was something which
deserved his attention and he looked for the first view of the house, but
all his will could only keep his arms from transgressing, it could not
control the riot of his thoughts.
Amaryllis was conscious in some measure that he was far from calm, and
her own heart began to beat unaccountably. She talked rather fast about
the place and its history, and both were relieved when the front door
came in sight.
There was a welcoming smell of burning logs in the hall to greet them,
and the old butler could not restrain an expression of startled curiosity
when he saw Denzil, the likeness to his master was so great.
"This is Captain Ardayre, Filson," Amaryllis said, "Sir John's cousin,"
and then she gave the order about the motor to take Denzil on to Bath.
They went through the Henry VII inner hall, and on to the green
drawing-room, with its air of home and comfort, in spite of its great
size and stateliness.
There were no portraits here, but some fine specimens of the Dutch
school, and the big tawny dogs rose to welcome their mistress and were
introduced to their "new relation."
She was utterly fascinating, Denzil thought, playing with them there on
the great bear skin rug.
"We shall lunch at once," she told him, "and then rush through the
pictures afterwards before you start for Bath."
They both tried to talk of ordinary things for the few moments before
that meal was announced, and then some kind of devilment seemed to come
into Amaryllis--nothing could have been more seductive or alluring than
her manner, while keeping to strict convention. The bright pink colour
glowed in her cheeks and her eyes sparkled. She could not have accounted
for her mood herself. It was one of excitement and interest.
Denzil had the hardest fight he had ever been through, and he grew almost
gruff in consequence. He was really suffering.
He admired the way she acted as hostess, and the way the home was done.
He hardly felt anything else, though apart from her he would have been
interested in his first view of Ardayre, but she absorbed all other
emotions, he only knew that he desired to make passionate love to her, or
to get away as quickly as he could.
"Are you going to remain here all the winter?" he asked her presently, as
they rose from the table, "or shall you go to London? You will be awfully
lonely, won't you, if you stay here?"
"I love the country and I am growing to love and understand the place.
John wants me to so much, it means more to him than anything else in the
world. I shall remain until after Christmas anyway. But come now, I want
just to take you into the church, because there are two such fine tombs
there of both our ancestors, yours and mine. We can go out of the windows
and come back for coffee in the cedar parlour."
Denzil acquiesced; he wished to see the church. They reached it in a
minute or two and Amaryllis opened the door with her own key and led him
on up the aisle to the recumbent knights--and then she whispered their
history to him, standing where a ray of sunlight turned her brown hair
"I wonder what their lives were," Denzil said, "and if they lived and
loved and fought their desires--as we do now--the younger one's face
looks as though he had not always conquered his. Stépan would say his
indulgences had become his masters, not his servants, I expect."
"Verisschenzko is wonderful--he makes one want to be strong," and
Amaryllis sighed. "I wonder how many of us even begin to fight our
"One has to be strong always if one wants to attain--but sometimes it is
only honour which holds one--and weaklings are so pitiful."
"What is honour?" Her eyes searched his face wistfully. "Is it being true
to some canon of the laws of chivalry, or is it being true to some higher
thing in one's own soul?"
Denzil leaned against the tomb and he thought deeply: then he looked
straight into her eyes:
"Honour lies in not betraying a trust reposed in one, either in the
spirit or in the letter."
"Then, when, we say of a man 'he acted honourably,' we mean that he did
not betray a trust placed in him, even if it was only perhaps by
circumstance and not by a person."
"It is simply that'--keeping faith. If a man stole a sum of money from a
friend, the dishonour would not be in the act of stealing, which is
another offence--but in abusing his friend's trust in him by committing
"Dishonour is a betrayal then--"
"Why would this knight"--and she placed her hand on the marble face,
"have said that he must kill another who had stolen his wife, say, to
avenge his 'honour'?"
"That is the conventional part of it--what Stépan calls the grafting
on of a meaning to suit some idea of civilisation. It was a nice way
of having personal revenges too and teaching people that they could
not steal anything with impunity. If we analysed that kind of honour
we would find it was principally vanity. The dishonour really lay with
the wife, if she deceived her husband--and with the other man if he
was the husband's friend--if he was not, his abduction of the woman
was not 'dishonourable' because he was not trusted, it was merely an
act of theft."
"What then must we do when we are very strongly tempted?" Her voice was
so low he could hardly hear it.
"It is sometimes wisest to run away," and he turned from her and moved
towards the door.
She followed wondering. She knew not why she had promoted this
discussion. She felt that she had been very unbalanced all the day.
They went back to the house almost silently and through the green
drawing-room window again and up the broad stairs with Sir William
Hamilton's huge decorative painting of an Ardayre group of his time,
filling one vast wall at the turn.
And so they reached the cedar parlour, and found coffee waiting and
There was a growing tension between them and each guessed that the other
was not calm. Amaryllis began showing him the view from the windows
across the park, and then the old fireplace and panelling of the room.
"We sit here generally when we are alone," she said. "I like it the best
of all the rooms in the house."
"It is a fitting frame for you."
They lit cigarettes.
Denzil had many things he longed to say to her of the place, and the
thoughts it called up in him--but he checked himself. The thing was to
get through with it all quickly and to be gone. They went into the
picture gallery then, and began from the end, and when they came to the
Elizabethan Denzil they paused for a little while. The painted likeness
was extraordinary to the living splendid namesake who gazed up at the old
panel with such interested eyes.
And Amaryllis was thinking:
"If only John had that something in him which these two have in their
eyes, how happy we could be."
And Denzil was thinking:
"I hope the child will reproduce the type." He felt it would be some kind
of satisfaction to himself if she should have a son which should be his
"It is so strange," she remarked, "that you should be exactly like this
Denzil, and yet resemble John who does not remind me of him at all,
except in the general family look which every one of them share. This one
might have been painted from you."
He looked down at her suddenly and he was unable to control the
passionate emotion in his eyes. He was thinking that yes, certainly, the
child must be like him--and then what message would it convey to her?
Amaryllis was disturbed, she longed to ask him what it was which she
felt, and why there seemed some illusive remembrance always haunting her.
She grew confused, and they passed on to another frame which contained
the Lady Amaryllis who had had the sonnets written to her nut brown
locks. She was a dainty creature in her stiff farthingale, but bore no
likeness to the present mistress of Ardayre.
Denzil examined her for some seconds, and then he said reflectively:
"She is a Sweetheart--but she is not you!"
There was some tone of tenderness in his voice when he said the word
"Sweetheart" and Amaryllis started and drew in her breath. It recalled
something which had given her joy, a low murmur whispered in the night.
"Sweetheart!"--a word which John, alas! had never used before nor since,
except in that one letter in answer to her cry of exaltation--her glad
Magnificat. What was this echo sounding in her ears? How like Denzil's
voice was to John's--only a little deeper. Why, why should he have used
that word "Sweetheart"?
No coherent thought had yet come to her, it was as though she had looked
for an instant upon some scene which awakened a chord of memory, and then
that the curtain had dropped before she could define it.
She grew agitated, and Denzil turning, saw that her face was pale, and
her grey eyes vague and troubled.
"I am quite sure that it is tiring you, showing me all the house like
this, we won't look at another picture--and really I must be getting on."
She did not contradict him.
"I am afraid that you ought to go perhaps, if you want to arrive by
And as they returned to the green drawing-room she said some nice things
about wanting to meet his mother, and she tried to be natural and at
ease, but her hand was cold as ice when he held it in saying good-bye
before the fire, when Filson had announced the motor.
And if his eyes had shown passionate emotion in the picture gallery, hers
now filled with question and distress.
"Good-bye, Amaryllis--" He could not bring himself to say the usual
conventionalities, and went towards the door with nothing more.
Her brain was clearing, terror and passion and uncertainty had come in
like a flood.
He turned to her side fearfully. Why had she called him now?
"Denzil--?" her face had paled still further, and there was an anguish of
pleading in it. "Oh, please, what does it all mean?" and she fell forward
into his arms.
He held her breathlessly. Had she fainted? No--she still stood on her
feet, but her little face there lying on his breast was as a lily in
whiteness and tears escaped from her closed eyes.
"For God's sake, Denzil, have you not something to tell me? You cannot
leave me so!"
He shivered with the misery of things.
"I have nothing to tell you, child." His voice was hoarse. "You are
overwrought and overstrung. I have nothing to say to you but just
She held his coat and looked up at him wildly.
"--Denzil--It was you--not--John!"
He unclasped her clinging arms:
"I must go."
"You shall not until you answer me--I have a right to know."
"I tell you I have nothing to say to you," he was stern with the
suffering of restraint.
She clung to him again.
"Why did you say that word 'Sweetheart' then? It was your own word. Oh!
Denzil, you cannot be so frightfully cruel as to leave me in
uncertainty--tell me the truth or I shall die!"
But he drew himself away from her and was silent; he could not make lying
protestations of not understanding her, so there only remained one course
for him to follow--he must go, and the brutality of such action made him
fierce with pain.
She burst into passionate sobs and would have fallen to the ground. He
raised her in his arms and laid her on the sofa near, and then fear
seized him. What if this excitement and emotion should make her really
He knelt down beside her and stroked her hair. But she only sobbed the
"How hideously cruel are men. Why can't you tell me what I ask you? You
dare not even pretend that you do not understand!"
He knew that his silence was an admission, he was torn with distress.
"Darling," he cried at last in torment, "for God's sake, let me go."
"Denzil--" and then her tears stopped suddenly, and the great drops
glistened on her white cheeks. Weeping had not disfigured her--she looked
but as a suffering child.
"Denzil--if you knew everything, you could not possibly leave me--you
don't know what has happened--But you must, you will have to
He bowed his head and placed her two hands over his face with a
"Hush--I implore you--say nothing. I do know, but I love you--I must
At that she gave a glad cry and drew him close to her.
"You shall not now! I do not care for conventions any more, or for laws,
or for anything! I am a savage--you are mine! John must know that you are
mine! The family is all that matters to him, I am only an instrument, a
medium for its continuance--but Denzil, you and I are young and loving
and living. It is you I desire, and now I know that I belong to you. You
are the man and I am the woman--and the child will be our child!"
Her spirit had arisen at last and broken all chains. She was
transfigured, transformed, translated. No one knowing the gentle
Amaryllis could have recognised her in this fierce, primitive creature
claiming her mate!
Furious, answering passion surged through Denzil; it was the supreme
moment when all artificial restrictions of civilisation were swept away.
Nature had come to her own. All her forces were working for these two of
her children brought near by a turn of fate. He strained her in his arms
wildly--he kissed her lips, and ears, and eyes.
"Mine, mine," he cried, and then "Sweetheart!"
And for some seconds which seemed an eternity of bliss they forgot all
but the joy of love.
But presently reality fell upon Denzil and he almost groaned.
"I must leave you, precious dear one--even so--I gave my word of honour
to John that I would never take advantage of the situation. Fate has done
this thing by bringing us together; it has overwhelmed us. I do not feel
that we are greatly to blame, but that does not release me from my
promise. It is all a frightful price that we must pay for pride in the
Family. Darling, help me to have courage to go."
"I will not--It is shameful cruelty," and she clung to him, "that we must
be parted now I am yours really--not John's at all. Everything in my
heart and being cries out to you--you are the reality of my dream lover,
your image has been growing in my vision for months. I love you, Denzil,
and it is your right to stay with me now and take care of me, and it is
my right to tell you of my thoughts about the--child--Ah! if you knew
what it means to me, the joy, the wonder, the delight! I cannot keep it
all to myself any longer. I am starving! I am frozen! I want to tell it
all to my Beloved!"
He held her to him again--and she poured forth the tenderest holy things,
and he listened enraptured and forgot time and place.
"Denzil," she whispered at last, from the shelter of his arms. "I have
felt so strange--exalted, ever since--and now I shall have this ever
present thought of you and love women in my existence--But how is it
going to be in the years which are coming? How can I go on pretending to
John?--I cannot--I shall blurt out the truth--For me there is only
you--not just the you of these last days since we saw each other with our
eyes--but the you that I had dreamed about and fashioned as my lover--my
delight--Can I whisper to John all my joy and tenderness as I watch the
growing up of my little one? No! the thing is monstrous, grotesque--I
will not face the pain of it all. John gave you to me--he must have done
so--it was some compact between you both for the family, and if I did not
love you I should hate you now, and want to kill myself. But I love you,
I love you, I love you!" and she fiercely clasped her arms once more
about his neck. "You must take the consequences of your action. I did not
ask to have this complication in my life. John forced it upon me for his
own aims, but I have to be reckoned with, and I want my lover, I claim my
mate." Her cheeks were flaming and her eyes flashed.
"And your lover wants you," and Denzil wildly returned her fond caress,
"but the choice is not left to me, darling, even if you were my wife, not
John's. You have forgotten the war--I must go out and fight."
All the warmth and passion died out of her, and she lay back on the
pillows of the sofa for a moment and closed her eyes. She had
indeed forgotten that ghastly colossus in her absorption in their
own two selves.
Yes--he must go out and fight--and John would go too--and they might both
be killed like all those gallant partners of the season and her cousin,
and those who had fallen at Mons and the battle of the Marne.
No--she must not be so paltry as to think of personal things, even love.
She must rise above all selfishness, and not make it harder for her man.
Her little face grew resigned and sanctified, and Denzil watching her
with burning, longing eyes, waited for her to speak.
"It is true--for the moment nothing but you and my great desire for you
was in my mind. But you are right, Denzil; of course, I cannot keep you.
Only I am glad that just this once we have tasted a brief moment of
happiness, and--Denzil, I believe our souls belong to each other, even if
we do not meet again on earth."
And when at last they had parted, and Amaryllis, listening, heard the
motor go, she rose from the sofa and went out through the window to the
lawn, and so to the church again, and there lay on the steps of the young
knight's tomb, sobbing and praying until darkness enveloped the land.
A day or two before Denzil sailed for France he dined with Verisschenzko.
The intense preoccupation of the last war preparations had left him very
little time for grieving. He was unhappy when he thought of Amaryllis,
but he was a man, and another primitive instinct was in action in
him--the zest of going out to fight!
Verisschenzko was depressed, his country was not yet giving him the
opportunity to fulfil his hopes, and he fretted that he must direct
things from so far.
They sat in a quiet corner of the Berkeley and talked in a desultory
fashion all through the _hors d'ouvres_ and the soup.
"I am sick of things, Denzil," Verisschenzko said at last. "I feel
inclined to end it all sometimes."
"And belie the whole meaning of your whole beliefs. Don't be a fool,
Stépan. I always have told you that there is one grain of suicide in the
composition of every Russian. Now it has become active with you. Have
another glass of champagne, old boy, and then you'll talk sense again.
It is sickening to be killed, or maimed, or any beastly thing if it
comes along with duty, but to court it is madness pure and simple. It's
"I'm with you," and he called the waiter and ordered a fine champagne,
while he smiled, showing his strong, square teeth.
"They don't have decent vodka--but the brandy will do the trick," and in
an instant his mood changed even before the cognac had come.
"It is the lingering trace of some other life of folly, when I talk like
that--I know it, Denzil. It is the harking back to long months of gloom
and darkness and snow and the howling of wolves and the fear of the
knout. This is not my first Russian life, you know!"
"Probably not; but you've had some more balanced intervening ones, or I
should have found you dead with veronal, or some other filthy thing
before this, with your highly strung nerves! I am not really alarmed
about you though, Stépan--you are fundamentally sane."
"I am glad you think that--very few English understand us--"
"Because you don't understand yourselves. You seem to have every quality
and fault crammed into your skins with no discrimination as to how to
sort them. You are not self-conscious like we are and afraid of looking
like fools--so whatever is uppermost bursts out. If one of us had half
your brains he would never have said an idiot thing completely contrary
to his whole natural bent like that, just because he felt down on his
luck for the moment."
Verisschenzko laughed outright.
"Go ahead, Denzil--let off steam! I'm done in!"
"Well, don't be such a damned fool again!"
"I won't--how is my Lady Amaryllis?"
Denzil looked at him keenly.
"Why do you ask?"
"Because she has written to me, and I am going down to see her--"
"Then you know how she is?"
"I guess. Look here, Denzil, do try and be frank with me. You are
acquainted with me and know whether I am to be trusted or not. You are
aware that I love her with the spirit. You and the worthy husband are off
to be killed, and yet just because you are so damned reserved English,
you can't bring yourself to do the sensible thing and tell me all about
it so that if you go to glory I could look after her rights and--the
child's--and take care of her. It is you who are a fool really, not I!
Because I get a little drunk with my moods and talk about suicide, that
is froth, but I should not bottle up a confidence because it's 'not the
thing' to talk about a woman--even though it's for her benefit and
protection to do so. I've more common sense. Some difficult questions
might crop up later with Ferdinand Ardayre, and I want to have the real
truth made plain to myself so that I can crush him. If you've some cards
up your sleeve that I don't know of, I can't defend Amaryllis so well."
Denzil put down his knife and fork for a moment; he realised the truth
of what his friend said, but it was very difficult for him to speak
all the same.
"Tell me what you know, Stépan, and I'll see what I can do. It is not
because I don't trust you, but it is against everything in me to talk."
"Convention again, and selfishness. You are thinking more about the
Englishman's point of view than the good of the woman you love--because I
feel partly from her letter that you do love her and that she loves
you--and I surmise that the child is yours, not John's, though how this
miracle has been accomplished, since it was clear that you had never seen
her until the night at the Carlton, I don't pretend to guess!"
Denzil drank down his champagne, and then he made Verisschenzko
understand in a few words--the Russian's imagination filled in the
He lit a cigarette between the course and puffed rings of smoke.
"So poor John devised this plan, and yet he loves her--he must indeed be
obsessed by the family!"
"He is--he is a frightfully reserved person too, and I am sure has frozen
Amaryllis from the first day."
"My idea was always for this, directly I went to Ardayre. I felt that
mysterious pull of the family there in that glorious house. I thought she
would probably simplify things by just taking you for a lover, when you
met, as you are her counterpart--a perfect mate for her. I had even made
up my mind to suggest this to her, and influence her as much as I could
to this end--but lo! the husband takes the matter out of our hands and
devises a really unique accomplishment of our wishes. Gosh! Denzil! it's
John who's got the common sense and the genius, not we!"
"Yes, he has--so far, but he did not reckon with human emotion. He might
have known that directly I should see Amaryllis I should fall in love
with her, and he ought to have understood that that extraordinary thing,
nature, might make her draw to me afterwards. Now the situation is
tragic, however you look at it. John will have the hell of a life if he
comes back; he can't help feeling jealous every time he sees the child,
and the tension between him and Amaryllis, now that she knows, will be
great. Amaryllis is wretched--she is passionate and vivid as a humming
bird. Every hair of her darling head is living and quivering with human
power for joy and union, and she will lead the famished life of a nun! I
absolutely worship her. I am frantically in love, so my outlook, if I
come back is not gay either. I wonder if we did well, after all, John and
I, and if the family makes all this suffering worth while? Perhaps it
would have been better to leave it to fate!" Denzil sighed and forgot to
notice a dish the waiter was handing.
"It is perfectly certain," and Verisschenzko grew contemplative, "that
the result of deliberately turning the current of events like that must
have some momentous consequence. Mind you, I think you were right. I
should have advised it as I have told you, because of that swine of a
Turk, Ferdinand--but it may have deranged some plan of the Cosmos, and
if so some of you will have to pay for it. I hate that it should be my
lady Amaryllis. All her sorrow comes from your dramatically honourable
promise. You can't make love to her now--because a man who is a
gentleman does not break his word. Now if my plan had been followed, you
would not have had this limitation and you could have had some joy--but
who knows! A false position is a gall in any case, and it would have
soiled my star, which now shines purely. So perhaps all is for the best.
But have you analysed, now that we are on the subject, what it is 'being
in love,' old boy?"
"It is divine--and it is hell--"
"All that! Amaryllis is the exact opposite to Harietta Boleski--in this,
that she attracts as strongly as Harietta could ever do physically, and
will be no disappointment in soul in the _entre actes_. _Being in love_
is a physical state of exaltation; _loving_ is the merging of spirit
which in its white heat has glorified the physical instinct for
re-creation into a godlike beatitude not of earth. A man could be in love
with Harietta, he could never love her. A man could always love
Amaryllis, so much that he would not be aware that half his joy was
because he was _in love_ with her also."
"You know, Stépan, men, women and every one talk a lot of nonsense about
other interests in life mattering more, and there being other kinds of
really better happiness, but it is pure rot; if one is honest one owns
that there is no real happiness but in the satisfaction of love. Every
other kind is second best. It is jolly good often, but only a _pis aller_
in comparison to the real thing.
"And when people deny this, believing they are speaking honestly, it is
simply because the real thing has not come their way, or they are too
brutalised by transient indulgences to be able to feel exaltation.
"So here's to love!" and Denzil emptied his glass. "The supreme God--"
_"Ainsi soit il,"_ and Stépan drank in response. "Our toast before has
always been to the Ardayre son, and now we drink to what I hope has been
They were silent for some moments, and then Verisschenzko went on:
"When the state of being in love is waning, affection often remains, but
then one is at the mercy of a new emotion. I'd be nervous if a woman who
had loved me subsided into feeling affection!"
"Then define loving?"
"Loving throbs with delight in the flesh; it thrills the spirit with
reverence. It glorifies into beauty commonplace things. It draws nearer
in sickness and sorrow, and is not the sport of change. When a woman
loves truly she has the passion of the mistress, the selfless tenderness
of the mother, the dignity and devotion of the wife. She is all fire and
snow, all will and frankness, all passion and reserve, she is
authoritative and obedient--queen and child."
"And a man?"
"He ceases to be a brute and becomes a god."
"Can it last, I wonder?" and again Denzil sighed.
"It could if people were not such fools--they nearly always deliberately
destroy the loved one's emotion by senseless stupidity--in not grasping
the fact that no fire burns without fuel. They disillusionise each other.
The joy once secured, they take no pains to keep it. A woman will do
things when the lover is an acknowledged possession, which she would not
have dreamed of doing while desiring to attract the man--and a man
likewise--neither realising that the whole state of being in love is an
intoxication of the senses, and that the senses are very easily wearied
"Stépan--what am I going to do about Amaryllis? If I come back, it will
be hell--a continual longing and aching, and I want to accomplish
something in life; it was never my plan to have the whole thing held and
bounded by passion for a woman. A hopeless passion I can understand
facing and crushing, but one which you know that the woman returns, and
that it is only the law and promises you have made which separate you, is
the most awful torment." He covered his eyes with his hand for a moment.
His face was stern. "And her life too--how sickening. You say you are
going down to Ardayre to see Amaryllis--you will tell me how you find
her. I have not written--I am trying not to feel."
"Are you interested about the coming child? I am never quite certain how
much it matters to a man, whether we deceive ourselves and feel sentiment
simply because we love the woman, whether the emotion is half vanity, or
whether there is something in the actual state called parenthood? How do
Denzil thought of his musings upon this subject after he had seen
Amaryllis at the Carlton.
"It is hard to describe," he answered now, "it is all so interwoven with
love for Amaryllis that I cannot distinguish which is which, or how I
feel about the state in the abstract. Women have these mysterious
emotions, I believe, but I do not think that they come to the average
man, but if he loves it seems a fulfilment."
"I have two children scattered in Russia, begotten before I had begun to
think of things and their meanings. I have them finely educated--I loathe
them. I sicken at the memory of the mothers; I am ashamed when I see in
them some chance physical likeness to myself. But how will you feel
presently when you see the child, adoring the mother as you do? What will
it say to you, looking at you with your own eyes, perhaps? You'll long to
have some hand in the training of it. You'll desire to watch the budding
brain and the expanding soul. You'll be drawn closer and closer to
Amaryllis--it will all pull you with an invisible nature chain--"
"I know it,--that is the tragedy of the whole thing. Those delights will
be John's--and I hate to think that Amaryllis will be alone for all these
months--and yet I believe I would prefer that to her being with John. I
am jealous when I remember that he has rights denied to me--so what must
he feel, poor devil, when he remembers about me?"
"It is quite a peculiar situation. I wonder what the years will
develop it into."
"If the child is a girl, the whole thing is in vain."
"It won't be a girl--you will see I am right. When will you and John get
leave, do you suppose?"
"I don't know, but about Christmas, perhaps, if we are alive--"
"Do you want to see her again, then?"
"I long always to see her--but by Christmas--it would be nearly five
months. I don't think I could keep my word and not make love to her--if I
"You will wish to hear about her--?"
After this they were both silent while the cheese was being removed.
Verisschenzko was thinking profoundly. Here was a study worthy of his
highest intuitive faculties. What possible solution could the future
hold? Only one--that of death for either of the men concerned. Well,
death was busy with England's best--it was no unlikely possibility--and
as he looked at Denzil he felt a stab of pain. Nothing more splendid and
living and strong could be imagined than his six foot one of manhood,
crowned with the health of his twenty-nine years.
"I hope to God he comes through," he prayed. And then he became cynical,
as was his habit, when he found himself moved.
"I am on the track of Harietta, Denzil. She has a new
"What a combination!"
"Yes, but who the officer was at the Ardayre ball I cannot yet trace.
Stanislass is quite a _gaga_--he spends his time packed off to play
piquet at the St. James'--he has no _bosse des cartes_,--it is his
"He does not feel the war?"
"He is numb."
"What will you do if you catch her red-handed?"
"I shall have her shot without a moment's compunction. It would be a
"I don't know that I should have the nerve to shoot a woman--even a spy."
Verisschenzko laughed, and a savage light grew in his Calmuck eyes.
"My want of civilisation will serve me--if ever that moment comes."
Then their talk turned to fighting, and women were forgotten for the
Amaryllis came up to London the following week to say good-bye to John,
so Verisschenzko did not go down to Ardayre to see her.
John's leave-taking was characteristic. He could not break through the
iron band of his reserve, he longed to say something loving to her, but
the more deeply he felt things the greater was his difficulty in
self-expression. And the knowledge of the secret he hid in his heart made
him still more ill at ease with Amaryllis. She too was changed--he felt
it at once. Her grey eyes were mysterious--they had grown from a girl's
into a woman's. She did not mention the coming child until he did--and
then it was she who showed desire to change the conversation. All this
pained John, while he felt that he himself was the cause--he knew that he
had frozen her. He thought over his marriage from the beginning. He
thought of the night when he had sat on the bench outside her window
until dawn, of the agony he suffered, realising at last that the axe had
indeed fallen, and that some day she must know the truth. And would she
reproach him and say that he should have warned her that this possibility
might occur? He remembered his talk with Lemon Bridges. He had been going
to give him a definite answer that morning, but John had missed the
appointment, so they spoke at the ball.
Would it have been better if he had let himself go and fondly kissed and
netted Amaryllis? Or would that have been misleading and still more
unkind? It was too late now, in any case. He must learn to take the only
satisfaction which was left to him, the knowledge that there was the hope
of a true Ardayre to carry on.
He talked long to his wife of his desires for the child's education,
should it prove a boy, and he should not return, and Amaryllis listened
Her mind was filled with wonder all the time. She had been through much
emotion since the passionate outburst after Denzil had gone, but was
quite calm now. She had classified things in her mind. She felt no
resentment against John. He ought not to have married her perhaps, but it
might be that at the time he did not know. Only she wondered when she
looked at him sitting opposite her, talking gravely about the baby, in
the library of Brook Street, how he could possibly be feeling. What an
immense influence the thought of the family must have in his life. She
understood it in a great measure herself. She remembered Verisschenzko's
words upon the occasions when he had spoken to her about it, and of her
duties towards it, and how she must uphold it. She particularly
remembered that which he had said when they walked by the lake, and he
had seemed to be transmitting some message to her, which she had not
understood at the time. Did Verisschenzko know then that John must always
be heirless and had he been suggesting to her that the line should go on
through her? Some of the pride in it all had come to her before she had
left the dark church after parting with Denzil. Perhaps she was
fulfilling destiny. She must not be angry with John. She did not try to
cease from loving Denzil. She had not knowingly been unfaithful to
John--and now, she would be faithful to Denzil, he was her love and her
mate. Indeed, even in the fortnight which elapsed between her farewell
to him, and now when she was going to say farewell to John, she had many
months of tender consolation in the thought of the baby--Denzil's son.
She could revive and revel in that exquisite exaltation which she had
experienced at first and which John had withered. Denzil far surpassed
even the imagined lover into which she had turned John. So now Denzil had
become the reality, and John the dream.
She felt sorry for her husband too. She was fine enough to understand and
divine his difficulties.
She found that she felt just nothing for him but a kindly affection. He
might have been Archie de la Paule--or any of her other cousins. She knew
that her whole being was given to Denzil--who represented her dream.
She tried to be very kind to John, and when he kissed her before
starting, the tears came to her eyes.
Poor good, cold John!
And when he had departed--all the de la Paule family had been there at
Brook Street also--Lady de la Paule wondered at her niece's set face. But
what a mercy it was the marriage was such a success after all and that
there might be a son!
So both Denzil and John went to the war--and Amaryllis was alone.
Verisschenzko had returned to Paris without seeing her--and it was the
beginning of December before he was in England again and rang her up at
Brook Street where she had returned for a week, asking if he might call.
"Of course!" she said, and so he came.
The library was looking its best. Amaryllis had a knack of arranging
flowers and cushions and such things--her rooms always breathed an air of
home and repose, and Verisschenzko was struck by the sweet scent and the
warmth and cosiness when he came in out of the gloomy fog.
She rose to greet him, her face more ethereal still than when he had
dined with her.
"You are looking like an angel," he said, when she had given him some tea
and they were seated on the big sofa before the fire. "What have you to
tell me? I know that you are going to have a child; I am very interested
about it all."
Amaryllis blushed a soft pink--he went on with perfect calm.
"You blush as though I had said something unheard of! How custom rules
you still! For a blush is caused by feeling some sort of shame or
discomfort, or agitating surprise at some discovery. We may get red with
anger, or get pale, but that bright, sudden flush always has some
self-conscious element of shame in it. It is just convention which has
wrapped the most natural and divine thing in life round with discomfort
in this way. You are deeply to be congratulated that you are going to
have a baby, do you not think so?"
"Of course I do--" and Amaryllis controlled her uneasy bashfulness. She
really wished to talk to her friend.
"Who told you about it?" she asked.
Amaryllis drew in her breath suddenly. Verisschenzko's eyes were looking
her through and through.
"Yes,--he is glad that there may be the possibility of a son for
"How do you feel about it? It is an enormous responsibility to have
"I feel that--I want to do the wisest things from the beginning--"
"You must take great care of yourself, and always remain serene. Never
let your mind become agitated by speculation as to the _presently_, keep
all thoughts fixed upon the now."
Amaryllis looked at him a little troubled. What did he know? Something
tangible, or were these views of his just applicable to any case? Her
eyes were full of question and pleading.
"What do you want to ask me?" His eyes narrowed in contemplating her.
"I--I--do not know."
"Yes, you want to hear of Denzil--is it not so?"
She clasped her hands.
"He is well--I heard from him yesterday. He asked me to come to you. His
mother is still at Bath--he wishes you to meet."
Suddenly the impossibleness of everything seemed to come over Amaryllis.
She rose quickly and threw out her hands:
"Oh! if I could only understand the meaning of things, my friend! I am
afraid to think!"
"You love Denzil very much--yes?"
"Sit down and let us talk about it, lady of my soul. I am your
She sank into her seat beside him, among the green silk pillows--and he
leaned back and watched her for a while.
"He fulfils some imaginary picture, _hein?_ You had not seen him really
until we all dined?"
"You were bound to be drawn to him--he is everything a woman could
desire--but it was not only that--tell me?"
"He was what I had hoped John would be--the likeness is so great--"
"It is much deeper than that--nature was drawing you unconsciously."
She covered her face with her hands. It seemed as if Verisschenzko must
know the truth. Had Denzil told him, or was it his wonderful intuition
which was enlightening him now, or was it just her sensitive conscience?
"You see custom and convention and false shames have so distorted most
natural things that no one has been taught to understand them. Men were
intended in the scheme of things to love women and to have children;
women were meant to love men and to desire to be mothers. These instincts
are primordial, the life of the world depends upon them. They have been
distorted and abused into sins and vices and excesses and every evil by
civilisation, so that now we rule them out of every calculation in
judging of a circumstance; if we are 'nice' people they are taboo.
Supposing we so suppressed and distorted and misused the other two
primitive instincts, to obtain food and to kill one's enemy, the world
would have ended long ago. We have done what we could to distort those
also, but nothing to the extent to which we have debased the nobility of
the recreative instinct!"
Amaryllis listened attentively, and he went on:
"It is admitted that we require food to live--and that if we are
threatened with death from an enemy we have the right to kill him in
self-defence. But it is never admitted that it is equally natural that we
desire to recreate our species. Under certain circumstances of vows and
restrictions, we are permitted to take one partner for life--and--if this
person turns out to be a fraud for the purpose for which we made the
promise, we may not have another. Supposing hungry savages were given
covered dishes purporting to contain food, and upon lifting the cover one
of them discovered his dish was empty--what would happen? He would bear
it as long as he could, but when he was starving he would certainly try
to steal some food from his neighbour--and might even knock him on the
head and obtain it! Civilisation has controlled primitive instincts, so
that a civilised man might perhaps prefer to die himself from starvation
rather than kill or steal. He is master of his actions, _but he is not
master of the effects of his abstinence--Nature wins these,_ and whatever
would be the natural physical result of his abstinence occurs. Now you
can reason this thought out in all its branches, and you will see where
it leads to--"
Amaryllis mused for some moments--and she saw the justice of his
"But for hundreds of years there have been priests and nuns and companies
of ascetics," she remarked tentatively.
"There have been hundreds of lunatics also--and madness is not on the
decrease. When you destroy nature you always produce the abnormal, when
life survives from your treatment."
"You think that it is natural that one should have a mate then?"--she
"It is more important than the keeping of vows?"
"No, the spirit is degraded by the knowledge of broken vows--only one
must have intelligence to realise what the price of keeping them will be,
and then summon strength enough to carry out whatever course is best for
the soul, or best for the ideal one is living for. Sometimes that end
requires ruthlessness, and sometimes that end requires that we starve in
one way or another, so _we must_ be prepared for sacrifice perhaps of
life, or what makes life worth living, if we are strong enough to keep
vows which we have been short-sighted enough to make too hastily."
Amaryllis gazed in front of her--then she asked softly:
"Do you think it is wicked of me to be thinking of Denzil--not John?"
"No--it is quite natural--the wickedness would be if you pretended to
John that you were thinking of him. Deception is wickedness."
"Everything is so sad now. Both have gone to fight. I do not dare to
think at all."
"Yes, you must think--you must think of your child and draw to it all the
good forces, so that it may come to life unhampered by any weakness of
balance in you. That must be your constant self-discipline. Keep serene
and try to live in a world of noble ideals and serenity. Now I am going
to play to you--"
Amaryllis had never heard Verisschenzko play. He arranged the sofa
cushions and made her lie comfortably among them, then he went to the
piano--and presently it seemed to her that her soul was floating upward
into realms of perfect content. She had never even dreamed of such
playing. It was like nothing she had ever heard before, the sounds
touched all the highest chords in her spirit. She did not ask whose was
the music. She seemed to know that it was Verisschenzko's own, which was
just talking to her, telling her to be calm and brave and true.
He played for a whole hour--and at last softly and yet more softly, and
when he finished he saw that she was quietly asleep.
A smile as tender as a mother's came into his rugged face, and he stole
from the room noiselessly, breathing a blessing as he passed.
And somewhere in France, Denzil and John were thinking of her too, each
with great love in his heart.
Harietta Boleski was growing dissatisfied with her life. England was of
no amusement to her, and yet Hans insisted upon her staying on. She
wanted to go to Paris. The war altogether was a supreme bore and upset
She had been so successful in her obvious stupid way that Hans had been
enabled to transmit the most useful information to his country, which had
assisted to foil more than one Allied plan. Harietta saw numbers of old
gentlemen who pulled strings in that time, and although they wearied her,
she found them easier to extract news from than the younger men. Her
method was so irresistible: a direct appeal to the senses, and it hardly
ever failed. If only Hans would consent to her returning to Paris, with
the help of Ferdinand Ardayre, who was now her slave, she promised
Hans, as a Swedish philanthropic gentleman, had been over to give her
instructions once or twice, and at last had agreed to her crossing
She told this good news to Ferdinand one afternoon just before Christmas,
when he came in to see her in London.
"I'm going to Paris, Ferdie, and you must come too. There's no use in
your pretending that England matters to you, and you are of such use to
us with your branch business in Holland like that. If I'd thought in the
beginning that there was a chance to knock out Germany, I would have been
right on this side, because there's no two ways about it, England's the
place to have a good time in, but I've information which makes it certain
that we shall take Calais in the Spring, and so I guess it's safer to
cling to Kaiser Bill--and get it all done soon, then we can enjoy
ourselves again. I do pine for a tango! My! I'm just through with this
Ferdinand was a rest to her, almost as good as Hans. She had not to be
over-refined--she knew that he was on the same level as herself. He
amused her too in several ways.
He looked sulky now. It did not suit his plans to go to Paris yet. He was
trying to collect information for a game of his own. But where Harietta
went he must go, he was besotted about her, and knew that he could not
trust her a yard.
He protested a little that they were very well where they were, but as
she never allowed any one's wishes to interfere with her plans she
"I'm going on Saturday. We have secured a suite at the Universal this
time, now that the Rhin is shut up, and it is such a large hotel, you can
quite well stay there; Stanislass won't notice you among the crowd."
Ferdinand agreed unwillingly--and just then Verisschenzko came in. He had
not seen Madame Boleski since the night at the Carlton, having taken care
not to let her know of his further visits to England since.
He looked at Ferdinand Ardayre as though he had been some bit of
furniture, and he took up Fou-Chow who was cowering beneath a chair. He
did not speak a word.
Harietta talked for every one for a little while, and then she began to
Verisschenzko smiled lazily--he was trying an experiment. The interview
could not go on like this; Ferdinand Ardayre would certainly have to go.
Now that Verisschenzko had come, Harietta ardently wished that he would.
The most venomous hate was arising in Ferdinand's resentful soul. He felt
that here was a rival to be dreaded indeed. He saw that Harietta was
nervous; he had never seen her so before. He shut his teeth and
determined to stay on.
Verisschenzko continued his disconcerting silence. Harietta felt that
she should presently scream! She took Fou-Chow from Stépan and pinched
him cruelly in her exasperation. He gave a feeble squeak and she pushed
him roughly down. Animals to her were a nuisance. She disliked them if
she had any feeling at all. But Fou-Chow was an adjunct to her toilet
sometimes, and was a coveted possession, envied by her many female
friends. His tiny, cringing body irritated her though extremely when
she was not using him for effect, and he was often kicked and cuffed
out of her way.
He showed evident fear of her and ran from her always, so that when
she wanted to make a picture with him, she was obliged to carry him
in her arms.
Verisschenzko raised one bushy eyebrow, and a sardonic smile came
into his eyes.
Madame Boleski saw that she had made a mistake in showing her temper to
the dog; it would have given her pleasure then to wring its neck!
The two men sat on. She began to grow so uncomfortable that she could
endure it no more.
"You are coming back to dinner, Mr. Ardayre," she remarked at length,
"and I want you to get me gardenias to wear, if you will be so kind, and
I am afraid you will have to hurry as the shops close soon."
Ferdinand Ardayre rose, rage showing in his mean face, but as he had no
choice he said good-bye. Harietta accompanied him to the door, pressing