Part 4 out of 5
his hand stealthily, then she returned to the Russian with flaming eyes.
He had not uttered a word.
"How dare you make me so nervous, sitting there like a log! I won't stand
for such treatment--you Bear!"
"Then sit down. Why do you have that Turk with you at all?"
"He is not a Turk; he's an Englishman and a friend of mine. Why, he is
the brother of your precious John Ardayre--and they have behaved
shamefully to him, poor dear boy."
She was still enraged.
"He is not even a pure Turk--some of them are gentlemen. He is just the
scum of the earth, and no blood relation to John Ardayre."
"He will let them know whether he is or not some day! I hear that your
bit of bread and butter is going to have a child, and as Ferdie says it
can't be John's, I suppose it is yours!"
Verisschenzko's face looked dangerous.
"You would do well to guard your words, Harietta. I do not permit you to
make such remarks to me--and it would be more prudent if you warned your
friend that he had better not make such assertions either--do you
Harietta felt some twinge of fear at the strange tone in the Russian's
voice, but she was too out of temper to be cowed now.
"Puh!" and she tossed her head. "If the child is a boy Ferdie will have
something to say--and as for Amaryllis--I hate her! I'd like to kill her
with my own hands."
Verisschenzko rose and stood before her--and there was a look in his eyes
which made her suddenly grow cold.
"Listen," he said icily. "I have warned you once and you know me well
enough to decide whether I ever speak lightly. I warn you again to be
careful of your words and your deeds. I shall warn you no more--if you
transgress a third time--then I will strike."
Harietta grew pale to her painted lips.
How would he strike? Not with a stick as Hans would have done, but
in some much more deadly way. She changed her manner instantly and
began to laugh.
Verisschenzko knew that he had alarmed her sufficiently, so he sat down
in his chair again and lit a cigarette calmly--then he sniffed the air.
"Your mongrel friend uses the same perfume as Stanislass' mistress!"
"Stanislass' mistress?" she had forgotten for the moment.
"Yes--don't you remember we burnt his scented handkerchief the last time
we met, because we did not like her taste in perfumes?"
Harietta's ill humour rose again; she was annoyed that she had forgotten
this incident. Her instinct of self-preservation usually preserved her
from committing any such mistakes. She felt that it was now advisable to
become cajoling; also there was something in the face of Verisschenzko
and his fierceness which aroused renewed passion in her--it was absurd
to waste time in quarrelling with him when in an hour Stanislass might be
coming in, so she went over behind his chair and smoothed back his thick
"You know that I adore you, darling Brute!"
"Of course--" he did not even turn his head towards her. "Have you had
your heart's desire here in England?"
"Before this stupid war came--yes--now I'm through with it. I'm for
"I suppose I must have been mistaken, but I thought I caught sight of
your handsome German friend in the hall just now?"
"Your _danseur_ at the Ardayre ball. I have forgotten his name."
"And so have I."
At that instant Marie appeared at the door and Fou-Chow came from under
the chair where he was sheltering and pattered towards her with a glad
tiny whine. The maid's eyes rounded with dislike as she looked at her
mistress; she realised that the little creature had been roughly treated
again. She picked him up and could hardly control her voice into a tone
of respectfulness as she spoke:
"Monsieur Insborg demands if he can see Madame in half an hour. He
telephoned to Madame but received no reply."
For a second Harietta's eyes betrayed her; they narrowed with alarm, and
then she said suavely: "I suppose the receiver was off. No, say I am
dining early for the theatre--but to-morrow at five."
The maid inclined her head and left the room silently, carrying
Fou-Chow, but as she did so her eyes met Verisschenzko's and their
expression suggested to him several things:
"Marie loves the dog--so she hates Harietta. Good--we shall see."
Thus his thoughts ran, but aloud he asked what Harietta meant to do with
her life in Paris, and who had been her lovers here?
"You do say such frightful things to me, Stépan," and she tossed her
head. "You think that because I took you, I take others! Pah!--and if I
do--these Englishmen are peaches, just like little school boys--they'd
not harm a fly. But I only love you, Darling Brute--even though we have
had a row."
"I know that, of course. I am not jealous, only you have not given me any
proofs lately, so I am going to retire from the field. I came to say
He looked adorably attractive, Harietta thought--he made her blood run.
Ferdinand Ardayre was but an instructed weakling, when one had come
through his intricacies there was nothing in him. As a lover he was not
worth the Russian's little finger, and the more Verisschenzko eluded
her, the higher her passion for him grew; and here he was after months
of absence and suggesting that he would leave her for ever! This was not
to be borne!
The enraging part was that she would not dare to try to keep him with
Hans again upon the scene. She hated Hans once more as she had hated him
at the Ardayre ball!
Verisschenzko did not attempt to caress her; he sat perfectly still, nor
did he speak.
Harietta could not think how to cope with this new mood; her weariness
with the gloom of England and the absence of amusement seemed to render
Stépan more than ever desirable. He represented the wild, the strong, the
primitive, the only thing she felt that she desired at that moment--and
if she let him go to-day he was capable of never coming back to her
again. It was worth using any means to keep him on. She knew that she
could obtain some show of love from him if she bribed him with bits of
news. It would serve Hans right too for daring to turn up so
So she came from behind his chair and sat down on Verisschenzko's knee
and commenced to whisper in his ear.
"Now I am beginning to think that you love me again," he announced
presently,--"and of course I must always pay for love!"
* * * * *
They were seated by the fire in two armchairs when Stanislass came in
from the Club before dinner at eight. Harietta had not even remembered
that she must dress, so intoxicated with re-awakened passion for
Verisschenzko had she become. A man for her must be in the room; her
affection could not keep alight in absence. She had revelled in the joy
of finding again a complete physical master. She loved him as a tigress
may love her tamer, the man with the whip; and the knowledge that she was
deceiving Hans and her husband and Ferdinand added a fillip to her
satisfaction. But how was she going to be sure to see Stépan again--that
was the question which still agitated her. Verisschenzko wished to
further examine Ferdinand Ardayre, and so decided to make every one
uncomfortable once more by staying on. Stanislass, very nervous with him
now, talked fast and foolishly. Harietta fidgeted, and in a moment or two
Ferdinand Ardayre was announced.
He reddened with annoyance to see the Russian had not gone; the flowers
which he had brought were in a parcel in his hand.
Harietta took them disdainfully without a word of thanks. What a nuisance
the creature was after all!--and Stanislass was--and everything and
anything was which kept her from being alone with Verisschenzko!
"When are you coming to see me again, Stépan?" she asked, determined not
to let him part without some definite future meeting settled.
"I will come back and take coffee with you to-night," he answered
Harietta was enchanted, she had not hoped for this.
"No one bothers so much about dressing now, stay and dine as you are."
"Yes, do," chimed in Stanislass timidly in Russian, "we should be
"Very well--I will dine--but I must change. I shall not be long though.
Begin dinner without me, I will join you before the fish." And with no
further waste of words he left them.
Harietta pushed Stanislass gently from the room with an injunction to be
quick--and then she returned and held out her arms to Ferdinand Ardayre.
"Now you must not be jealous, Ferdie pet, about Verisschenzko," and she
patted him. "It is business--I must talk to him to-night; he has an idea
that you and I are not favourable to the Allies," and she laughed
delightedly, "and I must get him off this notion!"
Ferdinand Ardayre looked sullen; he was burning with jealousy.
"Will you make it up to me afterwards?"
"But, of course, in the usual way!" and with one of her wonderful kisses
Harietta went laughing from the room.
Left alone, the young man gave himself a morphine _piqûre_, and then sat
down and held his head in his hands.
He had heard, as he had told Harietta earlier in the afternoon, that his
brother's wife was going to have a child, and he could find no way of
proving legally that it could not be John's, so his venom had grown with
His mother had said to him once:
"The accursed English will always beat us, my son. Thy real father would
have put poison in their coffee. We can only hope for revenge some day. I
fear we shall never gain our desires. The old fool whom thou callest
father must be sucked dry of everything while he lives, because no
quarter will be given us once the breath is out of his body."
Was this true? Must the English always beat him? He remembered his hatred
of Denzil while at Eton, and the dog's life he had often led there. Well,
he would hit back with an adder's sting when the chance came to him. He
would like to see both Ardayres ruined and England herself in the dust,
numbed and conquered. All his English life and education had never made
him anything but an alien in thought and appearance.
It was his powerlessness which enraged him, but surely the day must come
when he could make some of them suffer.
Harietta had not appeared in the hall when Verisschenzko returned
dressed, and she even kept all three men waiting for about ten minutes,
and then swept in resplendent in yellow brocade and the gardenias, when
the clock had struck nine and most of the other diners were having
The atmosphere of restraint and depression was a constant source of
resentment to her. It was all very well to be dignified and refined for
some definite end, like securing an unquestioned position, but it was a
weariness of the flesh to have to keep up this rôle month after month
with no excitement or reward, and every now and then she felt that she
must break out even in small ways by wearing too gorgeous and unsuitable
raiment. She wished that Germany would be quick about winning, then
things could settle down and she could begin her social career again.
"It don't amount to a row of pins to the people who want to enjoy
themselves, as I do, if their country is beaten or not; it'll all be the
same six months after peace is declared, so I'm all for knocking
whichever seems feeblest out quickly," she had said to Ferdinand, "and
Paris will always be top of the world for clothes and things that one
wants, so what do old politics matter?"
She derived some pleasure out of the sensation she created when she went
into a restaurant, and she really looked extraordinarily handsome.
The dinner amused her, too; it was entertaining to make Ferdinand
jealous. The emotions of Stanislass had ceased to count to her in any way
Verisschenzko had discovered what he required in regard to Ferdinand
Ardayre before they went into the hall for coffee--there was nothing
further to be gained by having another tête-à-tête with Harietta, so he
sat down by Stanislass and suggested that the other two should go on to
the Coliseum without them, and Harietta was obliged to depart reluctantly
with Ferdinand, having arranged that Stépan should let her know, directly
he arrived in Paris, whither he was going in a day or two also.
When she had left them Stanislass Boleski turned melancholy eyes to his
old friend, but remained silent.
"Has it been worth it?" Verisschenzko asked, with certain feeling--they
had relapsed into Russian.
Stanislass sighed deeply.
"No--far from it--I am broken and finished, Stépan, she has devoured
"Why don't you kill her! I should."
The Pole clenched one of his transparent looking hands:
"I cannot--I desire her so--she is an obsession. I cannot work--she
leaves me neither time nor brain. But I want her always, she is a burning
torment, and a blast, and a sin. I see visions of the chance that I have
missed, and then all is obliterated by her voluptuous kisses. I die each
day with jealousy and shame. She withholds herself, and I would pay with
the blood from my veins to possess her again!"
"You have no longer any delusions about her--you see her as a curse and
"I see everything, but I know only desire. Stépan, she has dragged me
through every degradation. I am a witness of her unfaithfulness. She
gives herself to this Turk with hardly a pretence of concealment--I know
it--I burn with rage, and I can do nothing. She returns to my arms and I
forget everything. I am a most unhappy man and only death can release me,
and yet I wish to live because I love her. Each day is fierce longing for
her--each night away from her hell--" Tears sprang to his hopeless black
eyes and his voice broke with emotion.
Verisschenzko looked at him and a rough pity tempered his contempt.
Here was a case where an indulgence having become master was exacting a
hideous toll. But the net was drawing closer and when all the strands
were in his hands he would act without mercy.
When Amaryllis knew that John was going to get a few days' leave at
Christmas a strange nervousness took possession of her. The personality
of Denzil had been growing more real to her ever since they had parted,
in spite of her endeavours to discipline her mind and control all
emotion. The thought of him and the thought of the baby were inseparable
and were seldom absent from her consciousness. All sorts of wonderful
emotions held her, and exalted her imagination until she felt that Denzil
was part of her daily life--and with the double interest her love for him
grew and grew.
She had only seen John during the day when he had come to bid her
good-bye before leaving for the Front, and most of the time they had been
surrounded by the de la Paule family. But now she would have to face the
fact of living with him again in an intimate relationship.
The thought appeared awful to her. There was something in her nature
which resembled that of the bride of King Caudaules. She could not
support the idea of belonging now to John; it seemed to her that he must
have no rights at all. She had written to him dutifully each week letters
about the place and her Committees in the County. She had not once
mentioned the coming child.
Denzil's mother had been ill and the visit to Bath had been postponed,
and after a fortnight alone at Ardayre she had come up to London. She had
too much time to think there.
Stépan had left her a list of books to get and she had been steadily
How horribly ignorant she had been! She realised that what knowledge she
had possessed had never been centralised or brought to any use. She had
known isolated histories of Europe, and never had studied them
collectively or contemporarily to discover their effect upon human
evolution. She had learned many things, and then never employed her
critical faculties about them. A whole new world seemed to be opening to
her view. She had determined not to be unhappy and not to look ahead, but
in spite of these good resolutions she would often dream in the firelight
of the joy of being clasped in Denzil's arms.
When she thought of John it was with tolerance more than affection. What
did he really mean to her, denuded of the glamour with which she herself
had surrounded him?
Practically nothing at all.
She was quite aware that her state of being was rendering all her mental
and emotional faculties particularly sensitive, and she did her utmost to
remember all Verisschenzko's counsel to discipline herself and remain
serene. The morning John was expected to arrive she had a hard fight with
herself. She felt very nervous and ill at ease. Above all things, she
must not be unkind.
He was bronzed and looked well, he was more expansive also and plainly
very glad to see her.
He held her close to him and bent to kiss her lips; but some undefined
reluctance came over her, and she moved her head aside.
Something in her resented the caress. Her lips were now for Denzil and
for no other man. It was she who was recalcitrant and turned the
conversation into everyday things.
The de la Paule family had been summoned for luncheon and the
afternoon passed among them all, and then the evening and the
tête-à-tête dinner came.
John knocked at the door of her room while she was dressing. Her maid had
just finished her hair and she wondered at herself that she should
experience a sense of shyness and have to suppress an inclination to
refuse to let him come in. And once any of these little intimate
happenings would have given her joy!
She kept Adams there, and hurried into her tea-gown and then walked
towards the door.
John had not spoken much, but stood by the fire.
How changed things were! Once he had to be persuaded and enticed to stay
with her at such moments, and it was he who now seemed to desire to do
so, and it was she who discouraged his wishes!
In Amaryllis' mind an agitation grew. What could she say to him
presently--if he suggested coming to sleep in her room?
The knowledge in her breast rose as an insurmountable barrier
During dinner she kept the conversation entirely upon his life at the
Front--which indeed really interested her. She was not cold or stiff in
her manner, but she was unconsciously aloof.
Then they went back into the library, each feeling exceedingly depressed.
When coffee had come and they were quite alone Amaryllis felt she could
not stand the strain, and went to the piano. She played for quite a long
time all the things she remembered that John liked best. She wanted the
music to calm her, and she wanted to gain time. John sat in one of the
monster chairs and gazed into the fire. He seemed to see pictures in the
The strange relentless fate which had pursued him always as far as
happiness was concerned!
He remembered what his mother had said to him when she lay a-dying with a
"John, we cannot see what God means in it all. There must be some
explanation because He cannot be unjust. It is because we have missed the
point of some lesson, probably, and so are given it again to learn. Do
not ever be rebellious, my son, and perhaps some day light will come."
He had read an article in some paper lately ridiculing the theory that we
have had former lives, but, after all, perhaps there was some foundation
for the belief. Perhaps he was paying in this one for sins in a previous
birth. That would account for the seeming inexorableness of the
misfortunes which fell upon him now, since common sense told him that in
this life such cruel blows were undeserved.
Amaryllis glanced at his face from the piano as she played. It was
A great pity grew in her heart. What ought she to do not to be unkind?
Presently she finished a soft chord and got up and came to his side.
They were both suffering cruelly--but John was going back to fight. She
must have some explanation with him which could make him return to France
at peace in a measure. It was cowardly to shirk telling him the truth,
and she could not let him go again into danger with this black shadow
He looked up at her and rose from his chair.
"You play so beautifully," he said hastily. "You take one out of
oneself. Now it is late and the day has been long. Let us go to bed,
Amaryllis stiffened suddenly--the moment that she dreaded had come.
"I would rather that you slept in your dressing-room. I have ordered that
to be prepared--"
He looked at her startled--and then he took her hand.
"Amaryllis--tell me everything. Why are you so changed?"
"I'm trying not to be, John."
"You are trying--that proves that you are, if you must try. Please tell
me what this means."
She endeavoured to remain calm and not become unhinged.
"It was you yourself who altered me. I came to you all loving and human
and you froze me. There is nothing to be done."
"Yes, there is. You know that I love you."
"Perhaps you do, but the family matters more to you than I do, or
anything else in the world."
"That may have been so once, but not now," his voice throbbed with
"Alas!" was all she answered and looked down. John longed to appeal to
her--but he was too honest to seek to soften her through the link of the
child. Indeed, the thought of it had grown hateful to him. He only knew
that he had played for a stake which now seemed worthless. Amaryllis and
her love mattered more than any child.
He clenched his hands tightly; the pain of things seemed hard to bear.
Why had he not broken the thongs of reserve which held him long days ago
and made love to her in words? But that would have been dishonest. He
must at least be true; and he realised now that he had starved her--no
matter what his motive had been.
"Amaryllis, tell me everything, please," and he held out his hands and
drew her to the sofa and sat down by her side.
She could not control her emotion any longer, and her voice shook as she
"I know that it was not you--but Denzil, John--and the baby is his,
His face altered. He had not been prepared to hear this thing and he
"Ferdinand is an awful possibility to contemplate there at Ardayre, if
you have no son--" She went on, trying to be calm, "but do you not think
that you might have told me? Surely a woman has the right to select the
father of her child."
John could not answer her. He covered his face with his hands.
"You see it is all pitiful," she continued, her voice deep and broken
with almost a sob in it. "Denzil is so like you--it was an easy
transition to find that I loved him--because I was only loving the
imaginary you I had made for myself. I cannot explain myself and do not
make any excuse. There is something in me, whenever I think of the baby,
that draws me to Denzil and makes me remember that night. John, we must
just face the situation and try to find some way to avoid as much pain as
we can. I hate to think it is hurting you, too."
"Did Denzil tell you this?" his voice was icy cold.
"No--it came to me suddenly when I heard him say a word."
"'Sweetheart'!" and now John's eyes flashed. "He called you again
"No, he did not--he used the word simply in speaking of a picture--but I
recognised his voice then immediately--it is a little deeper than yours."
"When did you see Denzil?"
She told him the exact truth about their meeting and his coming to
Ardayre, and how Denzil had endeavoured to keep his word.
"He would never have spoken to me--it was fate which sent him into the
train, and then I made him speak--I could not bear it. After I
recognised him, I made him admit that it was he. Denzil is not to blame.
He left immediately and I have never seen him or heard from him since.
It is I alone who must be counted with, John--Denzil will try never to
see me again."
John groaned aloud.
"Oh God--the misery of it all!"
"John, I must tell you everything now while we are talking of these
things. I love Denzil utterly. I thrill when I think of him; he seems to
me my husband, not even only a lover. John, not long ago, when I felt
the first movement of the child, I shook with longing for him--I found
myself murmuring his name aloud. So you must think what it all means to
me, so strongly passionate as I am. But I would never cheat you, John--I
had to be honest. I could not go on pretending to be your wife and
living a lie."
Tears of agony gathered in John Ardayre's blue eyes and rolled down
He suddenly understood the suffering, that she, too, must be undergoing.
What right had he to have taken this young and loving woman and then to
have used her for his own aims, however high?
"Amaryllis--you cannot forgive me. I see now that I was wrong."
But the sympathy which she had felt when she had looked at him from the
piano welled up again in Amaryllis's heart and drowned all resentment.
She knew that he must be enduring pain greater than hers, so she
stretched out her hands to him, and he took them and held them in his.
"Of course, I forgive you, John--but I cannot cease from loving Denzil,
that is the tragedy of the thing. I am his really, not yours, even if I
never see him again, and that is why we must not make any pretences.
John dearest, let us be friends--and live as friends, then everything
won't be so hard."
He let her hands drop and got up and paced the room. He was suffering
acutely--must he renounce even the joy of holding her in his arms?
"But I love you, Amaryllis--I love you, dearest child--"
And now again she said "Alas!"--and that was all.
"Amaryllis--this is a frightful sacrifice to me--must you insist upon
Then her eyes seemed to flash fire and her cheeks grew rose--and she
stood up and faced him.
"I tell you, John, you do not know me. You have seen a well brought up,
conventional girl--milk and water, ready to obey your slightest will--I
had not found myself. I am a creature as primitive and passionate as a
savage"--her breath came in little pants with her great emotion,--"I
_could not_ belong to two men--it would utterly degrade me, then I do not
know what I should become. I love Denzil, body and soul--and while he
lives no other man shall ever touch me; that is what passion means to
me--fidelity to the thing I love! He is my Beloved and my darling, and I
must go away from you altogether and throw off the thought of the family,
and implore Denzil to take me when he comes home if you can agree to the
only terms I can offer you now."
John bowed his head. Life seemed over for him and done.
Amaryllis came close to him, then she stood on tiptoe and kissed his
brow. Her vehemence had died down in her sorrow for his pain.
"John," she whispered softly, "won't you always be my dearest friend? And
when the baby comes it will be a deep interest to us both, and you must
love it because it is mine and an Ardayre--and the comfort of that must
fill our lives. I truly believe that you did everything, meaning it for
the best, only perhaps it is dangerous to play with the creation of
life--perhaps that is why fate forced me to know."
John drew her to him, he smoothed the soft brown hair back from her brow
and kissed her tenderly, but not on the lips--those he told himself he
must renounce for evermore.
"Amaryllis,"--his voice was husky still, "yes--I will be your friend,
darling--and I will love your child. I was very wrong to marry you, but
it was not quite hopeless then, and you were so young and splendid and
living--and I was growing to love you, and for these reasons I hoped
against hope--and then when I knew that everything was impossible--I
felt that I must make it up to you in every other way I could. I don't
know how to put things into words, I always was dull, but I thought if I
gratified all your wishes perhaps--Ah!--I see it was very cruel. Darling,
I would have told you the truth--presently--but then the war came, and
the thought of Ferdinand here drove me mad and it forced my hand."
She looked up at him with her sweet true eyes--her one idea was now to
comfort him since she need no longer fear.
"John, if you had explained the whole thing to me--I do not know, perhaps
I should have agreed with you, for I, too, have much of this family
pride, and I cannot bear to think of Ferdinand--or his children which may
be, at Ardayre. I might have voluntarily consented--I cannot be sure. But
somehow just lately I have been thinking very much about spiritual
things, things I mean beyond the material, those great forces which must
be all around us, and I have wondered if we are not perhaps too ignorant
yet to upset any laws. Perhaps I am stupid--I don't know really. I have
only been wondering--but perhaps there are powerful currents connected
with laws, whether they are just or unjust, simply because of the force
of people's thoughts for hundreds of years around them."
They went to the sofa then and sat down. It made John happier to hear
her talk. His strong will was now conquering the outward show of his
emotion at last.
"It may be so--"
"You see, supposing anything should happen to Ferdinand," she went on,
"then Denzil would have been naturally the next heir--and now--if the
child is a boy--"
"We neither of us thought of that."
"But nothing is likely to happen to Ferdinand; he won't enlist--it is
only you, dear John, who are in danger, and Denzil, too--but surely the
war cannot go on long now?"
John wondered if he should tell her what he really felt about this, or
whether it were wiser to keep her quietly in this hopeful dream of a
speedy end. He decided to say nothing; it was better for her health not
to agitate her mind--events would speak for themselves, alas, presently.
He talked quietly then of Ardayre and of his boyhood and of its sorrows;
he was determined to break down his own reserve, and Amaryllis listened
interestedly, and gradually some kind of peace and calm seemed to come
to them both, and they resolutely banished the thought of the future,
and sought only to think of the present. And then at last John rose and
took her hand:
"Go to bed now, dear girl,--and to-morrow I shall have quite conquered
all the feelings which could disturb you, and just remember always that I
am indeed your friend."
She understood at last the greatness of his sacrifice and the fineness of
his soul, and she fell into a passion of weeping and ran from the room.
But John, left alone, sank down into the same chair as he had done once
before on the night he was waiting for Denzil, and, as then, he buried
his face in his hands.
The next day they met at breakfast. John had not slept at all and was
very pale and Amaryllis's eyes still showed the deepened violet shadows
from much weeping. But they were both quite calm.
She came over to John and kissed his forehead with gentle tenderness and
then gave him his tea. They tried to talk in a friendly way as of old
before any new emotions had come into their lives. And gradually the
strain became lessened.
They arranged to go out shopping, and John bought Amaryllis a new
"Green is the colour of hope," she said. "I want green, John,
because it will make me think of the springtime and nature, and all
They lunched at a restaurant and in the afternoon went down to Ardayre.
John had many things to attend to and would be occupied all the
There had been no Christmas feasting, but there were gifts to be
distributed and various other duties and ceremonies to be gone through,
although they had missed the Christmas day. Amaryllis tried in every way
to be helpful to her husband, and he appreciated her stateliness and
sweet manners with all the tenants and people on the estate.
So the four days passed quite smoothly, and the last night of the old
"I don't think that you must sit up for it, dear," John said after
dinner. "It will only tire you, and it is always a rather sad moment
unless one has a party as we always had in old days."
Amaryllis went obediently to her room and stayed there; sleep was far
from her eyes. What was the rest of her life going to be without Denzil?
And what of John? Would they settle down into a real quiet friendship
when he came back, and the child was born? Or would she have always to
feel that he loved her and was for ever suffering pain?
The more she thought the less clear the issue became, and the deeper the
sadness in the atmosphere.
At last she slipped down onto the big white bear-skin rug and
began to pray.
But when the clock struck midnight, and the New Year bells rang out, a
dreadful depression fell upon her, a sense of foreboding and fear.
She tried to tell herself that she was foolish, and it was all caused
only because she was so highly strung and sensitive now, on account of
her state. But the thought would persist that danger threatened some one
she loved. Was it Denzil, or John?
Amaryllis tried to force herself from her unhappy impressions by thinking
of what she could do presently in the summer, when she would be quite
well again, though her greatest work must always be to try to make John
happy, if by then he had come home.
She heard him go into his room at about one o'clock, and then she crept
noiselessly to her great gilt bed.
John had waited for the New Year by the cedar parlour fire. The room was
so filled with the radiance of Amaryllis that he liked being there.
And he, too, was thinking of what their new life would be should he
chance to come through. The ache in his heart would gradually subside, he
supposed, but how would he bear the long years, knowing that Amaryllis
was thinking of Denzil--and longing for him--and if fate made them
How could he endure to know that these two beings were suffering?
There seemed no clear outlook ahead. But, as he knew only too well death
could hardly fail to intervene, and if it should claim Denzil, then he
must console Amaryllis' grief. But if happily it could be he who were
taken, then their future path would be clear.
He could not forget the third eventuality, that he and Denzil might both
be killed. He thought and thought over them all, and at last he decided
to add a letter to his will. If he should be killed he would ask Denzil
to marry Amaryllis immediately, without waiting for the conventional
year. The times were too strenuous, and she must not be left
unprotected--alone with the child.
He got up and began the letter to his lawyer, and so the
"I request my cousin Denzil Benedict Ardayre to marry Amaryllis, my wife,
as soon as possible after my death, if he can get leave and is still
alive. I confide her to his care and ask them both not to let any
conventional idea of mourning stand in the way of these, my urgent last
commands. And I ask my cousin Denzil, if he lives through the war, to
take great care of the bringing up of the child."
He read thus far, and when he came to "the child" he scratched it out
and wrote "my child" deliberately, and then he went on to add his wishes
for its education, should it be a boy. The will had already amply
provided for Amaryllis, so that she would be a rich woman for the rest
of her days.
When all this was clearly copied out and sealed up in an envelope
addressed to his lawyer, the clock struck twelve.
The silence in the old house was complete; there was no revelry for the
first time for many years, even the servants far off in their wing had
gone to rest.
It seemed to John that the shadow of sorrow was suddenly removed from
him, and as though a weight of care had been lifted from his heart. He
could not account for the alteration, but he felt no longer sad. Was
it an omen? Was this New Year going to fulfill some great thing after
all? A divine peace fell upon him, and then a pleasant sensation of
sleep, and he turned out the lights and went softly to his room, and
was soon in bed.
And then he slept soundly until late in the morning, and awoke refreshed
and serene on New Year's day.
His leave was up on the third of January and he returned to London,
but he would not let Amaryllis undergo the fatigue of accompanying
him. He said good-bye to her there at Ardayre. She felt extremely sad
Had she done well, after all, to have told John the truth? Should she
have borne things as they were and waited until the end of the war? But
no, that would have been impossible to her nature. If she might not have
Denzil for her lover, she would have no other man.
John's cheerfulness astonished her--it was so uniform, it could not be
assumed. Perhaps she did not yet understand him, perhaps in his heart he
was glad that all pretences had come to an end.
They had the most affectionate parting. John never was sentimental, and
he went off with brave, cheery words, and every injunction that she was
to take the greatest care of herself.
"Remember, Amaryllis, that you are the most precious thing on earth to
me--and you must think also of the child."
She promised him that she would carry out all his wishes in this
respect and remain quietly at Ardayre until the first of April, when
perhaps he could get leave again and then she would go to London for
the birth of the baby.
John turned and waved his hand as he went off down the avenue, and
Amaryllis watched the motor until it was out of sight, the tears slowly
brimming over and running down her cheeks.
She noticed that at the turn in the avenue a telegraph boy passed the car
and came straight on. The wire was not for John evidently, so she would
wait at the door to see. It proved to be for her, and from Denzil's
mother, saying that she was en route for Dorchester, motoring, and would
stop at Ardayre on the chance of finding its mistress at home. Amaryllis
felt suddenly excited; she had often longed for this and yet in some way
she had feared it also. What new emotions might the meeting not arouse?
It was quite early after luncheon that Mrs. Ardayre was announced.
Amaryllis had waited in the green drawing room, thinking that she would
come. She was playing the piano at the far end to try and lighten her
feeling of depression, when the door opened, and to her astonishment
quite a young, slight woman came into the room. She was a little lame,
and walked with a stick. For a moment Amaryllis thought she must be
mistaken, and rose with a vague, but gracious look in her eyes.
Mrs. Ardayre held out her hand and smiled:
"I hope you got my telegram in time," she said cordially. "I felt I must
not lose the opportunity of making your acquaintance. My son has been so
anxious for us to meet."
"You--you can't be Denzil's mother, surely!" Amaryllis exclaimed. "He is
much too old to be your son!"
Mrs. Ardayre smiled again--while Amaryllis made her sit down on the sofa
beside her and helped her off with her furs. "I am forty-nine years old,
Amaryllis--if I may call you so--but one ought never to grow old in body.
It is not necessary, and it is not agreeable to the eye!"
Amaryllis looked at her carefully in the full side light. It was the
shape of her face, she decided, which gave her such youth. There were no
unsightly bones to cause shadows and the skin was smooth and ivory--and
her eyes were bright brown; their expression was very humorous as well as
kindly, and Amaryllis was drawn to her at once.
They talked about their desire to know one another and about the family,
and the place, and the war--and at last they spoke of Denzil, and Mrs.
Ardayre told of what his life was, and his whereabouts now, and then grew
"He is the dearest boy in the world," she said. "We have been friends
always, and now he will not allow me to be anxious about him. I really
think that as far as the frightfulness of things will let him be, he
is actually enjoying his life! Men are such queer creatures, they like
Amaryllis asked what was her latest news of him, and where he was, and
listened interestedly to Mrs. Ardayre's replies:
"The cavalry have not had very much to do lately, fortunately," she
remarked. "My husband has just gone back, but I suppose if there is a
shortage of men for the trenches, they will be dismounted perhaps."
"I expect so--then we shall have to use all our courage and control
Amaryllis turned the conversation back to Denzil again, and drew his
mother out. She would like to have heard incidents of his childhood and
of how he looked when he was a little boy, but she was too timid to ask
any deliberate questions. She felt drawn to this lady, she looked so
young and human. Perhaps she was not so wonderful in evening dress, but
her figure was boyish in its slim spareness--in these serge travelling
clothes she hardly looked thirty-five!
She wondered what Denzil had told his mother about her--probably that she
was going to have a child, but nothing more.
They talked in the most friendly way for half an hour, and then Amaryllis
asked her guest if she would like to come and see the house and
especially the picture gallery and the Elizabethan Denzil hanging there.
"It is just my boy!" Mrs. Ardayre cried, when they stood in front of it.
"Eyes and all, they are bold and true and so loving. Oh! my dear child,
you can't think what a darling he is; from his babyhood every woman has
adored him--the nurse maids were his slaves, and my old housekeeper and
my maid are like two jealous cats as to who shall do things for him when
he comes home. He has that queer quality which can wile a bird off a
tree. I daresay I am the silliest of them all!"
Amaryllis listened, enchanted.
"You see he has not one touch of me in him," Mrs. Ardayre went on, "but I
was so frantically in love with my husband when he was born, he naturally
was all Ardayre. Does it not interest you, Amaryllis, to wonder what your
little one, when it comes, will look like? It ought to be pronouncedly of
the family, your being also an Ardayre."
"Indeed yes, I am very curious. And how we all hope that it will
be a son!"
"Is there a portrait of your husband here? Denzil says they are alike."
"There is one in my sitting room; it is going to be moved in here
presently, when mine is done next year. It is by Sargent, almost the last
portrait he painted. Let us go there now and see it."
"But there is no likeness," Mrs. Ardayre exclaimed presently, when they
had gone to the cedar parlour and were examining the picture of John.
"Can you discover it?"
"I thought they were very alike once--but I do not altogether see it
Mrs. Ardayre smiled. "I cannot, of course, think any one can compare with
my Denzil! And yet I am not a real mother at all! I am totally devoid of
the maternal instinct in the abstract! Children bore me, and I am glad I
have never had any more. I adore Denzil because he is Denzil. I loved my
husband and delighted in being the mother of his son."
"There are the two sorts of women, are not there? The mother woman and
the mate woman--we have to be one or the other, I suppose. I hardly yet
know to which category I belong," and Amaryllis sighed, "but I rather
think that I am like you--the man might matter even more to me than the
child, and I know that the child matters to me enormously because of the
man. It is all a great mystery and a wonder though."
Beatrice Ardayre looked up at the portrait of John; his stolid face did
not give her the impression that he could make a woman, and such a
fascinating and adorable creature as Amaryllis, passionately in love with
him, or fill her with mysterious feelings of emotion about his child!
Now, if it had been Denzil she could have understood a woman's committing
any madness for him, but this stodgy, respectable John!
Her bright brown eyes glanced at Amaryllis furtively, and she saw that
she was looking up at the picture with an expression of deep melancholy
on her face.
There was some mystery here.
She went over again in her mind what Denzil had told her about Amaryllis.
It was not a great deal. He had arrived at Bath that time looking very
stern and abstracted, and had mentioned rather shortly that he had come
down with the head of the family's wife in the train, and had gone on to
Ardayre with her, after meeting them the previous night at dinner for the
He had not been at all expansive, but later in the evening when they had
sat by her sitting room fire, he had suddenly said something which had
startled her greatly:
"Mum--I want you to know Amaryllis Ardayre. I am madly in love with
her--she is going to have a baby, and she seems to be so alone."
It must be one of those sudden passions, and the idea seemed in some way
to jar a little. Denzil to have fallen in love with a woman whom he knew
was going to have a child!
She had said something of this to him, and he had turned eyes full of
pain to her and even reproach.
"Mum--you always understand me--I am not a beast, you know--I haven't
anything more to say, only I want you to be really kind to her--and get
to know her well."
And he had not mentioned the subject again, but had been very preoccupied
during all his three days' visit, which state she could not account for
by the fact of the war--Denzil, she knew, was an enthusiastic soldier,
and to be going out to fight would naturally be to him a keen joy. What
did it all mean? And here was this sweet creature speaking of divine love
mysteries and looking up at the portrait of her dull, unattractive
husband with melancholy eyes, whereas they had sparkled with interest
when Denzil was the subject of conversation! Could she, too, have fallen
in love with Denzil in one night at dinner and a journey in the train!
It was all very remarkable.
They had tea together in the green drawing room, and by that time they
had become very good friends.
Mrs. Ardayre told Amaryllis of the little old manor home she had in
Kent--The Moat, it was called, and of her garden and the pleasure it
was to her.
"I had about twelve thousand a year of my own, you know," she said, "and
ever since Denzil was born I have each year put by half of it, so that
when he was twenty-one I was able to hand over to him quite a decent sum
that he might be independent and free. It is so humiliating for a man to
have to be subservient to a woman, even a mother, and I go on doing the
same every year. All the last years of his life my husband was very
delicate--he was so badly wounded in the South African War, you know--so
we lived very quietly at The Moat and in my tiny house in London. I hope
you will let me show you them both one day."
Amaryllis said she would be delighted, and added:
"You will come and see me, won't you? I am going up to our house in Brook
Street at the beginning of April, and I am praying that I may have a
little son about the first week in May."
Just before Mrs. Ardayre went on to Dorchester, she asked Amaryllis if
she had any message to send Denzil--she wanted to watch her face. It
flushed slightly and her deep soft voice said a little eagerly:
"Yes--tell him I have been so delighted to meet you, and you are just
what he said I should find you!--and tell him I sent him all sorts of
good wishes--" and then she became a little confused.
"I should so love a photograph of you--would you give me one, I wonder?"
the elder woman asked quickly, to avoid any pause, and while Amaryllis
went out of the room to get it, she thought:
"She is certainly in love with Denzil. It could not have been the first
time he had seen her--at the dinner--and yet he never tells lies." And
she grew more and more puzzled and interested.
When Amaryllis was alone after the motor with Mrs. Ardayre in it had
departed, an uncontrollable fit of restlessness came over her. The visit
had stirred up all her emotions again; she could not grieve any more
about the tragedy of John; her whole being was vibrating with thoughts
of Denzil and desire for his presence--she could see his face and feel
the joy of his kisses.
At that moment she would have flung everything in life away to rush
into his arms!
Denzil was wounded at Neuve Chapelle on March 10th, 1915, though not
seriously--a flesh wound in the side. He had done most gallantly and was
to get a D.S.O. He had been in hospital for two weeks and was almost well
when Amaryllis came up to Brook Street, on the first of April. She had
read his name in the list of wounded, and had telegraphed to his mother
in great anxiety, but had been reassured, and now she throbbed with
longing to see him.
To know that soon he would be going back again to the Front, was almost
more than she could bear. She was feeling wonderfully well herself. Her
splendid constitution and her youth made natural things cause her little
distress. She was neither nervous nor fretful, nor oppressed with fancies
and moods. And she looked very beautiful with her added dignity of mien
and perfectly chosen clothes.
Mrs. Ardayre came at once to see her the morning after her arrival, and
suggested that Denzil should come when out driving that afternoon.
Amaryllis tried to accept this suggestion calmly, and not show her joy,
and Mrs. Ardayre left, promising to bring her son about four.
Denzil had said to his Mother when he knew that Amaryllis was coming
"Mum, I want to see Amaryllis--please arrange it for me. And Mum, don't
ask me anything about it; just leave me there when we drive and come and
fetch me when I must go in again."
Mrs. Ardayre was a very modern person, but she could not help exclaiming
in a half voice while she sat by her son's bed:
"You know she is going to have a baby in a month, dear boy, perhaps she
won't care to see you now."
A flush rose to Denzil's forehead: "Yes, I do know," he said a little
hurriedly, "but we are not conventional in these days. I wish to see her;
please, darling Mother, do what I ask."
And then he had turned the conversation.
So his mother had obediently arranged matters, and at about four in the
afternoon left him at the Brook Street door.
Early as it was, Amaryllis had made the tea, and expected to see both
Denzil and his mother. The room was full of hyacinths and daffodils, and
she herself looked like a spring flower, as she sat on the sofa among the
green silk cushions, wrapped in a pale parma violet tea-gown.
The butler announced "Captain Ardayre," and Denzil came in slowly, and
murmured "How do you do?"
But as soon as the door was closed upon him, he started forward,
forgetting his stiff side.
He covered her hands with kisses, he could not contain his joy; and
then he drew back and looked at her with worship and reverence in his
The most mysterious, quivering emotions were coursing through him, mixed
with triumph, as he took in the picture she made. This delicate,
beautiful creature! And to see her--so!
Amaryllis lowered her head in a sweet confusion; her feelings were no
less aroused. She was thrilling with passionate welcome and delicious
shyness. Nature was indeed ruling them both, and with a glad "Darling
Angel!" Denzil sat down beside her and clasped her in his arms. Then for
a few seconds delirious pleasure was all that they knew.
"Let me look at you again, Sweetheart," he ordered presently, with a tone
of command and possession in his very deep voice, which caused Amaryllis
delight. It made her feel that she really belonged to him.
"To me you have never been so beautiful--and every scrap of you is mine."
"I had to come--I cannot help whether it is right or wrong. I must go
back to the Front as soon as I am fit, and I could not have borne to go
without seeing you, darling one."
They had a hundred things to say to each other about themselves--and
about the baby, and the next hour was very sacred and wonderful.
Denzil was a superlatively perfect lover and knew the immense value of
He intoxicated Amaryllis' imagination with the moving things he said.
Alas! how many worthy men miss themselves, and make their loved ones
miss the best part of life's joys by their mulish silence and refusal
to gratify this desire of all women to be _told_ that they are loved,
to have the fact expressed in passionate speech! No deeds make up for
Denzil had none of these limitations; he said everything which could
cajole and excite the imagination. He murmured a hundred affecting
tendernesses in her ears. He caressed her--he commanded and mastered her,
and then assured her that he was her slave. He was arrogant and
humble--arrogant when he claimed her love, humble in his worship. He
spoke of the child and what it meant to him that it should be his and
hers. He caused her to feel that he was strong and protective and that
she was to be cherished and adored. He made pictures of how it would be
if he could spend a whole day and night with her presently in June, when
she would be quite well, and of how thrilled with interest he would be to
see the baby, and that, of course, it _must_ be exactly like himself! And
Amaryllis' eyes, all soft and swimming with emotion answered him.
Naturally, since she loved him so passionately, it would be his image!
Had not his own mother accounted for his pronounced Ardayre stamp by her
having been so in love with his father--so, of course, this would
re-occur! It was all dear to think about!
They spent another hour of divine intoxication, and then the clock
It sounded like a knell.
Amaryllis gave a little cry.
"Denzil, it is altogether unnatural that you should have to go. To
think that you must leave me, and may not even welcome your son! To
think that by the law we are sinning, because I am sitting here clasped
in your arms! To think that I may not have the joy of showing you the
exquisite little clothes, and the pink silk cot--all the things which
have given me such pleasure to arrange.... It is all too cruel! You
know that eighteenth century engraving in the series of Moreau le
Jeune, of the married lovers playing with the darling, teeny cap
together! Well, I have it beside my bed, and every day I look at it and
pretend it is you and me!"
"Darling--Darling!"--and Denzil fiercely kissed her, he was so
"It is all holy and beautiful, the coming to earth of a soul. It only
makes me long to be good and noble and worthy of this wonderful thing.
But for us--we who love truly and purely, it has all been turned into
something forbidden and wrong."
"Heart of me--I must have some news of you. I cannot starve there in the
trenches, knowing that all the letters that should be mine are going to
John. My mother is really trustworthy, will you let her be with you as
often as you can, that she may be able to tell me how you are, precious
one? When the seventh of May comes I shall go perfectly mad with suspense
and anxiety. I will arrange that my mother sends me at once a telegram."
"Denzil!" and Amaryllis clung to him.
"It is an impossible situation," and he gave a great sigh. "I shall tell
John that I have seen you--I cannot help it, the times are too precarious
to have acted otherwise. And afterwards, when the war is over, we must
face the matter and decide what is best to be done."
"_I_ cannot live without you, Denzil, and that I know."
They said good-bye at last silently, after many kisses and tears, and
Denzil came out into the darkening street to his mother in the motor,
with white, set face.
"I am a little troubled, dearest boy," she whispered, as they went along.
"I feel that there is something underneath all this and that Amaryllis
means some great thing in your life--the whole aspect of everything fills
me with discomfort. It is unlike your usual, sensitive refinement,
Denzil, to have gone to see her--now--"
"I understand exactly what you mean, Mother. I should say the same thing
myself in your place. I can't explain anything, only I beg of you to
trust me. Amaryllis is an angel of purity and sweetness; perhaps some day
you will understand."
She took his hand into her muff and held it:
"You know I have no conventions, dearest, and my creed is to believe what
you say, but I cannot account for the situation because of your only
having met Amaryllis so lately for the first time. I could understand it
perfectly if you had been her lover, and the child was your child, but
she has not been married a whole year yet to John!"
Denzil answered nothing--he pressed his mother's hand.
She returned the pressure:
"We will talk no more about it."
"And you will go on being kind?"
Before they reached the hospital door in Park Lane Mrs. Ardayre had been
instructed to send an immediate telegram the moment the baby was born,
and to comfort and take care of Amaryllis, and tell her son every little
detail as to her welfare and about the child.
"I will try not to form any opinion, Denzil; and some day perhaps things
will be made plain, for it would break my heart to believe that you are a
"You need not worry, Mum dearest. Indeed, I am not that. It is just a
tragic story, but I cannot say more. Only take care of Amaryllis, and
send me news as often as you can."
* * * * *
The telegram to say that Amaryllis had a little son came to John Ardayre
on the night before he went into the trenches again at the second battle
of Ypres on May 9th, 1915. He had been waiting in feverish impatience
and expectancy all the day, and, in fact, for three days for news.
His whole inner life since that New Year's night had been strangely
serene, in spite of its frightful outward turmoil and stress. He had
taken the tumult of Neuve Chapelle calmly, and had come through it and
all the beginning of the Ypres battle without a scratch. He had felt that
he was looking upon it all from some detached standpoint, and that it in
no way personally concerned him.
He had seen Denzil do the splendid thing and he had felt a distinct
distress when he had seen him fall wounded.
Denzil was just back now and in the trenches again with the rest of the
dismounted cavalry. They might meet in the attack at dawn.
When John read the telegram from his aunt, Lady de la Paule, his emotion
was so great that he staggered a little, and a friend standing by in the
billet took out his flask and gave him some brandy, thinking that he must
have received bad news.
Then it seemed as though he went mad!
The repression of his life appeared to fall from him, he became as a new
man. All his comrades were astonished at him, and a Scotch Corporal was
heard to remark that it was "na canny--the Captain was fey."
The Ardayres were saved! The family would carry on!
Fondest love welled up in his heart for Amaryllis. If he only came
through he would devote his life to showing her his gratitude and
showering everything upon her that her heart could desire--and
perhaps--perhaps the joy of the baby would make up for the absence of
Denzil. This thought stayed with him and comforted him.
Lady de la Paule had wired:
"A splendid little son born 11:45 A.M. seventh May--Amaryllis
And an hour or two before this Denzil had also received the news from his
Mother. He, too, had grown exalted and thanked God.
So the day that the Germans were to fail at Ypres, and destiny was to
accomplish itself for these two men--dawned.
* * * * *
Of what use to write of that terrible fight and of the gas and the horror
and the mud? John Ardayre seemed to bear a charmed life as he led his men
"over the top." For an hour wild with exaltation and gladness, he rallied
them and cheered them on. The scene of blood and carnage has been too
often repeated on other fateful days, and as often well described, when
acts of glorious heroism occurred again and again. John had rushed
forward to succour a wounded trooper when a shell crashed near them, and
he fell to the ground. And then he know what the great thing was the New
Year had promised him. For death was going to straighten out
matters--John was going beyond. Well, he had never been rebellious, and
he knew now that light had come. But the sky above seemed to be darkening
curiously, and the terrible noise to be growing dim, when he was
conscious that a man was crawling towards him, dragging a leg, and then
his eyes opened wildly for an instant, and he saw that it was Denzil all
covered with blood.
"Are we both going West, Denzil?" he demanded faintly. "At least I am--"
then he gasped a little, while a stream of scarlet flowed from his
"I've asked you in a letter to marry Amaryllis immediately--if you get
home. I hope your number is not up, too, because she will be all alone.
Take care of her, Denzil, and take care of the child...." His voice grew
lower and lower, and the last words came in spasms: "There is an Ardayre
son, you know--so it's all right. The family is saved from Ferdinand and
I am very glad to die."
Denzil tried to get out his flask, but before he could reach John's lips
with it he saw that it would be of no avail--for Death had claimed the
head of the Family. And above his mangled body John's face wore a look of
calm serenity, and his firm lips smiled.
Then things became all vague for Denzil and he remembered nothing more.
It was more than two months before Denzil was well enough to be brought
from Boulogne, and then he had a relapse and for the whole of July was
dangerously ill. At one moment there seemed to be no hope of saving his
leg, and his mother ate her heart out with anxiety.
And Amaryllis, back at Ardayre with the little Benedict, wept many tears.
John's death had deeply grieved her. She realised his steadfast kindness
and affection for her. He had written her a letter just before the battle
had begun--a short epistle telling her calmly that the chances would be
perhaps even for any man to come out of it alive--and assuring her of his
"I know that Denzil went to see you, my dear little girl. He has told me
about it. And I know that you love each other. There is only one chance
for us in the future--and that lies with the child. It may be that when
it comes to you it may fill your life and satisfy you. This is my
prayer--otherwise we must see what can be arranged about things; because
I cannot allow you to be unhappy. You were an innocent factor in all
this, and it would be unjust that you should be hurt."
How good and generous John had always been.
And his letter to his lawyers! To make things smooth for her--and for
Denzil--how marvellously kind!
Her mourning for John was real and deep, as it would have been for a
brother. But during the month of intense anxiety about Denzil everything
else was numbed, even her interest in her son.
By the end of August he was out of danger, although little hope was
entertained that he would ever walk easily. But this was a minor
thing--and gradually it began to be some consolation to the two women who
loved him to know that he was safely wounded and would probably not be
fit for active service again for a very long time.
They wrote letters to one another, but they decided not to meet.
Six months must elapse at least, they both felt--even in spite of
Another shell must have fallen not far off, for his body was never
found--only his field glasses, broken and battered. And there would have
been no actual information about his death had not Denzil seen him die.
* * * * *
Harietta Boleski and Stanislass and Ferdinand Ardayre had remained in
Paris, with visits to Fontainebleau.
When John had been killed, Harietta had been extremely perturbed.
"Now Stépan will be able to marry that odious bit of bread and butter,
and he is sure to do it after the year!" This thought rankled with her
and embittered everything. Nothing pleased her. She grew more than ever
rebellious at the dullness she had to live in. War was an imposition
which ought not to be tolerated and she often told Hans so. At last she
grew to take quite an interest in her spying for lack of more agreeable
things to do.
And so the months went by and November came, and a madness of jealousy
was gradually augmenting in Harietta for Amaryllis Ardayre.
Verisschenzko had gone to Russia in September, and she was convinced
that he loved Amaryllis and that the child was his child. She could not
conceive of a spiritual devotion, and something had altered all Stépan's
ways. From the moment he returned to Paris until he had left she had
tried and been unable to invoke any response in him, and she had felt
like a foiled tigress when another has eaten her prey.
As the impossibility of moving him forced itself upon her unwilling
understanding, so the wildest passion for him grew, and when he left in
September she was quite ill for a week with chagrin; then she became
moody and more than ever capricious, and made Stanislass' life a hell,
while Ferdinand Ardayre had little less misery to endure.
An incident late in November caused her jealousy to burst into flame.
She heard that Verisschenzko had returned from Russia and she went to his
rooms to see him. The Russian servant who was accustomed to receive her
was there waiting for his master who had not yet arrived. Without a word
she passed the old man when he opened the door, and made her way into the
sitting room, and then into the bedroom beyond. She did not believe that
Stépan was not there and wanted to make sure. It was empty but a light
burned before an Ikon, the doors of which were closed.
Curiosity made Harietta go close and examine it. She knew the room so
well and had never seen it there before. The table beneath it was
arranged like an altar, and the Ikon was let in to the carved boiserie of
the wall. It must have been since he had parted with her that this
ridiculous thing had been done! She had not entered his _appartement_
since June. She felt angry that the shrine should be closed and that she
could not look upon it, for it must certainly be something which
She bent nearer and shook the little doors; they resisted her, and her
temper rose. Then some force seemed to propel her to commit sacrilege.
She shook and shook and tore at the golden clasp, her irritation giving
strength and cunning to her hands; and at last the small bolt came undone
and the doors flew open--and an exquisitely painted modern picture of the
Virgin disclosed itself, holding the Christ child in her arms. But for
all the saintliness in the eyes of Mary, the face was an exact portrait
of Amaryllis Ardayre!
A frenzy of rage seized Harietta. Her rival reigned now indeed! This was
positive proof to her, not of spiritual meaning--not of the mystic,
abstract aloofness of worship which lay deep in Stépan's nature and had
caused him to have Amaryllis transfigured into the symbol of purity, a
daily reminder that she must always be for him the lady of his soul--such
things had no meaning for Harietta. The Ikon was merely a material proof
that Verisschenzko loved Amaryllis--and, of course, as soon as the year
of mourning should be over he would make her his wife.
She trembled with passionate resentment. Nothing had ever moved her so
forcibly. She took out her pearl hatpin and stabbed out the eyes of the
Virgin, almost shaking with passion, and scratched and obliterated the
face of the Christ child. This done, she extinguished the little lamp and
slammed to the doors.
She laughed savagely as she went back into the sittingroom.
"The Virgin indeed!--and _his_ child!--well, I've taught him!" and she
flung past the Russian servant with a look which was a curse, so that the
old man crossed himself and quickly barred the entrance door, when she
stamped off down the stairs.
Arrived in her gilded salon at the Universal, she would like to have
wrung some one's neck. She had never been so full of rage in her life.
She did find a little satisfaction in a kick at Fou-Chow, who fled
whining to his faithful Marie who had come in to carry away her mistress'
The maid's face became thunderous. A look of sullen hate gleamed in her
"She will kick thee, my angel, just once too often," she murmured to the
wee creature when she had carried him from the room. "And then we shall
see, thy Marie knows that which may punish her some day soon!"
Harietta, quite indifferent to these matters, telephoned immediately to
He must come to her instantly without a moment's delay! And she
stamped her foot.
A plan which might give her some satisfaction to execute had evolved
itself in her brain.
He was in his room in another part of the building, and hastened to obey
her command. She was livid with anger and seemed to have grown old.
She went over and kissed him voluptuously and then she began:
"Ferdie," and she whispered hoarsely, "now you have got to do something
for me. You are not going to let the child of Verisschenzko be master of
Ardayre! We are going to gain time and perhaps some day be able to do
away with it. Now I have got a plan which will lighten your heart."
She knew that she could count upon him, for since the birth of the
little Benedict and the death of John, Ferdinand had stormed with threats
of vengeance, while knowing his impotency.
His life with Harietta had grown a torment and a hell--but with every
fresh unkindness and pang of jealousy she caused him, his low passion for
her increased. He knew that she loved Verisschenzko, whom he hated with
all his might--and if she now proposed to hurt both his enemies, he would
assist her joyfully.
"Tell it me," he begged.
So she drew him to the sofa and picked up a block and pencil.
"Do you possess any of the writing of your dead brother, John, or if you
don't, can you get some from anywhere?"
Ferdinand's face blazed with excitement. What was she going to suggest?
"I always keep one letter--in which he ordered me never to address him
and told me I was not of his blood but was a mongrel Turk."
"That is splendid--where is it? Have you got it here?"
"Yes, in my despatch box. I'll go and fetch it now."
"Very well. I will get rid of Stanislass for the evening and we can have
some hours alone--and you will see if I don't help you to worry them
hideously, Ferdie, even if that is all we can do!"
And when he had left her presence, she paced the room excitedly.
"It will prevent Stépan's marrying her at all events for; a long time."
The thought that she had lost Verisschenzko completely unbalanced her.
It was the first time in her life that she had had to relinquish a man.
She hated to have to realise how highly he must hold Amaryllis. He seemed
the only thing she wanted now in life, and she knew that he was quite
beyond her, and that indeed he had never been hers; the one human being
whom she had attracted and yet never been able to intoxicate and draw
against his will. She went over all their past meetings. With what
supreme insolence he had invariably treated her--even in moments when he
permitted himself to feel passion! And how she adored him! She would have
crawled to him now on the ground. She had not known she could feel so
much. Every animal, sensual desire made her throb with rage. She would
have torn the flesh from Amaryllis' face had she been there, and thrust
her hatpin into her real eyes.
But the spoke should be put in the wheel of Verisschenzko's marrying her!
And perhaps some other revenge would come. Hans?--Hans should be made to
carry the scheme through--Hans and Ferdinand. She dug her nails into the
palms of her hands. No wild animal in its cage could have felt more rage.
Then when Ferdinand returned with John's letter, she controlled herself
and sat down at the table beside him and supervised his attempts at
copying the writing, while she unfolded the details of her scheme.
"You know John's body was never found," she informed him presently. "I
heard all the details from a man who was there--they only picked up his
glasses and his boot. He could very well have been taken prisoner by the
Germans and be in hospital there, too ill to have written for all this
time. Now think how he ought to word his first letter to his precious
bread and butter wife!"
"There must only be the fewest words, because I don't know what
terms they were on. I think a postcard, if we get one, would be the
"Of course?--I have some one who can see to that--it will be worth
waiting the week for--we'll procure several, and meanwhile you must
practise his hand."
At the end of half an hour a very creditable forgery had been secured,
and the two jealous beings felt satisfied with their work for the time.
It had been arranged that Denzil and his mother should spend Christmas
with Amaryllis at Ardayre. Both felt that it was going to be the most
wonderful moment when they should meet. There were no obstacles now to
their happiness and everything promised to be full of joy. The months
which had gone by since John's death had been turning Amaryllis into a
more serene and forceful being. The whole burden of the estate had
fallen upon her young shoulders and she had endeavoured to carry it with
dignity and success--and yet have time to spare for her war
organisations in the county. She had developed extraordinarily and had
grown from a very pretty girl into a most beautiful young woman. What
would Denzil think of her? That was her preoccupation--and what would he
think of the baby Benedict?
The great rooms at Ardayre were shut up except the green drawing room,
and she lived in her own apartments, the cedar parlour being her chief
pleasure. It was now filled with her books and all the personal
belongings which expressed her taste. The nurseries for the heir were
Her guests were to be there on the twenty-third of December, and when the
hour came for the motor to arrive from the station Amaryllis grew hot and
cold with excitement. She had made herself look quite exquisite in a soft
black frock, and her heart was beating almost to suffocation when she
heard the footsteps in the hall. Then the green drawing room door opened
and Colonel and Mrs. Ardayre were announced and were immediately greeted
by the great tawny dogs and then by their mistress. A pang contracted her
heart when she caught sight of Denzil--he was so very pale and thin, and
he walked painfully and slowly with a stick. It was only a wreck of the
splendid lover who had come to Ardayre before. But he was always Denzil
of the ardent eyes and the crisp bronze hair!
They were people of the world, and so the welcoming speeches went off
easily, and they sat round the tea-table with its singing kettle and its
delectable buns and Devonshire cream, and Amaryllis was gracious and
radiant and full of dignity and charm. But inwardly she felt deliciously
shy and happy.
They had neither met nor written any love letters since the April day
when they had parted in Brook Street, which now seemed to be an age away.
Her attraction for Denzil had increased a hundredfold. He thought as she
sat there pouring out the tea, of how he would woo her with subtlety
before he would claim her for his own. He was stimulated by her sweet
shyness and her tender aloofness. The tea seemed to him to be
interminably long and he wished for it to end.
Mrs. Ardayre behaved with admirable tact; she spoke of all sorts of light
and friendly things, and then asked about the baby. Was he not wonderful,
now at seven months old!
The lovely vivid pink deepened in Amaryllis' smooth velvet cheeks, and
her grey eyes became soft as a doe's.
"You shall see him in the morning--he will be asleep now. Of course, to
me he is wonderful, but I daresay he is only an ordinary child."
She had peeped at Denzil and had seen that his face fell a little as she
said they should only see the baby the next day, and she had felt a wave
of joy. She knew that she meant to take him up quietly presently--just he
and she alone!
After they had finished tea, Mrs. Ardayre suggested that she should go
to her room.
"I am tired, Amaryllis, my dear," she announced cheerily,--"and I shall
rest for an hour before dinner."
"Come then and I will show you both your rooms."
They came up the broad staircase with her, Denzil a step at a time,
slowly, and at the top she stopped and said to him:
"Perhaps you will remember that is the door of the cedar parlour at
the end of the passage--you will find me there when I have installed
your mother comfortably. Your room is next to hers," and she pointed
to two doors through the archway of the gallery. Then she went on with
Some contrary nervousness made her remain for quite a little while.
Was Cousin Beatrice sure that she was comfortable? Had she everything she
wanted? Her maid was already unpacking, and all was warm and fresh
scented with lavender and bowls of violets on the dressing table.
"My dear child, it is Paradise, and you are a perfect angel--I shall
revel in it after the cold journey down."
So at last there was no excuse to stay longer, and Amaryllis left the
room; but in the passage it seemed as though her knees were trembling,
and as she passed the top of the staircase she leaned for a second or two
on the balustrade.
The longed for moment had come!
When she opened the door of the cedar parlour, with its soft lamps and
great glowing logs, she saw Denzil was already there, seated on the sofa
beside the fire.
She ran to him before he could rise, the movement she knew was pain to
him--and she sank down beside him and held out her hands.
"Beloved darling!" he whispered in exaltation, and she slipped forward
into his arms.
Oh! the bliss of it all! After the months of separation, and the horrible
trenches and the battles and the suffering, the days and nights of
agonising pain! It seemed to Denzil that his being melted within
him--Heaven itself had come.
They could not speak coherently for some moments, everything was too
filled with holy joy.
"At last! at last!" he cried presently. "Now we shall part no more!"
Then he had to be assured that she loved him still.
"It is I who must take care of you now, Denzil, and I shall love to do
that," she cooed.
"I have not thought much of the hurt," he answered her, "for all these
months I have just been living for this day, and now it has come,
darling one, and I can hardly believe that it is true, it is so
They could not talk of anything but themselves and love for an hour,
they told each other of their longings and anxieties--and at last they
spoke of John.
"He was so splendid," Denzil said, "unselfish to the very end," and then
he described to Amaryllis how he actually had died, and of his last
words, and their thought for her.
"If he could see us, I think that he would be glad that we are happy."
"I know that he would," but the tears had gathered in her eyes.
Denzil stroked her hand gently; he did not make any lover's caress, and
she appreciated his understanding, and after a little she leaned
against his arm.
"Denzil--when we live here together, we must always try to carry out all
that John would have wished to do. It meant his very soul--and you will
help me to be a worthy mother of the Ardayre son."
She had not spoken of the child before--some unaccountable shyness had
restrained her, even in their fondest moments. And yet the thought had
never been absent from either. It had throbbed there in their hearts. It
was going to be so exquisite to whisper about it presently!
And Denzil had waited until she mentioned this dear interest. He did not
wish to assume any rights, or take anything for granted. She should be
queen, not only of his heart, but of everything, until she should herself
accord him authority.
But his eyes grew wistful now as he leaned nearer to her.
"Darling, am I not going to be allowed to see--my son!"
Then, with a cry, Amaryllis bent forward and was clasped in his arms. All
her wayward shyness melted, and she poured forth her delight in the
baby--their very own!
"You will see that he is just you, Denzil,--as we knew that he would be,
and now I will go and fetch him for you and bring him here, because the
stairs up to the nursery are so steep they might hurt you to climb."
She left him swiftly, and was not long gone, and Denzil sat there
by the fire trembling with an emotion which he could not have
described in words.
The door opened again and Amaryllis returned with the tiny sleeping form,
in its long white nightgown and wrapped in a great fleecy shawl.
She crept up to him very softly. The little one was sound asleep. She
made a sign to Denzil not to rise, and she bent down and placed the
bundle tenderly in his arms.
Then they gazed at the little face together with worshipping eyes.
It was just a round pink and white cherub like thousands of others in the
world; the very long eyelashes, sweeping the sleep-flushed cheeks, and
minute rings of bronze-gold hair curling over the edge of the close
cambric cap; but it seemed to those two looking at it to be unique, and
more beautiful than the dawn.
"Isn't he perfect, Denzil!" whispered Amaryllis, in ecstasy.
"Marvellous!" and Denzil's voice was awed.
Then the wonder and the divinity of love and its spirit of creation came
over them both and a mist of deep feeling grew in both their eyes.
* * * * *
At dinner they were all so happy together. Mrs. Ardayre was a note of
harmony anywhere. She had gradually grown to understand the situation in
the months of her son's recovering from his wounds and although no actual
words had passed between them Denzil felt that his mother had divined the
truth and it made things easier.
Afterwards, in the green drawing room, Amaryllis played to them and
delighted their ears, and then they went up to the cedar parlour and sat
round the fire and talked and made plans.
If it should be quite hopeless that Denzil could ever return to the
front, or be of service behind the lines, he meant to enter Parliament.
The thought that his active soldiering was probably done was very bitter
to him, and the two women who loved him tried to create an enthusiasm for
the parliamentary idea. The one certainty was that his adventurous spirit
would never remain behind in the background, whatever occurred.
They would be married at the beginning of February, they decided. The
whole of their world knew of John's written wishes, and no unkind
comments would be likely to arise.
And when Beatrice Ardayre left them alone to say good-night to each
other, Denzil drew Amaryllis back to his side!
"I think the world is going to be a totally new place, darling--after the
war. If it goes on very long the gradual privation and suffering and
misery will create a new order of things, and all of us should be ready
to face it. Only fools and weaklings cling to past systems when the
on-rolling wave has washed away their uses. Whatever seems for the real
good of England must be one's only aim, even if it means abandoning what
was the ideal of the Family for all these hundreds of years. You will
advance with me, Sweetheart, will you not, even if it should seem to be a
chasm we are crossing?"
"Denzil, of course I will."
He sighed a little.
"The old order made England great--but that cycle is over for all the
world--and what we shall have to do is to stand steady and try to
direct the new on-rush, so that it makes us greater and does not sweep
civilisation into darkness, as when Rome fell. It may be a fairly easy
matter because, as Stépan says, we have got such fundamental common
sense. It would be much less hard if the people at the top were really
courageous and unhampered by trying to secure votes, or whatever it is,
which makes them wobble and surrender at the wrong moment. If the
politicians could have that dogged, serene steadfastness which the
Tommies, and almost every man has in the trenches, how supreme we
"I hope so, but one must have vision as well so that one can look right
ahead and not stumble over retained old prejudices; people so often want
a thing and yet have not will enough to eliminate qualities in themselves
which must obviously prevent their obtaining their desire."
Denzil was not looking at her now, he was gazing ahead with his blue
eyes filled with light, and she saw that there was something far beyond
the physical magnetism which drew her to him, and a pride and joy filled
her. She would indeed be his helpmate in all his undertakings and
striving for noble ends. They talked for some time of these things and
their plans to aid in their fulfilment, and then they gradually spoke of
Verisschenzko and Amaryllis asked what was the latest news--he was in
Russia, she supposed.
"Stépan will be arriving in London next week. I heard from him to-day.
Won't you ask him down, darling, to spend the New Year with us here--it
would be so good to see the dear old boy again."
This was agreed upon, and then they drifted back to lovers' whisperings,
and presently they said a fond good-night.
* * * * *
Christmas Day of 1915, and the weeks which followed were like some happy
dream for Denzil and Amaryllis. Each hour seemed to discover some new
aspect which caused further understanding and love to augment. They spent
long late afternoons in the cedar parlour dipping into books and a
delicious pleasure was for Amaryllis to be nestled in Denzil's arms on
the sofa while he read aloud to her in his deep, magnetic voice.
Beatrice Ardayre at this period was like a pleased mother cat purring in
the sun while her kittens gambol. Her well-beloved was content, and she
was satisfied. She always seemed to be there when wanted and yet to leave
the lovers principally to themselves.
Another of their joys was to motor about the beautiful country, exploring
the old, old churches and quaint farmhouses and manors with which North
Somerset abounds; and they went all over the estate also and saw all the
people who were their people and their friends. The union was thoroughly
approved of, and although the engagement was not to be officially
announced until after the New Year it was quite understood, as the
tenants had all heard of John's instructions in his will. But perhaps the
most supreme joy of all was when they could play with the baby Benedict
together alone for half an hour before he went to bed. Then they were
just as foolish and primitive as any other two young things with their
firstborn. He was a very fine and forward baby and already expressed a
spirit and will of his own, and it always gave Denzil the very strangest
thrill when he seized and clung firmly to one of his fingers with his
tiny, strong, chubby hand. And over all his qualities and perfections his
parents then said wonderful things together!
Every subtle and exquisite pleasure, mystical, symbolical and material,
which either had ever dreamed of as connected with this living proof of
love, was realised for them. And to know that soon, soon, they would be
united for always--wedded--not merely engaged. Oh! that was
glorious--when passion need be under no restraint--when there need be no
For in this the chivalry of Denzil never failed--and each day they grew
to respect each other more.
Verisschenzko was to arrive in time for dinner on the last day of
the old year. That afternoon was one of even unusually perfect
happiness--motoring slowly round the park and up on to the hills in
Amaryllis' little two-seater which she drove herself. They got out at the
top and leaned upon a gate from which they seemed to be looking down over
the world. Peaceful, smiling, prosperous England! Miles and miles of her
fairest country lay there in front of them, giving no echo of war.
"If we had been born sixty years ago, Denzil, what different thoughts
this view would be creating in our minds. We would have no
speculation--no uncertainty--we should feel just happy that it is ours
and would be ours for ever! The world was asleep then!"
"Stépan would say that it was resting before the throes of struggle must
begin. Now we are going to face something much greater than the actual
war in France, but if we are strong we ought to come through. We have
always been saner than other peoples, so perhaps our upheaval will be
"Whatever there is to face, we shall be together, Denzil, and nothing
can really matter then--and we must make our little Benedict armed
for the future, so that he will be fitted to cope with the conditions
of his day."
"Look there at the blue distance, darling, could anything be more
peaceful? How can anyone in the country realise that not two hundred
miles away this awful war is grinding on?"
Denzil put an arm round her and drew her close to him and clasped
"But just for a little we must try to forget about it. I never dreamed of
such perfect happiness as we are having, Sweetheart,--my own!"
"Nor I, Denzil,--I am almost afraid--"
But he kissed her passionately and bade this thought begone. Afraid of
what? Nothing mattered since they would always be together. February
would soon come, and then they would never part again.
So the vague foreboding passed from Amaryllis' heart, and in fond
visionings they whispered plans for the spring and the summer and the
growing years. And so at last they returned to the house and found the
after-noon post waiting for them. Filson had just brought it in and
Amaryllis' letters lay in a pile on her writing table.
There happened to be none for Denzil and he went over to the fireplace
and was stroking the head of Mercury, the greatest of the big tawny dogs,
when he was startled by a little ominous cry from his Beloved, and on
looking up he saw that she had sunk into a chair, her face deadly pale,
while there had fluttered to the floor at her feet a torn envelope and a
foreign looking postcard.
What could this mean?
Verisschenzko had come straight through from Petrograd to England. He had
been delayed and had never returned to Paris since September. He knew
nothing of Harietta's sacrilege as yet. But he had at last accumulated
sufficient proof against her to have her entirely in his hands.
He thought over the whole matter as he came down in the train to Ardayre.
She was a grave danger to the Allies and had betrayed them again and
again. He must have no mercy. Her last crimes had been against France,
her punishment would be easier to manage there.
The strain of cruelty in his nature came uppermost as he reviewed the
evil which she had done. Stanislass' haunted face seemed to look at him
out of the mist of the half-lit carriage. What might not Poland have
accomplished with such a leader as Boleski had been before this baneful
passion fell upon him! Then he conjured up the? imaged faces of the brave
Frenchmen who were betrayed by Harietta to Hans, and shot in Germany.
A spy's death in war time was not an ignoble one, and they had gone there
with their lives in their hands. Had Harietta been true to that side, and
had she been acting from patriotism, he could have desired to save her
the death sentence now. But she had never been true; no country mattered
to her; she had given to him secrets as well as to Hans! Then he laughed
to himself grimly. So her _danseur_ at the Ardayre ball was the first
husband! The man who used to beat her with a stick--and who had let her
divorce him in obedience to the higher command!
How clever the whole thing was! If it had not all been so serious, it
would have been interesting to allow her to live longer to watch what
next she would do, but the issues at stake were too vital to delay. He
would not hesitate; he would denounce her to the French authorities
immediately on his return to Paris, and without one qualm or regret. She
had lived well and played "crooked"--and now it was meet that she should
pay the price.
Filson announced him in the green drawing room when he reached Ardayre,
but only Denzil rose to greet him and wrung his hand. He noticed that his
friend's face looked stern and rather pale.
"I'm so awfully glad that you have come, Stépan," and they exchanged
handshakes and greetings. "You are about the only person I should want to
see just now, because you know the whole history. Something unprecedented
has happened. A communication has come apparently from John to Amaryllis
from a prisoners' camp in Germany, and yet as far as one can be certain