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The Primadonna by F. Marion Crawford

Part 3 out of 6

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yellowish daylight.

Margaret was very much absorbed in her work, and did not hear the door
open; but the servant came slowly towards her, purposely making his
steps heard on the wooden floor in order to attract her attention.
When she stopped playing and whistling, and looked round, the man said
that Mr. Lushington was downstairs.

'Ask him to come up,' she answered, without hesitation.

She rose from the piano, went to the window and looked out at the
smoky sunset.

Lushington entered the room in a few moments and saw only the outline
of her graceful figure, as if she were cut out in black against the
glare from the big window. She turned, and a little of the shaded
light from the piano fell upon her face, just enough to show him her
expression, and though her glad smile welcomed him, there was anxiety
in her brown eyes. He came forward, fair and supernaturally neat, as
ever, and much more self-possessed than in former days. It was not
their first meeting since she had landed, for he had been to see her
late in the afternoon on the day of her arrival, and she had expected
him; but she had felt a sort of constraint in his manner then, which
was new to her, and they had talked for half an hour about indifferent
things. Moreover, he had refused a second cup of tea, which was a sure
sign that something was wrong. So she had asked him to come again a
week later, naming the day, and she had been secretly disappointed
because he did not protest against being put off so long. She wondered
what had happened, for his letters, his cable to her when she had left
America, and the flowers he had managed to send on board the steamer,
had made her believe that he had not changed since they had parted
before Christmas.

As she was near the piano she sat down on the stool, while he took a
small chair and established himself near the corner of the instrument,
at the upper end of the keyboard. The shaded lamp cast a little light
on both their faces, as the two looked at each other, and Margaret
realised that she was not only very fond of him, but that his whole
existence represented something she had lost and wished to get back,
but feared that she could never have again. For many months she had
not felt like her old self till a week ago, when he had come to see
her after she had landed.

They had been in love with each other before she had begun her career,
and she would have married him then, but a sort of quixotism, which
was highly honourable if nothing else, had withheld him. He had felt
that his mother's son had no right to marry Margaret Donne, though she
had told him as plainly as a modest girl could that she was not of the
same opinion. Then had come Logotheti's mad attempt to carry her off
out of the theatre, after the dress rehearsal before her debut, and
Madame Bonanni and Lushington between them had spirited her away just
in time. After that it had been impossible for him to keep up the
pretence of avoiding her, and a sort of intimacy had continued, which
neither of them quite admitted to be love, while neither would have
called it mere friendship.

The most amazing part of the whole situation was that Margaret had
continued to see Logotheti as if he had not actually tried to carry
her off in his motor-car, very much against her will. And in spite of
former jealousies and a serious quarrel Logotheti and Lushington spoke
to each other when they met. Possibly Lushington consented to treat
him civilly because the plot for carrying off Margaret had so
completely failed that its author had got himself locked up on
suspicion of being a fugitive criminal. Lushington, feeling that he
had completely routed his rival on that occasion, could afford to be
generous. Yet the man of letters, who was a born English gentleman on
his father's side, and who was one altogether by his bringing up, was
constantly surprised at himself for being willing to shake hands with
a Greek financier who had tried to run away with an English girl; and
possibly, in the complicated workings of his mind and conflicting
sensibilities, half Anglo-Saxon and half Southern French, his present
conduct was due to the fact that Margaret Donne had somehow ceased to
be a 'nice English girl' when she joined the cosmopolitan legion that
manoeuvres on the international stage of 'Grand Opera.' How could a
'nice English girl' remain herself if she associated daily with
such people as Pompeo Stromboli, Schreiermeyer, Herr Tiefenbach and
Signorina Baci-Roventi, the Italian contralto who could pass for a man
so well that she was said to have fought a real duel with sabres and
wounded her adversary before he discovered that she was the very lady
he had lately left for another--a regular Mademoiselle de Maupin! Had
not Lushington once seen her kiss Margaret on both cheeks in a moment
of enthusiastic admiration? He was not the average young man who falls
in love with a singer, either; he knew the stage and its depths only
too well, for he had his own mother's life always before him, a
perpetual reproach.

Though Margaret had at first revolted inwardly against the details of
her professional surroundings, she had grown used to them by sure and
fatal degrees, and things that would once have disgusted her were
indifferent to her now. Men who have been educated in conditions of
ordinary refinement and who have volunteered in the ranks or gone to
sea before the mast have experienced something very like what befell
Margaret; but men are not delicately nurtured beings whose bloom is
damaged by the rough air of reality, and the camp and the forecastle
are not the stage. Perhaps nothing that is necessary shocks really
sensible people; it is when disagreeable things are perfectly useless
and quite avoidable--in theory--that they are most repugnant to men
like Edmund Lushington. He had warned Margaret of what was in store
for her, before she had taken the final step; but he had not warned
himself that in spite of her bringing-up she might get used to it
all and end by not resenting it any more than the rest of the
professionals with whom she associated. It was this that chilled him.

'I hope I'm not interrupting your work,' he said as he sat down.

'My work?'

'I heard you studying when they let me in.'


His voice sounded very indifferent, and a pause followed Margaret's
mild ejaculation.

'It's rather a thankless opera for the soprano, I always think,' he
observed. 'The tenor has it all his own way.'

'_The Elisir d'Amore_?'


'I've not rehearsed it yet,' said Margaret rather drearily. 'I don't

He evidently meant to talk of indifferent things again, as at their
last meeting, and she felt that she was groping in the dark for
something she had lost. There was no sympathy in his voice, no
interest, and she was inclined to ask him plainly what was the matter;
but her pride hindered her still, and she only looked at him with an
expression of inquiry. He laid his hand on the corner of the piano,
and his eyes rested on the shaded lamp as if it attracted him.
Perhaps he wondered why he had nothing to say to her, and why she was
unwilling to help the conversation a little, since her new part might
be supposed to furnish matter for a few commonplace phrases. The smoky
sunset was fading outside and the room was growing dark.

'When do the rehearsals begin?' he asked after a long interval, and as
if he was quite indifferent to the answer.

'When Stromboli comes, I suppose.'

Margaret turned on the piano stool, so as to face the desk, and she
quietly closed the open score and laid it on the little table on her
other side, as if not caring to talk of it any more, but she did not
turn to him again.

'You had a great success in New York,' he said, after some time.

To this she answered nothing, but she shrugged her shoulders a little,
and though he was not looking directly at her he saw the movement,
and was offended by it. Such a little shrug was scarcely a breach of
manners, but it was on the verge of vulgarity in his eyes, because
he was persuaded that she had begun to change for the worse. He had
already told himself that her way of speaking was not what it had been
last year, and he felt that if the change went on she would set
his teeth on edge some day; and that he was growing more and more
sensitive, while she was continually becoming less so.

Margaret could not have understood that, and would have been hurt if
he had tried to explain it. She was disappointed, because his letters
had made her think that she was going to find him just as she had left
him, as indeed he had been till the moment when he saw her after her
arrival; but then he had changed at once. He had been disappointed
then, as she was now, and chilled, as she was now; he had felt that he
was shrinking from her then, as she now shrank from him. He suffered a
good deal in his quiet way, for he had never known any woman who had
moved him as she once had; but she suffered too, and in a much more
resentful way. Two years of maddening success had made her very sure
that she had a prime right to anything she wanted--within reason! If
she let him alone he would sit out his half-hour's visit, making an
idle remark now and then, and he would go away; but she would not let
him do that. It was too absurd that after a long and affectionate
intimacy they should sit there in the soft light and exchange

'Tom,' she said, suddenly resolving to break the ice, 'we have
been much too good friends to behave in this way to each other. If
something has come between us, I think you ought to tell me--don't

'I wish I could,' Lushington answered, after a moment's hesitation.

'If you know, you can,' said Margaret, taking the upper hand and
meaning to keep it.

'That does not quite follow.'

'Oh yes, it does,' retorted Margaret energetically. 'I'll tell you
why. If it's anything on your side, it's not fair and honest to keep
it from me after writing to me as you have written all winter. But if
it's the other way, there's nothing you can possibly know about me
which you cannot tell me, and if you think there is, then some one has
been telling you what is not true.'

'It's nothing against you; I assure you it's not.'

'Then there is a woman in the case. Why should you not say so frankly?
We are not bound to each other in any way, I'm sure. I believe I once
asked you to marry me, and you refused!' She laughed rather sharply.
'That does not constitute an engagement!'

'You put the point rather brutally, I think,' said Lushington.

'Perhaps, but isn't it quite true? It was not said in so many words,
but you knew I meant it, and but for a quixotic scruple of yours we
should have been married. I remember asking you what we were making
ourselves miserable about, since we both cared so much. It was at
Versailles, the last time we walked together, and we had stopped, and
I was digging little round holes in the road with my parasol. I'm not
going to ask you again to marry me, so there is no reason in the world
why you should behave differently to me if you have fallen in love
with some one else.'

'I'm not in love with any one,' said Lushington sharply.

'Then something you have heard about me has changed you in spite of
what you say, and I have a right to know what it is, because I've done
nothing I'm ashamed of.'

'I've not heard a word against you,' he answered, almost angrily. 'Why
do you imagine such things?'

'Because I'm honest enough to own that your friendship has meant a
great deal to me, even at a distance; and as I see that it has broken
its neck at some fence or other, I'm natural enough to ask what the
jump was like!'

He would not answer. He only looked at her suddenly for an instant,
with a slight pinching of the lids, and his blue eyes glittered a
little; then he turned away with a displeased air.

'Am I just or not?' Margaret asked, almost sternly.

'Yes, you are just,' he said, for it was impossible not to reply.

'And do you think it is just to me to change your manner altogether,
without giving me a reason? I don't!'

'You will force me to say something I would rather not say.'

'That is what I am trying to do,' Margaret retorted.

'Since you insist on knowing the truth,' answered Lushington, yielding
to what was very like necessity, 'I think you are very much changed
since I saw you last. You do not seem to me the same person.'

For a moment Margaret looked at him with something like wonder, and
her lips parted, though she said nothing. Then they met again and shut
very tight, while her brown eyes darkened till they looked almost
black; she turned a shade paler, too, and there was something almost
tragic in her face.

'I'm sorry,' Lushington said, watching her, 'but you made me tell

'Yes,' she answered slowly. 'I made you tell me, and I'm glad I did.
So I have changed as much as that, have I? In two years!'

She folded her hands on the little shelf of the empty music desk, bent
far forwards and looked down between the polished wooden bars at the
strings below, as if she were suddenly interested in the mechanism of
the piano.

Lushington turned his eyes to the darkening windows, and both sat thus
in silence for some time.

'Yes,' she repeated at last, 'I'm glad I made you tell me. It explains
everything very well.'

Still Lushington said nothing, and she was still examining the
strings. Her right hand stole to the keys, and she pressed down one
note so gently that it did not strike; she watched the little hammer
that rose till it touched the string and then fell back into its

'You said I should change--I remember your words.' Her voice was quiet
and thoughtful, whatever she felt. 'I suppose there is something about
me now that grates on your nerves.'

There was no resentment in her tone, nor the least intonation of
sarcasm. But Lushington said nothing; he was thinking of the time when
he had thought her an ideal of refined girlhood, and had believed in
his heart that she could never stand the life of the stage, and would
surely give it up in sheer disgust, no matter how successful she might
be. Yet now, she did not even seem offended by what he had told her.
So much the better, he thought; for he was far too truthful to take
back one word in order to make peace, even if she burst into tears.
Possibly, of the two, his reflections were sadder than hers just then,
but she interrupted them with a question.

'Can you tell me of any one thing I do that jars on you?' she asked.
'Or is it what I say, or my way of speaking? I should like to know.'

'It's nothing, and it's everything,' answered Lushington, taking
refuge in a commonplace phrase, 'and I suppose no one else would ever
notice it. But I'm so awfully sensitive about certain things. You know

She knew why; yet it was with a sort of wonder that she asked herself
what there was in her tone or manner that could remind him of his
mother; but though she had spoken quietly, and almost humbly, a cold
and secret anger was slowly rising in her. The great artist, who held
thousands spellbound and breathless, could not submit easily to losing
in such a way the only friendship that had ever meant much to her. The
man who had just told her that she had lost her charm for him meant
that she was sinking to the level of her surroundings, and he was the
only man she had ever believed that she loved. Two years ago, and even
less, she would have been generously angry with him, and would have
spoken out, and perhaps all would have been over; but those two years
of life on the stage had given her the self-control of an actress when
she chose to exercise it, and she had acquired an artificial command
of her face and voice which had not belonged to her original frank and
simple self. Perhaps Lushington knew that too, as a part of the change
that offended his taste. At twenty-two, Margaret Donne would have
coloured, and would have given him a piece of her young mind very
plainly; Margarita da Cordova, aged twenty-four, turned a trifle
paler, shut her lips, and was frigidly angry, as if some ignorant
music-hall reporter had attacked her singing in print. She was
convinced that Lushington was mistaken, and that he was merely
yielding to that love of finding fault with what he liked which a
familiar passage in Scripture attributes to the Divinity, but with
which many of us are better acquainted in our friends; in her opinion,
such fault-finding was personal criticism, and it irritated her
vanity, over-fed with public adulation and the sincere praise of
musical critics. 'If you don't like me as I am, there are so many
people who do that you don't count!' That was the sub-conscious form
of her mental retort, and it was in the manner of Cordova, and not of

Once upon a time, when his exaggerated sense of honour was driving him
away, she had said rather foolishly that if he left her she would not
answer for herself. She had felt a little desperate, but he had told
her quietly that he, who knew her, would answer for her, and her mood
had changed, and she had been herself again. But it was different this
time. He meant much more than he said; he meant that she had lowered
herself, and she was sure that he would not 'answer' for her now. On
the contrary, it was his intention to let her know that he no longer
believed in her, and perhaps no longer respected or trusted her. Yet,
little by little, during their last separation, his belief in her, and
his respect for her, had grown in her estimation, because they alone
still connected her with the maidenliness and feminine refinement in
which she had grown up. Lushington had broken a link that had been

She was at one of the cross-roads of her life; she was at a turning
point in the labyrinth, after passing which it would be hard to come
back and find the right way. Perhaps old Griggs could help her if it
occurred to him; but that was unlikely, for he had reached the age
when men who have seen much take people as they find them. Logotheti
would certainly not help her, though she knew instinctively that she
was still to him what she had always been, and that if he ever had the
opportunity he sought, her chances of escape would be small indeed.

Therefore she felt more lonely after Lushington had spoken than she
had ever felt since her parents had died, and much more desperate. But
nothing in the world would have induced her to let him know it, and
her anger against him rose slowly, and it was cold and enduring, as
that sort of resentment is. She was so proud that it gave her the
power to smile carelessly after a minute's silence, and she asked him
some perfectly idle questions about the news of the day. He should
not know that he had hurt her very much; he should not suspect for a
moment that she wished him to go away.

She rose presently and turned up the lights, rang the bell, and
when the window curtains were drawn, and tea was brought, she did
everything she could to make Lushington feel at his ease; she did it
out of sheer pride, for she did not meditate any vengeance, but was
only angry, and wished to get rid of him without a scene.

At last he rose to go away, and when he held out his hand there was a
dramatic moment.

'I hope you're not angry with me,' he said with a cheerful smile, for
he was quite sure that she bore him no lasting grudge.


She laughed so frankly and musically after pronouncing the syllable,
that he took it for a disclaimer.

So he went away, shutting the door after him in a contented way,
not sharply as if he were annoyed with her, nor very softly and
considerately as if he were sorry for her, but with a moderate,
businesslike snap of the latch as if everything were all right.

She went back to the piano when she was alone, and sat down on the
music-stool, but her hands did not go to the keys till she was sure
that Lushington was already far from the house.

A few chords, and then she suddenly began to sing with the full power
of her voice, as if she were on the stage. She sang Rosina's song in
the _Barbiere di Siviglia_ as she had never sung it in her life, and
for the first time the words pleased her.

'... una vipera saro!'

What 'nice English girl' ever told herself or any one else that she
would be a 'viper'?


Two days later Margaret was somewhat surprised by an informal
invitation to dine at the Turkish Embassy. The Ambassador had lately
been transferred to London from Paris, where she had known him through
Logotheti and had met him two or three times. The latter, as a
Fanariote Greek, was a Turkish subject, and although he had once told
Margaret that the Turks had murdered his father in some insurrection,
and though he himself might have hesitated to spend much time in
Constantinople, he nevertheless maintained friendly relations with
the representatives of what was his country; and for obvious reasons,
connected with Turkish finance, they treated him with marked
consideration. On general principles and in theory Turks and Greeks
hate each other; in practice they can live very amicably side by side.
In the many cases in which Armenians have been attacked and killed by
the Turks no Greek has ever been hurt except by accident; on the other
hand, none has lifted a hand to defend an Armenian in distress,
which sufficiently proves that the question of religion has not been
concerned at all.

Margaret accepted the Ambassador's invitation, feeling tolerably sure
of meeting Logotheti at the dinner. If there were any other women they
would be of the meteoric sort, the fragments of former social planets
that go on revolving in the old orbit, more or less divorced,
bankrupt, or otherwise unsound, though still smart, the kind of women
who are asked to fill a table on such occasions 'because they
won't mind'--that is to say, they will not object to dining with a
primadonna or an actress whose husband has become nebulous and whose
reputation is mottled. The men, of whom there might be several, would
be either very clever or overpoweringly noble, because all geniuses
and all peers are supposed to like their birds of paradise a little
high. I wonder why. I have met and talked with a good many men
of genius, from Wagner and Liszt to Zola and some still living
contemporaries, and, really, their general preference for highly
correct social gatherings has struck me as phenomenal. There are even
noblemen who seem to be quite respectable, and pretend that they would
rather talk to an honest woman at a dinner party than drink bumpers of
brut champagne out of Astarte's satin slipper.

Mustapha Pasha, the Turkish Ambassador, was a fair, pale man of fifty,
who had spiritual features, quiet blue eyes, and a pleasant smile. His
hands were delicately made and very white, but not effeminate. He had
been educated partly in England, and spoke English without difficulty
and almost without accent, as Logotheti did. He came forward to meet
Margaret as she entered the room, and he greeted her warmly, thanking
her for being so good as to come at short notice.

Logotheti was the next to take her hand, and she looked at him
attentively when her eyes met his, wondering whether he, too, would
think her changed. He himself was not, at all events. Mustapha Pasha,
a born Musalman and a genuine Turk, never arrested attention in an
English drawing-room by his appearance; but Constantino Logotheti, the
Greek, was an Oriental in looks as well as in character. His beautiful
eyes were almond-shaped, his lips were broad and rather flat, and the
small black moustache grew upwards and away from them so as not to
hide his mouth at all. He had an even olive complexion, and any judge
of men would have seen at a glance that he was thoroughly sound and
as strong as a professional athlete. His coat had a velvet collar; a
single emerald stud, worth several thousand pounds, diffused a green
refulgence round itself in the middle of his very shiny shirt front;
his waistcoat was embroidered and adorned with diamond buttons, his
trousers were tight, and his name, with those of three or four other
European financiers, made it alternately possible or impossible for
impecunious empires and kingdoms to raise money in England, France and
Germany. In matters of business, in the East, the Jew fears the Greek,
the Greek fears the Armenian, the Armenian fears the Persian, and
the Persian fears only Allah. One reason why the Jews do not care to
return to Palestine and Asia Minor is that they cannot get a living
amongst Christians and Mohammedans, a plain fact which those
eminent and charitable European Jews who are trying to draw their
fellow-believers eastward would do well to consider. Even in Europe
there are far more poor Jews than Christians realise; in Asia there
are hardly any rich ones. The Venetians were too much for Shylock,
and he lost his ducats and his daughter; amongst Christian Greeks,
Christian Armenians, and Musalman Persians, from Constantinople to
Tiflis, Teheran, Bagdad and Cairo, the poor man could not have saved
sixpence a year.

This is not a mere digression, since it may serve to define
Logotheti's position in the scale of the financial forces.

Margaret took his hand and looked at him just a little longer than she
had looked at Mustapha Pasha. He never wrote to her, and never took
the trouble to let her know where he was; but when they met his time
was hers, and when he could be with her he seemed to have no other
pre-occupation in life.

'I came over from Paris to-day,' he said. 'When may I come and see

That was always the first question, for he never wasted time.

'To-morrow, if you like. Come late--about seven.'

The Ambassador was on her other side. A little knot of men and one
lady were standing near the fire in an expectant sort of way, ready to
be introduced to Margaret. She saw the bony head of Paul Griggs, and
she smiled at him from a distance. He was talking to a very handsome
and thoroughbred looking woman in plain black velvet, who had the most
perfectly beautiful shoulders Margaret had ever seen.

Mustapha Pasha led the Primadonna to the group.

'Lady Maud,' he said to the beauty, 'this is my old friend Senorita da
Cordova. Countess Leven,' he added, for Margaret's benefit.

She had not met him more than three times, but she did not resent
being called his old friend. It was well meant, she thought.

Lady Maud held out her hand cordially.

'I've wanted to know you ever so long,' she said, in her sweet low

'That's very kind of you,' Margaret answered.

It is not easy to find a proper reply to people who say they have long
hoped to meet you, but Griggs came to the rescue, as he shook hands in
his turn.

'That was not a mere phrase,' he said with a smile. 'It's quite true.
Lady Maud wanted me to give her a letter to you a year ago.'

'Indeed I did,' asseverated the beauty, nodding, 'but Mr. Griggs said
he didn't know you well enough!'

'You might have asked me,' observed Logotheti. 'I'm less cautious than

'You're too exotic,' retorted Lady Maud, with a ripple in her voice.

The adjective described the Greek so well that the others laughed.

'Exotic,' Margaret repeated the word thoughtfully.

'For that matter,' put in Mustapha Pasha with a smile, 'I can hardly
be called a native!'

The Countess Leven looked at him critically.

'You could pass for one,' she said, 'but Monsieur Logotheti couldn't.'
The other men, whom Margaret did not know, had been listening in
silence, and maintained their expectant attitude. In the pause which
followed Lady Maud's remark the Ambassador introduced them in foreign
fashion: one was a middle-aged peer who wore gold-rimmed spectacles
and looked like a student or a man of letters; another was the most
successful young playwright of the younger generation, and he wore a
very good coat and was altogether well turned out, for in his heart he
prided himself on being the best groomed man in London; a third was
a famous barrister who had a crisp and breezy way with him that made
flat calms in conversation impossible. Lastly, a very disagreeable
young man, who seemed a mere boy, was introduced to the Primadonna.

'Mr. Feist,' said the Ambassador, who never forgot names.

Margaret was aware of a person with an unhealthy complexion, thick
hair of a dead-leaf brown colour, and staring blue eyes that made her
think of glass marbles. The face had an unnaturally youthful look, and
yet, at the same time, there was something profoundly vicious about
it. Margaret wondered who in the world the young man might be and why
he was at the Turkish Embassy, apparently invited there to meet her.
She at once supposed that in spite of his appearance he must have some
claim to celebrity.

'I'm a great admirer of yours, Senorita,' said Mr. Feist in a womanish
voice and with a drawl. 'I was in the Metropolitan in New York when
you sang in the dark and prevented a panic. I suppose that was about
the finest thing any singer ever did.'

Margaret smiled pleasantly, though she felt the strongest repulsion
for the man.

'I happened to be on the stage,' she said modestly. 'Any of the others
would have done the same.'

'Well,' drawled Mr. Feist, 'may be. I doubt it.'

Dinner was announced.

'Will you keep house for me?' asked the Ambassador of Lady Maud.

'There's something rather appropriate about your playing Ambassadress
here,' observed Logotheti.

Margaret heard but did not understand that her new acquaintance was
a Russian subject. Mustapha Pasha held out his arm to take her in to
dinner. The spectacled peer took in Lady Maud, and the men straggled
in. At table Lady Maud sat opposite the Pasha, with the peer on her
right and the barrister on her left. Margaret was on the right of the
Ambassador, on whose other side Griggs was placed, and Logotheti
was Margaret's other neighbour. Feist and the young playwright were
together, between Griggs and the nobleman.

Margaret glanced round the table at the people and wondered about
them. She had heard of the barrister and the novelist, and the peer's
name had a familiar sound that suggested something unusual, though she
could not quite remember what it was. It might be pictures, or the
north pole, or the divorce court, or a new idiot asylum; it would
never matter much. The new acquaintances on whom her attention fixed
itself were Lady Maud, who attracted her strongly, and Mr. Feist,
who repelled her. She wished she could speak Greek in order to ask
Logotheti who the latter was and why he was present. To judge by
appearances he was probably a rich young American who travelled and
frequented theatres a good deal, and who wished to be able to say
that he knew Cordova. He had perhaps arrived lately with a letter
of introduction to the Ambassador, who had asked him to the first
nondescript informal dinner he gave, because the man would not have
fitted in anywhere else.

Logotheti began to talk at once, while Mustapha Pasha plunged into a
political conversation with Griggs.

'I'm much more glad to see you than you can imagine,' the Greek said,
not in an undertone, but just so softly that no one else could hear

'I'm not good at imagining,' answered Margaret. 'But I'm glad you are
here. There are so many new faces.'

'Happily you are not shy. One of your most enviable qualities is your

'You're not lacking in that way either,' laughed Margaret. 'Unless you
have changed very much.'

'Neither of us has changed much since last year. I only wish you

Margaret turned her head to look at him.

'So you think I am not changed!' she said, with a little pleased
surprise in her tone.

'Not a bit. If anything, you have grown younger in the last two

'Does that mean more youthful? More frisky? I hope not!'

'No, not at all. What I see is the natural effect of vast success on a
very, nice woman. Formerly, even after you had begun your career,
you had some doubts as to the ultimate result. The future made you
restless, and sometimes disturbed the peace of your face a little,
when you thought about it too much. That's all gone now, and you are
your real self, as nature meant you to be.'

'My real self? You mean, the professional singer!'

'No. A great artist, in the person of a thoroughly nice woman.'

Margaret had thought that blushing was a thing of the past with her,
but a soft colour rose in her cheeks now, from sheer pleasure at what
he had said.

'I hope you don't think it impertinent of me to tell you so,' said
Logotheti with a slight intonation of anxiety.

'Impertinent!' cried Margaret. 'It's the nicest thing any one has said
to me for months, and thank goodness I'm not above being pleased.'

Nor was Logotheti above using any art that could please her. His
instinct about women, finding no scruples in the way, had led him into
present favour by the shortest road. It is one thing to say brutally
that all women like flattery; it is quite another to foresee just what
form of flattery they will like. People who do not know professional
artistic life from the inner side are much too ready to cry out that
first-class professionals will swallow any amount of undiscriminating
praise. The ability to judge their own work is one of the gifts which
place them above the second class.

'I said what I thought,' observed Logotheti with a sudden air of
conscientious reserve. 'For once in our acquaintance, I was not
thinking of pleasing you. And then I was afraid that I had displeased
you, as I so often have.'

The last words were spoken with a regret that was real.

'I have forgiven you,' said Margaret quietly; 'with conditions!' she
added, as an afterthought, and smiling.

'Oh, I know--I'll never do it again.'

'That's what a runaway horse seems to say when he walks quietly home,
with his head down and his ears limp, after nearly breaking one's

'I was a born runaway,' said Logotheti meekly, 'but you have cured

In the pause that followed this speech, Mr. Feist leaned forward and
spoke to Margaret across the table.

'I think we have a mutual friend, Madame,' he said.

'Indeed?' Margaret spoke coolly; she did not like to be called
'Madame' by people who spoke English.

'Mr. Van Torp,' explained the young man.

'Yes,' Margaret said, after a moment's hesitation, 'I know Mr. Van
Torp; he came over on the same steamer.'

The others at the table were suddenly silent, and seemed to be
listening. Lady Maud's clear eyes rested on Mr. Feist's face.

'He's quite a wonderful man, I think,' observed the latter.

'Yes,' assented the Primadonna indifferently.

'Don't you think he is a wonderful man?' insisted Mr. Feist, with his
disagreeable drawl.

'I daresay he is,' Margaret answered, 'but I don't know him very

'Really? That's funny!'


'Because I happen to know that he thinks everything of you, Madame
Cordova. That's why I supposed, you were intimate friends.'

The others had listened hitherto in a sort of mournful silence,
distinctly bored. Lady Maud's eyes now turned to Margaret, but the
latter still seemed perfectly indifferent, though she was wishing that
some one else would speak. Griggs turned to Mr. Feist, who was next to

'You mean that he is a wonderful man of business, perhaps,' he said.

'Well, we all know he's that, anyway,' returned his neighbour. 'He's
not exactly a friend of mine, not exactly!' A meaning smile wrinkled
the unhealthy face and suddenly made it look older. 'All the same, I
think he's quite wonderful. He's not merely an able man, he's a man of
powerful intellect.'

'A Nickel Napoleon,' suggested the barrister, who was bored to death
by this time, and could not imagine why Lady Maud followed the
conversation with so much interest.

'Your speaking of nickel,' said the peer, at her elbow, 'reminds me of
that extraordinary new discovery--let me see--what is it?'

'America?' suggested the barrister viciously.

'No,' said his lordship, with perfect gravity, 'it's not that. Ah yes,
I remember! It's a process for making nitric acid out of air.'

Lady Maud nodded and smiled, as if she knew all about it, but her eyes
were again scrutinising Mr. Feist's face. Her neighbour, whose hobby
was applied science, at once launched upon a long account of the
invention. From time to time the beauty nodded and said that she quite
understood, which was totally untrue, but well meant.

'That young man has the head of a criminal,' said the barrister on her
other side, speaking very low.

She bent her head very slightly, to show that she had heard, and she
continued to listen to the description of the new process. By this
time every one was talking again. Mr. Feist was in conversation with
Griggs, and showed his profile to the barrister, who quietly studied
the retreating forehead and the ill-formed jaw, the latter plainly
discernible to a practised eye, in spite of the round cheeks. The
barrister was a little mad on the subject of degeneracy, and knew that
an unnaturally boyish look in a grown man is one of the signs of it.
In the course of a long experience at the bar he had appeared in
defence of several 'high-class criminals.' By way of comparing Mr.
Feist with a perfectly healthy specimen of humanity, he turned to look
at Logotheti beside him. Margaret was talking with the Ambassador, and
the Greek was just turning to talk to his neighbour, so that their
eyes met, and each waited for the other to speak first.

'Are you a judge of faces?' asked the barrister after a moment.

'Men of business have to be, to some extent,' answered Logotheti.

'So do lawyers. What should you say was the matter with that one?'

It was impossible to doubt that he was speaking of the only abnormal
head at the table, and Logotheti looked across the wide table at Mr.
Feist for several seconds before he answered.

'Drink,' he said in an undertone, when he had finished his

'Yes. Anything else?'

'May go mad any day, I should think,' observed Logotheti.

'Do you know anything about him?'

'Never saw him before.'

'And we shall probably never see him again,' said the Englishman.
'That's the worst of it. One sees such heads occasionally, but one
very rarely hears what becomes of them.'

The Greek did not care a straw what became of Mr. Feist's head, for he
was waiting to renew his conversation with Margaret.

Mustapha Pasha told her that she should go to Constantinople some day
and sing to the Sultan, who would give her a pretty decoration in
diamonds; and she laughed carelessly and answered that it might be
very amusing.

'I shall be very happy to show you the way,' said the Pasha. 'Whenever
you have a fancy for the trip, promise to let me know.'

Margaret had no doubt that he was quite in earnest, and would enjoy
the holiday vastly. She was used to such kind offers and knew how to
laugh at them, though she was very well aware that they were not made
in jest.

'I have a pretty little villa on the Bosphorus,' said the Ambassador,
'If you should ever come to Constantinople it is at your disposal,
with everything in it, as long as you care to use it.'

'It's too good of you!' she answered. 'But I have a small house of my
own here which is very comfortable, and I like London.'

'I know,' answered the Pasha blandly; 'I only meant to suggest a
little change.'

He smiled pleasantly, as if he had meant nothing, and there was a
pause, of which Logotheti took advantage.

'You are admirable,' he said.

'I have had much more magnificent invitations,' she answered. 'You
once wished to give me your yacht as a present if I would only make
a trip to Crete--with a party of archaeologists! An archduke once
proposed to take me for a drive in a cab!'

'If I remember,' said Logotheti, 'I offered you the owner with the
yacht. But I fancy you thought me too "exotic," as Countess Leven
calls me.'

'Oh, much!' Margaret laughed again, and then lowered her voice, 'by
the bye, who is she?'

'Lady Maud? Didn't you know her? She is Lord Creedmore's daughter, one
of seven or eight, I believe. She married a Russian in the diplomatic
service, four years ago--Count Leven--but everybody here calls her
Lady Maud. She hadn't a penny, for the Creedmores are poor. Leven was
supposed to be rich, but there are all sorts of stories about him, and
he's often hard up. As for her, she always wears that black velvet
gown, and I've been told that she has no other. I fancy she gets a new
one every year. But people say--'

Logotheti broke off suddenly.

'What do they say?' Margaret was interested.

'No, I shall not tell you, because I don't believe it.'

'If you say you don't believe the story, what harm can there be in
telling it?'

'No harm, perhaps. But what is the use of repeating a bit of wicked

Margaret's curiosity was roused about the beautiful Englishwoman.

'If you won't tell me, I may think it is something far worse!'

'I'm sure you could not imagine anything more unlikely!'

'Please tell me! Please! I know it's mere idle curiosity, but you've
roused it, and I shall not sleep unless I know.'

'And that would be bad for your voice.'

'Of course! Please--'

Logotheti had not meant to yield, but he could not resist her winning

'I'll tell you, but I don't believe a word of it, and I hope you will
not either. The story is that her husband found her with Van Torp
the other evening in rooms he keeps in the Temple, and there was an
envelope on the table addressed to her in his handwriting, in which
there were four thousand one hundred pounds in notes.'

Margaret looked thoughtfully at Lady Maud before she answered.

'She? With Mr. Van Torp, and taking money from him? Oh no! Not with
that face!'

'Besides,' said Logotheti, 'why the odd hundred? The story gives too
many details. People never know as much of the truth as that.'

'And if it is true,' returned Margaret, 'he will divorce her, and then
we shall know.'

'For that matter,' said the Greek contemptuously, 'Leven would not be
particular, provided he had his share of the profits.'

'Is it as bad as that? How disgusting! Poor woman!'

'Yes. I fancy she is to be pitied. In connection with Van Torp, may I
ask an indiscreet question?'

'No question you can ask me about him can be indiscreet. What is it?'

'Is it true that he once asked you to marry him and you refused him?'

Margaret turned her pale face to Logotheti with a look of genuine

'Yes. It's true. But I never told any one. How in the world did you
hear it?'

'And he quite lost his head, I heard, and behaved like a madman--'

'Who told you that?' asked Margaret, more and more astonished, and not
at all pleased.

'He behaved so strangely that you ran into the next room and bolted
the door, and waited till he went away--'

'Have you been paying a detective to watch me?'

There was anger in her eyes for a moment, but she saw at once that she
was mistaken.

'No,' Logotheti answered with a smile, 'why should I? If a detective
told me anything against you I should not believe it, and no one could
tell me half the good I believe about you!'

'You're really awfully nice,' laughed Margaret, for she could not help
being flattered. 'Forgive me, please!'

'I would rather that the Nike of Samothrace should think dreadful
things of me than that she should not think of me at all!'

'Do I still remind you of her?' asked Margaret.

'Yes. I used to be quite satisfied with my Venus, but now I want the
Victory from the Louvre. It's not a mere resemblance. She is you, and
as she has no face I see yours when I look at her. The other day I
stood so long on the landing where she is, that a watchman took me for
an anarchist waiting to deposit a bomb, and he called a policeman, who
asked me my name and occupation. I was very near being arrested--on
your account again! You are destined to turn the heads of men of

At this point Margaret became aware that she and Logotheti were
talking in undertones, while the conversation at the table had become
general, and she reluctantly gave up the idea of again asking where he
had got his information about her interview with Mr. Van Torp in New
York. The dinner came to an end before long, and the men went out with
the ladies, and began to smoke in the drawing-room, standing round the

Lady Maud put her arm through Margaret's.

'Cigarettes are bad for your throat, I'm sure,' she said, 'and I hate

She led the Primadonna away through a curtained door to a small room
furnished according to Eastern ideas of comfort, and she sat down on a
low, hard divan, which was covered with a silk carpet. The walls were
hung with Persian silks, and displayed three or four texts from the
Koran, beautifully written in gold on a green ground. Two small inlaid
tables stood near the divan, one at each end, and two deep English
easy-chairs, covered with red leather, were placed symmetrically
beside them. There was no other furniture, and there were no gimcracks
about, such as Europeans think necessary in an 'oriental' room.

With her plain black velvet, Lady Maud looked handsomer than ever in
the severely simple surroundings.

'Do you mind?' she asked, as Margaret sat down beside her. 'I'm afraid
I carried you off rather unceremoniously!'

'No,' Margaret answered. 'I'm glad to be quiet, it's so long since I
was at a dinner-party.'

'I've always hoped to meet you,' said Lady Maud, 'but you're quite
different from what I expected. I did not know you were really so
young--ever so much younger than I am.'


'Oh, yes! I'm seven-and-twenty, and I've been married four years.'

'I'm twenty-four,' said Margaret, 'and I'm not married yet.'

She was aware that the clear eyes were studying her face, but she did
not resent their scrutiny. There was something about her companion
that inspired her with trust at first sight, and she did not even
remember the impossible story Logotheti had told her.

'I suppose you are tormented by all sorts of people who ask things,
aren't you?'

Margaret wondered whether the beauty was going to ask her to sing for
nothing at a charity concert.

'I get a great many begging letters, and some very amusing ones,' she
answered cautiously. 'Young girls, of whom I never heard, write
and ask me to give them pianos and the means of getting a musical
education. I once took the trouble to have one of those requests
examined. It came from a gang of thieves in Chicago.'

Lady Maud smiled, but did not seem surprised.

'Millionaires get lots of letters of that sort,' she said. 'Think of
poor Mr. Van Torp!'

Margaret moved uneasily at the name, which seemed to pursue her since
she had left New York; but her present companion was the first person
who had applied to him the adjective 'poor.'

'Do you know him well?' she asked, by way of saying something.

Lady Maud was silent for a moment, and seemed to be considering the

'I had not meant to speak of him,' she answered presently. 'I like
him, and from what you said at dinner I fancy that you don't, so we
shall never agree about him.'

'Perhaps not,' said Margaret. 'But I really could not have answered
that odious man's question in any other way, could I? I meant to
be quite truthful. Though I have met Mr. Van Torp often since last
Christmas, I cannot say that I know him very well, because I have not
seen the best side of him.'

'Few people ever do, and you have put it as fairly as possible. When
I first met him I thought he was a dreadful person, and now we're
awfully good friends. But I did not mean to talk about him!'

'I wish you would,' protested Margaret. 'I should like to hear the
other side of the case from some one who knows him well.'

'It would take all night to tell even what I know of his story,' said
Lady Maud. 'And as you've never seen me before you probably would not
believe me,' she added with philosophical calm. 'Why should you? The
other side of the case, as I know it, is that he is kind to me, and
good to people in trouble, and true to his friends.'

'You cannot say more than that of any man,' Margaret observed gravely.

'I could say much more, but I want to talk to you about other things.'

Margaret, who was attracted by her, and who was sure that the story
Logotheti had told was a fabrication, as he said it was, wished that
her new acquaintance would leave other matters alone and tell her what
she knew about Van Torp.

'It all comes of my having mentioned him accidentally,' said Lady
Maud. 'But I often do--probably because I think about him a good

Margaret thought her amazingly frank, but nothing suggested itself in
the way of answer, so she remained silent.

'Did you know that your father and my father were friends at Oxford?'
Lady Maud asked, after a little pause.

'Really?' Margaret was surprised.

'When they were undergrads. Your name is Donne, isn't it? Margaret
Donne? My father was called Foxwell then. That's our name, you know.
He didn't come into the title till his uncle died, a few years ago.'

'But I remember a Mr. Foxwell when I was a child,' said Margaret. 'He
came to see us at Oxford sometimes. Do you mean to say that he was
your father?'

'Yes. He is alive, you know--tremendously alive!--and he remembers you
as a little girl, and wants me to bring you to see him. Do you mind
very much? I told him I was to meet you this evening.'

'I should be very glad indeed,' said Margaret.

'He would come to see you,' said Lady Maud, rather apologetically,
'but he sprained his ankle the other day. He was chivvying a cat
that was after the pheasants at Creedmore--he's absurdly young, you
know--and he came down at some hurdles.'

'I'm so sorry! Of course I shall be delighted to go.'

'It's awfully good of you, and he'll be ever so pleased. May I come
and fetch you? When? To-morrow afternoon about three? Are you quite
sure you don't mind?'

Margaret was quite sure; for the prospect of seeing an old friend of
her father's, and one whom she herself remembered well, was pleasant
just then. She was groping for something she had lost, and the merest
thread was worth following.

'If you like I'll sing for him,' she said.

'Oh, he simply hates music!' answered Lady Maud, with unconscious
indifference to the magnificence of such an offer from the greatest
lyric soprano alive.

Margaret laughed in spite of herself.

'Do you hate music too?' she asked.

'No, indeed! I could listen to you for ever. But my father is quite
different. I believe he hears half a note higher with one ear than
with the other. At all events the effect of music on him is dreadful.
He behaves like a cat in a thunderstorm. If you want to please him,
talk to him about old bindings. Next to shooting he likes bindings
better than anything in the world--in fact he's a capital bookbinder

At this juncture Mustapha Pasha's pale and spiritual face appeared
between the curtains of the small room, and he interrupted the
conversation by a single word.


Lady Maud was on her feet in an instant.


'Do you play?' asked the Ambassador, turning to Margaret, who rose
more slowly.

'Very badly. I would rather not.'

The diplomatist looked disappointed, and she noticed his expression,
and suspected that he would feel himself obliged to talk to her
instead of playing.

'I'm very fond of looking on,' she added quickly, 'if you will let me
sit beside you.'

They went back to the drawing-room, and presently the celebrated
Senorita da Cordova, who was more accustomed to being the centre of
interest than she realised, felt that she was nobody at all, as
she sat at her host's elbow watching the game through a cloud of
suffocating cigarette smoke. Even old Griggs, who detested cards,
had sacrificed himself in order to make up the second table. As for
Logotheti, he was too tactful to refuse a game in which every one knew
him to be a past master, in order to sit out and talk to her the whole

Margaret watched the players with some little interest at first. The
disagreeable Mr. Feist lost and became even more disagreeable, and
Margaret reflected that whatever he might be he was certainly not an
adventurer, for she had seen a good many of the class. The Ambassador
lost even more, but with the quiet indifference of a host who plays
because his guests like that form of amusement. Lady Maud and the
barrister were partners, and seemed to be winning a good deal; the
peer whose hobby was applied science revoked and did dreadful things
with his trumps, but nobody seemed to care in the least, except the
barrister, who was no respecter of persons, and had fought his way to
celebrity by terrorising juries and bullying the Bench.

At last Margaret let her head rest against the back of her comfortable
chair, and when she closed her eyes because the cigarette smoke made
them smart, she forgot to open them again, and went sound asleep; for
she was a healthy young person, and had eaten a good dinner, and on
evenings when she did not sing she was accustomed to go to bed at ten
o'clock, if not earlier.

No one even noticed that she was sleeping, and the game went on till
nearly midnight, when she was awakened by the sound of voices, and
sprang to her feet with the impression of having done something
terribly rude. Every one was standing, the smoke was as thick as ever,
and it was tempered by a smell of Scotch whisky. The men looked more
or less tired, but Lady Maud had not turned a hair.

The peer, holding a tall glass of weak whisky and soda in his hand,
and blinking through his gold-rimmed spectacles, asked her if she were
going anywhere else.

'There's nothing to go to yet,' she said rather regretfully.

'There are women's clubs,' suggested Logotheti.

'That's the objection to them,' answered the beauty with more sarcasm
than grammatical sequence.

'Bridge till all hours, though,' observed the barrister.

'I'd give something to spend an evening at a smart women's club,' said
the playwright in a musing tone. 'Is it true that the Crown Prince of
Persia got into the one in Mayfair as a waiter?'

'They don't have waiters,' said Lady Maud. 'Nothing is ever true. I
must be going home.'

Margaret was only too glad to go too. When they were downstairs she
heard a footman ask Lady Maud if he should call a hansom for her. He
evidently knew that she had no carriage.

'May I take you home?' Margaret asked.

'Oh, please do!' answered the beauty with alacrity. 'It's awfully good
of you!'

It was raining as the two handsome women got into the singer's
comfortable brougham.

'Isn't there room for me too?' asked Logotheti, putting his head in
before the footman could shut the door.

'Don't be such a baby,' answered Lady Maud in a displeased tone.

The Greek drew back with a laugh and put up his umbrella; Lady Maud
told the footman where to go, and the carriage drove away.

'You must have had a dull evening,' she said.

'I was sound asleep most of the time,' Margaret answered. 'I'm afraid
the Ambassador thought me very rude.'

'Because you went to sleep? I don't believe he even noticed it. And if
he did, why should you mind? Nobody cares what anybody does nowadays.
We've simplified life since the days of our fathers. We think more of
the big things than they did, and much less of the little ones.'

'All the same, I wish I had kept awake!'

'Nonsense!' retorted Lady Maud. 'What is the use of being famous if
you cannot go to sleep when you are sleepy? This is a bad world as
it is, but it would be intolerable if one had to keep up one's
school-room manners all one's life, and sit up straight and spell
properly, as if Society, with a big S, were a governess that could
send us to bed without our supper if we didn't!'

Margaret laughed a little, but there was no ripple in Lady Maud's
delicious voice as she made these singular statements. She was
profoundly in earnest.

'The public is my schoolmistress,' said Margaret. 'I'm so used to
being looked at and listened to on the stage that I feel as if people
were always watching me and criticising me, even when I go out to

'I've no right at all to give you my opinion, because I'm nobody in
particular,' answered Lady Maud, 'and you are tremendously famous and
all that! But you'll make yourself miserable for nothing if you get
into the way of caring about anybody's opinion of you, except on the
stage. And you'll end by making the other people uncomfortable too,
because you'll make them think that you mean to teach them manners!'

'Heaven forbid!' Margaret laughed again.

The carriage stopped, and Lady Maud thanked her, bade her good-night,
and got out.

'No,' she said, as the footman was going to ring the bell, 'I have a
latch-key, thank you.'

It was a small house in Charles Street, Berkeley Square, and the
windows were quite dark. There was not even a light in the hall when
Margaret saw Lady Maud open the front door and disappear within.

Margaret went over the little incidents of the evening as she drove
home alone, and felt better satisfied with herself than she had been
since Lushington's visit, in spite of having deliberately gone to
sleep in Mustapha Pasha's drawing-room. No one had made her feel that
she was changed except for the better, and Lady Maud, who was most
undoubtedly a smart woman of the world, had taken a sudden fancy to
her. Margaret told herself that this would be impossible if she were
ever so little vulgarised by her stage life, and in this reflection
she consoled herself for what Lushington had said, and nursed her
resentment against him.

The small weaknesses of celebrities are sometimes amazing. There was a
moment that evening, as she stood before her huge looking-glass before
undressing and scrutinised her face in it, when she would have given
her fame and her fortune to be Lady Maud, who trusted to a passing
hansom or an acquaintance's carriage for getting home from an Embassy,
who let herself into a dark and cheerless little house with a
latch-key, who was said to be married to a slippery foreigner, and
about whom the gossips invented unedifying tales.

Margaret wondered whether Lady Maud would ever think of changing
places with her, to be a goddess for a few hours every week, to have
more money than she could spend on herself, and to be pursued with
requests for autographs and grand pianos, not to mention invitations
to supper from those supernal personages whose uneasy heads wear
crowns or itch for them; and Senorita da Cordova told herself rather
petulantly that Lady Maud would rather starve than be the most
successful soprano that ever trilled on the high A till the house
yelled with delight, and the royalties held up their stalking-glasses
to watch the fluttering of her throat, if perchance they might see how
the pretty noise was made.

But at this point Margaret Donne was a little ashamed of herself, and
went to bed; and she dreamt that Edmund Lushington had suddenly taken
to wearing a little moustache, very much turned up and flattened on
his cheeks, and a single emerald for a stud, which cast a greenish
refulgence round it upon a shirt-front that was hideously shiny;
and the effect of these changes in his appearance was to make him
perfectly odious.


Lord Creedmore had begun life as a poor barrister, with no particular
prospects, had entered the House of Commons early, and had been a
hard-working member of Parliament till he had inherited a title and a
relatively exiguous fortune when he was over fifty by the unexpected
death of his uncle and both the latter's sons within a year. He had
married young; his wife was the daughter of a Yorkshire country
gentleman, and had blessed him with ten children, who were all alive,
and of whom Lady Maud was not the youngest. He was always obliged to
make a little calculation to remember how old she was, and whether
she was the eighth or the ninth. There were three sons and seven
daughters. The sons were all in the army, and all stood between
six and seven feet in their stockings; the daughters were all
good-looking, but none was as handsome as Maud; they were all married,
and all but she had children. Lady Creedmore had been a beauty too,
but at the present time she was stout and gouty, had a bad temper, and
alternately soothed and irritated her complaint and her disposition by
following cures or committing imprudences. Her husband, who was now
over sixty, had never been ill a day in his life; he was as lean and
tough as a greyhound and as active as a schoolboy, a good rider, and a
crack shot.

His connection with this tale, apart from the friendship which grew
up between Margaret and Lady Maud, lies in the fact that his land
in Derbyshire adjoined the estate which Mr. Van Torp had bought and
re-named after himself. It was here that Lady Maud and the American
magnate had first met, two years after her marriage, when she had come
home on a long visit, very much disillusionised as to the supposed
advantages of the marriage bond as compared with the freedom of a
handsome English girl of three-and-twenty, who is liked in her set and
has the run of a score of big country houses without any chaperonial
encumbrance. For the chaperon is going down to the shadowy kingdom of
the extinct, and is already reckoned with dodos, stagecoaches, muzzle
loaders, crinolines, Southey's poems, the Thirty-nine Articles,
Benjamin Franklin's reputation, the British workman, and the late
Herbert Spencer's philosophy.

On the previous evening Lady Maud had not told Margaret that Lord
Creedmore lived in Surrey, having let his town house since his
youngest daughter had married. She now explained that it would be
absurd to think of driving such a distance when one could go almost
all the way by train. The singer was rather scared at the prospect of
possibly missing trains, waiting in draughty stations, and getting wet
by a shower; she was accustomed to think nothing of driving twenty
miles in a closed carriage to avoid the slightest risk of a wetting.

But Lady Maud piloted her safely, and showed an intimate knowledge
of the art of getting about by public conveyances which amazed her
companion. She seemed to know by instinct the difference between one
train and another, when all looked just alike, and when she had to
ask a question of a guard or a porter her inquiry was met with
business-like directness and brevity, and commanded the respect which
all officials feel for people who do not speak to them without a
really good reason--so different from their indulgent superiority when
we enter into friendly conversation with them.

The journey ended in a walk of a quarter of a mile from the station to
the gate of the small park in which the house stood. Lady Maud said
she was sorry she had forgotten to telephone for a trap to be sent
down, but added cheerfully that the walk would do Margaret good.

'You know your way wonderfully well,' Margaret said.

'Yes,' answered her companion carelessly. 'I don't think I could lose
myself in London, from Limehouse to Wormwood Scrubs.'

She spoke quite naturally, as if it were not in the least surprising
that a smart woman of the world should possess such knowledge.

'You must have a marvellous memory for places,' Margaret ventured to

'Why? Because I know my way about? I walk a great deal, that's all.'

Margaret wondered whether the Countess Leven habitually took her walks
in the direction of Limehouse in the east or Shepherd's Bush in the
west; and if so, why? As for the distance, the thoroughbred looked
as if she could do twenty miles without turning a hair, and Margaret
wished she would not walk quite so fast, for, like all great singers,
she herself easily got out of breath if she was hurried; it was not
the distance that surprised her, however, but the fact that Lady Maud
should ever visit such regions.

They reached the house and found Lord Creedmore in the library, his
lame foot on a stool and covered up with a chudder. His clear brown
eyes examined Margaret's face attentively while he held her hand in

'So you are little Margery,' he said at last, with a very friendly
smile. 'Do you remember me at all, my dear? I suppose I have changed
almost more than you have.'

Margaret remembered him very well indeed as Mr. Foxwell, who used
always to bring her certain particularly delicious chocolate wafers
whenever he came to see her father in Oxford. She sat down beside him
and looked at his face--clean-shaven, kindly, and energetic--the face
of a clever lawyer and yet of a keen sportsman, a type you will hardly
find out of England.

Lady Maud left the two alone after a few minutes, and Margaret found
herself talking of her childhood and her old home, as if nothing very
much worth mentioning had happened in her life during the last ten or
a dozen years. While she answered her new friend's questions and
asked others of him she unconsciously looked about the room. The
writing-table was not far from her, and she saw on it two photographs
in plain ebony frames; one was of her father, the other was a likeness
of Lady Maud. Little by little she understood that her father had been
Lord Creedmore's best friend from their schoolboy days till his death.
Yet although they had constantly exchanged short visits, the one
living in Oxford and the other chiefly in town, their wives had hardly
known each other, and their children had never met.

'Take him all in all,' said the old gentleman gravely, 'Donne was the
finest fellow I ever knew, and the only real friend I ever had.'

His eyes turned to the photograph on the table with a far-away manly
regret that went to Margaret's heart. Her father had been a reticent
man, and as there was no reason why he should have talked much about
his absent friend Foxwell, it was not surprising that Margaret should
never have known how close the tie was that bound them. But now,
coming unawares upon the recollection of that friendship in the man
who had survived, she felt herself drawn to him as if he were of
her own blood, and she thought she understood why she had liked his
daughter so much at first sight.

They talked for more than half an hour, and Margaret did not even
notice that he had not once alluded to her profession, and that she
had so far forgotten herself for the time as not to miss the usual
platitudes about her marvellous voice and her astoundingly successful

'I hope you'll come and stop with us in Derbyshire in September,'
he said at last. 'I'm quite ashamed to ask you there, for we are
dreadfully dull people; but it would give us a great deal of

'You are very kind indeed,' Margaret said. 'I should be delighted to

'Some of our neighbours might interest you,' said Lord Creedmore.
'There's Mr. Van Torp, for instance, the American millionaire. His
land joins mine.'


Margaret wondered if she should ever again go anywhere without hearing
of Mr. Van Torp.

'Yes. He bought Oxley Paddox some time ago and promptly re-christened
it Torp Towers. But he's not a bad fellow. Maud likes him, though Lady
Creedmore calls him names. He has such a nice little girl--at least,
it's not exactly his child, I believe,' his lordship ran on rather
hurriedly; 'but he's adopted her, I understand--at least, I fancy so.
At all events she was born deaf, poor little thing; but he has had her
taught to speak and to understand from the lips. Awfully pretty child!
Maud delights in her. Nice governess, too--I forget her name; but
she's a faithful sort of woman. It's a dreadfully hard position, don't
you know, to be a governess if you're young and good-looking, and
though Van Torp is rather a decent sort, I never feel quite sure--Maud
likes him immensely, it's true, and that is a good sign; but Maud is
utterly mad about a lot of things, and besides, she's singularly well
able to take care of herself.'

'Yes,' said Margaret; but she thought of the story Logotheti had told
her on the previous evening. 'I know Mr. Van Torp, and the little girl
and Miss More,' she said after a moment. 'We came over in the same

She thought it was only fair to say that she had met the people of
whom he had been speaking. There was no reason why Lord Creedmore
should be surprised by this, and he only nodded and smiled pleasantly.

'All the better. I shall set Maud on you to drag you down to
Derbyshire in September,' he said. 'Women never have anything to do in
September. Let me see--you're an actress, aren't you, my dear?'

Margaret laughed. It was positively delightful to feel that he had
never heard of her theatrical career.

'No; I'm a singer,' she said. 'My stage name is Cordova.'

'Oh yes, yes,' answered Lord Creedmore, very vaguely. 'It's the same
thing--you cannot possibly have anything to do in September, can you?'

'We shall see. I hope not, this year.'

'If it's not very indiscreet of me, as an old friend, you know, do you
manage to make a living by the stage?'

'Oh--fair!' Margaret almost laughed again.

Lady Maud returned at this juncture, and Margaret rose to go, feeling
that she had stayed long enough.

'Margery has half promised to come to us in September,' said Lord
Creedmore to his daughter, 'You don't mind if I call you Margery, do
you?' he asked, turning to Margaret. 'I cannot call you Miss Donne
since you really remember the chocolate wafers! You shall have some as
soon as I can go to see you!'

Margaret loved the name she had been called by as a child. Mrs.
Rushmore had severely eschewed diminutives.

'Margery,' repeated Lady Maud thoughtfully. 'I like the name awfully
well. Do you mind calling me Maud? We ought to have known each other
when we were in pinafores!'

In this way it happened that Margaret found herself unexpectedly
on something like intimate terms with her father's friend and the
latter's favourite child less than twenty-four hours after meeting
Lady Maud, and this was how she was asked to their place in the
country for the month of September. But that seemed very far away.

Lady Maud took Margaret home, as she had brought her, without making
her wait more than three minutes for a train, without exposing her to
a draught, and without letting her get wet, all of which would seem
easy enough to an old Londoner, but was marvellous in the eyes of the
young Primadonna, and conveyed to her an idea of freedom that was
quite new to her. She remembered that she used to be proud of her
independence when she first went into Paris from Versailles alone for
her singing lessons; but that trip, contrasted with the one from her
own house to Lord Creedmore's on the Surrey side, was like going out
for an hour's sail in a pleasure-boat on a summer's afternoon compared
with working a sea-going vessel safely through an intricate and
crowded channel at night.

Margaret noticed, too, that although Lady Maud was a very striking
figure, she was treated with respect in places where the singer knew
instinctively that if she herself had been alone she would have been
afraid that men would speak to her. She knew very well how to treat
them if they did, and was able to take care of herself if she chose
to travel alone; but she ran the risk of being annoyed where the
beautiful thoroughbred was in no danger at all. That was the

Lady Maud left her at her own door and went off on foot, though the
hansom that had brought them from the Baker Street Station was still
lurking near.

Margaret had told Logotheti to come and see her late in the afternoon,
and as she entered the hall she was surprised to hear voices upstairs.
She asked the servant who was waiting.

With infinite difficulty in the matter of pronunciation the man
informed her that the party consisted of Monsieur Logotheti, Herr
Schreiermeyer, Signor Stromboli, the Signorina Baci-Roventi, and
Fraeulein Ottilie Braun. The four professionals had come at the very
moment when Logotheti had gained admittance on the ground that he had
an appointment, which was true, and they had refused to be sent away.
In fact, unless he had called the police the poor footman could not
have kept them out. The Signorina Baci-Roventi alone, black-browed,
muscular, and five feet ten in her shoes, would have been almost a
match for him alone; but she was backed by Signor Pompeo Stromboli,
who weighed fifteen stone in his fur coat, was as broad as he was
long, and had been seen to run off the stage with Madame Bonanni
in his arms while he yelled a high G that could have been heard in
Westminster if the doors had been open. Before the onslaught of such
terrific foreigners a superior London footman could only protest with
dignity and hold the door open for them to pass. Braver men than
he had quailed before Schreiermeyer's stony eye, and gentle little
Fraeulein Ottilie slipped in like a swallow in the track of a storm.

Margaret felt suddenly inclined to shut herself up in her room
and send word that she had a headache and could not see them. But
Schreiermeyer was there. He would telephone for three doctors, and
would refuse to leave the house till they signed an assurance that she
was perfectly well and able to begin rehearsing the _Elisir d'Amore_
the next morning. That was what Schreiermeyer would do, and when she
next met him he would tell her that he would have 'no nonsense, no
stupid stuff,' and that she had signed an engagement and must sing or

She had never shammed an illness, either, and she did not mean to
begin now. It was only that for two blessed hours and more, with her
dead father's best friend and Maud, she had felt like her old self
again, and had dreamt that she was with her own people. She had even
disliked the prospect of seeing Logotheti after that, and she felt a
much stronger repugnance for her theatrical comrades. She went to her
own room before meeting them, and she sighed as she stood before the
tall looking-glass for a moment after taking off her coat and hat. In
pulling out the hat-pins her hair had almost come down, and Alphonsine
proposed to do it over again, but Margaret was impatient.

'Give me something--a veil, or anything,' she said impatiently. 'They
are waiting for me.'

The maid instantly produced from a near drawer a peach-coloured veil
embroidered with green and gold. It was a rather vivid modern Turkish
one given her by Logotheti, and she wrapped it quickly over her
disordered hair, like a sort of turban, tucking one end in, and
left the room almost without glancing at the glass again. She was
discontented with herself now for having dreamt of ever again being
anything but what she was--a professional singer.

The little party greeted her noisily as she entered the music-room.
Her comrades had not seen her since she had left them in New York, and
the consequence was that Signorina Baci-Roventi kissed her on both
cheeks with dramatic force, and she kissed Fraeulein Ottilie on both
cheeks, and Pompeo Stromboli offered himself for a like favour and had
to be fought off, while Schreiermeyer looked on gravely, very much as
a keeper at the Zoo watches the gambols of the animals in his charge;
but Logotheti shook hands very quietly, well perceiving that his
chance of pleasing her just then lay in being profoundly respectful
while the professionals were overpoweringly familiar. His
almond-shaped eyes asked her how in the world she could stand it all,
and she felt uncomfortable at the thought that she was used to it.

Besides, these good people really liked her. The only members of the
profession who hated her were the other lyric sopranos. Schreiermeyer,
rapacious and glittering, had a photograph of her hideously enamelled
in colours inside the cover of his watch, and the facsimile of her
autograph was engraved across the lid of his silver cigarette-case.
Pompeo Stromboli carried some of her hair in a locket which he wore on
his chain between two amulets against the Evil Eye. Fraeulein Ottilie
treasured a little water-colour sketch of her as Juliet on which
Margaret had written a few friendly words, and the Baci-Roventi
actually went to the length of asking her advice about the high notes
the contralto has to sing in such operas as _Semiramide_. It would be
hard to imagine a more sincere proof of affection and admiration than

Margaret knew that the greeting was genuine and that she ought to be
pleased, but at the first moment the noise and the kissing and the
rough promiscuity of it all disgusted her.

Then she saw that all had brought her little presents, which were
arranged side by side on the piano, and she suddenly remembered that
it was her birthday. They were small things without value, intended
to make her laugh. Stromboli had sent to Italy for a Neapolitan clay
figure of a shepherd, cleverly modelled and painted, and vaguely
resembling himself--he had been a Calabrian goatherd. The contralto,
who came from Bologna, the city of sausages, gave Margaret a tiny pig
made of silver with holes in his back, in which were stuck a number of
quill toothpicks.

'You will think of me when you use them at table,' she said,
charmingly unconscious of English prejudices.

Schreiermeyer presented her with a bronze statuette of Shylock
whetting his knife upon his thigh.

'It will encourage you to sign our next agreement,' he observed
with stony calm. 'It is the symbol of business. We are all symbolic

Fraeulein Ottilie Braun had wrought a remarkable little specimen of
German sentiment. She had made a little blue pin-cushion and had
embroidered some little flowers on it in brown silk. Margaret had no
difficulty in looking pleased, but she also looked slightly puzzled.

'They are forget-me-nots,' said the Fraeulein, 'but because my name is
Braun I made them brown. You see? So you will remember your little
Braun forget-me-not!'

Margaret laughed at the primitively simple little jest, but she was
touched too, and somehow she felt that her eyes were not quite dry
as she kissed the good little woman again. But Logotheti could not
understand at all, and thought it all extremely silly. He did not like
Margaret's improvised turban, either, though he recognised the veil as
one he had given her. The headdress was not classic, and he did not
think it becoming to the Victory of Samothrace.

He also had remembered her birthday and he had a small offering in
his pocket, but he could not give it to her before the others.
Schreiermeyer would probably insist on looking at it and would guess
its value, whereas Logotheti was sure that Margaret would not. He
would give it to her when they were alone, and would tell her that it
was nothing but a seal for her writing-case, a common green stone of
some kind with a little Greek head on it; and she would look at it and
think it pretty, and take it, because it did not look very valuable to
her unpractised eye. But the 'common green stone' was a great emerald,
and the 'little Greek head' was an intaglio of Anacreon, cut some two
thousand and odd hundred years ago by an art that is lost; and the
setting had been made and chiselled for Maria de' Medici when she
married Henry the Fourth of France. Logotheti liked to give Margaret
things vastly more rare than she guessed them to be.

Margaret offered her visitors tea, and she and Logotheti took theirs
while the others looked on or devoured the cake and bread and butter.

'Tea?' repeated Signor Stromboli. 'I am well. Why should I take tea?
The tea is for to perspire when I have a cold.'

The Signorina Baci-Roventi laughed at him.

'Do you not know that the English drink tea before dinner to give
themselves an appetite?' she asked. 'It is because they drink tea that
they eat so much.'

'All the more,' answered Stromboli. 'Do you not see that I am fat? Why
should I eat more? Am I to turn into a monument of Victor Emanuel?'

'You eat too much bread,' said Schreiermeyer in a resentful tone.

'It is my vice,' said the tenor, taking up four thin slices of bread
and butter together and popping them all into his mouth without the
least difficulty. 'When I see bread, I eat it. I eat all there is.'

'We see you do,' returned Schreiermeyer bitterly.

'I cannot help it. Why do they bring bread? They are in league to make
me fat. The waiters know me. I go into the Carlton; the head-waiter
whispers; a waiter brings a basket of bread; I eat it all. I go into
Boisin's, or Henry's; the head-waiter whispers; it is a basket of
bread; while I eat a few eggs, a chicken, a salad, a tart or two, some
fruit, cheese, the bread is all gone. I am the tomb of all the bread
in the world. So I get fat. There,' he concluded gravely, 'it is as I
tell you. I have eaten all.'

And in fact, while talking, he had punctuated each sentence with a
tiny slice or two of thin bread and butter, and everybody laughed,
except Schreiermeyer, as the huge singer gravely held up the empty
glass dish and showed it.

'What do you expect of me?' he asked. 'It is a vice, and I am not
Saint Anthony, to resist temptation.'

'Perhaps,' suggested Fraeulein Ottilie timidly, 'if you exercised a
little strength of character--'

'Exercise?' roared Stromboli, not understanding her, for they spoke
a jargon of Italian, German, and English. 'Exercise? The more I
exercise, the more I eat! Ha, ha, ha! Exercise, indeed! You talk like

'You will end on wheels,' said Schreiermeyer with cold contempt. 'You
will stand on a little truck which will be moved about the stage from
below. You will be lifted to Juliet's balcony by a hydraulic crane.
But you shall pay for the machinery. Oh yes, oh yes! I will have it
in the contract! You shall be weighed. So much flesh to move, so much

'Shylock!' suggested Logotheti, glancing at the statuette and

'Yes, Shylock and his five hundred pounds of flesh,' answered
Schreiermeyer, with a faint smile that disappeared again at once.

'But I meant character--' began Fraeulein Ottilie, trying to go back
and get in a word.

'Character!' cried the Baci-Roventi with a deep note that made the
open piano vibrate. 'His stomach is his heart, and his character is
his appetite!'

She bent her heavy brows and fixed her gleaming black eyes on him with
a tragic expression.

'"Let them cant about decorum who have characters to lose,"' quoted
Logotheti softly.

This delicate banter went on for twenty minutes, very much to
Schreiermeyer's inward satisfaction, for it proved that at least four
members of his company were on good terms with him and with each
other; for when they had a grudge against him, real or imaginary, they
became sullen and silent in his presence, and eyed him with the coldly
ferocious expression of china dogs.

At last they all rose and went away in a body, leaving Margaret with

'I had quite forgotten that it was my birthday,' she said, when they
were gone.

'I've brought you a little seal,' he answered, holding out the

She took it and looked at it.

'How pretty!' she exclaimed. 'It's awfully kind of you to have
remembered to-day, and I wanted a seal very much.'

'It's a silly little thing, just a head on some sort of green stone.
But I tried it on sealing-wax, and the impression is not so bad. I
shall be very happy if it's of any use, for I'm always puzzling my
brain to find something you may like.'

'Thanks very much. It's the thought I care for.' She laid the seal on
the table beside her empty cup. 'And now that we are alone,' she went
on, 'please tell me.'


'How you found out what you told me at dinner last night.'

She leant back in the chair, raising her arms and joining her hands
above her head against the high top of the chair, and stretching
herself a little. The attitude threw the curving lines of her figure
into high relief, and was careless enough, but the tone in which she
spoke was almost one of command, and there was a sort of expectant
resentfulness in her eyes as they watched his face while she waited
for his answer. She believed that he had paid to have her watched by
some one who had bribed her servants.

'I did not find out anything,' he said quietly. 'I received an
anonymous letter from New York giving me all the details of the scene.
The letter was written with the evident intention of injuring Mr. Van
Torp. Whoever wrote it must have heard what you said to each other,
and perhaps he was watching you through the keyhole. It is barely
possible that by some accident he overheard the scene through the
local telephone, if there was one in the room. Should you care to see
that part of the letter which concerns you? It is not very delicately

Margaret's expression had changed; she had dropped her hands and was
leaning forward, listening with interest.

'No,' she said, 'I don't care to see the letter, but who in the world
can have written it? You say it was meant to injure Mr. Van Torp--not

'Yes. There is nothing against you in it. On the contrary, the writer
calls attention to the fact that there never was a word breathed
against your reputation, in order to prove what an utter brute Van
Torp must be.'

'Tell me,' Margaret said, 'was that story about Lady Maud in the same

'Oh dear, no! That is supposed to have happened the other day, but I
got the letter last winter.'


'In January, I think.'

'He came to see me soon after New Year's Day,' said Margaret.' I wish
I knew who told--I really don't believe it was my maid.'

'I took the letter to one of those men who tell character by
handwriting,' answered Logotheti. 'I don't know whether you believe in
that, but I do a little. I got rather a queer result, considering that
I only showed half-a-dozen lines, which could not give any idea of the

'What did the man say?'

'He said the writer appeared to be on the verge of insanity, if not
actually mad; that he was naturally of an accurate mind, with ordinary
business capacities, such as a clerk might have, but that he had
received a much better education than most clerks get, and must at one
time have done intellectual work. His madness, the man said, would
probably take some violent form.'

'There's nothing very definite about all that,' Margaret observed.
'Why in the world should the creature have written to you, of all
people, to destroy Mr. Van Torp's character?'

'The interview with you was only an incident,' answered Logotheti.
'There were other things, all tending to show that he is not a safe
person to deal with.'

'Why should you ever deal with him?'

Logotheti smiled.

'There are about a hundred and fifty men in different countries who
are regarded as the organs of the world's financial body. The very big
ones are the vital organs. Van Torp has grown so much of late that he
is probably one of them. Some people are good enough to think that I'm
another. The blood of the financial body--call it gold, or credit, or
anything you like--circulates through all the organs, and if one of
the great vital ones gets out of order the whole body is likely to
suffer. Suppose that Van Torp wished to do something with the Nickel
Trust in Paris, and that I had private information to the effect that
he was not a man to be trusted, and that I believed this information,
don't you see that I should naturally warn my friends against him, and
that our joint weight would be an effective obstacle in his way?'

'Yes, I see that. But, dear me! do you mean to say that all financiers
must be strictly virtuous, like little woolly white lambs?'

Margaret laughed carelessly. If Lushington had heard her, his teeth
would have been set on edge, but Logotheti did not notice the shade of
expression and tone.

'I repeat that the account of the interview with you was a mere
incident, thrown in to show that Van Torp occasionally loses his head
and behaves like a madman.'

'I don't want to see the letter,' said Margaret, 'but what sort of
accusations did it contain? Were they all of the same kind?'

'No. There was one other thing--something about a little girl called
Ida, who is supposed to be the daughter of that old Alvah Moon who
robbed your mother. You can guess the sort of thing the letter said
without my telling you.'

Margaret leaned forward and poked the small wood fire with a pair of
unnecessarily elaborate gilt tongs, and she nodded, for she remembered
how Lord Creedmore had mentioned the child that afternoon. He had
hesitated a little, and had then gone on speaking rather hurriedly.
She watched the sparks fly upward each time she touched the log, and
she nodded slowly.

'What are you thinking of?' asked Logotheti.

But she did not answer for nearly half a minute. She was reflecting on
a singular little fact which made itself clear to her just then. She
was certainly not a child; she was not even a very young girl, at
twenty-four; she had never been prudish, and she did not affect the
pre-Serpentine innocence of Eve before the fall. Yet it was suddenly
apparent to her that because she was a singer men treated her as if
she were a married woman, and would have done so if she had been
even five years younger. Talking to her as Margaret Donne, in Mrs.
Rushmore's house, two years earlier, Logotheti would not have
approached such a subject as little Ida Moon's possible relation to
Mr. Van Torp, because the Greek had been partly brought up in England
and had been taught what one might and might not say to a 'nice
English girl.' Margaret now reflected that since the day she had set
foot upon the stage of the Opera she had apparently ceased to be a
'nice English girl' in the eyes of men of the world. The profession of
singing in public, then, presupposed that the singer was no longer the
more or less imaginary young girl, the hothouse flower of the social
garden, whose perfect bloom the merest breath of worldly knowledge
must blight for ever. Margaret might smile at the myth, but she could
not ignore the fact that she was already as much detached from it in
men's eyes as if she had entered the married state. The mere fact of
realising that the hothouse blossom was part of the social legend
proved the change in herself.

'So that is the secret about the little girl,' she said at last. Then
she started a little, as if she had made a discovery. 'Good heavens!'
she exclaimed, poking the fire sharply. 'He cannot be as bad as
that--even he!'

'What do you mean?' asked Logotheti, surprised.

'No--really--it's too awful,' Margaret said slowly, to herself.
'Besides,' she added, 'one has no right to believe an anonymous

'The writer was well informed about you, at least,' observed
Logotheti. 'You say that the details are true.'

'Absolutely. That makes the other thing all the more dreadful.'

'It's not such a frightful crime, after all,' Logotheti answered with
a little surprise. 'Long before he fell in love with you he may have
liked some one else! Such things may happen in every man's life.'

'That one thing--yes, no doubt. But you either don't know, or you
don't realise just what all the rest has been, up to the death of that
poor girl in the theatre in New York.'

'He was engaged to her, was he not?'


'I forget who she was.'

'His partner's daughter. She was called Ida Bamberger.'

'Ida? Like the little girl?'

'Yes. Bamberger divorced his wife, and she married Senator Moon. Don't
you see?'

'And the girls were half-sisters--and--?' Logotheti stopped and

'Yes.' Margaret nodded slowly again and poked the fire.

'Good heavens!' The Greek knew something of the world's wickedness,
but his jaw dropped. 'Oedipus!' he ejaculated.

'It cannot be true,' Margaret said, quite in earnest. 'I detest him,
but I cannot believe that of him.'

For in her mind all that she knew and that Griggs had told her, and
that Logotheti did not know yet, rose up in orderly logic, and joined
what was now in her mind, completing the whole hideous tale of
wickedness that had ended in the death of Ida Bamberger, who had
been murdered, perhaps, in desperation to avert a crime even more
monstrous. The dying girl's faint voice came back to Margaret across
the ocean.

'He did it--'

And there was the stain on Paul Griggs' hand; and there was little
Ida's face on the steamer, when she had looked up and had seen Van
Torp's lips moving, and had understood what he was saying to himself,
and had dragged Margaret away in terror. And not least, there was the
indescribable fear of him which Margaret felt when he was near her for
a few minutes.

On the other side, what was there to be said for him? Miss More,
quiet, good, conscientious Miss More, devoting her life to the child,
said that he was one of the kindest men living. There was Lady Maud,
with her clear eyes, her fearless ways, and her knowledge of the world
and men, and she said that Van Torp was kind, and good to people in
trouble and true to his friends. Lord Creedmore, the intimate friend
of Margaret's father, a barrister half his life, and as keen as a
hawk, said that Mr. Van Torp was a very decent sort of man, and he
evidently allowed his daughter to like the American. It was true that
a scandalous tale about Lady Maud and the millionaire was already
going from mouth to mouth, but Margaret did not believe it. If she

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