Part 13 out of 13
"If I were safe at home I should think I could not walk,
but I can walk now--I can--I can--because I will bear the
In such cottages there is always a door opening outside
from the little bricked kitchen, where the copper stands. She
would reach that, and, passing through, would close it behind
her. After that SOMETHING would tell her what to do--something
would lead her.
She put her lame foot upon the floor, and rested some of her
weight upon it--not all. A jagged pain shot up from it
through her whole side it seemed, and, for an instant, she
swayed and ground her teeth.
"That is because it is the first step," she said. "But if I
am to be killed, I will die in the open--I will die in the
The second and third steps brought cold sweat out upon her,
but she told herself that the fourth was not quite so unbearable,
and she stiffened her whole body, and muttered some words
while she took a fifth and sixth which carried her into the tiny
"Father," she said. "Father, think of me now--think of
me! Rosy, love me--love me and pray that I may come home.
You--you who have died, stand very near!"
If her father ever held her safe in his arms again--if she ever
awoke from this nightmare, it would be a thing never to let
one's mind hark back to again--to shut out of memory with
The pain had shot up and down, and her forehead was wet
by the time she had reached the small back door. Was it locked
or bolted--was it? She put her hand gently upon the latch
and lifted it without making any sound. Thank God Almighty,
it was neither bolted nor locked, the latch lifted, the door
opened, and she slid through it into the shadow of the grey
which was already almost the darkness of night. Thank God
for that, too.
She flattened herself against the outside wall and listened.
He was having difficulty in managing Childe Harold, who
snorted and pulled back, offended and made rebellious by his
savagely impatient hand. Good Childe Harold, good boy! She
could see the massed outline of the trees of the spinney. If she
could bear this long enough to get there--even if she crawled
part of the way. Then it darted through her mind that he
would guess that she would be sure to make for its cover, and
that he would go there first to search.
"Father, think for me--you were so quick to think!" her
brain cried out for her, as if she was speaking to one who could
She almost feared she had spoken aloud, and the thought
which flashed upon her like lightning seemed to be an answer
given. He would be convinced that she would at once try to
get away from the house. If she kept near it--somewhere--
somewhere quite close, and let him search the spinney, she might
get away to its cover after he gave up the search and came
back. The jagged pain had settled in a sort of impossible
anguish, and once or twice she felt sick. But she would die in
the open--and she knew Rosalie was frightened by her absence,
and was praying for her. Prayers counted and, yet, they had
all prayed yesterday.
"If I were not very strong, I should faint," she thought.
"But I have been strong all my life. That great French
doctor--I have forgotten his name--said that I had the physique
to endure anything."
She said these things that she might gain steadiness and
convince herself that she was not merely living through a
nightmare. Twice she moved her foot suddenly because she found
herself in a momentary respite from pain, beginning to believe
that the thing was a nightmare--that nothing mattered--because
she would wake up presently--so she need not try to hide.
"But in a nightmare one has no pain. It is real and I must
go somewhere," she said, after the foot was moved. Where
could she go? She had not looked at the place as she rode up.
She had only half-consciously seen the spinney. Nigel was
swearing at the horses. Having got Childe Harold into the
shed, there seemed to be nothing to fasten his bridle to. And
he had yet to bring his own horse in and secure him. She must
get away somewhere before the delay was over.
How dark it was growing! Thank God for that again!
What was the rather high, dark object she could trace in the
dimness near the hedge? It was sharply pointed, is if it were
a narrow tent. Her heart began to beat like a drum as she
recalled something. It was the shape of the sort of wigwam
structure made of hop poles, after they were taken from the
fields. If there was space between it and the hedge--even a
narrow space--and she could crouch there? Nigel was furious
because Childe Harold was backing, plunging, and snorting
dangerously. She halted forward, shutting her teeth in her
terrible pain. She could scarcely see, and did not recognise
that near the wigwam was a pile of hop poles laid on top of each
other horizontally. It was not quite as high as the hedge whose
dark background prevented its being seen. Only a few steps
more. No, she was awake--in a nightmare one felt only terror,
"YOU, WHO DIED TO-DAY," she murmured.
She saw the horizontal poles too late. One of them had
rolled from its place and lay on the ground, and she trod on
it, was thrown forward against the heap, and, in her blind
effort to recover herself, slipped and fell into a narrow,
grassed hollow behind it, clutching at the hedge. The great
French doctor had not been quite right. For the first time in
her life she felt herself sinking into bottomless darkness--which
was what happened to people when they fainted.
When she opened her eyes she could see nothing, because
on one side of her rose the low mass of the hop poles, and on
the other was the long-untrimmed hedge, which had thrown
out a thick, sheltering growth and curved above her like
a penthouse. Was she awakening, after all? No, because
the pain was awakening with her, and she could hear,
what seemed at first to be quite loud sounds. She could
not have been unconscious long, for she almost immediately
recognised that they were the echo of a man's hurried foot-
steps upon the bare wooden stairway, leading to the bedrooms
in the empty house. Having secured the horses, Nigel had
returned to the cottage, and, finding her gone had rushed to
the upper floor in search of her. He was calling her name
angrily, his voice resounding in the emptiness of the rooms.
"Betty; don't play the fool with me!"
She cautiously drew herself further under cover, making
sure that no end of her habit remained in sight. The over-
growth of the hedge was her salvation. If she had seen the
spot by daylight, she would not have thought it a possible place
Once she had read an account of a woman's frantic flight
from a murderer who was hunting her to her death, while
she slipped from one poor hiding place to another, sometimes
crouching behind walls or bushes, sometimes lying flat in
long grass, once wading waist-deep through a stream, and at
last finding a miserable little fastness, where she hid shivering
for hours, until her enemy gave up his search. One never felt
the reality of such histories, but there was actually a sort of
parallel in this. Mad and crude things were let loose, and the
world of ordinary life seemed thousands of miles away.
She held her breath, for he was leaving the house by the
front door. She heard his footsteps on the bricked path, and
then in the lane. He went to the road, and the sound of
his feet died away for a few moments. Then she heard
them returning--he was back in the lane--on the brick path,
and stood listening or, perhaps, reflecting. He muttered
something exclamatory, and she heard a match struck, and shortly
afterwards he moved across the garden patch towards the
little spinney. He had thought of it, as she had believed
he would. He would not think of this place, and in the end he
might get tired or awakened to a sense of his lurid folly, and
realise that it would be safer for him to go back to Stornham
with some clever lie, trusting to his belief that there existed
no girl but would shrink from telling such a story in connection
with a man who would brazenly deny it with contemptuous
dramatic detail. If he would but decide on this, she would be
safe--and it would be so like him that she dared to hope. But,
if he did not, she would lie close, even if she must wait until
morning, when some labourer's cart would surely pass, and
she would hear it jolting, and drag herself out, and call aloud
in such a way that no man could be deaf. There was more
room under her hedge than she had thought, and she found
that she could sit up, by clasping her knees and bending her
head, while she listened to every sound, even to the rustle
of the grass in the wind sweeping across the marsh.
She moved very gradually and slowly, and had just settled
into utter motionlessness when she realised that he was coming
back through the garden--the straggling currant and
gooseberry bushes were being trampled through.
"Betty, go home," Rosalie had pleaded. "Go home--go
home." And she had refused, because she could not desert her.
She held her breath and pressed her hand against her side,
because her heart beat, as it seemed to her, with an actual
sound. He moved with unsteady steps from one point to another,
more than once he stumbled, and his angry oath reached
her; at last he was so near her hiding place that his short hard
breathing was a distinct sound. A moment later he spoke, raising
his voice, which fact brought to her a rush of relief,
through its signifying that he had not even guessed her nearness.
"My dear Betty," he said, "you have the pluck of the
devil, but circumstances are too much for you. You are not
on the road, and I have been through the spinney. Mere
logic convinces me that you cannot be far away. You may
as well give the thing up. It will be better for you."
"You who died to-day--do not leave me," was Betty's
inward cry, and she dropped her face on her knees.
"I am not a pleasant-tempered fellow, as you know, and I
am losing my hold on myself. The wind is blowing the mist
away, and there will be a moon. I shall find you, my good
girl, in half an hour's time--and then we shall be jolly
She had not dropped her whip, and she held it tight. If,
when the moonlight revealed the pile of hop poles to him, he
suspected and sprang at them to tear them away, she would
be given strength to make one spring, even in her agony, and
she would strike at his eyes--awfully, without one touch of
compunction--she would strike--strike.
There was a brief silence, and then a match was struck
again, and almost immediately she inhaled the fragrance of an
"I am going to have a comfortable smoke and stroll about
--always within sight and hearing. I daresay you are watching
me, and wondering what will happen when I discover you,
I can tell you what will happen. You are not a hysterical
girl, but you will go into hysterics--and no one will hear you."
(All the power of her--body and soul--in one leap on him
and then a lash that would cut to the bone. And it was not
a nightmare--and Rosy was at Stornham, and her father looking
over steamer lists and choosing his staterooms.)
He walked about slowly, the scent of his cigar floating
behind him. She noticed, as she had done more than once
before, that he seemed to slightly drag one foot, and she
wondered why. The wind was blowing the mist away, and there
was a faint growing of light. The moon was not full, but
young, and yet it would make a difference. But the upper
part of the hedge grew thick and close to the heap of wood,
and, but for her fall, she would never have dreamed of the
She could only guess at his movements, but his footsteps
gave some clue. He was examining the ground in as far as
the darkness would allow. He went into the shed and round
about it, he opened the door of the tiny coal lodge, and looked
again into the small back kitchen. He came near--nearer
--so near once that, bending sidewise, she could have put out
a hand and touched him. He stood quite still, then made a step
or so away, stood still again, and burst into a laugh once more.
"Oh, you are here, are you?" he said. "You are a fine
big girl to be able to crowd yourself into a place like that!"
Hot and cold dew stood out on her forehead and made her
hair damp as she held her whip hard.
"Come out, my dear!" alluringly. "It is not too soon. Or
do you prefer that I should assist you?"
Her heart stood quite still--quite. He was standing by the
wigwam of hop poles and thought she had hidden herself inside
it. Her place under the hedge he had not even glanced at.
She knew he bent down and thrust his arm into the wigwam,
for his fury at the result expressed itself plainly enough. That
he had made a fool of himself was worse to him than all else.
He actually wheeled about and strode away to the house.
Because minutes seemed hours, she thought he was gone long,
but he was not away for twenty minutes. He had, in fact,
gone into the bare front room again, and sitting upon the box
near the hearth, let his head drop in his hands and remained
in this position thinking. In the end he got up and went out
to the shed where he had left the horses.
Betty was feeling that before long she might find herself
making that strange swoop into the darkness of space again, and
that it did not matter much, as one apparently lay quite still
when one was unconscious--when she heard that one horse was being
led out into the lane. What did that mean? Had he got tired of
the chase--as the other man did--and was he going away because
discomfort and fatigue had cooled and disgusted
him--perhaps even made him feel that he was playing
the part of a sensational idiot who was laying himself open to
derision? That would be like him, too.
Presently she heard his footsteps once more, but he did not
come as near her as before--in fact, he stood at some yards'
distance when he stopped and spoke--in quite a new manner.
"Betty," his tone was even cynically cool, "I shall stalk
you no more. The chase is at an end. I think I have taken
all out of you I intended to. Perhaps it was a bad joke and
was carried too far. I wanted to prove to you that there were
circumstances which might be too much even for a young
woman from New York. I have done it. Do you suppose I
am such a fool as to bring myself within reach of the law?
I am going away and will send assistance to you from the
next house I pass. I have left some matches and a few broken
sticks on the hearth in the cottage. Be a sensible girl. Limp
in there and build yourself a fire as soon as you hear me gallop
away. You must be chilled through. Now I am going."
He tramped across the bit of garden, down the brick path,
mounted his horse and put it to a gallop at once. Clack, clack,
clack--clacking fainter and fainter into the distance--and he
When she realised that the thing was true, the effect upon
her of her sense of relief was that the growing likelihood of
a second swoop into darkness died away, but one curious sob
lifted her chest as she leaned back against the rough growth
behind her. As she changed her position for a better one she
felt the jagged pain again and knew that in the tenseness of
her terror she had actually for some time felt next to nothing
of her hurt. She had not even been cold, for the hedge behind
and over her and the barricade before had protected her from
both wind and rain. The grass beneath her was not damp
for the same reason. The weary thought rose in her mind that
she might even lie down and sleep. But she pulled herself
together and told herself that this was like the temptation of
believing in the nightmare. He was gone, and she had a
respite--but was it to be anything more? She did not make
any attempt to leave her place of concealment, remembering
the strange things she had learned in watching him, and the
strange terror in which Rosalie lived.
"One never knows what he will do next; I will not stir,"
she said through her teeth. "No, I will not stir from here."
And she did not, but sat still, while the pain came back to
her body and the anguish to her heart--and sometimes such
heaviness that her head dropped forward upon her knees again,
and she fell into a stupefied half-doze.
From one such doze she awakened with a start, hearing a
slight click of the gate. After it, there were several seconds
of dead silence. It was the slightness of the click which was
startling--if it had not been caused by the wind, it had been
caused by someone's having cautiously moved it--and this
someone wishing to make a soundless approach had immediately
stood still and was waiting. There was only one person
who would do that. By this time, the mist being blown away,
the light of the moon began to make a growing clearness.
She lifted her hand and delicately held aside a few twigs that
she might look out.
She had been quite right in deciding not to move. Nigel
Anstruthers had come back, and after his pause turned, and
avoiding the brick path, stole over the grass to the cottage
door. His going had merely been an inspiration to trap her,
and the wood and matches had been intended to make a beacon
light for him. That was like him, as well. His horse he had
left down the road.
But the relief of his absence had been good for her, and she
was able to check the shuddering fit which threatened her for a
moment. The next, her ears awoke to a new sound. Something
was stumbling heavily about the patch of garden--some
animal. A cropping of grass, a snorting breath, and more
stumbling hoofs, and she knew that Childe Harold had managed
to loosen his bridle and limp out of the shed. The mere
sense of his nearness seemed a sort of protection.
He had limped and stumbled to the front part of the garden
before Nigel heard him. When he did hear, he came out of the
house in the humour of a man the inflaming of whose mood
has been cumulative; Childe Harold's temper also was not to
be trifled with. He threw up his head, swinging the bridle
out of reach; he snorted, and even reared with an ugly lashing
of his forefeet.
"Good boy!" whispered Betty. "Do not let him take you
If he remained where he was he would attract attention if
anyone passed by. "Fight, Childe Harold, be as vicious as
you choose--do not allow yourself to be dragged back."
And fight he did, with an ugliness of temper he had never
shown before--with snortings and tossed head and lashed--out
heels, as if he knew he was fighting to gain time and with a
But in the midst of the struggle Nigel Anstruthers stopped
suddenly. He had stumbled again, and risen raging and
stained with damp earth. Now he stood still, panting for
breath--as still as he had stood after the click of the gate.
Was he--listening? What was he listening to? Had she
moved in her excitement, and was it possible he had caught
the sound? No, he was listening to something else. Far up
the road it echoed, but coming nearer every moment, and very
fast. Another horse--a big one--galloping hard. Whosoever
it was would pass this place; it could only be a man--God
grant that he would not go by so quickly that his attention
would not be arrested by a shriek! Cry out she must--and if
he did not hear and went galloping on his way she would have
betrayed herself and be lost.
She bit off a groan by biting her lip.
"You who died to-day--now--now!"
Nearer and nearer. No human creature could pass by a
thing like this--it would not be possible. And Childe Harold,
backing and fighting, scented the other horse and neighed
fiercely and high. The rider was slackening his pace; he was
near the lane. He had turned into it and stopped. Now for
her one frantic cry--but before she could gather power to give
it forth, the man who had stopped had flung himself from his
saddle and was inside the garden speaking. A big voice and
a clear one, with a ringing tone of authority.
"What are you doing here? And what is the matter with
Miss Vanderpoel's horse?" it called out.
Now there was danger of the swoop into the darkness--
great danger--though she clutched at the hedge that she
might feel its thorns and hold herself to the earth.
"YOU!" Nigel Anstruthers cried out. "You!" and flung
forth a shout of laughter.
"Where is she?" fiercely. "Lady Anstruthers is terrified.
We have been searching for hours. Only just now I heard on
the marsh that she had been seen to ride this way. Where is
she, I say?"
A strong, angry, earthly voice--not part of the melodrama--
not part of a dream, but a voice she knew, and whose sound
caused her heart to leap to her throat, while she trembled from
head to foot, and a light, cold dampness broke forth on her
skin. Something had been a dream--her wild, desolate ride--
the slew tolling; for the voice which commanded with such
human fierceness was that of the man for whom the heavy bell
had struck forth from the church tower.
Sir Nigel recovered himself brilliantly. Not that he did not
recognise that he had been a fool again and was in a nasty
place; but it was not for the first time in his life, and he had
learned how to brazen himself out of nasty places.
"My dear Mount Dunstan," he answered with tolerant
irritation, "I have been having a devil of a time with female
hysterics. She heard the bell toll and ran away with the idea
that it was for you, and paid you the compliment of losing her
head. I came on her here when she had ridden her horse half
to death and they had both come a cropper. Confound women's
hysterics! I could do nothing with her. When I left her for
a moment she ran away and hid herself. She is concealed
somewhere on the place or has limped off on to the marsh. I
wish some New York millionairess would work herself into
hysteria on my humble account."
"Those are lies," Mount Dunstan answered--"every damned
one of them!"
He wheeled around to look about him, attracted by a sound,
and in the clearing moonlight saw a figure approaching which
might have risen from the earth, so far as he could guess where
it had come from. He strode over to it, and it was Betty
Vanderpoel, holding her whip in a clenched hand and showing
to his eagerness such hunted face and eyes as were barely
human. He caught her unsteadiness to support it, and felt
her fingers clutch at the tweed of his coatsleeve and move
there as if the mere feeling of its rough texture brought
heavenly comfort to her and gave her strength.
"Yes, they are lies, Lord Mount Dunstan," she panted.
"He said that he meant to get what he called `even' with
me. He told me I could not get away from him and that no
one would hear me if I cried out for help. I have hidden like
some hunted animal." Her shaking voice broke, and she held
the cloth of his sleeve tightly. "You are alive--alive!" with
a sudden sweet wildness. "But it is true the bell tolled!
While I was crouching in the dark I called to you--who died
to-day--to stand between us!"
The man absolutely shuddered from head to foot.
"I was alive, and you see I heard you and came," he
He lifted her in his arms and carried her into the cottage.
Her cheek felt the enrapturing roughness of his tweed shoulder
as he did it. He laid her down on the couch of hay and
"Don't move," he said. "I will come back. You are safe."
If there had been more light she would have seen that his
jaw was set like a bulldog's, and there was a red spark in his
eyes--a fearsome one. But though she did not clearly see, she
KNEW, and the nearness of the last hours swept away all
Nigel Anstruthers having discreetly waited until the two
had passed into the house, and feeling that a man would be an
idiot who did not remove himself from an atmosphere so highly
charged, was making his way toward the lane and was, indeed,
halfway through the gate when heavy feet were behind him
and a grip of ugly strength wrenched him backward.
"Your horse is cropping the grass where you left him, but
you are not going to him," said a singularly meaning voice.
"You are coming with me."
Anstruthers endeavoured to convince himself that he did not
at that moment turn deadly sick and that the brute would not
make an ass of himself.
"Don't be a bally fool!" he cried out, trying to tear
The muscular hand on his shoulder being reinforced by
another, which clutched his collar, dragged him back, stumbling
ignominiously through the gooseberry bushes towards the cart-
shed. Betty lying upon her bed of hay heard the scuffling,
mingled with raging and gasping curses. Childe Harold, lifting
his head from his cropping of the grass, looked after the
violently jerking figures and snorted slightly, snuffing with
dilated red nostrils. As a war horse scenting blood and battle,
he was excited.
When Mount Dunstan got his captive into the shed the blood which
had surged in Red Godwyn's veins was up and leaping.
Anstruthers, his collar held by a hand with fingers of iron,
writhed about and turned a livid, ghastly face upon his captor.
"You have twice my strength and half my age, you beast
and devil!" he foamed in a half shriek, and poured forth
"That counts between man and man, but not between vermin
and executioner," gave back Mount Dunstan.
The heavy whip, flung upward, whistled down through the
air, cutting through cloth and linen as though it would cut
through flesh to bone.
"By God!" shrieked the writhing thing he held, leaping
like a man who has been shot. "Don't do that again! DAMN
you!" as the unswerving lash cut down again--again.
What followed would not be good to describe. Betty
through the open door heard wild and awful things--and more
than once a sound as if a dog were howling.
When the thing was over, one of the two--his clothes cut to
ribbons, his torn white linen exposed, lay, a writhing, huddled
worm, hiccoughing frenzied sobs upon the earth in a
corner of the cart-shed. The other man stood over him,
breathless and white, but singularly exalted.
"You won't want your horse to-night, because you can't
use him," he said. "I shall put Miss Vanderpoel's saddle upon
him and ride with her back to Stornham. You think you are
cut to pieces, but you are not, and you'll get over it. I'll ask
you to mark, however, that if you open your foul mouth to
insinuate lies concerning either Lady Anstruthers or her sister
I will do this thing again in public some day--on the steps of
your club--and do it more thoroughly."
He walked into the cottage soon afterwards looking, to Betty
Vanderpoel's eyes, pale and exceptionally big, and also more
a man than it is often given even to the most virile male
creature to look--and he walked to the side of her resting place
and stood there looking down.
"I thought I heard a dog howl," she said.
"You did hear a dog howl," he answered. He said no
other word, and she asked no further question. She knew what
he had done, and he was well aware that she knew it.
There was a long, strangely tense silence. The light of the
moon was growing. She made at first no effort to rise, but lay
still and looked up at him from under splendid lifted lashes,
while his own gaze fell into the depth of hers like a plummet
into a deep pool. This continued for almost a full minute,
when he turned quickly away and walked to the hearth, indrawing
a heavy breath.
He could not endure that which beset him; it was unbearable,
because her eyes had maddeningly seemed to ask him
some wistful question. Why did she let her loveliness so call
to him. She was not a trifler who could play with meanings.
Perhaps she did not know what her power was. Sometimes he
could believe that beautiful women did not.
In a few moments, almost before he could reach her, she was
rising, and when she got up she supported herself against the
open door, standing in the moonlight. If he was pale, she
was pale also, and her large eyes would not move from his
face, so drawing him that he could not keep away from her.
"Listen," he broke out suddenly. "Penzance told me--
warned me--that some time a moment would come which
would be stronger than all else in a man--than all else in the
world. It has come now. Let me take you home."
"Than what else?" she said slowly, and became even paler
He strove to release himself from the possession of the
moment, and in his struggle answered with a sort of savagery.
"Than scruple--than power--even than a man's determination
and decent pride."
"Are you proud?" she half whispered quite brokenly. "I
am not--since I waited for the ringing of the church bell--
since I heard it toll. After that the world was empty--and it
was as empty of decent pride as of everything else. There was
nothing left. I was the humblest broken thing on earth."
"You!" he gasped. "Do you know I think I shall go
mad directly perhaps it is happening now. YOU were humble
and broken--your world was empty! Because----?"
"Look at me, Lord Mount Dunstan," and the sweetest
voice in the world was a tender, wild little cry to him. "Oh
LOOK at me!"
He caught her out-thrown hands and looked down into the
beautiful passionate soul of her. The moment had come, and the
tidal wave rising to its height swept all the common earth away
when, with a savage sob, he caught and held her close and
hard against that which thudded racing in his breast.
And they stood and swayed together, folded in each other's
arms, while the wind from the marshes lifted its voice like an
exulting human thing as it swept about them.
AT STORNHAM AND AT BROADMORLANDS
The exulting wind had swept the clouds away, and the moon
rode in a dark blue sea of sky, making the night light purely
clear, when they drew a little apart, that they might better
see the wonderfulness in each other's faces. It was so
mysteriously great a thing that they felt near to awe.
"I fought too long. I wore out my body's endurance, and now I am
quaking like a boy. Red Godwyn did not begin his wooing like
this. Forgive me," Mount Dunstan said at last.
"Do you know," with lovely trembling lips and voice,
"that for long--long--you have been unkind to me?"
It was merely human that he should swiftly enfold her
again, and answer with his lips against her cheek.
"Unkind! Unkind! Oh, the heavenly woman's sweetness
of your telling me so--the heavenly sweetness of it!" he
exclaimed passionately and low. "And I was one of those who
are `by the roadside everywhere,' an unkempt, raging beggar,
who might not decently ask you for a crust."
"It was all wrong--wrong!" she whispered back to him,
and he poured forth the tenderest, fierce words of confession
and prayer, and she listened, drinking them in, with now and
then a soft sob pressed against the roughness of the enrapturing
tweed. For a space they had both forgotten her hurt,
because there are other things than terror which hypnotise
pain. Mount Dunstan was to be praised for remembering it
first. He must take her back to Stornham and her sister without
"I will put your saddle on Anstruthers' horse, or mine, and
lift you to your seat. There is a farmhouse about two miles
away, where I will take you first for food and warmth. Perhaps
it would be well for you to stay there to rest for an hour
or so, and I will send a message to Lady Anstruthers."
"I will go to the place, and eat and drink what you
advise," she answered. "But I beg you to take me back to
Rosalie without delay. I feel that I must see her."
"I feel that I must see her, too," he said. "But for
her--God bless her!" he added, after his sudden pause.
Betty knew that the exclamation meant strong feeling, and
that somehow in the past hours Rosalie had awakened it. But
it was only when, after their refreshment at the farm, they
had taken horse again and were riding homeward together,
that she heard from him what had passed between them.
"All that has led to this may seem the merest chance,"
he said. "But surely a strange thing has come about. I
know that without understanding it." He leaned over and
touched her hand. "You, who are Life--without understanding
I ride here beside you, believing that you brought me back."
"I tried--I tried! With all my strength, I tried."
"After I had seen your sister to-day, I guessed--I knew.
But not at first. I was not ill of the fever, as excited rumour
had it; but I was ill, and the doctors and the vicar were
alarmed. I had fought too long, and I was giving up, as I
have seen the poor fellows in the ballroom give up. If they
were not dragged back they slipped out of one's hands. If
the fever had developed, all would have been over quickly.
I knew the doctors feared that, and I am ashamed to say I
was glad of it. But, yesterday, in the morning, when I was
letting myself go with a morbid pleasure in the luxurious relief
of it--something reached me--some slow rising call to effort
She turned towards him in her saddle, listening, her lips
"I did not even ask myself what was happening, but I
began to be conscious of being drawn back, and to long
intensely to see you again. I was gradually filled with a
restless feeling that you were near me, and that, though I could
not physically hear your voice, you were surely CALLING to
me. It was the thing which could not be--but it was--and
because of it I could not let myself drift."
"I did call you! I was on my knees in the church asking
to be forgiven if I prayed mad prayers--but praying the same
thing over and over. The villagers were kneeling there, too.
They crowded in, leaving everything else. You are their
hero, and they were in deep earnest."
His look was gravely pondering. His life had not made a mystic
of him--it was Penzance who was the mystic --but he felt himself
perplexed by mysteriously suggestive thought.
"I was brought back--I was brought back," he said. "In
the afternoon I fell asleep and slept profoundly until the
morning. When I awoke, I realised that I was a remade man.
The doctors were almost awed when I first spoke to them.
Old Dr. Fenwick died later, and, after I had heard about it,
the church bell was tolled. It was heard at Weaver's farm-
house, and, as everybody had been excitedly waiting for the
sound, it conveyed but one idea to them--and the boy was
sent racing across the fields to Stornham village. Dearest!
Dearest!" he exclaimed.
She had bowed her head and burst into passionate sobbing.
Because she was not of the women who wept, her moment's
passion was strong and bitter.
"It need not have been!" she shuddered. "One cannot
bear it--because it need not have been!"
"Stop your horse a moment," he said, reining in his own,
while, with burning eyes and swelling throat, he held and
steadied her. But he did not know that neither her sister
nor her father had ever seen her in such mood, and that she
had never so seen herself.
"You shall not remember it," he said to her.
"I will not," she answered, recovering herself. "But for one
moment all the awful hours rushed back. Tell me the rest."
"We did not know that the blunder had been made until
a messenger from Dole rode over to inquire and bring messages
of condolence. Then we understood what had occurred
and I own a sort of frenzy seized me. I knew I must see you,
and, though the doctors were horribly nervous, they dare not
hold me back. The day before it would not have been
believed that I could leave my room. You were crying out
to me, and though I did not know, I was answering, body and
soul. Penzance knew I must have my way when I spoke to
him--mad as it seemed. When I rode through Stornham village,
more than one woman screamed at sight of me. I shall
not be able to blot out of my mind your sister's face. She
will tell you what we said to each other. I rode away from
the Court quite half mad----" his voice became very gentle,
"because of something she had told me in the first wild moments."
Lady Anstruthers had spent the night moving restlessly
from one room to another, and had not been to bed when
they rode side by side up the avenue in the early morning
sunlight. An under keeper, crossing the park a few hundred
yards above them, after one glance, dashed across the sward
to the courtyard and the servants' hall. The news flashed
electrically through the house, and Rosalie, like a small ghost,
came out upon the steps as they reined in. Though her lips
moved, she could not speak aloud, as she watched Mount
Dunstan lift her sister from her horse.
"Childe Harold stumbled and I hurt my foot," said Betty,
trying to be calm.
"I knew he would find you!" Rosalie answered quite
faintly. "I knew you would!" turning to Mount Dunstan,
adoring him with all the meaning of her small paled face.
She would have been afraid of her memory of what she
had said in the strange scene which had taken place before
them a few hours ago, but almost before either of the two
spoke she knew that a great gulf had been crossed in some
one inevitable, though unforeseen, leap. How it had been
taken, when or where, did not in the least matter, when she
clung to Betty and Betty clung to her.
After a few moments of moved and reverent waiting, the
admirable Jennings stepped forward and addressed her in
"There's been little sleep in the village this night, my lady,"
he murmured earnestly. "I promised they should have a sign,
with your permission. If the flag was run up--they're all
looking out, and they'd know."
"Run it up, Jennings," Lady Anstruthers answered, "at once."
When it ran up the staff on the tower and fluttered out in
gay answering to the morning breeze, children in the village
began to run about shouting, men and women appeared at
cottage doors, and more than one cap was thrown up in the
air. But old Doby and Mrs. Welden, who had been waiting
for hours, standing by Mrs. Welden's gate, caught each
other's dry, trembling old hands and began to cry.
The Broadmorlands divorce scandal, having made conversation
during a season quite forty years before Miss Vanderpoel
appeared at Stornham Court, had been laid upon a lower
shelf and buried beneath other stories long enough to be
forgotten. Only one individual had not forgotten it, and he
was the Duke of Broadmorlands himself, in whose mind it
remained hideously clear. He had been a young man,
honestly and much in love when it first revealed itself to him,
and for a few months he had even thought it might end by
being his death, notwithstanding that he was strong and in
first-rate physical condition. He had been a fine, hearty
young man of clean and rather dignified life, though he was
not understood to be brilliant of mind. Privately he had
ideals connected with his rank and name which he was not
fluent enough clearly to express. After he had realised that
he should not die of the public humiliation and disgrace, which
seemed to point him out as having been the kind of gullible
fool it is scarcely possible to avoid laughing at--or, so it
seemed to him in his heart-seared frenzy--he thought it not
improbable that he should go mad. He was harried so by
memories of lovely little soft ways of Edith's (his wife's
name was Edith), of the pretty sound of her laugh, and of
her innocent, girlish habit of kneeling down by her bedside
every night and morning to say her prayers. This had so
touched him that he had sometimes knelt down to say his, too,
saying to her, with slight awkward boyishness, that a fellow
who had a sort of angel for his wife ought to do his best to
believe in the things she believed in.
"And all the time----!" a devil who laughed used to
snigger in his ear over and over again, until it was almost
like the ticking of a clock during the worst months, when it
did not seem probable that a man could feel his brain whirling
like a Catherine wheel night and day, and still manage
to hold on and not reach the point of howling and shrieking
and dashing his skull against wails and furniture.
But that passed in time, and he told himself that he passed
with it. Since then he had lived chiefly at Broadmorlands
Castle, and was spoken of as a man who had become religious,
which was not true, but, having reached the decision that
religion was good for most people, he paid a good deal of
attention to his church and schools, and was rigorous in the
matter of curates.
He had passed seventy now, and was somewhat despotic
and haughty, because a man who is a Duke and does not go
out into the world to rub against men of his own class and
others, but lives altogether on a great and splendid estate,
saluted by every creature he meets, and universally obeyed and
counted before all else, is not unlikely to forget that he is a
quite ordinary human being, and not a sort of monarch.
He had done his best to forget Edith, who had soon died
of being a shady curate's wife in Australia, but he had not
been able to encompass it. He used, occasionally, to dream
she was kneeling by the bed in her childish nightgown saying
her prayers aloud, and would waken crying--as he had cried
in those awful young days. Against social immorality or
village light-mindedness he was relentlessly savage. He
allowed for no palliating or exonerating facts. He began to
see red when he heard of or saw lightness in a married woman,
and the outside world frequently said that this characteristic
bordered on monomania.
Nigel Anstruthers, having met him once or twice, had at
first been much amused by him, and had even, by giving him
an adroitly careful lead, managed to guide him into an
expression of opinion. The Duke, who had heard men of his class
discussed, did not in the least like him, notwithstanding his
sympathetic suavity of manner and his air of being intelligently
impressed by what he heard. Not long afterwards,
however, it transpired that the aged rector of Broadmorlands
having died, the living had been given to Ffolliott, and, hearing
it, Sir Nigel was not slow to conjecture that quite decently
utilisable tools would lie ready to his hand if circumstances
pressed; this point of view, it will be seen, being not
illogical. A man who had not been a sort of hermit would have
heard enough of him to be put on his guard, and one who was a man
of the world, looking normally on existence, would have
reasoned coolly, and declined to concern himself about what was
not his affair. But a parallel might be drawn between
Broadmorlands and some old lion wounded sorely in his youth and
left to drag his unhealed torment through the years of age. On
one subject he had no point of view but his own, and could be
roused to fury almost senseless by wholly inadequately supported
facts. He presented exactly the material required--and
that in mass.
About the time the flag was run up on the tower at Stornham
Court a carter, driving whistling on the road near the
deserted cottage, was hailed by a man who was walking slowly
a few yards ahead of him. The carter thought that he was a
tramp, as his clothes were plainly in bad case, which seeing,
his answer was an unceremonious grunt, and it certainly did
not occur to him to touch his forehead. A minute later,
however, he "got a start," as he related afterwards. The tramp
was a gentleman whose riding costume was torn and muddied,
and who looked "gashly," though he spoke with the manner
and authority which Binns, the carter, recognised as that of
one of the "gentry" addressing a day-labourer.
"How far is it from here to Medham?" he inquired.
"Medham be about four mile, sir," was the answer. "I
be carryin' these 'taters there to market."
"I want to get there. I have met with an accident. My
horse took fright at a pheasant starting up rocketting under
his nose. He threw me into a hedge and bolted. I'm badly
enough bruised to want to reach a town and see a doctor. Can
you give me a lift?"
"That I will, sir, ready enough," making room on the seat
beside him. "You be bruised bad, sir," he said sympathetically,
as his passenger climbed to his place, with a twisted face
and uttering blasphemies under his breath.
"Damned badly," he answered. "No bones broken, however."
"That cut on your cheek and neck'll need plasterin', sir."
"That's a scratch. Thorn bush," curtly.
Sympathy was plainly not welcome. In fact Binns was
soon of the opinion that here was an ugly customer, gentleman
or no gentleman. A jolting cart was, however, not the best
place for a man who seemed sore from head to foot, and done
for out and out. He sat and ground his teeth, as he clung
to the rough seat in the attempt to steady himself. He became
more and more "gashly," and a certain awful light in his
eyes alarmed the carter by leaping up at every jolt. Binns
was glad when he left him at Medham Arms, and felt he
had earned the half-sovereign handed to him.
Four days Anstruthers lay in bed in a room at the Inn. No
one saw him but the man who brought him food. He did
not send for a doctor, because he did not wish to see one. He
sent for such remedies as were needed by a man who had
been bruised by a fall from his horse. He made no remark
which could be considered explanatory, after he had said
irritably that a man was a fool to go loitering along on a
nervous brute who needed watching. Whatsoever happened was his
own damned fault.
Through hours of day and night he lay staring at the white-
washed beams or the blue roses on the wall paper. They were
long hours, and filled with things not pleasant enough to
dwell on in detail. Physical misery which made a man
writhe at times was not the worst part of them. There were
a thousand things less endurable. More than once he foamed
at the mouth, and recognised that he gibbered like a madman.
There was but one memory which saved him from feeling
that this was the very end of things. That was the memory
of Broadmorlands. While a man had a weapon left, even
though it could not save him, he might pay up with it--get
almost even. The whole Vanderpoel lot could be plunged
neck deep in a morass which would leave mud enough sticking
to them, even if their money helped them to prevent its
entirely closing over their heads. He could attend to that,
and, after he had set it well going, he could get out. There
were India, South Africa, Australia--a dozen places that
would do. And then he would remember Betty Vanderpoel,
and curse horribly under the bed clothes. It was the memory
of Betty which outdid all others in its power to torment.
On the morning of the fifth day the Duke of Broadmorlands
received a note, which he read with somewhat annoyed
curiosity. A certain Sir Nigel Anstruthers, whom it appeared
he ought to be able to recall, was in the neighbourhood, and
wished to see him on a parochial matter of interest. "Parochial
matter" was vague, and so was the Duke's recollection of the
man who addressed him. If his memory served him rightly,
he had met him in a country house in Somersetshire, and had
heard that he was the acquaintance of the disreputable eldest
son. What could a person of that sort have to say of parochial
matters? The Duke considered, and then, in obedience to
a rigorous conscience, decided that one ought, perhaps, to give
him half an hour.
There was that in the intruder's aspect, when he arrived in
the afternoon, which produced somewhat the effect of shock. In
the first place, a man in his unconcealable physical condition
had no right to be out of his bed. Though he plainly refused to
admit the fact, his manner of bearing himself erect, and even
with a certain touch of cool swagger, was, it was evident,
achieved only by determined effort. He looked like a man
who had not yet recovered from some evil fever. Since the
meeting in Somersetshire he had aged more than the year
warranted. Despite his obstinate fight with himself it was
obvious that he was horribly shaky. A disagreeable scratch or
cut, running from cheek to neck, did not improve his personal
He pleased his host no more than he had pleased him at
their first encounter; he, in fact, repelled him strongly, by
suggesting a degree of abnormality of mood which was
smoothed over by an attempt at entire normality of manner.
The Duke did not present an approachable front as, after
Anstruthers had taken a chair, he sat and examined him
with bright blue old eyes set deep on either side of a dominant
nose and framed over by white eyebrows. No, Nigel
Anstruthers summed him up, it would not be easy to open the
matter with the old fool. He held himself magnificently aloof,
with that lack of modernity in his sense of place which, even
at this late day, sometimes expressed itself here and there in
the manner of the feudal survival.
"I am afraid you have been ill," with rigid civility.
"A man feels rather an outsider in confessing he has let
his horse throw him into a hedge. It was my own fault
entirely. I allowed myself to forget that I was riding a
dangerously nervous brute. I was thinking of a painful and
absorbing subject. I was badly bruised and scratched, but
that was all."
"What did your doctor say?"
"That I was in luck not to have broken my neck."
"You had better have a glass of wine," touching a bell.
"You do not look equal to any exertion."
In gathering himself together, Sir Nigel felt he was forced
to use enormous effort. It had cost him a gruesome physical
struggle to endure the drive over to Broadmorlands, though it
was only a few miles from Medham. There had been something
unnatural in the exertion necessary to sit upright and keep
his mind decently clear. That was the worst of it. The fever
and raging hours of the past days and nights had so shaken him
that he had become exhausted, and his brain was not alert. He
was not thinking rapidly, and several times he had lost sight of
a point it was important to remember. He grew hot and cold
and knew his hands and voice shook, as he answered. But,
perhaps--he felt desperately--signs of emotion were not bad.
"I am not quite equal to exertion," he began slowly. "But
a man cannot lie on his bed while some things are undone--
a MAN cannot."
As the old Duke sat upright, the blue eyes under his bent
brows were startled, as well as curious. Was the man going
out of his mind about something? He looked rather like it,
with the dampness starting out on his haggard face, and the
ugly look suddenly stamped there. The fact was that the
insensate fury which had possessed and torn Anstruthers as he
had writhed in his inn bedroom had sprung upon him again
in full force, and his weakness could not control it, though it
would have been wiser to hold it in check. He also felt
frightfully ill, which filled him with despair, and, through
this fact, he lost sight of the effect he produced, as he stood
up, shaking all over.
"I come to you because you are the one man who can most
easily understand the thing I have been concealing for a good
The Duke was irritated. Confound the objectionable idiot,
what did he mean by taking that intimate tone with a man
who was not prepared to concern himself in his affairs?
"Excuse me," he said, holding up an authoritative hand,
"are you going to make a confession? I don't like such
things. I prefer to be excused. Personal confidences are not
"This one is." And Sir Nigel was sickeningly conscious that
he was putting the statement rashly, while at the same time
all better words escaped him. "It is as much a parochial
matter," losing all hold on his wits and stammering, "as
was--as was--the affair of--your wife."
It was the Duke who stood up now, scarlet with anger.
He sprang from his chair as if he had been a young man in
whom some insult had struck blazing fire.
"You--you dare!" he shouted. "You insolent blackguard!
You force your way in here and dare--dare----!"
And he clenched his fist, wildly shaking it.
Nigel Anstruthers, staggering on his uncertain feet, would
have shouted also, but could not, though he tried, and he
heard his own voice come forth brokenly.
"Yes, I dare! I--your--my own--my----!"
Swaying and tottering, he swung round to the chair he
had left, and fell into it, even while the old Duke, who stood
raging before him, started back in outraged amazement. What
was the fellow doing? Was he making faces at him? The
drawn malignant mouth and muscles suggested it. Was he
a lunatic, indeed? But the sense of disgusted outrage changed
all at once to horror, as, with a countenance still more
hideously livid and twisted, his visitor slid helplessly from his
seat and lay a huddling heap of clothes on the floor.
THE PRIMEVAL THING
When Mr. Vanderpoel landed in England his wife was with
him. This quiet-faced woman, who was known to be on
her way to join her daughter in England, was much discussed,
envied, and glanced at, when she promenaded the deck with
her husband, or sat in her chair softly wrapped in wonderful
furs. Gradually, during the past months, she had been told
certain modified truths connected with her elder daughter's
marriage. They had been painful truths, but had been so
softened and expurgated of their worst features that it had
been possible to bear them, when one realised that they did
not, at least, mean that Rosy had forgotten or ceased to love
her mother and father, or wish to visit her home. The steady
clearness of foresight and readiness of resource which were
often spoken of as being specially characteristic of Reuben S.
Vanderpoel, were all required, and employed with great
tenderness, in the management of this situation. As little as it
was possible that his wife should know, was the utmost she
must hear and be hurt by. Unless ensuing events compelled
further revelations, the rest of it should be kept from her. As
further protection, her husband had frankly asked her to content
herself with a degree of limited information.
"I have meant all our lives, Annie, to keep from you the
unpleasant things a woman need not be troubled with," he
had said. "I promised myself I would when you were a girl.
I knew you would face things, if I needed your help, but you
were a gentle little soul, like Rosy, and I never intended that
you should bear what was useless. Anstruthers was a blackguard,
and girls of all nations have married blackguards before.
When you have Rosy safe at home, and know nothing can hurt
her again, you both may feel you would like to talk it over.
Till then we won't go into detail. You trust me, I know, when
I tell you that you shall hold Rosy in your arms very soon.
We may have something of a fight, but there can only be one
end to it in a country as decent as England. Anstruthers isn't
exactly what I should call an Englishman. Men rather like
him are to be found in two or three places." His good-looking,
shrewd, elderly face lighted with a fine smile. "My handsome
Betty has saved us a good deal by carrying out her
fifteen-year-old plan of going to find her sister," he ended.
Before they landed they had decided that Mrs. Vanderpoel
should be comfortably established in a hotel in London, and
that after this was arranged, her husband should go to Stornham
Court alone. If Sir Nigel could be induced to listen to logic,
Rosalie, her child, and Betty should come at once to town.
"And, if he won't listen to logic," added Mr. Vanderpoel,
with a dry composure, "they shall come just the same, my
dear." And his wife put her arms round his neck and kissed
him because she knew what he said was quite true, and she
admired him--as she had always done--greatly.
But when the pilot came on board and there began to stir
in the ship the agreeable and exciting bustle of the delivery
of letters and welcoming telegrams, among Mr. Vanderpoel's
many yellow envelopes he opened one the contents of which
caused him to stand still for some moments--so still, indeed,
that some of the bystanders began to touch each other's elbows
and whisper. He certainly read the message two or three
times before he folded it up, returned it to its receptacle, and
walked gravely to his wife's sitting-room.
"Reuben!" she exclaimed, after her first look at him,
"have you bad news? Oh, I hope not!"
He came and sat down quietly beside her, taking her hand.
"Don't be frightened, Annie, my dear," he said. "I have
just been reminded of a verse in the Bible--about vengeance not
belonging to mere human beings. Nigel Anstruthers has had
a stroke of paralysis, and it is not his first. Apparently, even
if he lies on his back for some months thinking of harm, he
won't be able to do it. He is finished."
When he was carried by the express train through the
country, he saw all that Betty had seen, though the summer
had passed, and there were neither green trees nor hedges.
He knew all that the long letters had meant of stirred emotion
and affection, and he was strongly moved, though his mind
was full of many things. There were the farmhouses, the
square-towered churches, the red-pointed hop oasts, and the
village children. How distinctly she had made him see them!
His Betty--his splendid Betty! His heart beat at the thought
of seeing her high, young black head, and holding her safe
in his arms again. Safe! He resented having used the word,
because there was a shock in seeming to admit the possibility
that anything in the universe could do wrong to her. Yet
one man had been villain enough to mean her harm, and to
threaten her with it. He slightly shuddered as he thought of
how the man was finished--done for.
The train began to puff more loudly, as it slackened its pace.
It was drawing near to a rustic little station, and, as it passed
in, he saw a carriage standing outside, waiting on the road, and
a footman in a long coat, glancing into each window as the
train went by. Two or three country people were watching it
intently. Miss Vanderpoel's father was coming up from London
on it. The stationmaster rushed to open the carriage door,
and the footman hastened forward, but a tall lovely thing
in grey was opposite the step as Mr. Vanderpoel descended
it to the platform. She did not recognise the presence of any
other human being than himself. For the moment she seemed
to forget even the broad-shouldered man who had plainly
come with her. As Reuben S. Vanderpoel folded her in his
arms, she folded him and kissed him as he was not sure she
had ever kissed him before.
"My splendid Betty! My own fine girl!" he said.
And when she cried out "Father! Father!" she bent and
kissed the breast of his coat.
He knew who the big young man was before she turned to
"This is Lord Mount Dunstan, father," she said. "Since
Nigel was brought home, he has been very good to us."
Reuben S. Vanderpoel looked well into the man's eyes, as
he shook hands with him warmly, and this was what he said
"Yes, she's safe. This is quite safe. It is to be trusted
with the whole thing."
Not many days after her husband's arrival at Stornham
Court, Mrs. Vanderpoel travelled down from London, and,
during her journey, scarcely saw the wintry hedges and bare
trees, because, as she sat in her cushioned corner of the railway
carriage, she was inwardly offering up gentle, pathetically
ardent prayers of gratitude. She was the woman who prays,
and the many sad petitions of the past years were being
answered at last. She was being allowed to go to Rosy--
whatsoever happened, she could never be really parted from her
girl again. She asked pardon many times because she had not been
able to be really sorry when she had heard of her son-in-law's
desperate condition. She could feel pity for him in his awful
case, she told herself, but she could not wish for the thing
which perhaps she ought to wish for. She had confided this to
her husband with innocent, penitent tears, and he had stroked
her cheek, which had always been his comforting way since
they had been young things together.
"My dear," he said, "if a tiger with hydrophobia were
loose among a lot of decent people--or indecent ones, for
the matter of that--you would not feel it your duty to be very
sorry if, in springing on a group of them, he impaled himself
on an iron fence. Don't reproach yourself too much." And,
though the realism of the picture he presented was such as to
make her exclaim, "No! No!" there were still occasional
moments when she breathed a request for pardon if she was
hard of heart--this softest of creatures human.
It was arranged by the two who best knew and loved her
that her meeting with Rosalie should have no spectators, and
that their first hour together should be wholly unbroken in
"You have not seen each other for so long," Betty said,
when, on her arrival, she led her at once to the morning-room
where Rosy waited, pale with joy, but when the door was
opened, though the two figures were swept into each other's
arms by one wild, tremulous rush of movement, there were no
sounds to be heard, only caught breaths, until the door had
The talks which took place between Mr. Vanderpoel and
Lord Mount Dunstan were many and long, and were of
absorbing interest to both. Each presented to the other a new
world, and a type of which his previous knowledge had been
"I wonder," Mr. Vanderpoel said, in the course of one of
them, "if my world appeals to you as yours appeals to me.
Naturally, from your standpoint, it scarcely seems probable.
Perhaps the up-building of large financial schemes presupposes
a certain degree of imagination. I am becoming a romantic
New York man of business, and I revel in it. Kedgers, for
instance," with the smile which, somehow, suggested Betty,
"Kedgers and the Lilium Giganteum, Mrs. Welden and old
Doby threaten to develop into quite necessary factors in the
scheme of happiness. What Betty has felt is even more
comprehensible than it seemed at first."
They walked and rode together about the countryside; when
Mount Dunstan itself was swept clean of danger, and only
a few convalescents lingered to be taken care of in the huge
ballroom, they spent many days in going over the estate. The
desolate beauty of it appealed to and touched Mr. Vanderpoel,
as it had appealed to and touched his daughter, and, also,
wakened in him much new and curious delight. But Mount
Dunstan, with a touch of his old obstinacy, insisted that he
should ignore the beauty, and look closely at less admirable
"You must see the worst of this," he said. "You must
understand that I can put no good face upon things, that I
offer nothing, because I have nothing to offer."
If he had not been swept through and through by a powerful
and rapturous passion, he would have detested and abhorred
these days of deliberate proud laying bare of the nakedness of
the land. But in the hours he spent with Betty Vanderpoel
the passion gave him knowledge of the things which, being
elemental, do not concern themselves with pride and obstinacy,
and do not remember them. Too much had ended, and too
much begun, to leave space or thought for poor things. In
their eyes, when they were together, and even when they were
apart, dwelt a glow which was deeply moving to those who,
looking on, were sufficiently profound of thought to understand.
Watching the two walking slowly side by side down the
leafless avenue on a crystal winter day, Mr. Vanderpoel
conversed with the vicar, whom he greatly liked.
"A young man of the name of Selden," he remarked, "told
me more of this than he knew."
"G. Selden," said the vicar, with affectionate smiling. "He
is not aware that he was largely concerned in the matter. In
fact, without G. Selden, I do not know how, exactly, we
should have got on. How is he, nice fellow?"
"Extremely well, and in these days in my employ. He
is of the honest, indefatigable stuff which makes its way."
His own smiles, as he watched the two tall figures in
the distance, settled into an expression of speculative
absorption, because he was reflecting upon profoundly interesting
"There is a great primeval thing which sometimes--not
often, only sometimes--occurs to two people," he went on.
"When it leaps into being, it is well if it is not thwarted, or
done to death. It has happened to my girl and Mount Dunstan.
If they had been two young tinkers by the roadside, they
would have come together, and defied their beggary. As it
is, I recognise, as I sit here, that the outcome of what is to
be may reach far, and open up broad new ways."
"Yes," said the vicar. "She will live here and fill a strong
man's life with wonderful human happiness--her splendid
children will be born here, and among them will be those who
lead the van and make history."
. . . . .
For some time Nigel Anstruthers lay in his room at
Stornham Court, surrounded by all of aid and luxury that wealth
and exalted medical science could gather about him. Sometimes
he lay a livid unconscious mask, sometimes his nurses and
doctors knew that in his hollow eyes there was the light of
a raging half reason, and they saw that he struggled to utter
coherent sounds which they might comprehend. This he never
accomplished, and one day, in the midst of such an effort, he
was stricken dumb again, and soon afterwards sank into stillness
And the Shuttle in the hand of Fate, through every hour
of every day, and through the slow, deep breathing of all the
silent nights, weaves to and fro--to and fro--drawing with
it the threads of human life and thought which strengthen
its web: and trace the figures of its yet vague and uncompleted