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The End of Her Honeymoon by Marie Belloc Lowndes

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The End of Her Honeymoon

By

Mrs. Belloc Lowndes

Author of "The Uttermost Farthing," "The Chink in the Armour," etc., etc.

1913

CHAPTER I

"Cocher? l'Hôtel Saint Ange, Rue Saint Ange!"

The voice of John Dampier, Nancy's three-weeks bridegroom, rang out
strongly, joyously, on this the last evening of their honeymoon. And before
the lightly hung open carriage had time to move, Dampier added something
quickly, at which both he and the driver laughed in unison.

Nancy crept nearer to her husband. It was tiresome that she knew so little
French.

"I'm telling the man we're not in any hurry, and that he can take us round
by the Boulevards. I won't have you seeing Paris from an ugly angle the
first time--darling!"

"But Jack? It's nearly midnight! Surely there'll be nothing to see on the
Boulevards now?"

"Won't there? You wait and see--Paris never goes to sleep!"

And then--Nancy remembered it long, long afterwards--something very odd and
disconcerting happened in the big station yard of the Gare de Lyon. The
horse stopped--stopped dead. If it hadn't been that the bridegroom's arm
enclosed her slender, rounded waist, the bride might have been thrown out.

The cabman stood up in his seat and gave his horse a vicious blow across
the back.

"Oh, Jack!" Nancy shrank and hid her face in her husband's arm. "Don't let
him do that! I can't bear it!"

Dampier shouted out something roughly, angrily, and the man jumped off the
box, and taking hold of the rein gave it a sharp pull. He led his unwilling
horse through the big iron gates, and then the little open carriage rolled
on smoothly.

How enchanting to be driving under the stars in the city which hails in
every artist--Jack Dampier was an artist--a beloved son!

In the clear June atmosphere, under the great arc-lamps which seemed
suspended in the mild lambent air, the branches of the trees lining the
Boulevards showed brightly, delicately green; and the tints of the dresses
worn by the women walking up and down outside the cafés and still
brilliantly lighted shops mingled luminously, as on a magic palette.

Nancy withdrew herself gently from her husband's arm. It seemed to her that
every one in that merry, slowly moving crowd on either side must see that
he was holding her to him. She was a shy, sensitive little creature, this
three-weeks-old bride, whose honeymoon was now about to merge into happy
every-day life.

Dampier divined something of what she was feeling. He put out his hand and
clasped hers. "Silly sweetheart," he whispered. "All these merry,
chattering people are far too full of themselves to be thinking of us!"

As she made no answer, bewildered, a little oppressed by the brilliance,
the strangeness of everything about them, he added a little anxiously,
"Darling, are you tired? Would you rather go straight to the hotel?"

But pressing closer to him, Nancy shook her head. "No, no, Jack! I'm not a
bit tired. It was you who were tired to-day, not I!"

"I didn't feel well in the train, 'tis true. But now that I'm in Paris I
could stay out all night! I suppose you've never read George Moore's
description of this very drive we're taking, little girl?"

And again Nancy shook her head, and smiled in the darkness. In the world
where she had lived her short life, in the comfortable, unimaginative world
in which Nancy Tremain, the delightfully pretty, fairly well-dowered,
orphan, had drifted about since she had been "grown-up," no one had ever
heard of George Moore.

Strange, even in some ways amazing, their marriage--hers and Jack
Dampier's--had been! He, the clever, devil-may-care artist, unconventional
in all his ways, very much a Bohemian, knowing little of his native
country, England, for he had lived all his youth and working life in
France--and she, in everything, save an instinctive love of beauty, which,
oddly yet naturally enough, only betrayed itself in her dress, the
exact opposite!

A commission from an English country gentleman who had fancied a portrait
shown by Dampier in the Salon, had brought the artist, rather reluctantly,
across the Channel, and an accident--sometimes it made them both shiver to
realise how slight an accident--had led to their first and
decisive meeting.

Nancy Tremain had been brought over to tea, one cold, snowy afternoon, at
the house where Dampier was painting. She had been dressed all in grey, and
the graceful velvet gown and furry cap-like toque had made her look, in his
eyes, like an exquisite Eighteenth Century pastel.

One glance--so Dampier had often since assured her and she never grew tired
of hearing it--had been enough. They had scarcely spoken the one to the
other, but he had found out her name, and, writing, cajoled her into seeing
him again. Very soon he had captured her in the good old way, as women--or
so men like to think--prefer to be wooed, by right of conquest.

There had been no one to say them nay, no one to comment unkindly over so
strange and sudden a betrothal. On the contrary, Nancy's considerable
circle of acquaintances had smilingly approved.

All the world loves a masterful lover, and Nancy Tremain was far too
pretty, far too singular and charming, to become engaged in the course of
nature to some commonplace young man. This big, ugly, clever, amusing
artist was just the contrast which was needed for romance.

And he seemed by his own account to be making a very good income, too! Yet,
artists being such eccentric, extravagant fellows, doubtless Nancy's modest
little fortune would come in useful--so those about them argued carelessly.

Then one of her acquaintances, a thought more good-natured than the rest,
arranged that lovely, happy Nancy should be married from a pleasant country
house, in a dear little country church. Braving superstition, the wedding
took place in the last week of May, and bride and bridegroom had gone to
Italy--though, to be sure, it was rather late for Italy--for three
happy weeks.

Now they were about to settle down in Dampier's Paris studio.

Unluckily it was an Exhibition Year, one of those years, that is, which,
hateful as they may be to your true Parisian, pour steady streams of gold
into the pockets of fortunate hotel and shop keepers, and which bring a
great many foreigners to Paris who otherwise might never have come. Quite a
number of such comfortable English folk were now looking forward to going
and seeing Nancy Dampier in her new home--of which the very address was
quaint and unusual, for Dampier's studio was situated Impasse des Nonnes.

They were now speeding under and across the vast embracing shadow of the
Opera House. And again Dampier slipped his arm round his young wife. It
seemed to this happy man as if Paris to-night had put on her gala dress to
welcome him, devout lover and maker of beauty, back to her bosom.

"Isn't it pleasant to think," he whispered, "that Paris is the more
beautiful because you now are in it and of it, Nancy?"

And Nancy smiled, well pleased at the fantastic compliment.

She pressed more closely to him.

"I wish--I wish--" and then she stopped, for she was unselfish, shy of
expressing her wishes, but that made Dampier ever the more eager to hear,
and, if possible, to gratify them.

"What is it that you wish, dear heart?" he asked.

"I wish, Jack, that we were going straight home to the studio now--instead
of to an hotel."

"We'll get in very soon," he answered quickly. "Believe me, darling, you
wouldn't like going in before everything is ready for you. Mère Bideau has
her good points, but she could never make the place look as I want it to
look when you first see it. I'll get up early to-morrow morning and go and
see to it all. I wouldn't for the world you saw our home as it must look
now--the poor little living rooms dusty and shabby, and our boxes sitting
sadly in the middle of the studio itself!"

They had sent their heavy luggage on from England, and for the honeymoon
Nancy had contented herself with one modest little trunk, while Dampier had
taken the large portmanteau which had been the useful wedding present of
the new friend and patron in whose house he had first seen his wife.

Swiftly they shot through the triple arch which leads from the Rue de
Rivoli to the Carousel. How splendid and solitary was the vast dimly-lit
space. "I like this," whispered Nancy dreamily, gazing up at the dark,
star-powdered sky.

And then Dampier turned and caught her, this time unresisting, yielding
joyfully, to his breast. "Nancy?" he murmured thickly. "Nancy? I'm afraid!"

"Afraid?" she repeated wonderingly.

"Yes, horribly afraid! Pray, my pure angel, pray that the gods may indulge
their cruel sport elsewhere. I haven't always been happy, Nancy."

And she clung to him, full of vague, unsubstantial fears. "Don't talk like
that," she murmured. "It--it isn't right to make fun of such things."

"Make fun? Good God!" was all he said.

And then his mood changed. They were now being shaken across the huge,
uneven paving stones of the quays, and so on to a bridge. "I never really
feel at home in Paris till I've crossed the Seine," he cried joyously.
"Cheer up, darling, we shall soon be at the Hôtel Saint Ange!"

"Have you ever stayed in the Hôtel Saint Ange?" she said, with a touch of
curiosity in her voice.

"I used to know a fellow who lived there," he said carelessly. "But what
made me pick it out was the fact that it's such a queer, beautiful old
house, and with a delightful garden. Also we shall meet no English there."

"Don't you like English people?" she asked, a little protestingly.

And Dampier laughed. "I like them everywhere but in Paris," he said: and
then, "But you won't be quite lonely, little lady, for a good many
Americans go to the Hôtel Saint Ange. And for such a funny reason--"

"What reason?"

"It was there that Edgar Allan Poe stayed when he was in Paris."

Their carriage was now engaged in threading narrow, shadowed thoroughfares
which wound through what might have been a city of the dead. From midnight
till cock-crow old-world Paris sleeps, and the windows of the high houses
on either side of the deserted streets through which they were now driving
were all closely shuttered.

"Here we have the ceremonious, the well-bred, the tactful Paris of other
days," exclaimed Dampier whimsically. "This Paris understands without any
words that what we now want is to be quiet, and by ourselves, little girl!"

A gas lamp, burning feebly in a corner wine shop, lit up his exultant face
for a flashing moment.

"You don't look well, Jack," Nancy said suddenly. "It was awfully hot in
Lyons this morning--"

"We stayed just a thought too long in that carpet warehouse," he said
gaily,--"And then--and then that prayer carpet, which might have belonged
to Ali Baba of Ispahan, has made me feel ill with envy ever since! But joy!
Here we are at last!"

After emerging into a square of which one side was formed by an old Gothic
church, they had engaged in a dark and narrow street the further end of
which was bastioned by one of the flying buttresses of the church they had
just passed.

The cab drew up with a jerk. "C'est ici, monsieur."

The man had drawn up before a broad oak porte cochère which, sunk far back
into a thick wall, was now inhospitably shut.

"They go to bed betimes this side of the river!" exclaimed Dampier
ruefully.

Nancy felt a little troubled. The hotel people knew they were coming, for
Jack had written from Marseilles: it was odd no one had sat up for them.

But their driver gave the wrought-iron bell-handle a mighty pull, and after
what seemed to the two travellers a very long pause the great doors swung
slowly back on their hinges, while a hearty voice called out, "C'est vous,
Monsieur Gerald? C'est vous, mademoiselle?"

And Dampier shouted back in French, "It's Mr. and Mrs. Dampier. Surely you
expect us? I wrote from Marseilles three days ago!"

He helped his wife out of the cab, and they passed through into the broad,
vaulted passage which connected the street with the courtyard of the hotel.
By the dim light afforded by an old-fashioned hanging lamp Nancy Dampier
saw that three people had answered the bell; they were a middle-aged man
(evidently mine host), his stout better half, and a youth who rubbed his
eyes as if sleepy, and who stared at the newcomers with a dull,
ruminating stare.

As is generally the case in a French hotel, it was Madame who took command.
She poured forth a torrent of eager, excited words, and at last Dampier
turned to his wife:--"They got my letter, but of course had no address to
which they could answer, and--and it's rather a bore, darling--but they
don't seem to have any rooms vacant."

But even as he spoke the fat, cheerful-looking Frenchwoman put her hand on
the young Englishman's arm. She had seen the smart-looking box of the
bride, the handsome crocodile skin bag of the bridegroom, and again she
burst forth, uttering again and again the word "arranger."

Dampier turned once more, this time much relieved, to his wife: "Madame
Poulain (that's her name, it seems) thinks she can manage to put us up all
right to-night, if we don't mind two very small rooms--unluckily not on the
same floor. But some people are going away to-morrow and then she'll have
free some charming rooms overlooking the garden."

He took a ten-franc piece out of his pocket as he spoke, and handed it to
the gratified cabman:--"It doesn't seem too much for a drive through
fairyland"--he said aside to his wife.

And Nancy nodded contentedly. It pleased her that her Jack should be
generous--the more that she had found out in the last three weeks that if
generous, he was by no means a spendthrift. He had longed to buy a couple
of Persian prayer carpets in that queer little warehouse where a French
friend of his had taken them in Lyons, but he had resisted the
temptation--nobly.

Meanwhile Madame Poulain was talking, talking, talking--emphasising all she
said with quick, eager gestures.

"They are going to put you in their own daughter's room, darling. She's
luckily away just now. So I think you will be all right. I, it seems, must
put up with a garret!"

"Oh, must you be far away from me?" she asked a little plaintively.

"Only for to-night, only till to-morrow, sweetheart."

And then they all began going up a winding staircase which started flush
from the wall to the left.

First came Madame Poulain, carrying a candle, then Monsieur Poulain with
his new English clients, and, last of all, the loutish lad carrying Nancy's
trunk. They had but a little way to go up the shallow slippery stairs, for
when they reached the first tiny landing Madame Poulain opened a curious,
narrow slit of a door which seemed, when shut, to be actually part of the
finely panelled walls.

"Here's my daughter's room," said the landlady proudly. "It is very
comfortable and charming."

"What an extraordinary little room!" whispered Nancy.

And Dampier, looking round him with a good deal of curiosity, agreed.

In the days when the Hôtel Saint Ange belonged to the great soldier whose
name it still bears, this strange little apartment had surely been, so the
English artist told himself, a powdering closet. Even now the only outside
light and air came from a small square window which had evidently only
recently been cut through the thick wall. In front of this aperture
fluttered a bright pink curtain.

Covering three of the walls as well as the low ceiling, was a paper
simulating white satin powdered with rose-buds, and the bed, draped with
virginal muslin curtains, was a child's rather than a woman's bed.

"What's that?" asked Dampier suddenly. "A cupboard?"

He had noticed that wide double doors, painted in the pale brownish grey
called grisaille, formed the further side of the tiny apartment.

Madame Poulain, turning a key, revealed a large roomy space now fitted up
as a cupboard. "It's a way through into our bedroom, monsieur," she said
smiling. "We could not of course allow our daughter to be far from
ourselves."

And Dampier nodded. He knew the ways of French people and sympathised with
those ways.

He stepped up into the cupboard, curious to see if this too had been a
powdering closet, and if that were so if the old panelling and
ornamentation had remained in their original condition.

Thus for a moment was Dampier concealed from those in the room. And during
that moment there came the sound of footsteps on the staircase, followed by
the sudden appearance on the landing outside the open door of the curious
little apartment of two tall figures--a girl in a lace opera cloak, and a
young man in evening dress.

Nancy Dampier, gazing at them, a little surprised at the abrupt apparition,
told herself that they must be brother and sister, so striking was their
resemblance to one another.

"We found the porte cochère open, Madame Poulain, so we just came straight
in. Good night!"

The young lady spoke excellent French, but as she swept on up the staircase
out of sight there came a quick low interchange of English words between
herself and the man with her.

"Daisy? Did you notice that beautiful young woman? A regular stunner! She
must be that daughter the Poulains are always talking about."

And then "Daisy's" answer floated down. "Yes, I noticed her--she is
certainly very pretty. But do be careful, Gerald, I expect she knows a
little English--"

Dampier stepped down out of the cupboard.

"That American cub ought to be put in his place!" he muttered heatedly.

Nancy turned her face away to hide a little smile. Jack was so funny! He
delighted in her beauty--he was always telling her so, and yet it annoyed
him if other people thought her pretty too. This young American had looked
at her quite pleasantly, quite respectfully; he hadn't meant to be
offensive--of that Nancy felt sure.

"I suppose you have a good many Americans this year?" went on Dampier in
French, turning to Monsieur Poulain.

"No, monsieur, no. Our clientèle is mostly French. We have only this young
lady, her brother, and their father, monsieur. The father is a Senator in
his own country--Senator Burton. They are very charming people, and have
stayed with us often before. All our other guests are French. We have never
had such a splendid season: and all because of the Exhibition!"

"I'm glad you are doing well," said Dampier courteously. "But for my
part"--he shrugged his shoulders--"I'm too much of a Parisian to like the
Exhibition."

Then he turned to Nancy: "Well, you'll be quite safe, my darling. Monsieur
and Madame Poulain are only just through here, so you needn't feel lonely."

And then there came a chorus of bonsoirs from host, from hostess, and from
the lad who now stood waiting with the Englishman's large portmanteau
hitched up on his shoulder.

Dampier bent and kissed his wife very tenderly: then he followed Monsieur
Poulain and the latter's nephew up the stairs, while Madame Poulain stayed
behind and helped Mrs. Dampier to unpack the few things she required for
the night.

And Nancy, though she felt just a little bewildered to find herself alone
in this strange house, was yet amused and cheered by the older woman's
lively chatter, and that although she only understood one word in ten.

Madame Poulain talked of her daughter, Virginie, now in the country well
away from the holiday crowds brought by the Exhibition, and also of her
nephew, Jules, the lad who had carried up the luggage, and who knew--so
Madame Poulain went to some pains to make Nancy understand--a
little English.

Late though it was, the worthy woman did not seem in any hurry to go away,
but at last came the kindly words which even Nancy, slight as was her
knowledge of French, understood: "Bonsoir, madame. Dormez bien."

CHAPTER II

Nancy Dampier sat up in bed.

Through the curtain covering the square aperture in the wall which did duty
for a window the strong morning light streamed in, casting a pink glow over
the peculiar little room.

She drew the pearl-circled watch, which had been one of Jack's first gifts
to her, from under the big, square pillow.

It was already half-past nine. How very tiresome and strange that she
should have overslept herself on this, her first morning in Paris! And
yet--and yet not so very strange after all, for her night had been
curiously and disagreeably disturbed.

At first she had slept the deep, dreamless sleep of happy youth, and then,
in a moment, she had suddenly sat up, wide awake.

The murmur of talking had roused her--of eager, low talking in the room
which lay the other side of the deep cupboard. When the murmur had at last
ceased she had dozed off, only to be waked again by the sound of the porte
cochère swinging back on its huge hinges.

It was evidently quite true--as Jack had said--that Paris never goes to
sleep.

Jack had declared he would get up and go over to the studio early, so there
was nothing for it but to get up, and wait patiently till he came back.
Nancy knew that her husband wouldn't like her to venture out into the
streets alone. He was extraordinarily careful of her--careful and
thoughtful for her comfort.

What an angel he was--her great strong, clever Jack!

A girl who goes about by herself as much as Nancy Tremain had gone about
alone during the three years which had elapsed betwixt her leaving school
and her marriage, obtains a considerable knowledge of men, and not of the
nicest kind of men. But Jack was an angel--she repeated the rather absurdly
incongruous word to herself with a very tender feeling in her heart. He
always treated her not only as if she were something beautiful and rare,
but something fragile, to be respected as well as adored....

He had left her so little during the last three weeks that she had never
had time to think about him as she was thinking of him now; "counting up
her mercies," as an old-fashioned lady she had known as a child was wont to
advise those about her to do.

At last she looked round her for a bell. No, there was nothing of the sort
in the tiny room. But Nancy Dampier had already learned to do without all
sorts of things which she had regarded as absolute necessities of life when
she was Nancy Tremain. In some of the humbler Italian inns in which she and
Jack had been so happy, the people had never even heard of a bell!

She jumped out of bed, put on her pretty, pale blue dressing-gown--it was a
fancy of Jack's that she should wear a great deal of pale blue and
white--and then she opened the door a little way.

"Madame!" she called out gaily. "Madame Poulain?" and wondered whether her
French would run to the words "hot water"--yes, she thought it would. "Eau
chaude"--that was hot water.

But there came no answering cry, and again, this time rather impatiently,
she called out, "Madame Poulain?"

And then the shuffling sounds of heavy footsteps made Nancy shoot back from
the open door.

"Yuss?" muttered a hoarse voice.

This surely must be the loutish-looking youth who, so Nancy suddenly
remembered, knew a little English.

"I want some hot water," she called out through the door. "And will you
please ask your aunt to come here for a moment?"

"Yuss," he said, in that queer hoarse voice, and shuffled downstairs again.
And there followed, floating up from below, one of those quick, gabbling
interchanges of French words which Nancy, try as she might, could not
understand.

She got into bed again. Perhaps after all it would be better to allow them
to bring up her "little breakfast" in the foreign fashion. She would still
be in plenty of time for Jack. Once in the studio he would be in no hurry,
or so she feared, to come back--especially if on his way out he had opened
her door and seen how soundly she was sleeping.

She waited some time, and then, as no one came, grew what she so seldom
was, impatient and annoyed. What an odd hotel, and what dilatory,
disagreeable ways! But just as she was thinking of getting up again she
heard a hesitating knock.

It was Madame Poulain, and suddenly Nancy--though unobservant as is youth,
and especially happy youth--noticed that mine hostess looked far less well
in the daytime than by candle-light.

Madame Poulain's stout, sallow face was pale, her cheeks puffy; there were
rings round the black eyes which had sparkled so brightly the night before.
But then she too must have had a disturbed night.

In her halting French Mrs. Dampier explained that she would like coffee and
rolls, and then some hot water.

"C'est bien, mademoiselle!"

And Nancy blushed rosy-red. "Mademoiselle?" How odd to hear herself so
addressed! But Madame Poulain did not give her time to say anything, even
if she had wished to do so, for, before Mrs. Dampier could speak again, the
hotel-keeper had shut the door and gone downstairs.

And then, after a long, long wait, far longer than Nancy had ever been made
to wait in any of the foreign hotels in which she and her husband had
stayed during the last three weeks, Madame Poulain reappeared, bearing a
tray in her large, powerful hands.

She put the tray down on the bed, and she was already making her way
quickly, silently to the door, when Nancy called out urgently, "Madame?
Madame Poulain! Has my husband gone out!"

And then she checked herself, and tried to convey the same question in her
difficult French--"Mon mari?" she said haltingly. "Mon mari?"

But Madame Poulain only shook her head, and hurried out of the room,
leaving the young Englishwoman oddly discomfited and surprised.

It was evidently true what Jack had said--that tiresome Exhibition had
turned everything in Paris, especially the hotels, topsy-turvy. Madame
Poulain was cross and tired, run off her feet, maybe; her manner, too,
quite different now from what it had been the night before.

Nancy Dampier got up and dressed. She put on a pale blue linen gown which
Jack admired, and a blue straw hat trimmed with grey wings which Jack said
made her look like Mercury.

She told herself that there could be no reason why she shouldn't venture
out of her room and go downstairs, where there must surely be some kind of
public sitting-room.

Suddenly remembering the young American's interchange of words with his
sister, she wondered, smiling to herself, if she would ever see them again.
How cross the young man's idle words had made Jack! Dear, jealous Jack, who
hated it so when people stared at her as foreigners have a trick of
staring. It made Nancy happy to know that people thought her pretty, nay
beautiful, for it would have been dreadful for Jack, an artist, to marry an
ugly woman....

Locking her box she went out onto the shallow staircase, down the few steps
which led straight under the big arch of the porte cochère. It was thrown
hospitably open on to the narrow street now full of movement, colour, and
sound. But in vivid contrast to the moving panorama presented by the busy,
lane-like thoroughfare outside, was the spacious, stone-paved courtyard of
the hotel, made gay with orange trees in huge green tubs. Almost opposite
the porte cochère was another arch through which she could see a glimpse of
the cool, shady garden Jack remembered.

Yes, it was a strangely picturesque and charming old house, this Hôtel
Saint Ange; but even so Nancy felt a little lost, a little strange,
standing there under the porte cochère. Then she saw that painted up on a
glass door just opposite the stairs leading to her room was the word
"Bureau": it was doubtless there that Jack had left word when he would
be back.

She went across and opened the door, but to her surprise there was no one
in the little office; she hadn't, however, long to wait, for Madame
Poulain's nephew suddenly appeared from the courtyard.

He had on an apron; there was a broom in his hand, and as he came towards
her, walking very, very slowly, there came over Nancy Dampier, she could
not have told you why, a touch of repulsion from the slovenly youth.

"I wish to know," she said, "whether my husband left any message for me?"

But the young man shook his head. He shuffled first on one foot and then on
the other, looking miserably awkward. It was plain that he did not know
more than a word or two of English.

"I am sure," she said, speaking slowly and very distinctly, "that my
husband left some kind of message with your uncle or aunt. Will you please
ask one of them to speak to me?"

He nodded. "Si, mademoiselle" and walked quickly away, back into the
courtyard.

"Mademoiselle" again! What an extraordinary hotel, and what bad manners
these people had! And yet again and again Jack had compared English and
French hotels--always to the disadvantage of the former.

Long minutes went by, and Nancy began to feel vexed and angry. Then there
fell on her listening ears a phrase uttered very clearly in Madame
Poulain's resonant voice: "C'est ton tour maintenant! Vas-y, mon ami!"

And before she had time to try and puzzle out the sense of the words, she
saw Monsieur Poulain's portly figure emerge from the left side of the
courtyard, and then--when he caught sight of the slim, blue-clad figure
standing under his porte cochère--beat a hasty retreat.

Nancy's sense of discomfort and indignation grew. What did these people
mean by treating her like this? She longed with a painful, almost a sick
longing for her husband's return. It must be very nearly eleven o'clock.
Why did he stay away so long?

A painful, choking feeling--one she had very, very seldom experienced
during the course of her short, prosperous life, came into her throat.

Angrily she dashed away two tears from her eyes.

This was a horrid hotel! The Poulains were hateful people! Jack had made a
mistake--how could he have brought her to such a place? She would tell him
when he came back that he must take her away now, at once, to some
ordinary, nice hotel, where the people knew English, and where they treated
their guests with ordinary civility.

And then there shot through Nancy Dampier a feeling of quick relief, for,
walking across the courtyard, evidently on their way out, came a
pleasant-looking elderly gentleman, accompanied by the girl whom Nancy had
seen for a brief moment standing on the landing close to her bedroom door
the night before.

These were English people? No, American of course! But that was quite as
good, for they, thank heaven! spoke English. She could ask them to be her
interpreters with those extraordinary Poulains. Jack wouldn't mind her
doing that. Why, he might have left quite an important message for her!

She took a step forward, and the strangers stopped. The old
gentleman--Nancy called him in her own mind an old gentleman, though
Senator Burton was by no means old in his own estimation or in that of his
contemporaries--smiled a very pleasant, genial smile.

Nancy Dampier made a charming vision as she stood under the arch of the
porte cochère, her slender, blue-clad figure silhouetted against the dark
background by the street outside, and the colour coming and going in
her face.

"May I speak to you a moment?" she said shyly.

"Why certainly."

The American took off his hat, and stood looking down at her kindly. "My
name is Burton, Senator Burton, at your service! What can I do for you?".

The simple little question brought back all Nancy's usual happy confidence.
How silly she had been just now to feel so distressed.

"I'm Mrs. Dampier, and I can't make the hotel people understand what I
say," she explained. "I mean Monsieur and Madame Poulain--and the nephew--I
think his name is Jules--though he is supposed to speak English, is so
very stupid."

"Yes, indeed he is!" chimed in the girl whom her brother had called
"Daisy." "I've long ago given up trying to make that boy understand
anything, even in French. But they do work him most awfully hard, you know;
they have women in each day to help with the cleaning, but that poor lad
does everything else--everything, that is, that the Poulains don't do
themselves."

"What is it that you can't make them understand?" asked Senator Burton
indulgently. "Tell us what it is you want to ask them?"

"I only wish to know at what time my husband went out, and whether he left
any message for me," answered Nancy rather shamefacedly. "You see the hotel
is so full that they put us on different floors, and I haven't seen him
this morning."

"I'll find that out for you at once. I expect Madame Poulain is in her
kitchen just now."

The Senator turned and went back into the courtyard, leaving his daughter
and the young Englishwoman alone together.

"The Poulains seem such odd, queer people," said Nancy hesitatingly.

"D'you think so? We've always found them all right," said the girl,
smiling. "Of course they're dreadfully busy just now because of the
Exhibition. The hotel is full of French people, and they give Madame
Poulain a great deal of trouble. But she doesn't grudge it, for she and her
husband are simply coining money! They're determined that their daughter
shall have a splendid dowry!" She waited a moment, and then repeated, "Oh,
yes, the Poulains are very good sort of people. They're very kindly and
good-natured."

To this remark Nancy made no answer. She thought the Poulains both rude and
disagreeable, but she had no wish to speak ill of them to this nice girl.
How lucky it was that these kind Americans had come to her rescue! Though
still feeling indignant and uncomfortable with regard to the way in which
she had been treated by the hotel-keeper and his wife, she felt quite happy
again now.

Senator Burton was away for what seemed, not only to Mrs. Dampier, but also
to his daughter, a considerable time. But at last they saw him coming
slowly towards them. His eyes were bent on the ground; he seemed to be
thinking, deeply.

Nancy Dampier took a step forward. "Well?" she said eagerly, and then a
little shyly she uttered his name, "Well, Mr. Burton? What do they say? Did
my husband leave any message?"

"No, he doesn't seem to have done that." And then the Senator looked down
searchingly into the young Englishwoman's face. It was a very lovely face,
and just now the look of appeal, of surprise, in the blue eyes added a
touch of pathetic charm. He thought of the old expression, "Beauty in
distress."

His daughter broke in: "Why, Mrs. Dampier, do come upstairs and wait in our
sitting-room," she said cordially. "I'll come with you, for we were only
going out for a little stroll, weren't we, father?"

Nancy Dampier hesitated. She did not notice that the American Senator
omitted to endorse his daughter's invitation; she hesitated for a very
different reason: "You're very kind; but if I do that I shall have to tell
Madame Poulain, for it would give my husband a dreadful fright if he came
in and found I had left my room and disappeared"--she blushed and smiled
very prettily.

And again Senator Burton looked searchingly down into the lovely, flushed
little face; but the deep-blue, guileless-looking eyes met his questioning
gaze very frankly. He said slowly, "Very well, I will go and tell Madame
Poulain that you will be waiting up in our sitting-room,
Mrs.--ah--Dampier."

He went out across the courtyard again, and once more he seemed, at any
rate to his daughter, to stay away longer than was needed for the delivery
of so simple a message.

Growing impatient, Miss Burton took Nancy Dampier across the sunlit
courtyard to the wide old oak staircase, the escalier d'honneur, as it was
still called in the hotel, down which the Marquis de Saint Ange had
clattered when starting for Fontenoy.

When they were half-way up the Senator joined them, and a few moments later
when they had reached the second landing, he put a key in the lock of a
finely carved door, then he stood back, courteously, to allow his
daughter's guest to walk through into the small lobby which led to the
delightful suite of rooms which the Burtons always occupied during their
frequent visits to Paris.

Nancy uttered an exclamation of delight as she passed through into the
high-pitched, stately salon, whose windows overlooked one of those leafy
gardens which are still the pride of old Paris. "This is delightful!" she
exclaimed. "Who would ever have thought that they had such rooms as this in
the Hôtel Saint Ange!"

"There are several of these suites," said Daisy Burton pleasantly. "In
fact, a good many French provincial people come up here, year after year,
for the winter."

While Mrs. Dampier and his daughter were exchanging these few words the
Senator remained silent. Then--"Is your brother gone out?" he
said abruptly.

"Yes, father. He went out about half an hour ago. But he said he'd be back
in ample time to take us out to luncheon. He thought we might like to go to
Foyot's to-day."

"So we will. Daisy, my dear--?" He stopped short, and his daughter looked
at him, surprised.

"Yes, father?"

"I'm afraid I must ask you to leave me with this young lady for a few
moments. I have something to say to her which I think it would be as well
that I should say alone."

Nancy got up from the chair on which she had already seated herself, and
fear flashed into her face. "What is it?" she cried apprehensively. "You're
not going to tell me that anything's happened to Jack!"

"No, no," said the Senator quickly, but even as he uttered the two short,
reassuring little words he averted his eyes from Mrs. Dampier's questioning
anxious eyes.

His daughter left the room.

"What is it?" said Nancy again, trying to smile. "What is it, Mr. Burton?"

And then the Senator, motioning her to a chair, sat down too.

"The Poulains," he said gravely--he was telling himself that he had never
come across so accomplished an actress as this young Englishwoman was
proving herself to be--"the Poulains," he repeated very distinctly,
"declare that you arrived here last night alone. They say that they did not
know, as a matter of fact, that you were married. You do not seem to have
even given them your name."

Nancy stared at him for a moment. Then, "There must be some extraordinary
mistake," she said quietly. "The Poulains must have thought you meant
someone else. My husband and I arrived, of course together, late last
night. At first Madame Poulain said she couldn't take us in as the hotel
was full. But at last she said that they could give us two small rooms.
They knew our name was Dampier, for Jack wrote to them from Marseilles. He
and I were only married three weeks ago: this is the end of our honeymoon.
My husband, who is an artist, is now at his studio. We're going to move
there in a day or two."

She spoke quite simply and straightforwardly, and the Senator felt oddly
relieved by her words.

He tried to remember exactly what had happened, what exactly the Poulains
had said, when he had gone into the big roomy kitchen which lay to the left
of the courtyard.

He had certainly been quite clear. That is, he had explained, in his very
good French, to Madame Poulain, that he came to inquire, on behalf of a
young English lady, whether her husband, a gentleman named Dampier, had
left any message for her. And Madame Poulain, coming across to him in a
rather mysterious manner, had said in a low voice that she feared the young
lady was toquée--i. e., not quite all right in her head--as, saving
Monsieur le Sénateur's presence, English ladies so often were! At great
length she had gone on to explain that the young lady in question had
arrived very late the night before, and that seeing that she was so young
and pretty, and also that she knew so very little French, they had allowed
her, rather than turn her out, to occupy their own daughter's room, a room
they had never, never, under any circumstances, allowed a client to sleep
in before.

Then Madame Poulain had gone out and called Monsieur Poulain; and the
worthy man had confirmed, in every particular, what his wife had just
said--that is, he had explained how they had been knocked up late last
night by a loud ringing at the porte cochère; how they had gone out to the
door, and there, seized with pity for this pretty young English lady, who
apparently knew so very, very little French, they had allowed her to occupy
their daughter's room....

Finally, the good Poulains, separately and in unison, had begged the
Senator to try and find out something about their curious guest, as she
apparently knew too little French to make herself intelligible.

Now that he heard Nancy's quiet assertion, the Senator felt sure there had
been a mistake. The Poulains had evidently confused pretty Mrs. Dampier
with some wandering British spinster.

"Let me go down with you now," she said eagerly. "The truth is--I know
you'll think me foolish--but I'm afraid of the Poulains! They've behaved so
oddly and so rudely to me this morning. I liked them very much last night."

"Yes," he said cordially. "We'll go right down now; and my girl, Daisy, can
come too."

When his daughter came into the room, "There's been some mistake," said
Senator Burton briefly. "It's my fault, I expect. I can't have made it
clear to Madame Poulain whom I meant. She has confused Mrs. Dampier with
some English lady who turned up here alone late last night."

"But we turned up late last night," said Nancy quickly. "Very, very late;
long after midnight."

"Still, my brother and I came in after you," said Daisy Burton suddenly.
And then she smiled and reddened. Mrs. Dampier must certainly have
overheard Gerald's remark.

"It was an awful job getting a cab after that play, father, and it must
have been nearly one o'clock when we got in. As we felt sure this side of
the house was shut up we went up that queer little back staircase, and so
past the open door of Mrs. Dampier's room," she explained.

To the Senator's surprise, Mrs. Dampier also grew red; indeed, she blushed
crimson from forehead to chin.

"My brother thought you were French," went on Daisy, a little awkwardly.
"In fact, we both thought you must be Madame Poulain's daughter. We knew
that was Virginie's room, and we've always been hearing of that girl ever
since we first came to stay in Paris. She used to be at a convent school,
and she's with her grandmother in the country just now, to be out of the
Exhibition rush. The Poulains simply worship her."

The Senator looked very thoughtful as he walked downstairs behind the two
girls. The mystery was thickening in a very disagreeable way. Both
hotel-keepers had stated positively that the "demoiselle anglaise," as they
called her, had slept in their daughter's room....

But what was this the lady who called herself Mrs. Dampier saying?

"My husband and I realised you thought I was Mademoiselle Poulain," said
Nancy, and she also spoke with a touch of awkwardness.

Senator Burton put out his right hand and laid it, rather heavily, on his
daughter's shoulder.

She stopped and turned round. "Yes, father?"

"Then I suppose you also saw Mr. Dampier, Daisy?"

Eagerly he hoped for confirmation of the charming stranger's story. But--

"No," she said reluctantly. "We only saw Mrs. Dampier and the Poulains,
father--they were all in the room together. You see, we were outside on the
dark staircase, and just stopped for a minute on the landing to say
good-night to the Poulains, and to tell them that we had come in."

"I suppose, Mrs. Dampier, that by then your husband had already gone to his
room?" But in spite of his efforts to make his voice cordial the Senator
failed to do so.

"No, he hadn't gone upstairs then." Nancy waited a moment, puzzled, then
she exclaimed, "I remember now! Jack had just stepped up into a big
cupboard which forms one side of the little room. He came out again just as
Miss Burton and--and your son had gone on upstairs." Again she reddened
uncomfortably, wondering if this nice, kind girl had heard Jack's
unflattering epithets concerning "the young American cub." But no, Jack's
voice, if angry, had been low.

When they were at the bottom of the staircase the Senator turned to his
daughter.

"Daisy," he said quietly, "I think it will be best for this lady to see
Madame Poulain with me alone." And as his daughter showed no sign of having
understood, he said again, with a touch of severity in his voice: "Daisy, I
desire you to go upstairs."

"You'll bring Mrs. Dampier up again, father?"

He hesitated--and then he said, "Yes, should she wish it, I will do so."

And Daisy Burton turned away, up the stairs again, very reluctantly. Her
indulgent father was not given to interfere with even the most casual of
her friendships, and she already felt as if this attractive young
Englishwoman was to be her friend.

Madame Poulain came slowly across the courtyard, and the Senator was struck
by her look of ill-health, of languor. Clearly the worthy woman was
overtaxing her strength. It was foolish of the Poulains not to have more
help in, but French people were like that!

Senator Burton knew that these good folks were trying to amass as large a
dowry as possible for their adored only child. Virginie was now of
marriageable age, and the Poulains had already selected in their own minds
the man they wished to see their son-in-law. He was owner of an hotel at
Chantilly, and as he was young, healthy, and reputed kind and
good-tempered, he had the right to expect a good dowry with his future
wife. The fact that this was an Exhibition Year was a great stroke of luck
for the Poulains. It almost certainly meant that their beloved Virginie
would soon be settled close to them in charming salubrious Chantilly....

The proprietress of the Hôtel Saint Ange now stood close to Senator Burton
and his companion. Her voluble tongue was stilled for once: she was
twisting a corner of her blue check apron round and round in her strong,
sinewy-looking fingers.

"Well, Madame Poulain," the American spoke very gravely, "there has
evidently been some strange misunderstanding. This lady asserts most
positively that she arrived here last night accompanied by her husband,
Mr. Dampier."

A look of--was it anger or pain?--came over Madame Poulain's face. She
shook her head decidedly. "I have already told monsieur," she said quickly,
"that this lady arrived here last night alone. I know nothing of her
husband: I did not even know she was married. To tell you the truth,
monsieur, we ought to have made her fill in the usual form. But it was so
late that we put off the formality till to-day. I now regret very much that
we did so."

The Senator looked questioningly at Nancy Dampier. She had become from red
very white. "Do you understand what she says?" he asked slowly,
impassively.

"Yes--I understand. But she is not telling the truth."

The Senator hesitated. "I have known Madame Poulain a long time," he said.

"Yes--and you've only known me a few minutes."

Nancy Dampier felt as though she were living through a horrible
nightmare--horrible and at the same time absurd. But she made a great
effort to remain calm, and to prove herself a sensible woman. So she added
quietly: "I can't tell--I can't in the least guess--why this woman is
telling such a strange, silly untruth. It is easy to prove the truth of
what I say, Mr. Burton. My husband's name is John Dampier. He is an artist,
and has a studio here in Paris."

"Do you know the address of your husband's studio, Mrs. Dampier?"

"Of course I do." The question stung her, this time past endurance. "I
think I had better have a cab and drive there straight," she said stiffly.
"Please forgive me for having given you so much trouble. I'll manage all
right by myself now."

Every vestige of colour had receded from her face. There was a frightened,
hunted expression in her blue eyes, and the Senator felt a sudden thrill of
concern, of pity. What did it all mean? Why should this poor girl--she
looked even younger than his daughter--pretend that she had come here
accompanied, if, after all, she had not done so?

Madame Poulain was still looking at them fixedly, and there was no very
pleasant expression on her face.

"Well," she said at last, "that comes of being too good-natured, Monsieur
le Sénateur. I never heard of such a thing! What does mademoiselle accuse
us of? Does she think we made away with her friend? She may have arrived
with a man--as to that I say nothing--but I assert most positively that in
that case he left her before she actually came into the Hôtel Saint Ange."

"Will you please ask her to call me a cab?" said Nancy trembling.

And he transmitted the request; adding kindly in English, "Of course I am
coming with you as far as your husband's studio. I expect we shall find
that Mr. Dampier went there last night. The Poulains have forgotten that he
came with you: you see they are very tired and overworked just now--"

But Nancy shook her head. It was impossible that the Poulains should have
forgotten Jack.

Madame Poulain went a step nearer to Senator Burton and muttered something,
hurriedly. He hesitated.

"Mais si, Monsieur le Sénateur."

And very reluctantly he transmitted the woman's disagreeable message. "She
thinks that perhaps as you are going to your husband's rooms, you had
better take your trunk with you, Mrs. Dampier."

Nancy assented, almost eagerly. "Yes, do ask her to have my trunk brought
down! I would far rather not come back here." She was still quite collected
and quiet in her manner. "But, Mr. Burton, hadn't I better pay? Especially
if they persist in saying I came alone?" she smiled, a tearful little
smile. It still seemed so--so absurd.

She took out her purse. "I haven't much money, for you see Jack always pays
everything. But I've got an English sovereign, and I can always draw a
cheque. I have my own money."

And the Senator grew more and more bewildered. It was clear that this girl
was either speaking the truth, or else that she was a most wonderful
actress. But, as every man who has reached the Senator's age is ruefully
aware, very young women can act on occasion in ordinary every day life, as
no professional actress of genius ever did or ever will do on a stage.

Madame Poulain went off briskly, and when she came back a few moments
later, there was a look of relief, almost of joy, on her face. "The cab is
here," she exclaimed, "and Jules has brought down madame's trunk."

Nancy looked at the speaker quickly. Then she was "madame" again? Well,
that was something.

"Three francs--that will quite satisfy us," said Madame Poulain, handing
over the change for her English sovereign. It was a gold napoleon and a
two-franc piece. For the first time directly addressing Mrs. Dampier,
"There has evidently been a mistake," she said civilly. "No doubt monsieur
left madame at the door, and went off to his studio last night. I expect
madame will find monsieur there, quite safe and sound."

Senator Burton, well as he believed himself to be acquainted with his
landlady, would have been very much taken aback had he visioned what
followed his own and Mrs. Dampier's departure from the Hôtel Saint Ange.

Madame Poulain remained at the door of the porte cochère till the open
carriage turned the corner of the narrow street. Then she looked at
her nephew.

"How much did she give you?" she asked roughly. And the young man
reluctantly opened a grimy hand and showed a two franc piece.

She snatched it from him, and motioned him back imperiously towards the
courtyard.

After he had gone quite out of sight she walked quickly up the little
street till she came to a low, leather-bound door which gave access to the
church whose fine buttress bestowed such distinction on the otherwise
rather sordid Rue Saint Ange. Pushing open the door she passed through into
the dimly-lit side aisle where stood the Lady Altar.

This old church held many memories for Madame Poulain. It was here that
Virginie had been christened, here that there had taken place the funeral
service of the baby son she never mentioned and still bitterly mourned, and
it was there, before the High Altar, to the right of which she now stood,
that she hoped to see her beloved daughter stand ere long a happy bride.

She looked round her for a moment, bewildered by the sudden change from the
bright sunlit street to the shadowed aisle. Then she suddenly espied what
she had come to seek. Close to where she stood an alms-box clamped to the
stone wall had written upon it the familiar legend, "Pour les Pauvres."

Madame Poulain took a step forward, then dropped the three francs Nancy
Dampier had just paid her, and the two francs she had extracted from
Jules's reluctant hand, into the alms-box.

CHAPTER III

That the cabman was evidently familiar with the odd address, "Impasse des
Nonnes," brought a measure of relief to Senator Burton's mind, and as he
turned and gazed into the candid eyes of the girl sitting by his side he
was ashamed of his vague suspicions.

The little carriage bowled swiftly across the great square behind which
wound the Rue Saint Ange, up one of the steep, picturesque streets which
lead from thence to the Luxembourg Gardens.

When they had gone some considerable way round the gay and stately
pleasance so dear to the poets and students of all nations, they suddenly
turned into the quaintest, quietest thoroughfare imaginable, carved out of
one of those old convent gardens which till lately were among the most
beautiful and characteristic features of the "Quartier."

An architect, who happened also to be an artist, had set up in this remote
and peaceful oasis his household gods, adding on this, his own domain, a
few studios with living rooms attached.

A broad, sanded path ran between the low picturesque buildings, and so the
carriage was obliged to draw up at the entrance to the Impasse.

Senator Burton looked up at the cabman: "Better not take off the lady's
trunk just yet," he said quickly in French, and though Nancy Dampier made
no demur, she looked surprised.

They began walking up the shaded path, for above the low walls on either
side sprang flowering shrubs and trees.

"What a charming place!" exclaimed the Senator, smiling down at her. "How
fond you and your husband must be of it!"

But his companion shook her head. "I've never been here," she said slowly.
"You see this is my first visit to Paris. Though I ought not to call it a
visit, for Paris is to be my home now," and she smiled at last, happy in
the belief that in a few moments she would see Jack.

She was a little troubled at the thought that Jack would be disappointed at
her coming here in this way, with a stranger. But surely after she had
explained the extraordinary occurrence of the morning he would understand?

They were now opposite No. 3. It was a curious, mosque-like building, with
the domed roof of what must be the studio, in the centre. Boldly inscribed
on a marble slab set above the door was the name, "John Dampier."

Before the bell had well stopped ringing, a sturdy apple-faced old woman,
wearing the Breton dress Jack so much admired, stood before them.

Nancy of course knew her at once for Mère Bideau.

A pleasant smile lit up the gnarled face, and Nancy remembered what Jack
had so often said as to Mère Bideau's clever way of dealing with visitors,
especially with possible art patrons.

Mrs. Dampier looked very kindly at the old woman who had been so good and
so faithful a servant to her Jack, and who, she hoped, would also serve her
well and faithfully.

Before the Senator had time to speak, Mère Bideau, shaking her head,
observed respectfully, "Mr. Dampier is not yet arrived. But if you,
monsieur, and you, madame, will give yourselves the trouble of coming back
this afternoon he will certainly be here, for I am expecting him
any moment--"

"Do you mean that Mr. Dampier has not been here at all this morning?"
enquired the Senator.

"No, monsieur, but as I have just had the honour of informing you, my
master is to arrive to-day without fail. Everything is ready for him and
for his lady. I had a letter from Mr. Dampier the day before yesterday."
She waited a moment, and then added, "Won't monsieur come in and wait? Mr.
Dampier would indeed be sorry to miss monsieur!"

So far so good. Senator Burton eagerly acknowledged to himself that here
was confirmation--as much confirmation as any reasonable man could
expect--of Mrs. Dampier's story.

This respectable old woman was evidently expecting her master and his bride
to-day--of that there could now be no doubt.

"I beg of you to enter," said Mère Bideau again. "Monsieur and madame may
like to visit the studio? I do not say that it is very tidy--but my
master's beautiful paintings are not affected by untidiness--" and she
smiled ingratiatingly.

This important-looking gentleman, whom her shrewd Parisian eyes and ears
had already told her was an American, might be an important picture-buyer;
in any case, he was evidently gravely disappointed at not finding Mr.
Dampier at home.

"My master may arrive any moment," she said again; "and though I've had to
put all the luggage he sent on some time ago, in the studio--well, monsieur
and madame will excuse that!"

She stood aside to allow the strangers to step through into the little
passage.

The Senator turned to Nancy: "Hadn't we better go in and wait?" he asked.
"You must remember that if Mr. Dampier has gone to the hotel they will
certainly tell him we are here."

"No," said Nancy in a low voice, "I would rather not go in--now. My husband
doesn't want me to see the place until he has got it ready for me." Her
lips quivered. "But oh, Mr. Burton, where can Jack be? What can he be
doing?" She put her hands together with a helpless, childish gesture of
distress. Then, making an effort over herself, she said in a more composed
voice, "But I should like you to go in and just see some of Jack's
pictures."

With a smiling face Mère Bideau preceded the Senator down a sunny corridor
into the large studio. It was circular in shape, lighted by a skylight, and
contained a few pieces of fine old furniture, now incongruously allied to a
number of unopened packing-cases and trunks.

Mère Bideau went on talking volubly. She was evidently both fond and proud
of her master. Suddenly she waved her lean arm towards a large, ambitious
painting showing a typical family group of French bourgeois sitting in
an arbour.

"This is what won Mr. Dampier his first Salon medal," she explained. "But
his work has much improved since then, as monsieur can see for himself!"
and she uncovered an unframed easel portrait. It was a really interesting,
distinguished presentment of a man. "Is not this excellent?" exclaimed Mère
Bideau eagerly. "What expression, what strength in the mouth, in the eyes!"

Senator Burton, had the circumstances been other, would perhaps have smiled
at the old woman's enthusiasm, and at her intelligent criticism. But now he
simply nodded his head gravely. "Yes, that is a very good portrait," he
said absently. "And--and--where are the living rooms?"

"This way, monsieur!" Then, with some surprise, "Would monsieur care to see
the appartement? Then I presume monsieur is a friend of my master."

But the Senator shook his head quickly. "No, no, I don't want to see the
rooms," he said. "I was only curious to know if Mr. Dampier actually
lived here."

As there was a suite of living rooms attached to the studio, why had the
Dampiers gone to an hotel?

"Yes, monsieur, there are three beautiful bedrooms, also a bath-room, and a
room which was not used by us, but which my master is going to turn into a
little salon for his lady. As for their meals--" she shrugged her
shoulders--"they will have to be served as heretofore in the studio." Then,
"Does monsieur know the new Madame Dampier?" enquired Mère Bideau a trifle
anxiously.

"Yes," he answered uncomfortably. "Yes, I do know her."

"And if monsieur will excuse the question, is she a nice lady? It will make
a great difference to me--"

"Yes, yes--she is very charming, very pretty."

He could not bring himself to inform the good woman that the lady who had
come with him, and who was now waiting outside the house, claimed to be
Mrs. Dampier. It would be too--too unpleasant if it turned out to be--well,
a mistake!

The Senator was telling himself ruefully that though there was now ample
evidence of the existence of John Dampier, there was not evidence at all as
yet that the artist had ever been at the Hôtel Saint Ange: still less that
the young Englishwoman who had just now refused to accompany him into the
studio was John Dampier's wife. However, that fact, as she had herself
pointed out rather piteously, could very soon be put to the proof.

Slowly Senator Burton left the studio and made his way into the open air,
where Nancy was waiting for him.

"Well?" he said questioningly. "Well, Mrs. Dampier, what is it that you
would like to do now?"

"I don't know what I ought to do," said Nancy helplessly. She had again
become very pale and she looked bewildered, as well as distressed. "You see
I felt so sure that we should find Jack here!"

"The only thing I can suggest your doing," the American spoke kindly, if a
little coldly, "is to come back with me to the Hôtel Saint Ange. It is
probable that we shall find Mr. Dampier there, waiting for you. A dozen
things may have happened to him, none of which need give you any cause for
anxiety." He pulled out his watch. "Hum! It's close on twelve--yes, the
only thing to do is to go back to the hotel. It's almost certain we shall
find him there--" it was on his lips to add, "if he really did come with
you last night," but he checked himself in time.

"But Mr. Burton? Suppose Jack is not there?"

"If he doesn't return within the next two or three hours, then I will
consult with my son, who, young though he be, has a very good head on his
shoulders, as to what will be the best step for you to take. But don't
let's meet trouble half-way! I have little doubt that we shall find Mr.
Dampier waiting for you, vowing vengeance against the bold man who has
eloped, even with the best of motives, with his wife!" he smiled, and poor
Nancy gave a quivering smile in return.

"I should so much have preferred not to go back to that hotel," she said,
in a low voice. "I do hope Jack won't make me stay on there for the next
two or three days."

And with the remembrance of what she had considered to be the gross insult
put upon her by Madame Poulain, Nancy Dampier reddened deeply, while her
new friend felt more and more bewildered and puzzled.

On the one hand Senator Burton had the testimony of three trustworthy
persons that the young Englishwoman had arrived alone at the hotel the
night before; and against this positive testimony there was nothing but her
bare word.

Very, very reluctantly, he felt compelled to believe the Poulains' version
of what had happened. He could think of no motive--in fact there was no
motive--which could prompt a false assertion on their part.

As they were driving back, each silent, each full of painful misgivings,
the kindly American began to wonder whether he had not met with that, if
rare yet undoubted, condition known as entire loss of memory.

If, as Madame Poulain had suggested, Mr. Dampier had left his wife just
before their arrival at the hotel, was it not conceivable that by some kind
of kink in Mrs. Dampier's brain--the kind of kink which brings men and
women to entertain, when otherwise sane, certain strange delusions--she had
imagined the story she now told with so much circumstantial detail and
clearness?

When they were nearing the hotel, Nancy put her hand nervously on her
companion's arm.

"Mr. Burton," she whispered, "I'm horribly afraid of the Poulains! I keep
thinking of such dreadful things."

"Now look here, Mrs. Dampier--" Senator Burton turned, and looking down
into her agitated face, spoke gently and kindly--"though I quite admit to
you these people's conduct must seem inexplicable, I feel sure you are
wronging the Poulains. They are very worthy, respectable folk--I've known
them long enough to vouch for that fact. This extraordinary
misunderstanding, this mistake--for it must be either a misunderstanding or
a mistake on some one's part--will soon be cleared up, so much is certain:
till then I beg you not to treat them as enemies."

And yet even Senator Burton felt taken aback when he saw the undisguised
annoyance, the keen irritation with which their return to the Hôtel Saint
Ange was greeted by the woman to whom he had just given so good a
certificate of character.

Madame Poulain was standing on the street side of the open porte cochère,
as the carriage drove down the narrow street, and the American was
astonished to see the change which came over her face.

An angry, vindictive, even a cruel expression swept over it, and instead of
waiting to greet them as the carriage drew up at the door she turned
abruptly away, and shuffled out of sight.

"Wait a moment," he said, as the fiacre drew up, "don't get out of the
carriage yet, Mrs. Dampier--"

And meekly Nancy obeyed him.

The Senator hurried through into the courtyard. Much would he have given,
and he was a careful man, to have seen the image he had formed of Jack
Dampier standing on the sun-flecked flagstones. But the broad space
stretching before him was empty, deserted; during the daylight hours of
each day the Exhibition drew every one away much as a honey cask might have
done a hive of bees.

Madame Poulain did not come out of her kitchen as was her usual hospitable
wont when she heard footsteps echoing under the vaulted porte cochère, and
so her American guest had to go across, and walk right into her
special domain.

"We did not find the gentleman at his studio," he said shortly, "and I
presume, Madame Poulain, that he has not yet been here?"

She shook her head sullenly, and then, with none of her usual suavity,
exclaimed, "I do not think, Monsieur le Sénateur, that you should have
brought that demoiselle back here!"

She gave him so odd--some would have said, so insolent a look, that the
Senator realised for the first time what he was to realise yet further in
connection with this strange business, namely, that the many who go through
life refusing to act the part of good Samaritans have at any rate excellent
reasons for their abstention.

It was disagreeably dear that Madame Poulain thought him a foolish old man
who had been caught by an adventuress's pretty face....

To their joint relief Monsieur Poulain came strolling into his wife's
kitchen.

"I've been telling Monsieur le Sénateur," exclaimed Madame Poulain, "that
we do not wish to have anything more to do with that young person who
asserts that she arrived here with a man last night. Monsieur le Sénateur
has too good a heart: he is being deceived."

The hotel-keeper looked awkwardly, deprecatingly, at his valued American
client. "Paris is so full of queer people just now," he muttered. "They
keep mostly to the other side of the river, to the Opera quarter, but we
are troubled with them here too, during an Exhibition Year!"

"There is nothing at all queer about this poor young lady," said Senator
Burton sharply--somehow the cruel insinuation roused him to chivalrous
defence. But soon he changed his tone, "Now look here, my good friends"--he
glanced from the husband to the wife--"surely you have both heard of people
who have suddenly lost their memory, even to the knowledge of who they were
and where they came from? Now I fear--I very much fear--that something of
the kind has happened to this Mrs. Dampier! I am as sure that she is not
consciously telling a lie as I am that you are telling me the truth. For
one thing, I have ascertained that this lady's statement as to Mr. John
Dampier having a studio in Paris, where he was expected this morning, is
true. As to who she is herself that question can and will be soon set at
rest. Meanwhile my daughter and myself"--and then he hesitated, for, well
as he knew French, Senator Burton did not quite know how to convey his
meaning, namely, that they, he and his daughter, meant to see her through.
"My daughter and myself," he repeated firmly, "are going to do the best we
can to help her."

Madame Poulain opened her lips--then she shut them tight again. She longed
to tell "Monsieur le Sénateur" that in that case she and Poulain must have
the regret of asking him to leave their hotel.

But she did not dare to do this.

Her husband broke in conciliatingly: "No doubt it is as Monsieur le
Sénateur says," he observed; "the demoiselle is what we said she was only
this morning--" and then he uttered the word which in French means so much
and so little--the word "toquée."

There came another interruption. "Here come Mademoiselle Daisy and Monsieur
Gerald!" exclaimed Madame Poulain in a relieved tone.

The Senator's son and daughter had just emerged across the courtyard, from
the vestibule where ended the escalier d'honneur. There was a look of keen,
alert interest and curiosity on Gerald Burton's fine, intelligent face. He
was talking eagerly to his sister, and Madame Poulain told herself that
surely these two young people could not wish their stay in Paris to be
complicated by this--this unfortunate business--for so the Frenchwoman in
her own secret heart designated the mysterious affair which was causing her
and her worthy husband so much unnecessary trouble.

Some little trouble, so she admitted to herself, they had expected to have,
but they had not thought it would take this very strange and
tiresome shape.

But the hotel-keeper was destined to be bitterly disappointed in her hope
that Daisy and Gerald Burton would try and dissuade their father from
having anything more to do with Mrs. Dampier.

"Well, father?" the two fresh voices rang out, and the Senator smiled back
well pleased. He was one of those fortunate fathers who are on terms of
full confidence and friendship as well as affection with their children.
Indeed Senator Burton was specially blessed; Daisy was devoted to her
father, and Gerald had never given him a moment of real unease: the young
man had done well at college, and now seemed likely to become one of the
most distinguished and successful exponents of that branch of
art--architecture--modern America has made specially her own.

"Well?" said the Senator, "well, Daisy, I suppose you have told your
brother about this odd affair?"

As his daughter nodded, he went on:--"As for me, I have unfortunately
nothing to tell. We found the studio, and everything was exactly as this
poor young lady said it would be--with the one paramount exception that her
husband was not there! And though his housekeeper seems to be expecting Mr.
Dampier every moment, she has had no news of him since he wrote, some days
ago, saying he would arrive this morning. It certainly is a very
inexplicable business--" he looked helplessly from one good-looking,
intelligent young face to the other.

"But where is Mrs. Dampier now?" asked Daisy eagerly. "I do think you might
have told me before you took her away, father. I would have loved to have
said good-bye to her. I do like her so much!"

"You won't have far to go to see her. Mrs. Dampier's at the door, sitting
in a carriage," said her father drily. "I had to bring her back here: I
didn't know what else to do."

"Why, of course, father, you did quite right!"

And Gerald Burton chimed in, "Yes, of course you were right to do that,
father."

Senator Burton smiled a little ruefully at his children's unquestioning
approval. He himself was by no means sure that he had done "quite right."

They walked, the three of them, across to the porte-cochère.

Nancy Dampier was now sitting crouched up in a corner of the fiacre; a
handkerchief was pressed to her face, and she was trying, not very
successfully, to stifle her sobs of nervous fear and distress.

With an eager, impulsive gesture the American girl leapt up the step of the
little open carriage. "Don't cry," she whispered soothingly. "It will all
come right soon! Why, I expect your husband just went out to see a friend
and got kept somehow. If it wasn't for those stupid Poulains' mistake about
last night you wouldn't feel really worried, now would you?"

Nancy dabbed her eyes. She felt ashamed of being caught crying by these
kind people. "I know I'm being silly!" she gasped. "You must forgive me!
It's quite true I shouldn't feel as worried as I feel now if it wasn't for
the Poulains--their saying, I mean, that they've never seen my husband.
That's what upset me. It all seems so strange and--and horrid. My sense
tells me it's quite probable Jack has gone in to see some friend, and was
kept somehow."

"And now," said Daisy Burton persuasively, "you must come upstairs with us,
and we'll get Madame Poulain to send us up a nice déjeuner to our
sitting-room."

And so the Senator found part of his new problem solved for him. Daisy, so
much was dear, had determined to befriend--and that to the uttermost--this
unfortunate young Englishwoman.

But now there arose another most disagreeable complication.

Madame Poulain had strolled out, her arms akimbo, to see what was going on.
And, as if she had guessed the purport of Miss Burton's words, she walked
forward, and speaking this time respectfully, even suavely, to "Monsieur le
Sénateur," observed, "My husband and I regret very greatly that we cannot
ask this lady to stay on in our hotel. We have no vacant room--no room
at all!"

And then it was that Gerald Burton, who had stood apart from the
discussion, saying nothing, simply looking intently, sympathetically at his
sister and Mrs. Dampier--took a hand in the now complicated little
human game.

"Father!" he exclaimed, speaking in low, sharp tones. "Of course Mrs.
Dampier must stay on here with us till her husband comes back! If by some
extraordinary chance he isn't back by to-night she can have my room--I
shall easily find some place outside." And as his father looked at him a
little doubtfully he went on:--"Will you explain to Madame Poulain what
we've settled? I can't trust myself to speak to the woman! She's behaving
in the most unkind, brutal way to this poor little lady."

He went on between his teeth, "The Poulains have got some game on in
connection with this thing. I wish I could guess what it is."

And the Senator, much disliking his task, did speak to Madame Poulain. "I
am arranging for Mrs. Dampier to stay with us, as our guest, till her
husband's--hem--arrival. My son will find a room outside, so you need not
disturb yourself about the matter. Kindly send for Jules, and have her
trunk carried up to our apartments."

And Madame Poulain, after an uncomfortably long pause, turned and silently
obeyed the Senator's behest.

CHAPTER IV

The afternoon wore itself away, and to two out of the four people who spent
it together in the pleasant salon of the Burtons' suite of rooms the hours,
nay the very minutes, dragged as they had never dragged before.

Looking back to that first day of distress and bewilderment, Nancy later
sometimes asked herself what would have happened, what she would have done,
had she lacked the protection, the kindness--and what with Daisy Burton
almost at once became the warm affection--of this American family?

Daisy and Gerald Burton not only made her feel that they understood, and,
in a measure, shared in her distress, but they also helped her to bear her
anguish and suspense.

Although she was not aware of it very different was the mental attitude of
their father.

Senator Burton was one of those public men of whom modern America has a
right to be proud. He was a hard worker--chairman of one Senate committee
and a member of four others; he had never been a brilliant debater, but his
more brilliant colleagues respected his sense of logic and force of
character. He had always been unyielding in his convictions, absolutely
independent in his views, a man to whom many of his fellow-countrymen would
have turned in any kind of trouble or perplexity sure of clear and
honest counsel.

And yet now, as to this simple matter, the Senator, try as he might, could
not make up his mind. Nothing, in his long life, had puzzled him as he was
puzzled now. No happening, connected with another human being, had ever so
filled him with the discomfort born of uncertainty.

But the object of his--well, yes, his suspicions, was evidently quite
unconscious of the mingled feelings with which he regarded her, and he was
half ashamed of the ease with which he concealed his trouble both from his
children and from their new friend.

Nancy Dampier was far too ill at ease herself to give any thought as to how
others regarded her. She had now become dreadfully anxious, dreadfully
troubled about Jack.

Much of her time was spent standing at a window of the corridor which
formed a portion of the Burtons' "appartement." This corridor overlooked
the square, sunny courtyard below; but during that first dreary afternoon
of suspense and waiting the Hôtel Saint Ange might have been an enchanted
palace of sleep. Not a creature came in or out through the porte
cochère--with one insignificant exception: two workmen, dressed in
picturesque blue smocks, clattered across the big white stones, the one
swinging a pail of quaking lime in his hand, and whistling gaily as
he went.

When a carriage stopped, or seemed to stop, in the street which lay beyond
the other side of the quadrangular group of buildings, then Nancy's heart
would leap, and she would lean out, dangerously far over the grey bar of
the window; but the beloved, and now familiar figure of her husband never
followed on the sound, as she hoped against hope, it would do.

At last, when the long afternoon was drawing to a close, Senator Burton
went down and had another long conversation with the Poulains.

The hotel-keeper and his wife by now had changed their tone; they were
quite respectful, even sympathetic:

"Of course it is possible," observed Madame Poulain hesitatingly, "that
this young lady, as you yourself suggested this morning, Monsieur le
Sénateur, is suffering from loss of memory, and that she has imagined her
arrival here with this artist gentleman. But if so, what a strange thing to
fancy about oneself! Is it not more likely--I say it with all respect,
Monsieur le Sénateur--that for some reason unknown to us she is acting
a part?"

And with a heavy heart "Monsieur le Sénateur" had to admit that Madame
Poulain's view might be the correct one. Nancy's charm of manner, even her
fragile and delicate beauty, told against her in the kindly but shrewd
American's mind. True, Mrs. Dampier--if indeed she were Mrs. Dampier--did
not look like an adventuress: but then does any adventuress look like an
adventuress till she is found to be one?

The Frenchwoman suggested yet another theory. "I have been asking myself,"
she said, smiling a little wryly, "another question. Is it not possible
that this young lady and her husband had a quarrel? Such incidents do
occur, even during honeymoons. If the two had a little quarrel he may have
left her at our door--just to punish her, Monsieur le Sénateur. He would
know she was safe in our respectable hotel. Your sex, if I may say so,
Monsieur le Sénateur, is sometimes very unkind, very unfeeling, in their
dealings with mine."

Monsieur Poulain, who had said nothing, here intervened. "How you do run
on," he said crossly. "You talk too much, my wife. We haven't to account
for what has happened!"

But Senator Burton had been struck by Madame Poulain's notion. Men, and if
all the Senator had heard was true, especially Englishmen, do behave very
strangely sometimes to their women-folk. It was an Englishman who conceived
the character of Petruchio. He remembered Mrs. Dampier's flushed face, the
shy, embarrassed manner with which she had come forward to meet him that
morning. She had seemed rather unnecessarily distressed at not being able
to make the hotel people understand her: she had evidently been much
disappointed that her husband had not left a message for her.

"My son thinks it possible that Mr. Dampier may have met with an accident
on his way to the studio."

A long questioning look flashed from Madame Poulain to her husband, but
Poulain was a cautious soul, and he gave his wife no lead.

"Well," she said at last, "of course that could be ascertained," and the
Senator with satisfaction told himself that she was at last taking a proper
part in what had become his trouble, "but I cannot help thinking, Monsieur
le Sénateur, that we might give this naughty husband a little longer--at
any rate till to-morrow--to come back to the fold."

And the Senator, perplexed and disturbed, told himself that after all this
might be good advice.

But when he again went upstairs and joined the young people, he found that
this was not at all a plan to which any one of the three was likely to
consent. In fact as he came into the sitting-room where Nancy Dampier was
now restlessly walking up and down, he noticed that his son's hat and his
son's stick were already in his son's hands.

"I think I ought to go off, father, to the local Commissaire of Police.
There's one in every Paris district," said Gerald Burton abruptly. "Mrs.
Dampier is convinced that her husband did go out this morning, even if the
Poulains did not see him doing so; and she and I think it possible, in
fact, we are afraid, that he may have met with an accident on his way to
the studio."

As he saw by his father's face that this theory did not commend itself to
the Senator, the young man went on quickly:--"At any rate my doing this can
do no harm. I might just inform the Commissaire that a gentleman has been
missing since this morning from the Hôtel Saint Ange, and that the only
theory we can form which can account for his absence is that he may have
met with an accident. Mrs. Dampier has kindly provided me with a
description of her husband, and she has told me what she thinks he might
have been wearing."

Nancy stopped her restless pacing. "If only the Poulains would allow me to
see where Jack slept last night!" she cried, bursting into tears. "But oh,
everything is made so much more difficult by their extraordinary assertion
that he never came here at all! You see he had quite a large portmanteau
with him, and I can't possibly tell which of his suits he put on
this morning."

And the Senator looking down into her flushed, tearful face, wondered
whether she were indeed telling the truth--and most painfully he doubted,
doubted very much.

But when Gerald Burton came back at the end of two hours, after a long and
weary struggle with French officialdom, all he could report was that to the
best of the Commissaire's belief no Englishman had met with an accident
that day. There had been three street accidents yesterday in which
foreigners had been concerned, but none, most positively none, to-day. He
admitted, however, that all his reports were not yet in.

Paris, from the human point of view, swells to monstrous proportions when
it becomes the background of a great International World's Fair. And the
police, unlike the great majority of those in the vast hive where they keep
order, have nothing to gain in exchange for the manifold discomforts an
Exhibition brings in its train.

At last, worn out by the mingled agitations and emotions of the day, Nancy
went to bed.

The Senator, Gerald and Daisy Burton waited up some time longer. It was a
comfort to the father to be able to feel that at last he was alone for a
while with his children. To them at least he could unburden his perplexed
and now burdened mind.

"I suppose it didn't occur to you, Gerald, to go to this Mr. Dampier's
studio?"

He looked enquiringly at his son.

Gerald Burton was sitting at the table from which Mrs. Dampier had just
risen. He looked, if a trifle weary, yet full of eager energy and life--a
fine specimen of strong, confident young manhood--a son of whom any father
might well be fond and proud.

The Senator had great confidence in Gerald's sense and judgment.

"Yes indeed, father, I went there first. Not only did I go to the studio,
but from the Commissaire's office I visited many of the infirmaries and
hospitals of the Quarter. You see, I didn't trust the Commissaire; I don't
think he really knew whether there had been any street accidents or not. In
fact at the end of our talk he admitted as much himself."

"And at Mr. Dampier's studio?" queried the Senator. "What did you find
there? Didn't the old housekeeper seem surprised at her master's
prolonged absence?"

"Yes, father, she did indeed. I could see that she was beginning to feel
very much annoyed and put out about it."

"Did she tell you," asked the Senator hesitatingly, "what sort of man this
Mr. Dampier is?"

"She spoke very well of him," said young Burton, with a touch of reluctance
in his voice, "but she admitted that he was a casual sort of fellow."

Gerald's sister looked up. She broke in, rather eagerly, "What sort of a
man do you suppose Mr. Dampier to be, Gerald?"

He shrugged his shoulders, rather ill-temperedly. He, too, was tired, after
the long day of waiting and suspense. "How can I possibly tell, Daisy? I
must say it's rather like a woman to ask such a question! From something
Mrs. Dampier said, I gather he is a plain-looking chap."

And then Daisy laughed heartily, for the first time that day. "Why, she
adores him!" she cried, "she can't have told you that."

"Indeed she did! But you weren't there when I made her describe him
carefully to me. I had to ask her, for it was important that I should have
some sort of notion what the fellow is like."

He took out his note-book. "I'll tell you what I wrote down, practically
from her dictation. 'A tall man--taller than the average Englishman. A
loosely-hung fellow; (he doesn't care for any kind of sport, I gather).
Thirty five years of age; (seems a bit old to have married a girl--she
won't be twenty till next month). He has big, strongly-marked features, and
a good deal of fair hair. Always wears an old fashioned repeater watch and
bunch of seals. Was probably wearing this morning a light grey tweed suit
and a straw hat.'" Gerald looked up and turned to his sister, "If you call
that the description of a good-looking man, well, all I can say is that I
don't agree with you, Daisy!"

"He's a very good artist," said the Senator mildly. "Did you go into his
studio, Gerald?"

"Yes, I did. And I can't say that I agree with you, father: I didn't care
for any of the pictures I saw there."

Gerald Burton spoke rather crossly. Both his father and sister felt
surprised at his tone. He was generally very equable and good-tempered. But
where any sort of art was concerned he naturally claimed to speak with
authority.

"Have you any theory, Gerald"--the Senator hesitated, "to account for the
extraordinary discrepancy between the Poulains' story and what Mrs. Dampier
asserts to be the case?"

"Yes, father, I have a quite definite theory. I believe the Poulains are
lying."

The young man leant forward across the round table. He spoke very
earnestly, but even as he spoke he lowered his voice, as if fearing to be
overheard.

Senator Burton glanced at the door. "You can speak quite openly," he said
rather sharply. "You forget that there is the door of our appartement as
well as a passage between this room and the staircase."

"No, father, I don't forget that. But it would be quite easy for anyone to
creep in. The Poulains have pass keys everywhere."

"My dear boy, they don't understand English!"

"Jules does, father. He knows far more English than he admits. At any rate
he understands everything one says to him."

Daisy broke in with a touch of impatience. "But with what object could the
Poulains tell such a stupid and cruel untruth, one, too, which is sure to
be found out very soon? If this Mr. Dampier did arrive here last night,
well then, he did--if he didn't, he didn't!"

"Yes, that's true," Gerald turned to his sister. "And though I've given a
good deal of thought to it during the last few hours--I can't form any
theory yet as to why the Poulains are lying. I only feel quite sure that
they are."

"It's a curious thing," observed the Senator musingly, "that neither of you
saw this Mr. Dampier last night--curious, I mean, that he should have just
stepped up into a cupboard, as Mrs. Dampier says he did, at the exact
moment when you were outside the door."

Neither of his children made any reply. That coincidence still troubled
Daisy Burton.

At last,--"I don't see that it's at all curious," exclaimed her brother
hastily. "It's very unfortunate, of course, for if we had happened to see
him the Poulains couldn't have told the tale they told you this morning."

The Senator sighed. He was tired--tired of the long afternoon spent in
doing nothing, and, to tell the truth, tired of the curious, inexplicable
problem with which he had been battling since the morning.

"Well, I say it with sincere regret, but I am inclined to believe the
Poulains."

"Father!" His son was looking at him with surprise and yes, indignation.

"Yes, Gerald. I am, for the present, inclined not only to believe the
Poulains' clear and consistent story, but to share Madame Poulain's view of
the case--"

"And what is her view?" asked Daisy eagerly.

"Well, my dear, her view--the view, let me remind you, of a sensible woman
who, I fancy, has seen a good deal of life--is that Mr. Dampier did
accompany his wife here, as far as the hotel, that is. That then, as the
result of what our good landlady calls a 'querelle d'amoureux,' he left
her--knowing she would be quite safe of course in so respectable a place as
the Hôtel Saint Ange."

Daisy Burton only said one word--but that word was "Brute!" and her father
saw that there was the light of battle in her eyes.

"My dear," he said gently, "you forget that it was an Englishman who wrote
'The Taming of the Shrew.'"

"And yet American girls--of a sort--are quite eager to marry Englishmen!"

The Senator quickly pursued his advantage. "Now is it likely that Madame
Poulain would make such a suggestion if she were not telling the truth? Of
course her view is that this Mr. Dampier will turn up, safe and sound, when
he thinks he has sufficiently punished his poor little wife for her share
in their 'lovers' quarrel.'"

But at this Gerald Burton shook his head. "We know nothing of this man
Dampier," he said, "but I would stake my life on Mrs. Dampier's
truthfulness."

The Senator rose from his chair. Gerald's attitude was generous; he would
not have had him otherwise but still he felt irritated by his son's
suspicion of the Poulains.

"Well, it's getting late, and I suppose we ought all to go to bed now,
especially as they begin moving about so early in this place. As for you,
my boy, I hope you've secured a good room outside, eh?"

Gerald Burton also got up. He smiled and shook his head.

"No, father, I haven't found a place at all yet! The truth is I've been so
tremendously taken up with this affair that I forgot all about having to
find a room to-night."

"Oh dear!" cried Daisy in dismay. "Won't you find it very difficult? They
say Paris is absolutely full just now. Why, a lot of people who have never
let before are letting out rooms just now--so Madame Poulain says."

"Don't worry about me. I shall be all right," said Gerald quickly. "I
suppose my things have been moved into your room, father?"

Daisy nodded. "Yes, I saw to all that. In fact I did more--" she smiled;
the brother and sister were very fond of one another. "I packed your bag
for you, Ger."

"Thanks," he said. And then going quickly round the table, he bent down and
kissed her. "I'll be in early to-morrow morning," he said, nodding to
his father.

Then he went out.

Daisy Burton felt surprised. Gerald was the best of brothers, but he didn't
often kiss her good-night. There had been a strange touch of excitement, of
emotion, in his manner to-night. It was natural that she herself should be
moved by Nancy Dampier's distress. But Gerald? Gerald, who was generally
speaking rather nonchalant, and very, very critical of women?

"Gerald's tremendously excited about this thing," said Daisy thoughtfully.
She was two years younger in years than her brother, but older, as young
women are apt to be older, in all that counts in civilised life. "I've
never seen him quite so--so keen about anything before."

"I hope he will have got a comfortable room," said the Senator a little
crossly. Then fondly he turned and took his daughter's hand. "Sleep well,
my darling," he said. "You two have been very kind to that poor little
soul. And I love you both for it. Whatever happens, kindness is
never lost."

"Why, what d'you mean, father?" she looked down at him troubled, rather
disturbed by his words.

"Well, Daisy, the truth is,"--he hesitated--"I can't make out whether this
Mrs. Dampier is all she seems to be. And I want to prepare you for a
possible disappointment, my dear. When I was a young man I once took a
great fancy to someone who--well, who disappointed me cruelly--" he was
speaking very gravely. "It just spoilt my ideal for a time--I mean my ideal
of human nature. Now I don't want anything of that kind to happen to you or
to our boy in connection with this--this young lady."

"But, father? You know French people aren't as particular about telling the
truth as are English people. I can't understand why you believe the
Poulains' story--"

"My dear, I don't know what to believe," he said thoughtfully.

She was twenty-four years old, this grey-eyed, honest, straightforward girl
of his; and yet Senator Burton, much as he loved her, knew very little as
to her knowledge of life. Did Daisy know anything of the ugly side of human
nature? Did she know, for instance, that there are men and women,
especially women, who spend their lives preying on the honest, the
chivalrous, and the kind?

"The mystery is sure to be cleared up very soon," he said aloud. "If what
our new friend says is true there must be as many people in England who
know her to be what she says she is, as there are people in Paris who
evidently know all about the artist, John Dampier."

"Yes, that's true. But father?"

"Yes, my dear."

"I am quite sure Mrs. Dampier is telling the truth."

Somehow the fact that Daisy was anxious to say that she disagreed with him
stung the Senator.

"Then what do you think of the Poulains?" he asked quietly--"the Poulains,
whom you have known, my dear, ever since you were fifteen--on whose honesty
and probity I personally would stake a good deal. What do you think
about them?"

Daisy began to look very troubled. "I don't know what to think," she
faltered. "The truth is, father, I haven't thought very much of the
Poulains in the matter. You see, Madame Poulain has not spoken to me about
it at all. But you see that Gerald believes them to be lying."

"Gerald," said the Senator rather sharply, "is still only a boy in many
things, Daisy. And boys are apt, as you and I know, to take sides, to feel
very positive about things. But you and I, my darling--well, we must try to
be judicial--we must try to keep our heads, eh?"

"Yes, father, yes--we must, indeed"; but even as she said the words she did
not quite know what her father meant by "judicial."

And Gerald Burton? For a while, perhaps for an hour, holding his heavy bag
in his hand, he wandered about from hostelry to hostelry, only to be told
everywhere that there was no room.

Then, taking a sudden resolution, he went into a respectable little café
which was still open, and where he and his father, in days gone by, had
sometimes strolled in together when Daisy was going about with friends in
Paris. There he asked permission to leave his bag. Even had he found a
room, he could not have slept--so he assured himself. He was too excited,
his brain was working too quickly.

Talking busily, anxiously, argumentatively to himself as he went, he made
his way to the river--to the broad, tree-lined quays which to your true

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